Embrace Failure to Achieve Success

Too many marketers fear failure instead of embracing it. They fear that reporting poor results will be viewed as poor management. Instead, they should be positioning their results as learnings. Knowing what doesn’t work is just as important as knowing what does; yet the fear of failure permeates many corporate cultures, discouraging risk-taking and encouraging the status quo.

failure
(Image via iskandariah.perubatan.org)

Too many marketers fear failure instead of embracing it. They fear that reporting poor results will be viewed as poor management. Instead, they should be positioning their results as learnings. Knowing what doesn’t work is just as important as knowing what does; yet the fear of failure permeates many corporate cultures, discouraging risk-taking and encouraging the status quo.

There have been many times when I proposed a limited test plan with a small downside only to have it rejected by the client in favor of “the way we’ve always done it.” Following the course that nobody ever got fired for may be the politically safe option, but breakthrough results are never achieved from the status quo. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.”

Reporting on the acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon, The New York Times noted, “While other companies dread making colossal mistakes, Mr. Bezos seems just not to care … That breeds a fiercely experimental culture that is disrupting entertainment, technology and especially retail.” (June 18, 2017) Commenting on Bezos’s style, Farhad Manjoo said in his column State of the Art, “The other thing to know about Mr. Bezos is that he is a committed experimentalist. His main way of deciding what Amazon should do next is to try stuff out, see what works, and do more of that.” (NYTimes June 19, 2017) Something direct marketers have done for decades.

Learning to embrace failure is an acquired skill. Smith College has instituted a new program called “Failing Well” to destigmatize failure for the high achievers who are admitted to the prestigious school on the basis of their perfect resumes. Smith’s Rachel Simmons says, “What we’re trying to teach is that failure is not a bug of learning, it’s a feature.” (NYTimes, June 25, 2017)

David Ogilvy, a strong proponent of testing and measurement, addresses the importance of embracing failures in the Ogilvy on Advertising chapter entitled “The 18 Miracles of Research.” He relates a story about a client who had invested $600,000 (a large sum in Ogilvy’s day) to develop a new product line. Ogilivy says, “ … our research showed a notable lack of enthusiasm … When I reported this discouraging news to the client I was afraid that, like most executives faced with inconvenient research, he would argue the methodology. I underestimated him. ‘Dry hole,’ said he, and left the meeting.”

Testing and experimentation is easy in the digital marketing environment. Even the best-conceived test plans will produce more failures than successes. Embrace those failures as valuable learnings.

Small Blog, Big Strategy

It’s incredibly tough for even the biggest brands to master content marketing. So what about small blogs? How are they staying relevant today? Microtargeting and interest-based awareness have changed digital strategy and these tactics are now home to small bloggers.

Kia Street blogIt’s incredibly tough for even the biggest brands to master content marketing. So what about small blogs? How are they staying relevant today? Microtargeting and interest-based awareness have changed digital strategy and these tactics are now home to small bloggers.

Let’s call “small” any blog with more than five active content contributors and at least a few published posts. Sound like you? Keep reading for more of my take on how to amplify your blog’s online presence. If you site has yet to be born, refer to this easy-to-digest explanation on the first steps of getting a website — securing a domain name.

kia street blog graphicDevelop Reasonable KPIs

No matter how big or small the budget, there are plenty of ways to get your content out there. For example:

  • Be at the top of results when users search for you on Google
  • Maximize reach and awareness of new posts immediately after release
  • Drive and sustain website traffic via Twitter and referrals
  • Focus on what is most important to your business: such as user acquisition, overall awareness and user engagement.

This allows you to divide and conquer with paid search, native advertising, social media and affiliate marketing. Consider this perspective when developing your own KPIs.

Aggregate Your Audience Data

What does your audience like on each channel? What do they care about?

Ask your audience data a lot of questions to help you dive further into who your readers are, how they use the chosen platform and what type of content they respond to most. Now see if you can match your blog’s content to the trends found within your audience data. This can help you understand if you’re offering the right content for your audience.

Think of your analysis as instant market research. Your audience data allows you to truly map out your customer’s journey. Some marketers are innovating this concept entirely by creating content paths to match their content marketing goals.

