Tag Archives: Conversion Marketing

Low-Hanging Fruit for the Holiday Season: Four simple marketing changes with significant impact

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:

  1. 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

  1. 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.

  1. 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).

  1. 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!

Related Resources

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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Conversion Lifts in 10 Words or Less

What if 5 minutes of work could produce a revolution in your conversion results?

It’s more than possible, but it’s also true that nothing’s ever easy. To know which few words to change takes a comprehensive methodology that accounts for the complexity of the customer’s mind.

In this video from our parent research organization, MECLABS Institute, Flint McGlaughlin walks through five experiments from our library of more than 2.5K where the least amount of changes produced the highest conversion wins.

Related Resources:

Lead your team to breakthrough results with a model of your customer’s mind: Get 25 years of research distilled into 21 essential concepts and tools at MECLABS.com/Services

Copywriting: 5 common headline errors
Research-based Lead Gen Swipe File
Test Planning Scenario Tool
How Aetna’s HealthSpire startup generated 638% more leads for its call center

The post Conversion Lifts in 10 Words or Less appeared first on MarketingExperiments.

The Trust Trial: Could you sell an iChicken?

Would you buy an Apple iChicken? Our CEO, Flint McGlaughlin, often jokes that “If Apple released an iChicken, people would be lined up and down the streets to buy it.”

But why?

At some point or another, we’ve all bought a product because of the brand name. But why do we prefer name brand cereal over the store brand? Why are Yeezys so much cooler than the $20 knock-offs on Amazon? Most of the time, it’s because we expect a certain kind of experience from the brands we trust. Cute logos and catchy slogans cannot build a brand powerful enough to sell the world an iChicken. The only way to build an effective brand is to earn your customers’ trust.

Trust, however, is not a static element; it is constantly changing. Every interaction with your value proposition impacts your customers’ trust, and in turn, your brand. Consider, for instance, what might happen after people bought the iChicken. Assuming the metaphorical product is as useless as it sounds, customers’ expectations of Apple would likely be damaged. Next time a new product is released, customers might think twice before jumping in line. Apple may have spent years building trust, but if a brand fails to meet their customers’ expectations, that trust is diminished.

Thus, this raises a more important question for the marketer: How do you build a brand that could sell an iChicken?

The most successful companies in the world do not rely on a brand promise, they cultivate a brand expectation. In order to build a trustworthy brand, marketers must use inference as a tool with which to create an expectation in the mind of the customer, and then deliver on it consistently. But people are not simple, and likewise, this process of earning their trust is not simple.

The Trust Trial

When engaging in a decision-making process, customers begin a subconscious cycle in the mind called “The Trust Trial.” This trial goes through five repeating phases: Customers must (1) observe your offer, in order to form a (2) conclusion about that offer within the context of their own needs, leading them to (3) decide what action they will take. This decision is then paired with an (4) expectation of your offer, which is ultimately calibrated by the (5) experience. Once a customer has experienced your offer, the trust trial restarts.

Let’s take a closer look …

#1. Observation

While it may seem obvious, observation is a complex and important phase for your customers. Customers are not simply looking at your offer, they are searching for your value proposition — a reason to invest interest. Every piece of data presented to your customer must lead them to infer the value of your offer. Marketing cannot make claims, it must foster conclusions. We often focus so much on achieving a conversion, that we forget the many other things our customers are focused on. When a customer is in the observation phase of The Trust Trial, the marketer must present the right data, at the right time, in the right order, within the customer’s thought-sequence, to guide them toward the desired conclusions.

#2. Conclusion

A customer’s conclusions are inferred by the data that has been made available to them. It depends entirely on the marketer to encode their message in a way that the customer comes to two ultimate conclusions: The product can, and the company will. These two conclusions are happening in a sort of micro trust trial throughout the cycle of trust trials. The marketer has value that needs to be perceived and a truth that needs to be believed. Trust is contingent upon the marketer’s ability to foster these necessary conclusions. But the marketer must remember that the conclusion is tentative; it only locks when you experience it. And it must be consistently reinforced.

#3. Decision

The decision phase is more than just the final decision to purchase. While the final decision may be the most important for your bottom line, there are many micro-decisions customers must make first. Customers must decide whether to read past your headline, to click on “learn more,” to fill out a form, etc. If the marketer fails to carefully guide their customer through each of these micro-decisions, then they won’t even make it to the final decision. Using the power of inference, the marketer must leverage the observation and conclusion phases to reinforce, not only the company’s value proposition, but the particular product’s value proposition as well.

#4. Expectation

All of marketing serves to create an expectation in the mind of the customer. Many companies talk about their “brand-promise,” but most customers don’t even know what a brand-promise is. And if it doesn’t exist in the mind of the customer, then it really doesn’t exist at all. Companies should not be focused on creating a brand-promise, but rather on developing a brand-expectation through the consistent experience of the value proposition. Every interaction with your brand develops an expectation in the mind of the customer about what they are going to experience. Whether or not this expectation is met determines the strength of your brand.

#5 Experience

Ultimately, brand is the aggregate experience of the value proposition. Each experience, from the first to the last, compounds to either build or diminish trust. Sometimes, the longer you know someone, the more you trust them. And sometimes, it goes the other way … Consider, for instance, a president who wants to be re-elected. They spend months campaigning, making promises and creating an expectation of how they plan to run the country. Then, after being elected, they fail to keep those promises. Four years later and it’s time for the next election, but the country no longer trusts this president. The experience did not meet the expectation that was created for them. Now, what do you think the chances of that re-election would be? Every experience begins a new trust trial in the mind of the customer and determines the probability of a future engagement. While you can gain your customers’ confidence in the inference process, it is ultimately the experience that calibrates trust — and trust which drives the power of your brand.

An Experiment

We put this concept to the test in an experiment conducted by MECLABS Institute, the parent research organization of MarketingExperiments, with an organization that sells language learning products for people who want to learn a language fast. The group asked MECLABS to run a test with the goal of isolating the variable(s) leading to high order cancellations and fewer people choosing to keep their product.

When analyzing the original page, the team found a small disclaimer hidden beneath all their marketing copy. Their 30-day free trial wasn’t actually so free; for each course you keep during your trial, the company bills you four monthly payments of $64 dollars. The team hypothesized that customers may be missing this disclaimer until it shows up on their bill, leading them to doubt the company’s honesty. If the information was presented earlier in the funnel, customers may be less likely to convert — but the goal of a test is not to get a lift, but to get a learning. So, the team designed a treatment in which the disclaimer was communicated more clearly and emphasized earlier on the landing page. As expected, the results showed a 78.6% decrease in conversions.

While this result didn’t make the company more money, it revealed how their offer may have been misleading their customers. Marketers often tend to prioritize a conversion over the customer relationship, but this mistake can have long-term impacts on a business. You may be able to fool someone with your marketing once, but if you fail to deliver on your promises, you will fail your customers’ trust trial and lose their loyalty — which is worth far more over time than one conversion.

What does this mean for marketers?

The Trust Trial is not a marketing technique; it is the essence of building genuine relationships. Often, marketers forget the human-ness of our customers. We forget that trust is the currency of any relationship. Whether deciding on a college, a spouse or even a cell phone, people must be able to trust they have made the best choice.

If we hope to create sustainable competitive advantage and a lasting brand, we cannot treat customers merely as “leads” and “opportunities” whose sole purpose is to increase our revenue. We must understand and care for each milestone of the customer’s experience of our value proposition. In the end, regardless of the size of your company, your brand depends on your customer relationship, and in order to sustain it, the marketer must earn their customers’ trust. And then earn it again and again.

Related resources

The Prospect’s Perception Gap: How to bridge the gap between the results we want and the results we have

Customer-First Science: A conversation with Wharton about using marketing experimentation to discover why people say yes

Value Proposition: In which we examine a value prop fail and show you how to fix it

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Marketing Multiple Products: How radical thinking about a multi-product offer led to a 70% increase in conversion

The following research was first published in the MECLABS Quarterly Research Digest, July 2014.

Many companies — large or small, B2C or B2B, ecommerce or subscription — have more than one product. If you fall into this category, you face a common challenge: finding the best way to market multiple products. You could take a couple of approaches:

  • Pack your pages with as many products as possible, hoping that the sheer numbers will pump up conversions
  • Slim down to the bare minimum, hoping to focus your prospects’ attention on just one product

Certainly, we can make experienced guesses based on intuition at the effectiveness of these approaches. But at the end of the day, that is not what MECLABS is about — nor you, we expect. We want hard numbers to guide our thinking, not intuition. This led us to an extremely interesting experiment and three key principles to observe when marketing multiple products.

