books

I remember the first time I heard about the strange “ad man” living in the hills outside of Austin where I live. I was told he was some kind of hermit genius, rumored to command a fee of $25,000 a day to tell companies how to communicate persuasively. This was perhaps 2004 or 2005.
Then someone shared with me a copy of The Monday Morning Memo, a weekly email that talked about the reasons our ads work. I subscribed and was soon drawn into a collision of two worlds; of the science of the mind and the art of literature and painting.
It was the same genius hermit, whom I would come to know as Roy H. Williams III.
Williams had begun to build an unusual business school in on ranch land outside of Austin. It’s a school that would fundamentally change my life and influence the way I communicate with the world.
The school seeks to teach its students how to do what great communicators and artists do naturally. The subjects are not typical business school fare.
The Magical Worlds Workshop
Da Vinci and the 40 Answers
Advanced Thought Particles
Third Gravitating Bodies
The Languages of the Mind
The name of the school was even more stopping: The Wizard Academy. Don’t worry. The school predated the Harry Potter series of books and movies.
It was here that I first encountered Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg, who’s writing and teaching would form the foundation of Conversion Sciences.
And it was here that I first heard Williams flagship presentation: The Pendulum. Williams’ used music, literature and historical events to paint Western society as the swinging of a pendulum, from individually-centered “Me” society to the communal “We” society and back.
Each swing of the pendulum was on an 80-year circuit, from the self-centered society of the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts at the turn of the century, to the GI society of World War II, banding together to save the world, and back to the plastic, individualistic society that spawned the likes of Disco.
It was a fascinating way to look at society because it seemed to give us the ability to predict the future. In fact, in 2004, Williams said “Let’s hope the American economy doesn’t repeat in 2009 what it did in 1929.”
It did.
I’m not sure even he thought it would look so much like 1929 as we found ourselves in a “Great Recession” in 2009.

PENDULUM: 3000 Years of Swings

While Williams’ Pendulum presentation focused on the current cycle from 1923 to 2003, his new book with Michael Drew looks back 3000 years for evidence of this 80 year juggernaut.
The evidence is compelling.
According to Williams and Drew, the Pendulum works like this:
We oscillate between a civic-minded “We” society and an individualist “Me” society. In a “We” it is important to be part of something bigger than yourself. Society will come together to achieve some great task or fix some great ill.
Then we get a little nuts, insisting on conformity and ostracizing those who don’t adhere to group norms. We see witch hunts and McCarthyism during these extremes.
Then the “Me” society begins to emerge.
The “Me” society rewards individual accomplishment. Freedom and self-expression hold sway until things get out of hand (again) and our culture begins to honor fake, plastic and posing behavior. This is when we’ve seen Robber Barons rule (1903) and we’ve hired an actor for President (1983).
And the pendulum swings back.
During each swing there are transitionary periods, heralded by “alpha voices” in technology, literature, art and music. They predict the coming shifts from “Me” to “We” and then back again.
In Pendulum, Williams and Drew use data on book sales, the Billboard music charts and trends in art to map the most recent swings. Each swing is sliced into ten-year periods, in each of which we behave in similar ways as a society.
They then use the writings of historical figures and accounts of past events to map this 80-year cycle back over 2000 years.
It’s the most interesting history lesson I’ve read in some time.
The last portion of the book is a transcript of a conversation about the coming years

Predicting the Future: What does this mean for our craft?

Currently, we are swinging from a “Me” society to a “We”. In 2003 the pendulum swung past bottom and is now headed upward to a society that will celebrate working together, but will inevitably require conformity and punish those that don’t play along.
An right on cue, we have found the tools to collaborate and to solve the world’s problems in the Internet and mobile devices. Fewer and fewer decisions are made individually. Our youngsters have made saving the planet a rallying cry. “Be Green” is the new “New Deal” of the last swing to a “We” climax.
For those of us that communicate, it means that we can no longer control the message. We can no longer manipulate the masses by appealing to their self-centered desires. The community is deciding more and more what is valuable.
Transparency and authenticity are necessary to work together. And soon conformity.
Conflict is already developing as we join our tribes and fall in line. We are taking sides. Republican or Democrat? Are you the 99%? Do you go to church? Do you go to my kind of church?
Just as Communism and Democracy began taking sides in 1922, so too did we start taking sides in 2002.
Williams predicts that we will be more and more willing to give up our privacy for the common good. In the end, it will be the revelations from this openness that allows us to begin excluding others.

