Social Responsibility New Trend — Marketers Need to Prepare

Social responsibility is the new trend, and marketers need to prepare. I will confess that until recently, the North Star of my professional journey has been growing shareholder value.

Social responsibility is the new trend, and marketers need to prepare. I will confess that until recently, the North Star of my professional journey has been growing shareholder value. On the positive, this prime directive has allowed strange bedfellows to conduct business across ideological, racial, and political lines. In many cases, the drive to grow shareholder returns has broken barriers where cultural change was still trailing. It has also simplified objectives and brought clarity in critical business decisions.

But there seem to be some noticeable cracks developing in the shareholder value model. After all, what good is wealth in a world with growing income disparity (revolution, anyone?), polluted oceans, record heat waves and social isolation? The more we read about current events; the more doomsday prepping seems like a sane activity.

Recently, the Business Roundtable, a grouping of 192 large company CEOs declared that business should take a broader view of who they serve, beyond customers and shareholders, and include employees, suppliers and the communities they operate in. (Before you get overly excited, comrade, let’s not forget that CEO compensation is still primarily liked to profitable growth and stock value.) Nevertheless, businesses are starting to make changes.

Marriott, along with other large hotel chains, is announcing a transition away from single-use plastic toiletry bottles. We have also seen employee pay or benefits increases at Amazon, Walmart, and Target. There are also companies, like Nike and Patagonia, who are taking social stands in very visible ways. For some companies, social responsibility has been a part of their DNA for any years; for others, it is now becoming an existential imperative.

As a result, the statement from the Business Roundtable is not visionary thinking; rather, it is an acceptance of growing consumer discontent. There is a change in the zeitgeist, driven by consumers and citizens, against business as usual.

As marketers, this might feel liberating. We can finally be free of the oppressive “bean counters” who lorded the principle of shareholder value over every creative idea. No, no, we can’t. The marketer’s job has actually gotten harder and even more metrics-based.

While calculating metrics, such as cost per click, costs per conversion have become routine for most marketers, the measurement of marketing and experience decisions will become more complex. Take the simple example of eliminating plastic shampoo bottles in hotels. The ROI of this decision is not just about plastic bottle costs. For some hotel brands, toiletries are an important touchpoint in delivering a premium experience.

  • Does a bulk shampoo dispenser convey the same premium experience?
  • Are there better alternatives and what are their costs?
  • How will it impact brand positioning?
  • Does the average consumer understand the change, and will they see it as a benefit or a loss?

The recommendation from the Business Roundtable will require a business to think more holistically about how they derive profitable growth, but the drive for profitability is not going away. Marketers will now need to speak for more than just the customer and justify the costs of making socially responsible decisions. In some cases, the customer will not be a direct beneficiary of business decisions. Rather, they will be a partner who is asked to pay more or get less in the interest of the “greater good.”

The “easy” news is that customers are asking for these changes. The “tough” news is that profits still matter, and balancing that with the needs of customers and the society at large will be a more complex equation.

4 Steps to Improve Conversion Using an Analytical Approach

Improving on-site conversions and increasing sales has been and always will be a top priority for smart businesses. However, WordStream found from first-hand analysis that the average conversion rate for a business website is a measly 2.35%. Obviously, having more sales is the key to long-term success, but finding effective ways to optimize the factors that impact the conversion rate is often very tricky, for several reasons.

Improving on-site conversions and increasing sales has been and always will be a top priority for smart businesses. However, WordStream found from first-hand analysis that the average conversion rate for a business website is a measly 2.35%. Obviously, having more sales is the key to long-term success, but finding effective ways to optimize the factors that impact the conversion rate is often very tricky, for several reasons.

First of all, there are many factors that influence conversions and purchase decisions. One little bump in the road can bring the buyer’s journey to a screeching halt. Secondly, it is difficult to determine which factors exactly are hurting or helping, making conversion rate optimization (CRO) a seemingly impossible task for many businesses.

This is why an analytical approach is necessary for true conversion rate optimization. Data is a crucial and necessary ingredient for any smart business decision. And thankfully, accurate data is more accessible now than ever with evolving technology and tools.

Here’s how to improve conversions with an analytical approach that consists of four simple steps…

1. Identify the Gaps

You cannot fix what you do not know is broken. On the other hand, it is extremely wasteful and counterproductive to start from scratch when some elements of your website are actually working just fine. Therefore, you need to find the weakest links and address them first.

Google Analytics is actually a great tool in this regard. There are plenty of insights that it offers, which can shed light on the details of your website that are affecting conversion rates. For example, you may want to start off with the obvious comparisons, like desktop vs. mobile conversions.

It is important to note that the global average conversion rate for desktop devices is nearly 4%, while that for mobile is just under 2%. So there will be some divergence between these two rates. However if, for example, your mobile conversion rates are significantly lower, it could be a sign that the UX is not optimized properly or even interfering with the customer experience.

conversion rate
Credit: Smartinsights.com

2. Start Simple and Work Your Way Up

Boosting your micro, mini and macro conversions doesn’t require a complex strategy or an overwhelming overhaul of your existing marketing campaigns. Instead, look for the simplest changes that will have an impact on lead qualification, sales complexity, or purchase timelines.

