7 Reasons Your Site Isn’t Ready for A/B Testing

You’ve invested a lot of time and effort into perfecting your website and you want to get the maximum return from that investment. To achieve that goal, you’ve studied dozens of blogs on conversion optimization techniques. You’ve poured over countless CRO case studies, and you have a few tools to help you run A/B tests.

Before you start split testing to get those conversion gains, pause for a second. I don’t think you’re quite ready yet.

There are plenty of free tools to help you test your optimization – not to mention paid options from Optimizely to OptinMonster that’ll help you explore different facets of your site’s performance – so just about anyone can run A/B tests. But it’s not a matter of simply understanding how to do it.

The problem is that your site just isn’t there yet. A/B testing isn’t for everyone, and if it’s not done at the right time with the right conditions, you might end up accumulating a lot of false data that does more harm than good. Before you invest anything in testing and extensive optimization, consider these seven points:

1. The Traffic Volume Isn’t There

google-analytics-low-traffic-numbersIf this is what your traffic numbers look like, don’t bother A/B testing

There’s no doubt that A/B testing can be highly useful for businesses that want to improve their conversion rates. Having said that however, a lot of businesses shouldn’t bother with A/B testing.

Small businesses that are trying to grow, startups, e-commerce businesses in their early years and other micro businesses simply don’t have the traffic and transactions to accurately perform A/B tests. It takes a significant amount of traffic to provide accurate, measurable results.

In a post from Peep Laja of ConversionXL, he provided an example using a sample size calculator from Evan Miller, where the baseline conversion rate is entered. He then entered the desired lift.

sample-size-calculator-ab-testingImage Source

You can see from this image that in order to detect a 10% lift, the tool recommends at least 51,486 visitors per variation.

If the traffic isn’t there yet, you can still optimize your site based on audience data you’ve gathered, but A/B tests won’t be helpful for a while and they might produce false information.

2. You Don’t Have Anything to Test

A lot of websites function as a general brochure for a company with minimal conversion points. If you run a B2B site or you have a freshly-created site with little more than a contact form and an opt-in, then it’s too early in the game to start running concurrent A/B tests.

new-wordpress-siteIf your site is content-lite then it’s probably too soon to start running tests.

Even if the volume of traffic is adequate to run accurate tests, you may not see a significant lift from a general opt-in or estimate request form. For most businesses, the amount of effort and cost that would go into designing variations for the tests just to get a small lift around micro conversions isn’t worth it.

The same applies to newer e-commerce stores.

Your time would be better spent with your analytics, where you can set up goal tracking, creating marketing campaigns, and developing your content offers and resources. The A/B testing can come later once you have more to offer and traffic has grown substantially.

3. You’re Not Sure What Matters

Do you know what the choke points, leaks, and sticking points are in your funnel? I’m referring to the places where you’re losing prospective customers, as well as where you’re gaining the most.

Before you can run any kind of tests, you have to understand what matters, because some elements are more important than others.

For example: a marketing agency is driving visitors to their estimate request page. They spend a significant amount of time optimizing that page with A/B testing variations and micro changes. After extensive testing, they find that their efforts made very little difference with virtually no impact on their conversions.

Instead, they should have looked for mistakes in their funnel leading up to that page. Maybe the content that led the visitor to that point was where the changes needed to be made. Maybe the search intent of the customer didn’t match the content they found.

Another example: a brand selling shoes online puts a great deal of effort into optimizing and testing product pages, only to realize that the lift in conversion was insignificant. Instead, they could find ways to improve the average order value or review their funnel in Kissmetrics to find the biggest leaks where customers are dropping off and fix those problems instead.

kiss-saas-funnel-opportunity-spottedDon’t know where to test? Find where you’re losing customers (and money) with the Kissmetrics Funnel Report.

If you randomly try to test what you think matters, then you’ll only be wasting time.

One study from Forrester showed that 60% of firms surveyed saw improvements in their website when they used a data-driven approach to design. It’s important to take the time to research what really matters to your business so you know what to optimize and where to make changes.

4. You’re Copying Content

While a competitor site (or any site for that matter) might look like an attractive design that your customers will probably engage with, you can’t waste time testing if you’ve played copycat.

Any tests you run after replicating their design and content will only be wasted. If the solution was as simple as copying what we thought worked well for our competitors (or even conversion case studies) then every e-commerce website would function exactly like Amazon.

The fact is, websites are highly contextual and they should relate to both the audience and what you’re promoting. Wal-Mart and Whole Foods are in the same business of selling food products, but they cater to completely different audiences and sell vastly different products.

If I stacked up my own services against another marketing agency offering identical services, there would still be contextual differences in how we market, how we service customers, the channels we use to engage them, and how we direct traffic to our sites.

You need to make sure your website is designed specifically for you, your channels, your audience, etc. before investing in testing.

5. The Data Isn’t There

The more capable you are with analytics tools like Kissmetrics or Google Analytics, the better off you’ll be. But, if the extent of your knowledge consists of checking traffic quantities, referral sources, time on page and bounce rates, then you’re only scraping the surface.

google-analytics-low-aquisition-dataIf you don’t know what data you need to monitor while A/B testing, then testing is a waste of time.

You have to approach your testing and analytics with a problem so you can find an answer in the data. That way, you can identify issues and confirm what aspects you need to change.

Learning a bit more about your analytics can tune you into:

  • How site elements or offers are performing
  • How your content is performing and whether it is keeping people engaged
  • What people are doing on your site and the routes they typically take
  • Where people are landing, as well as where they’re leaving
  • Where your funnel is losing money

The data won’t specifically tell you how to fix problems; it’s just a starting point where you can discover actionable insights. Without that data, and without the ability to interpret it, A/B testing is pointless.

6. Your Site Has Usability Issues

When was the last time you tested your website in a browser other than the one you typically use? Have you tried going through your entire site on a mobile device?

Have you ever performed a full usability test with a variety of browsers and devices?

This is something a lot of marketers don’t consider when they start A/B tests. Ignoring usability issues, tech problems, and bugs is a huge mistake, though. Even minor bugs and slow load times can dramatically impact your conversion rates.

Just a one second delay in load time can drop conversion rates by as much as 7%.

You won’t get accurate results from A/B testing if segments of your audience are bailing due to usability issues. Some of your audience may never make it to your conversion point, and even if they do, their progress could be hindered by bugs or load times that will ultimately skew your results.

This misinterpretation could lead to changes and further variations of elements that are actually part of your winning, optimized design.

7. You Don’t Know Your Audience

Audience research should be one of the first steps of any marketing strategy. If your goal is to drive lots of traffic to your site with content marketing and paid advertising, I would hope you’ve done some measure of audience research.

Without it, you’re shooting blindly into the darkness and hoping to score a bullseye.

Researching and defining your target audience gives you in-depth information about who you’re targeting, such as their pain points, interests, behaviors, demographics info, and more. That information helps you craft compelling copy, winning headlines, and attention-grabbing offers.

buyer-personaA target customer profile. How well do you know your target market?

Without it, you’ll resort to guessing what to change about your copy, headlines, offers, and calls-to-action. Every variation you test will be just as random as the one before it, and you likely won’t see any significant change in performance.

Know who you’re marketing to before you make a large investment in A/B testing.

