Monday, December 31, 2012

Permission to spam

Lots of web agencies and gurus are bent on "getting permission."  Someone gives you their email address and great! you are cleared to send email!  Business owners are nervous about getting labelled as spamming and they take each opt-out personally.

No one likes receiving spam, but you don't need permission to deliver a relevant message either.  Have you ever flashed your headlights at another car because they didn't have theirs on?  Or, chased down someone to let them know they inadvertently left something on top of their car.  (My father has driven away with the gas hose still in the filling tank a time or two.)

Spam, the food, consists of various parts of a pig with some filler, preservatives, and flavor enhancers.  The makers of Spam are under no false pretenses; it is not a Christmas Ham or Kobe filet.  It is not meant to be the best, freshest cut of meat.  It is meant to last on a shelf indefinitely and sustain life in an underground bunker.  

My point is, you know if you are making spam.  Spam content is nothing like fresh, relevant content.

If your emails are timely and relevant (to the receiver) they will never be considered spam.  Make it easy to opt-out and don't take it personally.  

If you have a list of emails, use it.  If you have an important relevant message, don't wait for permission.  The majority will be happy you flagged them down and told them.  

Friday, December 28, 2012

Lead generation and maturation

Lots of companies use their marketing teams to generate leads, but after the sales team picks out the most promising leads, the rest of the list gets put in file 13.  

There are some leads that will never pan out, i.e. they thought CRO meant Contract Research Organization and I could help them with research for their clinical trial.  However, most leads just aren't ready yet.

It is difficult to capture leads who are perfectly ripe.  You almost have to have inside information to find these leads.  Because companies who are ready to pull the trigger have likely been sitting on the problem for a while, they have already done their research, made their opinions, and know what they want.

Most leads for website Conversion Rate Optimization (my version of CRO), know they have a problem but don't know the best way to fix it.  Either their website isn't performing as well as their store front or they need to grow the business.  At this early stage, there are a number of available options.  Increase presence on search engines (SEO), increase spend on ads (PPC), increase social marketing efforts (SMM/SMO), or increase the effectiveness of their conversion funnel (CRO).  

Since CRO is the new division of the neighborhood, it is my job to help people understand what CRO is and how it can help them.  Only after they understand where CRO fits into the overall strategy will they be able to make an informed decision.  Since I am the one who helped them understand the landscape and form their opinions, more often than not, my name comes to the top of their list when they are ready to pull the trigger.

Keeping your leads alive, even the less promising ones, and helping them mature to the point of purchasing your services is not the quick way to get new business, but it is the best way to ensure strong growth for years to come.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ego driven design

Our site is beautiful, our awesome logo is front and center, and the site is a great representation of our company.  We've won many awards, we've handled tons of accounts, and we are all around pretty amazing. You should want to hire us!

Ego driven design and copy isn't always bad, but it doesn't do much for sales.  Letting the world know how awesome you are is great, after all someone has to tell the world, but you have to remember to include your customers too.  

You can achieve success, we'll make sure of it.  Based on our track record of helping awesome customers achieve amazing success, we can help you too.  The awards we have won show how dedicated we are to our craft and our customers.  This site is here to help you make an informed decision.  We're ready to help you succeed!

Does your site stroke your ego or your customers'? 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Nickels and Dimes

No one likes to be nickel-and-dimed.  It is understood that the price you pay for a product or a service pays for all the paper clips and toner.  If you feel that you need to charge for business expenses including administrative items, you need to review your pricing structure.

I had a CPA that would charge me for emails and phone calls to schedule meetings and even for the 5 minutes it took to assign a resource to my account for a tax review (0.08 hours).  This sort of practice made me wonder why I didn't have a line item for my part of his rent, electric bill, and water usage. 

These items are overhead.  The price of doing business.  I talk a lot about the psychology of doing business online and I would be remiss if I didn't talk about charging fees.  When you charge for overhead, you give your clients the power to second guess your choices.  Every line item on your invoice is a choice for your clients.  If they don't agree with the charge for administrative tasks or the amount of time you've billed for drafting an email, it's the client's right to dispute the price.  

