Daniel Burstein

The Writer’s Dilemma: How to know which marketing copy will really be most effective

February 5th, 2015

I’m staring at a blank page on my screen. There are several directions I could go with this piece of writing, and I’m not sure which will be most helpful to you:

  • How to improve the conversion rate of your email marketing
  • How to best understand and serve your customers
  • How to split test your email marketing

I’m sure you face this dilemma as a copywriter or marketing manager as well:

  • Which subject line will be most effective?
  • How should you craft the headline?
  • What body copy would be most helpful (and generate the most response) from customers?

So that’s what today’s MarketingExperiments Blog post will be about. Essentially, your product and offers likely have many elements of value, and there are many ways you can message that value, but what will work best with your potential customers?

To give you a process to follow, I’ll use an example:

We recently ran a public experiment to help answer the above questions for VolunteerMatch, a nonprofit organization with a unique funding model. It sells a Software as a Service (SaaS) product to companies to help fund its organization, which has generated close to $1 billion in social value each year through its work with nonprofits and volunteers.

Let’s take a look at the process we used for this public experiment and how you can repurpose it for your own marketing efforts.

 

Step #1: Get some new ideas

You think, breathe, eat, sleep and dream about the products and services you advertise and market. So sometimes it helps to step out of your box and get a new perspective.

For example, MarketingExperiments’ parent company, MECLABS Institute, uses Peer Review Sessions to foster idea collection and collaboration from new and unique viewpoints.

To get some new ideas for VolunteerMatch, we launched the public experiment with a contest on the MarketingExperiments Blog as well as on The Moz Blog where we asked marketers to comment on the blog post with their ideas for effective subject lines with a chance to win tickets to Email Summit and a stay at the event’s host hotel, the ARIA Resort & Casino. We received subject line ideas from 224 marketers.

However, this is only one way to step outside the box and get a fresh perspective on your products and services. You could also:

  • Talk to people in departments you don’t normally engage with (e.g., customer service, sales, product development, IT, accounting, legal … keep your options open)
  • Conduct surveys or focus groups with potential customers
  • Read reviews, feedback forms, forum conversations and social media to learn the language the customers use when talking about your products
  • Get on the phone and interview customers (and even people who chose not to be customers)
  • Read websites, magazines and newspapers aimed at your buyer and see what language they use and values they emphasize
  • Go to a museum, national park, art fair, farmer’s market, the symphony or some other creative endeavor to help spark some new thinking

My point is cast a wide net. Get a lot of ideas at this point.

 

Step #2: Coalesce these ideas around key points of value

Once you have all of these ideas, they will likely naturally fall into a few main categories of value around your products or services.

When conducting this public experiment with VolunteerMatch, we started with three elements of value (listed below) to help focus marketers who were entering the contest. When they entered, they would leave a comment on the blog post with their suggested subject line and which category of value that subject line was intended to communicate.

Defining the value upfront will help you know what elements of value you already consider important to your product or service when conducting Step #1.

However, it is important to stay open minded. When you assign the feedback you’ve received into different categories of value, you may find that all of the feedback doesn’t necessarily fit into the categories you’re using. You can find gold in these outliers — new value categories for your product that you had not considered before.

The three categories of value we focused on for VolunteerMatch were:

  • Category #1: Proof, recognition, credibility
  • Category #2: Better, more opportunities to choose from
  • Category #3: Ease of use

We also gave marketers an opportunity to come up with a category of value we may have overlooked.

From the suggestions we received on the blog post, I picked a new category to test along with the previous categories of value we had already identified. Suzanne suggested “I would argue that true volunteers are motivated by something more profound from within: dedicated volunteers are passionate about a particular cause.”

Based on this response, we added one more category of value:

  • Category #4: Passion

 

Step #3: Identify the best expressions of these categories of value

Now that you’ve identified a few areas of value to focus on, look through all of the messaging for the value from the suggestions you received and identify a few examples of wording that you think is the most effective.

I read through each and every subject line suggested in the comments on the MarketingExperiments Blog, and Cyrus Shepard, Head of SEO and Content, Moz, read through all the subject lines proposed by marketers through The Moz Blog.

We settled on these seven subject lines:

Category #1: Proof

  • Attention Business Leaders: How to Increase your ROI through Employee Volunteer Initiatives
  • Volunteering matters. We have the proof.

Category #2: Network size

  • CC Your Boss: 1,000+ Ways To Make A Difference (Inside)
  • Does your company care? Thousands of ways to prove it.

Category #3: Ease of use (app)

  • The volunteer app your coworkers will talk about
  • The One App That Can Change The Way Your Company Gives Back

Category #4: Passion (no feature)

  • Spread the Only “Good” Office Virus
  • Spread the Only “Good” Office Virus (I’ll tell you why this subject line is listed twice in the next step)

 

Step #4: Test with your audience to see which value and messaging combination is the most effective

In this case, my colleague, Jon Powell, Senior Manager, Executive Research and Development, MECLABS Institute, ran a split test with VolunteerMatch’s email list to see which subject lines would be most effective and which value is most appealing to potential customers.