Testing isn’t for Everyone

While there’s a wealth of articles and advice online telling you test everything you do and to A/B test every variation, you don’t have to. For many statups and growing online businesses there just isn’t enough traffic early on to create an accurate sampling with measurable results.

Focus on growing your business for now. As you grow traffic levels, learn more about your customers, and targeted traffic increases you can start testing variations to go after those micro wins.

Do you use A/B testing on your site or landing pages right now? Have you found issues with the quality of your results? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.

About the Author: Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands to build their online presence. See more from Aaron at Louder Online, their Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Leaking Leads? Here’s How to Plug Your Analytics Gaps

Full funnel attribution is the dream.

A pipe dream.

In most cases.

Because a majority of the time, you’re nowhere close.

Campaigns are tagged. Sometimes.

You track incoming calls. Like 5% of the time.

You’ve got lead reports. Which go up-and-to-the-right at least.

It ain’t your fault. Our tools are limited. Cross-department assistance tricky. And marketing channels exploding.

So here’s a simple process to help you take back control, hopefully eliminating all of those little gaps where leads commonly leak out of your funnel and mess up your reporting efforts.

The Great Analytics Gap: Where Exactly Are Your Paying Customers Coming From?

How many leads did you get this month from Twitter?

How about email?

Most likely, those numbers are wrong.

Not because you made a mistake. But because your analytics platform did.

See, most basic analytics programs like Google Analytics are good. But not smart. (They’re also free, so we can’t complain too much.)

For example, your Email and Social leads this month are probably understated (only getting credit for a fraction of their overall performance), while your Direct ones are overstated (getting more credit than they really deserve).

Sometimes the swing can be 60%!

If campaigns aren’t tagged properly (and let’s be honest, who tags Tweets with any regularity), analytics programs will have a tough time picking up the referral source. Especially if these visits originate from desktop programs like Tweetdeck (does that still exist?) or Outlook (which you’re probably forced against your will to use).

These are tiny examples, but the problem persists.

Even when you’re tracking conversions, with monthly reports going to bosses and clients highlighting Goals with the sources that drove them, you might only be seeing a tiny slice of the overall pie.

Just recently, I’ve seen multiple clients spending tens of thousands of dollars on ads each month, going off of surface level information.

The phone rings, which is great. But why those calls are coming in is anyone’s guess. And nobody has a clue how many paying customers or revenue is tied back to the initial spending efforts.

Think about that. Organizations spending a majority of their marketing budgets on a single channel with tracking… kinda, sorta, setup. But not really.

Couple this with the fact that most smaller organizations use ‘niche, industry’ tools like legacy proprietary CRM’s that offer ZERO API’s and absolutely no integration possibilities.

So they’re forced to cobble this stuff together, manually.

If this stuff was being tracked properly, you’d almost instantly be able to:

  1. Save money on the losing campaigns that aren’t performing.
  2. Increase revenue by spending more on those that are.

And then you get a promotion. Or a raise, at least.

Fortunately there are a few techniques you can use to help shed more transparency and accuracy into your analytics. They’re not all encompassing, but they’re relatively easy adjustments to set up to help you practically solve this problem once and for all.

Click Tracking: The Basics of Campaign (or UTM) Tagging

I already know what you’re thinking.

UTM codes blah blah blah. Use any number of builders like the Google URL Builder to drop your URL in and idiot-proof your results.

Obvious.

But here’s the thing.

Many times UTM codes aren’t used properly. Or aren’t used holistically as a way to measure channel performance for conversions.

So let’s look at it more practically, organizing campaigns properly to make sure we’re tracking almost every single possible use case that might not get picked up by our analytics programs.

The easiest way to accomplish this campaign-wide approach is through inbound traffic segmentation. Which is shorthand* for, “Create a ton of landing page versions & funnels for each traffic source so you’re able to clearly see how and where click-conversions are coming from, thereby making analytics and reporting simple”. (*Not really.)

And while there is no shortage of tools to do this stuff for you, we still like to manage client campaigns in a simple, collaborative Google doc so everyone can quickly edit and update.

marketing-campaigns-spreadsheet

You can also do the same thing for social channels too, breaking it down even further into the primary ones you choose to plan your campaign’s content and messaging strategy ahead of time.

social-campaigns-spreadsheet

All of this time-consuming, upfront work will eventually pay dividends by making funnel analysis a breeze.

(Brilliant segue coming…) You know what also makes funnel analysis a breeze?

Kissmetrics does this with a visualized funnel reporting tool that can help you analyze all of this raw data and make faster (not to mention, more accurate) marketing decisions.

ecommerce-email-funnel-segmented-campaign-name

Call Tracking: Gain Insight into Inbound Lead Sessions

Any lead-based company will tell you that good, old-fashioned inbound phone calls are still the best.

Invoca analyzed more than 30 million phone calls and found that they have 30-50% conversion rates (compared to only 1-2% for clicks).

That same study found that 70% of calls are coming from digital channels. And yet, we don’t know where.

Or why. As in, what did you do to drive those people to call in the first place? (So you can easily do more of it and take home a nice bonus this year.)

Setting up unique phone numbers on each advertisement or sales collateral is an obvious first step. Duh – your AdWords campaigns are undoubtedly already using phone call tracking.

But…

What happens when those people click to your website instead of calling right away?

Especially if we’re talking any type of consultative sale, they’re going to click around your site for a bit. Maybe even leave, and come back, several times before pulling the proverbial trigger on someone to work with.

The first step towards limiting the amount of information you don’t know is to setup dynamic call tracking that focuses on individual customers.

This way, you’re accounting for the multi-device, multi-event, and multi-channel journey (that already happens over half the time).

CallRail is one of my new favorites to do this. You’re able to create a pool of phone numbers based on the average amount of real-time website visitors you get.

callrail-dynamic-number-insertion

These dynamic phone numbers will substitute the primary one already on your website pages, and automatically stick with one website visitor while they browse around all of your pages.

Not only can you then see a complete web session history, but also start tracking multiple sessions over time from the same customers.

callrail-customer-profile

That extra insight gets you one tiny step closer to being able to close out the big black hole that is your offline phone conversions.

There’s also a CallRail and Kissmetrics integration to help you better understand how offline phone calls fit into the customer’s website and app activity, email engagement and more. You’ll also be able to analyze how phone calls play a broader role in lifetime value of a customer (comparing with those who don’t call) and see which specific activities they complete immediately before or just after each call.

But before we can run off to implement, there’s still one last thing to figure out.

How to match all of this stuff up with your lead and customer data to see where buyers (not leads) are coming from.

Lead Tracking: Determining Which Leads Are Converting

It’s time to bring it home.

You’ve got basic campaign tagging properly organized, to limit the number of sessions that slip through your analytics cracks. And you’ve set-up dynamic call tracking to monitor people who may visit your site or call your offices multiple times prior to purchase.

Now we need to line that data up with your lead database.

My completely biased opinion is that HubSpot is one of the best solutions for this problem. Which is no surprise, given my company is a HubSpot partner who receives a nice bonus check every time we sign you up.🙂

But what if you didn’t appreciate the blatant, selfish sales pitch? Or have the extra budget available? Or you just use some other CRM?

Another (albeit, more manual) solution is to use the excellent (and free) LeadIn to begin turning form submissions into actual people.

