Google Announces Significant Changes

As a marketer who uses email, you know as well as I do, your campaigns do not stand alone. Without proper support from your website—and throughout your organization—email campaigns will produce disappointing results. With that said, Google’s recent announcement of impending significant changes affects us as much as our Web developer team. Pay heed

As a marketer who uses email, you know as well as I do, your campaigns do not stand alone. Without proper support from your website—and throughout your organization—email campaigns will produce disappointing results. With that said, Google’s recent announcement of impending significant changes affects us as much as our Webdeveloper team. Pay heed.

In short, Google’s announcement focuses on two primary points—both of which are designed to acknowledge the mobile-device and app trends and provide suitable content to the device user. The purpose of this new release is:

  1. Google will return more mobile-friendly websites in search results.
  2. Google will return more relevant app content in search results when a signed-in user has the app installed.

To date, Google has checked websites for mobile compatibility, and if you are the webmaster, provided you with an email to keep you abreast of potential concerns and how you might address those issues—a fairly passive, observer-type approach.

With this announcement, beginning on 21 April, Google is apparently poised to take a harder line and relegate non-mobile websites to the far reaches of results—which will not affect direct links you’ve embedded in your campaign, but will most certainly affect future searches your constituents perform to revisit your site or to find additional information.

Does this have a real, measurable impact on you? Most certainly.

We recently ran a campaign where we checked the websites of thousands of our subscribers, leads and clients and were astonished to find only around 30 percent of them have properly functioning mobile websites, and less than 1 percent have a mobile app. The campaign was designed to highlight the experience of their clients when visiting their website and encourage them to purchase Web-development or app-development services. We included a screenshot of an iPhone 6 and on the phone’s screen we displayed an actual view of their site.

If this 30 percent suddenly shifts to the top of search results, imagine what this could do to your rankings if you do not have a mobile site. Assuming you’ve implemented a good SEO strategy, and are enjoying a top-ranking website, you will now have 30 companies displayed before you. With typical search-results pages showing the top ten companies, this means you have been relegated from page one to perhaps page three or even four.

With these changes, mobile sites—and landing and squeeze pages—have gone from important to critical. Your site and all campaign pages must provide sufficient depth to answer questions visitors may have beyond what the campaign provides or questions return visitors have—and in a format appropriate to the visitor’s device.

Updating your site doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re using WordPress, there are plug-ins that you can add to your current theme in order to present the site in a mobile format. One I’ve used and had a good experience with is WP Touch.

If you have an HTML site, things become a bit more difficult, but not unmanageable. You might consider switching your site to a WordPress site with a mobile theme, which would negate the need to add a third-party plug-in to convert the site. Another option would be to post a new site specifically for your mobile users, and use javascript or an .htaccess file to detect what device your visitor is using and then send them to the appropriate site.

You do need to think beyond your website, no matter which option you choose. This affects landing pages, squeeze pages and microsites as well.

In other words, if you’re not mobile, you may not be relevant.

LinkedIn as a Marketing Vehicle

In 2013, Spider Trainers created the “Great Big Book of Things Marketers Say” as an experiment in repurposing and the effectiveness of using social media for promotion—specifically LinkedIn. This week has been a big week for that effort—two years later—and here’s why

In 2013, Spider Trainers created the “Great Big Book of Things Marketers Say” as an experiment in repurposing and the effectiveness of using social media for promotion—specifically LinkedIn. This week has been a big week for that effort—two years later—and here’s why.

As I’m certain you already know, LinkedIn is a business-oriented social-networking service used primarily for professional networking. In 2013, they reported more than 259 million users in more than 200 countries and territories—that’s a wide reach and one that, as a marketer, I wanted to harness. For us the question was, “Could LinkedIn—as a professional network—be used for marketing more effectively, or as effectively, as other social networks we already recognized for their marketing value?”

To gain the answer to my question, I set out to create a campaign that might give me the insight I needed. I built a campaign specifically ideal for repurposing—everything from video to email—and though I was focused on LinkedIn for much of the marketing, we did use Twitter, Facebook, SlideShare, YouTube and other vehicles as well.