Experiment: Which product presentation would increase revenue? 

This experiment, Test Protocol 1903 in the MECLABS Research Library, was conducted on behalf of our Research Partner, an independent manufacturer and distributor of vitamin supplements. Prospects only reached the page we tested after filling out a form and clicking a “Get My [Product] Now!” button. When reaching the page, the question prospects had to answer was not, “Do I want to buy this product?” It was more of, “Which version of this product do I want to purchase?”

The control page features a standard list format with radio buttons. The “Best Value” option, which is also the most expensive, is pre-checked. The treatment page uses a horizontal matrix that generated lifts in other tests.

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.2

The extensive form beneath the matrix auto-populates, so only the payment information also required on the control page needs to be entered.

Figure 1.3

Figure 1.4

Figure 1.5

Did we see a similar lift in this case? No, the control page outperformed the treatment by 70% in terms of revenue, while conversion changes were insignificant. 

Now the ultimate question: Why? A little digging on our part revealed three key principles.

Keys to Marketing Multiple Products

Key Principle #1. People do not buy from product pages; people buy from people. The art of marketing is not conversion; it is conversation.

We’ve covered this idea in many MECLABS Web clinics. The focus of our efforts as marketers cannot be on creating better pages; it must be on creating clearer, more guided conversations.

You want to have a conversation with the customer that allows them to understand the value that is built into the page. The page should be rooted in that value but presented in a thought sequence prospects will understand. By doing so, we’re able to guide them to the action we wish them to take.   

Key Principle#2. The goal of a product page is not simply to give prospects more options or products, but to lead them to the “one” option that is most relevant, important and urgent to them.

More options on a single page does not equate to more conversions. We create more conversions by guiding prospects to the best option for them. We do that through the conversations we build on our pages.

Presenting a dozen variations of the same product can be confusing for prospects, especially if there is no product-level value proposition. They may have questions like: Do I want any version of this product? If so, what’s the difference between them all? Which one is right for me?

All this confusion could lead the prospect to leave the page and, ultimately, your website.

We can decrease this confusion and friction by guiding them to the product that best suits them. We’ll learn how to effectively do that through the objectives provided in the next key principle.

Key Principle #3. Therefore, the marketer must use three key objectives when selling multiple products: eliminate, emphasize and express.

Eliminate means to minimize the number of competing choices on your pages as much as possible. Emphasize involves using visual weight to sequence the presentation of products. Lastly, express entails ensuring the product-level value proposition is clearly communicated.

If you can achieve these three objectives, you will have created a conversation that guides a prospect’s thinking and leads them to the best product for them, rather than simply a webpage that presents them with options. In the balance of this article, we will look at how to do this.

Objective #1. Eliminate competing choices

Many times, we unintentionally create too many equally weighted options on a product page. What does this mean? Look at the page depicted in Figure 2.1. On this page, three options make up the sidebar. The marketers hypothesized that they could achieve a lift in conversion by removing the equally weighted choices and simply placing those options in a drop-down box for the user to choose from, as shown in Figure 2.2.

Did it work? Yes, to the tune of a 24% increase in revenue.

Figure 2.1

Figure 2.2

 Indeed, by eliminating unnecessary choices, you can increase conversion. However, there is a caveat. It is possible to eliminate too much. In Figure 2.3, you see a page with three size options for a product. We hypothesized that we could increase conversion by simplifying things and just focusing on the most popular size of the product (while eliminating the extra options). That is not how it worked out. Instead, the new page delivered a 35% decrease in conversion.

Figure 2.3

Figure 2.4

Testing new designs is the only way to find out whether you can produce a lift by eliminating competing options, but the research shows in most cases, you can.

To discover whether your pages are good candidates for elimination, ask yourself the following five questions:

  1. Are the products on my page the ones my customers want?
  2. Can I visually group my products so they appear as one?
  3. Can I eliminate one or more competing products?
  4. Can I segment my traffic in the channel so products are more personalized?
  5. Is there a gap in my product mix that indicates I have eliminated too much?

Objective #2. Emphasize desired choices

When multiple products or options are necessary, you want to be careful not to make them equally weighted. That can lead to “unsupervised thinking” on the part of the prospect. Rather, you want to guide them to the option that best suits them. In Figure 3.1, the webpage has five options that are equally weighted. There is no guidance. The treatment in Figure 3.2 trims the options down to three, but, more importantly, it also adds emphasis to the option on the right, steering prospects in that direction. The change resulted in a 66% increase in conversions.

Figure 3.1

If you are not handling emphasis well on your pages, consider the five elements below to get back on track. Of course, test the results.

  • Size: How large is the product on the page?
  • Shape: Does the shape of the product distinguish it from others?
  • Motion: Is there a tasteful way to emphasize the product with motion?
  • Color: Does the color of the product distinguish it from others?
  • Position: Is the product being emphasized in the main eye-path?

Objective #3. Express product values

Three levels form a value proposition: process level, product level and prospect level (Figure 4.1). When working with a page consisting of multiple products, it is absolutely critical that the product-level value proposition is crystal clear. That’s the one that explains why a specific product is the best choice in a specific situation. If the product-level value is unclear, prospects will not understand the difference between products or which product best meets their current needs.

Figure 3.2

Figure 4.1 – The Proposition Spectrum

In Figures 4.2 and 4.3, you see the control and treatment pages of a couple recent experiments. The control pages fail to clearly demonstrate the product-level value propositions of the products. The treatments take a more copy-heavy approach, allowing us to really flesh out the specific value propositions for each product. The result was a 61% increase in purchases for the first page and a 93% conversion lift for the second.

 

Figure 4.2

Figure 4.3

Experiment: How did our treatment meet the three objectives?

Let’s come full circle, back to the experiment that started it all. We wanted to understand why the control page outperformed the treatment that was based on other successful experimentation. Let’s look at how it meets the three objectives outlined previously.

Figure 5.1 and Figure 5.2

Eliminate

We did not eliminate any products from the control to the treatment, so that did not factor into this specific situation.

Emphasize

The control page visually emphasizes the most expensive “best value” version of the product by automatically checking the radio button of that choice. Our treatment, however, visually emphasizes the second “most popular” choice, as noted by the red boxes. This change guided more prospects toward choosing the less expensive option, which explains why conversion was roughly equivalent while revenue significantly decreased.

Express

Finally, in the treatment, we added a small “cost per serving” feature to the products. This showed that the “most popular” option produced a $0.66 savings per serving over the cheapest option. However, the “best value” option only produced a $0.12 savings over the middle option.

Figure 5.3

Increasing Conversion on Multiple Product Pages

If you find yourself in the same boat as most marketers (i.e., having to market multiple products), remember these key principles:

First, people do not buy from product pages; people buy from people. The art of marketing is not conversion; it is conversation.

Second, we must understand that our goal is to guide prospects through the multiple products to the “one” option that is most relevant, important and urgent to them.

Third, the marketer must use three key objectives when selling multiple products: eliminate, emphasize and express.

Related Resources

See more experiments in the MECLABS Research Catalog: www.meclabs.com/catalog

See how another Research Partner tested radio buttons and dropdowns against one another

Explore the MarketingExperiments Research Directory to see past clinics

Learn more about product-level value propositions

Download a special report by MarketingExperiments on unsupervised thinking, “No Unsupervised Thinking: How to increase conversion by guiding your audience”

 

For permissions: research@meclabs.com

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Optimizing Web Forms: How one company generated 226% more leads from a complex web form (without significantly reducing fields)

The following research was first published in the MECLABS Quarterly Research Digest, July 2014.

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

— Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A Case of Identity

It is highly unlikely that Sir Arthur was contemplating website forms when making the above statement. However, the sentiment certainly translates to our digital world, and is spot on in the case of web forms. Web forms might not elevate your heart rate, but these mundane little segments of your website actually contain some of your best opportunities to increase conversion.

In marketing, “friction” is anything that slows down the mental momentum that is driving the customer toward a buying decision. Web forms are essentially the definition of friction. By nature, people are wary of sharing their personal information. Asking them to enter that information requires two commitments from them:

  1. To decide if your offer is valuable enough to give out their contact Information
  2. To then take the time and effort to fill out the form

So to some extent, web forms cause mental and physical friction.

