10 Ways to Improve Your Marketing by Tapping the Power of the Phone Call

If you’re making decisions about your website and using data to optimize your marketing, you need to think about the visitors who call you and convert over the phone. In an increasingly mobile world, customers are more likely than ever before to be visiting your website on mobile then dialing your business to get more information or make a purchase. Even though digital channels drive engagement online, people still want to talk.

As a marketer, you probably understand that these calls are valuable — inbound calls have high conversion rates and provide a treasure trove of information about your customers. But how do you drive more calls that lead to sales? How are you attributing conversions that happen over the phone?

Here are 10 ways to address this blind spot by tapping into the gold mine of insights from phone conversations:

1. Define Lead Quality

Identify the characteristics of qualified versus unqualified leads to improve marketing and sales performance. For instance, by identifying key phrases like “place an order” or “credit card number” versus “customer support” and “account number.”

2. Optimize Your Campaigns

Track what happens on your calls to understand which marketing programs lead to calls that convert to revenue. Increase spend on those campaigns and minimize spend on campaigns that drive low-converting calls.

3. Finesse Your Messaging

Check which products or promotions callers are mentioning on the phone, and make sure your messaging aligns with your their goals and pain points. For example, if customers keep bringing up a specific product, you know it’s time to highlight it on your website.

4. Monitor the Competitive Landscape

See which competitors are mentioned most often to arm your sales teams with the right messaging. If your customers keep mentioning the same competitor, you may need to find new ways of differentiating yourself.

5. Build Better Buyer Personas

Understand the language your key buyer personas use, what products interest them and which marketing campaigns they prefer. These insights will bring life to your buyer personas so your sales and marketing teams know exactly who they’re talking to.

6. Test Your Sales Scripts

Marketers are always updating their content and conducting A/B tests to figure out what works best. Do the same with your sales scripts: test two of them and see which words and phrases result in more sales, and identify the specific messages that contributes to sales won or lost.

7. Identify Effective Search Terms

How many of your PPC keywords truly resonate with your audience? By tracking keywords that relate to your product or service during customer conversations, you can create PPC campaigns based on proven buyer pain points and eliminate the guessing game.

8. Analyze Legit Leads Only

When analyzing calls, it’s important to know which are legitimate leads and which would have been best left unanswered. For instance, if another company has a similar name but sells an entirely different product, you can scan for those keywords and differentiate between quality prospects and people who dialed the wrong number.

9. Improve the Customer Experience

Understanding the needs and motivations of your callers helps you better understand the best way to set up your voice prompts and routing to provide the best possible caller experience. Understand what happened on the call to automatically trigger a specialized lead nurturing track.

10. Prove Marketing ROI

Calls are marketers’ biggest blind spot when it comes to attribution. Get credit for conversations that happen over the phone in near real time rather than weeks or months down the road. If you know what customers say during an inbound call, you can determine which resulted in a purchase or follow-up action. A big part of this is conversation intelligence, technology that scans inbound customer calls for keywords and phrases so you can spot patterns

Improve Your Marketing By Learning From Actual Conversations

Making data-driven marketing decisions involves connecting the dots between all customer interactions, across both online and offline channels. Rather than guessing what happens during conversations with your customers and making decisions based on incomplete data, you can truly optimize your marketing by capturing insights from inbound phone calls.

About the Author: Kyle Christensen is a SaaS veteran, having spent over 15 years working in enterprise software. Before Invoca, he was a VP of Marketing at Responsys, a leader cloud platform for cross-channel digital marketing, where he launched the company’s mobile product line. He has also served in senior strategic product marketing and management roles at Zuora and at Salesforce.com. He holds an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and a BS in Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.

Source: KISS

 

10 Reasons Your Latest CRO Campaign Failed (And What to Do About It)

A news article pops up in your Feedly account proclaiming that conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the “be all, end all” for online business success these days.

Excited, you pop over to Google Analytics’ Content Experiments tool and launch your first A/B test, confident that the changes you’ve made are going to result in major bottom-line gains for your website. You wait…

And you wait…

And you wait some more.

Finally, the test is done, and the results are… inconclusive. You don’t have a statistically significant winner, and you don’t have any appreciable lift to show for your efforts. What gives? Should you give up on CRO altogether?

Of course not. Your failure to drive measurable results could come down to one of the following easily fixable reasons for CRO campaign failure:

Mistake #1 – You Don’t Know What You’re Testing For

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen marketers get excited about the potential CRO and testing have to improve a site’s bottom line.

So what do they do?

They go out, find an article titled “The 10 Split Tests You Have to Run (Unless You’re a Total Loser)” and put the first suggestion on the list into practice.

I suppose that’s better than doing absolutely nothing. But it’s not going to generate much in the way of worthwhile data for you.

Suppose you run a small wealth management firm. The lifeblood of your business is the referrals you generate through your website’s lead capture form. Now, what happens if that first split test you decide to try involves adding images of faces to your homepage to reduce bounce rate.

Is reducing your homepage bounce rate a bad thing? No.

But is it doing much to impact your business’s bottom line? The answer, again, is no.

That’s why it’s so important to know what you’re testing for. By taking the time to understand the different types of CRO campaigns and split tests you can run – in addition to matching these strategies to your business model – you’ll increase the likelihood of your future efforts actually moving the needle for your company.

Mistake #2 – You Don’t Have Enough Traffic for Testing

That said, even if your goals and campaign objectives are in alignment, you still might not be ready for testing. If your website traffic is low, generating statistically significant results becomes much more complicated.

To understand why, imagine that you’ve asked ten of your friends to choose between your control page and the Web Page A variation you’ve created. Would you be confident that the results of your poll would hold true in the world at large? Would you be more confident if you had polled ten thousand people to start?

The larger sample size you have, the better you’ll be able to identify trends with confidence – and that’s where more traffic comes in handy.

Of course, all is not lost if your traffic resembles a steady stream more than a raging river. As the image below, published by the VWO blog demonstrates, sites with less traffic can still get conclusive results – if they’re willing to wait longer for their results:

correlation-between-website-traffic-and-test-duration
Source

Mistake #3 – You’re Optimizing For Traffic Before Conversions

Now, having said that, you might be thinking that I’d encourage webmasters with low traffic to run out and get more visitors before launching their CRO campaigns. But as you’ll see, there are issues there as well.

Before you start with any true CRO effort, your conversion funnel should be relatively well-established. Think about it… Would you prefer to have a website that converts 10 out of every 100 visitors, or one that converts 10 out of every 10,000 visitors?

In the second example, you’ve got more traffic, but that’s not necessarily a good thing because your conversion rate is so low that those extra visitors aren’t helping you make more money. Fixing your conversion funnel before you throw traffic at your site will ensure you get the maximum value out of the visitors you do acquire.

Mistake #4 – You Set Up Your Tests Incorrectly

In an interview with Content Verve, Craig Sullivan of Optimise or Die shared how an unexpected test results taught him the importance of making sure his tests were set up correctly.

The test – which involved significantly different A and B variations – was showing no real difference in performance between the two creatives. With changes that massive, Sullivan knew that there must be something in the code affecting the tests results. In the end, it turned out that a coding error meant that visitors were being exposed to both variations – the test never remembered which versions they’d seen previously.

In Sullivan’s words:

“When it comes to split testing, the most dangerous mistakes are the ones you don’t realise you’re making.”

Mistake #5 – You Blindly Followed CRO Best Practices

A lot of people think that they can circumvent the split testing process entirely by just applying the CRO wisdom other publishers have discovered from their campaigns.

The problem with this line of thinking is that there’s no “one size fits all” set of recommendations that’s going to apply equally well to all websites. Angus Lynch shows how damaging this failure can be in a blog post for Rooster.

Lynch profiles Compare Courses, an Australian education website, which mistakenly follows the advice to move all of their calls-to-action “above the fold.” Here’s what the original page looked like:

compare-courses-ab-test

And here’s the variation:

compare-courses-test-variation
Source for both images

Even with the addition of testimonials and social proof, the test page saw a 53.87% decrease in “Send Enquiry” conversions.

If that doesn’t make clear how important it is to base your tests off your own performance goals and data, I don’t know what else will!

