Today, I’m going to shed a spotlight on the topic of content promotion.

It’s one thing to have nobody read that 500 word post you just threw up to meet a deadline. It’s another thing entirely when you invested $1,000 into a world class resource and you’re still seeing a flatline in analytics.

You know you need to be spending more time on promotion, but what the hell are you supposed to be doing?

That’s the question I’m going to answer today. I spent the last month testing out 20 different promotion strategies in a variety of niches, and today, we’re going to peel back the curtain and reveal what works and what doesn’t.

But first, we need to clear up a big misunderstanding that is probably the main reason your long-term content promotion efforts are failing.

Short-term Tactics vs Long-term Strategy

If you’ve spent any amount of time looking for promotion advice, you’re probably frustrated.

All the big, successful influencers tell you the same thing:

  1. Just send it to your email subscribers
  2. Create some nice images and share on social media
  3. Go get influencers to share your content

Yeah, sure… that’s great advice coming from someone with 60k email subscribers, 200k Twitter followers, and a massive network of eager JV partners.

But what about everyone else? What do you do when you are just starting to build an audience?

You’ve done all those things and just aren’t seeing any results. What now?

Here’s where we get to that big misunderstanding. The reality is that what works for someone WITH an audience is not the same thing that works for someone WITHOUT an audience.

There are two distinct categories that are used to promote content:

  1. One-off promotion tactics (~growth hacking)
  2. Recurring promotional assets (~audience building)

One-off promotion tactics are short-term tactics designed to get quick results. For example, sharing a post on Inbound.org or submitting a Reddit thread are short-term tactics. You are going to get an immediate traffic bump and then, in most cases, you will never receive additional benefit from that tactic.

On the other hand, you can build recurring promotional assets. These are your email subscribers, social followers, returning readers, etc. – a growing base of people who will engage with and promote your content whenever you wish. This is a long-term strategy as it’s benefits can be tracked on an exponential curve. The bigger this base becomes, the more quickly it grows.

When you are first starting out, you will rely a lot on short-term growth tactics designed to quickly get your brand and content in front of as many people as possible. As you build your audience, promoting directly to this audience will become so effective, you really won’t need to spend a lot of time on those one-off tactics anymore.

The 5-Step Process For Creating Long-term Promotional Assets

Before we dive into the short-term promotion strategies I tested, let’s first take a look at the most important part of content promotion: how to build long-term promotional assets.

1. Create Content That Is Worth Promoting

The first step is to create content that is actually worth promoting.

How many times have you received an email from someone inviting you to check out their 500 word blog post rehashing a few best practice tips you’ve seen a hundred times before?

How many times have you been asked to share a roundup post with 50 “influencers” answering a boring question that’s been asked a thousand times before?

Creating content that is actually worth sharing is mandatory if you want to have success with your other promotion strategies.

How can you do this on a practical level?

  1. Focus on questions that require in-depth answers and then provide those in-depth answers.
  2. Include real examples and data to support claims.
  3. Add custom images or illustrations that enhance the presentation.
  4. Exceed the depth and quality of your niche competitors.

Creating buzz-worthy content isn’t rocket science, but it does require you to be intentional, strategic, and willing to invest more effort than your competitors.

2. Build Your Email List

Your base of email subscribers will be one of your most important recurring promotional assets. If you’ve ever wondered how popular blogs get thousands of shares the moment they publish something new… it’s the email list.

There are many different ways to build your email list:

  • Add content upgrades to each blog post.
  • Run a giveaway.
  • Create and promote lead magnets on your blog.
  • Use popups to prompt new subscriptions.
  • Partner with publishers and influencers and tap into their lists.

For a more in-depth look at these strategies, check out my article on KISSmetrics.

As a general rule, the optimal way to build an email list is to have a single personality focusing on a single topic. That’s not always practical, however, so as an alternative, you can attempt to deliver an ongoing narrative through your blog posts and emails. For example, Groove uses the the ongoing story of their own business growth to captivate a massive audience.

3. Build Audiences On Social Media

While social media followers aren’t typically as reliable as email subscribers, they can be a powerful part of audience building for a number of reasons.

  1. Social proof
  2. Ad targeting
  3. Content amplification
  4. Direct engagement

For starters, having large social followings provides tremendous social proof. This can be very effective when trying to sell, network, or get media attention.

For platforms like Facebook, direct follower engagement is now a pay-to-play sport, BUT the larger your following, the better your ad targeting will be. This is also true for email subscribers. If you have a big group of followers or subscribers, you can create some incredibly well targeted Facebook ad campaigns.

For other platforms, free engagement is still relevant, and large social followings can tremendously amplify your content promotion efforts. For example, Ahrefs has a relatively small Twitter following at 16,000, and with only a minimal amount of time investment into Twitter, they can still generate 100+ clicks from a single tweet.

Tweet Activity analytics for ahrefs

4. Join or Build Niche Communities

Honestly, this is one of the most effective promotion techniques I’ve seen in the last two years. Niche communities that engage with each other or directly promote each others content can be a HUGE asset to your business.

One guy who does this really well is Tim Soulo of Ahrefs. Tim is very active on Reddit, frequently providing help and answering questions while only rarely dropping links. You can see some results below from some of his posts.

All Traffic Analytics 1

Tim also spent a great deal of time on Quora before joining Ahrefs, and you can see some of the results below.

16 Stats Quora

Over time, traffic from Quora can grow similar to organic search traffic.

All Traffic Analytics

In addition to joining groups or participating in communities, you can simply build your own. Tim has also done just that with an Ahrefs “Insider” Facebook group, now numbering over 3,500 members.

Successfully participating in or building communities revolves around facilitating non-promotional engagement within the group and providing constant value for participants. For promotion to be effective, it has to be infrequent in these settings.

Real Results From 20 Short-term Promotion Tactics

Okay, time for everyone’s favorite part… experiment results.

Over the last month, I tested 20 different short-term promotion tactics on three different articles representing three different niches.

  1. Why Entrepreneurs Fail: 18 Business Winners Explain Their Biggest Fails
  2. 21 Fascinating Persuasion Techniques That Boost Website Conversions
  3. How to Easily Build & Publish An Amazing Church App

These articles represent three different niches of varying sizes. The first and largest is the entrepreneurship niche. The second and still fairly large is the conversion/marketing niche. The third and smallest is the church tech niche.

My goal was to answer one simple question: “Which short-term promo tactics will bring in the most traffic?”

For the purpose of this experiment, I didn’t attempt to utilize my existing network to manipulate results or spend a lot of time building a reputation in the various channels I tested. I wanted to keep this 100% relevant to the reader starting from ground zero.

That said, there are a lot of ways to amplify results from any given channel, particularly with the help of a small team, and I’ll discuss how you can do that on a channel by channel basis as we work our way down the list.

I think it’s also worth pointing out that quality of traffic was NOT measured in this experiment. How well any of these channels convert will be very different from niche to niche, so my goal here was simply to measure what channels send the largest volume of traffic.

Here are the 20 tactics I tested, ranked from least effective to most effective:

  1. BlogEngage & BizSugar Submissions
  2. LinkedIn Group Shares
  3. Linkedin Republication
  4. Medium Republication
  5. Answering Quora Questions
  6. Inbound.org Submission
  7. Leaving Blog Comments
  8. Leaving Youtube Comments
  9. Facebook Boost Post
  10. Google+ Group Shares
  11. Stumbleupon Submission
  12. Facebook Group Shares
  13. Start A Fire Curation
  14. Taboola Paid Promotion
  15. Outbrain Paid Promotion
  16. Hacker News Submission
  17. BlogEngage Retweets
  18. GrowthHackers.com Submission
  19. Quuu Paid Promotion
  20. Reddit Thread Submission

In order to track results for all these channels, I used Clkim to create around 50 different URLs.

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Here are my results.

1. BlogEngage & BizSugar Submissions

Community upvote sites are a pretty common addition to any “how to promote your content” list, and as you may have noticed, quite a few made it on our experiment list.

BlogEngage and BizSugar were both channels I had never used in the past but found recommended on more than a few blog posts. A friend of mine had been able to drive several hundred visitors to a brand new site through one BizSugar submission, so I decided to include it in my experiment.

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Only one of my posts fit BizSugar’s guidelines, while all three were submitted to BlogEngage.

Between the 4 submissions, I received exactly ZERO click-throughs.

To be honest, BlogEngage’s free community page looked pretty dead. They have some paid options I tried out as well with better results (which you’ll see a bit later), but I’m skeptical that experimenting with time of day or even getting a team to upvote will make it worth your while.

BizSugar on the other hand, is a bit more active of a community. They are focused solely on small business topics, so if you have something highly relevant to that community, find an optimal time to post, AND get some people to help you upvote your post, it’s probably a worthwhile addition to your promotion process.

Otherwise, skip it.

2. LinkedIn Group Shares

Joining social groups is another common tactic many people use to promote their content. Theoretically, the “right” way to go about this is to join a group, engage with the community, and then share your content.

In practice, I found that Facebook was the only platform where it was easy to find legitimately interactive groups. On LinkedIn and Google+, most every group I came across in the entrepreneurship and marketing spaces was nothing more than a spam channel, and I couldn’t even find a church tech group on LinkedIn.

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But unlike Google+, most of my submissions on LinkedIn didn’t get even a single click-through.

After sharing in 4 seperate LinkedIn groups, I received only 1 click-through.

After interacting with 15 different social groups during this experiment, I believe that smaller social groups tend to be the most effective for content promotion. Small groups can support an active community, where people know each other and stay engaged. As groups get bigger, everything tends to become white noise.

From what I’ve seen, the best way to utilize social groups is to start one of your own, like the example we looked at from Tim Soulo and Ahrefs earlier in the article.

3. Linkedin Re-Publication

I’ve had some solid success with republishing content on LinkedIn in the past. One article I republished received nearly 2,000 clicks and a boatload of likes, shares, and comments.

The key was submitting the article to the LinkedIn Pulse team and having them feature it in one of their feeds. Unfortunately, Pulse no longer exists…

As a result, republishing to LinkedIn is now essentially the same as publishing something to your own blog. It’s only going to receive whatever traffic you channel to it. In other words, it’s not really a promotion channel anymore.

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My LinkedIn republication received exactly 1 click-through.

LinkedIn has recently changed their algorithm to create better engagement via status type posts on your wall. I recently topped 100,000 views with a post satirizing “influencers”, and I only have around 800 followers on the platform.

I’d definitely recommend exploring the channel, but you’ll need to take note of the type of content that performs well, because you won’t get any results from posting a link and hitting “share”.

4. Medium Re-Publication

Re-publishing on Medium is similar to re-publishing on LinkedIn and gave me similar results. Unlike LinkedIn, however, Medium still has some upside if you are able to get your posts included in a popular category feed or “publication” feed. These function similar to how Pulse used to function, and they can drive a large amount of traffic to your site.

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Getting included on a publication requires time and networking (unless you know the right person already), and it’s not something I’ve pursued in the past, so my results were based on a simple republication of content.

My Medium republication received only 3 click-throughs.

Again, the only real potential value here is going to be getting included in popular publications. Measuring how difficult and worthwhile that is will make for a good future experiment.

5. Answering Quora Questions

Quora is another one of those channels that offered a lot of potential for marketers in its first couple years, but the gold rush is over, and it’s not nearly as valuable as it once was.

Simply searching for relevant Quora questions that you can answer and link out from is no longer a viable strategy on it’s own as a promotion tactic.

I provided thoughtful answers to 9 questions and received 4 total click-throughs.

That said, there is still a way to take advantage of Quora, but it involves the same vote manipulation that comes up with half of these channels.

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After running this experiment, I talked with people who have had some moderate success with Quora, and in their opinion, it’s not very effective as a short-time tactic. In order to get any sort of meaningful results, you really need to be active on a more regular basis (and preferably beginning 3+ years ago). Results tend to be like a lottery. You never know which thread will skyrocket and start sending traffic, so the more threads you participate in, the better your chance of seeing a return.

6. Inbound.org Submission

If you are in the marketing space, you know about Inbound.org. It’s a community upvote site that has become a mandatory part of promoting any sort of marketing content, and more than a few marketers have leveraged the community to accelerate their websites and careers.

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I’ve been using Inbound.org for the last few years, and unfortunately, I’ve watched it’s digression from exciting new community to insiders-only spam channel. At this point in the game, if you want to get results with Inbound.org, you need one of two things.

  1. Access to a community moderator
  2. A group of people who will immediately upvote your submission

Moderators can easily manipulate results on the platform, and many won’t hesitate to do so. If you know a moderator or are willing to pay one under the table, you can guarantee your post will get pushed near the top of the front page.

Alternatively, you will need a group of people (around 10 is usually enough) to immediately upvote and comment on your submission. This will get it enough exposure to gain some organic traction. You can usually count on anywhere from 500 to 1,500 visitors via this method, depending on how compelling your headline and article topic are.

I haven’t even attempted to submit to Inbound.org without a supporting upvote group in some time, so I decided to try clean submissions for the purpose of this experiment.

My two clean Inbound.org submissions received a total of 6 click-throughs.

So yeah, either collude or don’t bother.

7. Leaving Blog Comments

There are a lot of potential upsides to blog commenting:

  • Networking
  • Backlinks
  • Referral traffic
  • Lead acquisition
  • Etc.

I know one marketer who built her email list to several thousand subscribers without even having a website. All she would do is guest blog and comment on blog posts with links back to a lead magnet optin page.

There are a lot of benefits to commenting on blog posts, but what I wanted to measure is whether or not I could get referral traffic from commenting on blog posts listed on the front page for my target keyphrase.

In short, the answer is no.

I left 9 blog comments and received 6 total click-throughs.

What I would recommend doing instead is following the most popular blogs in your niche and commenting on new posts as soon as they are published. Make sure you are doing this on sites that hyperlink your username to a URL of your choosing, and then leave noteworthy comments that compliment the author and provide additional insights to the discussed topic.