Once setup, you can integrate this with a few basic email-marketing services to go freaking nuts on hacking your marketing stack.

leadin-hubspot-on-wordpress

You can also begin exporting this data (I know, who the F-exports manual data anymore) and matching it up with whatever lead-based CRM you use – no matter whether they provide integrations or not.

Ideally, you need to know that John Smith just signed up with your company for $X. And John Smith came from a phone call, through AdWords, targeting the term Y.

In aggregate, a tool like Kissmetrics (surprise!) can then connect all of these dots, finally aligning paying customers (and revenue) back to the marketing channels (and decisions), which generated each.

revenue-report-segmented-data

Conclusion

Most of us are making decisions based on incomplete information.

That’s life.

The analytics gap problem is only made worse when companies commonly have their own legacy tools that don’t play nice with whatever marketing ones you’re using.

But when clients and bosses are putting LOTS of money on the line, it’s up to us to make bold decisions on how or where to best spend it.

That becomes exponentially easier once you set up proper click tracking for the common online channels people are using once they see, hear or read about your latest campaign. And buttoning-up offline conversions like phone calls can help you finally see how many of those leads you’re collecting are transforming into paying customers.

The tips here might not be a perfect solution.

But they can get you significantly closer than where you probably are now.

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.

From Campaigns to Conversions – How to Make Sense of the Data You’re Presented With

It’s the question on every marketer’s mind – “How do we turn these impressions, clicks and conversions into something that drives results for our company?”

The fact is, you have a lot on your plate. From new product launches to generating interest to reaching new markets and paying attention to customer sentiment, there’s a lot to juggle. Being able to not just make sense of the data you’re gathering, but also turn that information into actionable insights is a must-have skill in today’s competitive markets.

The good news is, it can be learned – easily.

The Problem with Reach

customer-interactionWhen everything is measured in terms of reach and impressions, we start creating goals that don’t really measure the results we want

In many cases, campaigns are founded with the wrong goal in mind. Everything is measured in “reach”. We look at impressions as the de facto measurement standard when it barely scratches the surface of measuring a consumer’s true interest and intent.

The end result, when focusing too much on reach and impressions, is that you might make a boatload of sales, but not be able to map them definitively to any specific campaign or strategy. Even if people first hear about your product through traditional media (TV, print, newspaper), they’re very likely to go online and do some more research – and that’s where things like reviews, ratings and testimonials can make a significant impact.

Another issue is that most advertising programs assume a straight path to conversions, when the result is anything but. The customer could go from print awareness to online research at your website, but then go offsite to look up user reviews, do some comparison shopping, seek out coupons, watch a product unboxing video, look over the company’s Facebook page to see what people are saying, double-back on the comparison shopping engine to find the best deal, and so forth.

The fact is, the conversion path isn’t pretty and that’s because it’s too often tied to wisps of numbers that don’t make any meaningful and measurable impact on the bottom line.

Mapping Campaigns to Results

advertising-channelsChanging techniques to focus on revenues and relationships requires a change in how we think about campaigns

So how do you tie your campaigns into the kind of insights that deliver the results you need? Let’s take a look at some common types of campaigns and how they can be adjusted:

E-Commerce Sales

E-Commerce relies heavily on the power of reviews, testimonials and coupons – so combining these in a way that makes sense (such as putting reviews of that particular product below the customer’s item when they go to view their cart) will help reduce cart abandonment rates and seal the deal.

Automatically adding in a coupon (especially for free shipping) only serves to sweeten the deal, and greatly reduces the risk that the customer will go offsite to search for coupons – and potentially to a competitor.

Don’t forget the service after the sale either. Following up to inquire about how the customer likes the product, if they’ve used it yet or have any questions are crucial for keeping your brand front-of-mind in a way that’s helpful, not intrusive.

New Product Launch

New product launches are by far the easiest processes to map. Since initiatives are just getting off the ground, you can more easily segment and monitor them across all channels. But even with that kind of segmentation in place, it’s worth noting that few customers who “Like” a particular brand (for a discount, sample or whatever) seldom return to that page.

Your main goal in measuring results with new product launches should be to get customers to visualize their lives made better as a result of having your product in it. Your best customer may not say a lot or interact a lot on social media, but they will tell friends and family about you – and that speaks volumes more than any advertising can.

Brick and Mortar Sales

If your product is featured in traditional storefronts, there’s a lot you can do to help increase conversions. Create a coupon code for a specific retail chain or even a specific locale so that you can tie results directly to that specific campaign.

Help thwart showrooming (where customers browse in store but buy online) by price matching. Don’t force customers to jump through hoops to get the advertised price, either. Move the conversion needle even more by offering users a social coupon. This is one that can be shared with friends, but must be printed and brought to the store to redeem. You can track the success of the campaign through social analytics or the number of coupons redeemed.

There Is No Best Choice

One of the most common questions from the C-Suite with regard to conversions is “which channel drives the most?” Here again, there’s too much of a focus hinging on pure numbers and not more valuable (but intangible) things like customer sentiment, recommendations, brand awareness and so on. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to discovering which channel brings the greatest ROI – because there isn’t a single channel that does this all the time, for everyone, with every product.

Oftentimes, it’s a mix of initiatives that drive the best results. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Look at the mixes of what’s driving the most engagement or converting the most first-time users into paying customers – that’s the avenue you want to improve conversions on.

How Kissmetrics Can Help

If you’re using Kissmetrics, we’ve made it incredibly easy to see which marketing channels are sending the most profitable visitors.

We do this by using different channels. These channels include visitors who are referred directly to your site, who come by way of a third party, by email, and much more. But simply knowing where they come from is only part of the equation.

What you really want to know is – which visitors are bringing in the revenue?

And because Kissmetrics tracks users, not sessions, you can easily tie revenues to people. This is done by setting up the Revenue Report. Set it up once and let it start tackling the data effortlessly. You can even import your existing sales data if you wish.

segmenting-by-product-line-revenue-report-kissmetrics

An example of a Kissmetrics revenue report segmenting revenue by product category

The most valuable aspect of the Revenue Report is seeing which channels drive your biggest profits – not necessarily the most traffic or even the highest quality traffic – but pure revenues. As stated, you can even segment by marketing channel, so you’ll learn not only which campaigns resonate with your target audience, but what that means in terms of your bottom line.

Map It Out

under-constructionAlways look at strategy from a point of constant improvement rather than a “once and done” campaign

Some of us marketers are just visual learners who perform best when an idea is fully mapped out – so don’t hesitate to do this if you feel it will give you a better idea of how to move forward. Draw a horizontal “timeline” showing the different touch points where your customer interacts with your product or service in any way. Then, draw a vertical line showing the stages of the sales funnel.

Now look at it carefully and see where and how the different areas intersect and mingle with each other. Are there areas where customers are dropping off considerably? Are there touch points where the customer isn’t getting the help or clarification they need? When you map out the process, it’s amazing the findings that will suddenly come to light!

No matter what, going from campaigns to conversions isn’t about looking at the raw data as win or lose. It’s about looking at the big picture of which campaigns cultivated the kind of customer sentiment and brand awareness you want while minimizing friction or cart abandonment. And more often than not, these kinds of results will come from many different campaigns and channels.

It requires a shift in how you think about conversions and how they tie into overall customer retention, to be sure, but making that shift and looking at initiatives in terms of wide-reaching strategies rather than one-off campaigns can make a significant difference in all areas of business.