At its core, your conversion rate depends greatly on the customer experience. Providing a remarkable CX starts early on in the targeting process. With the right brand messaging and martech implementation, you can improve CX and influence your conversion rates.

For example, your promotions and advertising should be contextual and timely. This, in turn, depends on how well you’ve carried out keyword research and whether your content matches trends in your niche.

Ask your marketing team key questions about the basics of your strategies. For example, how long has it been since you defined your core audience and analyzed data to determine the demographics of your customers? Things change quickly over time and you need to adapt to changes in consumer behavior on a regular basis to ensure effective targeting of each segment.

conversion rate optimization
Credit: Datapine.com

Many a time, instituting online conversions as an organizational process or operational function needs a top-down approach. In order to know and meet industry standards and benchmarks, and find meaningful correlations in your business, you may want to restructure your C-suite to handle Big Data and its implications on marketing and customer service. Many modern companies are now hiring CDOs (chief data officers) and CCOs (chief customer experience officers) to gather insights from analytics and deliver better customer service. Bringing on experts in these fields can do wonders for your CRO strategy.

3. Optimize Hot Points

In order to truly optimize your conversion rates, you need to understand how customers are interacting with your website. Using heat maps is a great way to understand the general path that visitors follow on your website. Website heat maps track mouse movements, click rates, and scrolling speeds, and use color-coded overlays to identify the parts or elements where the most action is occurring on your web pages.

CRO
Credit: Hotjar.com

Using insights from heat maps, you can influence the user’s course of action by better positioning key elements (and tweaking their copy) that help boost conversions.

By placing CTA buttons in the areas where their eyes are naturally drawn, you can increase on-page engagement. You can also use this information to guide product displays, optimize content placement, and just create a more appealing layout that is designed to move customers through the sales funnel.

Healthcare publishing media site Nurse.com used heat map testing to optimize the content placement on its website to increase the number of signups for its online courses. They found that their existing layout unfortunately had very low engagement and the placement of their CTAs was less than ideal. After testing new designs and altering the layout with important CTA buttons along the natural reading flow, they were able to increase their conversions by nearly 16%.

4. Monitor, Adjust, and Improve

An analytical approach to CRO doesn’t just stop with identifying weaknesses and providing solutions. As you make changes, it is imperative that you continue to measure the impact that these changes are having on your conversion rates for an extended period of time and continue to test out alternative tactics. This is the only way make strategic changes that deliver long-lasting results.

When it comes to testing various strategies, the traditional approach has been to use A/B testing for layouts and copy. While this system has certainly been a staple for marketing teams in the past, it definitely has its faults. However, machine-learning and AI-enabled technology now allow businesses to conduct multivariate testing and also implement the results with utmost accuracy.

For example, money transfer startup Monito used AI-based testing to optimize conversions on a landing page that showed the best currency conversion rates. First, they used machine learning analysis to test out the efficacy of hypothetical designs of their lead box and estimate sign-up behavior through predictive heat maps. They then ran 12 design variants simultaneously, while AI measured and rated visitor interactions. The best design ultimately led to a 50% rise in signups.

CRO image
Credit: Eyequant.com

You need to continually test and monitor your changes to be sure that your site is truly optimized at all times. Your target audiences and their preferences both are constantly changing; so what may have worked well a few months ago may no longer be the best option.

In Conclusion

Using an analytical approach to CRO is truthfully the only way to guarantee continued success. By making the most of modern tools to collect behavioral data, make changes to your website’s design, and constantly monitor the outcomes, you can expect to see significant increases in conversions on an ongoing basis. Good luck!

Video Q&A: How Will AI Help Marketers Improve Retargeting & Conversion?

There’s a lot of loose talk around the potential for AI to change the nature of the marketing game, but beyond the buzz it can be hard to tell exactly how marketers will be using it to improve their businesses. In a series of video Q&A’s, marketing AI practitioner and Trust Insights co-founder Christopher Penn will explain how marketers can actually use AI.

Penn will be leading the keynote session on AI applications in marketing at the FUSE Digital Marketing Summit this November. Learn more about attending here.

Check out Penn’s previous videos:
Q: How Will AI Help Marketers Tap Their Data Wells?
Q: What Marketing Processes or Tasks Will AI Eliminate?

Q: How will AI help marketers with retargeting and sales conversion?

This is a really interesting question because one of the things that marketers struggle with is what causes a conversion. What factors, what measures, what metrics, what learners, what dimensions lead to conversion or contribute to conversion? A big part of this is the foundation of attribution analysis. What pieces of data have driven conversions in the past? And then, with things like retargeting, you’re trying to focus on predicting what things are likely to cause conversions in the future. The way AI and machine learning help with this is dealing with what are called “weak learners.”

A weak learner is any dimension or metric whose predictive power is just barely above random chance. It’s called a weak learner because it’s a weak signal. It’s not a signal that by itself is a very strong signal. So for example, the number of times someone has retweeted your tweets, right? For a fair number of businesses, that’s going to be a really weak learner. In fact, it may or may not even be statistically relevant. But at the very least that is probably going to be a weak learner.

There are also things like how many times someone has opened an email, the number of social channels someone follows you on, the pages they visited on a website, the amount of time they spent on a page.

