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The audience for any website is unique.
In fact, it would be presumptuous to conclude that two websites selling the same or similar product are going to have equal successes. If this were the case, where would the challenge be? And what would we be doing for a living?
This is why we let your website visitors decide what works best. Seems legitimately reasonable to us. Your website’s success is measured by conversions. Whether that is a completed purchase, email obtained or newsletter subscriptions.
But how do we work through this process? Is there a specific protocol that we follow? Guided questions that we ask ourselves?
We live by a few mantras; truisms if you will.  These 9 mantras assist and guide us through the decision making process, ultimately leading us to CRO victory for your website.
We proudly want to share these with you. We don’t keep them locked in a vault like Pepsi or Buschs’ Baked Beans, so here are our 9 CRO mantras. Enjoy!

The Nine CRO Mantras of the Conversion Scientist!

Nine CRO Mantras of The Conversion Scientist

Let us make your accountant smile.
You can get a free strategy session with a Conversion Scientist. We’ll help you see the possibilities for your visitors.
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In this presentation, I talk about predicting the future.
The problem with predicting the future, even using CRO, is that our visitors are very unpredictable. Here are some of the assumptions we use to predict the future that just don’t work.
Because, really, all of us are predicting the future. When we’re building our sites and we’re putting our ads out, we’re trying to predict what that ad or that site is going to do for our business.
We’re all trying to predict the future and we’re not very good at it.
The Conversion Scientist Podcast


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Brian Massey posed a great question to me the other day: If you could ask your site visitors only one question, what should it be? I love this question because it distills pre-conversion user research down to its essence: how can you best glean the “why” motivations behind what your users are thinking – and, equally importantly, the concerns they may be feeling – early in their experience? And how can you choose a question that, after you analyze user responses, will be actionable – will allow you to confidently make and test design updates that better address these concerns and improve your conversions?
In this article I’ll focus on what question to ask, and in a future article I’ll unpack where and how you should ask this question.

Start with the research end in mind

Start with the insights goal you’re trying to achieve by asking the question. Are you trying to expose the general concerns or questions (what marketers call “objections”) your visitors may have, or are you more interested in learning something more specific, such as whether your Product Detail page is missing any key information? If you’re new to user experience research, or your website hasn’t undergone any significant usability testing, you should typically start with the “general” goal and ask more open-ended questions.
In this article I’ll assume that you are asking the question of a person who doesn’t yet know and trust your brand and is early in her shopping experience (e.g. just arrived on your website or landing page). A different question – or set of questions – would apply for your converted customers.

First, avoid asking the wrong questions

First, let’s talk about questions you shouldn’t ask. The prospect is already on your site, so clearly your marketing has worked (at least partially). So early in the experience you should avoid asking marketing questions like:

  • How did you first hear about us?
  • What prompted you to start looking for this type of service?
  • What other competitors are you considering?

Instead, focus on the questions most tied to your research goals, and that uncover questions and concerns that would negatively affect your visitor engagement and conversion. Save the marketing questions for further down your sales funnel – for example, on order confirmation pages, in your social media channels, or on your email response pages.

Some possible questions

OK, let’s finally get to the question you should ask. Based on my experience leading research projects for six Fortune 500 clients, and my recent survey of the latest user feedback solicitation tools, here are my top 5 possible questions (in no particular order), along with some pros and cons for each:

Drumroll, please…

In my opinion, the #1 question I would ask is Question #5. Coming in a “Close 2nd” is Question #4.
The two questions are really variations on the same theme. By asking either of them you are communicating, “I value you as a potential customer and am truly interested in learning where our website is missing the mark relative to your needs, wants and expectations. This question is specifically not calling attention to your offer, it’s not “going for the close”, and it’s not asking your visitors to be designers; it’s simply saying “we care, we want to improve your experience, and we’re listening.”
A key thing to remember: for many shopping scenarios, “making a positive brand impression” or “building brand memory” is as important as closing a sale or generating a lead. Connect with the visitor first; sell to her later. Another thing to bear in mind: with the rapid growth of mobile devices usage, prospect experiences are often multi-touch:  the prospect hits your website on their iPad the evening of Day 1, briefly visits your site during lunch on Day 2, and again visits your site during an afternoon coffee break on Day 2. So, except in some small dollar amount, single widget sales cases, it’s not a “once and done” interaction (or if it is, it shouldn’t be).

A sample scenario

Let’s say that Judy, a middle-aged woman from Austin, is shopping for a place to board her dog Max while she’s on vacation. She’s willing to pay extra for a better facility and service. After doing a web search for “dog boarders austin,” she lands on www.campbowwow.com.