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8. Leaving Youtube Comments

I had never tried this strategy before, but I was very curious to see how posting a comment on a Youtube video would translate to referral traffic.

Turns out, it’s about what you’d expect, BUT the main thing I noticed was that smaller, active youtubers tend to be very engaged with commenters.

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Referral traffic wasn’t really anything to write home about.

I left 9 Youtube comments and received 15 total click-throughs.

That said, I think Youtube is worth exploring more as a promotion channel, even if you aren’t creating video content. I plan to spend a bit more time experimenting with it in the future.

9. Facebook “Boost Post”

As we discussed earlier, Facebook Ads can be a relatively cheap way to get significant exposure for a post. It can also be a very efficient way to waste your money.

I spent $45 total on the “Boost Post” option and received a measly 24 click-throughs.

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You really need to be willing to spend a bit more money in order to get decent results with Facebook nowadays. You need to spend some money to identify the right targeting options and then spend a bit more money on the post itself in order to start getting a return.

Simply dropping a few bucks to boost a post is no longer a good investment in most cases. It’s also possible that I just have no clue what I’m doing with Facebook Ads, but I’ve had enough success in the past with the platform to feel like it’s not that simple.

10. Google+ Group Shares

Google+ groups are basically the same as LinkedIn groups but with better results. They are essentially just spam communities, but my posts to these communities actually resulted in a few clicks. I don’t really recommend making a practice of spamming groups. It does absolutely nothing for audience building and any click-throughs you do get probably aren’t worth anything, but I wanted to try it out just for the purpose of this experiment.

I posted to 6 Google+ groups and received 26 click-throughs.

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11. StumbleUpon Submission

Like submitting to Google+ groups, StumbleUpon is another “click and forget” promo tactic that can potentially result in a few clicks. The quality is likely the worst of any channel here, but whatever… it costs nothing and takes a few seconds.

My 3 StumbleUpon submissions resulted in 44 click-throughs.

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The next step would be to add a tracking pixel and see if any clicks result in leads. My guess is that 50 clicks per post over 5 posts is going to result in at least a lead or two.

12. Facebook Group Shares

As I mentioned before, Facebook groups were by far the most interactive I found across the various social channels. There are many groups where link spamming isn’t taking place, and these are the groups where you can get the most traction when sharing content.

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They key here is that you can’t spam either. You have to engage with the community and connect your shares to what they are talking about. If you can do that, you will get more out of these groups than all the spam channels combined.

(That said, it looks like I was blocked from one marketing group after posting something similar to the above comment.)

All told, I posted to 5 different Facebook groups and received 62 click-throughs.

For any group that you want to use for recurring promotion, it will be important for you to engage with the group in a non-promotional capacity even more frequently than you share your content.

The best option, however, is to simply create your own group, keep it spam free, and reserve the right as owner to share your own content whenever you want. This is essentially what’s happening in all existing groups, but since you aren’t the owner, you don’t get to share your content as much.

13. Start A Fire Curation

Start A Fire is one of several apps that allow you to overlay a prompt to your own content on an article you share. This allows you to get some additional benefit out of any content curation strategies you are currently using. They just recently shut down after I finished my experiment, but you can do the same thing with Back.ly.

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It’s not a bad idea, particularly if you can integrate it with your whatever scheduling tool you are using. Start A Fire used to integrate with Buffer, but that integration hasn’t been working for me lately.

Across 2,085 curated pageviews, I’ve received 68 click-throughs to my own content.

Honestly, that’s not much at all, but it’s better than nothing and it costs me absolutely nothing, so I think it’s a worthwhile piece of automation to integrate with your current curation and scheduling.

14. Taboola Paid Promotion

Paid promotion is consistent, so if you can find a channel that sends quality traffic at the right price, that’s incredibly valuable. Taboola is one channel I’ve been wanting to test out, and I used this experiment to get a feel for traffic volume.

The targeting options on Taboola are limited. You pretty much just have to trust their algorithm and then monitor the results, which makes setting up a campaign insanely easy.

I spent $31.15 on Taboola and received 89 click-throughs.

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Similar to Facebook Ads, the more you spend on this channel, the better results you are projected to receive. Unlike Facebook Ads, spending only $30 on an article could potentially be worthwhile.

You’ll need to add a conversion pixel and track conversions to know one way or another, but for a low-cost initial experiment, there were enough click-throughs for me to look at testing quality as well.

15. Outbrain Paid Promotion

Take everything I just said about Taboola and apply it to Outbrain. Testing out this platform was pretty much the exact same experience.

I spent $32.06 on Outbrain and received 95 click-throughs.

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With both platforms there was enough volume to look further into them, but the source of the traffic makes me skeptical of the quality. As I’ve said before, with paid pomo, you really need to track conversions as well.

16. Hacker News Submission

To be honest, I’m not really even sure what Hacker News is. It seems to just be a simple, upvote-based news feed that anyone can submit to.

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I literally just showed up, submitted one article and left.

My Hacker News submission received 96 click-throughs.

I really don’t have any commentary. I have no clue what the deal is with this channel, but I’ll take a hundred free clicks any day. After talking with other marketers about the channel, it seems that it can be incredibly effective for the right content, but it can be difficult to identify what that content is, and spamming non-relevant links will get your IP address blocked.

17. BlogEngage Retweets

As I mentioned before, BlogEngage’s community submission feed is pretty much worthless, but they also have paid options at around 50 USD per month. One of the features included in this package is that they will retweet your content throughout their network.

Given how Twitter works, I thought it would be interesting to test how many actual clicks I could get through this retweet network, so I tweeted the three articles and measured click-throughs before and after the retweets.

After receiving RTs from the BlogEngage network, my three articles received an additional 145 click-throughs.

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Again, I’ll need to measure the quality here in order to determine whether or not the paid membership is worthwhile, but at first glance, I’m very pleased with those results.

18. GrowthHackers.com Submission

GrowthHackers.com is basically Inbound.org without the collusion. You can still get some decent results without needing to manipulate your submissions.

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For my clients in the marketing space, GrowthHackers.com consistently drives the most referral traffic out of any promotion channel we use. While I will usually have the client’s marketing team upvote the post when it goes live, for the purposes of this experiment, I simply submitted the post with no vote manipulation.

My GrowthHackers.com submission drove 235 click-throughs (and counting).

The main key to utilizing this channel is to write on topics that the community likes, which is anything related to driving user behavior: conversion, copywriting, psychology, etc. This makes it a very good fit for virtually any marketing blog.

19. Quuu Paid Promotion

Quuu Promote has been an automatic part of my content promotion for several months now, although their recent price increase might lead to me being a bit more selective.

Quuu has managed to have their cake and eat it too by offering a paid curation app on one end of the funnel and paid ad placement on the other end. That kind of pisses me off, but it’s pretty brilliant too, and it will remain brilliant in my mind for as long as the cost-per-click remains solid on 9/10 articles.

Quuu can pretty awesome for content promo. This cost $60:

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It can also be shitty. This cost $30:

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For this experiment, I spent $90 on Quuu Promote and received 409 click-throughs.

After the price hike, most submissions run in the $40 – $50 range, and the results on my last three submission are averaging only 70 clicks, so the while they heyday might be over already for Quuu Promote, I’d recommend trying 3-5 articles with them and seeing how it goes.

20. Reddit Thread Submission

Reddit was the clicks winner by a mile and a half, which sort of surprised me and didn’t surprise me at the same time.

On the one hand, I know how much traffic and attention Reddit can quickly drive to a site that captures its attention. On the other hand, 9/10 submissions are typically going to be downvoted to oblivion the moment you submit them.

With that in mind, I submitted each article to three separate subreddits. Not a single one was downvoted, and all of them received a moderate amount of traction. I’m a regular Reddit user, so I do know how NOT to piss off the community, but despite this, I was shocked that every single post received some moderate traction.

All told, I made 9 Reddit submissions and received 708 click-throughs.

When submitting to Reddit, it’s important to spend a little bit of time making your submission more than just an obvious promo linkshare. If you can add an element of discussion to the thread, that’s always helpful.

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Reddit is a massive community and a great place to promote B2C content in particular if you can be a bit more subtle about it and follow the official and unofficial rules of the individual subreddits you share on. Even then, you probably have a 50/50 shot of getting downvoted, but I think my experiment proves that it is possible to get consistent results with the right approach.

Conclusion: The 3 Winning Content Promotion Strategies

If you were tracking along with the results, you probably noticed that three of the last 20 results were not like the rest. The final three had a significantly higher numbers of click-throughs than the rest:

  1. GrowthHackers Submission
  2. Quuu Paid Promotion
  3. Reddit Thread Submission

I feel like it’s safe to dub these the big winners of my experiment, and I plan to make them a regular part of my content promotion process.

If GrowthHackers isn’t a good fit for your niche, try to find a similar upvote-driven site that is active in your niche, OR if that doesn’t exist, just focus on Reddit “subreddits” which are more or less the same thing.

But enough of that.

I’m not the only one promoting content out here, and I highly doubt I’ve exhausted every content promotion strategy out there, so please, tell me what’s been working for you.

What have you tried? What has failed? What has succeeded?

Let me know!

Here at Conversion Sciences, we tend to focus a lot on website optimization, but in 2017, your website isn’t your only option for driving sales.
Over the last few years, social media sites have begun building ecommerce solutions directly into their platforms, allowing businesses to attract and sell to their target audience directly through their social pages.
With a few niche-specific exceptions, we would never recommend making social commerce the central piece of your sales strategy. It’s never a good idea to put all your eggs in a basket someone else controls.
But that said, if you aren’t taking advantage of social commerce in some capacity, you are most likely leaving money on the table, and we want to help you scoop that money right back up.

What is Social Commerce?

Social commerce is selling that takes place directly through social platforms. Instead of using social marketing to drive visitors to your website, where you then convert them into customers, visitors are sold to directly on social media either in the form of a complete checkout experience or a “Buy Now” style click-through that triggers an off-platform checkout.
This is a fairly natural and predictable next-step in the evolution of social media. After all, 74% of consumers already rely on social networks to guide their purchasing decisions. Eliminating the extra steps streamlines the process for consumers and brands alike.
There are currently three major sites for experimenting with social commerce:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest

Each platform is a bit different, so we’ll take a look at each individually.

How To Sell On Facebook

Facebook led the pack when it comes to intertwining its platform with ecommerce features by introducing a “Buy Now” button back in 2014. While the button was active and used by several brands with some success, ultimately it was more of a beta test, as only select businesses could try it out.
Eventually, Facebook opened the doors for all businesses to use the feature and has made a number of innovative additions since that time.
So, how do you set up a shop section on your Facebook page?
1. First, click the “+ Add Shop Section” button on your Facebook business page.
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2. On the following screen, click Add Shop Section
3. Agree to merchant terms and policies on the next screen, and then click Continue
4. Add business and payment processing details such as your email address, business address, and Stripe payment processing login details.
4. Follow the prompts to describe what your shop sells, and then click Continue
5. On the next screen, you will be prompted to enter photos, the name of your product, price, description, shipping options, tax rates, and inventory count. Click Save when you are finished.
The finished product should look something like this:
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Clicking on any of the product pictures or blue text below them will bring you to a checkout page where you can see more in-depth details on availability, purchasing, and ship times.
Arguably, the biggest advantages of using Facebook for social commerce can be described in two words: targeting & messaging.
Targeting is an area where Facebook is lightyears ahead of Twitter, Pinterest, and every other platform. Facebook sports a robust collection of data on all its users and has seriously sophisticated reporting features that give you the ability to specifically target your ideal customers to a very fine level of specificity.
For example, with your ads, you can target new mothers, who have a Bachelor’s degree, within the age range of 18-38, within a 25-mile radius of Dallas, who have an interest in fashion, and speak English.
Messaging is another area where Facebook has a competitive social commerce advantage. The number of Facebook’s mobile daily active users recently exceeded 1 billion and continues to grow. With this growth came a greater interest on Facebook’s part for streamlining their mobile experience, not only for content consumption but also social commerce.
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In early 2017, Facebook extended its “Buy Now” button to its Messenger application. This ecommerce integration gives your customers the ability to interact with a retailer’s bot which gives them yet another option to purchase products without ever leaving the Facebook platform.
The bot conversation typically will start from a potential customer seeing an advertisement for your brand on their news feed. As an advertiser, you can select Messenger as a destination and have a bot walk them through the purchase which will show them the price, tax, shipping cost, and allow them to enter their shipping and payment info.
Customers also get the added features of tracking product availability and shipping updates in real time.
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Facebook Social Commerce Case Study: Spearmint LOVE

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A quick way to utilize social commerce and get your store in front of potential customers is through buying advertisements. No platform is greater for your brand’s reach than Facebook. With 2 billion monthly users and an intensive arsenal of targeting features, the choice was a no-brainer for Spearmint LOVE to start advertising their line of infant clothes and accessories.
The Spearmint LOVE team knew the power social influence could have on revenue and immediately started utilizing Facebook as a tool to share complete infant outfits with its followers. Shari Lott, the founder of Spearmint LOVE said, “I put up a photo of not just a shirt or shoes, but of an entire outfit. And moms will come to the site and buy everything in that picture.” Shari put her heart and soul into creating intricate blog posts and sharing them with compelling images on her Facebook page to grow her following. Eventually, she grew her brand to the point where she had over 200,000 fans, and an astounding 62.48% of them were actively engaged as shown below.
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Once Facebook launched their “Buy” call-to-action buttons, Shari and her team leaped at the opportunity to offer yet another channel to sell their products on. They wanted to give their customers every conceivable way to buy from them. This strategy quickly gained a lot of traction, and they found themselves with an extremely scalable and profitable advertising model.
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After careful analysis, John Lott, the CFO/COO of Spearmint LOVE, stated: “We’re looking at ad spends where we’re getting at least $5 of revenue or more, preferably closer to the $10 mark for every dollar of ads spent.” To acquire such a view of their ROI, John would measure total net new customers, and the net new customers acquired through aggregate ad spend. Spearmint LOVE has had a year-over-year (YOY) growth of 991% in revenue since launching their store with BigCommerce in 2013 and grew their revenue 1,100% in 2016.