Mistake #6 – You’re Focused on The Wrong Metrics

I hinted at this earlier with my example of the wealth management firm, but the idea of tracking the right metrics deserves special mention here.

Ideally, if you’re running split tests, you’re doing so because you want to achieve something. You aren’t just testing for the fun of it – so what kinds of results do you want to see at the end of your campaign?

Keep in mind also that “conversions” doesn’t just mean sales. Our sample wealth management firm was tracking lead generation form completions, but your campaign might be based around:

  • Social shares
  • Email newsletter subscriptions
  • Video views
  • PDF downloads
  • Contact form completions
  • …Or any number of other target actions

There’s no “right” type of conversion to track. What’s important is that you actually make an effort to track metrics, and that the metrics you choose to track are those that matter most to your business’s operations.

Mistake #7 – You Stop Your Tests Too Soon

Peep Laja, writing for ConversionXL, demonstrates why sample size is so important:

conversionxl-variation-one

The results above come from a split test performed by one of Laja’s clients, just days after the test’s launch. With just over 100 visitors per variation, it would seem that the winner was clear.

But despite the temptation to call test early, Laja persisted. Here’s what happened after each variation received more than 600 visitors:

conversionxl-sample-size
Source for both images

In this instance, calling the test after 200 visitors would have resulted in an incorrect conclusion being drawn, potentially costing the client money.

For best results, Laja recommends waiting for roughly 100 conversions per variation (if not 200-400) and for the test to proclaim a winner with at least 95% confidence.

Mistake #8 – You Don’t Account for False Positives

Now, just to make things more complicated, consider that, even if you have enough conversions to declare a winner in your split test, you could be facing false positives if you’ve included too many variations in your test.

According to Isaac Rothstein of Infinite Conversions:

“A false positive is when a test result indicates that a condition is true when it is not, usually due to an assumption that has been made from the results. False positives typically occur when a high number of variations are tested.”

Imagine that you’re testing eight different versions of a single web page (Google’s a great example of this, having once tested 41 different shades of blue to see which option customers prefer). At the end of this exercise, can you really be sure that one of them is a conclusive winner? What if none of your variations are actually the right choice?

In all cases, watch out for assumptions about the data you’ve gathered. Test for different variations, but also test to be sure the conclusions you’ve drawn are based on fact, not opinion.

Mistake #9 – You’re Testing Small Tweaks Instead of Major Changes

Search Google for “split test ideas,” and you’ll come across endless lists recommending such simple tweaks as “change your button color” or “use action words in your headlines.”

And those things are great, don’t get me wrong.

But if your site needs major changes, these kinds of small, limited tests aren’t going to get you there.

Marketer extraordinaire Neil Patel is one advocate for making big changes before minor swaps, saying:

“The biggest conversion boosts are going to come from drastic changes. So if you really want to move your conversion rates, don’t focus on small changes. Instead, focus on drastic changes as they are the ones that boost your revenue.”

On his QuickSprout blog, Patel shares an example of how he put this principle into practice on his Crazy Egg website, where changing the homepage into a long sales letter led to huge wins. Only after this major change was complete did Patel go back and test individual calls-to-action, button colors and more.

crazy-egg-homepage

Mistake #10 – Your Tests Aren’t Timed to Your Sales Cycles

In many retail environments, both online and offline, sales cycles are short, lasting as little as a few hours or a few days between the recognition of a need and the purchase decision.

But what if your company sells bigger-ticket items that come with longer sales funnels? What if your buyers are only making purchase decisions once every few years, making them less likely to take any conversion actions (including form completions, file downloads and more) in the interim?

Ultimately, the length of time your split tests run should be a function of your traffic and your conversion rates. However, if, after you’ve completed your test, you notice that the duration of your test is less than the length of your average sales cycle, consider that the data you’ve generated may not give you a complete pictures of the way your particular buyers interact with your website.

At the end of the day, CRO is a powerful tool for improving your website’s results, but it comes with a pretty significant learning curve. If your campaign results have been lackluster so far, one of the ten reasons described above could be to blame.

Don’t give up. Instead, look for ways to improve your testing and campaign protocols. With time and continual effort, split testing and other CRO techniques can be used to increase conversions and move the needle for your company.

Have you made any other CRO mistakes that deserve a spot on this list? If so, leave a comment below describing your experiences.

About the Author: Alex Bashinsky is the co-founder of Picreel, an online marketing software program that converts bounce traffic into revenue. He’s passionate about helping businesses improve their conversion rates and, in his down time, enjoys reading and playing the guitar. Get in touch with Alex at @abashinsky or check out Picreel.com.

Source: KISS

 

Interactive Content is Where the Action Is Now

Internet. Interactive. The two were destined to collide.

The term “internet” came to be because it connected networks. The prefix “Inter” means “between.” It follows that “interactive” means “action between.” Or something like that.

The point is we were destined to interact online. We live for interaction and the Internet lives to give it to us.

Content marketers are getting “inter” it

The real measure of any form of marketing is action. In older and traditional channels, the actions we measured tended to include phone calls, faxes, coupon redemptions, sales meetings, and maybe sales. Remember “tip in” cards in trade magazines?

Today, with content marketing ruling the online space, marketers often measure more actions, and certainly, less meaningful ones: shares, clicks, even views. This is not to say content marketers don’t measure the more substantial actions. The good ones do.

The good ones also realize engagement is all-important. Building brand affinity leads to building the relationship that leads to building trust that leads to building sales that leads to building business. Got all that?

Enter interactive content. On the battlefield that is content marketing, reading, watching, listening to, or downloading something may be the equivalent to firing a shot, but getting a prospect emotionally involved via interaction is a hit.

“Engaging a target audience” is an important excerpt from Content Marketing Institute’s definition of content marketing. According to nearly every marketing research study, it’s also consistently proven to be amongst our toughest challenges.

Marketers succeed when their audience not only consumes content, but also enjoys and acts upon it. Understanding this principle, more and more content marketers are stepping-up their static content to create content customers can interact with.

“By its very nature, interactive content engages participants in an activity: answering questions, making choices, exploring scenarios. It’s a great way to capture attention right from the start. Individuals have to think and respond; they can’t just snooze through it.”

~ Scott Brinker, ion interactive, author of ChiefMartec.com, in a guest post on Copyblogger.

The forces behind interactive content

Your classic content marketer is adept at publishing a blog and other forms of one-way media. Creating interactive content is more work. It tends to demand more resources.

Is it worth it?

Most content marketers that have hopped aboard the interactive train would answer yes. They may say they’ve realized greater results. They may also say it’s imperative. Here’s why:

  • Noise—There’s simply too much content. And the only people that really care about content is content marketers. The customers don’t want content. They want answers. Or they want to have fun. Or both.
  • The world’s gone mobile—Mobile users have come to expect interactivity. Apps are more engaging than web pages.
  • Human nature—We simply want to interact. We learn best by doing. I once asked my kids, “What are your favorite lessons in school?” They said the ones where we do stuff and make things. Interactive content is the filed trip of content marketing.

interactive-content-more-effective-than-passive-content
A conversion study by Demand Metric indicates when examining “very effective” content, interactive blows away passive content for educating the buyer.

Fun and Games is Serious Business

Playbuzz is an Israeli-based company focused on enabling publishers to create and distribute a variety of playful interactive content types. Forbes described the company’s offering “The social content sensation of the year.”

Much like the ubiquitous BuzzFeed, the company’s magnetic force is fun, interactive activities, which clearly appeals to the connected generation. In a very short time, Playbuzz has garnered enormous attention and become a top 500 destination site in the U.S.

The company is making a business “play” by enabling marketers, for free, to create branded “storytelling formats for the digital age” and embed it anywhere.

playbuzz-interactive-content
Playbuzz is among the companies who are amending the “content is king” mantra to “interactive content is king,” touting its many engagement advantages.

Interactive content = persona optimization

Pardon my jargon. The point is interactive content provides marketers rich data they can use to learn more about their prospects and use the data to market more effectively. Scott Brinker offered the following examples:

  • People rank themselves via assessments
  • Quizzes indicate what participants do and don’t know
  • Prospects identify specific parameters when using a calculator product configurator

In “Interactive Content & The Buyer’s Journey,” Oracle Marketing Cloud and SnapApp map interactive content’s place in three stages of the buyer’s journey.