Camp Bow Wow

Judy’s main concerns are:

  • Pricing – how much will it cost for the week?
  • How much play time her dog will get
  • How clean the kennel is kept

Judy sees that these questions are not answered on the top half of the home page. After about 10 seconds of scanning, she’s a bit disappointed and clicks her browser’s Back button. End of experience – for now and perhaps forever.
If our “one question” were asked, she’d have the choice (and who doesn’t like choices?!) to express her questions and concerns. Even if Judy decides to go with another dog boarder this time, there’s a decent chance that a thought like, “Ah yes… Camp Bow Wow… they were the ones who asked for my input,” will get lodged in her longer-term memory. If she were not completely satisfied with the other boarder’s services or staff, a couple weeks before her next trip she might just give Camp Bow Wow a call.

Summing up

Whether or not you consider your organization “customer centric”, you need to start a dialog with your prospects. And the sooner you can do this, the better (both in the experience, and on your website release roadmap). By doing so you’ll discover expectations that your site is not meeting so that you can better address them through user experience and copy updates, and thereby grow your bottom line.

About the Author

Mark is the Owner and Research Director at Hallmark Experience, an agency that focuses on voice of prospect research, usability testing and expert design reviews. He’s had the privilege to work with top brands like Macys, Kaiser Permanente, American Express and AutoZone, as well as smaller, fast-growing companies in the San Diego area. You can reach him here.

 

This is a guest post by Ryan Farris.
According to a study conducted by Bain and Co., the cost of acquisition for a new customer can be 600-700% more expensive than retaining an existing customer. This is not surprising to anyone.
So, why is that so many companies still struggle with high rates of attrition. Sure, part of it is “the grass is always greener” mentality that some consumers adopt, but part of it is that the people on the front lines are not equipped with the tools needed to build the trust and provide the value that customers need.
With the availability of information online, on television, and real-time social media updates, customers are equipped with more information than ever before. With access to all of this free information, it is more important than ever to prove your worth. Today, your worth is measured by customer service, trust, and convenience.

State of Customer Service INFOGRAPHIC

The State of Customer Service in a Consumer Driven Marketing – ClickSoftware Field Management


If you cannot prove to be more valuable to them than the other sources, then you’re on your way to paying those inflated acquisition costs again.
Businesses find themselves unable to provide that value. In a recent study, Forrester determined that poor systems, outdated customer service interfaces and archaic applications meant that forty-two percent of customer service agents were unable to efficiently resolve consumer issues and disputes.
This poor service is not without consequences. A study by Global Customer Services indicates that consumers are twice as likely to share negative customer service experiences as they are positive ones. Avoiding negative reviews by equipping your reps with the tools necessary provide a positive experience would be a priority for any company.
This Zendesk infographic highlights the effects of bad customer service.

Loyalty Test Infographic

It isn’t sufficient to offer a great product at a great price. [pullquote]According to Bain and Co., a customer is 400% more likely to switch to a competitor if their problem is with a company’s service.[/pullquote]
Your excellent service must be delivered promptly. Customers are 33% more likely to recommend a brand that provides a quick response, even if it proves ineffective. Twelve percent are willing to recommend a brand that provides an effective response even if it is slow. Clearly, speed is king.
To summarize, fast service is how you keep customers and minimize your acquisition costs. Fast service requires that your service reps have instant access to information that will allow them to deal with customer issues. This is as much a marketing issue as a service issue.
We call this “Relationship Marketing.” Relationship marketing platforms put important information in the hands of sales reps and service agents, information needed to satisfy customers. Marketing is no longer at the mercy of other organizations to retain customers with tools like these. Instead, they can feed the necessary content, assets and data sources directly to the people on the front lines.
When you retain customers, you retain revenue and can reduce acquisition costs. Relationship management empowers your sales and service organizations to succeed with existing clients.
Ryan Farris
Ryan Farris is the President of EarthIntegrate.  At Earthintegrate, he has focused his energies on aiding and empowering enterprise companies to grow and manage sales/marketing in complex or regulated industries.You can connect with Ryan on LinkedIn.   Visit Earthintegrate Resources to get more Technology Powered Resources, such as whitepapers and case studies, from Earthintegrate.

As scientists, we like to break things down to their essence, to understand the things that make them work. This works well when we’re optimizing websites.
Now it’s St. Patrick’s Day. What are the components of this rowdy holiday?

We decided to create our own website optimization holiday modeled on St. Patty’s Day. Our analysis indicates that we need two things:

  1. A Patron Saint
  2. Beer

Here’s what we did for today’s celebration.

Select a Patron Saint

How CRO is Like St. Patrick's Day: Tell us who your patron saint will be.