How To Sell On Instagram

Instagram burst onto the scene in late 2010 and rapidly grew to 10 thousand users within mere hours of launching (thanks to beta sign ups). The site has grown to 700 million users over the last 6 years and became one of Facebook’s key acquisitions along the way. The platform has made a name for itself in the marketing and ecommerce spaces as the top platform for direct engagement with brand followers.
In late 2016, Instagram began testing new CTA buttons which allowed companies to add links to their posts leading users off Instagram and onto their website or online store. You can select 1 of 4 CTA buttons which include “Shop Now”, “Install Now”, “Sign Up”, and “Learn More”.
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While Instagram has yet to include a complete checkout experience on-platform, given Facebook’s recent history, it would not at all be surprising to see fully on-site checkout experiences coming to Instagram in the near future.

Instagram Social Commerce Case Study: The Pink Lily Boutique

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The Pink Lily Boutique is a unique women’s clothing retailer that has leveraged their nearly 250,000 Instagram followers to create a 1 million dollar per month business. It’s founders, Tori and Chris Gerbig, went from storing clothes in their garage and selling on eBay and Etsy to fulfilling over 600 orders a day from their warehouse.
Creating this highly profitable store using Instagram was accomplished through a number of strategies:
1. Seek Out Feedback: Seeking out feedback from customers can give you much-needed insight into what products to sell and what not to. Pink Lily Boutique accomplished this through asking its followers to choose between two options.
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This strategy not only gives them much needed-feedback on which products to sell but also increases engagement rates on their posts and gives their followers a sense of investment into their brand.
2. Post Often: Pink Lily Boutique posts as much as 8-10 times a day. This strategy is effective because it gives their followers fresh content more often which keeps them coming back multiple times a day.
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3. Offer Giveaways and Hold Photo Contests: activities like these increase engagement even beyond Instagram’s already high engagement rate.
Pink Lily Boutique runs contests where entrants must share a post and tag a friend to gain an entry to win free outfits and accessories. People love free stuff and giveaways will create loyal brand ambassadors. They also leverage their followers to create content for them through the use of hashtags. If anyone posts a selfie wearing Pink Lily Boutique clothes and uses the tag #pinklilystyle, then they will get featured on the front page of the brand’s channel.
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4. Think Like A User: last but not least, they always ask themselves before posting: “Would I click on this ad?”. Tori and Chris know that you have to catch your audience’s attention in a few seconds or risk losing their interest altogether. This exercise of putting themselves in their customer’s shoes has proved extremely successful to their Instagram strategy and has aided them in driving over 25,000 visitors per day using Instagram.

How To Sell On Pinterest

With an impressive 175 million active users, Pinterest has been a mildly underappreciated selling channel for sometime now. Pinterest a niche paradise and a place for DIY enthusiasts, fashion lovers, chef extraordinaires and the businesses who cater to them.
And while Pinterest has always been an effective marketing channel for certain niches, in the last few years, it has jumped into the social commerce ring by offering “Buyable Pins”. These pins are ideal for social selling and make it incredibly easy for users to purchase products directly from a Pinterest page.
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Similar to Facebook’s shop feature, Pinterest users can purchase without being redirected to an online store off Pinterest. This makes the interest-to-purchase cycle shorter and more consumer friendly by eliminating a number of extra steps. A user can browse Pinterest and stumble upon something that has the blue “Buy It” button which puts them within two to three taps of completing an order in full and receiving a receipt through email.
To get started with Pinterest for Business you will want to follow these simple instructions:
First, head over to Business Section of Pinterest and click “Join as a business” to create a new account or Convert to Business by logging in using your existing Pinterest login credentials. Going this route ensures that you will keep all your existing pins, followers, and boards in tact.
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Once you’re set up as a Pinterest Business page, you can start utilizing Buyable Pins. To get started, you will already have to have an account with either BigCommerce, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, or Shopify. These ecommerce solutions will integrate with Pinterest using an extension and will automatically create buyable pins to match existing products on Pinterest to those in your store.
If you have any products that aren’t on Pinterest yet, then you will want to create new pins for those so the extension can match them. This process can take up to 5 days to get approved.

Pinterest Social Commerce Case Study: MVMT Watches

Yes, I know we’ve used MVMT Watches as a case study before! This is different. This isn’t about their Kickstarter or their meteoric rise to fashion retail prominence. This case study specifically highlights their use of Pinterest as a direct selling platform, and it’s worth your time.
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MVMT Watches is no stranger to social selling. After initialing building their brand through Instagram, the company has also used Facebook extensively as a social commerce platform. In 2016, they began experimenting with Pinterest’s buyable pins and ran a promoted pin campaign resulting in double their typical conversion rate and the highest average order value they have seen from any traffic source.
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This strategy was so successful that over a three-month period, MVMT saw a 12-fold increase in Pinterest traffic and over 11,000 sales.
Here is what MVMT’s Pinterest strategy looked in action:
A customer is casually browsing Pinterest looking at cool watches. They come across a compelling product image and decide to investigate further by clicking it to get a better view or find out which company sells it.
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This action takes you directly to the products checkout page where you can customize your watch and have it in your cart in a matter of seconds.
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This social commerce strategy utilizing Pinterest cut down the path to purchase for MVMT customers by using pins that linked directly to the products checkout page. They found the promoted pin to be the best bang for their buck because unlike other ad formats, you would continue to drive sales after the promotional campaign had ended, as the pin stays up on your Pinterest board.

Conclusion: Social Commerce Is Changing The Ecommerce Game… Kinda Sorta

As of 2017, optimizing your own website is still the most important investment you can make in ecommerce. Relying too much on a 3rd party platforms can easily backfire and destroy your business overnight.
That said, what were are seeing today in the emerging social commerce field is just the beginning of a future where creating your own selling platform will no longer be viable. Like machine learning, this train has started and it will permanently change the game.
If you’ve begun experimenting with social commerce for you own business, I’d love to hear about it. Drop me a line in the comments.

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology….”
So goes the introduction to The Six-Million Dollar Man, a hugely popular show in the late 70s.
I always think of this line when it comes to optimizing copy, whether I’m working on entire websites, ebooks, or stand alone landing pages.
Unlike the bionic man, though, optimizing landing page copy isn’t about implants and augmentations. It’s about stripping everything down to its core to evaluate what works and what doesn’t.
Sometimes, you still get superhuman results with less, not more.
There are two things to keep in mind when writing persuasive copy:

  1. Copy dictates design.
  2. Clarity always wins.

I kept these two concepts in mind when I rewrote the main landing page for SolarPulse[1] last year.
The results? A 42% lift in conversions.
Here’s how I did it…

The Original, Underperforming Page

To begin, we needed to understand how people got here, why they were here, and what we needed to tell them.
The original version of SolarPulse’s main landing page (written by their engineers *shudder*) looked like this…

SolarPulse Landing Page Original

SolarPulse Landing Page Original


When I put myself in the shoes of a first time visitor, nothing on this page is particularly persuasive, eye-catching or moving. Keeping in mind that a writer IS NOT the ideal customer, I can go meta on the whole thing and start by evaluating my own reactions to the page.

  1. The first thing I notice is that it’s way too long. There’s too much copy to read, and it feels like work, so I want to bounce. This is never a good reaction.
  2. The second thing I notice is that I don’t know where to look. I’m drawn to the sign-up form, but I don’t even know what it’s for because I haven’t read the copy, so I skip it.
  3. The third thing I notice is that there are a lot of footnotes. That feels like legal stuff which makes me want to run.
  4. The fourth thing is that I like the icons. They can stay.

Ultimately, I’d leave this page to find a competitor’s page that requires less of me.
If I’m interested in solar and I want more information about how it benefits me (and, ultimately, how to make it happen), this page isn’t making life easy. I’m out.

Now, I know the problems. Next, I have to fix them…

With a project like this, the general framework of the page won’t change. The first thing I do is mock up the general elements of the page in a Google Doc by creating tables and pulling screenshots of the ones I want to keep.
Like this:

Page elements I definitely want to keep

Page elements I definitely want to keep


From there, I focus on writing shorter, clearer, more impactful copy for each icon. That means I treat each section as if it’s one mini-project, with no regard to the rest of the page (for now). My goals here are two-fold:

  1. Lead with the most persuasive benefit available
  2. Provide a “quick hit” of information in the shortest, clearest way possible.

Each of these sections has to tell it’s own story while being informative. I treat each icon’s copy separately because someone may or may not go through all of them. I need each piece to carry its weight, regardless. I can’t control how much a visitor will read, but I can control how crisp each one is on it’s own.
The initial result is something like this:

Concise copy makes information transfer easier for visitors

Concise copy makes information transfer easier for visitors


From there, I turn my attention to the lynchpin of the entire page…

The Heading and Subhead

At this point, you know good headings, subheads, and headlines are crucial to improving conversion rates (and A/B testing them is simple), but the actual process of creating the right ones can get messy.
Writing headings and subheads, for me, looks like this:

  1. Brain dump
  2. Refine
  3. Criticize
  4. Refine
  5. Refine
  6. Choose

Sometimes, subheads become headings. Sometimes, headings become subheadings. Sometimes, I chop one in half and add it to another. It becomes a puzzle. My job is to rearrange the pieces until it creates a picture.

Writing Headings

That said, everyone’s approach to writing headings and subheads is different. I prefer a stream of consciousness approach where I write as many ideas as I can for up to 30 minutes. I try to fill a blank piece of typing paper if I can (yes, I do this on paper).
Then, I cull the word-herd down to a handful of my best options.
From there, I get super critical and cut, cut, cut, while keeping in mind I have just a few seconds to get their attention, so benefits needs to be clear. The trick is to cut without losing meaning.

Writing Subheadings

If the heading is about the big idea (sometimes in the form of a question) of the entire page, then the subhead should answer the “what’s in it for me” question.
Since I already created rough versions of my bullet points next to my icons, I can answer this question easily.
What is this section about? Learning more about solar panels for my home. Boom. Subhead options for days. Just play around with the phrasing until you land on the right one.
Unscientific? For sure. Does it work? Absolutely.
Eventually, I end up with something that looks like this:

Playing with headline and subhead options

Playing with headline and subhead options


In the case of this particular project, I looped the designer and the project lead back into the copy so we could work on the heading and subhead messaging.
In addition to making minor design changes, we also incorporated a couple of keywords that were important to the SEO value of the project.
After a few rounds of back and forth, omitting, adding, clarifying, etc., the final version looked like this…
SolarPulse Landing Page Final

SolarPulse Landing Page Final

A Final Comparison: Better Landing Page Copy = +42%

As a refresher, here are the two pages, side by side.

You’ll notice how much cleaner and shorter the final version is compared to the original.
I worked hard to convince them to lose all the footnotes, instead working them into the actual text wherever it was relevant. We also cleaned up the navigation bar (in some cases, you shouldn’t even have one) and changed the image at the top of the page.
Minor design changes + clearer, benefits-focused copy = 42% conversion lift!
The final point I’d make here is that I didn’t follow any formulas or templates to get these results.
Did I think my version would be better than the original? Of course! But there’s no definitive way to know how it will perform until you test it. And those tests must be based on the foundational elements of conversion and psychology.
Stick to best practices, and—just like the Six-Million Dollar Man—your copy will be “Better…stronger…faster.”
 
[1] Full disclosure: Despite my results on this and other content on their site, SolarPulse was recently shuttered by its parent company.
 
Chris Cooper is a conversion copywriter and content strategist based in Denver, CO. He owns Real Good Writing where he helps tech and SaaS companies write B2B copy that people actually want to read. When he’s not getting more customers for his clients, he’s fighting a tireless battle for proper use of the oxford comma. Visit www.rgwriting.com or connect on Twitter @ElCoopacabra.

If you’ve ever heard me speak at a conference, you know I like to wear a white lab coat.

brian massey lab coat presenting affiliate summit west 2017-8-600w

that coat tho…


It’s not a gimmick, and I certainly don’t wear it because of its slimming properties.
No, I wear it because of science.
There is an area of research called Enclothed Cognition. It is the study of the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer and those around him.
Scientists have studied the lab coat. When someone puts on a lab coat, they score higher on cognitive tests. So, when I put on a lab coat, I will actually make fewer errors than if I was wearing my street clothes.
When I’m wearing a lab coat, I think I’m smarter than I really am.
Scientists have also studied the effect of uniforms and authority. When I wear the lab coat, what I say will carry more weight with you.
Not only do I think I’m smarter than I am, you will think I’m smarter than I really am.
In other words, I am gaining an unfair advantage based on behavioral science. Today, I’m going to show you how your business can gain an unfair advantage in the marketplace using behavioral science.

Why “Creative” Marketing Is A Cover-Up

We tend to have some preconceived notions about what is creative and what is “mathy.”
Beginning in the 1960s, Madison Avenue agencies led companies to believe that the team with the most creative minds would win in the marketplace. Even after these same agencies began installing mainframe computers and monitoring TV viewing habits, they still led companies to believe that it was the creativity – the novelty of the campaigns – that brought success.
No, they didn’t have Google Analytics. Or Omniture. Or brain scans. Or any of the numerous tools that even the smallest business has access to today, but better believe they were using research to make creative decisions.
Yet, when the web became a thing, we continued to embrace this belief that advertising and marketing was a purely creative endeavor.
We do the market studies. We run the focus groups. We send the surveys.
But, ultimately, it is still up to the designers and developers to make the final choices.
Here’s how the typical web design process works.

  1. A company hires an agency.
  2. The agency does a market research study with lots of insights about who would buy the company’s products.
  3. The agency delivers a beautiful report for the executives to ponder.
  4. The agency then creates three design options, and it asks the company executives — the least qualified people to make design decisions — to pick the best design.
  5. Finally, they eagerly jot down the executives’ changes and publish the new site.