  • Awareness stage—A prospect in research mode is likely to engage in polls, self-assessments, and knowledge tests.
  • Evaluation stage—When evaluating solutions a buyer will take to benchmark assessments, interactive white papers, and persona assessments.
  • Decision stage—At the critical buying stage, ROI calculators, galleries, product pickers and surveys will help guide decision-making.

To illustrate these ideas, the eBook authors offered the example of a person planning a vacation.

  • Awareness stage—What type of vacation do I want?
  • Evaluation stage—Where should I go?
  • Decision stage—Who should I book with?

What types of content are interactive?

Let’s look at some of the interactive content types, some of which are well known and blazing hot and a few others with a potentially strong upside.

Quizzes

Quizzes are amazingly popular and ultra-magnetic. While many focus on delivering a fun distraction, businesses often take them seriously aiming to use the format for educational purposes. Quiz results can be useful for recommending the most relevant subsequent content.

quizzes-interactive-content
Unitrends, makers of a data backup appliances, drove traffic from Facebook to its website with a personality quiz to determine each participant’s backup and disaster recovery superhero persona. (See complete details on SnapApp)

Quiz: Can You Name These Southern City Skylines?

Ecommerce startup Country Outfitter has multiplied traffic to its site and engagement thanks to publishing fun quizzes with Playbuzz on their lifestyle website. Their quizzes have appeared on more than 100 different domains.

Assessments

Like quizzes, assessments also are often little pieces of brain candy such as personality tests. However, in a business context assessments can be meaningful marketing tools often used to help people identify a need, compare their company to benchmarks, or some other type of self-diagnosis.

Polls and surveys

Polls and surveys can take all different forms and fulfill a wide variety of needs for both the creator and user. The subject of the poll or survey gives users a glimpse into your areas of expertise.

Calculators

Calculators are about money, which for some reason appears to interest most people. Given the right strategy and creative execution, a calculator can say (or infer) something meaningful about your company’s mission.

Contests

Contests may be older than time, but continue to evolve online and across the social sphere. The potential to get creative with contests is infinite. Cool contests have proven to lure customers and inspire engagement. Generally, they require some form of application, so marketers can collect valuable customer data. And though it may be obvious, contests can generate authentic and engaging user-generated content.

Galleries

Visual marketing couldn’t be hotter, so some companies are using galleries to deliver stopping power and interaction. In addition to showcasing products, they can present portfolios, ideas, customer examples, event highlights, or anything you can “picture.”

Brackets

SnapApp claims “They [brackets] are a great way to settle ‘Best Of’ or ‘Worst Of’ debates, no matter what industry or field you are in.” They’re also a way to earn longer periods of engagement, drive repeat visitors and generate new content.

most-interesting-project-bracket-challenge
Heavy Construction Systems Specialists (HCSS) conducted a tournament in which customers submitted their most interesting projects. 117 projects were submitted and 292,000 votes increased website traffic by 800%.

Interactive white papers or eBooks

Interactive software company ion interactive suggests turning your white paper or eBook into an interactive user experience allowing readers to navigate as they wish.

Infographics

Infographics can be made interactive with embedded questions, flip tiles, flexible user paths, and more.

<center<content-marketing-interactive-infographics-ion
<center<ion interactive showcases its own software for creating interactive infographics. A menu bar invites readers to navigate the content marketing stats as they wish.

What type of content marketer are you?

After researching interactive content and learning more about the magnetic power of quizzes and such, I couldn’t resist writing the subhead above. It begs to be a quiz. And as a content marketing vying for attention and engagement amongst the deafening noise, you’ll want to consider the question.

Interactive content offers an opportunity to differentiate your brand and engage your audience.

Special nod to SnapApp for “What is Interactive Content & Why It Works” and for providing examples of their customers’ interactive content.

About the Author: Barry Feldman operates Feldman Creative and provides clients content marketing strategies that rock and creative that rolls. Barry has recently been named a Top 40 Digital Strategist by Online Marketing Institute and one of 25 Social Media Marketing Experts You Need to Know by LinkedIn. Visit Feldman Creative and his blog, The Point.

Source: KISS

 

How to Build an SEO Optimized Web Page

If you viewed a web page, would you know if it’s optimized for SEO? Does it have all the attributes we know Google looks for in a page?

Just look at this page. Have we optimized it for search traffic?

If you don’t know, now is the time to learn!

Neil Patel (who has created multiple high-traffic sites) of Quick Sprout has created an infographic showing us some guidelines we need to follow when creating a webpage. Many of these are surprisingly simple, and there’s no excuse for you to skip any of them. You can consider these your “baseline”. Just do this (and create an excellent user experience) and you’ll be off to a good start.

How to Structure a Perfect SEO Optimized Page
Courtesy of: Quick Sprout

 
SEO changes, and some factors that mattered in 2006 don’t matter anymore. Just like how some things that matter now may not matter (or at least have less importance) 5 years from now. Make sure your site has some attributes that will always matter to Google and other search engines. Things like ensuring your site is secure, that it has a good user experience (print this post and hang it on your office wall), and staying out of bad link neighborhoods are all essential.

It’s important to stay up-to-date on your SEO knowledge. If you’re new to SEO, check out this post, which contains resources to help you learn and stay up to date on the latest trends. And don’t forget to subscribe to the Moz Blog, Search Engine Land, and Google’s Webmaster Blog.

About the Author: Zach Bulygo (Twitter) is a Content Writer for Kissmetrics.

Source: KISS

 

Improve Your Email Click-Through Rate With These 14 Simple Tweaks

What’s the second most important metric of your email campaign after the open rate?

You’re right!

It’s the click-through rate (CTR).

Just imagine how disappointed you’d be after getting a smashing open rate, only to lose readers with an email that failed to prompt clicks. A great email draws readers in and gets them to click.

So, here are 14 tweaks of an email designed to convert.

1. Looks Consistent With the Brand/Website

Even inconsistency with your brand will boost clicks on one link, but that’s the one for unsubscribing. Since you aren’t pursuing that, make your emails look consistent with your website.

Adding your logo as the first element of your email is a handy way to do it.

A good example of a branded email is that of IFTTT, a cool service that lets you automate things like putting your phone on the general or silent mode — and a ton more.

Here’s what the IFTTT website looks like:

ifttt-homepage-screenshot

And here’s the email that they send:

ifttt-email-fits-homepage-design

As you can see, the email is too IFTTT to not recognize.

You should strive for consistency between your website and emails.

2. Uses a Focused Layout

How you present your information determines how your readers receive it. If you plan your email’s layout well, you can get your readers to move naturally towards your Call-to-Action (CTA).

Campaign Monitor got a 127% increase in email click-throughs by redesigning their blog email.

The old email:
campaign-monitor-old-email-design

The redesigned one:

campaign-monitor-new-email-design
Source for both images

MailChimp’s email design reference guide recommends using a single column layout if you want your readers to perform a specific action. Multi-column layouts often suit emails that have a lot of content to share. These could be email newsletters or product emails that discuss lots of features.

3. Fits Within the Standard 600 PX Preview Width of Most Desktop Email Clients

Campaign Monitor analyzed over 1.8 billion opens from nearly 22 billion email recipients in 2013. About 28% opens happened over the desktop email clients.

2013-email-opens-mobile-desktop-webmail
Source

Considering the number of email clients and their versions, it’s challenging to create pixel-perfect experiences on all of them. However, you should care about their default preview widths (about 600 px).

If you want the important parts of your emails to show up in these previews, keep their width under 600 px. Check out this infographic that outlines how to create a responsive email design.

4. Includes the Right Kind of Images With Alt Texts (And Links)

Vero analyzed over 5000 campaigns and found that campaigns with images had a 42% higher CTR than campaigns without images. Another survey by HubSpot shows that 65% of respondents prefer emails that contain mostly images vs. 35% who prefer mostly text.

While your emails must make complete sense even without images (also called designing for the images off experience), it’s important that whichever images you use add meaning to your story.

