Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Don't be a rookie

Just because you're a rookie doesn't mean you have to act like one.

I received a phone call last night from a new sales guy at the dealership I bought my last car from, over 2 years ago.  The call went something like this:

Sales guy: I see you umm bought a uhm Highlander from us ahh a while ago?  I just umm wanted to see how its working out for you.
Me: Fine.
Sales guy: Do you ah need anything, or umm ah have you gotten service lately?
Me: Everything is just fine.
Sales guy: Okay.  Great.  I'm new here and am trying to build up a clientele so if you need anything ahh let me know.

Now, I'm definitely not a Glengarry lead, after all I believe a car doesn't come into its own until it has at least 100k miles, but no body is persuaded by ummm and ah.  His pitch lacked confidence, trust, and most importantly, a call to action.

A lot of websites are this same way.  The pages are disconnected, the purpose isn't clear, and there is no call to action.

Is your website still a rookie?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What do your customers think?

Today's post is an exercise.  Note: it works for both companies and individuals, just replace company name with your name.

Our self perception and objective opinions are often different.  Most of us are aware of this phenomenon with regards to our bodies, but what about your business and reputation?

Step 1:  Answer the 4 questions below.

Step 2:  Ask a hand full of your customers, visitors, or affiliates the same questions.
  1. How would you describe company name?
  2. What is something that company name does well?
  3. What is something that company name could improve on?
  4. Any other comments?
If your results aren't consistent with your customers, then you have a problem.  The image you are projecting doesn't match the image you have in mind.  You have the power to change the way people perceive you.  Sometimes we end up so far away from where we wanted to be, we can't figure out how to get back.  Take a second to consider what events led to each customer's feedback and start there.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Website Optimization vs Website Development

I read a blog post on econsultancy that referred to web development as a commodity.   Of course, an argument ensued in the comments as to whether web development was a commodity or an art.  

I tend to lean toward the idea that the initial phase of web development is in fact a commodity.  The days of throwing up a terrible website and attracting visitors are over, but why not put up an inexpensive template website and iterate?  If you start with something you know you don't love, you won't be afraid to test new ideas.

I think most agencies get carried away with their first draft of a website, trying to make it perfect.  This is impractical for user experience, time, and money.  Website optimization is an art.  Whether you want visitors to buy something, browse more, or share with their friends, the first draft of a website just helps you get a baseline for website conversion optimization.  

Build quick and optimize for results.

Friday, October 26, 2012

3 Ways to get started today

Conversion rate optimization can grow, maybe even double the size of your business, but with so many possibilities, where do you start?  You need to make sure you are gathering enough data to gain insights and track the results of your changes.

  1. Track your visitors - Put Google Analytics on your website and setup goals.  Analytics data will help you see what your visitors are doing on your site.  You can use analytics trends to see the affect of your changes.
  2. Put a survey on your site - Use SurveyMonkey or 4Q to get feedback from your visitors.  The most important opinion (in CRO) is that of the visitor that didn't buy.  Listen to your visitors to find out what they like and what is turning them off.
  3. Spend a day in customer service - Spend a day in your customer service department and learn what your customers have to say.  Obviously your business needs customers.  Even though they have already purchased, what they have to say is still vital to your success.  The cost of a returning customer is far more profitable than paying for a new one.
You can start doing any of these things today.  Each one of these suggestions will help you gain insights into the things that are holding back your site.  If you do all three, your new problem won't be, "What should we change?" it will be "What should be change first?!"  (and that's a much better problem to have.)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Eye catching design

Yesterday, I was invited to checkout EyeQuant.  Eye tracking studies for websites are costly and take time. EyeQuant uses advanced algorithms to predict the results of an eye tracking study in seconds, all with a 90% accuracy.

Catching someone's attention and helping move them through your content is the task of good design.  Tools like EyeQuant make it easy to test and iterate on designs until they capture the attention you desire.  But, its important to remember that it is just a tool, not a magic bullet.  Just because something is eye catching doesn't mean it will resonate with your audience.  Always test redesigned pages to make sure they deliver the desired results.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Secret to conversion

A lot of people ask me, "What is the secret to getting more conversions?"

The answer is: Trust and Attention.  I don't think its a secret as much as it is often overlooked.  As business owners we think that if visitors see our website, they are paying attention to us.  Its also hard for us to believe that someone might not trust us, given our history.  We think of our websites as an extension of our established brick and mortar businesses.  Naturally our websites should be able to lean on the reputation of the company.