Everyone is getting their “creative” on.
Meanwhile, someone else is tasked with writing the content, and the content is just pored into spaces in the design.
This is not creative. It’s chaos. And worse, it’s waste.
The problem is that, even when we do research, designers don’t really know which design is going to be the best. There are no longer any boundaries on what we can do digitally. I can create anything, any color, any text, any images. I can add video. I can add live chat.
How can anyone decide with so many choices?
The answer is behavioral data.
It’s not about guessing or being creative. It’s about analyzing how visitors are engaging with a site and then turning that data into testable hypotheses that can be measured against the existing site via a statistically valid testing process.
For a long time, collecting and analyzing data was too costly for small or even mid-sized businesses to consider. But today, it is essentially cheaper to collect and use behavioral data than it is not to.
Let me say that again: It is now cheaper to collect and use behavioral data than it is not to.
While most businesses continue doing launch and see design, the marketplace will reward you from taking a data-first approach.
In many ways, it’s an unfair advantage.

The Two Brains That Drive Behavior

Our brains have two very different personalities, these two personalities are said to live in the two halves of our brains. It’s almost like we have two distinct brains.
The right side of our brain is believed to be the home of the painter in us, the musician, the dancer, the writer, the child. Unrestrained by time or place or social norms, our right brain is capable of creating entire worlds from thin air while chasing butterflies and writing symphonies.
This is all very frustrating to the left side of our brain, which revels in process. It values time and order and systems. It delights in giving thoughts expression as it is where speech is processed and created. It catalogs our past and projects our future. It worries about our businesses and our careers. It balances our checkbooks and then worries about what will happen next month.
Together, the two halves of our brains are crayons and calendars, elephants and emails, moonbeams and money…
For the purposes of business, your right brain is the idea generator. It comes up with way more stuff than we could ever process and execute on. And that’s why the left brain excels at throwing stuff away. When the right brain says “butterflies and symphonies”, the left brain has trouble making sense of it and discards it without further evaluation.
This is why we struggle.
Too often, we let our left brain run our business and this creates an imbalance. Behavioral Science will restore that balance.
You might be thinking that anything called “behavioral science” is something that only the left-brain could love.
This is only somewhat true. Behavioral science is like raw meat to a ravenous left brain. It is a way to tell the future, solving one of our left brain’s biggest problem.
But it’s ALSO a way for the left brain to deal with the right brain.
When the right brain says “butterflies and symphonies”, the left brain will now say, “I don’t know what it means, but I know how to test it.”
This is a fundamental shift in the relationship. Marketing, advertising, or any kind of communication is a dance between the creative right brain and the expressive left brain.
When I started Conversion Sciences in 2007, I didn’t have clients with budgets for high-dollar testing tools. My primary service was to facilitate the understanding of the people coming to my clients’ websites. I spent several weeks with their site and their analytics. I interviewed the employees that knew the clients. I scoured their sites for poor practices and itemized them all.
Then I composed empathetic personas, highlighting the struggles of their prospects, spinning the story of their journey to the site and offering solutions that could be implemented on the website. It awakened their right brains and we had meaningful, connected meetings about these people they called customers!
And then…
… nothing changed.
They dried their eyes, shoved my personas into a drawer and dealt with the fire of the day. I had awakened their right brain, but ultimately the left brain won them over. It didn’t know how to use this information to predict the future.
And then AB testing tools became cheap. I still reviewed our clients’ sites, interviewed their employees and composed my brilliant personas.
But then we tested our ideas.
As it turns out, most of the ideas that came from this in-depth work were wrong. The tests revealed that many, if not most of my ideas did not result in an increase in conversions and revenue. It was a very humbling experience.
But more importantly, it allowed us to start getting predictable results for our clients. Nowadays, we never know which change will improve a client’s conversion rate, but we have framework in place that helps us identify the right tests to run and virtually guarantees we get results in the end.
We can consider bigger and more creative ideas. We have the ability to test almost anything our right brains can come up with. Testing has turned out to be the best way to determine which of our amazing ideas work and which don’t.
At Conversion Sciences, we call this rigorous creativity, and it’s the reason our clients see a 20% average conversion lift.
It’s also the reason anyone, including you, can harness your creativity for the purpose of data-driven optimization. But before you can score, you need to first understand the rules.

The 6 Rules of Behavioral Data

We all make decisions every day based on what other people are doing. You are wired to navigate the world using behavioral data.
When you check Facebook to see how many people like and comment on your most recent post, you’re using your built-in behavioral know-how. When you select a movie based on the Rotten Tomatoes Freshness Score, you are getting your behavioral science on. The New York Times Best Seller list, the Billboard Charts, and the laugh track on The Big Bang Theory are all sources of behavioral data that we use to make decisions every day.
If you don’t believe me, let’s use an example. When my son was 14, he built his own gaming computer. He had meticulously researched every component, from the high-frequency monitor to the mouse pad. His last decision was the motherboard, the foundation of the computer that every element plugs into.
He had narrowed it down to two alternatives. They had the same features and were priced within pennies of each other. Reviewers of the motherboards had given one a four-star rating, and the other a five-star rating.
If we didn’t understand the first rule of behavioral data, we would have simply chosen the five-star motherboard. Five stars is better than four, right? But even at the tender age of 14, Sean was smart enough to see how many reviews had fed those ratings.

star reviews

hmmm which one is legit?


The five-star motherboard had five reviews, while the lower-rated four-star motherboard had 250 reviews. You have no doubt about which rating is most reliable. Your little brain, like my son’s, is doing the math. We know that the five-star rating is just as likely to be a three- or two-star rating.
The data isn’t in.
You are intuitively calculating what statisticians call n: The Sample Size of the data collected (the reviews). And you know the first rule of behavioral data.

  1. Larger Sample Sizes Are Better Than Smaller Sample Sizes
  2. Data Over Time Is Better Than Data At One Point In Time
  3. More-Recent Data Is Better Than Less-Recent Data
  4. Observational Data Is Better Than Self-Reported Data
  5. Customers & Prospects Are More Believable Than Pretenders
  6. Quantitative Data predicts the Future Better than Qualitative Data

Well designed A/B tests are created to follow all of the rules of behavioral data. They are designed to deliver observational, recent data, taken over time from a statistically significant sample of prospects that can be quantitatively analyzed.
As a marketer, you can tap into this innate scientific know-how, using it to predict the performance of your campaigns and make them better.
For a deeper look at these rules with accompanying examples and case studies, read: The 6 Rules of Behavioral Data Built Into All of Us.

Research vs. Intuition

In 2014, Marks & Spencer redesigned their apparel website. Marks & Spencer is a £10 billion company running food and apparel stores in the UK and Europe. In 2013 13% of their sales went through the web. That’s about $1.5 billion. With a B.
In 2014, they launched a website redesign. The effort cost £150 million. Today that would be about $180 million.

Even the largest brands can stumble.

Even the largest brands can stumble.


The UX community–and their designers–thought the redesign was “positive.”

More research would be needed for us to give a thorough UX opinion but our first thoughts are that it’s a positive redesign.
— ExperienceSolutions

The customers didn’t agree. Upon launch, the site saw an immediate 8% drop in sales. That’s about $10 million per month in lost sales. This number doesn’t take into account the loss of brand trust.
The best way to build brand online is to deliver what your visitors want.
For $180 million, we expect that they did a great deal of research into their customers and visitors. So what went wrong.
This is the battle being waged in your businesses. Intuition vs. research. Best practices vs. behavioral science. Left brain vs. right brain. Both are necessary. But if you continue to find yourself struggling to get value from the visitors that you pay to bring to your site, there is an imbalance.
Intuition is our ability to apply our experience to new situations. We admire those who can discern the important aspects of something without study.
When behavioral data was expensive to acquire, campaign planning and development was dominated by intuition. If we invested in research, it was done at the beginning. This was primarily qualitative data based on surveys and focus groups.
Then the designers and developers would apply the data to the best of their ability, but relied on their intuition to make the thousands of little decisions necessary to complete a project.

When collecting data is expensive, we rely more on the intuition of experts during development.

When collecting data is expensive, we rely more on the intuition of experts during development.


It is at the end of this process that true behavioral data is collected. It’s called results. If the results were positive, then the campaign can be replicated and continued. If the results were disappointing, then the campaign would be scratched, and the process would start over.
This is the classic launch and see approach.
What does a campaign development process look like in an era of cheap behavioral data. For most businesses, it looks the same. But for industry leaders, it looks like this:
When data is abundant and inexpensive, we can optimize before launch.

When data is abundant and inexpensive, we can optimize before launch.


Qualitative data is collected at the beginning. But now we can go back and test components of the campaign again and again. And we collect inexpensive quantitative behavioral data.
Intuition has its place and always will. But now we have balance. At several points along the development path, we can answer specific questions about our campaign.
Obviously, it’s important to get this offer right, it makes sense to do a study. I’m going to use this word “study” a lot because it means, “Stop and look for some data.” A study can mean evaluating existing data or collecting new data. It may take months, but can also be done in a few hours.

Offer Selection & Continuity

I’m going to use the term “studies” frequently. A study describes our process of collecting and evaluating behavioral data. Studies are often short processes, but don’t have to be.
[pullquote]We do a study when we ask the question, “Do I have some data to support a decision, or could I collect some data to help me make a decision.”[/pullquote]
If we decided to do a little study of offer language, where could we look for some behavioral data? Well, any place we make offers.
If you’ve been running ads on Google or Bing, you have a sample of offers. You can compare the click rates and their conversion rates of these ads to learn which offers appealed most to prospects.
For one of our clients, we looked at their Adwords ads and saw that the best performing offered either 20% off or $100 off.

Adwords Ad

Adwords Ad


These are what we call “Transactional” prospects. Their greatest fear is paying a dollar too much for something. The landing page used for these ads didn’t lead with the discounts, however.
Before

Before


We focused on the $100 off offer and this became part of the primary offer. This page increased leads by 40% after we made this simple change.
After

After


Other sources of behavioral data? How about a study of emails with high click-through rates? What offers get the most clicks in your email? This data is kept in any email service for easy evaluation. Pull them into a spreadsheet and see what offers appealed to prospects.
Your ad and email teams should be thrilled to hear from you. At some point, they may come to you to learn what landing page copy is delivering the best conversion rates. They can do a behavioral study of your landing pages.
Why is this data valuable?

  1. First it is behavioral, not self-reported.
  2. Second, it is a sample taken from prospects and customers.
  3. Third, it’s a big sample. It will typically include a sample sizes of thousands of impressions or recipients, and hundreds of clicks.
  4. Fourth, the data spans months or years. If seasonality is an issue, you will want to zero in on a timeframe of data that matches the timeframe that your landing page will launch.

You’re not guessing. And you’re getting value from the ad spend and email outreach you’ve already invested in.
If these sources don’t exist for you — if this is a new offer or product, then your study may include launching several ads to see what works. The copywriter may recommend some images to support the copy. If you leave the images to the designer, they will scurry over to iStockPhoto and populate your page with ineffective stock photography.

Image and Headline Selection

Wow, great effort on the photos...

Wow, great effort on the photos…


We call this business porn. You can tell business porn is on your site using the caption test. If you can’t write a caption for a picture that makes sense, then it’s probably business porn.
The caption for shaking hands might be, “We want to shake your hand, so we can start sending you invoices.” Headset hotties are all the rage. The caption might read, “I don’t work here, but you should call anyway.” And the caption for a random graph might read, “We don’t know what this measures, but it’s going up and to the right.”
Your visitors know the difference between a studio picture and a picture of your customers or employees. This is a waste of valuable space on our landing pages.
Marketing 101 says, “Show the product.” This is because no one is going to take action on your landing page until they’ve imagined what it will be like to take action. Spend as much time on the images as you do on the copy. Images are a powerful way to advance the value proposition.
You may have several images to choose from. We’ll do a study to help you pick images that work for your copy.
Unfortunately, we rarely know if we’ve chosen the right copy and image.
So many choices, so little time

So many choices, so little time


More likely, we’re struggling with a number of options.
All of these satisfy the offer, but can be expected to perform very differently.
Let’s do a study!

Finding the Right Headline and Hero Image

Why not give ourselves some creative latitude. We could probably come up with some different headlines and images. Why not collect some data on this to narrow down our choices?
We can pretty easily narrow down our choices using a five-second test. This test can be done very inexpensively at UsabiltyHub.com or Verifyapp.com.
The five-second test flashes your page in front of test subjects for five seconds. The subject is then asked questions about what they saw. It’s a good measure of the immediate impact of the copy and images, revealing how well they communicate the offer.
This is a great way to gauge the effectiveness of headlines and images.

Finding the right hero image and headline

Finding the right hero image and headline


Here’s what we learned about a homepage we tested with the five-second test. This is a typical scenario for this company’s products. We then asked them if this company would solve their problem.
User survey

User survey


It is clear that visitors aren’t getting a clear understanding from the home page. This test took two days and cost about $2.50 for each of the 25 respondents.
We can put several versions of our landing page through the test, different headlines, images and copy. Our landing page doesn’t even need to be functional for this kind of test.
Let’s evaluate this data. Sample size? Small. Little n=25. Strangers or customers? This is a sample of people who aren’t necessarily customers, so their input must be taken with a grain of salt. Qualitative or quantitative? This is clearly qualitative, and we were able to ask several more questions to understand their impressions of the page.
For our landing page, we can use this test to narrow down the best two headlines and best two images. Then we can do a more quantitative, behavioral study with a larger sample size to get our best offer and image. Before we dive into that, there are a couple of other elements we’ll want to include in our landing page before we test.

Understanding our Visitors’ Preferences

What could we add to a page that would enhance our visitors’ perception of our credibility? The folks at Stack asked this question using a Question Test from UsabilityHub.com. They wanted to know what kind of social proof would enhance the perception of credibility for their home page: a testimonial or customer logos.
They created three versions of their home page, one without social proof, one with a testimonial and one listing the logos of their well-known clients. Then they asked the question:

Does this company seem credible to you?

The results favored the logos somewhat.

