marketing strategy

You want to improve your conversions but no money to fund this effort. We’ll walk you through 4 sure-fire ways to get a CRO budget for next year.

If you ever went to the government and asked them what your fair share of taxes should be, they would first ask you how much you made last year.

And that would likely be the answer.

Likewise, a conversion optimizer would probably be the last person to ask how much to budget for conversion optimization. “How much budget do you have?”

Nonetheless, I’m going to give you the tools to add conversion optimization to your budget next year. Then, when you call us next year, you’ll be ready.

Where to Get Your CRO Budget

One key question you need to ask is, where will I get my CRO budget? I have some suggestions.

1. From IT

The basis of any conversion optimization effort is a sound analytics and measurement foundation. This consists of tools that slide under your website and are bolted in place. This is IT stuff.

Our research has shown that most businesses’ websites have some level of implementation of analytics. You don’t want to be left behind. This is a crucial behavioral database that will be invaluable as you begin to vet ideas for testing.

2. From the Things You Should be Testing Anyway

It is a golden age of marketing. We have more tools, data sources and shiny objects to drive our online businesses than any marketers have ever had. We can mobile gamify our ratings and review process using direct visitor feedback to drive personalization throughout our content funnels.

In other words, we’re overwhelmed, and the first sign of a marketing department that is overwhelmed is the decision to redesign.

Your website probably doesn’t need a redesign. It probably needs to be optimized.

Put the redesign money into an optimization program and see immediate results.

There is a good way to get your head around all of the things you could be doing to your site. You could test the ideas. Instead of blindly pouring money into exit-intent popovers, live chat, or personalized recommendations, you should test them. We have seen these work and we have seen them fail.

Your conversion optimization team will know how to use data to make good decisions on where to spend your money. Budget for optimization first.

3. From Your Ad Spend to Get a CRO Budget

Paid search is a great way to generate qualified traffic. However, our success in search causes our fundamentals to “regress”. It becomes harder to increase traffic, and the new traffic often is less qualified, less profitable.

Borrow from your ad spend to get a CRO budget. When you spend more, get less traffic and make less money, it's time to try optimization.

When you spend more, get less traffic and make less money, it’s time to try optimization.

When your traffic is flat, ad spend is rising and profit is dropping, you know you should be putting some of that into optimization.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but there is a period of sweat and anxious hand-wringing.

You see, conversion optimization takes time. There is a very real dip in performance. When you reduce spending on ads you reduce your traffic and your revenue. For a period of time, your revenue drops until your optimization efforts get traction.

It might look something like the graph below. This assumes a modest 5% increase in revenue per visit (RPV) each month for one year, and that 8.9% of ad spend, or $8900, is invested in optimization each month. In this example, we began with a conversion rate of 1.7%.

If you can make it through a short valley of death, borrowing from your ad spend can be very profitable.

If you can make it through a short valley of death, borrowing from your ad spend can be very profitable.

Monthly revenue dips due to the reduction in PPC traffic. Revenue returns to baseline levels in month four. Revenue is positive in month six compared to investing in PPC only.

The Return on CRO (green line) turns sharply north, even though we are still investing 8.9% of ad spend each month.

This is what powers conversion optimization. You have a compounding effect working in your favor, but you have to invest on the front end.

Send me an email if you want to see all my assumptions.

It’s this four-to-six month dip that marketers and managers fear. How do you sell a drop in revenue to your boss?

4. Pony Up

The other option is to reach into your own profits and slap down some cash on your conversion optimization team.

I’m not going to sugar coat this. There are three costs you must deal with when investing in optimization.

The Components of a Conversion Optimization or CRO Budget

The Software

The first cost is the least bothersome. Conversion optimization requires a certain amount of data to succeed.

Testing is not that hard. Deciding what to test is quite difficult.

The competition in the marketplace is pretty brutal. Each year, we get more functionality from cheaper and cheaper tools. At a minimum, you’ll want a good click-tracking tool, a good session recording tool, a strong analytics database and a split-testing tool.

Depending on your traffic, these can be had for a few hundred dollars each month up to several thousand dollars each month.