Consider the following two prices for professional photography:

  • Professional Photo-shoot
    • E-mail - $25
    • Pre-session Prep - $25
    • Studio Fee - $50
    • Equipment Fee - $25
    • Photography Fee - $150
    • Image Sorting - $40
    • Image Backups - $25
    • Photo Editing - $250
    • Photo Processing - $35
    • 5 8x10 Prints - $50
    • Total - $675
  • All Inclusive Professional Photo-shoot
    • 1 - 1 1/2 hour Photo Session - $675

In the second option, "All Inclusive Professional Photo-shoot," you look at the photographer's previous work and decide if it is worth $675 for professional photos.  In the first option, you see that it's over $400 for photo sorting and editing.  Being the Photoshop enthusiast that you are, you begin to wonder if its worth $400 for someone else to edit and print the photos.  Couldn't you save $400 if the photographer just gave you the memory card after the shoot?

Breaking down your fees and charging for each item delivered makes it harder for your clients to judge the value of your work and harder for you to make the sale.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas wrapping paper

Merry Christmas everybody!

Just a quickie for Christmas.  Why do we use wrapping paper?  Why not just give gifts?  

Aside from being prettier than newspaper, wrapping paper creates mystery and excitement.  You don't know what's under it.  You get to tear it off and find a surprise inside.  The best part is, while the present is still wrapped, your imagination can run wild.

How can you bring some Christmas magic to your site and entertain your visitors' imaginations?

Monday, December 24, 2012

I see you

The average conversion rate across the web is 2%.  This means that out of 100 visitors, only 2 end up purchasing something.  To put it another way, imagine 98% of everybody walking out of the grocery store without buying anything.

2% is an average.  It includes a few very successful companies with 10-20%+ conversion rates, the wide majority of people who get less than 2% and even many companies with less than 1%.

Brick and mortar stores get conversion rates of 20-90%.  So, what's different about real stores and digital ones?

Before I answer that question, it is important to understand that real stores and digital ones are very different.  Everything about them is different, including the rules of business.  But, the same human concepts apply to both.

Your real store has a marquee sign that lets everyone know exactly what it is you do.  When someone walks in the door, you have samples and merchandise laid out for your visitors to browse.  You or one of your sales associates greets your guest to make them feel welcome and ensures they are able to find what they are looking for, including the answers to various questions.  When you recognize a repeat customer or visitor, you greet them in a different manner and build on your previous encounter.  Any information you have about your visitor is used as fodder to drive the conversation, build the relationship, and increase the likelihood of a sale.

There are always exceptions to the rule, but none of these things happen on the average website.  We don't all have a team of developers in the basement like Amazon, but that doesn't mean we can't learn from this.

Your homepage is your marquee AND the front of your store.  It helps people understand what you do and lets them browse some merchandise.  Find a way to greet your visitors and offer to show them around.  Live chat is just one way to solve this issue.  A popup with a video intro to your company or website, or even an understated "Welcome" in the header are a couple of other ways.

Recognize your repeat visitors.  Repeat visitors and customers are far more valuable than first-timers.  Google Analytics is great at keeping track of your visitors but unfortunately it doesn't offer a way for you to make use of that information in real time.  You will likely need to use cookies or another option from your development team to be able to take advantage of your repeat visitors.  Asking a first-time reader of your blog to sign up for email updates can be hit or miss, but asking a repeat reader to sign up is far more successful.

If you aren't convinced that this little change of letting your visitors know that you "see" them makes a difference, consider the difference between Facebook and LinkedIn.  If you want to know what an old girlfriend or boyfriend is doing, does it matter to you that Facebook doesn't tell him you looked at his profile and LinkedIn does?

The mere act of observation changes behavior [for the good].  Don't treat your online business like a sociological study, get involved and interact with your visitors.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Free Consult Fridays

This post is to officially announce Free Consult Fridays.  (The website hasn't caught up with the idea yet, so for the time being feel free to use the "contact" page to demonstrate your interest.)