When you think about all the data that we have access to as marketers and then we consider that most of these metrics are pretty weak, you get to start getting a sense of the scope of the problem.

We have all this data and none of it is the one answer that we’re looking for. The answer that says, “This is the thing we need to do more of.” It would be nice if it didn’t work that way. It would be nice to know you should always send email on Tuesdays, that’s going to cause all your conversions. Doesn’t happen.

So how does AI help with this? Through techniques that aggregate weak learners together and make them function as a stronger learner, we can get a sense of what combinations of dimensions and metrics matter most.

Hear Penn’s full answer to the question of how AI will enhance marketers’ ability to convert sales and retarget customers in the above video.

See Christopher Penn present the keynote session Using AI & Deep Learning to Generate Marketing Results at the FUSE Digital marketing Summit.

 

Can Marketers ID a Budding Customer Relationship?

Many marketing departments are shifting from sales conversion to a more balanced relationship focus as their primary objective. As a result, there is increased focus on customer experience and customer loyalty.

Many marketing departments are shifting from sales conversion to a more balanced relationship focus as their primary objective. As a result, there is increased focus on customer experience and customer loyalty.

When it comes to measuring those efforts and related KPIs, however, most marketers are still thinking from a sales conversion perspective. Obviously, this is a problem, because KPIs influence most business decisions.

2 Common Oversights Preventing Proper Customer Relationship Identification

  1. Taking Credit for a Sale and Not a Relationship. Most marketers don’t take credit for the full lifetime value of their new customers. Rather, they are primarily focused on the sales conversion for each campaign. While lifetime value can be multiples larger than the initial sale for subscription type business, it can still provide a 30 to 60 percent increase in ROI for most other businesses. Alternative long-term measures, such as retention or repeat visits, are also helpful — but lack the holistic perspective of LTV. This is because they bifurcate the relationship between new business and repeat business and leave little room to measure brand affinity or experience-driven loyalty among new customers. If your marketing is attuned to relationship building, you should be targeting the right customers who will derive long-term value from your brand, and LTV allows you to take full credit for attracting the right customer. More important than getting the full credit for a new customer, however, is the change in perspective that a focus on relationship value will drive. Making lifetime value a component of your KPIs forces employees to think more about the types of customers they want and makes terms like engagement, relevance and brand affinity more than aspirational concepts.
  2. Failing to Measure the Value of Engaging Content. Many companies generate good engagement content, such as brand messaging, product info, newsletters, free apps etc. However, many do not take proper credit for it. Often, marketers treat this content as the first stage in a line of interactions leading to an eventual sales conversion, and it becomes lost in a multitouch attribution model. While sales attribution is important, it is also important to understand if the content fulfilled its immediate purpose. Assume you are an online clothier and you create a style guide to help customers understand versatile ways to wear your product. You’re tracking who downloads the guide and who shares the guide on social media, and then the information is used to segment these customers from those who are potentially less engaged. While this content did not necessarily lead to a direct sale, it did have tremendous value in conveying buying intent, brand affinity or even product preferences. Not all content is designed to drive immediate sales, but it should be designed to drive a specific set of behaviors, which should be measured and valued.

Bear with me as I pontificate for a moment. I am not a believer in over-measuring, but I do believe in purposeful measurement. I believe what you measure reflects the ambition and objective of what you plan to achieve. While not all relationship-focused activities can be easily measured, such as a caring customer interaction, in a digital world the customer’s behavioral response often can. Merely measuring the final behavior of a good relationship — repeat sales — is just too late in the experience journey and that seems to be what most companies are still doing today, despite their desire to build better relationships with their customers.

Relevancy, the Currency of Conversion

More. The marketer’s mandate will always be “more” — more traffic, more sales, more margins. Add to it that in order to get more, we’ll need to test more ideas, try new strategies, new media and mediums — not all of which will work.

Oliver Twist moreMore.

The marketer’s mandate will always be “more” — more traffic, more sales, more margins. Add to it that in order to get more, we’ll need to test more ideas, try new strategies, new media and mediums — not all of which will work.

More ultimately means sales conversion, and there’s a data-driven approach to getting more that leverages a new currency. Not Bitcoin, but relevancy, because relevancy is the “Currency of Conversion.” That conversion currency is based on the intelligent use of data.

Truly accomplishing data-driven success requires focus and simplifying — one of the few constants in business marketing.

Through advising dozens of organizations on the intelligent use of data to inform and improve performance, it is often helpful to come back to some of the fundamentals in thinking about the application of our data to business problems. And while often we focus on the “what” that has to do with data, let’s consider perhaps the most important question — “Why?”

Why Should I Inform Marketing With Data?

While it’s likely considered risky nowadays to lack a data strategy or better yet, a data-driven strategy, we do need to ask why. I’ve been surprised at the lack of fluency even experienced IT people and all kinds of marketers have when asked why they need to invest in data strategies. That’s despite the “reality” that everyone knows they “should.” Let’s deal with that.

  • Reporting. Many organizations still desire better reporting, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) being the most important. It’s a baseline use of data, and it’s important. So data serves a purpose and provides consistent, specific solutions to the questions “how are we doing?” It’s hard to operate without it, but it should become “table-stakes” in short order.
  • Analysis and Insights. Data, if organized and governed reasonably well, can yield insights. This requires you have an analyst with a big brain to pore through it. The analyst needs to know enough about your business to understand what is relevant and what is not. The analyst must also consider materiality and the difference between correlation and causality.