Identify a Content Strategy

Once you’ve solidified your goals and target audience, examine your strategy. Nix any initiatives that don’t contribute to your ultimate mission. What is it that you ultimately want your audience to do? The answer to this question should drive your content marketing strategy.

Experiment With Social Tactics

Experiment with targeted content that is engaging and personalized. Be transparent and interesting to your users. Here are a few simple ideas to make this happen:

  • Host a live Q&A panel on Periscope featuring your editorial staff;
  • Let the audience choose the topic of your next blog post via Twitter polling;
  • Find, attend and capture industry events with Instagram Stories.

Depending on your audience and the theme of your blog, there are many ways of standing out to both followers and non-followers, alike. Play with and test different tactics for best results!

kia blog post chartLearn, Try, Repeat

The best piece of advice for any small blogger is to learn, try, repeat. Here are three principles for riding the trend waves of your industry:

There are tons of sources that can provide you with the training you need to be successful in content marketing. Use them!

You can never go wrong with experimentation, but you can definitely go wrong without it. Don’t be hesitant toward failure.

Digital changes by the second — and so do the needs of your audience. Remember to periodically optimize content to fit the needs of your users.

Learn, try, repeat: It’s the most effective way for small blogs to sustain authority and relevancy in 2017 (and beyond!)

Top 3 Questions I Hear About Direct Marketing

Clients and friends who are traditional marketers often seek my advice on direct response. Here are the answers to the three questions I hear most frequently:

Unknown peopleTraditional marketer clients and friends often seek my advice on direct response. Here are the answers to the three questions I hear most frequently:

Question No. 1: What Kind of Response Rate Should I Expect?

There are response rate benchmark studies published by the DMA and others, usually organized by industry and type of offer (lead generation, free information, cash with order, etc.). These reports can provide you with some guidance in setting your expectations, but they can just as easily lead you astray. How? If you’ve seen one campaign, you’ve seen just that: one. But some marketers fall into the trap of applying previous results to various campaigns.

Your response rate is driven by three factors, listed here in order or importance:

  • Media: If you don’t get your message in front of the right people, your response will suffer. It is the single most important driver of response, so choose wisely.
  • Offer: What’s your value proposition to the prospect? Simply stated, your offer says, “Here’s what I want you to do, and here’s what you’re going to get when you do it.” If your offer is not appealing or relevant to the prospect, the response — or lack thereof — will reflect that. Also, keep in mind that soft offers, which require little commitment on the part of the prospect (e.g., get free information, download a whitepaper, etc.), will generate a higher response than hard offers, which require a greater commitment (request a demo, make an appointment with a sales rep, payment with order, etc.).
  • Creative: It’s hard for traditional advertisers to believe that this element is lower in importance than the first two, but it is. And the biggest driver of response from a creative standpoint is a clearly stated prominent call to action.

Question No. 2: We Have a Strong Campaign Coming Out of Market Research. My Client/Management Wants to Get This Out As Quickly As Possible. Why Do I Have to Test?

Three reasons:

  • You may have a well-researched creative position but it can be executed in a variety of different ways (see the third bullet under Question No. 1, above). Furthermore, your market research couldn’t predict the response rates from different media. But knowing whether email lists, websites or social media fare best for your audience and offer will be crucial to generating the highest response rate.
  • You want to be able to optimize the three factors above to determine which combination gives you the most qualified leads at the lowest cost per lead.
  • Most importantly, you want to avoid a potentially catastrophic result if you’ve gotten one of the three key elements wrong. It’s better to do that with a small quantity rather than a full-scale effort. It’s always disconcerting to hear people say, “We tried direct. It didn’t work.” Keep in mind that if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen one. Previous successes and shortcomings won’t apply when you tweak the context.

Question No. 3. How Big Should My Test Be?

Your test should be large enough to produce statistically significant results. There are two parts to this: the confidence level of your results and the variation you’re willing to accept.

There are statistical formulas for calculating sample size, but a good rule of thumb to follow is that with 250 responses, you can be 90 percent confident that your results will vary no more than plus or minus 10 percent.