The campaign was sizeable and had many moving parts. Of course we needed to first have enough content to create a book, but then we also had to choose how the book would be created, how to deliver it, and so on. Our approach went something like this:

  1. Collect quotes from marketers
  2. Produce the product
  3. Post the product (what format and where)
  4. Track the engagement
  5. Promote the content
  6. Repurpose the content
  7. Promote the repurposed content
  8. Measure the success

Of course we used email every step of the way, for instance:

  • We reached out to our clients—who are primarily marketers-and asked them for quotes
  • We used auto-responders to confirm submissions
  • We announced the final product posted to SlideShare
  • We announced repurposed versions (such as the video, blog article, PDFs, and case study)
  • We reminded authors of the benefit to them when they shared it in their networks
  • We suggested quoted authors add the book to their products on their LinkedIn profile

Some of our emails were direct and some were created inside LinkedIn, but in no case did email stand alone. There were also times where the emails were personalized—actually containing the author’s quote-and other times they were generalized. Some of the email were sent as HTML, some as plain text. Some contained attachments, some did not. For each email, we used A/B testing and analytics to track engagement and measure success.

So how did we do?

Well, two years later, two things happened this week I did not expect. First, the campaign is very much alive and well and has just reached 3,000 likes and shares within a LinkedIn group—with another 3,000 combined between seven other groups. Second, SlideShare notified me the Great Big Book of Things Marketers Say was among the top 5 percent of the most-viewed content on their site.

Yes, I agree, these numbers are a long way from what any of us marketers would consider viral, but given the amount of aggregated traffic, there’s no doubt using LinkedIn as a promotional vehicle was a resounding success. (The case study of our project is available in our resource center, in case you’re interested in a bit more of the specifics.)

So, you’d think that would be the end of the story, but as it turns out, it’s not—we’re still testing and still enjoying the long legs of this campaign. In addition to the continued likes and shares, we’re also conducting a new test on the effectiveness of posting e-books to Amazon and Kindle. If, as I’ve read, this turns out to be yet another successful repurposing opportunity, imagine the audience we can reach by tapping into Amazon’s network and the marketing vehicle of Kindle Direct Publishing. Since the book’s content is timeless—after all it’s simply a collection of good advice—we are uniquely positioned to continue to use the book for marketing for some time to come.

The possibilities may well be endless.

The Problem With A/B Testing

This week we set up an elaborate A/B test on subject lines. I liked “How 1.75 Billion Mobile Users See Your Website” and my client manager liked “Business Cards are No Longer the First Impression.” We learned long ago not to be a focus group of two, but our testing also proves something else I’ve been saying for years—A/B tests do not stand alone.

This week we set up an elaborate A/B test on subject lines. I liked “How 1.75 Billion Mobile Users See Your Website” and my client manager liked “Business Cards are No Longer the First Impression.” We learned long ago not to be a focus group of two, but our testing also proves something else I’ve been saying for years—A/B tests do not stand alone.

For our Mobile Users campaign, we dropped in an actual screenshot of every recipient’s website as viewed on an iPhone 6 (see image), because we knew this level of personalization could add a sizeable bump to engagement. It’s one thing to tell a recipient their website looks awful on a mobile device; it’s another thing to show them.

At the end of the campaign, we will have sent under 10,000 emails, but before we get to the balance, we felt it was important to know which of the two subject lines would perform better. All of us want to have the very best chance of success, so this was a necessary step. Ensure our subject line would foster a higher open rate.

For our initial test, we sent 600 emails, half to each subject line. One subject line performed best with opens, the other subject line performed best for clicks to the form. What that means is we now have a new question: is it better for us to get more people to open and see the message, or is it better to get fewer people to open, but to have accurately set their expectation about what was inside so they would click?

The open rate differed by more than 10 percent, and the CTR by about 2 percent.

Should I stop my analysis here and answer the only question I started with (which subject line should we use), or would it be better to take a look at other factors and try to improve the overall success in any way we can? For me, the problem I see with many marketers’ A/B tests is they ask one question, answer it, and then move on. In fact, many email automation systems are set up in precisely this manner: send an A/B test of two subject lines, and whichever performs better, use it to send the balance. What about the open rate and the CTR combined? Isn’t that far more important in this case (and many others)? Let’s take it one step further: what about the open rate, CTR and form completion rate combined? Now we’re on to something.

There are many factors at work here: time of day, past engagement, lifecycle and more. The subject line is a good place to start, but I can’t afford to ignore what we’ve gleaned from other campaigns.

This then becomes the hardest part of testing—be that A/B or multivariate—isolating what we’ve actually learned, and that usually means I cannot analyze just this one campaign. It must be an aggregate.