The truth about websites is they are more akin to a sales associate.  For first time visitors, they don't have any accolades or history.  The trust that they (sales associates and websites) earn and the attention they command will determine whether you choose to buy from them or not.  

If you have ever done face to face sales, you know that just because you got someone to talk to you doesn't mean they are paying attention to you.  You have to constantly engage your audience to keep them interested and attentive.  

Trust, the other key ingredient, is initially based on your uniform.  A suit for business services and a track suit for personal training convey authenticity.  If you reversed those, it would be hard to trust the quality of either offering.  As you start a conversation, trust is based on your delivery and believably.

A strong brand can overcome a bad sales person, but a small company can't afford to have someone out there tarnishing their name.  If your visitors don't trust you, it doesn't matter how great your offering is.  If your visitors aren't paying attention to you, they'll never hear your sales pitch.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Content for conversion

Creating and using content to bring visitors to your site has become the hottest way to get more traffic.  Gravitational, inbound, or content marketing is now a part of almost every SEO (search engine optimization) plan these days.

The idea is that if you create quality, useful content that people want to share, not only will you benefit from your visitors sharing your content with their friends, but search engines will pick up on this activity and rank you higher in various search engine results pages (SERPs) including long tail keywords (searches that have 3 or more words).  This is great because you get extra traffic and most studies show that 3-6 word searches have a higher click-through rate than 1 or 2 word searches.  But does this extra traffic convert?

Mingle2 (use to be OnePlusYou), an online dating site, created a bunch of fun online quizzes to drive traffic to their site, like Would you eat your buddies in a Blizzard?  Addictive pieces of content like quizzes and various infographics definitely bring you traffic, but in this case, the content is a complete non sequitur (doesn't have anything to do with online dating).

When you bring visitors to your site to view unrelated content, your website is no better than a commercial in the middle of your favorite show.  It is a minor inconvenience that you must bear in order to access the content you desire.  Of course, given enough traffic, someone will be interested in your offerings.

Why not create content that is directly related to your business?  A dating site could use statistics in an infographic to show that they have the best service.  When your content shows your success, highlights your benefits, and helps your prospects with the problems you are an expert at, everyone benefits.  You may not get as many visitors but would you rather talk to 10 people on the street or to 2 people who need your services?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Strike a pose

If you aren't achieving the results you desire, you may be using the wrong frame.  

Framing is about using your surroundings to change the way people see you, your product, and your company.  Our brains take a lot of shortcuts.  Frames are one of those shortcuts.  Frames provide a quick and easy way to categorize new things by giving us something to compare and contrast against.

Graffiti on the street is seen as vandalism.  Graffiti in a museum is seen as art.  

If you aren't doing as well as you should be, take a step back and examine your frame.  Silk, makers of soy milk, realized that people didn't think of their product as a replacement for milk... when it lived in the baking isle.  When they requested that grocery stores put it in the refrigerators with the dairy milk, even though it didn't need to be refrigerated, people naturally recognized it as another option for their breakfast cereal.  The product didn't change, just the frame did.

If you want more Twitter followers, follow people who have a large following.  If you want more readers for your Blog, network with bloggers who have lots of readers.  If you want more customers, make sure your business is framed as being a successful leader in your industry.

If you don't set your frame, one will be picked for you.  Take control.  Strike a pose, there's nothing to it.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Long Term CRO

If Conversion Rate Optimization never really ends (marketing changes, buying trends, industry shift, and internet evolution), what does a long term CRO plan look like?

After you have optimized your website conversion rate to make the most out of your existing traffic, CRO doesn't stop.  A long term CRO strategy should include the following:

  • Analyze quantitative data at least quarterly - You should look through your analytics data, purchase history, and customer service interventions to identify trends and gain insights on an on-going basis.
  • Gather and analyze qualitative data quarterly - You should survey existing customers, non-converting visitors, and your customer service representatives to identify pain points and gain insights into what is working on an on-going basis.  What your visitors and customers have to say will change over time.
  • Run at least 2 tests a month - Assuming an appropriate amount of traffic, consistently running tests allows for continued learning about what elements matter most to your visitors.  
  • Talk at least every 2 weeks - Keeping in touch, even if there is nothing to report, makes sure both parties are aligned and provides a convenient time to discuss new ideas or concerns.