This is widely accepted. Most optimization strategies focus on reducing friction to increase conversion. This is worthy, but could there be a different approach? A strategy that is ultimately more effective? We ran a test to find out.

Experiment: Can form friction be negated?

The experiment, Test Protocol 1636, was conducted in partnership with a large news syndication company. The goal was to increase the number of leads the company received from a “Request More Information” web form. The form itself was not a core cog in its lead generation process, but the form received enough traffic to run a valid experiment.

The control form, as seen in Figure 1.1, contains 11 form fields, with 10 being required. It also features sidebar navigation and three equally weighted calls-to-action at the bottom of the page. We ran two treatments against this page.

Figure 1.1  (Click on images to enlarge)

 

Treatment A (Figure 1.2) eliminates the navigation and calls-to-action, but it also increases the number of total form fields to 15 — nine required ones. In Figure 1.3, Treatment B is similarly designed, but reduces the total number of form fields from 11 to 10, all of which are required.

Figure 1.2

 

Figure 1.3

Did either treatment improve the lead rate? If so, which treatment?

Both treatments outperformed the control. Treatment A produced a 109% lift, while Treatment B generated 87% more leads. Clearly, removing the side navigation and distracting calls-to-action were major contributors to the treatments’ successes, but when we further examined the test metrics, we discovered two puzzling and fascinating anomalies.

Web Form Anomalies that Impact Conversion

Anomaly #1. While Treatment A contained six optional form fields, every prospect who landed on the page filled in every field — without exception.

 Marketing intuition, and prior testing to some extent, trains us to assume that every additional form field decreases the probability of a prospect completing the form. Conversion rate decreases for every extra field you add. We know this, but now the data from this experiment stares us in the face and causes us to ask a simple question: Why did everyone who saw this form fill out every field, even the optional ones?

Anomaly #2. Even though both treatments outperformed the control, there was no statistically significant difference when we compared Treatment A to Treatment B.

The results conclusively showed the treatments both performed significantly better than the control.

However, when compared to each other, the treatments performed in a statistical dead-heat — we could not declare a winner. This raised another simple question: Why did the higher number of fields (more friction) not affect conversion rate?

Getting Higher-quality Leads without Sacrificing Conversion Rate

When we first began to analyze the control, we considered the objective of the form, which was to set up a phone call between the prospect and the business. Our analysts hypothesized that by helping the customer through the form, we could set an expectation for a productive in-person conversation. This led to the design choices you see in Treatment A (Figure 2.1). The tone of the copy is conversational, and at each step of the process, we ask a question that both personalizes the form and explains why the information is being sought from the prospect.

Figure 2.1

The result of this tone change is that the questions actually helped to reinforce the value proposition of the phone call the prospect was being asked to set up.

With whom will we be speaking?
(We collect your general information so we know with whom we will be speaking and how best to reach you.)

 Where are you located? 
(We collect information about your location in order to route you to the appropriate [company] representative.)

 What information are you interested in discussing?
(In order to make our conversation as productive as possible, we would like to know a couple of pieces of relevant information.)

The last question in particular was a key factor in building value. By explaining what they wished to discuss, prospects began to visualize the conversation and see themselves receiving the information they needed. This section consisted of the new optional fields added to the control’s form fields.

Fascinatingly, we increased the cost, in the minds of prospects, of filling out the form in Treatment A by adding form fields, while we decreased the cost in Treatment B by eliminating the optional field, as you can see represented in Figure 2.2. Yet, we generated the same lead rate on both pages because the value offered in Treatment A outweighed the value in Treatment B, as seen in Figure 2.3.

Figure 2.2 – Cost force

 

Figure 2.3 – Value force vs. Cost force

By guiding the visitor through the form and increasing the process-level value proposition, we were able to counterbalance the additional friction in the form — capturing higher-quality leads without sacrificing quantity.

How to Increase Conversion on Your Own Forms

In a bubble, this is an interesting case to study. But what does it mean for your own web forms? We uncovered three key principles to help you in your efforts.

Key Principle #1. Every action a customer is asked to take — even completing a form field — creates a psychological question in the mind of the customer: Is this really worth it?

It’s a weighing question – that’s what the fulcrum represents in the Value Proposition Heuristic (Figure 3.1). Is the cost greater than the value? Is the value outweighing the cost? Those are the questions the customer is asking.

If you can start seeing and breaking down your pages by cost and value, then you have a lot of control as a marketer.

Key Principle #2. Thus, optimizing web forms transcends simply reducing the number of fields. We must ensure that we build the right amount of value to offset the cost. Sometimes, the right “ask” at the right time can actually imply value.

 The way we present and communicate the “ask” can greatly impact how prospects interpret the amount of value. By communicating the benefits prospects will experience by answering the questions, we can offset the cost of giving up that information.

This resulted in two positives for this experiment. We could ask more questions without hurting conversion, and this, in turn, led to higher-quality leads.

Key Principle #3. Finally, we must see through our customers’ eyes. Our prospects personify our forms. They give them a tone, a voice, a personality. It is more than a transaction; it is a conversation — a conversation that you must guide.

How do we see through our customers’ eyes? We can’t think about our products and services in a company-centric manner. We should go through our checkout processes and fill out our forms as if we are the customers. Experience the experience of the customer. Only then can we engage them in meaningful conversation that will guide them in a way that makes sense.

When you begin to see your web forms through the lens of a conversation, rather than a transaction, you will immediately be better equipped to communicate value to the prospect. When you communicate value, you might actually increase cost and friction in the mind of the customer by asking for more information, and still keep your conversion rate the same.

If you are ready to tackle your forms and gain more leads from the traffic you already have, we have provided a seven-question checklist to get you started:

  • Does my form gather the information my company needs?
  • Can I reduce the number of required fields?
  • Should I increase the number of required fields for a higher-quality lead?
  • Can I group similar form fields and reduce the perceived length of my form?
  • Is there a justification (direct or implied) for why each field is presented?
  • How can I increase the perceived value of every field in my form?
  • Does the form logically guide the visitor through the process of filling it out?
Related Resources

Learn more about friction in the MarketingExperiments web clinic replay, Hidden Friction: The 6 silent killers of conversion

Review the methodology MECLABS uses when running tests for Research Partners

Learn about online testing and how to run a valid experiment in the MECLABS Online Testing Course

See how testing form field length reduced cost-per-lead by $10.66

Learn how optional form fields can affect form completions in the MarketingExperiments web clinic replay, Do Optional Form Fields Help (or Hurt) Conversion? How one required form field was hindering a 275% lift in conversion:

Read this MarketingExperiments Blog post to learn more about process-level value propositions, as well as the three other essential levels of value propositions:

Discover seven ways to reduce the perceived cost of lead generation offers

The post Optimizing Web Forms: How one company generated 226% more leads from a complex web form (without significantly reducing fields) appeared first on MarketingExperiments.

Product Pages Tested: How carefully pinpointing customer anxiety led to a 78% increase in conversion

The following research was first published in the MECLABS Quarterly Research Digest, July 2014.

 Product pages are a staple in nearly every business website in existence. Oftentimes, they represent the final hurdle before a prospect clicks “add to cart” or fills out your form. Therefore, if we can improve the performance of these key pages, we can see substantial increases in conversion and sales.

 

Figure 1.1

Look at the three pages in Figure 1.1. What do they have in common?

Granted, there could be multiple correct answers to this question. However, one similarity may have escaped your notice: anxiety. In every page, especially product pages, certain elements raise the anxiety level of the prospect. This should concern you for two very good reasons:

  1. In our experience, when we correct for anxiety, we see gains.
  2. The needed correction often involves only simple and small changes.

z

Figure 1.2

 

In the Marketingsherpa E-commerce Benchmark Study, we found ecommerce marketers are employing a variety of page elements that can be used to reduce anxiety (Figure 1.3).

Figure 1.3 – Page elements used by successful and unsuccessful ecommerce companies on product pages.
Anxiety-reducing elements highlighted.

We tested four of those minor elements to correct specific points of anxiety on the same page and to help us understand the interplay of anxiety and the corrections we make.

Experiment: Which anxiety correction had the biggest impact?