Tell us who your patron saint will be. Image Credit: iconsatoare.

In selecting a patron saint for our holiday, we considered a number of the saints of the Web.

St. Phatty is the the patron saint of online apparel stores. St. Maverick is the patron saint of industry changing online services like Amazon. St. Splatrick is the patron saint of online paintball vendors. St. Hattrick is the patron saint of magician websites. Can you guess the what St. Latte is the patron saint of? You pick your own patron saint and get ready to celebrate.

We decided that St. Buyschtuff would be the patron saint of online business. We created a mythology for St. Buyschtuff.

St. Buyschtuff: The Patron Saint of Marketers and Advertisers

St. Buyschtuff is a mythical figure frequently credited with influencing important purchases. For example, St. Buyschtuff is credited with selling both the watch fob and brush set detailed in the classic story “The Gift of the Magi”. When the three wise men were debating what to get the future king of the Christian faith, who did they consult? St. Buyschtuff is often credited with recommending the Frankincense and Myrrh, but thought the gold a bit garish.

St. Buyschtuff’s name is invoked whenever transactions are made. He is rumored to have been the original Easter Bunny and to have worked under the pseudonym “St. Valentine.” Saint Nicholas (aka Santa Claus) is said to have consulted with him about how to best use flying reindeer. Historian Herman Sellers said, “History is rife with bad deals and ill-advised transactions. However, whenever there is a purchase or transaction that results in great good for both buyer and seller, St. Buyschtuff’s name is frequently invoked.”

Tell us who your patron saint is in the comments.

Before we can have a party, we have some work to do. The second step is to “make beer.” For this article, “make beer” is a euphemism, like “make bank”, “print money”, “rev the revenue”, or “buy papa a new pair of shoes.”

If you’re St. Patrick and just had a long day of driving snakes out of Ireland, you want a cold brew with a little kick.

If you’re St. Buyschtuff and just had a long day driving abandoners out of websites, you want cold hard cash with a big kick.

St. Buyschtuff’s Day Brew or How CRO is Like St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patty’s brew is created in a boiler with hops and malted barley. Heat is applied at key points and carefully monitored to bring out the starches. Then yeast is introduced as a catalyst that turns the starch into buzz-inducing ethyl alcohol.

The St. Buyschtuff brew, in similar fashion, is created on a website rather than a boiler. It is filled with content and offers instead of hops and barley. The heat comes from traffic. Trust and proof are the catalysts that convert visits into buzz-inducing conversions.

Content and Offers

Before you begin brewing your content and offers, you need to go through a process of cleansing the content of self-serving, posing and irrelevant messages. You want a pure value proposition, enticing offers and nothing more. We’ll add some of your company information into the mix near the end of the process.

Don’t neglect images and video. Avoid filler images and stock photography, what we call “business porn”. Instead use images to better communicate your value proposition.

Turn on the heat (more how CRO is like St. Patrick’s Day)

Our mix is heated in the fire of live traffic. Traffic may come from search engines, paid ads, email or social networks. Each of these kinds of traffic burns at different intensity levels.

Our beer-brewing brothers and sisters must maintain the temperature of the flame in a tight range. We try to control our traffic quality as well. We may get less traffic than we could, but bringing qualified visitors is key to keeping the right temperature.

StumbleUpon traffic is the wrong traffic for most businesses. Social media networks deliver visitors who were doing something else, and work mostly for spontaneous purchases. Where are your qualified visitors. Yes, this is the question we are always asking. We never stop asking this.

Add some Catalysts

To drive fermentation, beer brewers introduce a bacteria called yeast. It processes the sugars extracted from the barley and convers them into CO2 and ethyl alcohol. The CO2 is vented off. The alcohol is kept.

Likewise, we need to add a catalyst to our website. We choose trust and proof. If your brand, company and products demonstrates proof or builds trust, now is the time to introduce this to the site.

Proof and trust process the content on the site and convert it into abandonment and conversion. Abandonment is, by definition, vented off. It is an inevitable part of the process.

Conversion is kept and will give us a nice “checkbook buzz” on the celebratory day of our patron saint.

Experiment (yes, CRO is like St. Patrick’s Day)

Brewmasters experiment with their mix, and they can’t just test one stage. They change the process, the temperature, the length of each stage and even add unexpected elements like fruit to the process.

But they always complete the beer before judging their changes. They can’t sample the “wort” or the “trub” and predict how the final beer will taste.

Likewise, we must test our website to the dollars. We like metrics like Revenue per Visit and Revenue per Click when testing. Testing to “engagement” or email “click-through rate” doesn’t let us test the right result.