The Team

None of these tools matter if you don’t have someone to pull the levers, turn the knobs and read the graphs. The main functions found on a conversion optimization team are:

  • A researcher to collect qualitative data.
  • A statistically-responsible person to collect and evaluate quantitative data.
  • A developer to create the changes in each test.
  • A designer to implement design changes.
  • A patient QA person to be sure nothing is broken by a test.
  • A project manager to keep the momentum going.

It is possible to have one super-amazing person who can do all of this. It is the death-knell of your conversion optimization program to ask someone to do all of this in addition to another job. Your PPC person is not going to be able to do all of this and their job too.

These are fairly expensive employees. Consider hiring an outside agency, like us, to get started. As of this writing, Conversion Sciences can provide these functions for less than ten-thousand dollars a month.

The Opportunity Costs

There is a cost to testing that is not seen in reports. It’s the cost of losing treatments. In any list of “good” ideas for increasing your conversion rate and revenue per visit, fully half will actually do more harm than good. We don’t know which of our ideas are “losers” until we test them. When we test, some percentage of your visitors will see these losers, be turned off, and won’t buy.

This is lost revenue. With proper management, this downside can be minimized, but it is the cost of doing business. It’s the price of admission, the overhead, the burn, that funny smell in the kitchen.

It’s hard to budget for this particular line item, but it should be part of your discussion.

Be Clear About Your Upside

If I haven’t scared you off, there is good news. We call it the upside, the green bling, statistical bignificance, and sometimes we just dance.

You should understand what your statistical significance is. You must know the answer to the question, “What happens if my conversion rate goes up a little?” We call this a Basic Unit of Upside.

Conversion Upside Calculator
Click for a Conversion Optimization Upside Report that does the math for you.

We offer our Conversion Optimization Upside Report to help you understand your upside. It calculates what your yearly increase in revenue would be if you only added 0.1 to your conversion rate or revenue per visit. Plug in a few numbers and you’ll see what small changes mean for your bottom line.

A Little More Motivation to Get a CRO Budget

For most businesses, conversion optimization is a ten-thousand-dollar a month investment or more. Many businesses are spending a whole lot more than that.

If conversion optimization is on your “maybe next year” list, consider what might happen if you give your competitors a year’s head start on you.

The business with the highest conversion rate has the lowest acquisition cost and can profitably boost bids on their paid advertising. Plus, Google favors high-converting landing pages when assigning ad placement.

With a realistic understanding of the costs of conversion optimization and a real appreciation for the potential upside, you should be able to make the case for adding it to your shopping list this year.

Brian Massey



Feature image by frankieleon via Compfight cc and adapted for this post.

Why does the “online” marketer have to do something different from the “other” marketers at the beginning of a new year?

There are many reasons.

The online marketer is blind without accurate data.

The online marketer has wrested control from the grubby hands of IT.

The online marketer knows that

the seeds of holiday regret are planted in February procrastination.


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Don’t worry. We’ve prepared a list of seven things you should do now at the beginning of the new year.

Resolve to optimize the website before the next holidays

“If only” are the saddest two words in the English language.

If only we had a little higher conversion rate from all of that juicy holiday traffic.

If only Black Friday had put us a little more “in the black.”

If only our shopping cart had worked with Internet Explorer.

We know that the holidays are happier when we get more revenue under the Christmas Tree. This year let’s start getting more from the traffic we’re going to get next November and December.

Testing and optimizing does take time. Now is the time to start testing if you want your holidays to be merrier.

Change the passwords on your testing tools

The modern marketer has taken control of much of the website from the grubby hands of IT and the web developers. Today, tag managers give marketers an unparalleled ability to add measurements to a site without IT’s help. Split testing tools allow them to transform a website for a particular group of visitors at will.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Many marketing departments should adopt the best security practices of their IT brethren. If a malicious individual got the password to Optimizely or Visual Website Optimizer, they could wreak havoc on the site at will.

Go ahead, change your passwords. And make them good passwords. We use the program PassPack to store and share hard-to-crack passwords with our team.

Check that all your pages still have analytics and testing software

A website is a complex piece of software. New pages are added by different stakeholders. Changes are often undocumented. Not everyone is concerned that your analytics and testing tools need to be added to each page and then checked.

Before diving into a new year, run through the pages on your site and make sure they all have the right tools installed.