The experiment sought to improve the sales of e-books from a well-known retailer in the market. Our approach was to test four different variations of the product page against the control, with each treatment correcting for a different form of hypothesized anxiety:

  • Version A: Adjusting for anxiety regarding site security (Figure 1)
  • Version B: Adjusting for anxiety that the e-book would not be compatible  with their reading device (Figure 2.2)
  • Version C: Adjusting for anxiety that the e-book would not be of interest or value to them (Figure 2.3)
  • Version D: Adjusting for anxiety regarding the shipping time frame of the e-book (Figure 4)

What does your instinct tell you? Which, if any, of the corrections would most improve conversion?

The result: Version C was the winner, increasing conversion by 78%

After our complete analysis, we discovered three key principles as to why Version C was victorious, as well as what we can learn from the success of the other treatments.

How to correct for anxiety on product pages

Key Principle #1. Every element we tested on the page overcorrected some type of customer anxiety, with various elements performing more effectively than others.

It is crucial to note that while Version C produced the largest increase, each treatment page outperformed the control.  In other words, in every case where we took steps to alleviate customer anxiety, conversion went up. These results underscore the importance of this effort, as well as the relative ease with which gains can be achieved.

It is important to note the use of the term “overcorrect” here because anxiety is not always rational. You may know that flying in a plane is statistically safer than riding in your car, but, for many of us, our anxiety level is much higher in an airplane. Is it rational? No. Is it still very real? Yes. You may see no reason for concern about a given aspect of your page, but that does not mean anxiety is absent for customers.

Key Principle #2. The effectiveness of each corrective is directly related to how it matched the specific concern in the mind of the customer.

While all cases of anxiety correction produced lifts, one change impacted conversion significantly more than the others. Version C overcorrected for a concern that was most immediate to the prospect at the time. Therefore, it is crucial to discover the specific anxieties your customers are experiencing on your product pages. Among a plethora of options,  we have found some standard minor corrections you can make for specific anxieties:

Source                                                                             Correction

Product Quality Anxiety  ———————————> Satisfaction Guarantee

Product Reliability Anxiety  —————————–>  Customer Testimonials

Website or Form Security Anxiety  ——————->  Third-party Security Seals or Certificates

Price Anxiety  ————————————————>  Low-price Guarantee

Additionally, customer testimonials can be used to alleviate several different concerns. You want to choose testimonials that specifically deal with the point of anxiety the customer is experiencing (Figure 3.1).

Figure 3.1 – Examples of testimonials addressing specific points of customer anxiety

 

Key Principle #3. Location plays an important role. You can more effectively correct anxiety by moving a corrective element within close proximity to where the concern is experienced.

As in real estate, location is of utmost importance when correcting for anxiety on product pages. If you are correcting for form security concerns, you want the correction element right where the customer must click to submit the form. In Version C, we simply added a plot synopsis above the fold rather than farther down the page, and it led to the biggest jump in conversion. It’s not always about creating new elements, but instead, placing existing ones in a location that better serves the thought sequence of customers.

Overcorrecting for product page anxiety

Anxiety is lethal to product page conversion. It is always present, and it is not always rational.  By overcorrecting for predictable or discovered customer anxiety, you will empower more prospects to complete the sale.

The effectiveness of an anxiety corrective is dependent on two essential factors:

Specificity – How specific is the corrective to the source of anxiety?
Proximity – How close is the corrective to the moment of concern?

If you can identify the main cause of anxiety on the page and implement an overcorrection element in close proximity, you are on your way to higher conversion and more sales.

Related Resources

Landing Page Optimization: Addressing Customer Anxiety

MECLABS Research Catalog — Learn about other experiments performed in the MECLABS Laboratory

MECLABS methodology

Conversion Rate Optimization — Read how anxiety plays a role in building the “Ultimate Yes” to conversion

Online Testing: 6 Test Ideas To Optimize The Value Of Testimonials On Your Site

To learn more about anxiety and the factors that affect it, enroll in the MECLABS Landing Page Optimization Online Certification Course

The post Product Pages Tested: How carefully pinpointing customer anxiety led to a 78% increase in conversion appeared first on MarketingExperiments.

Customer Motivation: How a craft brewery tapped into the element that most affects conversion

If you want conversion rate increases, the No. 1 factor to consider is customer motivation, according to the Conversion Sequence Heuristic from MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingExperiments).

That’s why the letter “m” has the biggest multiplier (4) in the heuristic.

When we talk about motivation, we often talk at a granular level — understanding where traffic is coming from or where customers are in the thought sequence to help your landing page optimization.

I recently came across a great example of an entire product built solely on customer motivation: A small brand went up against a giant competitor by tapping deeply into customer motivation. You may not be able to go this far with your products, but extreme examples like this are nice because they help us brainstorm possible outside-the-box ideas we can do with our own marketing.

“It begins with an ancient story”

Our story begins with the 2017 AFC Championship football game. The Jacksonville Jaguars versus the New England Patriots. David versus Goliath. If you’re unfamiliar with this part of the story, John Malkovich tells it far better than I can.

Except, when David slew Goliath, there were no referees involved to influence the outcome. In the case of the Jaguars versus the Patriots, a controversial call by the refs decided the outcome of the game. Goliath (the Pats) went on to the Super Bowl, and David (the Jags) was sent into a long offseason.

In case you’re unfamiliar with football, I’ll briefly overexplain what happened. If you’re totally uninterested in football, feel free to skip the next two paragraphs.

The most controversial call in the game came when Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack stripped the ball (took it away) from Patriots running back Dion Lewis in the fourth quarter of the game. After stripping the ball, Jack got up and started running to the end zone for a touchdown. But he stopped because the refs blew the whistle, in effect saying he was touched by Lewis, meaning he was down by contact and the play was over.

However, upon looking at the slow-motion replay, it appears that Lewis didn’t touch Jack, and therefore Jack wasn’t down. However, once a play is blown dead by the refs’ whistle in the NFL, they can’t overturn the call from the instant replay. If the refs had waited on the whistle, allowed the play to run its course, Jack likely would have scored a touchdown, the replay would have shown he was never touched and therefore never down, the Jaguars would have had an insurmountable lead and headed to their first Super Bowl.

Instead, Goliath won.

This botched call became a thing. A meme. It went viral. Whatever you want to call it, it created a deep and abiding motivation in a large percentage of people living in the Jacksonville area.

Which also created an opportunity.

Every marketer faces their own Goliath

Before I complete the story, let’s jump to a challenge you likely face — how to compete with a larger rival. How do you defeat your industry’s Goliath? Unless your brand dominates its market, you likely have to face a larger competitor. In ecommerce, that competitor is Amazon. In B2B, it might be IBM. In the beer industry, that company is Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV and its $246.13 billion in assets.

Intuition Ale Works is a Jacksonville-based craft brewery and taproom. I don’t know the value of its assets, but it is significantly less than AB InBev.

So how to compete?

You need a compelling story powered by a forceful value proposition because you’re fighting against a whole lot of money. Money that can drive logistical efficiencies that allow your bigger competitor to be profitable at a much lower cost than you can bear. Money that can buy loads of advertising and sponsorships and endorsement and expertise.

For Intuition Ale Works, part of its value proposition is beer brewed in Jacksonville. But actually, that isn’t unique. AB InBev also has a brewery in Jacksonville.

Another part of its value prop is that Intuition has a greater degree of intimacy with its customers. It is better able to tap into their motivations.

“We try to keep a close eye on the buying patterns of our customers,” Brad Lange, Chief Operating Officer, Intuition Ale Works said. “Every morning our sales team reviews updated metrics that show how our core beers are performing. (Core beers are available year-round in package and draft format throughout Jacksonville, as opposed to seasonal, specialty and limited-release beers that have shorter lifespans). We also check the previous day’s sales report in our taproom.”

He continued, “This gives us insight into how our seasonal and specialty beers have been selling. I’d say that we are obsessed with data, at least when it comes to consumer interest in our beers. Part of this interest is business related. But at a deeper level, we want to provide Intuition drinkers with beer that they are excited about. We let the sales numbers tell us what consumers like and what they don’t.”

Customers vote for their motivations with their wallets

Intuition had a new beer in the works, brewed by owner and founder Ben Davis, that needed a name. “Our brand is typically more outdoorsy and Florida-related, and the beer names are simple and straightforward. For example, Jon Boat Coastal Ale, I-10 IPA, and King Street Stout,” Lange told me.

However, they knew the whistle heard around the city had an undeniable allure to their customers. So they decided to stray from the brand in order to tap into the customer’s motivations. The customer’s motivations trumped the company-derived brand.