Expedited vs Testimonial vs Social Proof

Expedited vs Testimonial vs Social Proof


This information is directional in nature, but it narrowed the choices that could be used in a more rigorous AB test.
This is a great example of using panels to inform decisions. It can be applied to a variety of components of a page.

  • Copy length
  • Page Layout
  • Navigation
  • Image choice, size and placement
  • Trust symbols
  • Proof points
  • Headlines

This allows designers to be more creative, since their choices can be easily reduced with a question test.

Helping Visitors Solve Problems

Are visitors finding the information they are looking for on our pages? This was a question that insurance provider RACV wanted to know. It was important that their customers be able to find their roadside assistance number in an emergency.
To gather some data, they did a Click Test from UsabilityHub.com. The click test measures how long it takes a participant to click on the page. In this case, they asked participants to click on the roadside assistance number of their current page. The results showed it took 20 seconds on average for these participants to find and click on the right place.

#buried

#buried


The click location is shown by the heatmap in the lower right corner of the page.
Clearly, they needed a redsign. Their new design put the roadside assistance number in a band closer to the top of the screen. They ran another click test and reduced the time it took to find the link to 5 seconds on average.
#lessburied

#lessburied


This was a significant win for RACV.
You will use a test like this to determine how your page is functioning holistically.

  • What calls to action are most clickable?
  • Are visitors able to find the next step in the process?
  • Do you have too many calls to action on a page?
  • How is your home page helping visitors choose a path?

Answer these questions and you will deliver a better experience.

Studying Page Layout

Notice that we haven’t yet gotten a designer involved yet. There’s a reason for that. Designers tend to add things to a page that satisfy their ego, or that they believe will satisfy you. They want carousels, animated video backgrounds, sliding logos and such. These are all bad ideas, unless you have some data that suggests otherwise.
A professional design is important to credibility, but the primary job of the layout design is to get our visitors eyes to the important information on the page. In this way, we want our designer to be more of a draftsman, using their knowledge of font, color, white space, positioning, negative space, grids, and visual cues to direct our visitors experience. We don’t need designers to be persuasive or manipulative.
Before we call the designers, let’s find out what is wrong with the layout. The more specific instructions we can give our designer, the more likely we are to keep them from going crazy.
Thanks to the amazing increase in webcam resolution and the steep drop in price, we can track where a persons eyes fall on a monitor with surprising accuracy. This means we can do inexpensive eye-tracking studies.
We did an eye-tracking study in 2012. Back then, we needed a special infrared camera and expensive software. We recruited 23 people from around Austin and brought them into a room one at a time. We calibrated the camera to track their eyes and asked them to watch one of three videos while we tracked, and to then fill out a survey.
This took weeks to setup and days to execute. The camera and special software were not cheap, at $7500. All in the study cost $15,000 to $20,000 in time and materials.

The World's Least Inexpensive User Test

The World’s Least Inexpensive User Test


In 2016 the I was asked to give my opinion on a landing page for inbound.org. They didn’t have any data on the page, so I asked my friends at Tobii (formerly Sticky.ai) to do an eye-tracking study of the mockup. Their technology used everyday webcams to track the viewer’s eyes. These studies cost around $500.
Here’s an example of what they delivered in about a week.
#heatmapsaregreat

#heatmapsaregreat


This view is called a heatmap view. Like rain in a weather report, this tells us where the eyes of 50 test subjects fell most. Red means that many saw that part of page and lingered. Yellow, less so. Green even less. Clear means that these parts of the page got very little or no attention.
This is helpful information when considering layout. From the data, we speculated that the second section was more interesting to the visitors than the hero offer. Few people were being enticed to scroll down the page. And the big screenshot in the middle was acting as a stop.
Watching these interactions in motion can deliver insights as well. Such videos are automatically generated. I wish we had these back in the day.
"You're waiting for a train..."

“You’re waiting for a train…”


We may choose to iterate our campaign elements now using usability tests and eye-tracking studies, but at some point we are going to declare a version of this page the control and launch it.
Our behavioral science doesn’t stop there.

After Launch

We are going to use a few tools to give us some very helpful data about how this page is performing with real prospects.

  • Analytics database
  • Click tracking software
  • Session recording software

And if we really want to take this decision to the supreme court, some AB testing software.
Analytics is a large database of behavioral information. It sits behind our website collecting the behaviors and details of our visitors — anonymously. It is the best source of quick studies. This is a topic for another post.

Heatmaps

To increase the size of our samples, we can turn to click-tracking software. Instead of tracking where visitors’ eyes go on the page, this tracks their mouse movements and where they click. We get similar information with a much larger samples size.
Is our copy too long? Is key information being missed? This can be answered easily with a scroll tracking report.

Scroll tracking

Scroll tracking


What elements on a page are getting visitors’ attention? Which are being ignored? With click tracking, we can see the interactions of thousands of visitors in a single heat map. Here’s an example of a pricing page.
Click tracking

Click tracking


These are tools that cost a few hundred dollars a month to have running on your site.
Here’s a heatmap we saw on a college website. Why is this one part of the form red hot?
Heatmap

Heatmap


This field is “Program of Interest.”
Follow the colors

Follow the colors


It seems that the site didn’t do a good job of communicating what programs were available. When we added “Program of Interest” to the body of the pages and took the potential students to the right part of the site, information requests went up by 20%. That’s a big deal when you’re selling something that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Supreme Court of Data

We have a page that we expect to convert well out of the gate. Our big decisions have been supported by research–an offer study, a copy study, a 5-second test and an eye-tracking study– and have been colored by our intuitive abilities as communicators.
With sufficient traffic, there is another kind of study that we consider the Supreme Court of studies. It’s called an AB test or a split test.
Like our other tools, AB testing tools cost $500 a month or less, and our old data friend, Google, has released a free AB testing tool called Google Optimize.
AB testing tools give us the ability to change just about anything we want on a web page without messing with the backend of our website. In other words, we don’t need the developers’ help. These tools manage everything for you.
They split your traffic equally among two or more variations of your page.
They keep track of which variation generates leads or sales.
They do the statistical calculations for you so you know when your sample size is big enough.
And this data follows all of the rules of behavioral data. It is customers and prospects. The tests are done simultaneously, so the history effect is minimized. The samples sizes are large. The data collected is behavioral, not self-reported.
The only thing we don’t get from AB test results is the deep qualitative insights. That is why we continue to do other studies like site feedback like site surveys.
One of our favorites It involves a single-question popover survey on the thank you page, or the receipt page of the site. A typical survey question is:
“What almost kept you from buying today?” or “What almost kept you from signing up?”
The input is free-form text.
In this example, we asked customers why they chose the Lite version of a product over the Pro version.

Why did you give us less money?

Why did you give us less money?


The results of this can be very enlightening when asked like this giving us new ideas about what to test.
Designing AB tests is an intensely creative process.

Conclusion: The Gold is in the Data

This is data gold. But it costs like copper.
When you ask every day what data is available to help me make creative decisions, you can be more creative. You can do more with less because you’re not spinning your wheels.
Investing in behavioral data is now cheaper than not investing in behavioral data. Are you excited about behavioral data now?
Many of the results I’ve shown you are from our clients. A Conversion Scientist named Ruth Mayer created them. A year ago, she was working in a flower shop. Today she is is finding revenue at some busy websites.
Do you really thing behavioral data isn’t within your reach?
When it is expensive to do research, we can’t afford to invest very often, but digital data gathering has become very inexpensive, and it allows us to capture what is happening on our websites, advertising networks and mobile apps in real time.
How would a store owner know that people who looked at a pair of shoes also tend to look at a pair of capri pants? They’d have to follow their visitors around with a clipboard. That’s not practical in the real world. It’s common online.
“Market research is for researchers. Behavioral science is for doers.” –BAM
I’m not going to stop until everyone comes to love behavioral data. Like throwing raw meat to your left hemisphere to free up your creative right hemisphere.
Imagine how you would approach the world if you knew you were creating what your audience really wanted.
How will I know if you love data? Let’s do a study…
 
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They came.
They saw.
They left immediately and never returned…
You’ve worked very hard to get visitors to your landing page. You’ve probably spent a lot of money as well. And while you are ready to sell to them now, you might be getting ahead of yourself.
If you want customers to push your buttons, you have to push theirs first.
A lot of ecommerce websites function more or less like this: “Hey, here’s my company… aren’t we neat? Look at these things you can buy.” And that’s why their conversion rate is less than 2%.
If you want to really convert landing page visitors, there are a few things you need to do.

1. Understand Your Visitor’s Journey

Your visitor came from somewhere. That may seem obvious, but it’s important to acknowledge. When they land on your page you don’t want them to have to re-orient them self or re-set their expectations of what happens next.
Your landing page should pay off the promise made on the page that directed your visitor to it, and it should give them a way to take action. Anything else is friction and window dressing. Your goal should be to remove as much of it as you can, while delivering on your promise and providing a good experience for your visitor.
Obviously you are going to want some content in there so your visitor knows they’re in the right place and what they need to do, but beyond that…all that friction is stuff you’re putting in place to serve your needs, not your visitors’, and it will likely hurt you.
But I get that you need to generate leads – that’s not serving the customer, though. So it’s important that you accept up-front that not everything on your landing page is there to help the customer. Knowing how to minimize that self-serving part of the page is how you’ll maximize conversions.
Make sure your landing page has the elements your visitor expects, and that it provides a seamless experiential flow from the referring page. Your landing page URLs have to be unique to each referring source, and the content of the page, while accomplishing your goals, must be designed with the referring page’s content in mind.
That referring page has set up an expectation in your visitor’s mind. Of what they’ll get when they land on your page, what they’ll have to do and what they might have to provide. We call this expectation priming, and it can be overt or subliminal.

2. Prime Your Visitors’ Subconscious

Priming is the use of one kind of stimulus to influence the response to another stimulus. What does that mean? Well, if you read a website about “better sleep” and “tossing and turning” and “frustrating” and “sleeplessness” and “sleep disorder” you can probably guess that the site is about “insignia” even if the site never uses the word.
And how did you know that word should have been “insomnia” and not “insignia”? Because your brain was primed by the sleep-related words to tell you that the word that makes the most sense is different from the word you read, and your brain is constantly trying to make sense of the information it processes, and it will compensate without you thinking about it.
These groups of words that we associate with a specific thing make up its schema, which is just shorthand for the way our brains organize thoughts, behaviors, ideas and the relationships among and between those pieces of information. We’re going to come back to this idea of schemas a few times in this course.
In the meantime, words have the power to make us feel things deep in our subconscious, so reading that insomnia site before bed might make you…unable to fall asleep.
Everything we see, taste, touch, smell and hear is information being passed to the brain through our nervous system. How we interpret those things comes from limbic system of the brain which controls emotions, memories, learning and the regulation of responses to triggers.
In marketing, if we can prime our audience with schemas that trigger specific parts of the brain, we can nudge the subconscious to respond in specific ways. Create anxiety about being able to fall asleep, maybe you can induce insomnia.
Stimulus 1: words about insomnia
Response to Stimulus 1: not feeling sleepy
Stimulus 2: time for bed
Response to Stimulus 2 (under influence of response 1): not feeling sleepy
Priming is also important in your customer journey, mentally preparing your customer for the next step toward their decision. For landing pages the priming process begins before the visitor lands on your page. As a marketer you have to be aware of where the visitor has come from, and which channel led them to your site.
Did they see a link in an email? Did they see a button in an email? Did this visitor click a link on a general website, or was it specifically about something, perhaps a partner’s or influencer’s website? Did they click a display ad? Did they click a paid search result? Did it come from social media?
Each of these routes speaks to the customer having different experiences and expectations up to the moment they landed on your site.
You probably can’t meet every expectation with a single landing page, so you must be prepared to make custom landing pages for each channel – and you should count each influencer and partner website and as its own channel.

3. Create Open Loops

Better known as cliffhangers in the cock-a-doody chapter plays, and those few seconds before the clock pops up on the screen at the end of an episode of 24.

Open loops are an anxiety-inducing Hollywood device that make you just have to tune in the next week. Even before Dr. Phil told us about it, human brains and emotions were programmed to need closure. We want to know how things work out. Leave an open loop and…well, we just can’t resist it. We just have to know. It’s an itch we can’t help but want to scratch.
Your CTA isn’t an open loop. It’s the thing that closes a loop. It’s not an itch you have to scratch. An open loop makes your brain scream “What happens next?” and drives you crazy until you find out.
Some loops get closed quickly, like walking to the vending machine with some change. That loop gets closed when you have a Snickers in your hand. Pretty boring (even if it really satisfies), right?
But what if you increase the stakes? What if you need that candy because a co-worker is hypoglycemic and is in danger of going into diabetic shock in the office unless they get a Snickers? No change. Not really. You might be a little anxious for a minute but that loop still closes pretty quickly when you get the candy bar.
So what if you increased the stakes again? What if the candy machine was out of order? Now we have an open loop and some actual consequences of it staying open. Now it’s compelling.
I know what you’re thinking, you can’t put all that jeopardy on your CTA. And that’s true, which is why you have to acknowledge the first truth: your CTA doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists alongside other content on the page, and that’s where you open the loop (you might even open it on the referring page).
Clicking the button is the same as putting the money in the vending machine, and the Snickers is the email they get that confirms their download or subscription has been successful. Loop closed, disaster averted.
So what should your supporting copy say? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves? We need to understand how our audience processes the page they’ve landed on.