Have you integrated any of these ideas into your own campaigns? What kind of results have you gotten? 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!

The Three Metrics You Need to Know Before You Waste Any Time on A/B Tests

It’s hard to argue that split testing (also know as A/B testing) is changing the face of marketing. According to Unbounce, 44% of online businesses are using split test software. And software products like Unbounce and Visual Website Optimizer are making it ever easier. Split testing, done right, with good context, can put a stop to all the guesswork, anecdotal conclusions, and correlation/causation errors that can abound in marketing circles.

But it’s not without risks: split tests are expensive to run, requiring investment for both software, and staff/consultants to run the tests. Not to mention the opportunity cost of lost time exploiting other profit levers in your business.

All of which underscores the importance of testing the right metrics in your business, and the potential cost in time and resources of testing the wrong ones.

While I can’t speak for all businesses, what I’ve seen again-and-again with clients and peers is businesses gravitating toward what’s easy to test – landing pages, checkout pages, email subject lines, and sales pages (all of which can be extremely important in the right context) – rather than what’s important.

That’s why one of the most meaningful changes you can make in your business is to implement a process for identifying which parameters to test and optimize. Below are 3 metrics you need to know before you spend one more minute split testing.

1. List-to-Sale Conversion Rate

What if I told you one simple calculation would tell you whether to optimize any conversion metrics between an opt-in and a sale, or to look elsewhere? That’s what the list-to-sale benchmark gives you. “List-to-sale” is the percentage of buyers of your product or service over a given time period relative to the number of opt-ins to your email list for the same period.

Say in a given month you get 1,000 opt-ins to your email list, and in that same month, you make 55 sales of your flagship product. Wondering whether you should go with a webinar funnel instead of an email onboarding sequence? Whether to incorporate video into your sales page? Whether to change the color of your “buy now” button?

The answer to all of them is “no”, and I didn’t even need to take a look inside your funnel. Why? With 55 sales, you’re converting at a staggering 5% list-to-sale.

To calculate, just take the sales in the last 30 days and divide those by opt-ins over the same time period.

list-to-sale-conversion-rate-formula

Some readers will be noticing the absence of a sales cycle in that calculation (i.e. since it takes days-to-weeks and several touch points to make a sale. We should be comparing this month’s buyers to last month’s opt-ins). You can control for this with a simple average:

  • Take the last 4 months, and average the opt-ins over the first 3
  • Then average the sales over the last 3.
  • Then perform the same percentage calculation. (Sales divided by opt-ins)

For example, say you’re calculating in August:

  • First you’d average the monthly opt-ins for April, May, and June. Let’s just say the average is 1500.
  • Then you’d average the sales from May, June, and July, in order to leave a 30-day lag. Let’s say that average came out to 75.
  • Dividing the sales by the opt-ins, and you’d get 5%.

The benchmark you should be aiming for? 1-2%. Below that, go nuts with split testing parts of your funnel. Above 1%, look elsewhere.

Above 2%, and I’d seriously consider raising your prices. In the hypothetical case of the 5% from above, I’d immediately double the price.

Next, and especially if your list-to-sale conversion is at-or-above the 1-2% benchmark, it’s time to look at your traffic.

2. Opt-in Conversion Rate

The vast majority of businesses I work with have list-to-sale conversion rates closer to benchmarks than their opt-in conversion rates. Put another way, if they’re wasting any resources split-testing their funnel or sales copy, they’re completely ignoring the sizable cohort of website visitors who never even see the offer because they bounce off the site.

As with list-to-sale conversions, you can do a back-of-the-napkin calculation for opt-ins. Just count your new subscribes from the last 30 days and divide it by total website visitors during that same 30 days.

The benchmark to aim at for opt-in conversion is 10%.

If you haven’t ever found your opt-in rate before, my guess is you’ll be astonished how low it is. I’ve seen it as low as 1-2%.

Luckily, there’s a simple strategy to improve it:

  • Find the individual opt-in rates of your biggest webpages and your 10 most popular content pieces. (If you’re using a plugin like SumoMe or OptinMonster, you can set up the software to tell you your opt-ins for each page.)
  • Look for the “outliers” – content pages often perform worse than home and about pages.

Once you’ve identified the worst-performers, perform this simple checklist (from lowest-hanging-fruit to more subtle)

  1. Can readers find your opt-in offer, or is it buried below the fold or ¾ of the way down a blog post?
  2. Are you giving your visitors only one thing to do on each page or post, or are you offering 3 different giveaways on various parts of your page?
  3. This is not the type of page you want to create if you’re looking to increase opt-ins.

    too-many-ctas-blog-postDon’t give your readers more than one choice when optimizing for opt-ins

  4. Is your opt-in offer not just well written, but well copywritten? Does it specify exactly who it’s for, describe a clear, specific benefit, and emphasize the urgency for opting in? (Even high performing opt-ins can usually be improved).
  5. Are you requiring your subscribers to double-opt-in? This will lower your opt-in conversions. Many founders I’ve talked to like to use a double-opt-in because it seems more “polite”. In my opinion, making somebody go off the page to get the freebie they just gave your email address for, let-alone to wait up to 20 minutes for it to arrive in their mailbox isn’t particularly polite. When I give my email address to get a lead magnet, I want it now – not after reconfirming my email address and waiting 20 minutes for the email.

Split-test ninjas take-note: if you’ve read this far, and your opt-in rate is indeed garbage, there’s ample opportunity to split test:

  • Two versions of a homepage with different opt-in copy/design.
  • Two versions of an exit-pop on a popular content piece.

Go nuts.

3. Traffic

If you’re among the extremely lucky minority with list-to-sale conversions at-or-above 2%, and opt-in conversions at-or-above 10%, and you’ve raised your prices, I have some disappointing (although kind of good) news: split testing is not a good fit for your business.

Here’s the question to ask: Are your monthly sessions at least 50% of your list size? (i.e. if your list has 2,000 subscribers, are you getting at least 1,000 uniques per month?) If not, you need a traffic strategy. Don’t waste your time A/B testing anything.

While I’m a conversions expert and not a traffic expert, here’s a quick decision tree:

  • Determine your market size. If you could 5x your traffic, are there enough people in your market to support it?
  • Implement a content/syndication/guest-post strategy ASAP. It’s practically the only guaranteed winner across all verticals, but it can take up to a year to bear fruit.
  • Consider hiring a paid traffic expert for one month to test customer acquisition costs from various paid sources. Choose the most profitable and double down while you wait for organic traffic to grow.

Bottom line: the same month spent split testing two opt-in offers on a homepage, landing page, or content page, could provide a 2-4x increase in revenue (by, say, improving an opt-in conversion rate from 1% to 4%), while the same time and money spent trying to boost an already maxed-out sales conversion rate would have a much smaller return.

That’s why a little context can save you thousands.

About the Author: Nate Smith is a direct-response copywriter and funnel expert who helps businesses scale by exploiting their most powerful profit levers. Nate is founder of 8020MarketingGuy.com.

How to Turn Online Marketing Leads into Online Marketing Sales

If you’re doing online marketing right, you should be driving a steady stream of inexpensive, qualified leads to your sales team.

That means tons of sales and profit for your business, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Often, you may be sending all the right leads to your sales team, but they simply aren’t turning into sales.

What’s going on?