“As most people in Jacksonville know by now, the phrase ‘Myles Jack Wasn’t Down’ has gone viral locally. It’s become a rallying cry, of sorts. Ben mentioned it and we all thought it was great, even though it is completely off-brand in terms of how we normally name our beers,” Lange said.

And so Myles Jack Wasn’t Down! became the name of the brewery’s latest product.

Not all purchases are logical. Customers aren’t dismal scientists, coldly calculating how supply and demand affect their decisions. The purchases that tap most deeply into their motivations are based less on product features and benefits and more on an ability to express themselves in a cold, noisy and overpowering world. “I’m here. I matter. And this is what matters to me.”

Apple understood that with its legendary Think Different campaign. “I’m a misfit, I’m a rebel, I can’t buy a PC.”

Patagonia has tapped deeply into customer motivations with its environmental activism (probably less as a marketing strategy and more as a core belief). As a result, revenue and profit have quadrupled over the past 10 years, and the company now sells about $1 billion per year in outdoor clothing and gear.

It’s difficult for a customer to logically compare the features and functions of every jacket on the market and determine which will best serve their short- and long-term needs. However, it’s easy for a customer to understand that they have a deep motivation to support public lands. And they see Patagonia is fighting for public lands against Goliath (even though the refs are being unfair). So they subconsciously think, “While I might be a mere speck of dust in this universe, I’m going to stand with Patagonia and public lands and the environment by buying this jacket.”

And so it is with beer as well. While the actual product and the football play really have nothing to do with each other, the Myles Jack Wasn’t Down! beer name has had an undeniable effect. “It has sold incredibly well. We don’t try to actively market our beers. But once we announced the name, it sort of took on a life of its own. People came in right away to try it. A lot of them have been wearing Jaguars gear. It has been a pleasant surprise for sure. Myles Jack’s family actually contacted us and are planning on stopping by to try it,” Lange said.

While Lange says they don’t actively market their beers, I will disagree. Sure, in the typical business connotation they don’t. They don’t buy advertising, hold focus groups or build an official marketing plan. They don’t have a drip campaign built into their marketing automation platform.

But customer-first marketing doesn’t always look like the traditional definition of marketing at first glance. The core of customer-first marketing is understanding and serving a customer and then creating messaging so the customer perceives that your product will serve them. All that other stuff is just a means to get that message to your ideal customer. And in that sense, I think Lange and his team engage in some serious marketing.

It’s not always sunny in Jacksonville, Florida

I could have ended the story right there, on an up note. But the sun doesn’t always shine in the Sunshine State. As we’ve seen, David doesn’t always defeat Goliath. And sometimes, dark clouds form around products as well.

Part of customer intimacy and deeply understanding customer motivations is being able to say goodbye to products. Customer motivations aren’t static. They change. As your customers age. As new technology is developed. As competitors get a better fix on what customers want. As the shifting tide of trends and public opinions ebbs and flows.

For example, Intuition recently decided to retire one of its first beers.

“This was a really difficult decision because it played such a key role in the development of our brand the past seven-and-a-half years. When a beer doesn’t sell as well as it once did, it tells us that something has changed. Maybe a style isn’t that popular in the market anymore. Or we’ve developed a similar beer that just tastes better, and our customers prefer it. It’s our job to figure out why sales fell off and then to create something different that our customers will be excited about,” Lange said.

Grab your slingshot and go into battle

If your brand is facing down its own Goliath, I hope this story provided a bit of inspiration in your day. Remember, size isn’t everything.

Your slingshot is your understanding of the customer — whether you’re using data analysis or A/B testing, sales reports or in-person customer interviews.

Whichever brand understands customer motivations best, wins.

Related Resources

Five Questions to Ask to Understand Customer Motivation

Analyzing Customer Motivation to Create Campaign Incentives that Resonate

Harnessing Customer Motivation: How one company increased conversion by 65% by aligning page elements with customer desire

The post Customer Motivation: How a craft brewery tapped into the element that most affects conversion appeared first on MarketingExperiments.

Conversion Marketing and Landing Page Optimization: Don’t overlook the center of your marketing investment

About 10 years ago, conversion marketing and landing page optimization were similarly popular topics. But recently, conversion marketing has pulled away in popularity.

If you click on the chart above, it will reveal a larger version. As you can see, conversion marketing started out more popular. Then came the rise of the landing page. In August 2008, they both had a comparative search index of 24 (a number relative to the peak popularity of both search terms over this time frame).

But since then, conversion marketing has pulled away in popularity. In May 2018, conversion marketing had a comparative search index of 87 with landing page optimization at 14 (Data Source: Google Trends).

Let’s take a quick look at what each of these terms means, and why landing page optimization is essential to the successful marketer.

What is conversion marketing?

Explaining marketing terms is tricky. They’re not like science terms. A neutron is a neutron no matter what. Marketing terms tend to slightly vary based on a marketer’s experience, their goals, what tools they use and what vendors they listen to. So I’m not going to present this as an official conversion marketing definition, it’s just a quick explanation of the term.

Conversion marketing is the practice of improving conversion rates for marketing, also known as conversion optimization. It applies to many types of marketing, from email marketing to pay-per-click ads to, yes, landing pages. So, for example, if you’re trying to improve your email marketing conversion rate, that is conversion marketing. Landing page optimization fits under this umbrella as well.

What is landing page optimization?

Landing page optimization (LPO) is essentially landing page conversion optimization, a subset of conversion marketing.

To practice LPO, some marketers follow landing page optimization best practices or landing page optimization tips like “always put the call-to-action (CTA) above the fold” or “make the CTA button green.”

At MECLABS Institute, we suggest you follow overall principles instead of a specific best practice and then test to discover what works best for your ideal customer. We’ve even created a patented methodology — the MECLABS Conversion Sequence Heuristic — to help you come up with hypotheses for your experiments you can then test using landing page optimization tools like Optimizely, Google Analytics Experiments, Adobe Target and the like.

The center of your marketing investment

As I get older, the decline of many things saddens me because I view them as a negative harbinger of things to come. A parking lot that used to be a primordial forest. Print journalism. My hairline.

Glancing at that Google Trends chart, I’m afraid I may add landing page optimization to that list.

Because in 2018, just like in 2008, the landing page is still the heart and the soul of the buyer’s journey. Yes, there’s voice search. And mobile apps. And texting. And tweeting a pizza emoji to Domino’s to order a pizza.

But most people still want to see what they’re buying and not just trust a disembodied voice. Mobile apps are a closed universe. And most SMS promotions, including Domino’s tweet ordering gimmick, begin by sending you to a landing page anyway.

Regardless, this whiz-bang future technology is only on the margins. Where the money is made and where the money is spent, a landing page is usually involved.

Think about it. Display ads. Pay-per-click text ads. Search engine marketing. Social media advertising. Email marketing. Where does the call-to-action often lead? To your landing pages.

And the landing page’s centrality to marketing conversion isn’t limited to digital advertising. TV commercials. Print ads. Radio ads. Out-of-home advertising. Most of this investment leads to a landing page as well.

Yes, some ads are just for branding. And some include a phone number. But the vast majority of ads lead people to a landing page — $591,070,000,000 spent on advertising in 2017, and a landing page is often used to ultimately cash in on that investment.

And that doesn’t even include activity that doesn’t require paid media like email marketing, organic search, content marketing, social media marketing and the like. Even if your SEO is focused on getting customers from the search engine results page to a content article, that content article likely has a link or other call-to-action to a landing page for a white paper download, direct purchase, etc.

Why it’s so important to recognize LPO as a unique discipline

If LPO is a subset of conversion marketing, why is it important to recognize it as a distinct practice? Well, why does a football team have a placekicker and a punter? Why do you go to a cardiologist for serious heart problems and not just a general practitioner? Marketing is a subset of business, why have marketers?

Focus outperforms generality every time. Because a lot gets lost in that giant general bucket.

And since landing pages don’t require a distinct budget, unlike paid search engine marketing, for example, it can get overlooked and lumped in with marketing in general. Or even the IT department.

Last time we asked about website optimization tactics, only two-marketing experiments large companies said they implement unique landing pages for various marketing campaigns or brands (64% for large, 67% for medium), and less than half (42%) of small companies did. And only half of companies optimized design and content for conversions (44% of large, 50% of medium, 53% of small companies).