For example, if you test 25,000 emails and get a 1 percent response rate, that’s 250 responses. That means you can be 90 percent confident that (all things held equal) you will get between 0.9 percent and 1.1 percent in a rollout.

A smaller number of responses will result in a reduced confidence level or increased variance. For example, with a test size of 10,000 emails and a 1 percent response rate at a 90 percent confidence level, your variance would be 16 percent rather than 10 percent. That means you can be 90 percent confident that you’ll get between 0.84 percent and 1.16 percent response rate, with all things being held equal.

How Do You Decide What to Test in Direct Mail? 

Do you have three tested direct mail packages waiting in the wings to use when your control starts to fatigue? If you don’t, you should. It’s never a question of if a control will die, it’s when. So what is most important to test now to get to that breakthrough package? Here are some ideas.

Direct mail testDo you have three tested direct mail packages waiting in the wings to use when your control starts to fatigue? If you don’t, you should. It’s never a question of if a control will die, it’s when. So what is most important to test now to get to that breakthrough package? Here are some ideas.

Smart direct mail marketers are constantly testing. It may be the offer, positioning, format or anything else — but what variable gets you the biggest bang for the testing dollar? And which test delivers the most favorable cost per acquisition?

Traditional mail testing can be very expensive, time consuming and yield limited insight if not executed correctly.

After personally overseeing and writing multitudes of direct mail packages, it’s still tough to choose just one variable to test. The reality is that several variables should be tested all at the same time to get to a new control faster. These are the types of tests I’ve found most successful in revealing key attributes for a new control:

  • Your offer is highly influential in your response. If you’re testing price (most typical), you can test dollars off or percent off. I’ve found offering dollars off to be best, but every market is different.
  • Are you including a bonus or free gift?
  • Repositioning your product — or testing a new unique selling proposition — can reinvent your complete message and offer to produce sizeable increases in response rates.
  • A new production format can refresh an existing control. Perhaps you’ve used a #10 outer envelope for a long time. A simple switch to a #9 or #11 envelope can make a difference.
  • I like to include showstopper text and graphics on my envelopes, each worth about a half-second of time for the recipient to pause and study the OE. I’ve found elements such as faux bar codes, handstamps and seals yield favorable impact.
  • Evaluating data overlays from models or profiles will return tremendous information and insights. But if you don’t spend the time to interpret it and imagine the possibilities, you can overlook great new ideas.

So with all these test possibilities and data, what variables should you test?

In my last column, I shared a new Bayesian Analytics methodology that I think will upend direct mail testing as we know it today. Bayesian Analytics isn’t new, though its current applications are new and spreading to many fields, including weather forecasting, insurance risk management and health care policy. Later this month I’m moderating an online session on this topic (learn more at my website).

A/B testing is effective, but usually builds a new control quite slowly (how many times have you tested, only to find the test performed under your control?). Multivariate testing enables you to isolate variables and achieve a new control more quickly, but it still takes several packages to confidently identify the winner. But the use of Bayesian Analytics in direct mail gathers substantially more testing insight and produces more cost savings, while taking less than half the time of traditional testing.

I believe in taking out the guess-work of testing where it’s possible. Otherwise it is easy to incorporate our own personal emotional appeals and biases, like when we say “I’d never respond to that!” We’re probably not our own market. We’re often wrong, even as informed as we are about our products and audiences.

My point is this: You must keep testing. Test outside your comfort zone. Let your prospective customers tell you what variables they’d respond to by using Bayesian Analytics methodology to deliver the emotional insights that big data can’t deliver.

If you don’t have at least three tested packages, or knowledge of what variables form the magic combination necessary to increase response rates, Bayesian Analytics will save you a lot of time and resources.

Download my new report, “Predicting Direct Mail Results Before You Mail” to learn more about Bayesian Analytics.

Direct-Mail Testing Upended With Bayesian Analytics 

Direct-mail marketers have relied on either A/B testing or multivariate testing to evaluate winning campaigns for generations. Those evaluations, unfortunately, weren’t always based on statistics, but on educated guesses or office surveys. But a confluence of technology and something called Bayesian Analytics now enables direct mailers to pre-test and predict responses before mailing.