Create Your Tribe

If you are to believe Williams and Drew, then you will begin to create what Seth Godin (whom I believe to be an Alpha Voice in marketing) calls a tribe. As marketers, we must give our customers something to join, and a cause around which to rally.
We can no longer define ourselves by what we sell. We must stand for something.
Beginning in 2013, things start to turn nasty. As we swing higher to the Zenith of our “We” cycle, we will be tempted to exclude those that don’t conform to the rules of our tribe. it will become easiest to stand against something to keep your tribe in line.

Summary

Pendulum is a fun, fascinating romp through our recent history with a long glance back far back in time. You cannot read it without becoming aware of the way things are changing. You’ll begin to read the news with new eyes.
If you’re like me, it’ll scare you and excite you all at the same time.
Get ready to see your future.
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I am pleased to announce that (finally) my new book is being launched September 5 at Content Marketing World.
The book Your Customer Creation Equation: Unexpected Website Formulas of The Conversion Scientist is a “foundational” book on conversion written for those of you who will be responsible for the performance of a website.
That means business owners, corporate marketers and search engine optimizers. It tells you how to guide your online team to the glorious ecosystems that make your site work for your visitors and your business — your customer creation equation.
As a friend of The Conversion Scientist, I’d like to offer you a personally signed copy of the book. I’ll even pay for shipping.
Request your signed copy now, because I’m only signing a limited number of these.
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PS: If you’re coming to Content Marketing World, don’t miss our book launch party on September 5, just after the Rick Springfield concert. This event will feature seven authors including yours truly all in one place.
PPS: If you want to get to know a couple of these authors, check out our Unsolicited Advice video series. You might find your site in there someday.

LPO2_3D_PRIMARY-right-facingAt first, I was pleased to get my brand new copy of Landing Page Optimization Second Edition, delivered and signed by Tim Ash himself. I had learned a great deal from his first edition. It was a time in which I was adding more optimization services to my practice.
The new edition seemed to have everything. It had fresh pages from Tim plus Rich Page and Maura Ginty. It had a snazzy blue cover. Many of the graphics inside were new or updated.
And then it hit me.
Where were my dog-ears? My notes in the margins? The coffee stains on my most visited pages? The new book didn’t fall open to the places I revisited most, like the handy little “Size of Improvements” chart (now on page 302). It was all… gone.
I felt like my favorite site had been redesigned and none of my bookmarks worked. This is the downside to new editions, so I went searching for reasons to start over. It turned out to be a nice reminder of what we do and how we do it.
First of all, he still calls our baby “ugly” to highlight the need for “unflinching courage and clinical detachment” in examining your site. I guess familiarity is welcome in almost any form.
The new book has new content from Tim’s classic presentations, including “The Seven Deadly Sins of Landing Page Design” and his “Conversion Ninja Toolbox.”

Meet the authors at Conversion Conference Chicago, June 25-27.

Less of an edge

I don’t know if Rich and Maura brought this characteristic, but the book has a bit less of an edge. Tim introduced his original section on “The Math of Tuning” with a section entitled “Just Grin and Bear It.” That little ditty is now gone, as is the section “A Final Warning.” The chapter from the first edition “Why Your Site is Not Perfect” has been removed and the content scattered about, as if they were trying to hide it.
Still, you can sense a little of the original edge. The chapter on “Understanding Your Audience” is now “Misunderstanding Your Visitors.” I had to jump to that one.

Just about everything is in there

The book is ambitious, and Tim, Rich and Maura do a good job of covering a lot of ground without eye-glazing detail. Of course, the discussion of factoring is still there.
The new book covers conversion improvement basics and best practices in common situations, which sets the table for the ensuing chapters. There’s a basic primer on statistics and probability. The authors address the challenges of assembling a team and getting buy-in, certainly a thornier optimization challenge than the technical issues.
The excellent chapter “Developing Your Action Plan” is there. New content on mobile websites can be found in this edition.
For me, Landing Page Optimization has been the best book in my library for successful testing, and is the one I most return to. The title may be misleading. Since every page on your site could be a landing page, it is really a book about website optimization.
The new edition offers even more without becoming cumbersome. If only I they could have preserved my “customizations” from the first edition.
The next best thing to reading Landing Page Optimization is seeing Tim, Rich and Maura in person. Will you be at Conversion Conference Chicago June 25-27? It is the most interesting and educational way to get your optimization game into full swing.