The idea is that each Friday I will make myself available to do a phone call and screen share with 2 companies/people.  I will share my screen with you and do a live review of your website.  It's not meant to be a sales call or pressure to buy anything, just an honest review of your site.  (You do have to have a website.)  

Whether you're a big corporation or just getting started, high traffic or no traffic, new to the web or old hat, I'll give you some feedback on your site and try to help you over whatever hurdles you're facing.

Most reviews take 30-45 minutes, but I won't be watching the clock, so if it takes longer and you have the time, I'll stay on the line.  

Don't worry, I'm not trying to add you to some list.  Over the past few weeks, I've had the pleasure of helping a couple of friends with their websites and really enjoyed the experience.  I truly like helping companies succeed on the web and realize its true potential.  What you do after the call is up to you.

If you're interested in a slot for Free Consult Friday, fill out the contact page and let me know which week works best for you.  If you want to share your website and biggest question(s), I'll do a little prep work before our meeting so you have the full benefit of my time.  It's a first come first serve deal, so if you're interested, don't wait too long :)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Attention Deficit Disorder

There has never been so many companies vying for our attention or so much readily available information waiting to be consumed.  All this competition for our attention creates an attention deficit for many companies.

This attention deficit leaves most companies trying to come up with inventive ways to capture our attention.  All the emails with unnecessary icons (☮☯✈☠♥☣☤♫✍♛✰☺☼☂☚✔), banner ads, "viral" videos, and star bursts telling us we only have 6 hours to redeem this coupon! remind me of a child trying desperately to get his parent's attention.  (

But, what happens when one child throws a temper tantrum and another calmly draws a picture?  The child who threw the tantrum probably got the most attention, although it may have been in the form of a swift hand.  The reaction of giving attention to the loudest child only encourages both children to try harder for more attention.  

In business, you don't always get the most attention for doing the right thing, but your customers will appreciate you for it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

GA is not enough

If you are driving traffic to your website, Google Analytics can't give you the whole picture.

When your running a marketing campaign and driving traffic to your website through links in social media and paid ads, you need to know what ALL of those visitors are doing when they get to your site.  Google Analytics keeps track of the visitors who continue into your site or take the intended action, but GA loses the most important traffic segment, the ones who leave.

The visitors who leave are just as, if not more, important than the ones who stick around.  Those visitors tell you if you need to segment your traffic and send visitors from a particular source to a separate landing page or stop paying for that segment all together.

If you only have a 2% conversion rate and those visitors that convert are the only ones that are scrolling, you know you need to encourage more people to scroll or re-arrange your best content to be above the fold.  

You may also find that many visitors are trying to click on something that is not clickable.

All of these insights and more have been personal findings of my own with various websites.  If GA doesn't do it, how do you get this information?  Heatmaps, scrollmaps, and clickmaps.  

There are plenty of companies out there that offer these services.  If you want a simple, user friendly solution, I would suggest Crazy Egg.  If you want a more robust solution that offers advanced analytics and even recording, ClickTale maybe the best solution.

If you're only relying on Google Analytics to give you the insights you need, you may be missing the boat.

Free Kindle Book

The Kindle version of The Customer Creation Equation by Brian Massey, the Conversion Scientist is FREE today (Dec. 19) on Amazon.

It's a great book to dispel the myths of your online presence.  I would suggest anyone who is a website owner, business owner, or marketing manager to at least take a quick read through the introduction.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mobile is moving, are you ready?

An excellent slideshow from Business Insider about the future of mobile shows the growth of the mobile space.  Some key points are:

  • 30% of the world is online.
  • That 30% represents over 80% of the worlds money.
  • Tablets and smart phones have already saturated the American market.
  • Smart phone use is growing fast in other countries like China.
  • People do everything on a smart phone that they do on a PC + take pictures and play games.
  • We live in a multi-screen world (smart phone, mini-tablet, tablet, laptop, desktop monitor, tv)
So, how do you deal with website visitors who are on their smart phones... and all their other devices?