Direct-mail marketers have relied on either A/B testing or multivariate testing to evaluate winning campaigns for generations. Those evaluations, unfortunately, weren’t always based on statistics, but often on educated guesses or office surveys. But a confluence of technology and something called Bayesian Analytics now enables direct mailers to pre-test and predict responses accurately before mailing.

Bayesian Analytics may well upend how we test to identify the highest profit-producing control more quickly and at a fraction of the cost of traditional testing methods. Bayesian Analytics is already being used in astrophysics, weather forecasting, insurance risk management and health care policy. And now, a few cutting-edge mailers have successfully used this analytics approach, too.

Usually, direct-mail marketers test four categories of variables, such as price, headlines, imagery and formats.

Within each of those variables, direct marketers often want to test even more options. For example, you might want to test the relative effectiveness of discounts of $5 off, $10 off, 10 percent off or 15 percent off. And you want to test multiple headlines, images and formats.

The following matrix illustrates the complexity of testing multiple variables. Let’s say you want to test four different pricing offers, four headlines, four imagery graphics and four direct mail formats. Multiplying 4 x 4 x 4 x 4, you find there are a possible 256 test combinations.

GHBlog100516It’s impractical and costly to test 256 combinations. Even if your response rate dictated you only needed to mail 5,000 items per test for statistical reliability, you’d still have to mail over 1.2 million pieces of mail. If each piece costs $0.50, the total testing cost is $600,000.

Bayesian Analysis works with a fraction of the data required to power today’s machine learning and predictive analytics approaches. It delivers the same or better results in a fraction of the time. By applying Bayesian Analysis methodologies, direct mailers can make significant and statistically reliable conclusions from less data.

The International Society for Bayesian Analysis says:

“Bayesian inference remained extremely difficult to implement until the late 1980s and early 1990s when powerful computers became widely accessible and new computational methods were developed. The subsequent explosion of interest in Bayesian statistics has led not only to extensive research in Bayesian methodology but also to the use of Bayesian methods to address pressing questions in diverse application areas such as astrophysics, weather forecasting, health care policy, and criminal justice.”

Bayesian Analysis frequently produces results that are in stark contrast to our intuitive assumptions. How many times have you used your intuition to test a specific combination of variables thinking it would result in a successful direct-mail test, only to be disappointed in the results?

Bayesian Analytics methodology takes the guess-work out of what to test in a live-mailing scenario. Instead of testing and guessing (as the late Herschell Gordon Lewis wrote in his recent column, Rather Test or Guess?) you can now pre-test those 256 combinations of variables before the expense of a live mail test. The pre-test reveals which combination of variables will produce the highest response rate in the live test, resulting in substantial test savings.

But wait, there’s another benefit: You can learn what mix of variables will produce the best results for any tested demographic or psychographic group. It’s possible to learn that a certain set of variables work more successfully for people who are, for example, aged 60+, versus those aged 40-59. This means you may be able to open up new prospecting list selections that previously didn’t work for you.

Again, a handful of mailers have already pre-tested this new Bayesian Analysis methodology — it has accurately predicted the results in live testing at a 95 percent level of confidence. Now that beta testing has been completed and the methodology is proven to be reliable, look to hear more about it in the future.

There’s more about this methodology than can be shared in a single blog post. To learn more, download my report.

My new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code” is available at the DirectMarketingIQ bookstore. Or download my free seven-step guide to help you align your messaging with how the primitive mind thinks. It’s titled “When You Need More Customers, This Is What You Do.” 

The Order Card: It’s Your Cash Register

The order card is your close, your ring of the cash register. Your design should maximize revenue and/or response potential. Order cards need to be simple, clear and single-mindedly focused. And in print, especially, give people enough space to fill it out. We’ve all had that form that required us to write in a microscopic space.

My previous post discussed how many people often do not put enough time or creativity into their order cards and landing pages.  I hear too often “it’s just the order card.” It’s a shame. This is a critical component — think of it as your cash register, where the sale is closed. You can easily lose a sale if the order device is difficult to figure out, hard to complete, and unclear what to do next.