4. Utilize Visual & Language Processing

Neuroscientists at MIT measured the brain’s ability to process words and images. They found that people were able to accurately, if broadly, describe images that were flashed in front of them for as little as 13 milliseconds.
Now, an example for the sporty among you: a 100 m.p.h fastball can go from the pitcher’s mound to home plate in 412 milliseconds. To get the ball from the mound to the plate in 13 milliseconds, the pitcher would have to pitch at 3,173 m.p.h. – about twice as fast as a bullet or a single frame of a movie being played at 2.5x speed.
For words, though, it’s a different story. We can speak about 120-160 words per minute and remain clear; and listening, we can process between 300 and 500 words per minute, which is why those disclaimers on radio ads work, even though the guy sounds like the chipmunk who failed the audition.
Our brains compensate. Those three words are a central theme to this post.
Amazingly, our brains get used to how words look when they’re written. We expect the word “word” to be a uniform height for about 80% of its shape, and then pop up at the very end. Like this:
image4 1
It’s this visual word shape (it’s called the Bouma shape, after Dutch researcher Herman Bouma) that helps us process common words as pictures, and then fill in the details. It’s the uncommon or unfamiliar words that kick the language centers of our brains into action to sound out what exactly we’re reading.
Word recognition speeds hover around the 150 millisecond range, with actual comprehension happening around 20 milliseconds later. Recognition of words in sans-serif fonts are an average of about 8 milliseconds faster. So remember next time you want to use Baskerville or Century Old Style or Garamond – they slow down how fast people read compared to Arial, Geneva and Open Sans. And depending on what you’re trying to achieve, that might not be a bad thing.
So remember when you look at a landing page, your brain is way ahead of you processing the images on the page before you can even recognize that there even are words on the page, let alone understand what they say.
Time to process image: 0.013 seconds.
Time to process words: 0.170 seconds.
The hero, header or background image is your first opportunity to prime a schema in your audience. Visuals should always be considered a fundamental part of what you’re trying to communicate and not an afterthought, or something nice to add a pop of color. They have the potential to persuade or confuse your audience. If you treat visuals like language, they will provide powerful support for your writing. The words and concepts we store in schemas are in what we’ll call “semantic neighborhoods,” so let’s talk about that.

5. Semantic Neighborhoods of Words

Let’s talk for a moment about the semantic neighborhoods of words. Here’s a list:

  • Daisy
  • Lily
  • Rose
  • Iris

What’s the next word? Is it Tulip or is it Elizabeth?
image7 1     image6 2
Well, that all depends on whether you’ve been primed with a schema for girls names or flowers. But those words all exist in the semantic neighborhoods of both “girls names” and “flowers.” And in conjunction with priming, semantic language neighborhoods are tremendously powerful.
Words tend to be related to other words. Not just as synonyms, but as a way for us to discern the meanings of sentences. If you’d been asked to identify not the next word, but what those four words have in common, it would be a lot easier to accurately identify that theme if the fourth word more clearly established what kind of linkage or similarities these words shared.

  • Daisy
  • Lily
  • Rose
  • Tulip

Is a list of flowers while:

  • Daisy
  • Lily
  • Rose
  • Elizabeth

Is a list of girls’ names
So some words are capable of helping us unlock the meaning of others. If primed correctly, some words are capable of unlocking the meaning of others to nudge our brain into doing something.
These groups of words are said to be in the same semantic neighborhood. So just as cats and dogs are in the semantic neighborhood of “pets,” if you were primed with language in the semantic neighborhood of “insomnia” it could make it difficult to fall asleep.
Imagine you are a creative for a coffee brand. You want to put your customer in the semantic neighborhood of “tired” and keep them there so they keep making coffee, using it up faster to make them buy more frequently. Maybe you send them an email about the bad things that can happen when a person gets tired. You put a picture of a hammock on your website. You use the word “bed” in your social media posts. You make sure your content partners are using native advertising for that piece about the top 5 cartoon dogs (including a picture of Droopy). Then get Upworthy to publish that article about the physiological reasons we yawn.
image3 1     image5     image2 2
Seriously, I yawned writing that paragraph.
Using schemas and semantic language neighborhoods is like taking your SEO keyword strategy and using it to trigger emotions or memories in your audience instead of making your website rank higher.

6. Design Desire Paths

You’ve probably heard the term “path of least resistance,” and that’s more or less what desire paths are.  When things get designed in a way that forces a user to create their own “unofficial” pathway to accomplish their goals, that’s a desire path and a design failure. This kind of friction is usually caused by designers (or the decision makers who have the final say) putting the company’s needs first, and thinking the visitor will use the site the way the designer wants them to, rather than how humans always do: with the least brain effort possible.
image1 1
Don’t imagine that your landing page visitors are going to use the internet in a way you don’t, just because it’s how you’d like them to use it. For the most part they expect certain things on a landing page: brief copy, a CTA button, maybe some kind of a form to fill out – if they don’t see those things, they’re going to go looking. If your designer places them on the page in a way that makes your visitor have to think about it, they’ll abandon.
We’d all like to think our visitors are happy to provide their email address and shoe size in exchange for an ebook, but realistically…not so much. Assume that after two fields, every mandatory data capture field on your page is going to double your abandon rate.
In UX design, it’s generally accepted that users read in one of two ways:
F shape: from left to right from the top to the bottom, with decaying interest as they cross and descend the page. If this is how your landing page visitors are going to consume the page, you should probably place your most important information in the top left, and the least important in the bottom right.
Diagonally: from top left to bottom right. If this is how your audience will consume your page, then you should avoid putting anything important in the bottom left or top right. Or, put things you want to bury in those spaces.
But how do you know how your visitor will consume your page? You can influence that in a couple of ways. First, by laying out your copy or page elements that way. Second, by the use of images that draw the eye in specific directions.
image3 1
Remember this picture? Imagine you’re placing a CTA button on the page. Would you place it in the top or bottom half, to the left or right?
Most of the “interesting” part of the picture is in the bottom half. Despite the fact that most of the “free space” is in the top half, the eye is drawn to the bottom because that’s where the subject of the image is.
Since the angle of the sleeper’s arms draws your attention to the bottom right, you might want to place your copy in the top left and your CTA in the lower right. Because that’s where the viewer’s eye is going to go. Putting the CTA in the bottom left would mean the viewer has to exert mental effort to even look at it. You don’t want that. People are lazy, and work makes them abandon pages. Put the important things right in the middle of those desire paths.
There are tools out there that can track mouse activity and even where focus group users’ eyes go. If you can use one to identify the hot zones on your landing page, that’s where you should put your most important elements.

7. Include Targeted Triggers

Making your audience feel anything through the use of words and pictures is hard. Making them feel something specific is even harder. There are seven classic copywriting triggers you should know about:
Fear – All the cool kids are doing it, why aren’t you?
Guilt – You can help; why aren’t you helping?
Value – You don’t want to miss this great deal!
Belonging – You’re one of us; our tribe is the best.
Leadership – Be the best or first to do or know something.
Gratification – Get it right now!
Trust – This works, with no hidden fees, ask our customers.
For some of these, telling people they don’t have what it takes makes defiance a strong trigger.
For example: You wouldn’t want this, you’re not really a leader…
…DEFIANT CLICK.

8. Write Outstanding Copy

Finally, time to talk about the words…
I don’t want to say that the words are the least important thing on your landing page but…they’re the last thing the brain is going to process. Good words will have a heck of a time making up for bad layout, UX design or image selection – first impressions really do count and it shouldn’t all be left to the copywriter to try to save a bad situation.
Humans are lazy. That’s why the brain has to compensate so much. If you make your visitors have to engage their brain to think, you’re asking them to do too much work. And that will result in abansoned visits.
Words are the thing that, once your visitor reads them, will be given the most thoughtful consideration. And that means they can potentially do as much harm as good, so whatever you choose to write, make sure it’s amazing. To keep your visitor’s brain out of the conversation, fewer words is better, but stay away from slogans and meaningless statements. Don Miller of StoryBrand recommends the “grunt test,” which is that if you showed your landing page to a caveman for five seconds, would they be able to tell you what it’s about?
If everything else is in order, by the time the brain reads the words, the job should be mostly-done. But the problem is…when you’re designing the page, you’re going to need to do something you might be unaccustomed to doing: start with the words. Why? Because in the hands of a talented copywriter, the use of psychology, emotional trigger words, descriptors, themes and evocative language are formidable tools that intrigue the brain. Done right, they’ll help your designer build a bridge to the glorious click that your visitor can’t help but cross – and they’ll probably think getting to the click was their idea.
Copywriting, especially conversion rate optimized (CRO) copywriting, is a specific skill. Most writers don’t have it.
Out of every 100 people who think they can write

  • 80 don’t have a distinctive voice or perspective
  • 20 have a strong voice
  • 10 have a voice and opinion
  • 5 of them can also crank out concise ideas at an industrial rate
  • 1 has ideas that are good/original enough to support campaigns

Maybe. I might be over-estimating.
The point is: Good direct response copywriters are rare. Really rare. It’s not the same discipline as writing grants, white papers, long-form blogs or social media updates. Not all writers are created equal, so don’t think the blogger you’ve hired can write landing pages. They probably can’t.
Here are some things to remember as you write your copy.

  1. Serve your audience’s needs first otherwise they’ll abandon.
  2. Keep it short and simple. Reduce friction.
  3. Your visitor already cares enough to be on your page. Don’t disappoint them.
  4. Your images should have primed your reader, so you don’t have to tell them what they see.
  5. Avoid clichés and slogans. Make your copy meaningful.
  6. Focus on the benefits or results, not the features.
  7. Say it plainly. Be human. Don’t make them have to engage their brain.
  8. Make your CTA obvious and enticing with triggers.
  9. Make your benefit easy to remember and repeat so it gets shared.
  10. If you’re creating multiple landing pages, make your copy relevant to the narrow audience for that specific version of the page.

Conclusion

I hope you found this helpful. With these tools, you’ll be better equipped to turn incoming visitors into leads and customers.
Remember that the conversion process is intentional. It’s not passive. The more you understand your customer, the better you’ll be able to push their buttons.
 

Duncan Connor is a content strategist and demand generation expert. Ask him about guest blogging for your website!

We all make decisions every day based on what other people are doing. You are wired to navigate the world using behavioral data.

When you check Facebook to see how many people like and comment on your most recent post, you’re using your built-in behavioral know-how. When you select a movie based on the Rotten Tomatoes Freshness Score, you are getting your behavioral science on. The New York Times Best Seller list, the Billboard Charts, and the laugh track on The Big Bang Theory are all sources of behavioral data that we use to make decisions every day.

If you don’t believe me, let’s use an example. When my son was 14, he built his own gaming computer. He had meticulously researched every component, from the high-frequency monitor to the mouse pad. His last decision was the motherboard, the foundation of the computer that every element plugs into.

He had narrowed it down to two alternatives. They had the same features and were priced within pennies of each other. Reviewers of the motherboards had given one a four-star rating, and the other a five-star rating.

If we didn’t understand the first rule of behavioral data, we would have simply chosen the five-star motherboard. Five stars is better than four, right? But even at the tender age of 14, Sean was smart enough to see how many reviews had fed those ratings.

Two products with similar features and price. You know which rating to believe.

Two products with similar features and price. You know which rating to believe.

The five-star motherboard had five reviews, while the lower-rated four-star motherboard had 250 reviews. You have no doubt about which rating is most reliable. Your little brain, like my son’s, is doing the math. We know that the five-star rating is just as likely to be a three- or two-star rating.

The data isn’t in.

You are intuitively calculating what statisticians call n: The Sample Size of the data collected (the reviews). And you know the first rule of behavioral data.

1. Larger Sample Sizes Are Better Than Smaller Sample Sizes

It is rarely feasible to ask every single person who would buy from us what it would take to get them to give us money. Instead, we ask a sample of our audience what they think. If our sample is big enough, we can assume that our entire audience will feel the same way.

The larger the sample size we can generate–little n–the more accurately we can predict how our campaigns and websites will perform.

This is why a “launch and see” approach is so appealing. We feel that we need to launch something to reach a large sample size of potential buyers. Or, we decide to rely on experts to make good decisions about what we should create to sell our businesses.

Campaign development often starts with a creative director. In this case, n=1. If this person gets input from their team, we are getting insights from a handful of people. Our sample size might be five or ten. If we run a focus group or survey, we can get the input from a dozen people or more. Little n might be as high as 20.

These sample sizes are not enough to predict the future statistically. You can see why advertising and web sites designed by small teams can fail. The number of people involved in the research is small.

When we collect online analytics, we are involving hundreds or thousands of people in our development process. Little n is much, much larger. As we all know intuitively, this means the data is more reliable, like the number of reviews of our motherboards.

We are also calculating another statistical value when we look at these ratings and reviews: the total population, or N.

2. Data Over Time Is Better Than Data At One Point In Time

When we consider our two motherboards, and look at the sample sizes, we will naturally infer how many of each had been sold. The 5-star product only has five reviews. Either it had not been on the market long, or it just wasn’t selling well. As a result, we will assume that the population of buyers–N–is small, and that the time over which these reviews were collected was small.

We know intuitively that data collected over a long time is better than data collected over a short time. Things change over time. Even within a week, people buy more or less on weekdays than an weekends.

When we run a focus group, launch a survey, do a marketing study, we’re measuring our audience at one point in time. If you survey swimmers about their preferences for beachwear in January, you might get very different results than if you asked them in July.

When data is cheap, we can measure it year round, all the time. Behavioral data can be collected constantly on our digital properties. With just a few lines of code on your website, your analytics software builds a very helpful behavioral database day and night. Once you have this database, you can decide what part of the year you want to examine. Or use the entire year.

Our friends at Decorview sell high-end window treatments from companies like Hunter Douglas. One might assume that the people that buy luxury household items like this would not be too price sensitive. We found some data that told us the opposite.

When we examined the search ads that  Decorview had run, we found that ads featuring discounts were far and away the most clicked. These ad campaigns had been running for months and years, so we tended to trust the data.

Ads featuring discounts generated more clicks for high-end window treatments.

Ads featuring discounts generated more clicks for high-end window treatments.

We changed the landing page to feature discounts and saw a 40% increase in leads from an AB test.

Advertising data collected over time helped us create a high-converting landing page.

Advertising data collected over time helped us create a high-converting landing page.

3. More-Recent Data Is Better Than Less-Recent Data

If, in fact, things and people change over time, then we would tend to trust more recent data vs. old data. This is also way we may retest something we already collected data on last year.

