How to Grind Customer Acquisition to a Halt with these Conversion Killing Design Trends

QR codes are largely pointless.

The concept is decent. But the execution is flawed.

Think about it for a second:

You’re forcing people to take an additional step to download an application prior to using it (because let’s be honest, only sociopaths have QR code readers on their phone).

Design trends like flat design, unconventional navigation and carousel sliders are no different. They sound harmless in theory. Some are fun to mess with. But most can do more harm than good if you’re not careful.

They’re also perfect examples of how herd behavior can actually backfire and grind conversions to a halt.

Here’s why, and how to avoid it.

When Flat Design Strikes Back

Parallax is like the design equivalent to Andre’s fashion.

When used with discretion, it can enhance the overall aesthetic, breaking up important sections of pages with visually intriguing movement that adds layers and depth to the site.

But that’s just it. When is it ever used sparingly?

Parallax is an innocent example though. We can gripe about the minor drawbacks here or there, however it’s not gonna kill you.

Flat design has been another wide-sweeping trend the past few years, with the goal of bringing simplicity back to user interfaces. Again, it’s largely beneficial. Until it isn’t.

The premise of the excellent Don’t Make Me Think is somewhat obvious. The best user interfaces (and online user experiences) make it easy for people to intuitively find things or figure them out.

Flat design becomes problematic for example, when you leave form fields naked. Or if you strip away critical shading, colors and borders. The result, is that you’re making key page elements – you know, the stuff you want people to do on the page so you can get more $$$ – completely indistinguishable to the common user.

Those visual cues were there not just for aesthetic, but to tell the user what to do (and where to do it).

Again, flat design by itself isn’t bad. What you do with it can be though. This HubSpot example below helps bridge the gap between using flat design to stay contemporary, yet providing interactive animations for the user like the form field lengthening (along with a blinking cursor) so visitors know exactly what to do when they get here.

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Yet another example of cleverness sinking conversions are simple text links.

Links are one of the obvious primary page elements that (a) help people navigate or (b) are a precursor to conversions.

It should go without saying then, that text links should still capture some resemblance to the ones we’ve grown up on and become accustomed to seeing over the past decade+.

That means links should be some kind of blue. While an underline would also be nice.

This sounds so trite and obvious that we shouldn’t need to debate or back up sources. But here’s four for the hell of it.

Let’s keep in mind though that many of these are relatively minor examples.

The more egregious conversion killers are still to come.

Putting the ‘A’ Back in IA

Information architecture (IA) is a fancy term that helps consultants charge more by making them sound smarter explains how stuff is organized on a website.

That means the logical organization of stuff into categories or buckets, how they’re linked together, and how a user might flow from one thing to the next until they get to their intended destination.

The most obvious example of this problem comes when viewing your analytics data, and seeing people leaving your top pages in droves before they get to the money, err page.

Page navigation or menus should, in theory, help solve this. However that doesn’t happen when they’re multi-level navs or using overly vague naming convention as UserTesting.com has discovered after looking at 100,000 usability studies.

On large sites, they point to Amazon as a great example of using a large pop-out section to avoid the difficulties often associated with multi-level navs.

amazon-multi-level-navs

Largely because they can see all of their options at once, without needing the fine motor skills of a professional athlete to carefully select yet another drop down and avoid having to start over completely like a third grader that keeps failing the same level of their favorite Xbox game.

There should also be a clear site hierarchy that helps users intuitively understand what’s primary, what’s subordinate, and what’s a subgroup.

Navigation labels can also trip people up, especially when uncommon terminology, overly clever or internal names are used in place of the obvious, yet standardardized options.

It’s also a baby step away from talking past your customers and losing them entirely. From a broader perspective, it’s also a perfect microcosm that illustrates when a company’s worldview is completely opposite of their customers.

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When in doubt, standardize. Even better, is if you include some ‘trigger words‘ that get people to take action.

Beyond the design and labeling, keeping your site hierarchy flat can help keep the most important information just a few simple clicks away from most primary pages. Stuff doesn’t get buried, or lost down a rabbit hole of endless subcategory scavenger hunts.

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Beyond helping visitors find stuff, which in turn should grease conversions, these improvements also help SEO. The better the organization, the more people come to the site, the better the experiences and the more conversions. (I would call this synergy if I wasn’t afraid of you calling me a D-bag.)

All of these issues bring us to one of the biggest pet peeves of all. And this one really gets the blood boiling.

It’s finally time to bring up the elephant in the room: F-ing carousels.

Carousels: The Epitome of Groupthink in Action

B2B companies love themselves some carousel sliders.

In a quick analysis conducted for Search Engine Land, one author found 18 out of 30 B2B websites (in different industries no less) all had one directly on their homepage.

Despite the data-backed facts that they’re terrible usability, conversions, and speed. Three things that fly in the face of good web experiences.

Why are they so bad? Let me count the ways.

For starters, people don’t actually use them (like less than ~1%). For example, peep the data from Harrison Jones’ aforementioned Search Engine Land analysis:

carousel-conversions-website-statsImage Source

In each of the three scenarios, the slide received a less than 1% click through rate. Part of the reason, is because these pervasive sliders can mimic banner blindness (thus causing people to ignore them entirely).

Beyond the fact that nobody actually clicks on them, they also commonly fail to load properly on mobile devices. While also potentially hurting SEO a number of ways by (1) not having static content (2) misusing header tags, (3) using high-res images that might slow the site down, and (4) resulting in ‘thin’ content if outdated technology is used.

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Ok, ok. If they’re so bad, why do companies keep using them?

Compromise.

Therefore it’s not just the carousel itself that’s so bad. (Although as we’ve established, they do suck.)

What’s so bad about carousels is how they happen.

They’re the result of too many cooks in the kitchen. Too many HiPPOs in a room that all want their voice heard, or interests promoted, front-and-center on your website’s most valuable real estate.

When design by committee happens, everyone loses.

Designers lose because their excellent work slowly erodes away.

Marketers lose because their voices get overrun and ignored.

And ultimately the very same HiPPOs lose because their selfish actions – well intentioned or not – ultimately result in a worse web experience for visitors, which results in lower website conversions and less revenue.

Conclusion

Offline, print design is static and passive. Its focus is on beauty and art.

However web design is about interaction. Its focus should be form and function. Utilitarian even.

Design trends like flat design, parallax, navigation structure and labeling can all have a significant impact on the success (or failure) of your site.

Elements like carousel sliders not only water-down your objectives, but actively work against them too.

The bad news about web design is that it’s never finished.

But the good news about web design is that it’s never finished. You’re unable to truly fail if you own up to mistakes by quickly making them right through embracing testing and iteration.

About the Author: Brad Smith is a founding partner at Codeless Interactive, a digital agency specializing in creating personalized customer experiences. Brad’s blog also features more marketing thoughts, opinions and the occasional insight.

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13 Networking Mistakes You Need to Stop Making

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When done right, networking is an incredibly valuable investment of every professional’s time and effort. It helps us make meaningful business connections, get feedback, and advance our careers. And best of all, it pays significant dividends over time.

So why does it seem so unpleasant sometimes? It can feel fake, it’s exhausting, and frankly, standing alone in a sea of unknown faces with nametags and cheese plates can be utterly painful.

But there are ways to make networking less of a chore. It starts with reflecting on your current networking habits and learning where you might be making mistakes. I’m not talking about obvious mistakes, like talking super close to someone’s face or not dressing the part. I’m talking about the more subtle mistakes you may not even know you’re making.