I’ll give you a specific example. I was in a Peer Review Session recently for a Research Partner with MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingExperiments). They buy search engine marketing that drives people to their website. But when we looked at where this paid traffic was heading, there was one very general mobile landing page version and one very general desktop landing page version for all the keywords they were buying (more than 1,000). Is it really an optimized landing page then?

These aren’t just keywords really. They represent customer motivations. The motivations of real people. Their hopes and dreams. Their fears and anxieties. If you’re engaged in active listening with a real person standing in front of you who is excited or scared, you repeat back what they say to you, so they know they are being heard.

Why should you do anything else just because there is a search engine and a computer or mobile phone involved? That’s still a real person expressing real desire and distress with their search activity. Don’t hit them with a general marketing message, serve them with a relevant communication. And test that communication to discover what really works best for those customers.

Even the overall top keyword phrase went to the same general landing page with a headline that said “Affordable [product offered].” The irony is, this company had a very relevant page on its website: “What is the difference between a [product offered] and [keyword search term].”

The downside of when conversion marketing overshadows landing page optimization

I’m not picking on this particular company. It’s just a fresh example in my mind since I saw it yesterday. The company was heavily involved in conversion marketing. They had an Excel document with eight spreadsheets — one with more than 1,000 lines — with all sorts of performance data (screen size, day of the week, etc.) for Google, Yahoo and Bing search keywords.

They’re clearly working hard to optimize the performance of that significant search engine marketing spend.

But when it came to landing page optimization, not so much. At the time they launched these campaigns, my guess is they just found a landing page or created a landing page for all their SEM, checked that off the list, and then focused on the conversion marketing they assumed mattered most — the SEM keywords.

And that’s where a lack of focus on the landing page can hurt you. It would be like optimizing a storefront to entice customers to come in. Window displays created by local artists. Solid oak doors with gold-plated handles. A beautifully designed sign with the store name. Free samples out front on the sidewalk.

But then when the customer walks into the store where the decision is actually made, the inside is a discombobulated mess that looks like a teenager’s bedroom.

Yes, conversion marketing to drive traffic is important. But don’t lose focus on the key customer decision point — the landing page.

Related Resources

MECLABS Institute Landing Page Optimization online certification course — Learn how to improve the efficiency of any landing page

Marketing 101: What is CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization)?

Landing Page Optimization: 6 common traits of a template that works

The post Conversion Marketing and Landing Page Optimization: Don’t overlook the center of your marketing investment appeared first on MarketingExperiments.

Landing Page Optimization: How Aetna’s HealthSpire startup generated 638% more leads for its call center

This case study was originally published on MarketingSherpa on April 11, 2018.

Denis Mrkva, General Manager, HealthSpire, recently visited MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingSherpa), and we had the opportunity to interview him about an interesting landing page experiment that was in progress at the time. Denis also shared what happened after the landing page — namely, how he staffs and runs a call center that truly provides value to customers.

Test Your Knowledge

Before you read or watch the full case study, it’s important to get in the right frame of mind. Which landing page do you think will perform better? And why? Think about that, then continue on to the case study to better understand your own assumptions and learn what the data showed. Perhaps you’ll discover a new paradigm to take your marketing to the next level.

 

 

Here, we offer an abbreviated 5-minute version of the video interview. Or you can watch the full 21-minute version. But if you prefer to read instead of watch, you can read the full transcript of the conversation below the article. Jump to full transcript.

SHORT 5-MINUTE VIDEO:

FULL 21-MINUTE VIDEO:

 

CUSTOMER

HealthSpire is a subsidiary of Aetna, a $63 billion managed health care company founded in 1853. HealthSpire serves Americans 65 and over with Medicare, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement insurance plans. It also offers ancillary products for dental, vision, cancer, heart attack and stroke.

HealthSpire also serves two other groups with its marketing — individuals who have yet to turn 65 but are beginning to research Medicare products and children or caregivers of people who are or will soon be eligible for Medicare.

CHALLENGE

About 18 months ago, HealthSpire created a landing page to get potential customers to learn more about Medicare through a phone or chat conversation and, ultimately, register for Medicare plans.

Creative Sample #1: Original landing page

HealthSpire 1

“Our hypothesis was that we want to have something that’s short and not confusing. What we were afraid of was that more information will create more confusion, resulting in a negative outcome. So we decided to go with a first control version, simple, just outlining products we have without going in depth. And giving them a chance to contact us via phone, schedule a call or chat with us,” said Denis Mrkva, General Manager, HealthSpire.

However, a few months after launching the page, Mrkva’s team realized that it wasn’t working.

“And then, I was fortunate to be referenced to MECLABS [Institute] and Flint [McGlaughlin] by my manager. And when we started talking to MECLABS, the lights went on. A light bulb went on.” — Denis Mrkva 

“I realized that this discipline that MECLABS has in actually understanding the relevant content, understanding the audience that we want to service, understanding the products, is the way to go,” Mrkva said.

“So we engaged with MECLABS to create a new set of landing pages that are actually focused on how a consumer would like to interact with us, and especially they’re very targeted [to] consumer segments who may not be that digitally savvy,” he explained.

[Partner with MECLABS Institute to drive growth in your organization]

The team analyzed the current HealthSpire landing page and identified a problem: It had a lack of credibility hurting its primary, process-, and product-level value propositions required to build trust with potential customers and create a perceived value in speaking with a HealthSpire agent.

After all, most customers are not excited about getting on the phone with an agent or a sales rep. They must first understand the value of that conversation to overcome the anxiety of a sales call, in addition to the time and effort they would invest in such a conversation.

CAMPAIGN

Based on that analysis, the team created the following research question:

Will the addition of primary and product-level value, coupled with the emphasis of value on a “Trusted Advisor,” drive additional calls?

And based on that, they created the hypothesis: By providing emphasis on the trusted advisor value rather than overwhelming prospects with the various Medicare products and plans options, we will generate more leads and requests for calls than the control.

From that hypothesis, they designed two treatment landing pages and launched an experiment.

Creative Sample #2: Treatment 1 — long page

HealthSpire 2

Creative Sample #3: Treatment 2 — Short page

HealthSpire 3

RESULTS

Denis visited in the middle of the experiment, and the results we discussed in the video were intermediate results before the experiment closed. The final results also showed that the longer landing page performed better, generating 638% more leads.

HealthSpire 4

Value of longer landing page outweighs its friction

Visitors (valid leads only) who saw the longer page — which included more HealthSpire/agent value copy and imagery — were more likely to call than those who saw the simpler page with less content about the agents and HealthSpire values.

In other words, the additional value presented in the longer page outweighed the additional friction from having a longer page.

Humanizing the brand added appeal and visualizing the agents reduced anxiety

Knowing that they were going to be speaking with a friendly agent may have helped them visualize how the conversation would be and reduced their anxiety.

Creative Sample #4: TeleAgent Tip from winning landing page treatment

“What we found out by working with MECLABS and testing things is that, at the end of the day, what we are asking somebody to do is call us and talk to a person,.”  — Denis Mkrva 

“So having actually the person or the people who the customers will be talking to on the site, and actually having the opportunity to get to know the agents before they call, and provide the content that will actually create a relationship between the customer and the agent on the site even before they call us, are some of the reasons why we believe that Treatment 1 is doing a lot better.”

Creative Sample #5: Q&A with TeleAgent from winning landing page treatment

HealthSpire 6

It all begins with creating real value for the customer

The longer landing page worked because it did a better job of increasing the perceived value of contacting a TeleAgent. However, for this strategy to work, Mrkva first made sure to create real value in interacting with the TeleAgents, that could then be communicated on the landing page.

“Part of that value is the people we employ. If you think about the agents that work for HealthSpire, all of our agents are college graduates,” Mkrva said. “The question became, how can we create a call center culture that becomes a value proposition for the college graduates?”

One way Mrkva’s team creates the value proposition for college graduates is by creating an environment the employees can thrive in. For example, they balance time on the phone with time reflecting on what they learned from previous calls — to help understand the psychology behind conversations they previously had and optimize future conversations. Understanding the people they’re talking to, not just the products they’re selling and a script they’re reading.

“It is perhaps the hardest sale you can make.What you’re trying to do is, in real time without looking at the person, persuade the person that if you have the right product for them and their needs, this is the right thing to do and to make a decision that will be very impactful on their well-being and financial health of their household budget.” — Denis Mrkva

A customer-first marketing approach

Not only is there value for customers who call into HealthSpire because the TeleAgents are well educated, but value also comes from the type of people the company hires and the customer-first philosophy behind the advice these agents offer on the calls.