Of course if you grow your website or start a new marketing campaign, a specific CRO plan to handle the situation is best.

CRO not only increases your conversion rate but keeps you inline with your customers and helps you keep up with all the changes that happen every day.

Friday, October 19, 2012

When is Conversion Rate Optimization Necessary?

A number of people have asked me, "When does it make sense to worry about conversion rate optimization?"

If you are actively driving traffic to your website through Pay Per Click (PPC) ads, social marketing, email marketing, or any other marketing efforts, conversion rate optimization should be a part of your campaign.

CRO can help any marketing campaign, but you will see the most dramatic improvements if you have any of these issues:
  • Inconsistent results - If your campaign is causing inconsistent results, ie. low conversion rates on random days, the landing page or conversion process may not be speaking to all your visitors.
  • Not meeting your goals - All marketing campaigns have goals for Conversion or Return On Ad Spend (ROAS), at least to break even.  If you aren't meeting these goals, especially if you have already tried tweaking the campaign, CRO will be the push you need.
  • Web metrics indicate issues - A high bounce rate and large amounts of traffic leaving the funnel are red flags that something is wrong.
  • Marketing costs go up - If you are using highly competitive keywords or seasonal marketing is more expensive than your usual marketing, CRO will make sure you get the most out of your visitors.
  • Your results are stagnant or diminishing - Sometimes good campaigns stop performing.  In this case CRO is the perfect solution to give a lift to your campaign.
CRO not only makes your marketing campaigns more successful but the insights gained can often be used in other parts of your website and marketing.  If your business depends on website conversions, you should consider making CRO a line item expense.  Just as you pay an accountant or a lawyer for your business, you should pay a CRO consultant for your website.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Align yourself with the customer

The best way to move forward is to align yourself with your customers.  If you aren't working toward the same goals as your customers, issues will surely arise.  

A recent example is Apple's map service. Apple's customers want (accurate) maps, directions, and navigation on their phones.  Apple wants a proprietary mapping software to integrate into their other products.  The problem is, the best way to get the gross amounts of data you need to make an awesome mapping service is through crowd sourcing.  Apple chose to launch a "decent" version of the service hoping that their customers will overlook the issues and provide the data they need.  This difference of goals, has created a lot of media buzz... and not in a good way.

In my own work, one of the first contracts I created for a Conversion Rate Optimization project was solely measured on Web Conversion Rate.  At the end of the contract, we had increased the web conversion rate by over 250%, but the business hadn't received the same benefit because they weren't able to close the deal with each new lead.  Their back office conversion rate, based on leads generated from the website, dropped from 97% to 78%.  This difference in goals created some tension.  Realizing the harm of having different goals, we reconciled based on their goals (as it was the spirit of what we were trying to do).

If you align yourself with your customers from the beginning, no matter what twists and turns life or business throws at you, you will pivot together and always be working toward the same end.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Do the math

Many business owners and sales people assume their customers are not only math literate, but that they take time to do the math.  Most people, regardless of ability, just take a short cut.  

Consider these two offers:
  • 50% off 
  • 50% more free
Both offer 50% of the original amount for FREE!  Using this short cut, the offers are identical.

Lets look at them from the business's side.  The second offer is actually only a 33% discount.  Not only does this increase cash flow, but it also increases the size of each sale, and may even let the business take advantage of bulk discounts from their vendors.  In almost every case it is easier for a company to make the second offer.  

A closer look from the client side reveals the first offer is a discounted price.  Price reductions, especially when they are as large as 50%, "cheapen" the product and make us wonder why it is no longer worth full price.  (Note: it can be very difficult to come back to full price.)  The second offer is viewed as a bonus, not a price reduction.  Getting a bonus from a company or brand you already like only strengthens your perception of them.  Customers may look for a bonus next time, but its easier to understand paying full price.  

Next time you are thinking about offering a steep discount, consider offering more for free.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Building a website is hard

Building a website today is harder than it has ever been.  In the 90's it was perfectly okay to put a bunch of content into the ‹body› tag of an html page.  Paragraphs and tables were bonuses.  These days you have to develop for computers and a plethora of other devices, optimize pages for search engines, integrate with social networks, and this is just the beginning of the list.  Accessibility and usability are no longer the exception, they are requirements.  User experience, the cerebral leviathan in the room that plays with the way our perceptions alter our realities, is the new path to internet success.