Here are 13 networking mistakes that could be holding you back from developing meaningful business relationships and creating real value out of them.

13 Networking Mistakes You Need to Stop Making

1) You’re waiting to build your network until you need it most.

A lot of people neglect to build their networks until they’re desperate — perhaps they’ve lost their job, they’re looking for a career change, or they’re applying to graduate school and need advice or references. It’s hard to prioritize networking when you don’t have a specific goal you’re going after. But if you’re constantly doing things to help you build your network — even when you’re gainfully employed — then it’ll be strong when you need it most.

When it comes to networking, it pays to be proactive. Don’t wait until fate brings you a new networking opportunity; seek them out yourself.

“Put an hour on your calendar each week specifically focused on expanding your network.” Katie Burke, HubSpot’s VP of Culture and Experience, wrote in her article about networking.

“Ask a friend who the most interesting person they know is and go meet them. Email a blog author whose content you love with a specific comment or question about his or her work. Reconnect with an old colleague whose work you always admired. Sometimes, these conversations will lead nowhere. But many will generate new ideas, connections, and creativity, so it’s worth the break in the action from your usual busy day,” she added. 

2) You aren’t keeping up your personal brand.

When you network with new people, it’s pretty inevitable that they’re going to look you up online later to see what your deal is. They’ll look at your LinkedIn profile, your Twitter page, and your blog posts. They might even Google you. And when they do, you’ll want to have an active, interesting, and thoughtful online presence for them to browse.

That’s why, in addition to regularly seeking out new connections, it’s also important that you continuously develop your personal brand online. That means keeping your social media profiles (like LinkedIn) updated and regularly posting interesting, relevant articles and commentary to your social media accounts. It also means responding kindly when people message, email, or tweet at you, contributing to your company’s blog, and writing guest blog posts for other blogs and publications (like these ones), and getting personal brand exposure through earned media.

3) You’re afraid to attend networking events by yourself.

Even extroverts don’t like going to networking events and conferences alone. It’s straight up anxiety-inducing to stand around by yourself, wondering why everyone else seems to know each other already.

“For a long time, I never wanted to go to networking events by myself,” my colleague Amanda Zantal-Wiener told me. “But eventually, I realized two things: 1) When I went with someone I already knew, that ended up restricting the conversations I had; and 2) if I went into the event with the mindset that I’m a person who will start a conversation with anyone, it was really quite effective.”

Gaining the confidence to approach people and join in on conversations has a lot to do with simply being prepared. My advice? Approach every event you attend with a game plan, starting with looking through the speaker and/or guest list and identifying the people you’d like to talk with. Then, challenge yourself to connect with each of them. People really are willing to talk to you — especially if you’re the first one to say hello.

4) You don’t do your homework.

Preparing for events, conferences, and meetings doesn’t just mean coming with a stack of freshly printed business cards. If you know certain people who are attending or speaking at an event whom you know you’ll be interested in meeting, then you should do research on them ahead of time. When you do your homework, you can skip the small talk and get right into the meaningful conversation you’re looking for in the first place.

“Time is the most valuable resource people can offer you, so respect it,” says Burke. “Do your homework on [the person’s] title, their background, their email address, their preferred mode of contact — e.g., never call Dharmesh, he’s made it clear he hates the phone — and their career history. That way, your conversation via email, phone, or in-person can focus on the advice you need help with, the subject matter you’d like to learn more about, or the organization you want to learn more about.”

In addition to coming prepared with questions for other people, prepare to answer the questions they’ll ask you. Practice your own pitch, as well as answering questions about your career goals.

5) You don’t follow up with personal messages.

So you go to an event, talk to someone awesome, have a great conversation with them, and exchange business cards before you part ways. Great! But don’t call it a day just yet. Unless you follow up with some sort of personal message, says my colleague Aja Frost, then you risk never talking with that person again — and losing out on a potentially meaningful connection.

That’s why you should follow up every great networking conversation with a personalized and thoughtful thank-you message or email. Here are 12 templates for follow-up networking emails that I’ve personally found super helpful.

Or, you can send something as simple as a short message along with your LinkedIn invitation:

Hi Shannon, it was great meeting you at the happy hour last night! I enjoyed hearing about the design project you’re working on. I’m an aspiring designer myself, so I’d love to connect and follow your work.”

A message like this gives the recipient both reassurance that you’re someone they should have in their network, and a jumping off point to start a discussion.

If the person you spoke with gave you some suggestions for your own project or career, follow up to let her know how that’s going — and, later, whether or not her suggestions panned out. 

Pro Tip: Set yourself up for a substantial follow-up conversation by building a bridge to your next exchange before saying goodbye. Benjamin Akande, dean of Webster University’s George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology, suggests asking people what they’re working on right now. Take note of their response and mention it when you strike up your next conversation.

If you tend to easily forget small details or are meeting a lot of different people at once, make follow-up easier by (subtly) writing a note or two down on the business cards people give you, or make some notes on your phone.

6) You can’t follow up — because you don’t take other people’s contact information.

Ever given someone your contact information, but neglected to take theirs? That leaves you depending on them to contact you, rather than the other way around.

That’s what my colleague Padraig O’Connor cited as his biggest networking mistake to-date. “Sadly, these busy people would not always get in touch and contact was lost,” he told me. Since then, he even goes so far as to open up his own LinkedIn account on his phone and have people find and themselves as a connection right then and there.

“It also saves on data entry,” he added. Can’t argue with that.

7) You ask the same questions everyone else is asking.

Part of being good at networking is standing out from the crowd. How are you going to do that if you’re asking the same old, predictable questions everyone else is asking? This is especially true for folks who are in high demand, like event speakers or high profile attendees.

The best way to make a positive impression on someone is to ask questions that unleash that person’s passion or require them to tell personal stories.

“Asking more interesting questions gets you undeniably better answers,” wrote Burke in her article, on how to talk to anyone about anything. “So instead of probing on what someone does now (which typically leads to awkward humble bragging), ask what they wanted to be when they grew up, what their first concert was, what magazines they subscribe to, or which celebrity they’d want to invite over for dinner. Doing so relieves people of the boring back-and-forth of typical office party conversation and into far more interesting territory.”

For more ideas, here are 20 conversation starters to help you break the ice at a networking event.

8) You dominate networking conversations.

We’ve all been in one of those conversations. You know, the one where it slowly dawns on you you’re listening to a person’s life story and you may never be allowed to leave. Ever.

But have you ever been caught in a moment where you realized it was you who was doing this to another person? It can happen to any one of us, especially when we get excited about a particular topic or we really want to sell someone on our pitch. But dominating the conversation and monopolizing people’s time can make you seem self-important, uninterested in listening to other people, and generally annoying. Remember: Networking events are for mingling and meeting a variety of people. Multiple people.

“A lot of people use networking as an opportunity to hard-sell themselves,” said Hannah Fleishman, marketing lead on HubSpot’s product team, in an email. “This is a big mistake. We should be using networking to make new connections and leave great impressions on those connections. Stealing the spotlight to talk about all the amazing things you’ve done isn’t how you connect with someone — save that for your job interview.

“Have a conversation, ask questions, and be genuinely curious about the new people you’re meeting. People who can pick up on social cues, show an interest in others, and listen as well as they carry a discussion are the ones who stand out to me as someone I’d want to work with or stay in touch with.”