Also, since images are turned off by default in most email clients, you should add relevant alt texts to them. This text shows up even if your image is not displayed. Most email marketing services let you easily fill this field for your images.

alt-text-images-on-emails

You can also try adding links to images as they’re easier to click over the mobile as compared to button or text based CTAs.

5. Follows the F-Layout for Offering Content

Whether you optimize your email content for the F-pattern or not, that’s how people will read (scan) it.

Try to front-load your emails to offer the most important content immediately. Design them for scanners who begin at the top quickly making their way to the end.

6. Uses Button CTAs (Text Links Only for Less Crucial Clicks)

Human beings are hardwired to click on buttons

Princeton psychologist James J. Gibson defined affordance as a possible action between an object and an individual. Or you could say that affordance is the most obvious thing to do with an object – in the case of a button, it’s clicking.

Clicking on a CTA button comes as naturally to us as twisting the knob of a door, or pulling the handle of another.

Always try to use buttons for adding your primary CTAs as they prompt readers to click.

Use text links

You should use text links whenever you want to add secondary CTAs. And when you use them, make sure they are noticeably long. MailChimp’s analysis shows that linking a phrase with about 7-10 words is great for boosting CTRs.

7. Uses HTML for Creating Buttons

Most email clients don’t display images by default. So if you are using a button image as your CTA, it’s possible that readers won’t see it at all.

Another reason for avoiding image buttons is to eliminate any lag that an image server may cause.

The only downside is a slight compromise on aesthetics, but you can live with that.

Wunderlist uses some stunning HTML buttons. Even with the images blocked, the CTA button stands out.

Wunderlist-html-buttons-email

8. Offer Just One CTA

“One Page. One Purpose. Period.” – Oli Gardner

Our version would look like “One Email. One (Primary) CTA. Period.”

When it comes to giving choices to customers, less is always more. More choices often cause fewer conversions. This applies to email CTAs too.

There are lots of resources to back this. Marketing Sherpa tells how Whirlpool got a 42% CTR increase by bringing down the number of CTAs in its emails from 4 to 1. HelpScout increased click-through rate by 17% by retaining just a single CTA in its email campaigns.

9. Places the CTA on the Right

Placing CTAs to the left of text and image sections looks and feels inconvenient as you require the reader to go back (to the left) to it to do the action. It’s the Gutenberg pattern that’s at work here. Designers often follow this pattern to make sure that they place the important elements in the important focal areas.

how-people-read-webpages

Ideally you’d like your readers to consume all the information before they see your offer. Placing your offer (or CTA) on the right does the trick as we read from left to right (that’s also probably why the scroll is on the right).

4-points-reading-webpages

10. Prompts Clicks With Directional Cues

“As directional cues, arrows are about as subtle as a punch in the face. That’s why they work.” – Oli Gardner.

If arrows feel like going overboard, you could try several other ways of adding visual directional cues. They can be as subtle as white space.

You can also use eye direction cues as human beings follow the line of sight of other people. Try using images that show a person looking in a particular direction. Your CTA should appear at the end of the trail.

11. Packs a Punch With P.S. Sections

If there’s some section of your email that’s as important as your email’s opening line, then it’s the P.S section. Copywriters have known (and used) this forever.

This TechCrunch story about how Hotmail hacked its way to over 3000 accounts/day had me wondering if the Hotmail guys knew that the little P.S trick they used was backed by a proven psychological trait called the Serial Position Effect.

At the crux, the Serial Position Effect states that the item that’s placed last in a series draws as much attention as the item placed at the beginning of the series.

In your email, the P.S section is placed at the end. So it draws attention. Besides, you never know how many of your email subscribers go right to the bottom of your email reading nothing at the top or in the middle. So a P.S section will score big time in getting these skimmers to click too.

12. Fits Any Mobile Seamlessly

Litmus shares some intriguing email open environment trends. Mobile email open rate saw a 500% hike in 4 years between 2011 and 2014.

litmus-devices-opening-emails

A study by Campaign Monitor found that between 2010 and 2015, mobile email open rates grew by 30%.

Another interesting observation from the same study was that “mobile readers who open emails a second time from their computer are 65% more likely to click-through.”

By making your emails responsive, you won’t just extend a smooth mobile experience to your readers, you also hold their attention for longer (thereby getting more clicks).

13. Gives Social Sharing Options

GetResponse has put together an interesting infographic about email social media buttons contributing to a higher email CTR.

“Emails that include social sharing buttons have a 158% higher click-through rate.”

The spike in CTR comprises the clicks made on the social media buttons/links and the clicks made by people whom the email reached via social sharing.

14. Passes the Squint Test

Just look at the following screenshot. Passing the squint test is easy as getting that “big yellow CTA button” obvious even after significantly blurring the screen resolution.

email-squint-test

Imagine if this email carried a text-based CTA… it would have had no chance at making an “obvious” impact.

So if you’re using buttons for adding CTAs, the next step is to make sure they are effective. If your email doesn’t pass the squint test, then your CTA button isn’t as obvious as it should be. And so it won’t be as effective as you’d like it to be.

Grab this cool squint test Chrome extension and don’t send another email before it passes this test.

Simple email design tweaks can result in a higher CTR. Has any design tweak ever worked great for you? Do share in the comments!

About the Author: Disha is an online marketing writer, specializing in email and content marketing. She has sent tons of emails in her last job and just can’t stop analyzing what worked, what didn’t, and why. You can follow her on Twitter.

Source: KISS

 

How to Stay in Line with the Law When Sending Marketing Emails

Email marketing is a good tactic for getting in touch with customers, sharing special deals with them, and notifying them of new products. However, legal issues can arise when you send out marketing emails, particularly in the areas of privacy and anti-spam law.

We will look at what the laws are and how to comply with them, and we will go over some practical tips for staying in line with the laws. We’ll also look at some of the results of this compliance, such as customer confidence and goodwill and protection from fines and penalties.

Marketing Tactics and the Value of Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing tactics online, with email and search being the top two internet activities. This means that by marketing via email, you are tapping into one of the largest potential target markets online.

Email marketing is measurable: all opens, click-throughs, and conversion rates can be tracked and analyzed. This can help you fine-tune your messages and focus on targeting the highest ROI targets and groups. With such high reach and flexibility, email marketing has significant advantages over other marketing tactics online.

When sending marketing emails, however, there are a number of best practice techniques that you need to comply with to ensure that you don’t irritate your customers or run afoul of regulators. For one thing, you must comply with the relevant laws, so let’s take a look at them.

The Two Legal Issues You Need to Know About

The two main legal issues involved in sending marketing emails are privacy laws and anti-spam laws. Let’s look at privacy first.

Privacy Laws

To send out a marketing email, you need to collect your customer’s information first. Whether this is online, in-store, or otherwise, you need to comply with privacy legislation when you collect this information.

Most countries around the world have some kind of privacy legislation in place that sets out how you should collect personal information, store it, and protect it. Collecting information to send a marketing email is covered by these laws.

The Laws in the United Kingdom and Europe

The laws in the UK and Europe are set out in the Data Protection Directive and the UK Data Protection Act 1998.

The Data Protection Directive establishes that data should not be collected without transparency, legitimate purpose, and proportionality. In practice, transparency and legitimate purpose mean that you should not collect data without customer consent and that you should collect or process the data only for specified explicit and legitimate purposes. For example, you must specify that you are collecting an email address to send out a marketing message.

Proportionality means that you should collect only data that is relevant and adequate for the purpose. In other words, you shouldn’t collect your customer’s phone number if you are going to contact them only by email.

The Data Protection Directive also requires that you keep collected data secure, that you allow your customers access to the data you have collected on them, and that you inform them of who is collecting their data (i.e., your contact information and details).

The Data Protection Act 1998 enshrines these principles in UK law.

The Laws in the United States

The laws in the US are a little different. There is no overarching privacy law for the whole US. The California privacy law is very similar to the European and UK laws; and if you have any US customers online at all, it is likely that some of them will be from California, so you should be sure to comply. California law requires that you disclose:

  • The kinds of information gathered
  • How the information may be shared with other parties
  • The process the customer can follow to review and make changes to the information you have on them
  • The policy’s effective date and a description of any changes since then

These laws mean that before you send out marketing emails, you need to collect customer data legally and in line with the privacy principles.