All this time, money, and effort for a website.  But, the potential to find a tribe, to reach out to your customers, to let your voice be heard, and help those around you, has never been greater.  The web may be exponentially more complex and harder to build for, but the possibilities are endless.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Watch for emotion

When a customer is emotional, you have an opportunity.  Emotional customers are more likely to share their experience with their friends.

If the client is angry, try to calm him/her down and offer an incentive for patiently working through the issue.  If a client is happy, ask for a testimonial, referral, or just a Facebook like.  Doing this favor for you, will actually make them like you more.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

How to get what you want

A wise man once told me, "An excuse only satisfies the man who makes it."  He was right, but as it turns out, (almost) everyone wants an explanation.  Maybe its our curious nature, or our need to make sense of the world, but when something falls outside of "normal" we NEED an explanation.

Numerous studies have been performed on the use of explanations to aid in line jumping.  The results are simply, the bigger the favor it is to cut in line, the better the explanation needs to be.  To cut in line for the copy machine, you only need to be in a hurry.  To cut in line at Starbucks, your wife better be in labor with twins.  This concept scales to almost all things that exist outside of normal.  The more abnormal something is, the better the explanation needs to be.

What does this mean for web conversions?  When you're collecting non-standard information or asking a favor of your visitors, offer a reason why.  If your product is 50% cheaper/more expensive/faster/better than any competitor, be explicit in why yours is/can be different.  These things can seem obvious making it hard to recognize when you need to offer an explanation.  

If you share your reasoning, people can consciously decide if you deserve your morning coffee before they do, otherwise, your just the jerk that tried to cut in line.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Positively Persuasive

One of the tricks that many conversion rate optimization specialists promote is changing a positive statement about your product's value into a negative one.  Using negative statements can have a huge impact on conversion rate, but why?

Imagining a security company as an example, consider the two phrases:
  • Stay safe.  Use our security.
  • Don't be a victim.  Use our security
The first statement is positive and the second is negative, but they both support the same value proposition, "Our security keeps you safe."

Consider what feeling each phrase evokes.  The first says, joint the group and be safe.  We are all RÓ™bels at heart and as such its easy to feel self reliant and say we don't need help to be safe.

The second evokes the thought of being victimized and makes us feel vulnerable.

Negative statements don't necessarily work for everyone.  If you're looking for a boost in conversion rate, try changing positive statements to negative ones or vice versa and let your visitors decide!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Emotion Commotion

Humans are very rational, logical beings... until we become emotional.

I'm a great driver.  I drive a reasonable speed, use my blinkers, and stay in my lane... until some idiot starts tailgating me or cuts me off without a blinker.  My heart races, grip tightens, and suddenly teaching that guy a lesson is more important than the laws of the road.

Emotion is a very powerful tool in persuasion and sales.  Not only do emotions make us throw logic out the window, but we almost always under estimate how far we are willing to go when emotional.

Some quick examples of emotions in action at your grocery store:
  • Local Produce - support your community (doing good for the group)
  • Organic - get/stay healthy (doing good for yourself)
  • Green/Free range - environmentally responsible (doing good for the world)
  • Ice Cream - you deserve a reward/pick me up
  • The checkout isle - impulse buying

Monday, October 8, 2012

Drive the conversation to identify leads

Website visits are conversations.  You, the site owner, need to drive the conversation.

Many websites have navigation in the header and even the footer, but few actually navigate the user through the site.  You don't have to know a lot about your visitors if you know what they are doing.  

Let's take as an example.  The goal of this website is to generate leads; people and companies who may be interested in Conversion Rate Optimization services.

If a visitor chooses to read What is CRO? they may be interested in 6 Benefits of CRO, Case Studies, or Getting started with CRO.  But, they probably aren't interested in testimonials (at least not yet).  What is CRO? is about the industry not the company.  As a website owner, you can take this cue to continue the conversation without going too fast or pushing too hard.  Alternatively, if a visitor reads a Case Study, they may now be interested in Testimonials.  This same visitor is probably not interested in What is CRO? because he/she has already passed that point.

Give your visitors direct links to these logical next steps and encourage them to continue the conversation.