 

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After nine months of writing, fifteen chapters complete and dozens of columns supporting the effort, you’d think that the easiest thing to do would be to pick a name for my conversion marketing book.
As it turns out, this is difficult.
So why read a post about selecting a book title? Because, it’s all about conversion – not just the book, but the title is about converting book prospects into book readers.
The title of your book is key to maximizing conversions. It is like the subject line of your email, like the headline of your landing page, and like the value proposition of your home page. Get these wrong and your conversion rates will plummet. However the book title can’t be changed. Once chosen you are stuck with it until you write another.
It’s expensive to test titles, and this makes a Conversion Scientist very nervous.
I’ve considered a number of approaches. These approaches will also inform your online marketing.

Leverage something familiar

My first thought was to leverage something familiar, something that is already popular. This spawned several mockups including The Bourne Conversion, Eat, Pray, Convert, How to Win Friends and Convert People, and Conversions with God.
Unfortunately, copyright issues will prevent me from using any of these.

Ask your SEO person

The next thing I had to consider was how people might find the book on search engines. Phrases like “online sales conversion,” “analytics,” “conversion rates,” and “social media” are some of the most commonly searched phrases in the conversion marketing space. With this focus in mind, several titles were considered:
Online Sales Conversion: The Science of B2B, B2C, Online Services and Social Media Websites
The Well Managed Web Site: Conversion Strategy and Analytics in Simple Terms
Managing Websites to High Conversion Rates
Online Conversion Strategy
In my opinion, words like “conversion” and “analytics” are too clinical. Furthermore, these conversion terms don’t really get that much search traffic, so this strategy became less important to me.

Leverage your existing brand

I’ve been marketing Conversion Sciences and The Conversion Scientist pretty consistently for six years now through writing, speaking and training. The business is familiar to many online marketers and business owners, the two primary targets for my tome.
Playing on the science angle associated with the brand yielded several interesting titles, including the original working title, Get a Reaction.
Marketing + Science = Customers: Online Conversion Strategies to Transform Prospects into Buyers
Conversion Science: The Proven Formulas for Transforming Online Prospects into Customers
The Science of Reaction: Proven Conversion Formulas of Internet Based Companies

Own a word

I’ve always like one-word book titles that are provocative, like Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” and “Outliers.” I thought “REACTION” might be the word that sticks with people in my space.
REACTION: Getting visitors to take action on your website
Get a REACTION: Proven Strategies of the Conversion Scientist
The Science of REACTIONS: Websites that Convert Visitors to Leads and Sales
My feeling is that you have to have a large marketing budget to get a word to stick in the minds of potential readers. I didn’t get a multi-million dollar advance, unfortunately.

Surprise them

Seth Godin is great at naming books with unexpected titles, such as Purple Cow, All Marketers are Liars and Meatball Sundae. I thought the unexpected or absurd might work for my book as well.
It’s Raining Soup. Get a Bowl. How to turn Internet traffic into a delicious business.
Glad I Stopped By: Websites We Love to Do Business With
They Did What?! Unexpected Strategies of The Conversion Scientist
Marketing Backwards: Unexpected Strategies of The Conversion Scientist
The Website Genome Project: Proven Research of The Conversion Scientist
The truth is, I’m not Seth Godin. Darn it.

State your topic plainly

We often get too clever for our own good when we’re writing headlines, subject lines, and book titles. It’s a business book, after all.
Managing Your Website: Conversion Strategy and Analytics for the Managers and Business Owners
Online Conversion Strategies for Websites that Dominate Their Marketplace
The problem with these is that the reader is more likely to fall asleep before finishing the title.

Ask your personas

If you follow The Conversion Scientist, you know that I believe creating visitor personas is the best way to get high conversion rates on your website. The same applies to books, and I have developed several personas for this book.
With this guidance, I was able to choose a book title that combines the right ingredients… I hope. Here’s what I know about my personas.
Most of my personas have heard of The Conversion Scientist through my columns, blog posts and speaking. This tells me to leverage the familiar science angle.
One persona studies marketing, and they are reluctant to read a book that will give them same advice they’ve already heard. Therefore, the title should indicate that it is presenting a fresh way to look at online marketing. Use terms like “unexpected” or surprise titles like “marketing backwards.”
Finally, all of my personas are human, which means they respond to things like metaphors, rhyming and alliteration (the repeated use of a sound in a sentence or phrase). This tells me I should use these tools.
After reviewing these persona requirements, we settled on the following title:
The Customer Creation Equation: Unexpected Formulas of The Conversion Scientist™
The alliteration and rhyming nature of the main title will help people remember the name. It has the important search terms “conversion,” and “customer” in it. The terms “equation” and “formulas” evoke the science theme of my brand.
Finally, the strategies are “unexpected,” and indeed the book contains advice contrary to what you have been told. This was a tough decision for me. One of our personas is trying to solve a specific marketing problem. Calling my recommendations “unexpected” may not appeal to her. She will want to know about “proven” strategies, and I did consider the subtitle “Proven Strategies of The Conversion Scientist.” Yet, I knew she would find value in being “cutting edge,” and “unexpected strategies” should appeal to her.
Did we pick the right title? Which would you prefer to read? Let us know in the comments.