Traditionally, market research has takes time and effort. Most marketing studies were months old before they are applied to a campaign. As the time and cost of research has dropped, we perform studies more often and with more precision.

There is little good reason to use stale data when it is so easy to collect it fresh from the farm.

The personalized childrens book The Little Boy Who Lost His Name had sold a half-million copies, and the publisher had high hopes for the next installment, The Incredible Galactic Journey Home.

The Little Boy Who Lost His Name had sold over 500,000 copies.

The Little Boy Who Lost His Name had sold over 500,000 copies. Source: UsabilityHub.com

Unfortunately, the Incredible Intergalactic Journey didn’t sell nearly as well. The past had not repeated.

Some alternative covers were developed and data collected through UsabilityHub.

Courtesy: UsabilityHub.com

Source: UsabilityHub.com

The newly designed cover immediately improved sales. Things had changed since the first book came out, and fresh data was needed.

4. Observational Data Is Better Than Self-Reported Data

When we ask a survey panel or focus group what they think of our creative, they will lie. Humans are very good at rationalizing their decisions, but few know the real psychological reasons why they act the way they do.

Behavioral input, on the other hand, is an observation of people as they act. We don’t necessarily have to ask them why they do something. We can watch.

The classic manifestation of this is the derided popup window. Universally despised by everyone you ask, these little windows will reliably increase leads and subscribers in almost every situation, especially exit-intent popovers. The self-reported data clearly doesn’t support the observational data.

5. Customers & Prospects Are More Believable Than Pretenders

Yelp has come under fire in recent years because of fake reviews. Businesses were hiring people to write glowing reviews about them. It turns out that advertisers want to take advantage of your natural behavioral science abilities to trick you with bad data.

When we see a brand with tens of thousands of likes on Facebook, we take it with a grain of salt. It’s easy to like something. That doesn’t mean these likes came from customers.

When launching surveys, taste tests and focus groups, we want to get subjects that are as much like our customers as possible, but ultimately, it is unlikely they are searching for our product at the time we are asking them their opinion.

This is why keyword advertising is better than display ads. We’re speaking to people who are more likely looking for what we offer.

Behavioral data, by definition, is gathered from the activities of prospects and customers as they interact with our digital properties, our products and our services. They wouldn’t be there otherwise. We can trust that the larger population of prospects will behave similarly.

6. Quantitative Data Is More Reliable Than Qualitative Data

When you look at the star rating for a product and the number of reviews, you are using quantitative data to guide your decision.

When you read the reviews, you are using qualitative data.

Both can be helpful, but only one will predict the future reliably.

Qualitative collection methods allow us to drill down with a few subjects to understand more about their emotions and motivations. We don’t know if these emotions and motivations are representative of the broader market.

Quantitative data gives us more statistical confidence that what we are seeing represents the larger market. However, this data isn’t seasoned with human input. Both are important.

The two can be used hand-in-hand. It’s the quantitative data that ultimately wins the day.

The company Automatic sells a device that plug into most modern cars and connects a car’s computer to your phone. This connection gives drivers the data they need to maintain their automobiles and become better drivers. Automatic launched a “Pro” version of their product that didn’t require your phone to connect to the internet. It had its own 3G connection.

The feature comparison chart presented by Automatic.

The feature comparison chart that caused more buyers to choose Automatic Lite.

Yet, most people were buying the Lite version. We wanted to find out why.

We asked buyers why they chose the Lite version in a popup survey on the receipt page. We got a lot of feedback, but this comment summed it up best:

A thank-you page survey asked, "What made you choose Automatic Lite over Pro?"

A thank-you page survey asked, “What made you choose Automatic Lite over Pro?”

We didn’t stop with this input. We removed the confusing features from the feature list, and designed an AB test to collect some observational data.

Our AB test tested a shorter feature list, eliminating confusing features.

Our AB test tested a shorter feature list, eliminating confusing features.

In an AB test, the visitors don’t even realize that they are being tested. We are simply observing the results of their interactions. In this case, our changes increased conversion rates, and increased sales of the Pro unit as a percentage of overall sales.

Final Thoughts

There has been a lot of focus on AB testing as a marketing tool in recent years. This is because AB tests are designed to follow all of the rules of behavioral data. They are designed to deliver observational, recent data, taken over time from a statistically significant sample of prospects that can be quantitatively analyzed.

As a marketer, you can tap into this innate scientific know-how, using it to predict the performance of your campaigns and make them better.


21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

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  • "We" vs. "You"
  • Pattern Interrupts
  • The Power of Three
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Extreme personalization works… but it’s hard work.

We know that the more narrowly our marketing is focused, the more likely people are to respond. The most extreme version of this is 1-to-1 marketing, which while effective, is not really scalable.

Through creativity and technology, however, several companies have been able to utilize extreme personalization at scale, and in doing so, redefine their industries. Today, we’ll be looking at these companies and analyzing 5 extreme personalization examples that actually worked.

Personalization Example #1 – Ayogo Gamifies Personal Health

Ayogo app for gamification, social networks, and digital health

Ayogo app for gamification, social networks, and digital health

The World Health Organization recently observed that more people will benefit if they follow doctor prescriptions seriously rather than focusing on development of new therapies.

In fact, in the North America and the U.S. alone, over $314B is spent on medication non-compliance – more than what is spent on cancer, heart disease, and diabetes put together.

Enter Michael Fergusson, CEO of Ayogo. The company has designed a platform called Empower that focuses on bringing about behavioral changes in patients through gamifications.

The Execution

Ayogo’s objective while designing Empower was to encourage users to take their prescriptions seriously. While patients typically care enough about their health to visit doctors when something is noticeably wrong, that motivation tends to fall off the longer they are removed from their last doctor’s visit.

In attempt to combat this and help lead people towards better health, Ayogo developed games that have successfully prompted behavioral changes in patients, The Empower app lets users create personalized avatars that symbolize their goals and aspirations. Once the patients get their visual avatar up and running, games and virtual coaching services are available.

The Ayogo app provides aspirational avatars

The Ayogo app provides aspirational avatars

One of the best features of the app is that it takes into account patient-to-patient networking as part of its gamification process. This has facilitated better health outcomes during various clinical trials.

The Empower™ platform is currently being adapted for patients suffering from type 2 Diabetes, Obesity & Bariatric surgery preparation, insomnia, and illnesses subject to injection fatigue.

The Data

  1. In a 3rd party clinical trial , 60% of patients preparing for Bariatric surgery used the app to engage twice per day for 12 weeks. The app also helped patients easily adjust to life after their Bariatric surgery.
  2. Patients playing one weight loss game lost 17.3lbs over 12 weeks, vs just 8lbs by the control group. App users also kept the weight off for a longer period.

Actionable Advice

Gamification has become a popular and highly effective way to drive engagement, and it’s often most successful in ways you would least expect. If you can find a way to gamify a typically unenjoyable activity for your customers, not only will you improve engagement and conversion rates, but you will also differentiate your brand by leaps and bounds.

Personalization Example #2 – Coca-Cola Has A Bottle For Everyone

With Australia being one of the world’s more developed markets, growth is tough.

No doubt, Coca Cola has been applying every trick in the book  to capture the attention of the audience through campaigns such as “Bottle Blast” and all; however, the company never got the required traction. Partly because the Coke campaign had become extremely predictable and mostly because the Australian youth found it hard to relate to a big and iconic brand like Coca Cola. Australians are egalitarian by nature and they really like to cut people to size if anyone seemed too big for their boots.

Coca Cola 'Share a Coke' Campaign

Coca Cola ‘Share a Coke’ Campaign

The Execution

A campaign called “Share a Coke” was born that spoke to the Australian youth at eye level.  The campaign’s USP was that it swapped Coke’s branding on bottles and cans with the 150 most popular first names in Australia. When customers saw their name on the coke bottles, it created a personalized experience, even though these bottles were still mass produced.

The campaign was a big hit that summer, with Coke selling over 250 million bottles and cans and expanding the campaign into more than 70 countries. Teams in Britain, Turkey and China put their own creative spins on the concept, while preserving the simple invitation to “Share a Coke with (insert name).”

Ad for Coca Cola 'Share a Coke' Campaign says 'Share a Coke with Jannis.

Ad for Coca Cola ‘Share a Coke’ Campaign

Actionable Advice

What makes Coke’s campaign so brilliant is that it combines personalization AND automation. By selecting the top 150 names, they created essentially 1-to-1 connections with millions of customers without actually needing to market 1-to-1. When someone saw a coke with their spouse’s name on it, purchased it, and presented it to that spouse, it made for a personally entertaining moment in a way you’d never expect from a soda product.

Look for innovative ways to create a more personal perception even if you are still running a high volume campaign.

Personalization Example #3 – Zappos Has Extreme Customer Service

Zappos employees at work

Zappos employees at work

In the interconnected, high-feedback landscape of today’s markets, customer services has become a primary selling point for brands. As per a Walker study report, customer experience is set to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator in the next few years.

Zappos, an online shoe and clothing company, has taken advantage of this shifting landscape by turning customer service into an art form.

In 1999, when Zappos founder Nick Swinmurn was scouting for a good pair of shoes in a mall in San Francisco, he failed to find anything he liked. One shop had the right style. Another had the right color. The third had the right fit.

Disappointed, he went home and searched online for shoes. But then again, he found there were no major online retailer selling specialized shoes.

So in 1999, Nick decided to quit his day job and start an online shoe retail business.  In June 1999, ShoeSite.com was born, later converted to Zappos (Spanish word for ‘shoes).

The Execution

Zappos, today an Amazon subsidiary, is one company that goes to extremes to please customers. The company not only offers a wide range of shoes, but also offers free shipping both ways. So if a customer has to return shoes, they can do so freely. Some customers will even order 5 or so pairs of shoes, try them all, and then return the ones they don’t like at no charge.

If that weren’t enough, the company also has an unheard of 365-day return policy backed by a full refund.

But Zappos didn’t stop there. In 2004, they relocated from San Francisco to Las Vegas with the goal of building a large, high-caliber team of phone-based customer care specialists. This shift was a little surprising considering that only 5% of the sales happened through the phone.

Justifying the act, in an HBR article, Zappos founder Nick Swinmurn said: “We receive thousands of phone calls and e-mails every day, and we view each one as an opportunity to build the Zappos brand into being about the very best customer service.”

Here’s Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s take on the same:  

Quote on happiness by Tony Hsieh CEO of Zappos

Quote on happiness by Tony Hsieh CEO of Zappos

Even the company’s website real estate highly focuses on data gathering and reviews.  This case study doesn’t exactly reveal how much the company benefited from the above customization policies, but the fact is there are companies that succeed by putting customers at the core of their business.

Here’s Tony Hsieh’s take on his company’s extreme personalization strategies  

Quote on having fun by Tony Hsieh of Zappos

Quote on having fun by Tony Hsieh of Zappos

The Data

With year over year growth fueled by their commitment to customer service, Zappos ended up selling to Amazon in 2009 as part of a nearly Billion dollar buyout.

Actionable Advice

Customer attention is incredibly important and criminally under-emphasized. It is FAR easier to retain customers than it is to create new ones, and past customers will buy more from you when you launch new products or services. It’s easy to take customers for granted as you move on to the next sale, but you should be investing as much time (if not more) enhancing the experience for your existing customers as you do on sales or lead generation.

Personalization Example #4 – Popcorn Metrics Uses 1-to-1 Onboarding 

Popcorn Metrics movie popcorn image

Onboarding is one of the most critical parts of the SaaS business model.

When Popcorn Meterics launched, it offered a low-cost product with a 30-day free trial to drive new users. And while initial signups were strong, very few users were converting at the end of the free trial.

The Execution  

The company decided to overhaul its onboarding process. While the original process was focused on automation and run primarily via automated emails, the new process offered a more personalized experience that included interviews, Skype chats, videos, and tutorials.

The Data

The new onboarding process was an incredibly strong success for the business, increasing total sales by 367% in just 12 weeks time.

Actionable Advice

User boarding is an important part of the sales funnel, and while automation might be a priority for you, including personal points of connection can significantly increase the way users respond to your offers and engage with your product.

Personalization Example #5 – Netflix Uses Algorithms To Recommend Videos

Netflix list of movie titles

Netlflix has always focused on the user experience, and after adding the digital portion of their service, that focus began searching for ways to enhance personalization. With an ever-expanding digital catalog, the company was struggling to display the right content to its 57 million users while simultaneously allowing them to search out and discover new content for themselves.

Agreed, similar problems are faced by news sites, search engines and online stores as well. But then, Netflix had to deal with different sets of problems as well, such as interface constraints and here in this case, it’s about movies and TV as opposed to other media.

The Execution  

In addition to creating a specialized algorithm to send personalized content to users, Netflix also created a new dashboard layout that allowed users to scroll left to right to view additional titles within a category, or scroll up and down to browse various categories chosen based on their viewing habits. The new layout gave users greater control in browsing new titles without sacrificing navigational simplicity.

Netflix screen capture says "Angela, welcome to your very own Netflix homepage! Based on your ratings, we filled it with personalized suggestions just for you."

Netflix welcomes individuals by name on their site.

The Data

While we have no way of knowing exactly how influential this improved UI has been to Netflix’s continued growth, their stock has tripled over the last three years, which indicates their overall approach to the customer’s experience is paying off.

Actionable Advice

One key takeaway here is that Netflix understands its audience’s different needs. They’ve identified three separate ways users want to engage with the platform, and they’ve found a way to provide intuitive paths for all three purposes using personalization.

Sometimes users want to search for a specific title they’ve heard about. This activity needs to happen fast, and Netflix provides access to their search with just a single button click.

Often, users simply want to resume shows they are in the middle of watching, and Netflix has made this easy by including “My List” front and center when you login.

Finally, sometimes users just want to browse new titles and explore new shows, and Netflix answers this with an intuitive layout and navigation built around personalized content.

Conclusion

From the above case studies you would have easily figured out that personalization or extreme personalization is not industry-specific.