For our campaign, I took our test results and put those into a spreadsheet of 2014 campaign results and started to look for patterns. We’ve all read Thursday mornings are good (as an example), but does that hold true for my list? Were my open rates affected by time of day, by date, by day, by business type, by B-to-C vs. B-to-B? These are all analytics we track because we’ve found each of these does, in fact, influence open rate.

So, yes, we did learn which of the two subject lines performed better for opens, but what we also learned is that a repeat of the test to another 600 recipients on Tuesday morning instead of Thursday morning resulted in almost exactly opposite performance.

A/B tests can be hard. If they were easy, everyone would do them. Our simple one-time test was not enough information to make decisions about our campaign. It took more testing to either prove or disprove our theories, and it took aggregating the data with other results to paint the full picture.

We did find a winner: an email with a good subject line to get it opened, good presentation of supporting information inside, that led recipients to a form they actually completed, and all sent on the right day at the right time, from the right sender,

While you’re not privy to all of the data we have, on the top of the subject lines alone, which do you prefer?

5 Shades of Pop-Up Email Acquisition

As marketers, one of the biggest challenges we face is growing our marketing list at a rate higher than our attrition. On average, companies report an attrition rate of about 20 percent, which means in order to show a growth of just 10 percent per year, we need an actual growth of 30 percent. That’s a lot of growth and yet many of us simply have not developed a concrete plan to achieve this goal

As marketers, one of the biggest challenges we face is growing our marketing list at a rate higher than our attrition. On average, companies report an attrition rate of about 20 percent, which means in order to show a growth of just 10 percent per year, we need an actual growth of 30 percent. That’s a lot of growth and yet many of us simply have not developed a concrete plan to achieve this goal.

In the age of shiny, new objects, we have at our disposal tools, widgets, scripts, and doo-dads all designed to entice, encourage, beg, and withhold in order to garner the most valuable of data: our prospects’ email address. I’ve tried all of these approaches I’ll describe below, either on our site or on a client’s site, and there’s not one right answer. The big question is: Why do pop-ups work?

Most of us swear we hate subscriber pop-ups; they’re annoying; they make us want to leave the site immediately—but is this actually true? Studies show it’s simply not. The web abounds with case studies by companies of all sizes who verify their pop-ups are effective conversion tools and there’s a reason: pop-ups—though annoying—jolt your visitor with a persuasion technique called pattern interrupt. This identifies a situation where something unexpected happens after your brain has become lulled into a rhythm. You can interrupt a pattern with just about any unexpected or sudden display, movement, or response. When you interrupt the visitor, they usually experience momentary confusion, and sometimes even amnesia. This confusion state causes the visitor to become open to suggestion—they become willing to trade this uncomfortable state for clarity offered by another state. Your clear call to action displayed in a pop-up offers them a path to end their confusion.

With that said, and understanding how a pop-up works, you then need to choose the right pop-up approach. You’ll find some pop-ups are better aligned with your business than others, but that knowledge is usually gained through trial and error. If you’re using a CMS site such as WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal, you can test any/all of these approaches simply by installing plug-ins. With HTML, it become more difficult as you sort through different jQuery or JavaScript tools, but it’s not so difficult as to deter you. In the end, pop-ups are a great way to chip away at your pursuit of 30 percent growth.

On-enter Gated
Of all the annoying pop-ups, on-enter gated is the one I personally find the largest deterrent from continuing my engagement with a site. Figure 1 in the media player at right is an example is from JustFab.com, and their pop-up experience begins the moment you land. A pop-up first offers product options you must click through so they can build a profile of your style preferences. With that done, you complete the form shown in figure 1 before being allowed to continue your shopping experience. You cannot dismiss this pop-up without providing the required information. I suffered through this process only to be able to capture this screen shot, but I can tell you I have abandoned every other site that required me to log in to view their content. Similarly, I nearly always abandon a site that allowed me to read part of an article and then withheld the ending until I proffered my email address.

On Enter
For me, pop-ups on enter like the one shown in figure 2, are far less annoying than on-enter gated. These pop-ups might display as soon as you land, after a period of time, or after you begin scrolling. These have a dismiss icon, so you can close the box without providing the information. If you choose this route, you’ll want to do some testing around the ideal time to let pass before displaying. I’ve found giving the reader 15 to 30 seconds to get a taste for the content produces better results. If you ask for their email address before they have determined the value of your site, you may scare them off.