There are automated systems for checking your site, but taking some time to explore by hand is very helpful. Get ready to start a punch list.

I recommend installing two browser extensions for Chrome: Tag Assistant by Google and Ghostery. Tag Assistant tells you if your Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager installation is broken on any page, and offers helpful tips. Ghosterytells you every tag that is installed on the page, so you can check for things like Click Tracking tools, session-recording tools and more.

Consider moving to a tag manager, like Google Tag Manager. This centralizes analytics setup.

Make sure your site still works with all devices and browsers

Your analytics will tell you which browsers and devices your visitors are using on your site.

Your analytics will tell you which browsers and devices to check.

Your analytics will tell you which browsers and devices to check.

Make sure your site works on the top devices and browsers.

Year over year evaluation

The end of a year means another year of data. Woohoo!

This means we have an entire year to compare our progress against. When we compare year-over-year data, we eliminate differences that occurred due to market changes. For an online consumer retailer, comparing October performance to November performance wouldn’t be fair, since the holiday shopping season starts in November. Instead it’s better to compare October of this year to October of last year.

Here are some of the things we like to look at in our year-over-year data.

Depth of Troughs

It’s the off-season that kills us. It’s the winter months for bikini boutiques and the summer months for mitten makers. However, if we are making progress on our site, we should see less of a drop revenue during the off-peak weeks.

And with shallow troughs we often see higher spikes during prime selling or lead-gen seasons.

Increasing Revenue Per Visit or Conversion Rate

Even it you got more traffic to your website in 2014, you may not see the increase in revenue. By measuring the Revenue per Visit (RPV) and Conversion Rate (for lead generation) you can see how your efforts in 2014 added to the bottom line independent of traffic volume.

Average Order Value

When people buy from you, are they buying more or less? This is what average order value tells us. Even if your traffic was flat and your conversion rate didn’t move, you may be getting more from each customer.

Bounce Rate

If you saw an increase in traffic to the site, did you see an increase in bounce rate? The Bounce Rate measures visitors who came and didn’t stay long. They saw only one page or left before 15 seconds had passed.

Bounce rate is an indicator of traffic quality. If lots of visitors are bouncing, then you may not be bringing the right visitor to the site.

Review your idea list

Where do you keep your punch list of things to try on the site? Go find it and give it a look. You’ll find some great ideas you forgot about.

Where do you keep your ideas for a better website

Where do you keep your ideas for a better website?

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
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

We publish a lot on our blog every week. That’s a lot to keep up with.
And then there is everyone else offering brilliant, helpful and overwhelming tips and how-to articles.
We’ve made things simpler, and (we hope) a little fun.
We’ve created a mini course from articles on the Conversion Scientist. We’ve selected the nine articles that we think you really should read. We even included several Audio selections for your commute to work.
Each time you read or listen, you will collect points. Collect enough points and earn a badge.
Earn your Ph.D. in Conversion Awesomization, we’ll give you a special prize.

Three Levels of Learning

We have nine articles organized into three levels of learning. You can earn four badges you can earn.

The Student Badge is awarded when you sign up to start collecting points. You don’t want to stay at the Student level. It means you haven’t really done anything.
The Undergrad Badge signifies that you’ve completed the basic level of content (basic for a Rocket Scientist, maybe).


  • Copy that makes visitor stick.

  • Six email superstitions holding you back.

  • The four people who come to your site every day.
The Master Badge signifies that you’ve completed the basic level of content (basic for a Rocket Scientist, maybe).


  • Persuasive copy that converts.

  • The math of marketing.

  • Pushing past content marketing barriers.
The Ph.D. Badge signifies that you’ve injected all nine articles into your ever-swelling brain and you qualify for a free site review with a Conversion Scientist.


  • Writing test hypotheses.

  • Creating landing pages that convert.

  • Getting past the bouncers in our brains.

Now is the time to start. Go ahead and get your Student Badge. Within a few days, you will be a Ph.D. in Conversion Awesomization.