This last point being an all-too-common mistake. For example, “our customers are rich” so we need to target rich people. Being affluent may be correlated with buying your product, but it may not be causal! We’ve found this example many times when actually statistically testing to see what attributes have the most causal/predictive relationship. For a full study on causality vs. causation, see this piece from Stats.org.

  • Customer Intelligence. Customer Intelligence is the next-level beyond analytics. In CI, we now use purpose-specific algorithms to derive new data and to identify valuable patterns that arise in large amounts of data. It’s fair to call it “the union between marketing and data mining.” Customer Intelligence provides us the answers to questions we don’t ask because we don’t know how to answer them.

The Most Important Reason to Inform Marketing With Data

The low cost of communicating digitally has, in some cases, left relevancy underrated. This is no coincidence. When you spend real money to send a quality, brand-appropriate direct mail piece or even more money on television — you care a lot about relevancy. This message has to be right, it has to be on-brand, it has to resonate. Today, that mass-market TV ad isn’t a winner if it doesn’t “break the Internet.”

But when it’s an email that costs a fraction of a cent to deploy and just a few fixed dollars to create amortization over millions of recipients, we as marketers can get impressively lazy. Relevancy is trumped by low cost and high ROI. Who cares if the message is perceived as irrelevant? The email drop “worked.”

Let’s consider this further.

Let’s say the “less than relevant” drop had an out-sized 35 percent click rate. We know the sender names were likely those they anticipated email from, and the subject line was likely relevant. We can’t know the breakout of which send carried more weight without testing them. But if you subscribe to the school of thought that relevancy isn’t important, then testing probably is irrelevant to you, too. Before you decide “well, of course we think relevancy is important” — think about whether you’re really using it as a principle in your outbound marketing.

How to Double Your Landing Page Conversion Rates With 6 Easy Tune-ups

One of the biggest mistakes you can make with your Google AdWords campaign is failing to optimize your landing page. No matter how carefully you fine tune your ad copy, tweak your keyword match settings and reallocate your budget, if your landing page conversion rates are low, you are literally giving away sales

One of the biggest mistakes you can make with your Google AdWords campaign is failing to optimize your landing page. No matter how carefully you fine tune your ad copy, tweak your keyword match settings and reallocate your budget, if your landing page conversion rates are low, you are literally giving away sales. Today, I will walk you through the steps to improve (even double) your current conversion rates.

What Is a Landing Page?
A landing page is the specific page on your website where prospects land after clicking on one of your ads. Note that you should never use your homepage as a landing page, because the homepage gives a general introduction to your company, while a landing page needs to be tightly geared to the ad copy. In fact, it is best to create a separate landing page for each ad. This allows you to clearly reiterate the main idea in the ad, improving the overall congruence, or harmony, of the prospect’s experience.

What Is Your Conversion Rate?
The most important conversion rate is the ratio of sales to visitors. However, that’s not always quick and easy to calculate, so advertisers measure other key sales actions, such as filling out a contact form or making a phone call. For example, let’s say that 1,000 people click through your AdWords ad to your landing page, but only 20 of them fill out the contact form on that page. Divide 20 by 1,000 to find that your “contact form conversion rate” is 2 percent. Your numbers might be very different, but remember that the conversion rate refers to the percentage of people who take further action toward making a purchase after landing on your page.

Why Should You Improve Your Landing Page Conversion Rates?
Simply put, improving your conversion rates means that you will get more leads or customers for fewer advertising dollars. Taking the example above, suppose that the action you want prospects to take is purchasing a product that you sell for $100. If 20 of 1,000 people who click on your ad buy the product, you make $2,000. If 40 of those same 1,000 people buy the product (4% conversion rate), then you make $4,000. That’s $2,000 extra revenue from the exact same investment in advertising!

What Are the Basic Keys to Improve Landing Page Conversion Rates?
Improving your landing page conversion rates is both a science and an art. Monitor your AdWords campaign closely at first to determine the results of the changes you implement, and be ready to tweak your landing page as needed depending on what you discover. These are the parts of the landing page that often need fine-tuning:

  1. Congruence: This is the overall harmony of the user experience. Your landing page should tightly reflect the message, tone, and feel of the ad that was clicked on. Your prospects clicked on the ad because something in it resonated with them, so follow up on that with the landing page. If you change nothing else, ensuring congruence can dramatically improve your conversion rates.
  2. Headline: The headline is the most important part of your landing page. People scan quickly and make snap decisions when reading online, so your headline needs to captivate them. Don’t try to close the sale in the headline, but do restate the offer or the most important point from your ad.
  3. Offer and Call to Action: Most people know that a strong offer is an important element in making a sale, but is your offer irresistible? Try offering something different from what everyone else in your line of business offers, or add an extra bonus. Make sure to give clear instructions on what to do next to make the purchase, and if possible, add a deadline to increase urgency.
  4. Copy: Make sure your landing page explains exactly how you can solve the customer’s current problem or fulfill a specific need. In other words, focus on benefits rather than features. Plus, add elements that make your business sound legitimate, such as testimonials, reviews, or industry affiliations.
  5. Reduce Risk: Prospects tend to be skeptical when shopping online, largely thanks to the frequent horror stories in the media. If your offer requires payment, reduce the perceived risk by providing a guarantee, adding third-party trust verification, and providing full contact details for your company.
  6. Layout and Aesthetics: Because people scan rather than reading in depth online, clearing out the clutter can improve your conversion rates. Make it easy for prospects to figure out what to do. Make the buttons they need to click bigger. Remove extraneous navigation menus. Avoid long blocks of text. Keep it simple and obvious, aesthetically pleasing, and congruent with your overall brand.