Header (or Footer) Notification
Header or footer notifications are far less intrusive, and thus could prove to be less effective. It’s easy to miss a message displayed at the very top of the page since the visitor’s eye is more typically drawn to the area that usually displays the menu bar. If you choose a header or footer notification like the one shown in figure 3 from infyways.com, try using a heat map to ensure your visitors are even looking at the notice before you decide the effectiveness of this approach.

On Exit
The on-exit pop-up (figure 4), displays automatically as someone makes a move to leave a site. I like these pop-ups because it’s the what-have-I-got-to-lose? approach. Displaying a message after your visitor has already decided to leave your site is a great way to cause them pause and reconsider what they’ve just read. Was it really of no value? Did it have value only today? Did it have long-term value? If so, would they like to be notified of new, similar content?

Scroll-Triggered Pop-up
This pop-up (figure 5) is triggered to display along the bottom edge (configurable) of the visitor’s browser window as they scroll down the page. It will display on any/all pages of the site, so it’s effective even if they’ve clicked a link directly through to a landing page.

A/B Testing and Analytics
There are probably as many approaches as there are businesses and websites, but this list is a good overview. Don’t stop at just installing the form or plug-in, without analytics and careful monitoring, you’re not getting smarter about what works and what doesn’t. If you’ve installed a subscriber pop-up plug-in and you’re not getting sign-ups, first make sure the product is working properly and then check your analytics. Are you actually getting traffic to the page where you’ve included your capturing system? Using a heatmap, are people viewing it? Lastly, these products are not mutually exclusive. Try lots of approaches all at once—that in itself can be the A/B test: which product is most effective on which pages?

Automation
Most of these products will capture your prospects into a database of some sort, but automating the passing of leads into your email system will make the entire process more valuable to you. By passing the data automatically, you can also create instantaneous auto-responders welcoming your new subscriber. While you’re shopping for a product, ensure you check to see if it supports your chosen email-automation platform, and if not, look to see how you can automate this process. We use Zapier and have found we can directly support the client’s application about 90 percent of the time.

For most of us, we have a methodical approach to building a marketing campaign and I think this same approach can be used as a plan for growing your list:

  1. Define a measurable goal
  2. Choose tools you will use for measuring success/failure of the effort
  3. Outline with metrics are important to showing success/failure
  4. Define A/B testing points
  5. Analyze results

If you’ve had success with a particular product, please share your experience in the comments below. I’m always eager to learn about new products that can make me a better marketer—as I’m sure this blog’s readers are as well.

‘Forgotten’ Unsubscribes – Is This a New Trend?

With Black Friday now behind me, I ran a quick count and found 131 emails sent by retailers with whom I had unsubscribed. I was more than a little surprised to have received this many emails and wondered: Are these retailers counting on me having forgotten I had unsubscribed? Is this a new trend?

With Black Friday now behind me, I ran a quick count and found 131 emails sent by retailers with whom I had unsubscribed. I was more than a little surprised to have received this many emails and wondered: Are these retailers counting on me having forgotten I had unsubscribed? Is this a new trend?

The CAN-SPAM Act is very clear on the issue of how businesses should present and handle unsubscribes. It reads in part, you cannot charge a fee, require the recipient to give any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on a website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request.” In other words, it should be easy and it should be permanent. The retailers who have sent me an email in the last few days have done far more damage than good – though I admit, my diligence in tracking unsubscribes goes well beyond that of the typical subscriber—most people probably do forget having unsubscribed.

I’ve divided my 131 Black Friday marketing emails into three categories (remember, these are not business correspondence messages or transactional messages, for which opt-out rules differ in the US, as well as Canada and the EU):

  1. Retailers with whom I had done business, but not subscribed (permitted to send transactional messages only).
  2. Retailers with whom I had done business, subscribed, and later unsubscribed (permitted to send transactional and marketing messages until revoked).
  3. New retailers with whom I had concluded business and explicitly opted out of marketing messages at the time of transaction (permitted to send transactional message only).

Of these emails:

  • 6 provided no unsubscribe link or information (which is allowed by the CAN-SPAM Act, if they are using the reply-to process for unsubscribing)
  • 26 provided an unsubscribe link requiring me to visit a web page to set my preferences
  • 19 provided both an unsubscribe link and a preferences link

Past Relationships
So let’s take a look at these vendors’ approaches and assess the value of each:

Several years ago I bought hosting services from Glob@t. On the 28th and again today, I received emails from this vendor. I unsubscribed from their messages just once when our relationship ended, and yet Black Friday seemed to have provided the perfect opportunity—as deemed by their marketing department – to reactivate an unsubscribed name and send a message.