“What we look for is — and it’s not easy, it’s not easy to evaluate people in an interview — is integrity. You have to do the right thing,” Mrkva said.

“We’re trying to find the right solution for the customer. And if there is no right solution for the customer with us, we will not sell.” — Denis Mrkva 

“Actually, we’ll recommend either stay with what you have, or maybe you should go and call other providers that have a product, because we can help them find the better product. Even though we cannot sell to them, we can tell them there is … company X [that] has this product, so you may want to go to this site,” he said.

This approach helps with employee satisfaction and engagement as well.

“It’s human nature. Our nature is to help somebody. So we need to enable people to be people in the workplace,” Mrkva said. “If you have the right people and if you make them happy and content, our customers will be happy and content.”


Sources

HealthSpire

Related Resources

MECLABS Research Partnerships — Participate in a research project and drive conversion increases

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Full Transcript of Video Interview

Daniel Burstein: In our marketing, we have a lot of assumptions about what we think will work. We have that golden gut. One of those assumptions is, long form doesn’t work. People want short, they want quick. They want quippy. Well, that’s why you’ve got to test and experiment and see what works. And we’re going to look at an experiment today that challenges that model.

    Hi, I’m Daniel Burstein. I’m the Senior Director of Content at Marketing and MECLABS Institute. And I’m joined by Denis Mrkva, the General Manager of HealthSpire, a subsidiary of Aetna. Thanks for joining us, Denis.

Denis Mkrva:     Thank you for having me.

Daniel:     So, here we’re going to look at an experiment that your team ran with MECLABS Institute. So let’s just start, pull it up on the screen, and we’ve got the control and Treatment 1 and Treatment 2. Let’s just start by telling us about HealthSpire briefly. Who are they? How does HealthSpire serve a customer?

Denis:     Well, HealthSpire is an Aetna subsidiary. And as such, we offer a portfolio of Medicare products for the seniors in the country that are eligible to purchase Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, as well as ancillary products such as dental and vision, cancer, heart attack and stroke. Really we’re trying to protect as much as we can and enable people to have that protection holistically for their health.

Daniel:     Okay. And so when we look at this landing page, what was the goal of the landing page?

Denis:     Well, the goal of the landing page, if you look at the first, the control version, that’s when HealthSpire started a year and a half ago. And as you said, we all want things to be shorter, cleaner and to the point. Unfortunately, when you deal with very complex products in an industry such as healthcare, it is not that easy to do.

    However, a year and a half ago when we started HealthSpire, the assumption was, or hypothesis was, that we want to have something that’s short and not confusing. What we were afraid of was that more information would create more confusion, more friction, hence, resulting in a negative outcome. So we decided to go with a first control version, simple, just outlining products we have without going in depth. And giving them a chance to contact us via phone, schedule a call or chat with us.

Daniel:     Let’s take a look at it. So what were you trying to do with these two treatments?

Denis:     Okay, then a few months after starting up that page, we realized it’s not working. We realized something is going on. And then I was fortunate to be referenced to MECLABS and Flint by my manager. And when we started talking to MECLABS, the lights went on. A light bulb went on. I realized that this discipline that MECLABS has in actually understanding the relevant content, understanding the audience that we want to service, understanding the products, is the way to go.

    So we engaged with MECLABS to create a new set of landing pages that are actually focused on how a consumer would like to interact with us and especially {inaudible} very targeted consumer segments who may not be that digitally savvy.  And so we started working on a few different prototypes.

    Again, we wanted to have something that has a bit more information, it’s more informative, but give two different looks and feels. One would be with a lot more information, in depth. Another one with less information, that would really service almost as a passthrough to people who have already done their research. And then we launched.

Daniel:     Yeah. So now you can see, if you’re watching too, look at the short versus the long. And think about that for a second. I think most people would assume, you can see how much longer that page is, short is going to work better. It’s quick, everything is right there, people don’t want to read through things that are long. Let’s take a quick look at the results.

    So now let me mention these results. They’re pretty astounding. We’re still in the middle of this experiment. Denis just happens to be joining us at our headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida, here. So that’s why we’re discussing it now. The results aren’t complete yet. But look at those early numbers. That’s pretty astounding of how well the long form is doing.

Denis:     It’s doing great, actually. And what we found out by working with MECLABS and testing things is that, at the end of the day, what we are asking somebody to do is call us and talk to a person. So having actually the person or the people that the customers will be talking to on the site, and actually having the opportunity to get to know the agents before they call, and providing the content that will actually create a relationship between the customer and the agent on the site even before they call us, are some of the reasons why we believe that Treatment 1 is doing a lot better.

Daniel:     I think what you’re doing there is a process level value proposition. Right?

Denis:     Yes.

Daniel:     You’re not trying to sell all of HealthSpire, all of your entire product. All you’re trying to do is get someone to make a call. And that could be a reason why the long form works better because who among us is like, “Yes, I want to get on a call with someone to sell me. That’s what I want to do. Let me grab that phone number right now.” No. You have to sell them on the value of the call, right?

Denis:     Yes. And the part of that value is the people we employ. If you think about the agents that work for HealthSpire, all of our agents are college graduates. We believe that since the product itself and the industry is actually very complex compared to some other industries I worked in, such as consumer finance or the P&C insurance industry — it is heavily regulated, it has a diverse set of products and plans, and to actually understand that, we do want to employ people who have cognitive skills. And I think a certificate of having cognitive skills in the country is having a college degree.

    So we wanted to really try to figure out how do we — and I ran analytics for some time in my previous career where we had always an opportunity to hire people with a high level of education — the question became, “How can we create a call center culture that becomes a value proposition for the college graduates who just spent maybe $40,000 or $50,000 on their education, and now we’re asking them to be on the phone?” It wouldn’t be appealing to me at all.

    And then also, inform our customers that in order for us to service them, it has to start with our employees first, how we train them, how we treat them, how we work with them, how we develop them. And that connection that’s being done on the digital landing page or the longer version is showing results. It’s working.

Daniel:     If we take a look deeper into the results of conversions, we see there’s also more conversions for the longer page. It’s clear, you’re not just getting more people, you’re getting probably better leads. But also, what you’re doing on the call center side is working.

    So let me ask you about that because we recently did a case study with The Globe and Mail, a large Canadian newspaper, and they have a call center there. And what they were telling me is, the real challenge is, (you probably have a bigger challenge than this) is there is such high turnover in call centers that they don’t really get people who understand the product enough. Right? So what they had to do is create this messaging guide and really give them all the information necessary to even someone who’s only there a short time to understand the product.

    It’s interesting what you talk about. You have even a bigger challenge. Understanding a newspaper is one thing. Understanding a complex product that you probably yourself don’t use because you’re not a senior citizen, is more difficult. So what are some of your tactics to, one, reduce turnover and create a working environment that’s amenable, and two, to educate them so they can help educate their customers and really understand the product?

Denis:     Well, that’s interesting because let’s suppose that we are running a basketball team. That’s our business, and as a coach and general manager, we show up for a game and we realize that our players don’t know how to play the game. Whose fault is that? It’s the coach and the manager’s. So the very first thing that we realized is that in order for people to do their jobs, we not only need to find the right talent and onboard that, but we need to continuously work on coaching them day in and day out.

    And through the process, the hardest part is how do you find a balance between them doing their job and having enough time to develop them into effective employees. But not only at a professional level, how do you help them personally develop themselves and get them ready for some other jobs within the company or outside the company? So very quickly we realized it all comes down to culture and environment.

    What I mean by that is that, see, when we ask somebody to be on the phone 9 or 10 hours, it’s humanly impossible to be focused on talking to customer after customer without having the ability to actually take some time off and reflect on, “What was I talking about in the last call that made me do well versus now?”

    Then we need to enable them to start learning about the fact that talking on the phone with somebody is perhaps the hardest sale you can make, and it has a lot to do with the psychology of people rather than just learning the product. Because what you’re trying to do is, in real time without looking at the person, persuade the person that if you have the right product for them and their needs with that, this is the right thing to do and to make a decision that will be very impactful on their well-being and financial health of their household budget.