Want more Google AdWords tips and advice? I put together an AdWords checklist to help you get your campaigns set up for success. Click here to get my Google AdWords checklist.

5 Types of Google AdWords Conversion Tracking

When I first started using Google AdWords in 2006, conversion tracking was in its infancy. There was only one type of conversion pixel code and there was no option to customize anything. Oh boy, have the times changed

When I first started using Google AdWords in 2006, conversion tracking was in its infancy. There was only one type of conversion pixel code and there was no option to customize anything.

Oh boy, have the times changed. AdWords now gives advertisers five different conversion types, along with options to customize exactly how conversions are tracking in your account. For example, you can now track all conversions or you can track only unique conversions to exclude the instances when prospects complete multiple forms on your website.

In this article, I’m going to bring you up to speed on all five different conversion types:

  1. Webform Submissions
  2. Online Sales with Revenue
  3. Calls from Website
  4. Calls from Ads [Call Extensions]
  5. Offline Sales [Import]

1. Webform Submissions:
Again, this was the only option for me back in 2006. Webform submissions like quote requests, demo requests, or any other key action on your website should be tracked as a conversion in your AdWords campaign. This can be easily set up by adding the conversion code to the “thank you” page of all your webforms.

2. Online Sales with Revenue:
Eventually, Google introduced the ability to assign a value to your conversions, which revolutionized campaign management. If your business sells anything online, then you absolutely must set up revenue tracking for your shopping cart. Once set up, you’ll start to see revenue data in AdWords so you can calculate your profit per keyword, placement or ad.

3. Calls from Website:
Just last year website call tracking was launched so that advertisers can see how many phone calls are generated from the AdWords ads. This code is fairly technical so I recommend assigning this task to your webmaster to get set up. Once installed you’ll start to see conversions in your AdWords account any time a prospect calls after clicking on one of your ads.

4. Calls from Ads:
Most people do not call directly from the phone number listed in an ad, but some do. In AdWords you can track these calls by using a Call Extension, which is one of the many Ad Extensions available in AdWords. When you set up your Call Extension, make sure to click on the advanced options and check the box to track phone calls using a Google forwarding number.

5. Offline Sales [Import]:
Up to this point all the conversion tracking options sound great, but they don’t solve the major problem for non-eCommerce businesses, which is tracking sales generated off of the internet.Luckily Google recognized this problem and introduce the Offline Sales Import conversion option. This is the most technical of them all, but it’s well worth the effort to have your webmaster set this up. Here’s how it works:

  • Your webmaster will have to edit all the forms on your website to add a hidden field called “GCLID” (stands for “Google Click ID”)
  • Your webmaster will set the value of this hidden field using the URL parameter called “gclid”. For example, when someone clicks on one of your ads, Google automatically ads the “gclid” URL parameter, which looks like this 123ABC567DEF. This is the unique tracking code you’ll use to track sales back to your ads.
  • You’ll need to send the GCLID code to your sales team and/or your customer relationship management (CRM) tool like Salesforce.
  • On a monthly basis, you’ll need to find all the sales that have a corresponding GCLID code and import those codes, along with the sales revenue, into Google AdWords.
  • AdWords will automatically match the GCLID codes to the keywords, placements and ads that the customers originally clicked on before ultimately making a purchase off of the internet.

If that didn’t make sense, then just send your webmaster this page and he or she will be able to help. Trust me, it sounds more complicated than it is.

Go through the 5 conversion types again and make sure you have them all set up in your AdWord campaign. These are all critical to maximize the performance of your campaigns.

Want more free Google AdWords tips? Click here to get my Google AdWords checklist.

PPC Shockers and Secrets

Pay per click (PPC), particularly Google AdWords, is a marketing channel that can produce profitable results for your business, whether your goal is lead generation or sales. I have been managing PPC for businesses, as an in-house marketing leader as well as marketing consultant, for over a decade now. Though the years, I have noticed many secrets to success that I wanted to share—especially with business owners and marketers that haven’t tried PPC yet.

Pay per click (PPC), particularly Google AdWords, is a marketing channel that can produce profitable results for your business, whether your goal is lead generation or sales.

I have been managing PPC for businesses, as an in-house marketing leader as well as marketing consultant, for over a decade now.

Though the years, I have noticed many secrets to success that I wanted to share—especially with business owners and marketers that haven’t tried PPC yet.

First, I’d like to clear the air about a big shocker … or actually a fallacy … that you need a big budget to run an effective PPC campaign.