In this case their message actually did exactly as they hoped: I became re-engaged. Of course, they had no idea, but yesterday I spent three hours on a tech-support call with my current vendor, and had decided to start shopping hosting vendors. Glob@t’s email came at an opportune time, but that’s not to say I wasn’t annoyed by it—I certainly was. Nonetheless, I clicked the link to check out their hosting packages, and after checking pricing, I returned to the email to unsubscribe. I will monitor their messages to ensure I remain unsubscribed this time around.

New Relationships
Three weeks ago I made a purchase from eBay of a hard-to-find item, which launched an onslaught of emails. I have received one or more every day since the date of purchase and in each I have clicked the unsubscribe link. Their unsubscribe text at the bottom of those emails reads in part,

Learn more to protect yourself from spoof (fake) e-mails.

eBay Inc. sent this e-mail to you at [myemailaddress] because your Notification Preferences indicate that you want to receive general email promotions.

If you do not wish to receive further communications like this, please click here to unsubscribe. Alternatively, you can change your Notification Preferences in My eBay by clicking here. Please note that it may take up to 10 days to process your request.

What I find interesting about their unsubscribe text is the presentation. By starting out with a “learn more about spoofing” link, they have attempted to befriend me by offering tips on protecting myself. They are my concerned about me—or so it would seem.

Next they offer to unsubscribe me by clicking the link and when I do click it, I receive an unsubscribe confirmation and information on how to re-subscribe should I wish to.

Their unsubscribe text does let me know it may take up to ten days to process my request, but I have to wonder: Why is this? Every company using an email-automation system knows unsubscribes are immediate. What’s up with the ten-day delay? My guess is they hope within the next ten days they will be able to send me an email that will re-engage me. (Terrible idea.)

After more than ten days of continuing to receive one or more emails every day, I clicked the set my preferences link, which requires—you guessed it—a log in. The purchase I made was completed as a guest. I did not wish then, nor do I wish now, to create an account with them. I’ve had one cause (ever) to make a purchase from them, and didn’t see it happening again. If it did, I could make a decision at that time about whether or not an account would be necessary. This too is an annoying approach: require the user to create an account to unsubscribe. (Terrible idea number two.)

After two weeks of emails, I’m now so irritated by their entire process it will adversely affect my decision to ever buy from them again, even if the item I am seeking is less expensive, more available, or even exclusively available. I will remember their lack of respect for my wishes and it will deter me. I guess they’re not as friendly as they first seemed.

As marketers, staying engaged with your constituents is more than betting on their short-term memory loss. It’s about honoring the relationship and their wishes. I remembered Glob@t and would have come back to their site when my vendor shopping began, but knowing they do not honor my unsubscribe status has tainted my view of their business practices. My purchase from eBay was exactly the right product, delivered on time, and in great condition. My positive experience would have led me back to them at some point in the future, but their emailing practices have put them on my own do-not-call list. If the new trend is to make a brand more memorable by being annoying, I opt out.

Moving Upstream on Cart Abandonment

After speaking at a conference on the topic of email automation for your online store, I was approached by more than a dozen people with the same question: “If someone abandons their cart, how can the store stay in touch with the shopper?” It’s impossible to contact anonymous visitors—their anonymity means you’ve not yet collected their email addresses and thus you have no way to reach them

After speaking at the WooCommerce Conference on the topic of email automation for your online store, I was approached by more than a dozen people with the same question: If someone abandons their cart, how can the store stay in touch with the shopper?

It’s impossible to contact anonymous visitors—their anonymity means you’ve not yet collected their email addresses and thus you have no way to reach them. Perhaps they were just price shopping or researching. Perhaps they were distracted before completing their purchase. Perhaps they didn’t like your site’s shopping cart experience. Whatever the reason, they’ve slipped away, and you’ve been left with the promise of a sale that’s not yet complete.

According to Business Insider, this is the case with 68 percent of shoppers—those who leave their carts before checking out—and about $4 billion in abandoned carts the world over. The good news is they also estimate up to 62 percent or $2.52 billion is recoverable with automated marketing. Does that mean you simply need to give up hope of reaching those wallets and focus on the known visitors? Well, no. It simply means you need to develop a strategy for teasing away those email addresses. It means you need to move your request upstream.