To learn more about the importance of listening to others, asking questions, picking up on others’ emotional cues, read this blog post on the 19 signs you’re emotionally intelligent (and why it matters).

9) You avoid being the one to end the conversation.

Ah, the art of gracefully ending a conversation at a networking event. It’s a tricky skill to master, but it’ll save you from ending up feeling trapped. 

“One of my bigger mistakes is that I let people dominate my time because I’m terrible at ending a conversation and moving on,” said Sam Mallikarjunan, principal marketing strategist here at HubSpot. “So I end up only talking to a few people for long periods, and wasting the opportunity to connect with more folks.”

So, how do you end a conversation without looking like a jerk? I actually wrote a whole blog post about gracefully excusing yourself from conversations. Here are a few of my polite suggestions for conversation-enders:

  • “Did you see the restroom anywhere?”
  • “I think I left my [laptop/bag/phone] in the other room. I’d better go grab it before it disappears.”
  • “I need another drink, what about you?”
  • “You love XYZ? You should meet Joe, he loves XYZ too!”

10) You’re overeager.

Once you meet someone at an event and exchange information, be cool. Being a likeable person has a lot to do with the interactions you have with others, so take care that you’re not overdoing it.

“Don’t add someone you’re looking to get to know better on LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, and Medium in one fell swoop,” Burke told me. “It just comes across as too aggressive out of the gate. Pick one channel you know the person meaningfully engages with on a regular basis, and focus your attention there.”

When you do choose that channel, make sure you’re using it correctly, personalizing your messages, and being friendly and professional. In other words, don’t be this guy: Here’s a screenshot of an actual conversation that my colleague Siobhán McGinty was pulled into on LinkedIn:

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There’s a little lesson on how not to network with people. If you’re not sure how to use LinkedIn for professional networking, read the networking section of this awesome blog post on how to use LinkedIn

11) You aren’t helpful.

In Burke’s post on networking like a pro, she reminded me of a concept revered by HubSpot’s co-founder and CTO, Dharmesh Shah: the notion of being shockingly helpful. Focus on being helpful to others rather than on what you can get out of a networking relationship. When you rethink how you network in this way, you’ll see the quality of your interactions go way up.

Burke suggests starting with the goal of helping ten people per month in a meaningful way. Start with a list from your immediate network, and “once you’ve warmed up your shockingly helpful muscles, expand your network each week.” Trust me, this will pay off over time.

Remember: What goes around comes around. 

12) You don’t venture outside your existing network.

Speaking of expanding your network … far too many people avoid building relationships outside their existing network or field of work, even if they don’t mean to. 

And are we surprised? It’s way easier and more comfortable to stick with what’s familiar, and at the end of the day, we all want to sound smart.

But if you don’t expand your network, you risk creating a virtuous closed loop and rarely challenging your own perspective. To solve this problem, you need to be proactive: Start with the goal of following ten new people on Twitter and LinkedIn this week who are experts in something you know nothing about but find interesting. Don’t let the algorithms pick these people for you — actually go out and search for them. It could open you up to people worth learning from.

13) You don’t ask for anything, or you ask for too much. 

It’s helpful to come to a networking event or conversation with a specific goal in mind. Maybe you’re looking for a job and want to get advice on how to build your resume — or even get a referral. Or perhaps you already have a job and you’re looking for feedback on your project, or you want to spread the word about your company’s work.

Once you have a goal in mind, the hard part is letting the other person know about your goal without coming off like you’re using them. When you’re networking, it’s okay — even encouraged — to have an “ask.” Not only can it help move the conversation and the relationship along, but it can also provide some welcome context to your follow-up.

However, there are two mistakes people often make here: Either they don’t make their “ask” clear enough, or they overdo it and ask too much of someone.

“My last VP told me that not enough young people early in their careers make a proper ‘ask,’ my colleague Sophia Bernazzani told me. “They just talk, and maybe get a business card, without asking or saying something more definitively.”

But no one’s a mind reader. You’ll never get what you’re looking for if you don’t ask — and it’s all about asking politely and genuinely. For example, if you’re looking for a job and the person you’re talking with doesn’t have any openings, you might ask him:

  • Well, what’s the outlook for future opportunities?
  • Do you know anyone else in the industry who might have something?
  • Any thoughts on what my next step should be?
  • Do you know someone whom it might be good for me to talk with?

If you’re talking to this person via email, here are 12 networking email templates with language that might help you better position the request.

On the other end of the spectrum, you shouldn’t ask for too much from someone you barely know. There’s a huge difference between asking someone for advice on your next career move and asking them to be your mentor forever and ever. Same goes for asking for a quote for a piece you’re writing, versus asking them to review the entire piece and give you in-depth feedback.

We hope these tips will help you make more meaningful connections, expand your network, and strengthen your emotional intelligence.

What other networking mistakes can you add to this list? Share with us in the comments.

free guide to using linkedin

Why Facebook Bots Have Amazing Potential (And Why You Should Still Ignore Them)

Chatbots are the latest in a long line of tech trends to sweep through the marketing world.

One use and it’s delightfully obvious why.

Ranging from fun and whimsical to straight-up commercial, chatbots present interesting new potential for companies to reach and engage customers.

Facebook messenger bots specifically present one of the brightest areas for marketers, tapping into their huge network and built-in advertising features.

However despite the promising outlook, you might be better served by ignoring this trend (for now).

Here’s why.

The Promising Future of Facebook Bots

Chatbots magically combine pattern matching (low-level artificial intelligence) to present options to users instantly based on a number of predefined rules.

Based on your real-time responses, a chatbot will work to get you closer to finding exactly what you’re looking for. That intent-driven nature makes it especially promising for marketers, showing a glimmer of hope similar other intent-based (not to mention, high converting) platforms like search engines.

Chatbots on Facebook messenger have been begun popping up everywhere the past few months, with help from platforms like Motion.ai and Smooch.io that help bridge the technological gap for the masses.

Expanding into Facebook’s existing advertising infrastructure is mouth-watering. For example, you’re able to integrate existing SMS messaging campaigns to Facebook Messenger accounts with phone number tracking.

There’s also the potential for these chatbots to replace 800-numbers and other awful customer service experiences in favor of a real-time, at-your-fingertips, information retrieval system.

That’s not even taking into account the massive potential that is WhatsApp (and its 1 billion monthly users), which Facebook owns, but doesn’t currently allow this technology.

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Some companies are already tapping into these benefits, as Andrew Tate highlights excellently on AdEspresso.

HealthTap allows you to speak directly to a doctor. Well, not exactly. It will start by showing you recommended answers from doctors to similar questions made in the past. Depending on your results, you can then send the question out to a real, live doctor to get an answer.

Spring gives you personalized shopping recommendations. List of questions for styles, price range, type of clothing and more to eventually whittle down its answers. This wonderful little chatbot does all the hard work for you, removing the need to browse for hours on end.

And one of the most cited examples 1-800 Flowers, where you can make a new order with a simple message. Enter the location for drop-off, and you can browse their options to make a purchase immediately. (although it’s worth noting that you currently can’t process credit card payments within Messenger).

Awesome stuff. No doubt.

But here’s the problem.

Despite their awesome potential, chances are, you should NOT worry about chatbots right now.

Where do Buyers Come From?

In what seems like decades ago (ok, it was only about five years), Forrester Research analyzed over 77,000 consumer orders and released The Purchase Path of Online Buyers.

The goal was to determine which channels were responsible for the most buyers (not subscribers) to help marketers decide where to invest their precious resources.