You don’t. If you happen to have a large budget, your ads will be shown more and you can spread out your ad groups and test different types. With a smaller budget, you do need to be more judicious with your efforts. But if you market smarter, not broader, your campaigns can still produce positive results.

I have run PPC campaigns with total monthly budgets of $1,000. I have run campaigns with total daily maximum budgets ranging from $25 to $50. These campaigns brought in both sales and leads, despite their limited spending. But they do require active management, strategic thinking, deep PPC knowledge and refinement/optimization.

The PPC Tri-Pod
What is going to determine the cost and return of your campaign are three simple things I call the “PPC Tri-pod”, as it supports your entire PPC efforts:

  1. Keywords
  2. Creative (or banner ad, if it’s running on the display network)
  3. Redirect URL

So in order for you to get the most bang for your buck with PPC, you should be aware of a few things regarding the PPC Tri-pod:

Keywords. The more popular the keyword, the more cost per click (CPC) it’s going to have. So it’s very important to do your keyword research before you start selecting your keywords as you’re setting up your campaign.

I like to use Keywordspy.com. The “lite” version is free, but you can also upgrade to the full version and see more results and have more capabilities for a monthly fee. Google used to have its Keyword External Tool, which has since morphed into Google AdWords Keyword Planner. You need a Gmail account to access this free tool.

Either of these tools will allow you to enter keywords or keyword phrases and then view popularity (actual search results), as well as what the average CPCs are. This is important for your keyword selection and bidding. You can also type in your “core” or focus keywords and get additional ad group/keyword ideas. To help refine your search terms, you can also choose broad match, broad match modifier, phrase match, exact match and negative match.

If you pick a word that is too vague or too under-searched, your ad will not see much (or any) action. Impressions will either not be served, or if they are served (in the case of a vague word), it may cost you a high CPC. In addition, a vague keyword may not be relevant enough to get you a good conversion rate. Because you pay by the click, your goal is to monetize that click by getting an instant conversion. And conversions, my friends, will be the role of the landing page. I’ll talk about that more in a moment.

Creative. This is your text ad (or banner ad, if you’re running in AdWords’ display network). For Google to rank your ad favorably, and more importantly, for you to get the best conversion results possible—there needs to be a relevancy and synergy between your keyword, text ad and landing page. Google will let you know if you’re not passing muster by your ad’s page position and quality score. Once you’ve carefully researched and selected your ad group keywords, you’ll want to make sure those keywords are consistent across the board with your ad and landing page. Your text ad has four visible lines with limited character count:

  1. Headline (25 Characters)
  2. Description Line 1 (35 Characters)
  3. Description Line 2 (35 Characters)
  4. Display URL (35 Characters)

Your keyword must appear in your text ad, as well as follow through and appear in the content of your landing page.

This will give you a good quality rank with Google, but also help qualify the prospect and carry the relevancy of the ad through to the landing page. Why is this important? It helps maintain consistency of the message and also set expectations with the end user. You don’t want to present one ad, and then have a completely different landing page come up.

Not only is that a “bait and switch,” but it’s costly. Because you’re paying for clicks, a great ad that is compelling and keyword rich, but not cohesive to your landing page, will not convert as well as one that is. And your campaign will actually lose conversions.

Redirect URL. This is your landing page. Different goals and different industries will have different formats. A lead generation campaign, which is just looking to collect email addresses to build an opt-in email list, will be a “squeeze page.” This is simply a landing page with a form asking for first name and email address in return for giving something away for free—albeit a bonus report, free newsletter subscription or similar. It got its name because it’s “squeezing” an email address from the prospect. Some retail campaigns will direct prospects directly to e-commerce sites or catalog pages (as opposed to a sales page). Direct response online marketers will drive their traffic to a targeted promotional landing page where it’s not typically a Web page where there’s other navigation or distractions that will take the prospect away from the main goal. It’s more streamlined and focused. The copy is not technical, it’s compelling and emotional, like promotional copy you would see in a sales letter. The anatomy of your redirect URL will vary on your goal and offer. It will take optimization and testing to see what’s working and what’s not. And that’s par for the course. If you’re testing, I suggest elements that scream and not whisper, such as long copy vs. short copy, or headlines and leads that are different themes. However, no matter what your goal, whether it’s going for the sale or the email address, you still need keyword consistency between all creative elements.

Tips And Tricks For Maximum ROI
Whether you have a big or small budget, there are a few things I’ve learned during the years that help the overall performance of a PPC campaign. Some of these are anecdotal, so if you’ve seen otherwise, I suggest testing to see if it makes a difference to your particular industry.

Ad and Landing Page. In general, I have noticed that shorter, to the point, landing pages produce better results. And the rationale is quite obvious. People searching the Web are looking for quick solutions to a problem. This means your creatives have to not only be keyword rich, but compelling and eye-caching. You have seconds to grab a Web surfer’s attention and get them to click. In the same sense, the landing page has to be equally relevant and persuasive, and typically shorter in copy. Keep in mind Google has many rules surrounding ad copy development. So write your text ads in accordance to its advertising policy.