Is it a problem with your sales team? A problem with your leads? Maybe, but often, the problem is simply a marketing-sales mismatch.

When Things Go Wrong

A few months back, we were using paid search to drive leads for a client. We thought we were doing a pretty good job, but there was a problem-our leads weren’t turning into sales.

To be honest, this came as a surprise.

We had a lot of experience in this particular industry, so we knew our campaigns were driving a lot of high-quality leads.

In fact, from a marketing perspective, our campaigns were a hands-down success! We were sending hundreds of high-intent leads to their sales team at a great cost-per-lead.

What more could you ask for, right?

In our experience, they should have been closing at least 10% of these leads…but they weren’t. As it turned out, they were only closing 1% of their paid search leads.

wait-what

What were we doing wrong? 

On paper, everything looked great, so I called the client to get his thoughts. His answer was both candid and insightful:

“Jake, the leads are great. We don’t have a lead problem. My sales team just doesn’t know how to close these leads.”

Now, this problem isn’t unique. I’ve seen it before. Great online marketing can get leads in the door, but it can’t make them close.

That job rests on the shoulders of the sales team.

So, if you want your online marketing to yield great results, your job doesn’t end with lead generation. You need to make sure your sales team knows how to get those leads to close.

Turning Leads Into Sales

With online marketing, you control all aspects of the lead generation process: targeting, ads, landing page content and call-to-action.

The problem is, while you may intimately understand your leads, your sales team might not really know where your leads came from, why they reached out and what they are looking for in a business.

And, unfortunately, if your sales team doesn’t really understand their leads, they are going to have a hard time closing them.

In order to successfully close online marketing leads, your sales team needs to understand a couple of key things about their leads:

You’re Not the Only Business After Their Business

When it comes to online marketing, you can’t expect leads to sit still.

If someone is interested enough in what your business has to offer to reach out, there’s a pretty good chance that they’ve reached out to your competition, too.

However, first to call is first to close.

In fact, 50% of leads end up choosing the company that reaches out first

New leads are also 100x more responsive if your sales team reaches out in 5 minutes instead of 30 minutes and several thousand times more responsive if you’re reaching out within 5 minutes vs a day or two later.

Fortunately, most of your competitors wait hours or even days to respond to new leads, so if your sales team is quick on the draw, they have a good chance of being the first to respond, make contact and close the deal.

The Internet is a Distracting Place

When it comes to online leads, you can assume that by the time you reach out, they’ve already moved on to something else.

Maybe it’s a competitor’s site. Maybe it’s social media. Maybe it’s back to whatever they were doing before your ads caught their attention.

Whatever the reason, they usually aren’t sitting around waiting for your call.

That means your leads are probably distracted and might miss (or ignore) your first few contact attempts. So, if you want to get a hold of your leads, your sales team can’t just send one email and call it quits.

In fact, it takes a minimum of 8-12 contact attempts to get a 90% contact rate. Even if you’re only after a 50% contact rate, your sales team will still need to make at least 6 contact attempts.

The only problem is, most reps only make 1-2 contact attempts per lead. As a result, internet leads are only contacted about a quarter of the time.

You fight tooth and nail to get those great leads in the door and sales only contacts 25% of them?

epic-fail

Imagine what would happen if your sales team started reaching out 8-12 times and achieved a contact rate of 90%. That would increase your contact rate by 360%.

If your sales team’s contact-to-close rate stayed the same, contacting 3.6x more leads would result in 3.6x more sales. Can you imagine how that would affect your business?

Getting Marketing and Sales in Alignment

In addition to giving your sales team insights into what tactics work best for online marketing leads, there are a couple of things you can do on the marketing side to improve sales performance.

Talk to Sales!

Online marketing leads convert because they believe that your company has the solution to their problems. Your sales team’s job is to confirm that belief.

However, if your sales team isn’t making good on the promises of your marketing, your customers will feel betrayed and they won’t want to buy.

To avoid this, your sales team’s message needs to match your marketing message.

Yes, that means you’ll have to talk to your sales team about the intent, pain points and goals of your leads, but guess what? The better your sales team understands where their leads are coming from, the more effective they will be at closing sales.

In my experience, getting marketing and sales on the same page will make your online marketing effects far more effective and can drive millions in added revenue for your business.

There is Such a Thing as Too Many Leads

If you’ve got your campaigns set up right, online marketing (especially pay-per-click marketing) is pretty simple.

Insert the money, out come the leads.

Now, you and I both know that there’s a ton of work behind that equation, but if you’re feeding too many coins into the marketing machine, the resulting surplus of leads can make your sales team a little lazy.

As a result, ambitious sales reps might be tempted to sift through your leads to pick the ones that will be easiest to close.

They’ll look like superstar salesmen, but on closer inspection, you’ll notice that their lead-to-close rate is actually terrible.

Even though these “rockstar” reps look like they are closing a lot of deals, they waste a ton of expensive leads. In many cases, companies will end up paying more for those wasted leads than they’ll earn off of that “all star” rep’s closed sales.

So, how can you avoid this?

Easy, just keep your sales team hungry.

If you’re putting less money into the marketing machine, your sales reps will pay more attention to the individual leads they’re getting. 

However, you want to be careful with this tactic. Give your sales team too few leads and you’ll hurt productivity and morale.

So, if your sales team is begging for more leads, up your marketing budget. On the other hand, if you’re not getting any requests for more leads and your close-to-sale rate isn’t doing so hot…you might want to dial back your marketing spend.

Conclusion

It’s hard to make a profit off of online marketing if your sales team doesn’t know how to close your hard-won leads.

But, if you’re willing to work with your sales team, your marketing campaigns will not only produce profitable leads-they’ll produce profitable sales.

And isn’t that what online marketing is all about?

You’ve heard my two cents, now it’s your turn.

In your experience, how have sales short-changed your online marketing efforts (or vice versa)? How have you helped your sales team work more effectively with paid search leads?

About the Author: Jacob Baadsgaard is the CEO and fearless leader of Disruptive Advertising, an online marketing agency dedicated to using PPC advertising and website optimization to drive sales. His face is as big as his heart and he loves to help businesses achieve their online potential. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Starting from Zero? A Customer Acquisition Playbook for New Websites

Every new ideas begins with a new domain name.

And with every new domain name, comes hundreds of problems.

Hosting, at this point, is the least of your worries.

Go ahead with some crappy shared one like Bluehost.

Because chances are you’re not going to get enough visits to even matter.

Here’s why, and how to fix it.

Why ‘Search’ Can’t Help You

Search engines haven’t really changed all that much over the past few years.

Sure, they use machine learning now. There was a Panda, a Penguin, and a Hummingbird.

Things have evolved. Been refined.

But they haven’t changed.

The principles are still the same.

They still use ‘spiders’ or bots, crawling and gathering data on millions of websites. Those pages are indexed; grouped into similar topics based on relevancy.

Higher rankings (i.e. greater visibility) still comes largely from the citations of others, increasing your popularity, authority, and overall trustworthiness of a site (including even qualitative factors).

The trouble, is that search engines have been designed – from the beginning – to reward websites that have been around the block (incorporating things like the domain age as a ranking factor).

Throw in the growing preference towards established brands and you got a problem.

New websites are anything but popular, authoritative, or trustworthy. In fact, you typically have to work twice as hard, because no one knows who you are (and they certainly don’t trust you – ready to hand over their credit card).