We always measure to the dollars.

Happy St. Buyschtuff Day!

We celebrate our wins like the Irish celebrate the St. Patrick’s driving away of the snakes. We summarize the results, take the credit, and slap high fives.

Then we start working on the next conversion rate increasing brew.

Tell us what you’re brewing up for your day of celebration in the comments.

Brian Massey

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11 Steps for Creating the Best Converting Registration Forms

I recently went to a website to buy a new keyboard for a laptop. I found the site with the right price and delivery and put the keyboard in my cart.
When I went to checkout, the first question on the billing form was Gender.
Gender?
Why does an electronics part manufacturer need to know if I’m a man or woman?
It introduced enough doubt in my process that I left — I abandoned my order.
The unfortunate statistic is that 86% of visitors abandon forms of all kinds. It’s doubly heartbreaking when they do so in their cart, because that costs you ready buyers.
The eleven recommendations made here will set you on a path to reduce your abandonment rates. My favorites are:
5. Use a title that explains why the user needs to sign up
6. Show them their password (who said invisible passwords was a good idea?)
12. Put errors in an obvious place and make them visible.
To read the full article by Talia Wolf, visit 11 Steps for Creating the Best Converting Registration Forms.

How To Conduct A Conversion Optimization Experiment | Relative Bearing

Here’s the first line from this very helpful little post:
“0 sales! What? But we got 517 unique visitors this week!”
Airing your mistakes is not seen as smart marketing in many circles, but this kind of thing really is helpful. Besides the important moral of this story, there’s another:
Failing the right way leads to success faster. Failing without knowing why invites unnecessary failure.
I predict good things for these folks.
To read the full article by Ethan Jones, visit Clearpath.

Our Biggest Problem is Brand Awareness

@sethgodin says “awareness isn’t a scalable problem to solve.” As website optimizers, we couldn’t agree more.
He continues, “The solution lies in re-organizing your systems, in re-creating your product or service so that it becomes worth talking about.”…or in making your website so intuitive that it isn’t worth complaining about.
Seth sums is up better than we could have ourselves, “When you produce something remarkable, more use leads to more conversation which leads to more use.”
To read the full article by Seth Godin, visit Seth’s blog.
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Women’s Bay, Alaska – 98% of Shoppers abandon their full shopping carts.
In an event termed, “Reality imitating the Internet,” a trove of shoppers left shopping carts full of merchandise at the checkout counters of this small Alaskan discount retailer.
“Everything seemed fine, “ said store owner Edsel “Mac” Jones. “They were shopping, comparing prices, asking questions… then they just dropped off their carts and left.”
Jones estimates that some 100 carts were left for his employees to restock, and that only two store visitors completed their purchases.
When asked why they didn’t complete the checkout, shopper Marnisia “Seeya” Firth said, “Oh, I don’t have any money. I just love to shop! I still want to go abandon something at Crazy Lorath’s down the street before they close. Then maybe I’ll catch a movie.”
“Easy. The line was too long,” said abandoning shopper Mustapha Monty, who estimated he spent an hour filling his cart. “I wasn’t really sure I wanted all this stuff, and then there were these two other people in line ahead of me, so I bailed. I’ve got places to be!”
Another shopper complained that they were afraid the store bagging clerk would require a tip. “I wasn’t sure what was appropriate. Tip? Don’t tip? It was easier just to leave.”
Store owner Jones lamented that he and his staff would have to restock all of the items. “I’ll probably have to close down for a few hours. How do Internet stores restock all of their empty carts?”
“Restock?” asked a shopper overhearing our interview. “Can’t you just leave it here in case I come back?”
In related news, diners in a New York bodega request to read the store’s privacy policy before ordering.
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Are you collecting abandoned shopping carts at the end of your day? Let us help fix that!
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Valentine’s Day is an emotional time, even for a Conversion Scientist. It is a time in which we, like so many people in love, celebrate beautiful relationships. It’s a time to stop seeing our visitors as “traffic,” “visits,” “bounces,” or “conversions.” We dispense with talk of hypotheses and statistical significance and turn instead to those things we share as cohabitants of a website.You Convert Me
You may feel that I’m fickle, but I grow teary-eyed just thinking about the person visiting my website, whoever they are at this moment. I love you.
I also feel my heart race when the shoe is on the other foot and you help me solve a problem on your website. It makes me feel like the prettiest girl at the ball.
So I’ve written you a poem, my fleeting visitor or humble host. With it I hope to celebrate something we can share, something we both will love: the big red button.
Technically, it is “a high-contrast element containing a compelling call to action that draws a visitor’s eye and clearly communicates how a visitor can complete the next step in their conversion process.”
But you and I know it is so much more.
It is seductive, calling like a siren. It is even a bit sensual to click on such a thing. For this Valentine’s Day, let’s put aside our arguments about headlines, copy, images, and offers. Today, let’s rejoice in a persuasive gift that brightens any landing page, and has started so many new relationships between a visitor and a business.
Ode to the Big Red Button
It is a gift both wise and sage
The big red button on my page
It calls, it beckons without retort
“Join,” “Add to cart,” “Get that free report”
Yes, I think a link is fine
So blue and bright and underlined
It’s not for me, your clicks will sink!
That’s why it’s called an “anchor” link
But when my eyes grace a page
And I desire to spend my wage
I want to buy! I am a glutton!
So serve me up a big red button
Designers cry, “There is a catch!”
“The site and button have to match!”
But if they do, then I do fear
Your call to action will disappear
And what of rainbow’s other gifts?
Of blue and green and amethyst
Try them, test them, this is smart
But big and red is where I’d start
It won’t be hard to understand
What I should do when I land
The button tells me everything
It doesn’t have to dance or sing
I will not suffer a gray “Submit”
Big and red is where I click
It will not let me hesitate
‘Cause if I bounce it’ll be too late
A happy couple, it’s the norm
To wed the button with a form
And though my fields are all complete
There still remains that final feat
If you will charge my credit card
That final click can seem so hard
The big red button makes it fun
Isn’t that true for everyone?
So tell me this my brillig friend,
What do you want in the end?
To abandon you before I’m done?
Or click big red with abandon?
Won’t you be my Valentine?
I think you’ll find the terms sublime
I’ll convert, there’ll be no friction
If you feed my big red addiction
By Brian Massey, The Love Scientist
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Did you know that all of the changes you’re making to your Web site are largely wasted? Really.