Price Point. Again, in my personal experience, most Web surfers have a price threshold. And that’s items under about $79. When running a PPC campaign, think about price points that are more tolerable to “cold” prospects; that is, people who haven’t built a relationship with you or know anything about you. They have no brand loyalty. They don’t know you from Adam. So getting a sale at a lower price point is an easier sell than a product you have that costs hundreds of dollars. Luxury items or items with strong recognition and brand loyalty are the exception to that rule. As a direct response marketer, I urge you to price test and see for yourself.

Campaign Set-up. There are a few tactics I notice that help with ad exposure, clicks and saving money. When you’re setting up your campaign you can day-part, frequency cap and run ad extensions. Day parting allows you to select the hours of the day you’d like your campaign to run; ad extensions allow you to add components to your text ad to help visibility and call to action—such as location, site links, reviews and more; And frequency capping lets you set a threshold on how many times you’d like a given person to see your ad (based on impressions).

PPC Networks. It’s smart not to put all your eggs in one basket. In addition to Google AdWords, try running campaigns on other PPC networks, such as Bing/Yahoo, Adroll (retargeting through Facebook), Advertising.com/AdSonar.com, SiteScout.com (formerly Adbrite.com), and Kanoodle.com. Then see where you get the best cost per click, cost per conversion and overall results.

I’ve only touched the surface here. There are more tactics and features that can help a PPC campaign’s performance. So get yourself familiar with it, read up on the best practices, and don’t be afraid to put your toe in the water. As with any marketing tactic, some channels will work for your business, and some won’t. But you won’t know unless you test. Just remember the foundation of success hinges on the PPC Tri-Pod. The possibilities are endless.

5 Important Email Tips for Converting Prospects to Customers

The harder you make it for your prospects to become customers, the fewer will. Most marketers agree that lead generation and lead conversion are the bedrocks of their efforts. As you scrutinize your internal process to convert prospects to customers, remember that, in order to consistently convert, you must at least

(Editor’s Note: This is a preview of Cyndie’s presentation on the upcoming webinar “Email for Customer Acquisition: 5 Great Ways to Expand Your List, and Your Profits!,” with Yeva Roberts of Standard Register, airing Jan. 28 at 2 p.m. EST. Register here to watch the rest live tomorrow, or catch it on-demand starting Jan. 29.)

The harder you make it for your prospects to become customers, the fewer will.

Most marketers agree that lead generation and lead conversion are the bedrocks of their efforts. As you scrutinize your internal process to convert prospects to customers, remember that, in order to consistently convert, you must at least:

  • Provide a clear, concise path to becoming a customer.
  • Enable your prospect to become a customer.
  • Resolve any concerns your prospect has about becoming a customer.

1. Be Timely, Relevant and Easy
Conversion begins at the moment of acquisition—waiting to engage is the kiss of death if you hope to hold the attention of your new prospect. We humans have very short memories—and attention spans—and marketers who allow the opportunity for one to forget a recent engagement will be saddled with lower retention and conversion rates over the customer’s lifecycle.

Your first touch to new prospects must be prompt and direct as you remind the recipient of how the relationship began and, ideally, lay out the path for becoming a highly valued customer. Using email, converting prospects to leads can be quite easy, and when you group likeminded prospects into segments, you can also create highly relevant content appropriate for this audience.

When relevant content is bolstered by personalization, your messaging can transcend a timid first step and become a flat stone skipping through sales ripples reducing necessary touches to a simple few.

Tracking clicked links and buttons within your email will enable you to appropriately respond to engagement with auto-responders recognizing specific engagement activities. Auto-responders are unique tools for reminding prospects they engaged with your brand and helping them resume the process if they’ve become distracted along the way.

2. Provide High-value Content
Inbound marketing represents one of the most successful approaches to converting prospects to leads, leads to subscribers, and subscribers to customers. Your content should be well-written and professionally designed while establishing your brand as an expert.

Your e-books, slide decks, videos, webcasts, demos and the like must be honest and forthright in order to establish your credibility, and should not shy away from areas where your competitors have you bested. Recognizing and addressing these areas will foster trust and help you to build upon these new, budding relationships.

When you post inbound content to your website, you will drive repeat visits; visits that naturally develop, deepen and nurture the relationship to the next stage.

Inbound content such as blogs, videos and online tools also extend the time of visit, and this is an important metric that contributes to your search-engine optimization effort.

Though content at your site is important for this reason and others, resist the urge to keep your content to yourself. Create partnerships with companies that will post your content or choose apps such as SlideShare, YouTube or edocr.com to syndicate your content beyond your own reach. Requiring a form submission to download your content will result in capturing some leads, but you will benefit far more from unrestricted content that is shared liberally.

3. Convey Urgency and Scarcity
Certainly not news to most seasoned marketers, urgency and exclusivity still motivate prospects to act more quickly. Procrastination is a sales killer, so text within your email reminding the recipient of how few widgets remain or how few days to buy the widget remains can dispel bouts of procrastination that grip many of us at one time or another.

Positioning your offer as time-sensitive, quantity-bound or event-based will boost your conversions, but lack of instructions for how to take advantage of your offer can easily negate the benefit gained.

4. Provide Instant Gratification
In email marketing, it’s key to first identify and then solve the customer’s problem—as quickly as possible. Your customers have come to expect and even demand instant gratification, not just in electronic platforms but physical as well. (It’s unbelievable that Amazon is currently testing same-day drone delivery and delivery before you’ve even ordered in order to meet such demands.) You must strive to deliver now.