So while it’s tempting to wait around for the Google God’s to smile upon you, sending thousands of ‘free’ visits overnight, it ain’t likely.

But wait, because it’s about to get worse!

Advertising Probably Ain’t Gonna Happen, Either

One of the greatest misconceptions small or new ventures have that advertising is either (a) ineffective or (b) too expensive.

When done correctly, it’s neither.

Groupon successfully used it to fuel massive growth, acquiring 33 million subscribers in a single quarter. Bootstrapped AppSumo used it too.

But despite all this…

There’s an opportunity cost.

You need bodies. Equipment. Leases. Available money typically gets absorbed by the mind-numbing quantity of stuff needed to get a new venture off the ground.

Unless you’re Color (wow, how’s that for a dated reference?!), there’s probably not enough cash in the bank to throw around for advertising initially.

Hate to break it to you, but this now effectively rules out the two best methods for acquiring new customers.

That doesn’t leave us with very many other options.

So of those restricted possibilities, here are some of your best bets for a customer acquisition playbook for new sites.

Then Where Are Your Early Visits Going to Come From?

If you’ve looked at any analytics program in the past, you’ll notice that we’ve ruled out Search and Advertising. Only a few sources left.

Direct, or people typing in your URL, also isn’t likely initially because no one knows who you are.

So strike that one off your list too while you’re at it.

That leaves us with Referrals, Social and Email.

Awesome. Now we’re getting somewhere.

The DNS is pointed, WordPress blog up-and-running, and you’re ready to rattle off ~500 words about your latest and greatest.

Don’t.

Because nobody cares. That’s harsh. Unfortunately, also true.

Sure, you should get a landing page up. Create a blog. Prep. Cause you’re gonna need someplace to send people.

But then turn your attention outside. Because the biggest opportunities for early visits are going to come from proactively reaching out to other people.

Other communities, media properties, group’s, companies, bloggers, journalists.

In short, influencer marketing.

And while that phrase makes me cringe, using it in a blog post is guaranteed to shoot you to the top of Inbound.org (so alas, my hands are tied).

I’m also not referencing the half assed, trite, “Nice blog post!”-style of influencer marketing. Nor the incestuous, growth hackers talking about growth hacking to growth hackers, that’s also common these days.

But the good kind. That resembles old school marketing at it’s finest.

Specifically, here are five sources to tap today.

Source #1. Channel Partners

Perry Marshall’s 80/20 Sales and Marketing uses a visceral story to explain this first source: “Racking the Shotgun”.

The idea, which I’m no doubt about to butcher, is to go after the people most likely to respond.

Understanding distribution helps. In other words, where do people already go to buy stuff like yours?

Health conscious people buy organic food direct or at specialty food stores.

That’s why Liquid Aminos perform best on Amazon or Whole Foods, but probably not your neighborhood grocery market or (God forbid) Walmart.

If you want to find the people most likely to purchase your widget, go first to the places people are most likely to purchase something similar.

People learning how to code, are most likely going to freelance and send an invoice at a certain point in their life. Freshbooks working out a deal with Treehouse is a perfect example.

treehouse-student-perks

These can be official partnerships or revenue sharing agreements that can be tracked using specific codes or conversion points (like specific forms or landing pages).

Even simple, basic, old school cross promotions would work, such as running a joint-contest or sending email promotions to each other’s audience.

Source #2. Offline Events

Real people don’t read.

Normal people (i.e. your customers) don’t spend all day on Hacker News or Inbound.org.

So where do they get their news? Where do they find solutions to the big problems (like the ones you solve)?

Outside. IRL. At events.

Step 1. Go to them. (Shocking.)

Step 2. Volunteer/speak/help them.

Working events puts you in the middle of the action, and the people who matter, who can refer you and connect you with the best attendees. And volunteering effort, time or expertise is almost welcomed.

For example, there’s meetups happening all around you every single day.

sf-bayarea-machine-learning-meetup

Hakka Labs attends, records, and distributes the audio records of engineer related events making them a valuable asset to the community (and getting props in return).

hakka-video-of-talk

Source #3. PR Outreach

Everyone’s favorite PR advice is to just jump on HARO and… wait?

The problem with that approach, is that passiveness is a cancer in new ventures.

Instead, do some research to build your own media list. (After all, that’s what you’re paying for with most PR companies anyway.)

It’s easy. Here, I’ll show you.

Search Engine Journal was literally the first industry blog that popped in my head. I opened up a recent blog post and found the author.

Hi, Danny!🙂

facebook-wants-to-kill-clickbait

The easiest way to ‘break the ice’ would be through social somewhere, where people are much more likely to actually respond (as opposed to cold email which makes you look like every other spammer imaginable).

For example, you could try LinkedIn to see if you have any connections who could recommend you. Now for some good old fashioned internet stalking… (c’mon – don’t act like you have no idea what your ex is up to now).

linkedin-common-connection

See. Literally the first try.

You can also save prospects in the LinkedIn Sales Navigator to get each and every single one of their updates in a specially tailored inbox that allows you to begin engaging with them on the daily until they recognize you.

I’d show you a picture, but I think I’ve already creeped Danny out enough for one day.

Source #4. Referrals from Your Early Visits (or Customers)

Some of the most successful companies on the face of the planet have used distribution hacks like referrals to skyrocket user growth (and revenue).

Dropbox, for example, went from 100,000 paying customers to over 4 million. In one year.

One of the Lean Startup’s “engines of growth” focused on sticky businesses, where you prevent people from churning and inspire true word-of-mouth so that growth “comes from the action of past customers”.

ReferralCandy is an excellent example, removing the technical requirements (and excuses) to implementing simple referral campaigns. They even integrate with Shopify!

referral-candy-referral-programsImage Source

The primary value proposition on Lob‘s website says, “Programmatically send physical mail at scale”. Um, yes please?! (Someone’s been reading their Copy Hackers.)

That means you can automatically kick off stuff to go out in the mail to new customers without doing, well much of anything after setting it up.

Giving your customers a reason to spread your Gospel doesn’t take a ton of effort. Just show you care and appreciate them.

Source #5. Become a Sought-After Expert

‘Thought leadership’ sounds like one of those business school myths perpetuated by narcissists.

But in reality, it makes everything easier.

Being your own brand gives channel partners a reason to work with you. It makes speaking at offline events (or working with online ones like Kissmetrics webinars) simple because they’re in constant need for industry practitioners who can share their expertise.

measure-influencer-roi-webinar

It gives you a ‘Halo Effect‘ when reaching out to the media or speaking with your own customers.

Best of all, becoming a thought leader also gives you an audience who’s willing to cite, recommend or share your expertise.

Which raises your online popularity, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Which, if you remember, is the catalyst to finally getting scalable traffic from Organic Search.

Conclusion

The quicker you realize that new website visits aren’t coming from passive sources like Search or Advertising, and only from proactive ones like Referrals, the better.

It’s a tough pill to swallow at first, but it gives you a critical posture change that’s required to succeed in getting a new site off the ground.

Your initial prognosis is only as good as the people who can potentially refer you.

So as soon as possible, start focusing the bulk of your attention on helping others – whether as a resource, speaker, volunteer, rev-share partner, or whatever – the better your odds of success.