You won’t be converting much of anything if you start with the wrong kind of website. Find out which of five conversion signatures your website should be following with a free video that introduces some key concepts from The Customer Creation Equation.

How to build a marketing database that keeps prospects engaged

JobCannon for Job Search
It sounded like the perfect market:

        

  • A large and growing marketplace
  •     

  • A need so critical that it strikes at the very foundations of the family
  •     

  • Increasing competition for scarce supply
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  • A marketplace actively using the Internet to solve the problem

Add to these the fact that existing solutions were failing miserably, and you’ve got a market ready for an effective online solution.
I’m describing the unemployed job seeker marketplace. Few marketplaces have the natural alignment of trends that this marketplace does. JobCannon (formerly CardboardResume)sought to create an online job search solution that actually worked, and build a business in the bargain.
First, let me disclose that JobCannon is a client of Conversion Sciences.
You might have thought that this would be an easy sell. We knew it wouldn’t be. We needed to keep skeptical, frugal job seekers engaged and informed. Here’s how we did it.

Before you read any further…

If you’re on Twitter, please visit and play along.

Building the Battery with Informational Marketing

Since no tag line was going to help JobCannon rise above the noise, and since new job seekers needed advice as much as the software, we lead with an informational approach.
JobCannon commissioned an eBook to help break job seekers of their job board habit. It turns out that spending hours a day on Monster and CareerBuilder was the least effective way to find work, especially in a crowded job market.
I wrote the eBook for them. My primary qualification was my fundamental inability to hold a job. Get your copy of The Market for Me.
A book blog was setup to catch job seekers searching the Internet. I began speaking at job clubs on to help seed the marketplace promoting the book heavily.

Charging the Battery

To receive the book, prospects provided a name and email address, and asked the prospect why they wanted to read the book. About 10% of the attendees to a live presentation requested a free copy.
Of the people who visited the book request page 30% completed the form. This is a relatively high conversion rate.
The presentation model was not easy to scale, as I could only speak so many times. But the pipeline proved that we could engage and educate an audience with informational marketing.
The book/blog strategy was proven when one of my presentations was featured on applicant.com, an influential blog. It was subsequently picked up by Slideshare as a featured presentation. Over the space of three weeks, almost 30,000 people viewed the presentation. A link to the free eBook in the description drew viewers to our educational content.
This one presentation doubled the size of our email database. It charged our battery.
This is proof that high conversion rates amplify all of your online marketing efforts.

Tapping the Battery’s Energy

Informational posts generated for the blog became email newsletters that were sent to the book database.
This was an efficient battery. When we sent educational emails to the list, open rates were astronomical, between 77% and 98%. I’m usually ecstatic at 30% open rates. Click-through rates were as high as 22% and unsubscribe rates were near zero.
Because this market was bombarded by solutions to help them find work, we were dealing with a skeptical group. We found out it took as many as seven relevant contacts to generate a JobCannon trial: One reference from a friend, one presentation, one free eBook, and four informational emails.
Without our marketing battery, we would never have been able to generate the number of “touches” necessary to make prospects feel comfortable trying the software.

Like batteries marketing databases “lose charge” over time

As a rule of thumb, we assume that 25% of the contacts become invalid over the course of a year.

        

  • Prospects become customers
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  • Email addresses change
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  • Prospects choose to stop receiving email (opt-out)
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  • Prospects choose alternative solutions
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  • Prospects just stop paying attention to your emails

Many marketers drain their battery by sending promotional content. Discounts, feature-oriented posts and irrelevant information drain the battery very quickly.
In our case, many of our prospects find work, even though they’re not using JobCannon. Hopefully, they’ll continue to network and search for new opportunities even though they have found work.

Build your own battery with informational content

You may not have an eBook available, but your business generates informational content every month. Press releases, product descriptions, old blog posts, and sales presentations all can be transformed to charge your marketing batteries.
Join us on December 10 in Austin for BYOContent: The Extreme Conversion Makeover Workshop.
We’re going to transform a blog, a white paper, some video and an email newsletter into lead-generating and sales-generating tools.
Brian Massey, The Conversion Scientist
P. S. Get more conversion tips by subscribing to The Conversion Scientist.