The things that make a website work are not always obvious until someone points them out. Myth and legend reign without data. Brian Massey introduces you to the unexpected website formulas that will help turn your website around.
And he does it all with science.
Not just any science either – Conversion Sciences. Brian shares his unexpected formulas to help create winning websites. You didn’t think they lab coat was just for show, did you?
Brian presented at March’s AUSOME Meetup and shared 18 surprising ways to make sure your website is WINNING. Everything From landing pages to “business porn,” Brian walks you through the Do’s and Don’ts of having a website that relies on conversions.

The Unexpected Website Formulas Slides


No, we aren’t talking about The Blob, or The Mist or even The Thing. We’re talking about “The Thing” that keeps visitors from taking action on your site and converting. Brian has a great post on Search Engine Land talking about The Thing and how do deal with it.


To be fair, The Blob is pretty fearsome as well.

That is this elusive Thing? According to Brian, the thing usually falls in one of five areas; risk reversal, value proposition/messaging, social proof, user interface/user experience, and credibility/authority.


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Once you identify The Thing, what can you do to combat that concern and give your visitors the confidence to take action.

Brian walks you through each area and what changes you can make to reduce visitor concern. Think of it as your tools to fight The Thing.

Read Brian’s entire post on Search Engine Land or listen to the audio below, and rid your site of The Thing today.


There is an insidious voice speaking to your visitors from the moment they click through to your site. It camps in the back of their minds, setting up a tent and proceeding to talk your visitors out of taking action. While there are many angles this voice can work to fill visitors with doubt, there is likely one that is common to a large number of your visitors.

It’s “the thing.”

If you can discover and address the thing — the major concern shared by a significant number of your visitors — then you can make some major improvements in your conversion rates and revenue per click.

When testing, we have found that this thing will fall into one of five areas: risk reversal, value proposition/messaging, social proof, user interface/user experience, and credibility/authority. All of these nagging questions may be present to some degree, but one of them is more pressing than the others — and addressing it will give you wins early and often.

I recommend that you open a spreadsheet so you can capture the hypotheses that come to mind as you read these gems. Your hypotheses should read like this:

If I [change something] then more visitors will [do something good or stop doing something bad] as measured by [some metric like revenue per visit or conversion rate].”

Let’s get started.

Risk Reversal

The thought camping at the back of your visitors’ heads may be, “What if I regret this purchase?”

  • What if I don’t like it?
  • What if it doesn’t fit?
  • What if I didn’t consider something before buying?
  • What if I feel tricked?
  • Will you sell my contact info to a spammer?
  • What is the likelihood that you waste my time?
  • Will you protect my data?

Risk reversal tests start with the return policy. The most famous return policy of late is the Zappos “return within one year and we’ll pay shipping both ways” policy. It is clearly visible throughout the site, summarized in the header.

If you’re generating leads, the most important way to communicate risk reversal is your privacy policy and privacy statement. You could test link anchor text such as “We respect your privacy,” or “Your privacy is important to us,” or “We will never share or sell your contact information.”

Did you know that free shipping falls into the category of risk reversal? It means that I won’t be surprised by high shipping rates when I get into the shopping cart. Knowing what to expect is often more important than dollars saved — after all, we know shipping is factored into the pricesomehow. Test free or flat-rate shipping.

Value Proposition & Messaging

While munching on a blackened hot dog, the voice camped at the back of your visitors’ mind is whispering, “What’s in it for me?”

  • What’s my payoff?
  • Will you make me look better, smarter, cooler, more interesting?
  • Are you low price, high quality or good service?
  • Are you making an offer I can’t refuse?
  • What is the one thing I need to know about your offering?
  • Why would I put my career on the line by considering your solution?
  • What is your story?
  • Does that girl with the headset really work for you?

Communicating your value proposition and messaging is the job of the page content — this includes text, images, video, audio and almost any other media.

Headlines and calls-to-action are always important, and testing often starts there. The inevitable hero image should be tested, especially if it is a rotating banner style so prevalent today (and so often a bad idea).

Long-form versus short copy is another way to find out what your visitors prefer.

Test more detailed pictures of your products. Test getting rid of any stock photography you have on the site.

Never underestimate the power of the words on your site. Some of the most transformational tests we’ve seen involve honing in on the right words.

Social Proof

The voice camping at the back of searchers’ mind may start a fire, roast some marshmallows and whisper, “What would others think?”