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 Personalization Can Help You Close Leads and Win Customers (with Examples)

Remember the last time you landed on the Amazon homepage and saw a bunch of recommendations based on your browsing habits?

Or that time when you got an email from your favorite airline thanking you by name and even mentioning your home city?

This is the power of personalization.

Personalization is easy enough to understand: the process of crafting personalized experiences for individual customers through data.

The data is pretty clear: personalization is good for your customers and your bottom-line.

  • 75% of customers say that they like when brands personalize the shopping experience for them (Aberdeen Group).
  • 74% of online customers get frustrated with website when content appears that has nothing to do with their interests (Janrain).
  • 86% of customers say that personalization affects their purchase decision (Infosys).
  • Marketers who personalize the user-experience and are able to implement the changes see on average a 19% uplift in sales (Monetate).

In this post, I’m going to help you understand personalization and show you how you can use it in your business.

Three Types of Personalization

Broadly speaking, you can divide any kind of on-site personalization into three categories:

1. Product-Specific Personalization

In this type of personalization, you show customers products based on what others have bought, or products that go well together (also called “affinity analysis”).

Essentially, it’s a way to upsell additional products based on what the customer is already viewing.

As an example, consider how Amazon shows you popular product combinations (“Frequently Bought Together”):

amazon-frequently-bought-together

Amazon also shows you products viewed/bought by other customers:

customers-bought-viewed-after-product

According to one study, this type of personalization generates the highest revenue for E-commerce stores:

personalied-product-recommendation-type-usage

It works due to three reasons:

  • Knowing that there are others who’ve bought similar products acts as powerful social proof, improving conversions.
  • Product recommendations are served right when customers are ready to buy. Think McDonald’s “Would you like fries with that?” upsell.
  • It encourages customers to view more products. Even if they don’t buy them, you get additional data and customers get exposed to new products.

This type of personalization is relatively easy to setup since it doesn’t require user-specific data. You can even set up product combinations (aka “Frequently Bought Together”) manually if you have a small inventory.

Similarly, setting up recommendations based on behavior of other customers (aka “Customers Who Viewed this Also Viewed”) is relatively easy if you have data on your customers’ behavior flow.

2. User-Focused Personalization

This personalization-type focuses on crafting customized experiences for every user.

You can further divide it into two sub-categories:

A. Data blind personalization

In this case, you know nothing about the user, so you gather key information right on the landing page itself.

For example, NakedWines asks you specific questions at the start to give you a personalized shopping experience. The more information they have on you, the better wine they’d be able to recommend.

nakedwines-survey-questionnaire

Unless you have a lot of customer data, most of your personalization will be data blind. You’ll have to use tactics to quickly gather customer information when they land on your site (more on this below).

Alternatively, you can personalize your site depending on information you already know – the user’s location, browsing device, referral source, etc.

For example, if you browse LLBean.com from Mexico, you’ll see an alert in Spanish notifying you about international shipping. LLBean can easily get this data from your browser itself.

ll-bean-geolocation

B. Data backed personalization

Users who’ve registered or bought something from your store fall into this category. Since you already have some data on these users’ preferences and shopping behavior, you can use it to create personalized experiences/recommendations.

For example, look at Amazon’s “You might also like” or “Inspired from your browsing history” recommendations.

amazon-inspired-by-your-browsing-history

Or Amazon’s “Featured Recommendations” based on recent history:

amazon-featured-recommendations

Data-backed personalization is a powerful tool for improving your conversions. Since it’s based on past user-behavior, you can show highly accurate recommendations to customers and increase your customer LTV.

3. Real-Time Personalization

Real-time personalization is a personalization technique that uses data collected from visitors to create personalized shopping experience on the fly.

In a way, it’s another form of data blind personalization, except it works in real-time.

For example, take a look at Burton‘s real-time weather-based personalization. Based on the weather at the user’s location, a tile on the homepage adapts and shows relevant products to buy.

burton-real-time-weather-personalization

Here’s another example from Volcom. Depending on your location, you would see two entirely different pages:

volcom-personalization

Real-time personalization often creates serendipitous “wow” moments for your customers. Using it too much, however, can leave visitors confused. Some users might even see it as an invasion of their privacy.

If you must use it, use it sparingly.

Before You Start Personalization: Things You’ll Need

We’ve seen how personalization can help you increase conversions while also improving your customer experience.

Before you can start the personalization process, however, there are a few things you’ll need.

1. The right audience

Unless you have a treasure trove of customer data and a crack team of data scientists to make sense of it (like Amazon), most of your personalization tactics will revolve around your “ideal” buyers.

These are buyers who have the money, the motivation and the need for your product.

The best way to identify this ideal audience is to create a thorough customer profile. This should more than just a brief statement like “Men who are above the age of 40 and who like sports”.

Instead, your “ideal buyer” customer profile should include the following:

  • Demographic information: This may include age, gender, location, ethnic background, marital status, income, and more.
  • Psychographic information: This information is about the customer’s psychology, interests, hobbies, values, lifestyle etc.
  • Firmographic information: This is more relevant to B2B businesses. Information on company name(s), size, industry, revenue etc.

How do you find this data?

This post from Chloe Mason Grey is a good place to start.

Most businesses will have multiple “ideal buyers” (say, a shoe store that sells running gear as well as formal dresswear). Use the data you gathered above to segregate your customers into distinct customer profiles.

2. The right message for the right customer

Different messages resonate with different customer profiles. Your 50-year old customer who buys $400 formal footwear isn’t going to respond to the same message as the 20-year old buying skateboarding shoes.

The next thing you’ll need for personalization, therefore, is the right messaging for different customer groups.

For example, if you sell software for businesses, you may want to show different landing pages for different segments of your target market.

DemandBase, for instance, mentions a customer’s company name and custom image (in this case, Salesforce) on its landing page:

demandbase-salesforce

Ideally, you should have separate messaging for each of your identified customer profiles.

For instance, suppose you identify two ideal customer profiles for your shoe store:

  • Millennials under 25 who buy cheap casual shoes, read Complex magazine and buy 10+ video games every year.
  • Professionals above 35 who buy expensive, but quality formal shoes, read niche fashion sites and occupy senior management positions.

You can then craft personalized messaging for both these customer profiles.

For your millennial buyers, for example, you might send them an email informing them about a new sneaker recently reviewed by Complex. For your older buyers, you could send them a personalized email about a classic Alden shoe that pairs perfectly with a quality suit.

Organize these messages in a “Messaging Matrix”, like this:

messaging-matrix

3. The right place to show your messages

Now that you know who your audience is and what messages resonate with them, it’s time to figure out where they hang out.

Ask yourself: which websites and social networks do they visit frequently? Do they regularly check their emails? Are there any apps they can’t live without?

Doing this will ensure that your personalized message reach your audience at the right place.

For example, if your customer research shows that most of your audience spends much of its time on email instead of reading blogs, investing time in personalized blog posts will be a waste of time.

Use this data to prioritize your message distribution. If you’ve worked out the message to get more conversions, then make sure you place it where the traffic is high (and of high quality).

For instance, Target shows its personalized recommendations right after you add a product to cart:

target-guests-also-bought

This will likely have strong conversions since it shows up right when the customer is ready to checkout.

How to Use Personalization in Your Business

By now, you should have:

  • A detailed profile of the “right” customer(s)
  • Messaging that resonates with these customers
  • A distribution system to deliver this messaging to your ideal customers.