The results were surprising exactly how you’d expect if you’ve been doing this for awhile.

Social accounted for less than a percent of sales (although in fairness, there’s undoubtedly a host of attribution problems).

Otherwise, Search (both Paid and Organic) was the top driver of new sales. Email was at the top for repeat customers.

Fast forward a few years and McKinsey found that things had… well, not changed at all.

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The way people purchase today has become increasingly more complex, with multiple touch points and many different channels used along the way. Many marketers struggle with getting a handle on understanding their own customer journeys.

The point though, is that there are a few fundamental things that should be working flawlessly before spending time, money and attention chasing the latest trend (despite how promising this particular one is).

Here are a few examples.

Here’s Why You Should Ignore Facebook Bots (For Now)

Why do people leave your site?

Somewhat surprisingly, it could be how sloooooooooow pages take to load. If an eCommerce site fails to load within three seconds than half of its traffic will bounce.

Then there’s also poor design and navigation issues, too many competing or cluttered offers, and a mismatch between what got people there, and what’s on the page. Along with a ton of other reasons.

What’s the reason you should forget about Facebook messenger bots for the next few months?

Opportunity cost.

Exhibit A.

McKinsey also found that despite the majority of visitors opening your email on mobile devices, many of the landing pages people are being sent to still aren’t responsive.

(Not to mention, just because a website is ‘supposedly’ or technically responsive, doesn’t mean that the mobile experience doesn’t suck.)

To make matters, 61% of those people with bad experiences won’t return. While 40% will go straight to your competition.

That means not only are your landing pages costing you lost sales. But they’re also serving as your competitor’s best advertisements.

Fixing those landing pages should be important. Priority #1 in fact when you go in on Monday morning. It should at least place well ahead of dabbling in new social features which may, or may not, pan out.

Based on data and experience, you know – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that improving landing pages will result in greater conversion rates (and thus, more revenue).

You just haven’t done it yet.

Because, to-do lists. Emails. Meetings. Etc.

Exhibit B.

Every good little marketer uses email. It’s like PB&J at this point. But, it too is under some strain.

Competition is at an all-time high (and only getting worse), so getting your messages to stick out from the other junk in people’s inboxes is a tall order.

Then there’s deliverability issues, which email service providers getting ever-more sophisticated to noticing (and filtering out) your promotional emails.

A handy and helpful solution is marketing automation, that relies on timing, relevancy and personalization to cut through the crap.

On the plus side? It works. Delivering twice as many leads compared with your typical spray-and-pray approach.

The downside? Only 13% of marketers are using it. 13%!

Despite the fact that marketing automation can send you 451% more leads. Or increase average sales 34%.

Case-in-point: a whopping 85% of B2B marketers are not satisfied with their marketing automation efforts. Even despite marketers ranking it at the top of a latest survey from Smart Insights of digital activities with the greatest impact.

Wait. Why? Too busy Snapchatting or Instagramming to worry about increasing revenue?

But it gets better.

Exhibit C.

Let’s see what happens if we combine the activities found in Exhibit A & Exhibit B.

Williams-Sonoma saw a 10x lift in response rates when they sent triggered emails based on specific things people were just looking at on the website.

(Pro tip: Williams-Sonoma is also a great place to score free coffee at the mall using their Nespresso display.)

Personalized campaigns “consistently and overwhelmingly beat” static ones after analyzing 650 multi-channel marketing campaigns.

HubSpot analyzed 93,000 calls-to-action (with “hundreds of millions of views over 12 months”) and found that ones targeting specific user actions resulted in a 42% improvement over standard ones showed to everyone.

This is the same approach remarketing takes, personalizing ad creative while capitalizing on impeccable timing to show people exactly what they were just looking at. At a 46% reduction in cost compared to normal ads to boot.

Want a trend to follow? There’s your trend!!

Conclusion

Chatbots are undoubtedly one of the sexiest trends to watch develop.

Facebook messenger bots up the ante, initially promising a huge opportunity with their massive audience and built-in advertising features.

However…

What keeps getting pushed down your to-do list already? How many activities have you neglected (or ignored) that could (and more predictably) increase revenue over the next 30 days?

Poor mobile landing pages? Tired, boring email campaigns? Static website calls to action?

If you’re working with Coca-Cola, go get you some Facebook bots!

If you’re like the rest of the 99% of us and you’re (a) already overwhelmed, (b) spread too thin, (c) understaffed, (d) on too tight of deadlines, with (e) not enough money to spend, maybe it’s time to double down on the fundamentals.

Fix the underperforming stuff you’re (most likely already) aware of. Increase sales.

Then go play with some Facebook bots.

About the Author: Brad Smith is a founding partner at Codeless Interactive, a digital agency specializing in creating personalized customer experiences. Brad’s blog also features more marketing thoughts, opinions and the occasional insight.

The Hidden Side Effects of Using Big Data to Better Understand Your Customers

When it comes to better understanding your customers, you likely leverage every possible resource from personas to mapping the customer experience journey.  For marketers, big data is a boon – it’s a gold mine of information that, to be sure, requires a bit of digging through the dirt to get to the real treasure.

Big data has been used to tout everything from customer sentiment to fraud prediction. By letting computers do what they do best, it is believed that crunching all that information can lead to some pretty significant correlations – between click streams, geographic location, and even transactional data. Tying it all together helps bring the customer service lens into even greater focus.

big-data-analysis

With that being said, however, relying too much on big data has its drawbacks.  Beyond the fact that we’re just starting to understand what’s out there and how it’s all relatable, big data should not be looked at as a marketing or customer service panacea.  In fact, there are a lot of areas where relying too much on big data to better understand your customers can have the opposite effect, like these:

Lack of Availability

Let’s say you’re shopping online for a new pair of shoes. You’re scrolling through pair after pair on your cell phone until you find the perfect pair. Unfortunately, they’re backordered.  You want to be notified when more are in stock, but you’re not sure how to do that.  You tap for customer service. You’re invited to type in your question and see a list of canned solutions.  That’s a bit too cumbersome so you look for a way to contact a representative.

Instead, you’re asked to submit your question to a helpdesk or online community. Trying to fill out a trouble ticket, you see that the service isn’t compatible with mobile. You give up in frustration. Shortly thereafter, you get an email reminding you about the item you were interested in, and asking how the company can do better.

If you’re visualizing a cartoonish response of steam coming out of your ears from anger and frustration, now you can imagine the limitations that big data has.  Perhaps the only retailer to truly get a handle on big data at this level is Amazon, and they’ve been able to integrate unimaginable reams of data seamlessly while being able to grow and scale their company with consistency.

random-amazon-warehouseAmazon had to grow and scale its operations – and quickly, yet they still deliver consistently high-rated customer service thanks to big data analytics.

When the service you need isn’t available, you grit your teeth for long wait times ahead, and test your patience with the poor rep that has to look up the details of the backordered product in a sea of potential choices. The point is, Big Data shouldn’t just be pored over by analytics experts, but made available to everyone at every tier in the organization.

Rush to Judgment and Unrealistic Expectations

Big data is the foundation of a perilously-positioned scale. On one end, you have the camp that’s rigid and inflexible. Things have always been done a certain way, and the deluge of big data isn’t going to change that. These companies risk getting outmaneuvered by their more proactive competitors. They make hasty decisions that may not always be backed by data science, and then backpedal when things go south.