Testing with your potential customers is another way to break down that fourth wall with customers and discover what is really most valuable about your product to inform and improve your copywriting.

Here was the email that was sent. (Note: The last, bolded line was changed for different treatments to correspond to the value expressed in the subject line that was tested.)

 

I listed the “passion” subject line twice because Jon used it as a double treatment. Essentially, this is a way to make sure the results that you see from an experiment are valid.

There should not be a significant difference between those two treatments since the subject line was the same. If there is a significant difference, it could be an indication of a validity threat, and you must question your data even further before trusting it (an issue we fortunately did not have with this test).

Read more…

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Categories: Analytics & Testing Tags: , , ,

Selena Blue

Consumer Marketing: 4 communication tips for online salespeople from a customer perspective

February 2nd, 2015

When you think about lead nurturing, your first instinct might be to throw it into the B2B marketing bucket. However, some consumer products require nurturing on the part of a salesperson too.

Consumers face many high-involvement purchases that require a helping hand in the buying process, such as cars, insurance policies and even services like home construction and child care. These typically aren’t impulse buys.

Take, for example, the auto industry. Once upon a time, you had to go to each dealership and wheel and deal to make a great purchase. Now, many shoppers start their hunt online. This leads to consumers having  to deal with “Internet salespeople.”

Today, for anyone in favor of researching their purchases, the Internet is the first stop. It was for me when I recently started researching different cars I might want to buy. Now keep in mind, I’m in my information search phase. This means, as you can see in John Dewey’s Customer Buying Process, I’m still a whole other step away from buying. 

 

I’m still several months out from actually purchasing. I just like to have my ducks in a row for when I’m ready to take the plunge. Let’s keep that in mind for the remainder of the post as we go through four tips to better communicate with customers during the lead nurturing process.

 

Tip #1. Segment your leads

All leads are not equal. The prospects that appear on your list are not all at the same point in the decision process. One simple way for you to estimate where they are in the process is based on where they came from.

Think about a prospect who entered your funnel through your site. Then, think about a customer who was added to your list through a third-party website. While they might end up on your email list next to each other, they are two very different people.

Those who enter through your site could already be in the evaluation stage, or they could be ready to purchase, having already completed Stages 2 and 3. Those entering through the third-party site, where their information is potentially being given to multiple companies, could be just feeling out the marketplace.

When I researched a specific car on TrueCar — an automotive pricing and information website — my information was sent to three different dealerships so I could see those dealers’ online offer price. It was interesting as someone in marketing to see the varying responses I received – more on that in the following tips.

But, I’m just one very specific example.

We can certainly leave it at assumptions and generalizations. However, no one knows your prospects better than you. Look back at data — whether that’s in a sophisticated CRM or basic Excel sheet.

Which prospects seem to move faster through the funnel? Which seem to drop out rather quickly? Can you see a pattern based on where they entered the funnel?

If so, segment prospects into groups as they come in. That way you’re able to better personalize the email you send to them.

Read more…

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Categories: Internet Marketing Strategy Tags: , , ,

Jon Powell

Email Marketing: How responsive design might improve your emails

January 29th, 2015

If you were watching last year, we revealed some research on a Web clinic concerned with responsive design, specifically the effect of a mobile and tablet-based form page design for mobile and tablet specific users.

If you’re unfamiliar with responsive design, the general concept is that a page is coded to adapt its viewing experience to fit the size of the device you’re using.

 

While the results were interesting, we still had many questions:

  • Can those findings be applicable to all page types?
  • What about articles and landing pages?
  • What about emails?

As part of our quest to continue to get a better picture on the effect of mobile design on a rapidly growing world of mobile users, my team had a desire to perform a responsive design test on a type of email where responsive design would prove extremely valuable to readers — the email newsletter.

The team’s hypothesis made sense: A significant number of visitors are not acting on the [desktop style] email because it is too difficult to read and process. The fix? Use a responsive design template to make things readable.

Read more…

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Austin McCraw

Marketing Classics: Four principles from the book that changed David Ogilvy’s life

January 26th, 2015

Have you ever read an advertising or marketing book more than once? How about more than twice?

David Ogilvy once insisted about a book,

“Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”

What book was he referring to?

Marketer, meet Claude Hopkins, one of the original 1920s ad men who could masterfully blend both art and the rigor of science to marketing campaigns. He is known for many iconic ads of the past, including Pepsodent Toothpaste, which some credit with getting Americans in the habit of brushing their teeth.

Hopkins was studied and admired by both David Ogilvy (who most of us know) and Rosser Reeves (who many of us know as Don Draper).

Hopkins summarized his theory of advertising in a short, easy-to-digest, book called Scientific Advertising. This was Ogilvy’s go-to book. I remember the first time I read through it. What really struck me about it was its relevance to what we were discovering (or I guess is should say rediscovering) almost a century later here at MarketingExperiments.com.