  • Am I being reckless?
  • Does the rest of the herd approve of you?
  • Has anyone had a really bad experience with your brand?
  • Has anyone had a really good experience?
  • Do others confirm what you say about yourself?
  • What are other businesses in my industry doing?

We are social animals, and the herd mentality never really leaves us.

Ratings and reviews are a powerful addition and should be tested if you can get your customers to chime in with their opinion.

Test testimonials near your calls-to-action and in your shopping cart.

Come up with some big numbers to describe your success. Rather than counting customers served, consider measuring your success in dollars saved, bites eaten, or seconds spent so that readers can relate to what you’ve done.

Test social media in moderation. It can be a distraction. Will your social customers post pictures of your products? Write reviews? Provide testimonials?

User Interface & User Experience

While carving a snake out of a stick with a pocket knife, the voice in the back of your visitors’ head may be saying, “Nice job. You’re lost.”

  • Can I explore your offering the way I like to explore?
  • I’m new here. Where do I start?
  • I’m back again. Where do I go?
  • What’s the next step for me?
  • How many more steps do I have?
  • How do I take action?
  • Can I scan your site or do I have to (gasp) read?
  • Where’s the discount you promised?
  • What if I’m not ready to act?
  • Where can I find your risk reversal, your value proposition, your social proof and evidence of your credibility?

How you present information on a page can have surprising effects on your bottom line. In general, your designer should be skilled at the use of white space, position, font, color, and proximity to guide the visitor through a page.

To start with, test making important things stand out, such as calls-to-action. Test the contrast and size of text to see if readability is an issue.

Test completely different layouts for pages to find the right ballpark to do more detailed tests. Simplify or complexify.

Never underestimate the power of ugly to add more dollars to your bottom line. Don’t get attached to your creative. Your opinion doesn’t matter.

Credibility & Authority

The voice at the back of your visitors’ head may be whispering, “Will I get duped?”

  • Will I look stupid?
  • Will the product be high-quality?
  • Have I had a positive experience with you in the past?
  • Would a reasonable person buy from you?
  • Would a genius buy from you?
  • Will you keep your promises to me?
  • Are you good people?
  • Do you care?
  • Will you get me fired if I recommend you?

The first way to communicate credibility and authority is with your company logo. In general putting it in the upper left on your site does the trick. However, it may actually hurt you on targeted landing pages.

Borrowing authority is a favored strategy. Test the addition of client logos to key pages (landing pages, home page, etc.). If you take credit cards online, be sure to include Visa, MasterCard, Amex, and others, even if you take everything.

Test logos for associations you belong to. Test adding shields for certifications you’ve earned. Test the placement of site security logos, such as McAfee secure and VeriSign. Should they be at the bottom? In the header? Near the call to action button?

Test moving blog post titles to the home page to show your thought leadership (but don’t let them get stuck on your blog).

Picking A Direction For Your Testing

Hopefully, you’ve been jotting down hypotheses about your site as you’ve read this article. Now, you need to prioritize them.

Chris Goward offers PIE as prioritization criteria in his new book. Bryan Eisenberg uses a 5x5x5 model.

At Conversion Sciences, we use a Proof/Impact/Effort/Traffic model that doesn’t seem to spell anything clever. Please offer suggestions in the comments.

Those hypotheses that are supported by analytics, are expected to have a high impact, and require the least effort will bubble to the top of the list.

Now, pick one hypothesis from the top of the list that falls into each of our buckets: risk reversal, messaging, social proof, user experience and credibility. Test these first.

If and when one shows a significant win, you’ve got a good idea of what the voice in the back of your visitors’ mind is whispering to them. Try more hypotheses from this bucket.

Following The Rabbit All The Way Down The Hole

If a headline performs well (messaging), then test a hypothesis about copy length next. If a new layout provides a bottom-line boost (user experience), you might then test a hypothesis that says choices should be reordered.

What you’re doing is finding out what the biggest issue is for your visitors, and then diving in to see how far the rabbit hole goes.

When do you stop and look back at the others? When the wins become scarce and small. Switching to a new category can reinvigorate a testing schedule that needs some big news.