If you were to put just a little discipline behind your site changes, you could learn scads about what your visitors like and what makes the cash register ring online.

I address the power of Serial Testing in my Conversion Sciences column on Search Engine Land.

 

Gather close, dear friends and hear my words of warning. Gird yourself, for my tale would make any enlightened man or woman stagger back in disbelief. I do not share such news with you lightly. It is not my errand to harm or discomfort your mental or psychological well-being.

 

Resist the urge to sever the very Internet connection with which you receive my message. I shall soon relieve your stress with a simple technique that will counter the malevolence that I describe.

 

I reveal my knowledge only because you may in fact be a person possessing an enterprising mind. If this is true, I know you will see in my tale of woe and tragedy the shadow of immense opportunity.

Read my Search Engine Land Conversion Science column…

Persuade with passion. Engage with the unexpected.

His face was slightly ashen, and had clearly fallen since he first entered the conference room. I felt a lump in my stomach as he reviewed the revisions to the copy he’d written just a week earlier. I was a bit sick at being part of this, but it was… inevitable.

I marveled that he still held out any hope to begin with. The work before him was little more than a carcass of the original. Of course, he’d been in this position before.

Eager to bring some excitement to a new client’s Web site, he’d spent more time than he should have crafting a story for our business. His work communicated what the visitor needed to know, and did so using the tools of the persuasive writer.

The heading invited the reader to read the first sentence, as it should. The work started with a story. It generated an emotion, if only a slight one. Details were held back so that the reader’s interest would mount.

Juicy words were chosen in favor of posing adjectives. Simile and metaphor were scattered here and there.

These are the tools that engage those parts of the brain that ask the reader to remember what they’re reading.

I’ve said it before. You can create more engaging images with paragraphs than with Photoshop.

The Tyranny of the Managing Amateur

What I delivered to this beleaguered writer was the internally edited version of his work.

It had been squeezed dry, like a lemon.

Those within the company that edited it down meant well. Sadly, they were not writers, but they had the privilege of position. The “rules” that they had heard in passing were to be the undoing of this prose:

“You only have 8 seconds to engage your reader,” and, “brevity is the soul of wit,” and “No one reads below ‘the fold.’”

Unfortunately, all of this is true. Ironically, it is only true for writing that is bereft of storytelling, diluted of color, and opaque with hyperbole.

Here are the quotes business marketers should be spouting:

“Web visitors will give you as much time as you have the talent to muster.”

“Brevity without wit is soulless.”

“You can entice anyone to scroll by entertaining or educating.”

I was young. I didn’t defend his work. I didn’t stand behind the very thing that was going to make this new Web site successful. I just didn’t know any better.

Can you recognize and defend writing that will set you apart from your competitors?

Can you identify copy that increases conversion rates? Do you have the knowledge to say “NO” to hack editors, though they may hold the key to your paycheck?