At the opposite end, there are those who are positively drowning in analytics. They’re so swallowed up by data that they hesitate to make any decision without consulting the numbers like some kind of oracle. They shrug off their “gut feelings” or intuition because the data doesn’t account for that.

There’s no doubt that big data is changing the way we market, but as many industry trends go, it can easily be blown out of proportion into something it’s not. People are complex, self-serving, habitual, ever-changing creatures. Trying to make sense of that is not something that can be done overnight. It requires careful planning, an understanding of the different “pools” of information the data is drawing from, and one’s own understanding of their target market to fully grasp.

Otherwise you end up with complex, complicated decisions that are impossible to predict and frustrating to implement.

Data Modeling Difficulties

In order to get the most out of big data, it has to be modeled in order to bring the value it’s so often associated with to customer service, which in turn trickles down to the customer. At its core, Big Data is raw, unfiltered and largely noise. It’s not structured, organized or clean.  The only system currently out there with the power to tackle such large scale information is Hadoop, which has been around since the early 2000s.

hadoopHadoop is the closest thing available to enterprise-grade big data analytics. Image source

Currently there is no user friendly, on-demand and easily implementable enterprise data modeling system. There are many ways to tackle the big data noise, however, but many data models hit common obstacles including not being able to scale accordingly or organize the data in a sensible way, and still fewer work with existing analytics platforms and CRM information.

Just having the data is no longer enough. Making it accessible and understandable to everyone is the challenge today’s modeling apps have to fix.

Pure Complexity

And finally, let’s face it, we’re only beginning to scratch the surface of what’s out there. And yet it keeps growing and growing.  Costs go down, availability of information goes up.  Despite all its lucrative potential, big data can’t replace people. When insights are gleaned from data scientists, they’re passed on to managers and then employees.  If there’s not a process in place to better understand and leverage the information you continue to gain, it’s practically worthless.

The bottom line with using big data to better understand your customers is that there’s a lot of expectations of what it can or cannot do. With such a wave looming overhead, it’s easy to want to stand back and wait.  But just as the internet itself was once looked at as being “just a fad”, so too is big data poised to completely change what we know about our audience.

Being able to turn this information into insight is a challenge – but one worth tackling. We all know what happens when there’s a rush to implement without a goal in mind.  Knowing the issues ahead of time can help you plan out a strategy that takes all of these points into consideration as you all work together toward a common goal – making sure every customer is exceedingly satisfied, again and again.

What are Your Thoughts on Using Big Data to Better Understand Customers?

Do you think big data is still in its infancy with regard to its use in customer analytics? Or do you think we simply lack the tools and understanding to make the most of it? What tools are you currently using to make sense of the data you collect? Share your thoughts and comments with us below.

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

Two Birds, One Stone: How To Increase Conversions While Building Your Brand with UX

Every digital business wants to build a brand that attracts more customers, converts them, and turns people into brand advocates. Unfortunately, not all websites and apps persuade people to become customers, let alone brand advocates.

That’s where the hot trends Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) and User Experience (UX) Optimization come in. CRO is closely tied to attracting new customers, while UX Optimization is closely tied to creating a more human experience that engages people with a brand.

matrix-meme-increase-conversions-build-brandI imagine you’re feeling a bit like Alice…tumbling down the rabbit hole?

Both CRO and UXO can and should be done in conjunction. Without one, the other suffers. Great CRO by itself is useful to convert more people, but if the experience suffers then people quickly abandon your product, leave a bad review, and will definitely not recommend you. On the other hand, a great UX by itself might build some loyal brand advocates, but growth will be snail slow until you hit a critical mass of users.

With that being said, it’s time for us to jump in and learn how to harmoniously apply both CRO and UX Optimization together.

The Importance of UX Prep before Conversion Rate Optimization

Let’s talk about the effect of great user experience design on branding. Brands like Uber, Kleenex, and even the infamous Blackbeard are very easy to recognize. Why? They understood the importance of creating a lasting impression. This lasting impression, or brand success, is widespread and as a result, their business potential is nearly unlimited.

The reason why these entities became recognizable brands is because of great products, great service, and people enjoy talking about them. Since people trust their friends and families most, it is word-of-mouth marketing that can be one of the most powerful marketing methods. If you hear it from a friend, you’re more likely to try it. And when you hear it from many friends, you become keenly aware of a brand. In today’s competitive marketplace, it is listening to customers and thoughtful user experience design that pushes companies to the branding level.

Where does brand building start? And how?

Brand building starts day 1, when you start to think about how your product or service will benefit people, and continues for as long as you are in business. This way of thinking is the core of UX.

Customers Pave the Way

So how do we get started with user experience? And what about conversion rate optimization? Well the fact of the matter is that without some basic understanding of how people use your digital product, CRO techniques are taking a stab in the dark, and are likely a waste of time and budget. What’s the point of optimizing a web page or a flow of actions if they are fundamentally broken, confusing and frustrating people? Before focusing on conversion optimization, it’s important to understand what people need so that we can then optimize it. There’s two ways to apply user experience thinking so we can then learn what to optimize. The first way is to have an expert catch “low-hanging fruit” issues, and the second is to gather customer feedback.

Applying What We Already Know

Luckily for us, the psychological science behind user experience is nearly 80 years old (originating during World War II!), which means there is a wealth of knowledge about how people think and act with computers and interfaces. By using this knowledge, a UX expert can fix many of the “low-hanging fruit” problems with a website or application, even before it is launched to the public! When an expert runs through an interface to find issues and suggest quick interface wins, this is called a user experience Review, or UX Review. The findings of the review are built into a report that ranks solutions in terms of severity and priority, so that developers know what is most important.

To get your own UX Review, there are a variety of agencies and freelancers who are a Google search away, or who can be found on freelance websites such as UpWork. For a quality report, it will cost you anywhere between $250 and a few thousand dollars, depending the complexity of your website or app, and how extensive the review is. Generally, the more extensive the review, the more costly it will be.

Applying Research Tailored to a Specific Product

The second way to apply user experience is to actually get customer feedback. And I’m not talking about A/B tests, but actual live tests or discussions with actual customers, called usability testing.

The best part about customer feedback is that it might lead to BIG changes in the right direction. After speaking with 3-5 customers, we might find out that people aren’t clicking that call-to-action because the website has major trust issues, beyond something we can resolve with simple copy or CTA changes. Or we might test 3-5 customers on our application, and find out that people don’t understand the value of the product, because it isn’t what people are used to.

silicon-valley-meme-users-don't-get-it

It’s not the people, it’s the product! Make sure to fix all of those low-hanging fruit issues and test with real people before thinking about conversion optimization techniques.

CRO: What You Should Know

Now that we’ve first covered our bases with user experience research, it’s the perfect time for conversion rate optimization! With a better understanding of our customers, and with an interface better designed for people, we can focus on converting more people into happy customers. Conversion optimization is also a big part of branding, because first impressions count.

Let’s talk about some of the basic tools and techniques of CRO, and the effect of CRO on branding. The first tool of any CRO expert’s arsenal is analytics. With analytics, we can gain useful insights about how people first interact with our brand. Are the majority of people leaving quickly? Are they willing to provide their email address and continue the conversation? Are they exploring the website or app store to learn more? Most of us know about negative conversion metrics (bounce rate, low time on page, etc), and thinking of these as a first impression with our brand will allow us to come up with great solutions.

Once you pinpoint drop-off points and areas with low engagement, conversion optimization focuses on A/B testing copy, imagery, call to actions, and the value proposition to determine which combinations lead to the highest conversions. The goal is to create more compelling content, and a seamless flow, to encourage more people to open up a conversation with the company (conversion).