Test hypotheses from each of the five “buckets” to find the major concern of your visitors. This gives you the direction to take for early increases in conversion rate and revenue per click.

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
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Personas provide three powerful points that will help you focus your marketing and advertising dollars, and justify more spending.

This is why Personas can mean bigger online projects.

The power of fake people

Imagine your most important customer, let’s call her Melissa, walking into your meeting room and laying the law down to your manager, telling them exactly what she wants from your Web site.

Now imagine that she’s not just your most important customer, but a representative of hundreds or thousands of your customers. Would she be able to change minds and influence decisions?

This is the power of Melissa. She is your Market Segmentation Study personified. She is your analytics report in a skirt. She is legal counsel for your creative team and a force to be reckoned with.

Melissa is an example of a persona. She represents the desires and fears of a large number of your prospects and customers in the most human and compelling way.

She isn’t real, but she will seem more real than any chart you can concoct.

Personas provide three powerful points that will help you focus your marketing and advertising dollars, and justify more spending. This is why Personas can mean bigger online projects.

Personas provide three powerful points that will help you focus your marketing and advertising dollars, and justify more spending. This is why Personas can mean bigger online projects.

Why Personas Have So Much Power

Roy H. Williams puts it best.

“Your business has three or four customers living at thousands of different addresses.”

Get to know them and they will lead you in the right direction.

Personas provide three powerful points that will help you focus your marketing and advertising dollars, and justify more spending.

1. You can Relate to People More Than Data

Melissa has a name, a face and a story. She is the perfect age, has the right income, and the ideal home environment to represent large numbers of your customers. With each little decision that marketers and business people make each day, you can ask, “What would Melissa do?” Each time you’re asked to make changes to your messaging, media, or offers, you can ask, “Would Melissa want this?”

You will relate to her as a marketer, manager, owner, CEO, Vice President or agency. This means better decisions, defendable positions, and consistent execution. Melissa is good.

2. Personas Create Consensus

The process of creating personas must involve anyone who would “know” Melissa. She is the personification of data, sales experiences, product research, customer support calls and personal experience. To make her whole, you must involved these functions in her creation.

Then, when budget time comes around; when knee-jerk initiatives seek to copy a competitor; when programs are proposed that are questionable, everyone will remember Melissa when you invoke her name.

3. Personas Turn Your Focus Outward

In any organization, it is easy to turn inward; to focus on the next product or the next campaign. Too many marketing conversations begin, “How can we get our message out more?”

Melissa changes the conversation.

“What could we do to get Melissa interested faster?”

“Why isn’t Melissa visiting the site?”

“What does Melissa need to know to go ahead and buy?”

These questions are fundamentally different. They are outward looking. Everything from strategy to copy to design will open to Melissa like a flower, and she will react.

The Key Components of an Online Persona

I’ll be covering the key components of an online persona in my SXSW Panel, provided you vote for it and it gets accepted.

I’ll also show you some of the decisions personas have influenced for my clients.

Give the panel idea your vote and then attend SXSW Interactive.

Meanwhile, check out Best Buy Customer Profiles or Personas.

Brian Massey

They buy your “communication product” first.

Look at any product description on any website. Peruse any brochure. You will find a list of features designed to tell you why the product will do the things you need it to do to solve your problem.

Imagine a marketing department run like a product development department. How would that change the focus?

Communications Products are the first purchase

They will probably have a check mark next to them.

What you will not find on these lists are features like these:

  • A helpful website so you make the right decision
  • Informative reports and white papers offered free of charge
  • An active Facebook page full of the opinions of our users
  • A well-labeled box placed in the right part of the store so you can easily find it

How a product or service communicates is not considered an important feature. This is why marketers — who develop the communication features — struggle to keep their staff and budgets during a downturn. This is why Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) don’t have a seat at the executive table with the CEO, President, COO and CFO.

To the executives, marketing doesn’t create products or sales. Marketing is a cost center.

Prospects actually become customers when they buy your communication products

The first purchase a prospect makes from your company is a communication product. It is the flyer, brochure, website, report, article, press announcement, blog post, webinar, etc. that you provide, ostensibly to help them understand how your product will help them solve a problem or entertain them.