Let's look at your options:
  • Native Apps - Native apps sound like a great idea.  They fit perfectly on the device and are easy to use.  The problem is that you have to get them approved and convince people to download them.  If you need to cater to a large audience, you have to make a different app for Apple, Android, and now Windows, not to mention the myriad of devices and display sizes you'll need to accommodate.  In the end, native apps work best for a specific, well defined group to perform advanced tasks.
  • Device Specific Sites - The good ol' mobile site, but now you have to decide if you need a "tablet site", or "tv site."  These specific sites are great because they let you customize the experience in a way that is almost native w/o having to worry about approvals and downloads, but they are still loads of work to maintain.  Every landing page now needs 2, 3, 4 versions with device specific optimization.  Every bug fix has to be vetted on multiple devices, etc. 
  • Responsive Design - Responsive design is the new kid on the block.  While not "new" many people are hearing about this idea for the first time.  With responsive design, the layout of your site changes depending on the screen/window size but the content stays the same.  You can re-size pictures and videos, convert from a 3 column layout to 1 column, and even make the navigation easier to use with your finger, all on the fly.  This is definitely the most attractive option if you need your site to feel "native" on screens of different sizes, and don't want to maintain multiple sites.  Although, it still doesn't solve the issue of having to test at multiple screen sizes.
  • Do Nothing - Do almost nothing is my personal choice.  Despite the angry comments I'm sure I'll get, and being mindful that there are many cases where other options are better, I don't think we should cater to devices.  Devices should cater to us, and for the most part, they do.  Almost all smart phones and tablets have scaling and zoom features.  If you optimize your main site to be mindful of bandwidth and stubby fingers your site will work well on all devices.  Simplify navigation and buttons to make it easier to click on your target.  Consider using styles and patterns vs images to reduce page size and download times.  One site makes it easier to keep up with your online presence and it's no surprise that these same changes also tend to increase conversion rates.
The web is not just for computers anymore.  Whether you optimize for all devices or create native apps, the important thing to remember is that more of your customers are using multiple devices everyday.  

How well does your site work on an iPhone, Galaxy, Nexus, Kindle, Xbox?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Carrots and Sticks

On the surface, conversion rate optimization seems like it is just about carrots and sticks.  Various manipulations to push people through the funnel and increase transactions.  Carrots and sticks do increase transactions and even repeat transactions, but the other side of CRO is increasing loyalty.

Loyalty is when someone is willing to use your services or do something for you even when it may not be in their best interest.  So, how do you increase loyalty?

That's a great question.  One you should take a moment and ask yourself.  There are many paths to loyalty but every company is different.  After you strip away all the promotions, all the facts and figures, and all the things that differentiate your product from the next one, what reasons can you think of to stay loyal to your company?

It's at the bottom of a question like this, that we get down to our own emotions and feelings.  We care more. We are more dedicated, more interested, and love what we do.  Your company could undoubtedly use a little more of that feeling.  Don't just plaster it on your website to tell your visitors and customers, put it at the forefront of everything you do and show your customers why you get up every morning and go to work.

Friday, December 14, 2012

It's time to increase your conversion rate

Most people think the best time to worry about conversion rates is when your site isn't doing well.  Hoping to pull their unsuccessful advertising campaigns out of the mud, they turn to website conversion rate optimization as a last hope.  

CRO can definitely help you reverse a bad trend, but the best time to start optimization is when you are already doing well.  The global average for website conversion rates is about 2%.  When you already have a solid or above average conversion rate, improvements to your site can provide exponential growth for your company.  

Website optimization techniques such as segmentation, trust building, and persuasion can give you a 30-70% increase over your current conversion rate.  If your website is already profitable, that increase goes straight to your bottom line.

Even if you have an awesome 10% conversion rate, that means that out of 10 visitors, only 1 finds what they're looking for.  You really don't think you could help 2?