In your emails, recognize that your clients want it now, and use words such as “instant,” “immediate,” and “now” as trigger words to put them in the buying mood. If your product doesn’t lend itself to being delivered via drone so they can get it now, offer an instant rebate or immediate download. By solving your customer’s problem more quickly than your competitor, you will be more likely to gain the coveted conversion.

As with urgency and scarcity, it’s imperative that you are clear on what steps must be taken in order to achieve instant gratification.

5. Test, Track and Tweak
Don’t guess at what it takes to reduce clicks and shorten your sales cycle, nor should you be a focus group of one. While your opinion about what works and what does not is important, you are not the customer. Use your opinion and expertise as the starting point for testing, but analytics must be used to prove or disprove your educated guesses.

As you begin to understand areas or components slowing your conversions, consider paths that provide information in a more compact and effective manner. Videos are a great solution and a preferred vehicle for many, but podcasts, self-running demos and other online options are also ideal for replacing overhead-heavy meetings, site visits and other person-to-person events.

There are myriad sales-funnel processes, but all can benefit from trusting relationships and consistent experiences. Your blast, drip and nurture emails should be professional, branded and graduated in order to nudge your constituents along. It’s important to remind your prospects why they should choose you—both explicitly and obscurely.

When to Squeeze

A marketing email should not ever be an isolated interaction between you and the recipient—it should be a player in a concert designed to delight, woo and convert. Other players in this concert include forms, links, content, assets, and, importantly, landing pages or squeeze pages. For your recipients, these pages should

A marketing email should not ever be an isolated interaction between you and the recipient—it should be a player in a concert designed to delight, woo and convert. Other players in this concert include forms, links, content, assets, and, importantly, landing pages or squeeze pages. For your recipients, these pages should:

  • Provide a clear, concise path to becoming a customer.
  • Enable them to become customers.
  • Resolve any concerns they may have about becoming customers.

Let’s cover the basics:

A “landing page” is a web page, either on your site or hosted within your ESP or other site, that details the offer of your call to action (CTA). A landing page provides the visitor with several or numerous information sources or paths to engagement. For instance, you might link to white papers and videos that support your message (see Figure 1 int he media player at right), provide social media icons for connecting, or even reviewing options for feedback. In short, there is no limit to the amount of information you may include on a landing page—but more is not always better.

When more is not better, a squeeze page provides an ideal solution. A “squeeze page” is a Web page with a singular focus on the conversion (see Figure 2). Similarly designed to a landing page, it is without the myriad options one might find on a targeted landing page. On this page you’ll have no social icons, no links to your website, and only one option for engagement. As a mnemonic, think of a squeeze page as putting the squeeze on the visitor to do just one thing: complete the call to action referenced in your email.

Landing and squeeze pages provide you with ample opportunities for A/B and multivariate testing. Creating multiple versions of your pages, you can test messaging, buttons, images, color, formats (responsive or static) and much more. What’s more, combined with analytics monitoring, you can discern who’s visiting, for how long, what they did, where they go and so much more.

We have many clients who at the outset were performing some marketing (either direct mail or email), but in most cases were sending recipients to their home page—and without benefit of a tracking URL. There are two primary reasons you should never, never send your marketing traffic to your home page, 1) your home page should provide information appropriate for your general audience and, as such, does not specifically engage the marketing-message recipient; and 2) it is difficult or impossible to discern—even through analytics—which visitors came to your home page through other promotions, and which specifically visited your home page after having received your marketing campaign. These analytics are critical to understanding the behavior of your recipients, so don’t miss this opportunity to collect it, analyze it and act on it.

As you design your landing or squeeze page, use your email or direct mail piece as the guideline. Be sure you are directing clickthroughs to a page using the same art, same messaging and consistent branding. This similarity of design is comforting to the visitor and ensures they’ve come to the right place. Given they found the design of the email compelling enough to click, why spoil the moment? You already found what works, give them more.

If, however, you find that you’re simply not getting the conversions you expected, check the number of visitors first. You must have visits to gain conversions. If not, back up and take a closer look at the initial engagement and consider first things first. No matter how wonderfully written, artfully designed, and programmatically perfect a landing or squeeze page is, if your message does not drive your recipient to visit the page, your conversion rate will suffer. Ensure your message drives the visit before you give angst an audience over conversion disappointments.

If number of visits is within your acceptable range (but when is it ever enough?), work on the other players within your campaign, such as:

  • Form length
  • Form questions
  • Button design and placement
  • Text content
  • Links
  • Downloads
  • Supporting resources
  • Design
  • Programming errors

All of these elements can and should be tested and tracked through A/B and multivariate testing combined with analytics and heat-mapping. Using landing and squeeze pages makes this testing process easier and more reliable than trying to root through or make drastic changes to your site’s home page.

Taking this discussion just one step further, if a landing page simply doesn’t provide you adequate real estate, consider a “microsite,” a series of linked landing pages that spotlights your offer.

Sometimes integrated email means the integrated components within your campaign and rather than the components of the initiative. As you develop your emails, think beyond the inbox and give consideration to the end-to-end experience and what you can provide to your visitor in order to attain that elusive conversion.