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Credibility: 9 elements that help make your marketing claims more believable

January 28th, 2013 1 comment

Lance Armstrong cheated. Manti Te’o didn’t have a girlfriend. Heck, a Subway footlong isn’t even 12 inches long. Face it — we live in a fairly uncredible age.

Which is, of course, a major challenge for marketers trying to communicate the value of their products.

That’s why, in the MECLABS Value Proposition Development online course, Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS, teaches about the importance of communicating with credibility.

After all, you can create an extremely appealing and exclusive value proposition. But, if no one believes it, it is essentially worthless.

“If your value statements are not believable, then you have nothing more than an ‘As Seen on TV’ gimmick product,” said Adam Lapp, Associate Director of Optimization and Strategy, MECLABS.  “They may work, but you don’t really know until you try. And usually they don’t.”

So, how do you overcome skeptical consumers?

“For your words to be believable, you need to be transparent, specific, and show some proof you are telling the truth,” Adam says.

Let’s look at some proof you can provide …

Read more…

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Landing Page Optimization: Takeaways from Entrepreneurship, PR, and Social Media

October 1st, 2010 2 comments

Living in New York City, I like to venture out and explore. What are the digital entrepreneurs and marketers on the streets of New York thinking these days?

biztechday300Last week, I dropped by BizTechDay 2010, a bona fide professional networking event with an impressive speaker lineup—now touring major U.S. cities—that came from humble beginnings as just another Meetup.com group. What could be a better testament to the power of “conversation”—it’s not just about retweets!

Here are three takeaways that I thought could serve as useful illustrations of conversion optimization principles. Read more…

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Clinic Notes: Optimizing your value proposition

October 21st, 2008 4 comments

Value propositions are still a major source of confusion and frustration for marketers, as our most recent web clinic reaffirmed.

While the clinic focused on three problem areas (identifying, expressing, and testing/measuring value propositions), 32% of the 487 marketers in our live poll chose “all of the above” as their biggest challenge. That “all of the above” was the leading answer is telling. Many marketers still aren’t sure just what a value proposition is, much less how to craft a powerful one.

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The clinic presented examples and a Value Proposition Worksheet (PDF) and is now available online in three formats for your convenience:

You might also want to review this roundup of value proposition resources, and check out the links at the end of the research brief.

Value propositions vs. branding taglines

To further clarify what’s not a value proposition, here’s my response to a question from one of our clinic participants regarding the www.JewelryDays.com website, and its tagline …

The statement “My Life Is Beautiful” makes a catchy tagline, but it’s not what we consider a true value proposition. Why not? Because it doesn’t answer this question: “If I’m your ideal prospect, why should I buy from you instead of anyone else?” Answer that with “My life is beautiful” and you’ll clearly see the disconnect.

I’ve taken a look at your About Us page, and though I’m not an expert on your market, I’d suggest that your strongest value proposition can be found within this idea:

“[Our] innovative diamond search technology evaluates the cost, size and quality of the diamond to help consumers make informed and customized purchase decisions. Consumers can graphically see the tradeoffs required when weighing each of these factors, and speak to or e-mail professional graduate gemologists with their questions.”

I would argue that buying diamonds hinges mainly on quality and trusting the seller; both are especially challenging for websites vs. brick-and-mortar stores because there’s not a real face-to-face person, you can’t touch and examine the diamonds before you buy, and returns are a greater concern due to shipping. Largest selection means more to wholesalers than an individual who only wants one or two pieces. Lowest prices has appeal, but can also raise anxiety with regard to luxury items such as diamonds, as it naturally conflicts with the desire for quality; skeptical consumers know that the highest quality and the lowest prices don’t go together.

So, what could really set your site/company apart is not the selection or prices, but offering a search that truly helps buyers make informed, customized decisions by weighing the tradeoffs. Again, I don’t know how many other sites offer something similar, but if your search technology really is superior — and is the one area where you excel over competitors — your site needs to express that much more clearly on the homepage.