To comply with the above laws, you’ll need to create a Privacy Policy. This is a legal document that covers how customer data is collected, used, managed, and disclosed. The Privacy Policy also sets out how customer privacy and personal information will be protected.

Your Privacy Policy should cover:

  • What information you are collecting
  • Why you are collecting it
  • What you will use the information for
  • How you will keep the information secure
  • When you might release the information, and to whom
  • How your customers can amend or correct the information you hold on them
  • The dispute resolution procedures that are in place if there is a disagreement

You also need to ensure that your Privacy Policy is displayed in such a way that your customers will be legally bound by it.

You probably have seen the Privacy Policy on many websites displayed like this:

hewlett-packard-website-footer

This is called a browsewrap method. Legally, this is not a strong method of getting your users to agree to your Privacy Policy.

Instead, you should use a clickwrap method, where the user has to actually click to agree.

Here’s an example from Timberland:

timberland-newsletter-wraparound-privacy

Now that you have the privacy matters under control, let’s take a look at anti-spam legislation.

Anti-Spam Laws

The US FTC has an excellent guide to help you comply with anti-spam laws when sending email marketing messages.

The anti-spam law in the US is known as CAN-SPAM. The main requirements of the law are:

  • Don’t use false or misleading header information
  • Don’t use deceptive subject lines
  • Identify the message as an ad
  • Tell recipients where you’re located
  • Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you
  • Honor opt-out requests promptly
  • Monitor what others are doing on your behalf

The anti-spam law in the UK is called the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. It requires that your email marketing messages (also known as direct marketing) be accurate descriptions of the product or service, legal, honest and truthful, and socially responsible (they should not encourage illegal, unsafe, or anti-social behavior).

The UK law also requires that you must never hide your identity when you send your marketing emails; and if you are marketing on behalf of someone else, you must not hide their identity either.

For most anti-spam law around the world, to market to someone who isn’t already a customer, you must offer them a chance to opt in explicitly. You can do this by including a tick box on your website where they can tick “I want to receive newsletters and sales information.” Here’s an example of what this tick box would look like from Fresh Look Web Design:

opt-in-marketing-newsletters

UK anti-spam law also includes something called a soft opt-in. This means that in some circumstances, you can treat a customer as if they have consented to receiving marketing emails from you, even though they haven’t actually consented.

However, there are rules that you need to follow to be covered by the soft opt-in exception:

  1. You need to have obtained the email address “in the course of the sale or negotiations for the sale of a product or service.” This means that the person has to already be a customer.
  2. You can direct market to these people only with respect to “similar products and services.” So if your customer signed up to receive information on Grand Canyon tours, you can’t send them advertisements for beer. However, if your customer is expecting to receive newsletters about aquarium supplies, they would reasonably expect you to send them newsletters on new breeds of fish available, as this is a similar product.
  3. The person you are sending your email marketing to must have been given an opportunity to refuse to allow the use of their contact details at the time they were initially provided.

In all marketing emails for both the UK and the US (as well as other countries), you must include an unsubscribe link for your customers.

Here’s what the unsubscribe link should look like in your email:

unsubscribe-link-in-email-newsletters

By making simple changes to your marketing email templates (such as including an unsubscribe link) and ensuring that your message content is truthful and not misleading, you can easily stay compliant with anti-spam laws.

The Results

If you comply with privacy and anti-spam laws, and implement their requirements in your email marketing, you will produce big results. You will build customer trust and confidence and show that you put customer wants and needs first.

Also, if you protect customer privacy and allow customers to opt out of marketing emails, you will build goodwill. You will also ensure that your marketing will go to customers who are receptive and open to your messages. You won’t waste time sending emails or messages to customers who don’t want to receive them.

Finally, complying with these laws will protect you financially. The Data Protection Act 1998 in the UK can carry fines of up to £500,000 for serious breaches, and other privacy laws around the world include similar penalties.

Anti-spam law is no different. While the UK’s anti-spam legislation allows fines of up to only £5000, other pieces of legislation are much heftier. Those in breach of Canada’s anti-spam legislation have attracted fines of over $1 million Canadian.

Stay Lawful and Don’t Sweat

It’s easy to comply with the law. You need to do only a few small things, such as setting up a Privacy Policy and ensuring your emails are compliant with the anti-spam legislation in your country (and the countries your customers are from).

Doing these things provides you with great legal protection and builds confidence and goodwill with your customers. Marketing smarter and in line with the law will stand you in good stead for building a trusted and valued business.

About the Author: Leah Hamilton is a qualified Solicitor and writer working at TermsFeed, where businesses can create their Privacy Policies and Terms and Conditions in minutes.

Source: KISS

 

6 Types of Visual Content You Need to Use in Your Marketing Campaigns

If you are about to embark on a content marketing campaign, you need to know exactly what will stimulate online growth and engagement. Text-based content is always going to be an integral part of marketing, but to really set yourself apart in the digital era, visual content must play a pivotal role in all of your efforts.

When you consider that 65% of people are visual learners, 90% of information that comes to the brain is visual, and presentations with visual aides are 43% more persuasive, it makes sense to use content types which people have an innate psychological resonance with. Here are 6 types of visual content which will take your marketing campaign to the next level.

visual-content-other-senses
Source

1. Images

When you split up a body of text with some compelling images, people are more inclined to finish reading what you’ve written (provided that the images are high quality and contextually relevant). Marketer Jeff Bullas cites that articles with images get 94% more views than those without. Due to the oversaturation of digital content and the increased adoption of mobile internet access, attention spans are shorter than ever, which makes content presented in the form of big blocks of text very off-putting.

It’s preferable to use original images or ones taken by you, as this adds a much-desired personal touch to your campaign. High quality, attractive images are often expensive to purchase or time consuming to create. Fortunately, with resources such as Canva, you can create unique, captivating images for free with a simplistic drag-and-drop interface. Alternatively, there are an endless amount of excellent quality photos on photo-sharing sites such as Flickr and Morguefile that can be acquired for free. Due to the vast amount of photos on these sites, it’s unlikely that other businesses within your niche will have used them already. Just be sure you have the authority to use them.

2. Videos

Videos are incredibly useful for presenting common problems and then showing the solutions that your product can offer. While there are much cheaper types of visual content available, a great video serves as extra clout for your campaign by demonstrating that you’re prepared to go the extra mile for quality. One study showed that including a video on a landing page increased conversions by 86%.

There are numerous types of videos that can enhance your business – you could consider how-to videos, animated explainer videos, demonstrations or customer testimonials. Whatever your choice, it’s important that the videos are congruent with the overall style and ethos of your brand. A recent study by Moz shows that posts with videos receive nearly 300% more inbound links, so make sure that your video is of the highest caliber, as it can become the chief representation of your brand in the digital realm.

3. Infographics

Infographics are an excellent tool for drawing upon all of your complex data and statistics and collating them into a compelling, easily intelligible visual display. Accompanied by diligent promotional endeavors (including networking with key influencers, landing page optimization and social media), infographics can become an integral part of your content marketing strategy.

To reap the true rewards of an infographic, it’s essential that the layout and design is as impactful as possible. The designer must combine the right colors, shapes and fonts to convey your important data. The information you choose to include in the infographic must be accurate (peer-reviewed sources are ideal) and contextually relevant. Sometimes even the most seemingly mundane statistics can be brought to life when conveyed as stunning visualizations. However, ensure all visual elements actually carry the narrative – it’s not worth disrupting your story just to flaunt your virtuosity with Adobe Illustrator!

Bloggers tend to love a good infographic, so if you promote yours effectively, it’s highly likely that it will be circulated throughout the blogosphere as well as on social media platforms. More shares means more publicity for your brand, especially if it achieves the highly adorned “viral” status. When you share your infographic via social media, it’s best to include a thumbnail image as well as a hyperlink to your site where the full image is hosted. This enables you to bypass any size restrictions on social media platforms and bring more traffic (and inbound links) to your site.