We won’t dive too deep into the actual tools and techniques of CRO, as that is widely covered on the Kissmetrics blog and around the net. Here is a list of common CRO tools, and here is a list of common CRO techniques to use with those tools.

UX Optimization: What You Should Know

With CRO successfully underway, it’s time to revisit UX. User experience Optimization focuses on improving engagement metrics such as active users, frequency of use, number of shares, churn, repeat purchases, perceived ease of use, etc. It’s important to define what engagement metrics are key to growing business in the short-term, and the long-term. User experience experts can then work with customers to research and design digital products that create the emotional and behavioral responses that fit customer needs AND improve the target business metrics.

So what UX techniques are important to improve customer engagement? Similar to CRO, UX Optimization should start with Analytics, taking a look at key pages and action flows to see where engagement metrics are low. Most companies have some form of analytics set up. We can either ask for access to take a look ourselves, or request reports of key metrics for an important time period. Some of the standard analytics tools include: Google Analytics for websites, Google Analytics for mobile apps, and Kissmetrics for SaaS applications.

In the analytics tool, we’ll want to look for acquisition, behavior, and flow data. Acquisition is conversion information about how people arrive at a website or application. Behavior includes engagement information such as bounce rates, time on task, downloads, active users, frequency of use, etc. Flow data maps out the typical flow of pages that people common access, such as home page -> product -> cart -> purchase. Each company has different metrics that they prioritize, along with a goal to reach (such as less than 50% bounce rate). Find out what pages and flows are underperforming, and you’ve found potential problem areas!

With a general idea of problem areas, we can conduct a thorough expert UX Reviews to identify low-hanging fruit, and conduct usability tests to pinpoint usability issues and customer frustrations that are often overlooked in an expert UX Review alone. With basic issues fixed, we can build rapid prototypes to test engagement metrics against current designs, which is somewhat similar to A/B testing during CRO.

To conduct your own UX Review, there are many free UX checklists available that cover common principles, best practices, and recent trends. Some of the most important principles today include:

  • Persuasive design
  • Color psychology
  • Usability.gov’s extensive guidelines
  • Nielsen’s usability heuristics
  • Fitts’ Law
  • Navigation best practices
  • User onboarding
  • Social proof
  • Trust & credibility
  • Gradual engagement
  • The power of human faces in imagery
  • Gamification
  • Conversion optimization
  • Engagement optimization

An expert review is an important part of the UX optimization process. It can be done quickly and affordably, and catches both major and minor issues that can be fixed quickly.

onboarding-cant-be-a-crutchWell that was obvious, how did we miss this one?

When it comes to usability testing, there are a wide variety of remote usability testing tools, and laboratory tools (Morae is the most common lab tool) that we can use to measure engagement metrics.

Some tools such as UserTesting and Validately allow you to recruit test participants directly from their pool of testers. However, if the demographics of the testers don’t fit your customers, you can recruit participants with a tool like User Interviews. The beautiful thing about usability testing is that we are able see how people actually use our digital product, as opposed to only analyzing metrics. Sometimes the best design solutions are discovered when watching people in action (NOT focus groups)!

Usability testing also reveals what’s really important to customers, so your CRO experts can offer people better products, services, and promotions (and a custom bonus or gift to customers might be more profitable than a straight discount offer)!

bad-ux-cro-promotionYou’ve discovered customer values from UX testing. So what value can you offer them, besides JUST a massive discount?

After the UX Review and usability tests pinpoint interface improvements, it’s time to build a rapid prototype to test to see if the improvements increase our key engagement metrics. Tools such as Axure and UXPin make rapid prototyping easy. Once our prototype is set up and ready to go, it’s time to set up another set of usability tests and compare engagement metrics with the prototype to those with the current live version of our digital product. If the design changes offer an improvement, implement them!

Marrying CRO and UXO

CRO and UX Optimization have great synergy together.

As more people convert to customers, it’s important that customers stay engaged with the digital product. Engagement comes in many forms: more active hours using the digital product, downloading and sharing content, visiting/logging in more frequency, referring people (colleagues, friends, and family), completing tasks seamlessly, and more.

The better these “metrics”, the stronger the relationship between the company and the customer, the closer a company comes to building a brand relationship with people. And as more people get to know a company brand, the more diverse the conversion funnels become! A larger company has a larger audience, and must continuously grow to meet wider needs.

ux-cro-cycleCRO and UX Optimization are meant to be together

Takeaway: Conversions Don’t Always Lead to Engagement, and Vice Versa. Think Big. Think Branding.

CRO and UX Optimization are the twin pillars upon which a company’s branding rests… CRO and UXO experts working together will push a digital product leaps and bounds beyond what either one can do alone. Both are equally important in the early stages of a startup, to help convert more customers and ensure the experience is as intuitive and seamless as possible. As a company grows, both have a strong impact on the company’s branding through first impressions, conversions, engagement, and word of mouth marketing.

So the formal user experience and conversion rate optimization process is:

  1. Understand customers first via customer feedback.
  2. Optimize low-hanging fruit with a UX Review before spending budget on optimization.
  3. Optimize conversions, to attract customers.
  4. Optimize engagement, to retain customers.
  5. Rinse and repeat until your company creates a lasting impression on the world.

If a company follows this process from day 1, they will enjoy more conversions, build brand advocates, create an experience that people find useful, build something people remember, and create something that people will share.

With that, I’ll leave you to share this article with your colleagues, friends, and family 😉 I hope it was insightful and fun to read!

About the Author: Ryan O’Connor (Ryan’s LinkedIn), the co-founder of GobySavvy, is on a mission to help companies discover the balance between creating delightful digital user experiences while achieving business goals. He created the GobySavvy UX Optimization blog to discuss hot trends in conversion and engagement focused design.

Announcing Our New MailChimp Integration

As a people-based analytics platform, Kissmetrics ties all behavior back each person’s email address.

And today we’re announcing a big benefit that marketers will have when they choose Kissmetrics.

In our People Search, you’ll now be able to export a list of email addresses to MailChimp. And better yet, you won’t have to download or upload any CSVs, the entire process is all done within Kissmetrics!

Here’s how.

Adding People to a New Subscriber List

Let’s say we’re a SaaS company struggling to get people to upgrade to paying after their free trial. We’ve set up a drip campaign for these customers, now we just need to find who they are and add them to a list in MailChimp. The first step is finding the people that have viewed our upgrade offer but did not upgrade.

We have all the events set up in our Kissmetrics account, now we’ll just create a People Search. Here’s our criteria:

signed-up-but-didn_t-upgrade-people-search

We’ll add a column to this data by looking at lead source.

add-columns-lead-source-people-search

Let’s run the report and get our list of people:

list-of-people-search-results-kissmetrics

We’ll then click the “Export” button and get a list of options:

export-options-people-search

The first step is to choose the MailChimp list you are working with:

export-to-mailchimp-step-1

Next we’ll choose what we’d like to do with this list of people. We’ll add them to a new segment called Did not upgrade.

export-to-mailchimp-step-2

Merge fields are tied to the columns that are added in the People Search. Since we added a column showing their first lead source, we’ll add that data to MailChimp.

export-to-mailchimp-step-3

Then we review everything, and if it looks good, we’ll click Finish and the data will transfer over to our MailChimp account.

export-to-mailchimp-summary

You can do this with any list you create in the People Search. Here are a few other possibilities for how SaaS and e-commerce companies may take advantage of this integration:

SaaS:

  • People that signed up but have not used a feature
  • Customers that have not logged in for 2 weeks (or any other amount of time)
  • Visitors that downloaded or viewed a marketing asset but have not signed up

E-commerce:

  • People that signed up for a newsletter or registered for an account but have not purchased
  • Customers that purchased in the past but haven’t repurchased
  • Customers that applied a specific discount code

As a reminder, this will only work if you identify people by their email address. Usernames, account numbers, or anything else that isn’t an email address won’t work. And, obviously, you’ll need to be a MailChimp customer.