Whether your site needs help or you're ready to capitalize on success, it's time to increase your conversion rate.

Still looking for excuses to start increasing your conversion rate?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The value of showing your work

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.  Magic, while entertaining, is scary if taken at face value.  Imagine a guy actually cutting a girl in half in front of thousands of people.  

Magic also makes things look easy.  When a guy escapes a straight jacket and locked chain in a fraction of a second while a mystic cloud of smoke passes by, it doesn't seem real.  There's clearly some sort of deception going on, and you would never consider using that lock to keep anything safe.

If you want your magic to be valuable, you have to show your work.  Show the audience that you pick the lock with your mouth.  Show that you spent years training and practicing so that you could do it perfectly when it counts. The audience doesn't have the conviction or skill to learn to pick locks with their mouth.  It doesn't cheapen the art, it enhances it.  

Why would you pay to watch someone do something that's easy?  Demonstrate the value of your product or service by showing your conviction and dedication to the craft.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Keep in touch with your customers

Keeping in touch with your current and past customers does more than keep you at the front of their minds, it builds trust.  Trust is the cornerstone to any relationship.  Building these relationships doesn't mean you will instantly get more sales, but it does promote loyalty.

I recently talked with a company that has been collecting emails for their newsletter list for over a year.  The signup box says something to the effect of, "Signup for our newsletter to keep up with us and receive special offers."  They've been collecting emails, but they haven't sent a single one.  Most people have probably forgotten that they signed up for anything at all.  But worse, the company didn't keep their promise.  They didn't send any news or special offers.

In trying to encourage them to send out a bulk email, I was met with objections that some people may not like getting the email and would opt-out.  

  1. These people asked to receive emails.  It's rude to second guess them.
  2. What's better, a growing list of 20,000+ emails, or a list of 1,000 loyal and interested customers?
Not sending emails isn't just a waste of a good list, its a missed opportunity to build a relationship.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The power of focus

Focus is beautiful thing.  Our attention is like the sun, exploding in all directions.  With a magnifying glass, you can focus a small fraction of the sun's rays and start a fire almost instantly.  Our focus works the same way.

In today's world, your attention has never been in such high demand.  It's no different when it comes to your business.  If you can focus your attention and drive toward a single goal, free from distractions, the possibilities are endless.

In a popular documentary, "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," Jiro Ono, an 85 year old sushi master, achieves this focus.  He endeavors everyday to create the best sushi in the world.  He doesn't serve appetizers or sake or beer.  He just serves sushi.  No distractions.  The result is that he earned 3 Michelin stars.  That means the Michelin guide considers his sushi so good, it's worth the trip to Japan just to try it.

The hardest part isn't focusing.  It's deciding what to focus on.

The other side of this exercise is: what are you doing today that isn't worth your attention?  By virtue of concentration, all your other work will receive more focus.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Segmenting your traffic

What's good for the goose, is not necessarily good for the gander.  

Not all of your visitors are the same.  So why treat them all the same?  They are male/female, returning customers/potential customers, from different industries with different interests at different times of the day, week, month, and year.  Any decent sized website can benefit from segmentation.

But, how do you tell if you need to segment your traffic?

Volatility is the number one indicator you may need to segment your traffic.  If one day your number are up and then next they are down, consider segmenting your traffic.  Various levels of segmentation allow you to optimize your website for each segment.

Segmentation starts with advertising.

Even if you display the same AdWords or Linkedin ad to everyone, your landing page should be customized to their interests.  

AdWords lets you segment your ads by location and keyword.  Linkedin lets you segment your ads by job title and skills.  If you own a plumbing supply store, you can segment your traffic by sending the weekender that searches, "How to fix a toilet," to a diagram page that also has supplies to purchase.  And send the professional plumber to the "toilet supply" category page.  

There are many ways to segment your traffic, but the results are the same.  Your visitors will feel more comfortable on your site and your conversion rates will climb.

Friday, December 7, 2012

There are monsters in my closet

There are monsters in my closet and under my bed, and the floor is made of molten hot lava.  Even though I desperately have to pee, there is no way I'm getting out from under my covers to brave the dark, just to ease my bladder.