There are myriad possible tactics of this strategy, but the path you choose depends upon your business, your product and the tools you have for implementing your ideas. No matter which path you choose, be prepared to A/B test like a madwoman until you’ve found the top three triggers and use all three. Don’t settle for just one approach. Meet your potential customers with the sign-up tool of choice—which means giving them options. Let’s look at some ideas. I’m going to call these interrupters, but I’m pretty sure I’ve borrowed the phrase from someone brilliant:

Interrupters can be any sort of dialogue, window, link or button interrupting the user’s shopping excursion and redirecting them to a simple (usually pop-up) form collecting only their email addresses, for instance:

  • Interrupt the product-browsing session with a tool enabling them to upload a photo of a room they are decorating in which they can drag and drop their selected item into place. It doesn’t have to be a perfect UX, just provide them with a rough idea of how the Egyptian vase they added to their cart might look next to their lime-green sofa.
  • After the first product has been added to the cart, interrupt with a message such as, “Wow! That’s a great find! We can save it in your cart for as long as you like. Let’s give your cart a name. Please type your email address.” You could extend this process with a dialogue after each product, displaying different messaging or, go for funny, and provide humorous commentary. Be sure to also provide a checkbox for prevent the message from displaying again.
  • Provide an online calculator allowing them to figure out how much of a product to buy. Let them use the calculator and then offer to save their work using just their email address. You could also offer to email their calculations or illustrations to the address they provide. We used this approach on our personal profiler – they can use the profiler online all day long, but if they would like to print their profiles, we will send the PDFs to their inbox.
  • Offer to send them links to download the installation instructions, case study, or watch a video.
  • Offer to save their cart when they click the browser’s close button.

Be sure you are interrupting your shopper with something of value. Popping up a subscriber window might be a bit annoying on its own, but a subscriber window with an offer of free shipping on the order they are building is going to win some favor.

According to a CouponCabin.com survey, 73 percent of U.S. adults are more likely to shop online where free shipping is offered, and, further, 93 percent of online shoppers said they would spend more if free shipping were offered.

Resist the temptation to interrupt visitors with a long form, or even your regular check out form, or you risk adding to your abandonment rate. Also, be sure to pass the information you collect directly into their account page—don’t make them provide you with their email address again if they continue the checkout process.

Interrupters can easily become annoying, so go slowly and don’t get greedy. You want to be able to capture as many anonymous visitors as possible, but there’s also great potential to drive shoppers away at the same time. It’s a delicate balance, but well worth the effort. Remember, there’s $4 billion dollars out there, and some of that can be yours.

Focus Group of One

If you’re sending your marketing campaigns without benefit of A/B or multi-variant testing—most companies admit to fewer than five tests per month—you are effectively acting as a focus group of one. You are assuming all of your constituents feel the same way about your campaign as you do. Big mistake.

If you’re sending your marketing campaigns without benefit of A/B or multi-variant testing—most companies admit to fewer than five tests per month—you are effectively acting as a focus group of one. You are assuming all of your constituents feel the same way about your campaign as you do. Big mistake.

Most of us have a least a bit of familiarity with A/B testing and have integrated it into some of our deployments. Testing subject line A against subject line B is likely the most common test, but with A/B testing you can go so much further—both simple and complex—for instance:

  • Best time of day for sending each of your email types (e.g., newsletter, offers)
  • Best day for sending each type of email
  • Frequency of sending each type of email
  • Length of subject line
  • Personalization within the subject line
  • Personalization within the message
  • Squeeze page vs. landing page
  • Conversion lift when video, demo or meeting booking are included
  • Diagnosing content errors
  • Challenging long-held behavior assumptions
  • Calls to action
  • Color
  • Format and design
  • Writing style (casual, conversational, sensational, business)
  • From name and email address (business vs. personal)

A/B and multi-variant testing enable you to learn what makes your prospects, leads, subscribers and customers tick. When you adopt a consistent testing process, your accumulative results will provide you with the knowledge to implement dramatic changes producing a measurable impact across campaigns, landing pages, websites and all other inbound and outbound initiatives.

