Testing and optimization can be difficult — from the challenges of deciding what to test amidst a dizzying array of priorities and ideas, to the time-intensive manual labor of implementing sophisticated back-end changes. With the year coming to a close and big marketing plans in the making, it’s important before making big changes and commitments to be sure that you have the right foundation to maximize the return from your grander strategy. That’s why we created this list of simple changes that can produce significant results and set your marketing strategy for the next stage on the right foundation.
20+ years and over 20,000+ sales paths have taught us that one of the foundational principles in which all marketing should be grounded is that marketers must always be at war with the temptation to prioritize company logic over customer logic. Over time, we grow so familiar with our product, our process, our brand and our own objective that we risk severe and expensive assumptions about what the customer wants and needs to know to make a purchase decision.
The goal of optimization is not to make changes to a page — but to make changes in the mind of the customer. Changing even a few words can alter the conclusion formed by the customer depending upon their levels of motivation and expectation. This means that even minor changes to our message can produce radical lifts in performance, as we have seen in thousands of experiments time and time again. So here are some simple, easy-to-implement ways you can shift from communicating company logic to customer logic and optimize the thought-sequence of your offer:
- Headlines — From hype to conversation
“Headlines are first impressions, pick-up lines. Use buzz/power-words, use numbers, make it value-first, make a promise, etc.,” are all ideas espoused often by some successful marketers. While some of these might be good ideas of how you could write a headline, they often leave us asking, “Why should I use this tactic over another?” When and how we deploy our tactics is determined by our objective, and all communication should be grounded in an understanding of your audience and a rationale for why.
Any idea might be considered a good or bad one until you have a purpose against which to evaluate it. Years of incrementally testing and refining research questions have demonstrated that a headline has at least two fundamental, primary purposes: 1) To capture attention, and then 2) convert it to interest. There are dozens of ways an effective headline could be crafted, but ultimately, it should be measured by how much attention it captures (from the right people) and how effectively that converts to a committed interest
- Copy — From marketer-value to customer-value
While variables like long copy versus short copy, or hero imagery, or ideal eye-path structure and prioritization of value are questions which can only be truly answered through testing and understanding, one universal mistake often made is failing to translate generalized claims and specific features about our product or service into clear benefits to the consumer. The customer is never simply choosing which product to buy, but also which product from who, how and when. It is critical to understand that your offer and the consequent micro-decisions required of the customer are always perceived in the context of their competing alternatives.
A simple but fun and effective question that MECLABS founder Flint McGlaughlin says should be applied to every marketing claim is, “So what?” That is to say, the customer is always asking, and we must always be answering the question: Why should I do what you want me to do rather than anything else right now?
“So what that you’re an industry leader?”
“So what that your product has these specifications?”
“So what that you offer a personalized solution, customer-service or integrated functionality”
On any given website, customers often expect to find words like “most,” “best,” “fastest,” “trusted,” “leader,” “all” and “customer-first.” Qualifying claims like this carry no measurable weight and, ironically, set a precedent of distrust unless somehow validated. Customers want to believe you, so you must give them reasons by clarifying your qualifying claims with measurable evidence. Quantify and specify wherever possible and appropriate so that your customers have no need to question the credibility of your claims, and they will trust you when you make others.
- Images — From irrelevant art to relevant messaging
Images are not only highly valuable real-estate but one of the marketer’s most effective tools for guiding the eye path. Yet so often, images are chosen based on personal opinion, the design department’s decision, how it looks and feels on the page, or its color scheme, cleverness, or worse, simply because it’s supposed to be there. Images, like each and every element in your marketing funnel, are part of and should contribute to the overall value proposition of your organization/solution.
When used properly, images are not merely decorative accents to liven a webpage’s personality; they should illustrate or support the core marketing message, and therefore be measured primarily by relevance and clarity. Ultimately, your core message (your value proposition) should be supported 1) Continuously, and 2) Congruently.
Continuity – The Continuity principle posits that your value proposition should be stated or supported continuously throughout each step of your sales process.
Congruence – The Congruence Principle posits that each element of your page or collateral should either state or support your value proposition (this is particularly relevant for imagery).
- Objectives — From multiple options to the primary focus
“What is the goal of this page or email?” A question we’ve asked countless times when working with marketers and organizations, and we’ve found surprisingly often that either the goal of the page is unclear or attempting to fulfill numerous goals other than its primary purpose. Since ideally each element of your page should move the target customer toward the “macro-yes” — conversion. Each distraction we place in the customers’ path risks leading them into tangential and unsupervised thinking rather than a controlled thought-sequence toward the objective.
The objective of the page is the benchmark against which we measure the relevance and efficacy of all the supporting elements. Avoiding things like evenly weighted calls-to-action, distracting images, competing ads and irrelevant page elements streamlines the customers’ path toward the objective. Clearly defining the action you want the customer to take and stripping away unnecessary elements to organize around the objective can be powerfully impactful in the psychology of the consumer.
Together, each one these subtle shifts in communication can produce outstanding lifts when executed well and set your messaging on the right foundation. We hope that you’ll find the same amazing results from becoming more customer-oriented that we have seen from testing these core principles time and time again.
In the meantime, Happy Holidays from MarketingExperiments!
Design Hypotheses that Win: A 4-Step Framework for Gaining Customer Wisdom and Generating Significant Results (register for the free A/B Testing Summit online conference and hear Flint McGlaughlin’s keynote session)
Ecommerce: 6 takeaways from a 42-day analysis of major retailers’ holiday marketing
Email Marketing: Last-minute holiday deals preview wins with customer-centric approach
Increase Mobile Conversion Rates (free micro course from MECLABS Institute)
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