4. Memes

dont-share-blog-post-without-relevant-hashtags

The term ‘meme’ was first coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976 to ascribe an idea the capacity to replicate itself into different meanings from person to person. Memes are now commonly known as images that are accompanied by humorous captions. Not many people envisaged that memes would play a role in content marketing when they first started to gain traction online, as they were primarily shared and made popular by college students as a form of entertainment. However, they now represent an easy-to-create, quirky form of visual content.

Creating your own meme is a great way to evoke positive emotions and set yourself apart from your competitors. Firstly, you must determine if memes are appropriate for your niche and whether or not they will gain actually engagement with your audience. If your brand resonates with a younger demographic, then you have your answer! Another unique benefit of memes is that they allow you to create in-jokes about your industry, which is a great way to make people laugh and build a community around your brand.

5. Presentations

visual-aids-43-percent-more-effective
Source

Gone are the days where presentations are restricted to just the boardroom; you can now share your presentation with the world via sites like SlideShare, dramatically expanding the outreach of your business. A great SlideShare presentation allows you to inform and communicate to your audience, no matter what device they are using.

Presentations serve a similar function to infographics, with a large focus on attractive design and color, thereby drawing the reader into the text. Although, they differ though by having a greater scope. Thus, if a topic is too lengthy to be appropriate for an infographic, a beautifully crafted presentation can be extremely effective at keeping people engaged with your content.

Rand Fishkin’s (highly viral) presentation on content marketing mistakes is an excellent example of how to present complex information in humorous, digestible slides. The presentation is not only entertaining, but it also provides the user with actionable advice for how to improve his or her content strategy.

As your presentation is likely to include a lot of information, it’s crucial to remain consistent with things like fonts, borders and colours. Just like with any form of content, proofreading for spelling and grammar mistakes is paramount. As with infographics, always keep your sources as reputable as possible (citing wikipedia.org is far from ideal). Instead, look at who Wikipedia sources, and see if they’re reputable. If they are, you can reference them instead of the Wikipedia article.

6. Screenshots

With a screenshot, you can provide your audience with a glimpse into the inner workings of your product or service. You can show what services and functions you offer from a direct perspective, and you can even combine your screenshot with some marketing copy or a testimonial to boost your credibility.

Screenshots are very useful for backing up the claims you make in your sales content. For example, if you’re marketing an app which can perform certain functions, a screenshot with a caption can be the visual verification your audience needs in order to trust your claims. It’s also possible to annotate your screenshots if you wish to draw attention to a particular part of the image (such as which button to click) or provide a more in-depth explanation of what’s going on behind the scenes.

Despite seeming like the least awe-inspiring type of visual content in this article, screenshots can be hugely beneficial as a trust-building tool. Consider using them to capture customer reviews or testimonials from industry forums or social media (88% of people read reviews to determine the quality of a business). Additionally, you may wish to incorporate screenshots into your infographics and SlideShare presentations, as they can bring forth more meaning to the stats or information you are presenting.

Skitch is a great tool for creating graphics and text on images. It’s simple to use and free.

Take Full Advantage of Visual Content

Visual content taps into the visceral psyche of your audience, encouraging them to discover more about your brand. If you can generate high quality visual content which truly resonates with people and promote it on a regular basis, the reputation and awareness of your brand is sure to skyrocket.

However, if your content is bland or badly designed, you will end up doing more harm than good – always consider the needs of your audience and don’t put out content just to stick to an upload schedule. As with any type of content, it’s the substance that counts, but excellent style is definitely appreciated.

About the Author: Lucien Joyce is the Lead Copywriter at Mammoth Infographics. His background is in creative media and digital marketing. Aside from writing, Lucien enjoys producing music and the occasional globe trot.

Source: KISS

 

Beyond the Click: What’s Truly Driving Your Conversion Rate?

You could have the most sale-clinching copy in the world, the most beautiful design, and the most well-thought-out sales funnel, and your conversion rate could still remain stagnant. Have you ever looked at your analytics and thought “what can we do better?” If you’re the kind of marketer who’s always looking to improve, let’s take a look at the core human behaviors and psychological tactics that are powering your conversion rate – and how to use them to their fullest.

Value: The Spark that Ignites Interest

One of the first things you’ll learn in marketing is that you should always create or provide something of value to your customers. This usually ties in with your USP or Unique Selling Proposition – what makes someone want to do business with you?

But how do you actually create value? And even if you do offer something of value to the customer, what can you do to ensure they’ll want to continue doing business with you? On the customer’s end, you have the all-important questions like “what’s in it for me?” and “why should I do business with you [now]?

No matter what you’re selling, the customer needs to know that their most pressing issues will be solved and that they’ll be understood. They’ve gotten this far in the decision-making process and are taking a serious look at you. To keep that spark aflame, you have to go beyond telling them about the value you provide, and actually show them in the way you do business.

A recent report from eConsultancy and Sitecore asked companies and agencies alike what the most effective tactics for improving a customer’s lifetime value were:

customervalue

The most effective methods for improving customer LTV

No surprise that customer service improvements are at the top, followed by personalization. People find inherent value in being treated well and getting answers to their issues. They appreciate businesses taking the time to make personalized recommendations and sharing information that’s relevant to them.

In other words, the value that customers so eagerly crave is driven just as much by what you’re selling as who you’re selling too, and how you can convert them from casual browser to brand evangelist.

Consistency: The Glue that Holds the Conversion Together

What is consistency when applied to customer loyalty and conversion rates? According to a study by The Society for New Communications Research, quality was the number one factor in how customers form an impression of a company, with pricing and customer service not far behind.

impressions
Customers’ impressions of your company are driven primarily by quality

Consistency in these cases means that a customer can depend on the same level of product, service or care from each time they order. A cheeseburger from McDonalds is the same quality whether you’re in California or Maine. Customers rely on that and it drives their expectations.

Their expectations in turn drive your conversion rate. As you might imagine, there’s a certain level of inherent trust here. I trust you’ll be able to provide me with the same caliber of goods and services I’ve come to expect from you. The more companies can do this over time, the more favorable the impression becomes, the more likely they are to recommend, rate, like and share with others because it is a reflection on them.

Even if you have demonstrated value to the customer and ensured a quality process that delivers consistency, you’re still not finished. You have to ensure that what you do present to the customer is clear enough to encourage them to act on it.

Clarity: Making Sense of What’s Presented

How clear is your marketing message? Not just to you and your team, or to your marketing department, but to everyone from the CEO to the janitor. Many companies rebrand themselves every few years to focus on something new in an attempt to appear fresh and vibrant to their consumers.

But look at things from your customer’s point of view, or even better, the perspective of someone who hasn’t visited your site before. All this change makes them question the value of what they’re getting, and consistency gets swept to the wayside. They’re not sure that this company understands or embraces their lifestyle and motivations, much less has a place in it.

This isn’t to say, of course, that you should remain stuck in something that isn’t working or that your company should be perceived as old-fashioned. But change when and where it makes sense to do so – not just because it seems to be the “in” thing to do at the moment.

Creating and living true to a mission statement, a philosophy or a manifesto that affects everything from how the company operates to how it treats its customers paints a perfectly clear picture of what “clarity” truly means when it comes to driving conversion rates. Better yet, share this philosophy with your customers. Don’t just tell them, show them how your company is taking strides to be better in tune with what they want, and make yourself open and available to the two-way communication street that is the social web.

Clarity means complete understanding and reliance on the company to deliver what they promise without a shadow of a doubt. And conversions can only happen when all the other factors come together to make your offer, and the customer’s actions to take advantage of it, crystal clear.

Alleviate Friction and “Action Paralysis”

Two of the issues that plague most conversion optimization touch-points are friction and “action paralysis”. Friction happens when one of these key drivers doesn’t align with the others. For example, you may provide clarity and value to the customer, but consistency isn’t always there. They’re not sure what they’re going to get this time and would rather not turn it into a guessing game.

Or your message is clear and consistent, but the value doesn’t drive the customer to click. They might fear they’re being cheated or duped, and no one wants to look like a fool. In other words, there’s a misalignment of persuasive factors and that can cause your conversion rate to flat-line.