The obvious question now is: how do you actually apply all this to personalization?

In this section I’ll share some strategies for using personalization.

1. Focus on capturing data

Data is the heart of personalization. In any personalization campaign, your focus should be to capture as much data as possible. This should include data for both logged-in and raw users.

Here are a few questions you should have answers to:

  • Traffic source: Where does your traffic come from? What devices and browsers do they use?
  • Behavior flow: What other pages do your visitors view? How long do they stay on these pages? Do they click/purchase anything from these pages?
  • Engagement metrics: What pages do your visitors engage with the most? What parts of the page do they spend the most time viewing?
  • Subjective data: Can customers actually find what they were looking for on your site? Use on-site forms to ask users such questions.
  • Click behavior: What links do your users click on? What links to they ignore?
  • CRM data: What part of the buying cycle are your users in? Use your CRM data to figure this out.
  • User data: When did your customer sign-up with you? How many products have they purchased from you? What is their average order value? Where are they located?
  • Search data: What keywords are customers searching for on your site?

Besides the above, you can also collect data when a user lands on a page and customize the experience on the fly. A very simple example of this is Lufthansa asking users what region and language they want to see the site in:

lufthansa-my-country-language

Here’s another example from Doggyloot. Instead of simply sending customers to the homepage, Doggyloot shows them a custom landing page based on the size of their dogs.

doggyloot-custom-landing-page

You can gradually ask for more and more data from the user to create more customized experiences. For instance, on the Sales Benchmark Index homepage, users are asked to choose their current role:

sbi-choose-your-role

Based on their choice, users are sent to a page with handpicked posts from the SBI blog:

sbi-personalized-page

If a user downloads an eBook or guide, SBI shows them additional content recommendations:

sbi-similar-blog-posts

Even the most basic data can help you create personalized experiences. JetBlue, for example, sent out customers a “happy anniversary” email to thank them for signing up.

jetblue-happy-anniversary-email

Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need your own data to run personalized campaigns. Most ad platforms will likely already have lots of data you can leverage to create such experiences.

For example, you can run two Facebook campaigns:

  • Campaign #1: Targets 20-something first-time entrepreneurs who like TechCrunch and Hacker News.
  • Campaign #2: Targets CIOs at large companies who read CIO magazine and subscribe to niche industry blogs.

Since you’ve already qualified your audience, you can now create two custom landing pages for each of these two customer profiles.

For instance, your campaign #1 landing page might say “If you love Hacker News, you’ll love our tech community as well”, while the second landing page might share a whitepaper on a topic recently shared by CIO.

This is very raw personalization (if any), but it’s a quick alternative to combating a lack of data.

2. Personalize based on current position in the buyer’s journey

A user you’ve already touched multiple times wants to see very different things than a user landing on your site for the first time.

By combining data from your CRM, you can personalize your experience based on the user’s current position in the funnel.

For example, you might email a user late in the funnel a discount coupon to close the deal. A first-time visitor, on the other hand, can be sent to a personalized page with a beginner’s “how to guide”.

Lynton, an inbound marketing agency, shows this landing page to customers who haven’t been converted to leads yet (i.e. they are in the Awareness stage):

lynton-non-converted-leads

After Lynton has qualified the lead, it shows a custom landing page (for inbound marketers):

lynton-custom-landing-page

If you don’t have CRM data, you can also use keyword data to estimate the user’s position in the buyer’s journey.

For instance, if you’re selling analytics software, a user who searches for “what is analytics?” is likely in the “Awareness” stage. A customer who searches for “analytics software discounts” is probably in the “Decision” stage and can be shown a different page.

HubSpot, for example, has dedicated landing pages for “what is inbound marketing” (an Awareness stage keyword) and “best inbound marketing software” (a Consideration stage keyword).

inbound-marketing-consideration-awareness-stages

3. Personalize based on user’s past behavior

If the user has interacted with your business earlier, you can use that data to personalize her current experience.

For example, a customer named Emily (who has already bought from you in the past) lands on your site. However, instead of her usual USA location, she seems to be browsing from Europe. You can change your site to show prices in Euros, or give her shipping information for Europe (while also greeting her by name).

There are a few things you must consider when personalizing your content based on past customer behavior:

  • Positive behavioral indicators: If you dig through your analytics, you’ll find that certain behavioral indicators signal a high conversion chance. For example, suppose your data shows that customers who view an item > 4 times are highly likely to convert. A personalization campaign that focuses on such customers would be more successful.
  • Exclude repeat customers: Showing personalized campaigns to customers who’ve already bought the same (or similar) products recently is a waste of resources. Dig through your analytics to exclude any such customers from your campaigns.

One easy way to personalize on-page content is to use “Smart Content”. This is content that essentially updates automatically based on available user data.

For example, on the “Play Like a Girl” homepage, new visitors see this message:

welcome-to-play-like-a-girl

Logged-in users, however, see a personalized greeting:

play-like-a-girl-personalization

Here’s another example from Nike showing how even simple data (in this case, the user’s gender) can help create a more personalized experience. Male users see the page on the left, while females see the page on the right:

nike-male-female-website

You can use user-data to personalize everything from landing pages to CTAs and forms. In fact, HubSpot’s data shows that personalized CTAs regularly outperform non-personalized CTAs:

hubspot-personalized-ctas

4. Personalization based on data from other users

This strategy involves using data from other users to personalize a user’s shopping experience.

For example, suppose your data shows that repeat customers prefer downloading whitepaper #5 while new customers read whitepaper #2 multiple times. You can use this information to push new users to the right download in your emails.

To make better use of customer data for serving personalized recommendations, there are a few things you need to know:

  • Ensure segment overlap, if possible: Instead of making blind recommendations based on-page behavior, show recommendations of similar products bought by customers in the same segment. For example, if you know a user belongs to the “millennial movie lover” segment, consider recommendations based on what other customers in this segment also bought, instead of generic recommendations.
  • Limit price variance: A customer looking at a $20 product isn’t very likely to buy a recommended product that costs $200. Setup maxima and minima prices for your recommended products to improve conversions.

The “customers who viewed this also viewed/bought” personalization is the best example of this. Besides what Amazon does, you can also push conversions up by showing the difference between what customers viewed and what they actually bought.

Target does this exceptionally well:

guests-also-viewed-ultimately-bought-target

If you don’t have a lot of customer data, you can also do product-level personalization. For example, ASOS upsells other clothes worn by its models with a section titled ‘Buy the Look’ after you add a product to your cart.

asos-buy-the-look

This technique is effective because the customer can see how the other items already fit together. Plus, it doesn’t require extensive user-data.

Another example that uses very little data is this landing page from Barilliance showing the number of marketers who’ve downloaded an eBook recently:

barilliane-personalization-whitepaper

Conclusion

Personalization is a powerful strategy for increasing conversions, but it is also easy to get overwhelmed by it.

If you haven’t already put this system in place by now, start small by using personalization on your top-converting pages. Split test personalized vs. non-personalized versions of these pages to see whether your users respond to these changes.

Remember that you don’t have to personalize every part of your site, just the bits that matter.

And finally, always keep testing.

About the Author: John Stevens is a seasoned marketer and entrepreneur. Currently, he’s the founder and marketing head at HostingFacts. He also helps businesses select better site building tools at WebsiteBuilder.org.