Now, I confess, I am only on my third round through this book, so I know I am not quite yet fit to work for Ogilvy, but I thought it would be fitting to share with you a few of Hopkins principles that seem relevant for us to remember nearly 100 years later.

 

PRINCIPLE #1: People are selfish

First, Hopkins warns the reader, “The people you address are selfish, as we all are They care nothing about you interests or profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising.”

Much of the advertising in Hopkins day had turned inward and focused primarily on what the business wanted the customer to do — mainly buy a product or service. They had forgotten that before you can move someone to action, you have to help them understand what is in it for them.

It’s humorous sometimes how we can fall into the same trap today as advertisers. You can see it in something as simple as our call-to-action copy. We use phrases like, “Buy now,” “Add to Cart,” “Register” or, even worse, “Submit.”

All these display the symptom that Hopkins was getting at — we are too focused on what we want from the customer, rather than what the customer wants from us.

We run simple A/B experiments (like this series) all the time in which changing emphasis from something like “Buy Product X” to “Get Product X” has a significant impact on customer response.

And it does not simply come down to using a word like “get.” It’s about the mindset behind the word “get.” As Hopkins pointed out, people are interested in what they “get,” not what the business “gets.”

This is as true today as it was then, and the most effective marketers today know how to empathize with the customer.

Read more…

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John Tackett

Online Testing: Why are you really testing?

January 21st, 2015

The start of a new year gives savvy marketers another chance to push exploring your customer’s theory even further. In today’s MarketingExperiments Blog post, I want to welcome 2015 by sharing with you a simple product page test from our last Web clinic you can use to aid your marketing efforts.

Before we dive in further, let’s look at the background on the experiment:

 

Background: A mid-sized furniture company selling mattresses online

Goal: To increase mattress purchases

Research Question: Which design will generate the most online purchases?

Test Design: A/B variable cluster test

 

Side-by-side 

 

Here’s a side-by-side split of the two designs and the variables being tested to help give a little context to their placement on the page.

 

As you can tell from the comparison here, Design A was centered on an approach that used less text, with copy that placed emphasis on a low risk trial, free shipping and returns as well as a 25-year warranty.

Read more…

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Joey Taravella

Testing and Optimization: How to get that “ultimate lift”

January 19th, 2015

What would you rather have: a 32-inch flat screen TV for $100 or a 72-inch flat screen TV for $150? After considering the first 32 inches cost $100, you would probably pay the additional $50 for another 40 inches.

This same principal can be thought of in terms of testing and optimization, with one caveat — you have to buy the 32-inch TV first.

 

A discovery, not a lift

Many attempting to optimize and test within webpages want big lifts; however here at MECLABS Institute, we always say the goal of a test is not to get a lift but to gain discoveries about customer behavior. This makes sense on face value, but to be honest, when I first heard the expression, I thought to myself, “Well sure, that sounds like a good backstop in case you don’t get a lift.” However, I soon learned that it is more than a backstop or worse — an excuse.

As the curator for Dr. Flint McGlaughlin’s personal website, I often come across insightful observations. This next excerpt speaks particularly well to this topic of optimization and testing to obtain more than just a lift:

Too often, marketers are focused on results instead of reasons. We need to move deeper than ‘how much,’ into ‘why so,’ to answer an even more important question: What does this tell me about my customer or prospect? And so the goal of an optimization test transcends the notion of a lift and asks for learning. With sufficient insights we can obtain the ultimate lift. The more you know about the customer, the easier it is to predict their behavior. The easier it is to predict their behavior, the more you know about your value proposition. — Flint McGlaughlin

I have bolded what I think is the most important part of that quote for the sake of our discussion today. I am going to repeat it because it is so significant: “The goal of an optimization test transcends the notion of a lift and asks for learning. With sufficient insights we can obtain the ultimate lift.” — Flint McGlaughlin

Now we may ask ourselves, “What is the ultimate lift”? Some may think it is the biggest or most important criteria on some arbitrary scale. In my opinion, the “ultimate” lift is gaining insight about your customer and your value proposition that can be leveraged across all marketing channels.

 

Value Proposition 101

Before we go any further, if you are reading this article and do not know what I mean when I say “value proposition,” I urge you to investigate our research specifically around value proposition. However, for the sake of brevity (and this blog post), here is the oversimplified crash course:

A company’s value proposition is essentially trying to answer the question “If I am you ideal prospect, why should I buy from you rather than your competitors?

The answer should be a “because” statement that stresses the appeal and exclusivity of the offer in a clear and credible way. The offer also needs to be supported by factual claims which will add to the credibility of the offer.

 

Testing for the “ultimate lift”

Now that we have a basic understanding of a value proposition, here is an example from a past MECLABS research partner. In this experiment, we achieved the “ultimate lift” because of customer discoveries gained through value proposition testing.

 

Experiment ID: TP1306
Background: Provides end-to-end market solutions for small and medium-sized businesses.
Primary Research Question: Which page will obtain the most form submissions?

First, here is the control:

 

CONTROL

 

After analyzing the offer on the page, MECLABS analysts identified the following value proposition for the offer.

Read more…

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