Our minds are amazing.  They can take us to other worlds and whisk us into magnificent fantasies, but sometimes they turn against us.  As a child, your imagination paralyzed you with fear of monsters and bugs.  As an adult your imagination paralyzes you with fear of rejection, contempt, and failure.  

In business, often times the most difficult thing you can think to do, isn't.  You've just let your mind and the possibility of failure get the best of you.

If you're analyzing the risks and rewards, you've already wasted too much time thinking.  Try it out for a week, a month, a year.  It's probably easier than you thought.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Finding the perfect wedding gift

If you've ever been shopping for something as general as a "wedding gift" you know how hard it can be to find the right item.  Everything is relative, but not all things relate.  How do you compare a toaster to an iron?  Relative to an iron, my toaster does a terrible job removing wrinkles.

As humans we need to be able to grade things.  But in order to grade something and figure out which one is best, you have to be able to relate it to something else.  Product pages with a variety of items make it hard to  compare items and make a decision.

No matter what industry you're in, find a way to narrow your offerings (on any given page) so you're not asking your visitors to compare toasters and irons.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Business porn gets a bad rap

Business porn, more commonly referred to as stock art, isn't all bad.  Most web gurus cringe anytime they see a professional website with even a moderately generic photo.  But just like anything, there is a time and a place.

The University of Phoenix was recently dinged by a blog post for using "stock art" on one of their landing pages.  But, the University of Phoenix has well over 300,000 undergraduates and upward of 100,000 graduate students.  The generic image could have easily been taken by one of their professional staff photographers.  Also, the image used matched perfectly to their target audience.

Images are meant to help connect the visitor to the content.  Whether it's a blog post or a part of your main website, the most important thing is that the image reflects the content and the reader.  

Now, on the other hand, if you have a small service company and are using stock images for your main site, you're doing it wrong.  The whole point of being a small service company is that you care more and provide a more personal experience than the big nameless corporation.  Using, obviously, stock photography screams that you are generic and don't care.

What do your images say about your company?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How to track form anxiety in GA

Forms seem simple.  Either someone fills them out or they don't.  But that's not always the whole story.  

Form anxiety is when someone who would otherwise fill out your form chooses not to or stops half way through, because they don't feel comfortable.  There is also form frustration which can occur when someone makes a mistake or doesn't know the answer and decides to give up.  If you're only keeping track of the number of people who successfully complete your form, you could be leaving your visitors hanging.

I always recommend tracking these behaviors because they are generally easy to fix and result in big wins.  So, how do you do it?  ...with Google Analytics and events.

First, make sure that you are tracking your form as a goal or e-commerce transaction.  This will help you keep track of the raw number of completions.  

Next, you should be tracking form field input success and errors.  The goal is to see if you have one form field that is prone to errors or if your visitors consistently get to a particular section of your form and stop.  

I suggest tracking on blur.  Blur is when the user clicks on another input or part of the page.  It is possible to lose a couple of events with blur, but it is the least obtrusive to the process and will show you how many times someone visits a form field.  If you already have validation that verifies the user's input after each step, you can just add the tracking there.

Now for some sample code.  The GA event is highlighted in green.  This code is not meant to be plug-n-play, it is just to illustrate the point.
    function validate_and_log()
        var formId= 'My Form 1';
        var validity = 'invalid';
        var eleName = $(this).attr('name'); 
        //do the necessary validation
        if($(this).val() != '')
                validity = 'valid';
        _gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'Forms', formId, eleName, validity]);

Monday, December 3, 2012

What do you do with your data?

So, you have a website, Google Analytics, and maybe even a Google AdWords account.  What are you doing with all that data?  Are you using it to refine your website and marketing in a way that maximizes results, or is it just sitting there like your exercise bike?

Sometimes, just like physical exercise, it's easiest to get started with a trainer.  If you need help learning how to translate your data into actionable insights, let's talk.