A visitor who goes from 
What is CRO?
Case Studies
is likely a very good lead.  If this guy doesn't convert you need to find out why.

A visitor who goes from 
What is CRO?
Case Studies
Tools for Successful CRO
Getting started with CRO 
is more likely still learning and possibly interested in trying some experiments on his/her own.  

Using KissMetrics to track visitors can help identify high conversion paths.  Qualaroo can be used to influence behavior.   Or, you can build your own custom navigation to track and navigate your visitors.  Once you are controlling the conversation, 

  • You can identify which visitors are good leads.
  • Marketing can begin to be measured in the number of highly qualified leads brought in.
  • And you can use conversion rate optimization to maximize the potential of those leads.

*I don't have any commercial interest in mentioning KissMetrics and Qualaroo.
**ContourThis is used only as an example and does not necessarily implement this strategy on their site.  The pages referred to in this post may or may not exist or be public.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Its easy to sell a Snuggie®

The more valuable and risky the product or service, the more trust is required to make a sale.

Its easy for almost anyone to sell a Snuggie®.  Its not so easy to sell a surgery.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Start with consistency

Every time you exceed someone's expectations, you are setting the bar higher for yourself and your customers.  At some point there is nothing left to give and the new expectation, "Always exceeding expectations," won't be met.

"To exceed expectations" seems like a great goal, but "Consistently providing excellent services/products" is far better in the long run.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Conversion rate is just a number

Web metrics such as pages per visit, time on site, and even conversion rate are all just indicators.  An increase in a given web metric doesn't always mean an increase in business.

I used to work for a web publishing company (basically an online magazine).  Their business model was to pay to bring in new visitors and sell advertisements on each page.  The more pages a visitor viewed, the more money they made.  Their entire business hinged around visitors viewing more pages.  So, they did a few tricks to increase the number of pages each visitor saw.  They broke stories up into multiple pages and forced you to click "next" in the middle of each story.  They also made each photo in their photo galleries into a new page.  So, every time you click "next" to see the next image, the site had to load a new page.  

The result?  The number of pages per visit increased, but the user experience suffered.  The number of returning visitors dropped.  This resulted in the company having to spend more money finding new visitors and making less profit per advertisement.  

Web metrics are just indicators.  Business metrics (revenue, profit, market share) are what really matter.  Whenever you make changes to your website it is important to use web metrics to track your changes, but none of those improvements matter if you don't see a corresponding increase in your business metrics.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Congratulate your visitors

When you're a child, everyone around you is very encouraging and forgiving.  If my toddler tells me he drew an apple, no matter how unrecognizable, I tell him its a great apple.  If he can't get his shoes on, I encourage him to keep trying.  

As we get older, we expect more out of other people and ourselves.  These expectations make it harder for us to succeed at new things.  Anything less than good is a failure and there is nobody standing behind us encouraging us to try again.  

Using industry terms can give you ownership of your field, but it makes your visitors feel like they have failed just because they don't understand.  Don't punish your visitors for seeking out an expert and remember to be encouraging.  Admitting that you need help takes a lot of humility.  You've worked hard to become an expert, and your visitors have overcome a lot to find you.  Congratulate them for taking the first step and trying something new.

Monday, October 1, 2012

3 Steps to improve your ROI

ROI stands for Return On Investment and is a common term used when talking about an advertising or marketing campaign.  

If you have a low ROI and are looking to improve it, start with these 3 steps.

  1. Examine your traffic.  If your campaign is bringing in random visitors, the task of selling something has to start with educating them on who you are and what you offer.  This is much harder than bringing in visitors who are already interested in what you have to offer.  Even worse is when your campaign is attracting the wrong type of visitors all together.  (ie. You sell plumbing supplies and your campaign is bringing visitors looking for plumbing services.)
  2. Adjust your campaign.  It is important to fine tune your campaign so that you are bringing in highly qualified individuals who are interested in what you have to offer and are ready to buy.  You can afford to pay twice as much for each visitor if they are twice as likely to make a purchase.
  3. Optimize your conversion funnel.  The last step is conversion rate optimization.  If you have highly qualified visitors and you still have a low ROI, there is probably something that is keeping them from purchasing.  Make sure that the conversion funnel works for your visitors.  You can also use persuasion techniques to encourage them to continue.  All these changes can have a major benefit to your bottom line.