Even if you have all of the key conversion drivers working in perfect harmony, there’s still the ever-looming specter of “action paralysis” which makes the customer second-guess themselves and their decision. Common questions here would include:

  • How much is shipping going to cost on top of the price? How soon will my order be here?
  • What happens after my order is complete? What if I don’t get an email confirmation?
  • Who should I contact if something is wrong with my order when I receive it? What is the return policy? Can I exchange my item for something else?
  • How does the company use the information I give them?
  • What are other people saying about this product/service?

The good news is that you can eliminate a lot of these issues by way of a plain English returns/exchange policy, as well as a straightforward privacy policy, concrete details on pricing and shipping and by following up to make sure the customer is satisfied and doesn’t have any questions after the item or service has been received.

Here again, it all goes back to the cycle of what’s driving your conversions – value in your offer, consistency in your methods and quality, and clarity of purpose and message while avoiding frictions that cause the customer to step back and question their decision. Getting these things right may take time and effort, but anything worth improving your conversion rate always does.

Have you used these methods in your own conversion optimization campaigns and processes? How have they worked out for you? Tell us about it in the comments below!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!

Source: KISS

 

Using Kissmetrics to Discover the Value of Your Freemium Offering

Ah, the freemium model. It has helped build companies like Dropbox, Spotify, and MailChimp. But can it work for you? Unfortunately, plenty of failed companies used the freemium model, too.

There are a few ways to determine the effectiveness of your freemium plan. For instance, you can track all your freemium customers in a spreadsheet to see which ones convert to paying customers. This will require a lot of work. Plus, it’s not automated, the spreadsheet can get pretty full, and it’s tough to get insights out of a big spreadsheet.

You can also use Kissmetrics. We have a suite of reports that will take all your data and show you various insights into whether freemium is working for your company. You’ll just need to set up the reports. That’s what this post is about. We’ll go through three of our reports that you can use to see if you should continue with your freemium plan or kill it off in favor of all-paid pricing plans.

Let’s begin.

Discovering If and When Customers Upgrade from Freemium

Obviously, companies cannot succeed if 100% of their customers are on the “free” plan. They need their free customers to grow out of the plan and/or refer others who will sign up for a paid plan.

But if you’re not tracking the data, how would you ever know if people upgrade from the free plan to one of your paid plans?

Using the Kissmetrics Cohort Report, you can see if and when your freemium customers move up and start paying you. You’ll also be able to see which marketing campaigns and customer segments upgrade the most.

In simple terms, a cohort is a group of people who share a similar experience. So people who signed up for a free plan and later upgraded to a paid plan would be in a cohort. The Kissmetrics Cohort Report will show you these people and how many of them upgraded. Here’s how it will look:

cohort-report-kissmetrics-freemium-upgrade

On the left side, we see the people who signed up for the freemium plan. The property (Social, Organic, Direct, etc.) tells us where the people came from. So, for example, if someone came from Twitter and signed up, they’d be put in the Social group. (The None category is for people who do not fit in any of the properties.)

The right side tells us what percentage of the people in each group later went on to upgrade to a paying plan. The darker the shade of blue, the higher the percentage. The higher the percentage, the better.

Here are some important takeaways from this data:

  • Some of the stronger channels are Organic, Direct, and Referral. Social acquires the most signups, but doesn’t convert at a higher percentage than the other groups. If this were your data, you’d know that you could put more focus and effort in getting signups from these channels. Direct would be a little difficult (these are people who have no referrer), but generally an increase in brand awareness means more direct visits.
  • Paid has brought 6 free signups, but none of them have converted to paying. We’ll have to see what we’re spending on this channel to know if it’s worth it. If it’s a reasonable cost, we should wait until we get more signups to see if Paid really is a bad channel for conversions.
  • Overall, a solid percentage of people upgrade to paying. To build a successful business, the money we receive from customers will have to exceed the amount it takes to acquire them. Free signups are generally low-cost, so if this were our data, it would look pretty good that we are able to acquire customers profitably.

You can also use the Kissmetrics Funnel Report to track the percentage of people who move from the “freemium signup” step to the “billed” step in your sales funnel. You just won’t be able to know when they convert, as you can with a cohort report. (A funnel report can be used for a number of other purposes, including finding where visitors drop off in the path to purchase, finding which A/B test variation led to more signups, etc.)

Click here to view a demo of the Cohort Report.

Knowing if Freemium Spreads

Many free plans have some virality engine built in. Users on the Dropbox free plan, for example, get more space if they refer people to Dropbox. If your free plan has something like this, you can use the same Cohort Report to tell you when people share your product with others. Just set your criteria to people who signed up for freemium and later referred their friends.

You can segment people by channel (as we did above) or by when they signed up or by whatever will deliver the best insights for you. As long as you’re tracking it, you can get the data.

Finding Out if Freemium Users Are Using Your Product

If freemium users aren’t using your product, it may be a sign of one of the following problems:

  • There is no product/market fit. You’re signing up people who aren’t interested in your product.
  • The capabilities of the freemium plan are too limited for any practical use.
  • Your product isn’t any good. In this case, the majority of your paid users won’t be using the product either.

We can track usage with a simple login retention cohort, or we can use the Kissmetrics People Search to get a list of people who have signed up for the free trial but have not used the product. We can then email these people and gather feedback.

The Kissmetrics People Search allows you to find people based on specific criteria. For example, you can find people who have logged in but not used a feature. Or you can find people who have signed up but not logged in, which is what we’ll be searching for. Here are the criteria:

people-search-kissmetrics-freemium-unengaged

As you can see, we’re looking for people who have signed up for the freemium plan but have not logged in. We want to see all the people who fit these criteria in the last 30 days.

We aren’t limited to looking at people who have not logged in. If we’re tracking it, we can view the people who have signed up but not used a feature or the people who have signed up but not upgraded.

Let’s click Search and get our data:
people-search-kissmetrics-cart-abandonment

We’re viewing 10 of the 122 people who fit the criteria. We can export this data to a CSV file and then upload it to an email service provider such as MailChimp. Or we can email each person individually to get feedback.

If you’re tracking it, you can also use People Search to discover the users who have been using freemium but have not upgraded to a paying plan. You can email these people to learn more about their use cases, what’s working for them, and even target them for upgrades. As long as you’re tracking it, you can get the data and find the people.

Click here to view a demo of People Search.

Use Data to Discover if Freemium Is Working for You

When you offer a freemium plan, you reduce the barrier to entry for many people. Then, ideally, the freemium users upgrade to a paying plan or refer others who pay. But if none of the freemium users upgrade to a paying plan or refer others, your freemium plan may just be a burden on your business. Analytics tools like Kissmetrics (with its Cohort Report, Funnel Report, and People Search) can help you discover if freemium is working for your business.

If you’re using freemium on your product, you may want to sign up for Kissmetrics to see if it’s working for you. You can sign up for a free 14-day trial, or request a personal demo of Kissmetrics.

About the Author: Zach Bulygo (Twitter) is a Content Writer for Kissmetrics.

Source: KISS

 

How to Earn Links and Gain Credibility with the Three A’s of Legitimacy

The concept of earning links seems to be one of the most difficult subjects for strategists, marketers, and business owners to wrap their heads around.

It’s no wonder, either, since Google and other search engines adjust the criteria for what deems a link to be relevant or qualified at such a rapid pace.

If you quickly review the blogosphere on this subject, it’s easy to become confused. Many sources recommend tactics like press releases and guest posts. Others warn that those forms of content will lead to Google dropping the hammer with a range of severe penalties.

The fact is that earning links is not difficult to do when approached and understood correctly.

Why Links Are “Earned” Today, as Opposed to “Built”

As search engines continue to develop their ability to interpret and understand quality content, their standards for how websites obtain authority continue to rise, as well.

In 2009, strategists could achieve premier rankings by embedding links on just about any website, regardless of the link’s value to users or its relation to the original domain. Now, business owners are tasked with the responsibility for creating relationships with relevant thought influencers that offer high quality content to online consumers.

natural-links-matt-cutts

Examples of link “building” include paying companies or webmasters to post links on their sites and embedding links on free directories that appear spammy.

In contrast, link “earning” involves strategists collaborating over what types of meaningful content they can create to share with other like-minded authorities online.

With Links, Think About How to Gain Credibility in the Real World

The easiest way to understand the concept of earning links is to think about how credibility is formed in offline, real-world settings.