Send More Targeted Email

There you have it. Find a segment of people that you want to move to action, retrieve the list of people using People Search, and then add them to a MailChimp list. This is all done within Kissmetrics and the entire process takes a couple minutes.

If you’re a Kissmetrics customer on our Growth plan or above, you can sign in to your account and start using it right away.

If you aren’t a Kissmetrics customer but would like more information about how our analytics platform can help optimize your marketing, you can request a demo to learn more.

3 Steps to Put Customer Acquisition on Autopilot

Everyone’s short on resources.

You got a tight budget. Limited staff.

But what’s really in dire need, is more time.

There’s only so many campaigns you can create, or issues to respond to, without working yet another weekend.

Simply keeping up is half the battle.

The good news is that some of the best marketing tactics can also be automated, allowing you to set-and-forget while the tools take care of the rest.

Here are three ways that time-strapped companies can better leverage their promotional efforts through using remarketing ads, marketing automation, and dynamic product ads.

Step #1. Remarketing for New Website Visitors

Only a tiny majority – like single digits tiny – are going to purchase when they hit your website.

Using powers of extreme deduction, that means MOST people hitting your website (like the other 90%+) aren’t spending a dime.

Add to that, at least half of all customer interactions are now multi-event (and often multi-device) journeys. People rarely convert on their first visit, after seeing a PPC ad for the first time.

Instead, they might first find out who you are months in advance after seeing a display ad or clicking a referral link. They might have even done a quick search for a problem, looking for some basic information.

All that stuff happens before they start shopping around, evaluating their alternatives to purchase. (Google’s Customer Journey to Online Purchase tool can replicate this for your own business.)

journey-to-online-purchase-google

This nonlinear process becomes disjointed if you have an extremely commercial website. One that focuses a lot of attention and pages of content about your products and services, with little else to offer those people not yet aware of a need for your stuff quite yet.

In other words, great stuff for people already close to the ‘Last Interaction’ highlighted above. Yet nothing for all the other ones who might be ‘earlier’ in the marketing funnel.

But what about… everyone else?

There’s no Plan B. There’s nothing for people who might be interested in what you have to offer, but aren’t ready to convert just yet for whatever reason.

That’s where remarketing can come in, giving people a reason to come back to your site with lesser offers (or micro conversions), nurturing them along until they’re ready to make the ultimate decision.

Setting these up for the first time is fairly self-explanatory. You can create a new campaign directly in AdWords, make sure you’ve got the right tracking pixel in place, and then start work on the ad creative for all the different sizes Google offers.

I was going to show a few screenshots, but honestly that’s all it takes. So here’s your obligatory image instead:

taken-retargeted-memeImage Source

Being so simple and easy to create, it’s hard to believe that it’s still an underused tactic. Especially with costs commonly ~46% less than standard advertising too. What’s even more compelling, is that the more retargeting campaigns used, the more conversion rates go up.

Wait. Why?

It’s a nudge; a gentle reminder that you’re still there and have something that they need. (Not your product or service at this point necessarily, but a solution to their problem nonetheless.)

You can even try ‘Super Remarketing‘, which is a tongue-in-cheek concept from Larry Kim that describes overlaying demographic and behavioral-based information from Facebook (or even Twitter) to your existing site visitors.

Starting with the people who visited your site in the last 30-60 days is a good start, because you should (hopefully) be fresh in their minds. However combining that with ad creative designed to match their demographic stuff (like their job titles) or behavioral (like their interests) could be an extremely powerful – and automate-able – way to drive new leads.

But what are you supposed to do with them?

Automate your follow-up too of course.

Step #2. Marketing Automation for New Leads

Most people here are familiar with marketing automation (and it’s power to increase sales by almost 34%).

Yet most, like 85% of B2B marketers (!), are unhappy with their execution.

When done correctly (and combined with earlier efforts including remarketing ad campaigns), marketing automation is your best-bet for increasing lead generation on autopilot.

Here’s how.

My company worked with a client who relied heavily on Google AdWords for lead generation. Sites like this generally perform well with direct-response advertising, because you’re purposefully attracting people who’re close to making a decision. But they also naturally had a huge percentage of people leaving the site without giving them anything.

We hypothesized that these people were leaving the landing pages and Quote Request form because they weren’t quite ready to speak with a sales rep just yet. They were interested in what the company had to offer, but were still looking for basic information prior to making their ultimate decision.

So we created a simple calculator that would provide them with a few fast facts (like what they’re going to get and what it’s going to cost), without the need to ‘be sold’.

disability-insurance-calculator

After entering their basic information, the person would receive customized results specific to them (while also entering an automated workflow, which we’ll touch on in the next step).

disability-insurance-calculator-results

Now we have something interesting and compelling to promote with remarketing ads, targeting those people who were just on the website but didn’t convert.

And best of all, we received some interesting information to set-up new automated email workflows.

Not just a name or email address, which doesn’t give us much. But also more important qualifying information that’s critical to determining if these people are good potential leads and how to prioritize them.

We can create not just a single, standard email workflow now, but a few sophisticated ones that combine some of a person’s unique characteristics to truly personalize the context of each interaction.

(That’s a fancy way of saying a person’s more likely to open and click your email because it’s better – more timely, relevant, and personal – than all of the other crap in their inbox.)

Most popular tools can run these campaigns for you. HubSpot is awesome (yet expensive). So I also recommend Autopilot and MailChimp for budget conscious companies.

Next you can brainstorm or outline a series of emails to nurture these people over time. For example, pick an interval first (like every 2 days or every week). Then choose a sequence of message topics that will start with supporting their initial request, slowly building to soft sells or even hard sells if appropriate.

For example, if someone just used your calculator (or downloaded your eBook, attended your webinar, etc.), send them to the next logical step in your funnel.

Maybe that’s a case study or a pricing page. It might even be directly to a product page that can deliver the result that your email promised.

Whatever the case, just create a simple cadence to start and repeat for a few days.

email-campaign-cadence

Once you’ve got the basic structure down, you can branch off based on how people do (or do NOT) interact with you.

For example:

  • Did they attend the webinar you linked to in Email 1? Remove them from this list and add them to another to make sure they attend it!
  • Did they purchase the product you described in Email 3? Remove them from this list and add them to a New Purchases one to (a) upsell or (b) get them to recommend you
  • Did they receive 10 emails but fail to even open them? Send them a break-up email unless they start responding.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless.

Start with the most obvious or basic site interaction. And then continue to build out overtime, adding in complexity where appropriate to completely automate how strangers are nurtured until they’re ready to purchase.

Step #3. Dynamic Product Ads for Purchase-Ready Prospects

‘Good’ leads are ones that view your key pages.

They view your pricing pages, they view case study pages, and they view your product pages.

These people are checking you out; dipping a toe into the possibility of initiating a new relationship with you.

When these people leave your site, it’s tragic. They were so close.