You could apply to any industry. The only thing that one needs to keep in mind is to study your target audience  inside-out before you go ahead and apply them.

What other extreme personalization case studies you are aware of?

Let me know with a quick comment.

Stagnation can be scary.
You took the business from 0 users to 500, 2000, 5000… then growth starts stalling. Existing users are leaving. New ones are barely signing up. And you know ‘no growth’ is quite tantamount to ‘dying’. What do you do? Do you need a new marketing strategy? Is there a problem with the product? Did you suddenly drop in the SERPs?
Growth stalls can occur for a number of different reasons. It could be:

  • New competition
  • Economic downturns
  • Customer service problems
  • Government policy changes
  • Evolving consumers
  • Etc.

But regardless of why your growth has stagnated, what’s most important is how you bounce back, and that’s why today, we’ll be looking at 4 accessible growth hacking techniques you can use to kickstart your business out of a funk.

1. Check For New “Wow” Factors In Your Industry

New entrants or existing competitors often come up with new features your products don’t have. And many times these features become the “wow factors” in your industry. But many companies ignore these factors and fall prey to growth stalls.
A study on the growth experiences of a number of top organizations reveals that a cycle of disdain, denial and rationalization keeps many teams from responding meaningfully to market changes.
But instead of ignoring these competitor-induced changes, adjusting your product ASAP may be your best bet to sustaining growth in any industry. That is, you look at those “wow factors” and learn from them. That’s what your prospects want. If you don’t give them what they want, they will move on to wherever they can get it, and your business will plateau.
Take Windows PC vendors, for example. They enjoyed the vast majority of market share for many years. From 2006 to 2013, Lenovo, HP, Acer, Dell, Asus, and Toshiba kept occupied the top 5 spots for personal computer sales.

PC sales market share

PC sales market share – Image source


Apple was barely even in the picture during those years, and the all of sudden, they snatched the 5th spot in 2014 and have held the spot ever since. Why? They identified two wow factors in their space – design and simplicity – and leveraged those factors to quickly gain market share.
Competitors caught on and adapted, and now you can find many different PC vendors offering products with Mac-inspired designs and features.
Mac-inspired design

Mac-inspired design – Image source


See how they all look like Macbooks?

Describing HP’s strategy to keep its growth and market share amidst all the improvements in Macbooks, the team at Trefis — a financial advisory firm — said “…we believe HP has taken some prudent steps such as the launch of new advanced thin clients at lower prices, to ensure that it maintains its market share.”
But obviously, HP isn’t the only PC brand protecting its share of the market from Apple. Other PC manufacturers that have withstood the test of time understand that looking out for wow factors and adapting to market changes keeps them relevant and in business.
If you are experiencing stagnation in your business, it might be time to adjust. Look at the fastest growing business in your space, and see what you can learn from them.

2. Try Something Different

Growth doesn’t always come from genius. Sometimes all it takes is common sense. If you’ve been doing the exact same thing, but it’s stopped working, it might be time to simply try something new.
 
For example, PPC agency KlientBoost had spent over a year investing heavily in content marketing. They had pulled in some of the most prolific authors in the marketing space and were churning out well-received articles on a regular basis, but at the end of the day, their strategy wasn’t bringing in leads.
They decided to change things up and doubled the length of all their content, producing 3,000-4,000 word blog posts instead of the usual 1,500-2,000, and over the next year, the company ballooned from $100k MRR to $300k MRR.

You don’t always know if a new strategy will pan out. But guess what? You know EXACTLY how your current strategy is performing. If it’s not working, try something new.

3. Maximize Every Available Resource

 
Is there anything available to you that you aren’t taking advantage of?
Does your friend have a column on Entrepreneur.com, but you’ve never taken the time to work out a post featuring your business?
Does your quarterly webinar perform well, but you just haven’t bothered to invest in setting up more webinars?
Do you know Facebooks ads work really well in your industry, but you just haven’t gotten around to setting up a campaign yet?
These types of available resources are fine to ignore when business is growing and other strategies are working, but when growth is stagnating, it’s time to maximize these resources before you even consider looking elsewhere.
One example of this in action comes from Benji Hyam of Grow & Convert, who took notice of how poorly Airbnb was utilizing its blog:

“You see, to my surprise, when I went to the Airbnb blog recently, I saw the typical self-serving brand related content that most companies put out. You know what I’m talking about…”

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These same posts could have been used as a tool to drive brand awareness and growth for Airbnb — if they were on topics that would attract new Airbnb users. But they weren’t. However, Airbnb now seems to have recognized the value their blog can bring and have more recently begun publishing the types of content Benji suggested.
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This is an example of a company maximizing an available resource.
Look around. What resources are you currently failing to fully utilize? What has worked for you in the past but you never followed up?

4. Entertain EVERYONE’S Ideas

When growth is stagnating, it’s time to start listening to the people you don’t normally listen to – the people who AREN’T driving your current marketing direction.
giphy 1
Different people in your company bring different skills to the table. Engineers understand your product. Salespeople understand persuasion. Customer services reps know exactly what’s on your customers’ minds.
Instead of hunkering down on the same-old, same-old, look to bring in new perspectives and insights. Listen to everyone willing to offer feedback. Creativity is not exclusive to the field of marketing or growth hacking.
Navalent Ron Carucci puts it this way: “Too often, we think of creativity as an individual pursuit. However, the Latin roots of the word “creative” — which describe a social, communal experience — reveal a fundamental truth: Creativity is founded upon collaboration.”
Collaboration is one of the best possible ways to kickstart growth.

Growth Stagnation Doesn’t Have To Be Permanent

Stagnating growth is nearly impossible to avoid, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. As your marketing strategies begin to decline in ROI, use these 4 simple growth hacking techniques to kickstart growth and resume your climb.
 
Victor Ijidola is a content marketer and freelance business writer (for hire). He runs Premium Content Shop where he offers premium writing services that drive leads, and has been featured on sites like Inc.com, The Next Web, Kissmetrics and many more.

What’s the first thing visitors see when they come to your site?

If the answer isn’t a promotional video, you are probably missing out on a sizable chunk of conversions.

In addition the broad trend of increased video consumption – projected to reach 80% of all web traffic by 2019 – promotional videos in particular are having a significant impact on conversion rates across multiple industries. The addition of promo videos has led to 300% conversion increases in email blasts, 80% boosts on landing pages, and 20% improvements on ads.

But most importantly, users are 64% more likely, on average, to purchase a product after watching a related video.

Of course, not all promotional videos are created equal, so today, we’ll be looking at 5 essential qualities the highest converting videos tend to have in common.

1. They Get Straight to The Point

For most new website visitors, you only have one chance to make a killer first impression. In fact, Diode Digital discovered that 60% of visitors will watch your pomo video before reading any site text and will even share their experience when you present them with a “share this video” button. Even more encouraging, Invodo reports that 92% of mobile video viewers share video. So not only will a solid promo video help with conversions, it can benefit your inbound marketing efforts as well.

This suggest that users are likely to begin watching your promo video, but for how long?

Studies on internet browsing show that the average attention span of browsers in 2015 was 8.25 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. Another study done by Vidyard concluded that if you didn’t gain your audience’s attention in the first 10 seconds, you would lose 20-25% of your viewers.

What this means for you is that the first 10 seconds of your video are critical. You can’t waste time setting up a payoff. You need to get straight to the point.

And this urgency doesn’t just apply to the first few seconds. You can’t afford to waste time at any point in your promo video. According to Wistia, optimal video length is around 2 minutes. Beyond two minutes, there is a significant drop-off in engagement.

Wistia graph on video engagement over time

Wistia graph on video engagement over time

If for some reason 2 minutes just isn’t going to cut it, you can go up to 12 minutes without seeing the next dropoff in engagement. The most important thing here is the video itself. If you’re holding people’s attention, you can go longer without losing as many viewers. If your video sucks, keeping it to two minutes isn’t going to magically make it effective.

2. They Have Higher Production Quality

With shorter attention spans and a rising volume of videos being made, companies need to make sure that their videos meet a competitive level of production quality.

We have all seen low production quality videos. They sound like garbage. The camerawork is shaky. The editing (if there is any) is about the quality you’d expect from home movies. To increase conversions you have to capture your audience’s attention and nothing says “don’t buy from me” like a low quality promo video.

So what can you do to increase video production quality?

Obviously, the camera you use is important, but with the quality of smartphone cameras these days, virtually everyone has access to a camera that meets the cut for video quality. For our purposes, we are going to focus more on three areas that are often overlooked.

  1. Sound
  2. Lighting
  3. Framing

If you don’t do a good job in these three areas, even a $5,000 camera won’t be enough to save your video.

Sound Quality

For recording videos where a subject will be speaking to the camera, you should purchase a lapel microphone. Lapel mics attach directly to the subject’s clothing, making it an ideal choice for recording interview-style footage. These mics will help make the audio more crisp and focused while also reducing sound interference from unwanted sources.

lapel mics don't have to be expensive

lapel mics don’t have to be expensive

As you can see, these types of mics can be required relatively cheaply, but you’ll want to do your research to find out what you need for your shoot.

Lighting

Proper lighting is another essential component of making high quality promo videos. You don’t want your footage to be under or over exposed, so setting up lights will eliminate any unwanted shadows. Even the most basic lighting set up in a production will make a huge difference on set. The three point lighting technique (shown below) is well known in the video production world and is probably the most versatile lighting technique.

3 point lighting technique

3 point lighting technique

  1. The key light is the main light in the video and is used to help light the subject of the video. Typically the key light is placed offset to the side of the camera as shown in the diagram above.
  2. The fill light is considered a secondary light and is almost always placed on the opposite side of the key light. The purpose of the fill light it to fill the shadows casted by the key light.
  3. The back light somewhat speaks for itself in that it is the light that is placed on the back of the subject you are shooting. It aids in distinguishing the subject from the background of the scene and gives them more of a three-dimensional look on camera.

Lighting is one of the biggest differentiators between professional and amateur videos, so even just using this basic technique of three point lighting will improve your video production’s quality immensely.

Video Framing

The rule of thirds is a critical building block to the rules of high quality video composition. It is a simple technique to apply to your video setup that will make a big difference with no extra effort.

To apply this technique, mentally draw a tic-tac-toe board across your screen, like you see below.

The rule of thirds

The rule of thirds

Now try to keep the subject and other points of attention along those lines. The positioning is pleasing to the eye and allows the viewer to observe the background as well. Like lighting, it’s something you might not be aware of unless you’re looking for it, but if you compare a professional video and an amateur video side by side, it will immediately jump out at you.

3. They Make Your Brand Likeable

Written communication is extremely limited. With video, you have a chance to tap into the non-verbals that are so important to communication.

That can be both a blessing and a curse, however, as it means you must be aware of the more subtle vibes you are sending out in your videos. The buying process, as you know, is not always a rational process. At the end of the day, people trust and buy from people and brands they like. And while it’s difficult to put a metric to likability, in most cases, you still need to achieve it.

Fortunately, the likeability standard doesn’t require rocket science to achieve. Sometimes all it takes is a genuine smile. A split test conducted by Wishpond showed a 10.7% increase in profits when their ad showed someone smiling versus someone not smiling. That’s a huge increase for such a small change. While natural smiles are not always easy to pull off, especially if you are trying to make videos with non-actors, having the participants relax and watch funny videos pre-shoot can help.

Everybody loves a smile

Everybody loves a smile

4. They Explain The Product & It’s Value

Educating potential visitors through video is one of the best conversion techniques out there. In fact, 98% of users say they’ve watched an explainer video to learn more about a product or service.That is why 45% of businesses who use video marketing said that they have an explainer video on their home page. Of those businesses, 83% said that their home page explainer video was effective.

When making an explainer video, try to follow this structure:

  1. Identify the problem that your product or service is trying to solve for your customers
    • What are they struggling with? What are their pain points?
    • Aim to highlight them in the first sentence of the video as a question. This sets the tone and grabs their attention. Immediately follow up with 2 other questions to really hook them in the first 8 seconds.
  2. Build the need for your product or service
    • How will the product make a difference?
    • Introduce who you are, why you are credible, and why you have created your product or service.
  3. Present the solution
    • How specifically does it solve their problems? What can they expect after purchasing?
    • Tell them about your product or service and highlight the end results.
    • What benefits does each element of the product give them? Break it down piece by piece so they understand the full value.
  4. Create a sense of urgency
    • What will they miss out on if the don’t buy it immediately? What will they gain from buying immediately?
    • Outline why solving their problems sooner than later will make their life better. This will prevent them from bouncing after the video and compel them to purchase.

5. They End With A Clear CTA

The video is over and your viewer watched the entire thing, congratulations!

Now what?

This is where you prompt the viewer to take action. They have demonstrated a clear interest in the video (otherwise they would have bounced after 15 seconds) so now you need to give a clear call-to-action (CTA). A recent study by Quick Sprout showed that conversion rates increased by 144% when you showed a CTA after the video.

Since they are already on your website, you likely want to get them to either purchase or opt-in so you can place them into a funnel. This process should be as simple and straightforward as possible.

One way to add a CTA is to prominently display it outside the video. The key here is that it needs to be be obvious and clearly connected with the video itself.

CTA to the side of the video

CTA to the side of the video.

Another option is to actually overlay the CTA on the video itself.

CTA overlay

CTA overlay

 

Summary

A promotional video can be a huge asset to your business, and if you haven’t considered making one before, you should definitely re-evaluate.

Remember that you can always outsource various pieces of the process if fully outsourcing is too expensive, but you don’t feel capable of doing everything yourself. Remember to invest in a competitive level of production quality, be authentic, get to the point, try to be likeable, and add a clear call to action that is simple for your viewers to follow. That recipe alone will put you light years ahead of your competition.

Have you tried running a promo video before? Tell us about your results in the comments.


21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

  • 43 Pages with Examples
  • Assumptive Phrasing
  • "We" vs. "You"
  • Pattern Interrupts
  • The Power of Three
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