We have a client whose singular call to action in every email is to discount their product, and each offer is more valuable than the last. When I asked how well this worked, they admitted, the bigger the discount, the more they sold. When pressed, however, they could not tell me the ROI of this approach. Sure, they sold more widgets, but at the discount level they offered, they also made far less profit.

I suggested an A/B-laden drip campaign offering no discounts, and instead providing links to testimonials, case studies, demos of their product, book-a-meeting links, and other inbound content. In this way, we were changing their position from asking for the business to earning the business. While I admit this usually lengthens the sales cycle, it also means money is not being left on the table unnecessarily.

For this client, the change in approach was simply too dramatic and they found they couldn’t stick with it long enough to gather the data needed to make long-term business decisions. The limited of data they were able to collect in the first few emails did show, however, an inbound approach deserved strong consideration by their organization.

Not all A/B testing need be this dramatic—we could have started them off with a less-committed approach. My takeaway was: You don’t have to learn it all now; A/B testing can be integrated in a small way. Whether you go all out or an occasional test, A/B data is useless if you do not set measurable goals. Measurable goals mean you will establish:

  • Required return on investment
  • Vehicle (email, direct mail, other)
  • What to test
  • Audience
  • Time frame
  • Testing protocol
  • How to integrate what you’ve learned into future campaigns

If your email application does not support A/B testing, you can use a more automated approach. Simply create two versions of your marketing campaign and divide your list randomly in half—unless, of course, what you’re testing is something within your list, such as gender or locale.

I often am in search of information well beyond opens, clicks and visits, so I turn to Email on Acid for email heat maps and Crazy Egg for landing page and website heat maps. While these are effective on live pages and campaigns, it’s not required you deploy A/B testing to a live audience. Testing can be just as effective with a small focus group, just be sure it’s not a focus group of one.

Client Maturity

As an agency, or even a marketing department, you must work with clients of every possible ilk. Oh sure, your client might be your company’s CEO or it might be the marketing director of a third-party company, but when you provide marketing services, you’re nearly always reporting to someone else. So what happens when that client doesn’t have the maturity required to participate at a high level in discussions and project development?

As an agency, or even a marketing department, you must work with clients of every possible ilk. Oh sure, your client might be your company’s CEO or it might be the marketing director of a third-party company, but when you provide marketing services, you’re nearly always reporting to someone else. So what happens when that client doesn’t have the maturity required to participate at a high level in discussions and project development? This lack of maturity might result in an abandonment of the project before completion because it “seemed to take too long,” “needed too much development,” or “was broken.”

As campaign architects and builders, we find ourselves working with clients who need to learn a new vernacular in order to participate in meetings and decision-making with our teams. Simple explanations are one thing, but when we spend copious time in calls and meetings simply educating, it’s time to take a long, hard look at the fit of the client.

For the immature client, working to build campaigns will be a daunting task—made so by longer meetings and hours’ long descriptions of design and development processes as you attempt to keep them in the know and in the loop. If our client is lacking the required maturity to participate in a meaningful manner, the negative impact on the project may derail efforts to the point of paralysis or even abandonment.

In an effort to find the best customers for your company, consider developing a maturity-diagnosis document. In this document, ask questions to help you determine at what level your customer will be able to contribute to conversations and decision-making. You could ask questions such as:

  • Do you know the difference between drip and nurture campaigns?
  • Does your company have a revenue goal this year?
  • Are you on target to reach your goal?
  • How will this campaign contribute to the goal?
  • How big is your sales team?
  • How are they compensated?
  • At what level is your understanding of HTML and CSS?
  • Is your website responsive; do you know what that is?
  • Does your website offer e-commerce? If so, what platform?
  • Does your e-commerce system enable you to send auto-responders?
  • Do you know how to modify these auto-responders?
  • How dependent are you on your IT department or other departments?

As you can see, the questions you might ask should span myriad topics, but which to ask will be dependent upon your company and the types of services you provide to clients.

If you are a .NET website-development company, you may need to ask questions focused more on the maturity of knowledge of our client in the e-commerce space. If you provide simple blast emails, you may wish to focus on their understanding of various types of emails and SEO. In both cases, however, you are looking to minimize the overhead created by having to educate your client each step or phase of the project.

Not every prospect who dials your number or fills out a form is a customer with whom your company should engage. You are not in the business of education, you’re in the business of providing a service—and the more quickly, succinctly and efficiently you can provide that service, the more profitable you will be.

Vet your customers. They certainly vetted you.