You can (and should) use marketing automation campaigns if possible to continue following-up with these people to get them back to your site (or on the phone).

You can (and should) also use remarketing campaigns to remind them of what they’re missing.

Fortunately, you can also use remarketing on steroids with Facebook’s Dynamic Product Ads.

In a banner blind world, where average click throughs are a dismal sub 1%, relevance and timing win.

These dynamic product ads are like a cross between marketing automation and remarketing ads, leveraging your product database and an ad ‘template’ to show people specific ads on Facebook for products they just viewed on your website recently.

Digital advertising automation is still in it’s infancy, but this is pretty damn close.

For example, Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company saw a 34% increase in click through rates. Which ain’t bad. But it’s even more impressive when they ALSO saw a 38% reduction in cost per purchase at the same damn time.

That’s why those buzzwords like ‘relevancy’ and ‘timing’ are important. When done right, they = better results for less.

Get started by creating a product catalog in an XML or CSV file, similar to the one below (or simply use your Google Shopping product feed from Shopping campaigns).

product-catalog-spreadsheetImage Source

Get yo’ tracking pixels on fleek to track peeps who:

  • View Content
  • Add to Cart
  • Purchase

If you’re keeping score at home, those are three different ‘stages’ you can personalize ads to now.

(The Pixel Helper Chrome Extension can help if you’re having issues with setup.)

The next step is to begin setting up an standard ad ‘template’ that will be customized dynamically. Here’s what that looks like:

standard-facebook-ad-templateImage Source

Once you’ve activated these campaigns, each ad will be customized with the content from your product feed based on whatever criteria each person meets (i.e. previously viewed content, added product to cart, etc.).

Now Let’s Put it All Together

Standard remarketing campaigns with Google, marketing automation, and Facebook’s Dynamic Product Ads are each incredibly powerful tools on their own.

They allow you to customize marketing messages on the fly, without the need for you (or your team) to personally do anything (besides monitor results and adjust over time).

But the REAL value is in integrating these three concepts at the same time, creating a seamless customer experience in a multi-channel world.

For example, cart abandonment strategies now take on a whole new meaning.

Sure, send the standard, “Hey, you forgot this product in your cart” email. But combine it with an automated ad of that specific product on Facebook. And support these two activities with branded messages as they browse around Google’s omnipresent ad network.

Marketing tactics, in isolation, can provide incremental improvements. But together, they have the power to deliver significant benefits.

Especially when some of the most powerful can be set on autopilot too.

About the Author: Brad Smith is a founding partner at Codeless Interactive, a digital agency specializing in creating personalized customer experiences. Brad’s blog also features more marketing thoughts, opinions and the occasional insight.

How Much is Bad Data Costing Your Company?

In a world of big data, bad data is becoming more and more commonplace. Part of the issue is fueled by the technology we use to help manage and organize that data. In our rush to be more on-demand, personalized and data-science-powered, we’ve embraced cloud computing, mobility, social collaboration and enhanced analytics. Every scrap of every shred of customer data is valuable. But in doing so, we’ve also let our data quality control lapse.

And when departments are clamoring for numbers despite the inaccuracies, it leads to a ripple effect of poor decisions based on those errors. But just how much is it really costing us? And what can we do to stop poor data hygiene before it spreads? Let’s take a closer look:

A Company Problem – Not Just an IT Problem

Even just a few years ago, in 2013, the looming spectre of bad data was apparent. Gartner surveyed a wide range of companies in its study and learned that data quality costs them over $14 million dollars a year. Now imagine how much more connected we are today and you can see how the problem could compound exponentially.

bad-data-cost

Source: Ringlead

Many companies, in an attempt to wrangle departments to make sense of it all, place the task of organizing and managing all this information squarely on IT’s shoulders. But bad data affects more than just servers and databases – it affects everyone. In this day and age, it is very much a business problem.

And that’s not even factoring in the cost beyond customer data. A few inaccuracies in customer names or details is one thing. But oftentimes, depending on the company culture in relation to data upkeep, it can affect other areas of business as well – productivity, security and making cost effective decisions.

In short, this is not a problem we can continue to throw money at and hope it goes away or works itself out.

What Exactly Is “Data Quality”?

Before you begin to get a handle on the data itself, it’s important to understand what “it” is. According to another Gartner study, data quality is examined by several different points, including:

  • Existence (does the organization have the data to begin with?)
  • Validity (are the values acceptable?)
  • Consistency (when the same piece of data is stored in different locations, do they have the same values?)
  • Integrity (how accurate the relationships between data elements and data sets are)
  • Accuracy (whether the data accurately describes the properties of the object it is meant to model)
  • Relevance (whether or not the data is appropriate to support the objective)

That’s a lot of information to try and clean up “by hand”.

A Portfolio of Options

To help meet the rising urgency of this challenge, there are many data cleansing solutions available. These companies typically look at the big picture of data quality and help to standardize records as a whole. They often source data internally and externally to help maximize relevance and consistency across the board.

As with the other tools in your business arsenal, it’s a smart idea to have a portfolio of options available for your data cleansing needs. You may only need a one-time data cleanse to keep your information up-to-date, or you may need ongoing work. Ideally, you’d only need a one-time data quality cleanup if you’re migrating to another system or doing a mass marketing campaign. Otherwise if the information isn’t tended to often, it can deteriorate and compound problems considerably.

For particularly large or error-prone data sets, a data quality cleansing tool may be set up to run automatically. These types of systems can either cleanse data at specific intervals or notify managers and staff in cases where ongoing data quality monitoring is important.

What to Look For in a Data Quality Solution Provider

Because there are so many options available, and more tools being created all the time, it can feel overwhelming to try and narrow down your options when you’re not even really sure what you need. No matter what you ultimately decide, the proposed solution absolutely must be able to:

  • Be able to deliver an immediate impact and noticeable improvement based on the company’s current data hygiene state
  • Leverage both real-time information and historical details – customers, staff, products, techniques and processes
  • Have a rock-solid foundation to be able to use new technologies such as predictive analytics, forecasting and modeling
  • Scale and adapt based on the volume, speed and variety of data while keeping everything valid and consistent

And just as the cost of bad data can continue to multiply year over year, the savings from having accurate data are just as big (if not more-so), as noted in this chart from RingLead:

cost-savings

Source: Ringlead

What a Difference Clean Data Can Make!

Of course, cost savings are one thing, but oftentimes management (and other executives) don’t just want savings – they want to see a direct correlation in terms of revenue as well. The real question is, how much can clean data make for us? Here’s a hypothetical (albeit very realistic) example from the same Ringlead chart:

clean-data-savins

And in addition to revenues and savings, the benefits of clean data go much farther. With greater data reliability comes greater credibility and a stronger decision-making foundation backed by data. Reports become more accurate. Customers respond to more accurate personalization. All departments enjoy greater productivity and efficiency. It’s a cycle of wins.

So as you can see, a few inaccurate records or non-standardized entries don’t seem like a big problem, but as your business scales, more and more information becomes fragmented and fraught with issues. Costs escalate. Efficiency plummets. But by the same token, by spending a little now, you reap far greater benefits over time. And any campaign started or improved based on solid, reliable information is one you can look to time and time again for greater insights and metrics that count.

Do you use a data hygiene strategy in your own company? How has it worked out for you? Have you seen better performance as a result or is the jury still out when it comes to making an impact? Share your stories with us in the comments below.

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today! Follow @sherice on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ for more articles like this!