They only occasionally pay with money. More often, they pay with their time, their attention, or with their contact information to continue the conversation. Since they don’t pay with money, marketing never shows up on the bottom line. It’s always seen as a cost.

Now, if a customer is satisfied with their “purchase,” they become a repeat customer taking more communication products. They also buy your company’s offering — for real money. Sales will get credit for the latter.

The mistake marketers make is creating communication products that are only focused on persuading prospects to buy the money-based products. How would things change if they focused on building great communication products instead?

The New Marketing Department

Imagine a marketing department run like a product development department. How would that change the focus?

Marketing DepartmentCommunications Products Department
Develops campaignsDevelops products that communicate (educate, inform and entertain)
Creates promotional contentCreates relevant, educational, or entertaining content
Targets product usersTargets influencers, approvers and gatekeepers as well as product users
Watches marketing metrics and buzzWatches time spent with the “products,” customer satisfaction, repeat “buys”
Has a websiteProvides online services to help prospects solve their problems
Creates a competitive matrixCreates better communications products than competitors (who are stuck with a marketing department)
Prepares “messaging” and approved copy matricesDiscovers new ways to help their communications product customers
Stays “on brand”Improves the brand with great communication experiences
Bases budgets on the cost of campaignsBases budgets on the feature set needed to win in the communications marketplace
Builds brand with frequency and relevanceBuilds brand by frequently helping prospects find information they are looking for
Segments the marketplace and creates targeted messages for each segmentCreates buyer personas for their communication products, and then delivers the products that serve them

This list could go on. What would you add? Tell us in the comments.

I’ll be talking about how buyer personas drive bigger marketing budgets at ProductCamp Austin on Saturday, August 15. Come out and let’s talk about great communications products.

Photo courtesy lusi

Marketing people aren’t important, so let’s call ourselves something else

Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg make the point in their book Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? that the average tenure of a marketing executive is less than the gestation period of an elephant. WiderFunnel has summarized some of the findings of an Ernst & Young study confirming that CMOs and VPs of Marketing don’t have a seat at the executive table.  Anecdotally, many of my friends in marketing roles found themselves to be among the first to go when layoffs became popular in 2008 and 2009.

What would the title on your marketing business card be if it reflected reality?

What would the title on your business card be if it reflected reality?

Clearly, marketing people aren’t all that important.

And then there’s the family reunion blank stare. Your cousins, aunts, uncles and some-how-relateds ask, “what are you doing these days?” You say, “I’m in marketing.” Long pause. They want to respond positively, but suspect that you may have just revealed that you’re being treated for some sort of incurable skin disease.

So, they just smile and stare.

Clearly, if we’re good at communicating, we would pick a word that, well, communicated what we do.

So, let’s call ourselves something else, something that reflects the value we add.

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I’m not a “Web Marketing Strategist”

If you were to look at my career, you would find the word “marketing” in most of my corporate titles. However, when given the opportunity to give myself a title, I always chose something that communicated what I did. When I was responsible for marketing at my own company, Soft Reality, I put “VP of Customers” on my cards.

Today, if you analyzed what I do for a living, you might call me a “Web Marketing Strategist” or “Internet Marketer” or “Online Marketing Strategist.” I do lots of marketing-ish things. But, I want my practice to survive the gestating elephant syndrome, so I call myself a “Conversion Scientist.”

Now, no-one knows what a Conversion Scientist is, but the word “scientist” delivers the message that I’m probably smart and most likely know a good deal that the listener doesn’t. That’s the truth. The lab coat seals the deal.

And I can explain what I do in one sentence. “Conversion is the science of turning Web traffic into leads and sales.”

Can you explain what you do without using words like “messaging,” “brand,” “demand generation,” or “campaigns?”

Send Me Your Business Card

If the title on your business card has the word “Marketing” in it, I want you to scratch it out, write in a better description of what you do, and post a picture or scan of it in the comments. I’ve added the ability to upload images to your comments.

Image courtesy vivekchugh

From the Society of Word of Mouth comes this little podcast about the change in marketing. It’s more serious than you might think.

“It is no longer sufficient to communicate powerfully, you must say something powerful.”

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We Are Actively Dismantling Your Trusted Marketing Strategies

We Are Actively Dismantling Your Trusted Marketing Strategies