Right now, that impressive search function is barely even visible on the homepage, much less promoted as your unique advantage over other diamond jewelry sites.

Take another look at the Down & Feather Company example from the clinic, and see how the redesigned site showcases the company’s “Perfect Pillow Policy” value proposition. Try to crystallize your innovative search and helpful buying process into concise, powerful language — and apply it to your site in ways that will drive prospects to use your site. That will be much stronger than the “beautiful” tagline.

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Are your testimonials properly optimized?

July 15th, 2008 8 comments

Probably not. Our research indicates that most sites don’t use credibility indicators to their full advantage. You’ve probably noticed the same thing when your marketing cap is off and you’re visiting sites as a hunter or browser (or howser?) in your free time.

When you’re the customer, do you trust that long list of rosy, anonymous quotes over in the sidebar, or filling a whole page of its own? Does that type of testimonial influence you positively, or make you more skeptical? How do text quotes compare to video and audio clips or a customer rating system? What kind of lift can your conversion rate get from a review or award from a known brand, like PC Magazine?

Those are among the questions we’re working to answer in our optimization experiments. And we discussed recent research results and best practices in our July 9 clinic: Using Testimonials Effectively: How credibility indicators can help (or hurt) your conversions.

Web Clinic: Using Testimonials EffectivelyAs we noted in the clinic, the multivariate tests we examined also included changes to other page elements. However, our goal in sharing this research was to show that credibility indicators can indeed play a significant role in conversions — both positive and negative — based on how they are applied. While these tests didn’t isolate the specific impact of testimonials, the results make a strong case for additional testing and support the best practices we’ve identified in previous experiments.

So, science aside, what are some real-world keys to applying credibility indicators and making them more powerful?

  • No matter what the format (text, video, audio), testimonials should be placed strategically on your pages to alleviate anxiety; focus on order forms and sign-up pages first and foremost.
  • Standalone testimonial pages need to have clear, direct links and calls-to-action to transaction pages. Relying on the navbar tab = missed opportunities.
  • Lead with the highest authority testimonials, but first ensure that the application fits your target audience. Example: If you’re appealing to SOHO or small-biz buyers, recognize that using quotes and logos from corporate Goliaths like IBM, GE, or Bank of America may send the wrong signal.
  • Less is more with content: Keep the blocks of praise compact and easy to scan, with bold highlights for relevant phrases or terms like quality. Same goes for video clips: shorter ones will load quicker and convey the message faster; use a timestamp that lets prospects know it’s only a 30-second clip before they click.
  • More is more with attribution: Quotes with a full name, title, company, and photo, are more believable than just initials and a city.

Those are just a few takeaway ideas. To find out more about the underlying principles, case studies and examples, plus a live page critique, please check out the full clinic and post your thoughts or questions here in the comments section.

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The Importance of Credentials on the Web

By Mike Clowe

Research Analyst,
Marketing Experiments

How important is it to provide credentials on the Web? The Web is an essentially anonymous media. Businesses claim to be whatever they want, many times without any proof at all.

In the wake of the Wikipedia scandals, where two of their top contributors were found to be grossly misrepresenting themselves, it is becoming increasingly important to provide credentials to prove what you claim to be is actually who you are. The Wikipedia incident was just an example of what is happening throughout the internet. As the online world and the off-line world come closer together, people are starting to check claims made on the internet against the facts.

Wikipedia will come out of this just fine. They will ask their authors to identify themselves, but other than that nothing will change. Now imagine if this had happened to an online retailer. They would be out of business. The biggest fear many online consumers have is getting cheated. This is why many businesses use credibility indicators and have live operators to address customers’ fears — to build trust. All of that trust can be destroyed by one false claim.

It all comes down to Transparent Marketing. As businesses we need to represent ourselves fairly and honestly to our customers. Not only that but we need to provide clear and concise proof that what we say is true. The age anonymity on the web is coming to an end.

We have written an article on Transparent Marketing with additional examples and information about how you can convey trust with your customers. Click here to read more about Transparent Marketing.

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