If some unknown name were to run for public office, that person would have zero credibility to use to garner votes from the public.

However, with endorsements from the community’s local politicians and others in positions of higher authority in government, that person would automatically have a level of credibility based on his or her association with those offering words of support.

Well, the exact same mindset is behind the logic of acquiring links today.

When a brand new website is launched, it is not able to convey to search engines that it deserves to be placed on page one of search results without some history of experience to justify that.

However, when the website is able to connect with other popular sites that are seen as thought providers or consumer advocates within their particular space, it can then justify itself as appropriate for online consumers to engage with.

Look at History to Better Understand Today’s Search Demands

The state of the World Wide Web was a bit of a mess back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

90s-Pop-Up-Ads

Millions of online users were constantly confronted with links that led to:

  • Pop-up ads
  • Porn sites
  • Irrelevant/meaningless content

It makes sense that Google wanted to implement standards that prevented their customers (online users) from being subjected to inappropriate and unpleasant experiences.

Standards That Promote a Quality Online Experience

Google updates and/or adjusts its algorithm over 500 times each year. While the vast majority of all updates are unannounced or unnoticed by the general public, some of them have a profound impact on what people see when they search online.

For example, popular, well-known updates like “Panda,” Penguin,” and “Pigeon” aim to create an online search experience that provides the most gratifying, rewarding results possible. This includes removing the ability to access sites that:

  • Contain high volumes of duplicate, plagiarized content
  • Have excessive volumes of irrelevant links that do not allow users to continue their personal search experience in a meaningful, logical way

Understanding the focus behind some of these updates allows strategists to clearly see an online environment that is completely devoted to offering consumers an original, honest experience that aligns directly with each user’s intentions.

The Three A’s Behind How Content Ranks in 2015

Almost everything about Google’s algorithm and the process involved for determining which listings are appropriate for users to engage with is based on a plethora of considerations.

Remember that links serve as a form of validation or credibility, and you can use the same tactics that have always been popular (i.e., press releases, guest posts, infographics, etc.), despite some industry opinions that say otherwise.

Three-As-link-earning

When planning out a new link-earning campaign, keep the three A’s in mind at all times in order to evaluate the legitimacy of the prospective link:

  • Alignment – how well a particular website or form of content aligns with your users’ expectations, intentions, and demands.
  • Authority – the level of credibility, experience, and intelligence a particular website is deemed to have based on consumer recognition and search engine algorithms.
  • Authenticity – the extent to which a particular website’s technical and onsite composition are comprised to meet the specific needs of individual online users/consumers. In other words, is the website built to completely align with and resolve consumer demands, or is it built to satisfy theoretical ranking factors?

How The Three A’s Apply in Action

Over the years, inexperienced strategists responsible for fulfilling a particular linking strategy tended to exclusively dedicate their time to the following tactics:

  • Creating as many directories as possible
  • Publishing numerous posts across underdeveloped social channels
  • Distributing press releases across free, online wires
  • Contributing content to unqualified third-party hosts

Now, the activities on this list are not the issue. The problem lies in how they are executed and the level of meaning/relevancy behind each action and its result.

Earn Links Correctly by Thinking of People First, Not Rankings

One sure way to approach links incorrectly is to think about them solely as a means to drive rankings rather than brand awareness or conversions.

When strategists intentionally try to build authority around particular key phrases or sites in order to rank in the first position on Google’s results pages, without consideration for the three A’s, they waste their time publishing content through empty social profiles or setting up directories on sites that no one visits.

Instead, you can maximize the value of your work and the results for your clients by keeping the three A’s in mind at all times when executing the tactics mentioned above.

Let’s go through each one of the link-earning activities now.

Creating Directories

Creating business directories that outline legitimate information attached to a particular brand or service is still an appropriate step to take when it comes to earning links.

However, you need to keep the target audience in mind at all times and think about whether or not the directory you want to create will:

  • Lead to a new link

or

  • Lead to a new link and drive qualified referral traffic

If a directory is going to be published in an environment that has nothing to do with the primary message or service of your brand, then don’t bother.

This could lead to some trouble with Google (possible deindexing) due to the concept of “building links just to build them.”

Instead, identify which specific directory sites your brand’s target audience actually engages, based on information related to the online behavior of your audience.

Popular, credible directory sites such as Yelp and Foursquare create links that derive from authoritative sources and that connect brands with real, qualified consumers.

Publishing Posts on Social Media

The concept of “social SEO” in association with earning links sees social shares derived from actions of individuals. Examples of actions are:

  • Leaving a comment on a blog post
  • Sharing an article on Facebook
  • Retweeting a comment on Twitter
  • Repinning a photo on Pinterest

This also includes any other manual action by an individual in relation to content.

The ability to earn qualified links through social media is successful only when there is an established audience that is able to react to the content they receive.

The idea of publishing all created forms of content through social media is correct.
However, too often, strategists find themselves publishing materials through underdeveloped profiles that have few or no followers.

What basically happens here is that the strategist announces new information using a megaphone, but no one is in attendance to listen.

If your brand has social profiles with inactive followers or insignificant numbers of followers, allocate time and resources to build up such followers first.

You can and should always publish through Google+ since there are legitimate organic search merits involved, including the immediate indexation of content.

However, other profiles like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest need to be nurtured before they can serve as credible avenues for acquiring social links.

Distributing Press Releases

Press releases are a bit of a different beast when it comes to earning links.

The best way to approach this tactic is to think about only the end user and the opportunity to connect with new potential customers.

Online wires, whether they require some form of payment or not, should not be seen as a legitimate means of earning links that have value.

Most wires do not allow publishers to embed links in their releases; those that do are typically not high in quality when it comes to user experience, intention, and meaning.

press-releases-seo-factors
Source

Here are a few best practices to consider for press release distribution:

  • Create them with substance and provide evidence that supports the value of what is being promoted; i.e., statistics, references, quotes, etc.
  • Create them only when something is actually newsworthy or relevant to the masses. For most businesses outside the Fortune 1000 status, one press release per quarter is probably appropriate.
  • Send each release over actual media outlets, whether regional or national. These include newspapers, affiliate TV stations, radio channels, and others. Most local newspapers and TV stations allow users to publish newsworthy events right on their websites.

Contributing Guest Content

Guest posting is a great way to connect brands and businesses with new potential customers who are interested in similar materials or subjects and who have not yet been introduced to a particular supplier.

However, too often strategists and marketers will create content for their clients and publish with hosts that have no set standards dedicated to the quality of submissions they take or that are irrelevant to the client’s primary message.

You can use tools like GroupHigh to identify actual thought consumers and advocates per vertical throughout the world.

Tools like this one offer you the ability to understand more detailed information about potential third-party hosts and their level of authenticity/alignment, including:

  • Who are the host’s target audience(s)
  • How often do they publish new forms of content
  • How many social followers do they have and how actively engaged are they
  • Domain authority

If such tools aren’t accessible because of budgetary limitations, a simple manual review of the criteria listed above will go a long way toward understanding whether the link(s) and visitors that have the potential to be acquired are qualified and of value.

You Can’t Go Wrong Earning Links Using the Three A’s

Regardless of which tactic you choose to use or implement, remember that everything has to come back to these three questions:

  1. Does this content or website align with the specific intentions, expectations, and motivations of your brand’s target audience?
  2. Is this content or website recognized as a thought leader, or are they appropriate for the category they are competing for?
  3. Is this content or website being built/developed with the intention of satisfying customers, or is there too much focus on onsite optimization?

As long as the answers to these questions always go back to benefiting the end user, your link-earning campaigns will serve as a primary means of driving visibility, connections, and conversions.

About the Author: Jason Corrigan is the Manager of Search Marketing for The American Cancer Society; with experience developing complex, wide-scale search and social strategies for Fortune 1000 brands including: Duracell, Febreze, Swiffer, Oral-B, The Source and others. He is a published author on the concept of “Social SEO” and a frequent contributor to some of the industry’s most popular search journals. Corrigan owns the trademark to “SEO Without Borders” and is currently developing a non-profit organization that will connect victims in third-world countries with qualified donors across the world using digital resources and organic search. You can follow him on Twitter.

Source: KISS