The order card is your close, your ring of the cash register. Your design should maximize revenue and/or response potential. Order cards need to be simple, clear and single-mindedly focused. And in print, especially, give people enough space to fill it out. We’ve all had that form that required us to write in a microscopic space.

13 Design Considerations to Optimize Your Order Cards
Some of this will sound familiar as they are similar to what I suggested you do on a landing page — but paper is not a screen and requires even more effort to get it right and make it easy.

1. Roadmap the page: The layout is even more critical in print. Create a clear path for your customers to follow. This could mean numbering your steps (probably the easiest way) to lead a person through the process. It should be obvious where to go and what you want them to do step by step.

2. Give them enough space to write: This is one of my pet peeves. One of the fastest ways to stop a sale: don’t give enough room to write. If you need to squeeze an order card, your first thought should be why. If it’s because of the format you are using, seriously consider changing it.

Are you asking for unneeded information? Remember, giving enough space will also help you to process the order as you’ll be able to more easily read what they write.

Planner Pad Order Card3. Clear headline/label: Have a headline that makes it clear it’s the order form. This could be as simple as calling it the “Order Form” or “Reservation Certificate.” It’s also a great area to test. Trying different headlines or labels could help lift your response rate.

4. Auto-complete/personalize forms: I’m always surprised that this is not a standard. If you have to give up personalization on a piece in your package, lose it on your letter. Use your order form as the addressing vehicle and personalize the order form. The less work recipients have to do, the sooner they’ll have their order in the mail.

5. Use check boxes: Make it easy to make selections. Check boxes or circles indicate prospects might need to make a choice and helps people through the form. I go out of my way to find a way to do this. On a complicated order form, this can be a great way to make it feel simple.

6. Use contrasting colors: Color can be a powerful tool to help roadmap your form and make it clear where they need to pay attention. It can also be used to help with choice selection, highlight upsells and emphasize bonus areas — all of which can dramatically improve responses and order size.

3 Steps That Reveal Your Marketing Blind Spot

Your eyes each have a blind spot. It’s an area right in front of your eyeballs that the shape of the cornea prevents you from seeing. Your brain takes input from both eyes and fills in the blind spot with what should be there. As marketers, you have a marketing blind spot as well. Only your brain isn’t addressing that one, and it can lead to disaster.

The brain is an amazing piece of biotechnology. Your eyes each have a blind spot. It’s an area right in front of your eyeballs that the shape of the cornea prevents you from seeing. It’s not right in the middle, but it’s in an area you’d never guess you couldn’t see.

The reason you don’t realize you have a blind spot is because your brain addresses it. It takes input from both eyes, and fills in the blind spot with what should be there.

As marketers, you have a marketing blind spot as well. Only your brain isn’t addressing that one, and it can lead to disaster.

The Marketer's Blind Spot
“The Marketer’s Blind Spot” was MECLABS Founder Clint McGlaughlin’s keynote at Marketing Sherpa Summit 2016.

“It’s the greatest danger facing every single marketer in the room today,” said Flint McGlaughlin, founder and managing director of MECLABS Institute, during the opening keynote of the annual Marketing Sherpa Summit, held this week in Las Vegas.

I had the good fortune to attend this year’s show (It’s a great event!) and I think McGlaughlin found a good way to explain a way of thinking that’s been plaguing marketers for as long as I’ve been covering them.

The Marketers Blind Spot
It’s one thing to be told you have a blind spot. It’s quite another to see it in a room full of marketers. McGlaughlin showed creative treatment after creative treatment — emails, landing pages, shopping cart pages — and he asked the marketers in the room which one they thought would do better in a test.

I got half of them wrong.

In repeated testing that MECLABS has done in its case studies and research, “72 percent of the marketers chose the wrong treatment,” claimed McGlaughlin.

It’s a problem he’s been seeing for years, one of the key findings from the years of research MECLABS has done.

“The more expert we become as marketers, the less expert we become as consumers,” McGlaughlin says. “Something connected to that observation is at the heart of our problem.”