    Now to do that you also need to take out product knowledge, you need to start helping them to understand the importance of listening, importance of being able to lead people in the conversation through certain decision-making that you have to do on their behalf. So very quickly we realized it’s not only about knowing the product and having a script that you can read, it’s about exploring behind, what’s behind a sale. On the phone, it has to do with the psychology of people and ability of people to adjust their approach to the customer given the differences they have listened to on the phone.

Daniel:     It sounds like empathy.

Denis:    It is.

Daniel:    Is that something that you look for when you’re hiring? Empathy?

Denis:     What we look for is — and it’s not easy, it’s not easy to evaluate people in an interview — is integrity. You have to do the right thing. And what are we doing here? We’re trying to find the right solution for the customer. And if there is no right solution for the customer with us, we will not sell. 

    Actually, we’ll recommend. Either stay with us or maybe you should go and call other providers that have a product — because we can help them find the better product. Even though we cannot sell to them, we can tell them, “Company X has this product, so you may want to go to this site.”

Daniel:     So that’s very interesting. I don’t want to lose that point because I assume you’re investing significant amounts to just get these calls, to begin with, on the landing page. And each call is valuable to you. So you’re saying that you train your call center employees when you don’t have the right product for them, to find the right product for them, wherever it’s from, to point them in another direction.

Denis:     Indeed.

Daniel:     That’s outstanding.

Denis:     That’s I think, if you think about HealthSpire, as I said, is a subsidiary of Aetna. Aetna has been in existence for more than 160 years. And if you take a look at our competition, perhaps the one that’s the second oldest one is most likely a hundred years younger than us. There’s a reason why Aetna survived all those decades or century and a half, more than a century and a half, and that’s the ability not only to anticipate change that is coming but actually to be around people who believe that our job is, our fiduciary responsibility is, to make money for our shareholders and to maximize that. But the way, how we achieve that is the right way. And when you put these two together I think you maximize both. You maximize the financial performance of the company and you maximize an employee satisfaction engagement that then allows you to sustain the business model.

Daniel:     It’s more fulfilling to employees to really serve the customer even when they’re not selling their own product, it sounds like.

Denis:     It’s human nature. I’d be surprised if you, maybe not every one of us, but if you take us in general, our nature is to help somebody. Would you agree?

Daniel:     Totally.

Denis:     So we need to enable people to be people in the workplace.

Daniel:     Let me ask you about that because enabling people to be people in the workplace, that could be a challenging call center. So I wonder how you monitor individual performance. Because a lot of what you’re talking about would go against the metrics we see in a lot of other call centers. It’s about the amount of calls they can make in a day or getting off the phone quickly, some of these things. It almost seems like a factory production. So how do you monitor individual performance and allow people to be people in a call center?

Denis:     It’s interesting you said that because before taking this position about 18 months ago, I never ran a business, a startup. I was in the area of analytics my entire career. It’s a function of support which you contribute, but it’s really not directly responsible for the performance of the business. And when I started learning about this, when I started my job, I reached out to people to see how other people do that. It’s new to me.

    I started thinking about things such as average handling time, minimizing average handling time. And I was thinking, and I realized, “No, I want to maximize the average handling time, given the maximum productivity.” In other words, we don’t monitor average handling time. With our agents, we have goals, what we need to sell, and then we have a very strict process on how we sell.

    That process ensures that we stay in compliance with the federal as well as state regulations because some products are regulated by the federal government, some by state. The process in which we ensure that going from introducing yourself to sale is not two minutes because in two minutes you cannot understand consumer needs. And even if they call you with a specific, preconceived notion of what they want to buy, we still want you to understand their needs because given how complex the industry is, many people actually need more education.

    So it’s easy to us. We employ people to sell but do it in a way that we want it to be done, which is actually serving that customer. And that’s what we monitor. We monitor productivity and quality. How many calls you took, how much time spent, if you sold two policies today and that’s your goal, you’re going to go home. You go home. 

    You have to allow people, give people goals, enable them with the support they have and make sure that you hire people who are accountable. And accountability comes down to making sure that one does his or her job. Part of that is not how long we talk on the phone, how many calls. It’s actually how you’re doing the right thing and how we’re meeting our goals.

Daniel:     And it sounds like diverging from the script when it’s necessary?

Denis:     Yeah, because the script guides you through the framework of sales. What I mean by that is, often if you call somebody to buy insurance products, most likely they sell only one product. And when you sell only one product, you don’t want to know the consumer needs. Because if the needs tell you they need product B, which you don’t sell, guess what? You don’t have to sell. So you’re pitching the product you have.

    Now we have every product that’s out there. So a script allows them to systematically go through the process. And that’s important because most of our people that work for HealthSpire, including myself, we don’t have sales experience. And after a while, you see that the agents start not only memorizing, it becomes very natural for them, but we still let them be them. 

    Their personalities have to come to the phone. The way they assess the situations come to the phone. It cannot be a robot talking on the other end of the phone and reading word for word, which in some cases you have to do when you get to the certain regulated things. But in the process of assessing the needs, selling, we want them to be themselves.

Daniel:     Yeah, if you want people to be robots you could just use AI at this point, right? You bring that humanity and their personality into it, sounds like?

Denis:     You have to because the difference between buying a retail item, piece of clothing, and buying insurance is different. We’re talking about, what I would say, is this emotional purchase, “I like this jacket. I want this jacket. Do I have enough money? That’s the only thing I need to know. Do I like it? Do I have enough money? Then I’m going to buy it.”

    Health insurance is a rational decision. And in that rational decision given the complexity, it’s good to have another human being thinking with you through what the implications are, what my options are. “How do I choose between these options?” And even though I do believe in numbers and technology, I don’t think AI can get us that at this point in time. Even then, you’ll still need to have some human aspect in the process.

Daniel:     Absolutely. Let me ask you lastly. You mentioned Aetna is a 160-year-old company. HealthSpire is a startup within that company.

Denis:     Yes.

Daniel:     So what have you learned from that from maybe learning the best from an established enterprise company and learning the best from startup culture?

Denis:     If you think about Aetna and HealthSpire, its relationship between Aetna investing in HealthSpire and taking a risk to invest in a different business model that doesn’t exist today. Well, at least doesn’t exist at the large scale. So what I learned is that as in any startup it really takes a few things. 

    The first becomes, “Are there people who are willing to invest, that have a vision of where they want to go?” I was lucky enough to be part of the company that has senior leadership who realized that the market is changing, the consumer demographics are changing, the profile of people that we employ is changing. So we need to learn this. And secondly, a person that wants that job has to have a vision that’s aligned with the overall vision of people that are willing to invest. You have to have a certain level of courage to try things that are not tried before.

    And most importantly, you have to surround yourself with people who have similar traits. People who are curious. People who are not afraid of challenges. People who are willing to sacrifice their time when the time comes to make things work. And most importantly, people understand that the success of their organization is not in having the products or the processes; It’s actually having the people on the team. If you have the right people and if you make them happy and content, our customers will be happy and content.

Daniel:  Excellent. All right. Well, thank you very much, Denis.

Denis:      You’re very, very welcome.

Daniel:  Thank you for sharing this test, and I hope you enjoyed this experiment and learning a little more about call center optimization.


The post Landing Page Optimization: How Aetna’s HealthSpire startup generated 638% more leads for its call center appeared first on MarketingExperiments.

Adding Content Before Subscription Checkout Increases Product Revenue 38%

Adding content to a process that leads to revenue for a company seems like a bad idea — particularly when that process is already five steps long. But for iReach (at the time, a division of PRNewswire) the decision to add content led to a 31% increase in conversion and a 38% increase in product revenue.

The Control Checkout Process

Here’s the control entry page:


Click on images to enlarge

 

Here’s an example of the following five cart pages in the control process:

In the data, it appeared that many people were exiting the process due to confusion and a lack of information. After studying customer service inquiries, it was clear that there were many questions potential customers had that were not being answered in the process.

The Treatment Checkout Process

Here’s the treatment entry page:

Below the call-to-action are links to additional content about the product for specific customer segments. Each piece of content was designed to answer further questions the PRN team hypothesized most customers were asking about the product in their minds.

These changes along with a clear product selection page (below) generated a significant result.

 

The Results

By adding steps in the process — particularly product information and a clear product matrix, iReach generated a 31% increase in conversion and 38% more revenue from its subscription/ecommerce offering

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The post Adding Content Before Subscription Checkout Increases Product Revenue 38% appeared first on MarketingExperiments.