Direct Mail: Know the Response

There are many times when customers reach out to us to help them increase response rates. When that happens, my first question to them is “What was the response rate on your last mailing?” Now you would think that after 24 years in the business the standard response to this question would no longer shock me — however, that is not the case.

There are many times when customers reach out to us to help them increase response rates. When that happens, my first question to them is “What was the response rate on your last mailing?” Now you would think that after 24 years in the business the standard response to this question would no longer shock me — however, that is not the case. When I hear “I am not sure,” I cringe. In 2015, how can you not know what your response rate was? You need this information. How can you execute a marketing plan without knowing your numbers?

So, let’s take a look at what the DMA 2015 Response Rate Report found:

  • The average response rate is 3.7%
  • The average cost per response is $19 which when compared to other channels is very competitive
  • Best performing style by category is an oversized envelope at 5%
  • The next best performing style by category is a postcard at 4.25%
  • The most expensive category to mail are dimensional pieces at $30 per response
  • The next most expensive are catalogs at $23 per response
  • The most common way to track direct mail response is online at 22%
  • The next most common way is through a call center at 19%

How do your numbers compare? One key takeaway is that direct mail response rates are higher than all digital media in the study. Direct mail can benefit your marketing mix, but you need to know your numbers so you can keep doing what works, and fix what doesn’t. One other note: most marketers now use more than one channel in order to fulfill campaign objectives. The study found that in most cases marketers were using three or more channels. When they were, the channels used most often together were direct mail, email and social media.

There is no way to predict exactly how well your direct mail campaign will perform, but knowing what the direct mail averages are helps. You need to know your average in order to set a baseline. From there you can work on making changes that could enhance your response. The three core components to focus on with direct mail are the list, design and offer. Keep in mind that when you create offers, free things are a better driver than a discount. This does not mean that you have to give your product or service away, you can give away a generic item such as a gift card for coffee.

When you decide to make changes — no matter what those changes are — keep a group of people separate from the change group. They will be your control group. You will use the control group results to compare with the changed group results to see which had a better response rate. You can test this may different times or further segment your list with a different change on each segment other than your control segment all at one time.

When you know your numbers, you are able to predict your results with more accuracy and continue to improve the quality of the direct mail you are sending out. When you are able to send the right offers to the right people by knowing your results, you decrease your cost per acquisition and increase your ROI. When you are just starting out, you can track your numbers in an excel spreadsheet. This will allow you to compare numbers from past campaigns as well as plan for the next one.

A Tale of 3 Speaker Promos

After a little bit of a rant in my last entry, I’m going to reel it in this week with something a little more objective: the stages of one of our virtual event HTMLs, and a simple creative test.

Target Marketing and its sister publications do a number of events each year, both virtual and physical. Often, at least one of our promotional efforts will focus on the lineup of speakers featured at the event.

While we always enlist highly qualified expert speakers for our events, we were finding that these emails didn’t seem to pull in the highest registration numbers. Clearly, a re-design was in order.

Design 1

Design 1 was nice, but it was a little cluttered, a little busy, and didn’t really let our speakers shine. This promotion earned a .5 percent click rate and only 1.2 percent of those who opened actually registered for the event. Not the most effective.

Design 2

For our next round of events, we tried out design 2. We opted for a cleaner design, a little more to-the-point for sure. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to dig up the exact stats on this guy, somehow I let them slip into the void. (Bad marketer, bad!) Suffice it to say, it did a little better than its predecessor, but not by much. Enter re-design number 3….

Design 3

This year, we rolled out design 3. We made a series of improvements this time: we brightened the colors, eliminated the dead space, ix-nayed the pre-amble at the top, and most importantly, we blew up the headshots to make them the undeniable focus of the promotion. You can’t see it here, but we also had each separate headshot linking to the speaker’s bio page.

Just before we dropped the email, a colleague had a thought: why not also include the topic each speaker will cover at the show? Brilliant. We decided to do an A/B test to find out if the extra info would make a difference. Version 1 just listed the usual name/title/company under each speaker, while version 2 listed their session topic in orange.

Overall, this promotion absolutely did better than the ones that came before, even the “losing” version. The results?

Version 1 (no topics) earned a .6 percent click rate and 5.5 percent opens to registration conversion.

Version 2 (with topics) was the winner by a hair, with a .7 percent click rate and 7 percent conversion. A clear victory for the design itself, and another small nudge thanks to giving the recipients a taste of what the speakers would be presenting.

Of course, there’s always room for improvement. I’ve noticed that it isn’t immediately clear exactly what the orange text is referring to– it takes a few extra seconds of scrutiny to make the connection, which as we all know, can be a crucial window of time. Things to adjust for next time.

In the meantime, chalk this one up as a successful evolution. Third time’s a charm!

Best Practices Exist for a Reason, Part 2: Landing Pages

In my last post, I gave some specific and proven best practices for the creation of successful emails. In this post, I’ll talk about Landing Pages—because now that you’ve been able to lure your target into opening your email and clicking on the embedded link(s), you want to continue to drive that prospect to your desired outcome.

In my last post, I gave some specific and proven best practices for the creation of successful emails. In this post, I’ll talk about Landing Pages—because now that you’ve been able to lure your target into opening your email and clicking on the embedded link(s), you want to continue to drive that prospect to your desired outcome.

Whether your email offer is more information, a video, an e-book, a survey or a whitepaper, don’t send your prospect down a black hole by linking them to your website. Instead, create a specific digital destination (a landing page) for your campaign so you can not only quantify site visitors and their actions on the site, but it also reassures prospects that they’ve arrived at the right destination.

Based on lots of testing with our own clients and best practices from sites like Marketing Experiments, Marketing Sherpa, KISSmetrics, HubSpot and more, here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Your LP Headline Should Match Your Email Headline: While this may not seem like rocket science, prospects can get easily confused. You have less than a second to help them take the next step, so why create confusion with a brand new headline that is seemingly unrelated to the email they opened, read and clicked?
  • Place the CTA ABOVE the Fold: Especially now that we’ve entered the world of responsive design, it’s critical that your call-to-action is near the top of your page so that those viewing on even the smallest screens can clearly take the next step. And, make sure it’s the most obvious thing on the page because—after all—it’s the action you want them to take!
  • Make Buttons Highly Obvious and Actionable: Whether it’s using a color that contrasts to the rest of your page, uses language that makes it clear what you want/what they’ll get when they click, or are sized big enough to be obvious and legible, don’t hide your action buttons where they might get missed. Instead of buttons that say “Click here” try “Get me my..”
  • Have a Single Purpose With a Single-Focused Message: Think about why the prospect clicked on the email, and what their expectations are for when they arrive on your page. Don’t clutter it up with extraneous copy points or additional “stuff.” In fact, remove other types of navigation from the page as it can unnecessarily distract the visitor from taking the desired next step.
  • Be Authentic and Transparent With Real Testimonials: While you can—and should—edit quotes, make sure they’re attributable to someone even if it’s “Carolyn G., Business owner” or “C. Goodman, California.” Make sure they’re pithy and don’t ramble. These days, “social proof” (using quotes from Facebook posts or Tweets), adds social credibility. Plus people are influenced based on reviews by others.
  • Use Bullet Points for Copy: People skim, and won’t spend any time reading long paragraphs of text. Make sure your copy is crisp—short, sharp and to the point.
  • Include a Phone Number: This helps overcome buyer insecurity that they may be dealing with a company based overseas. Plus, they may have questions before completing an order, so it’s best to provide an easy-to-find phone number to help.
  • Keep Your Forms Simple: If you don’t need to collect certain data, then don’t ask/collect it. As a rule-of-thumb, shorter forms tend to work better. Personally, I’m always annoyed that certain forms ask me for personal information that is seemingly irrelevant to my purchase. As a result, I’m often untruthful in the information I provide in that field because I consider it none of their business.
  • Radio Buttons or Drop Down Menus? The right answer is to test it yourself because different tests for different customers yield different results. Marketing Experiments provides some great case studies on this topic. In one experiment, radio buttons generated a 15% lift over a drop down menu.

In summary, if all of these marketers have already done all the testing for you, why wouldn’t you at least consider these insights and apply them to your own landing page efforts? Tell me. I’m all ears.