The value proposition “why” — why should customers choose your product — can be answered in 100 different ways. But how do you determine the most effective answer?
Often, it is determined in a conference room with a rigorous debate amongst leaders and experts. But experts do not have the answers to this question — only your customers do. So, we turned to the customer to answer this question by conducting an experiment with a global news distributor.
In the five-minute video below, Flint McGlaughlin explains how determining the best expression of value generated a 22% increase in conversions, and an important learning.
Let’s take a closer look at the experiments featured in this video …
This global news distributor came to the research team at MECLABS Institute, the parent company of marketing experiments,with the goal of determining which element of their value proposition was most appealing to their customers. So, they developed three different articulations of their core offer, using the homepage to test which one will have the most impact on conversions.
Treatment 1 tested a hypothesis that the group’s authority was the most appealing element of their offer, using phrases like “For almost 60 years,” “inventing the industry” and “most authoritative source of news.” Each of these points serves to foster a conclusion in the mind of the customer about the authority of this organization.
Treatment 2 had a different hypothesis, challenging the idea that the group’s comprehensive network was more appealing than any other element. This hypothesis was supported with phrases like “over 200,000 media outlets,” “hundreds of thousands of journalists,” “170 different countries” and “most comprehensive media network in the world.”
Finally, Treatment 3 argued that the group’s superior customer service was the most important element to its customers. Like the other treatments, this version used key supporting phrases like “exceptional customer service,” “work personally … one-on-one,” “200,000 errors caught each year” and “available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
In the end, the treatment focused on the organization’s authority, and experiments outperformed all other treatments with 26% more conversions. While the conversion lift itself was impactful for this organization, the approach to achieving it is what provided the most valuable learning.
The team not only determined the best articulation of their value proposition, they learned that clearly displaying the right value proposition articulation can maximize the force of your offer. And in order to uncover what is right for YOUR customers, marketers must engage in a mental dialogue. People don’t want to be talked at; they want to be communicated with. The marketer asks questions with their message, and the customer answers with their behavioral data.
In today’s Quick Win Clinic, Flint McGlaughlin looks at the home and product pages for Worthington Direct, an online furniture store for businesses and schools. It is obvious that everything on this site is designed to help visitors find the product they are looking for and to convince them that the product is right for them. But there are many online furniture stores. Why should visitors choose this company over others? This retailer fails to answer that crucial question.
The designers of this website made a mistake the McGlaughlin believes is the number one flaw most ecommerce stores make today. If you offer the right product, but you neglect to show that you are also the right company, then you have lost a sale.
Your copy on this page needs to help me draw a sense of certainty inside that not only is this the right product but you are the right company.
— Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS Institute
Watch the video to get further insights into creating webpages that produce maximum results.
We’ve all been there before. You go online to order something from a well-known brand but can’t figure out how to navigate the site. You push through, even though you want to click away, because you know they have a great product and you can’t get it anywhere else. Your motivation to buy is already high.
People who already know the value of a particular brand often remain loyal customers to that brand, even though they may have to suffer through a poor user experience.
But there are those who are not so motivated. They may not be as familiar with the brand and consequently, not so forgiving. Too much friction or anxiety-causing elements can drive away many potential customers. And big brands need to be aware of this.
Beware of those situations where the power of the brand obscures the quality (or lack thereof) in your messaging.
— Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS Institute
In this Quick Win Clinic, Flint McGlaughlin takes a look at UBER’s landing page to see if the quality of the user experience matches the quality of the brand. Watch the video to learn how to avoid the marketer’s blind spot.
Not long ago, I wanted to upgrade my phone. To begin my research, I went to a webpage that I’d visited many times before. Right in the center of the white, nearly empty page was one word — APPLE. Ten minutes later, I joined 90 million other satisfied customers as the proud owner of an iPhone.
As a marketer, Apple’s minimalistic marketing may be appealing to you, and you might even be tempted to try a similar approach. But here’s the catch. You are not Steve Jobs, and your company is not the largest tech provider in the world. Apple has earned the right to use a single noun on its landing page. You and I have not. In fact, very few brands can get away with simply using a noun or two as their value proposition because a webpage must provide very good reasons for the customer to continue to stay and engage, rather than click away. And that requires a complete thought.
In today’s Quick Win Clinic, Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO of MECLABS, compares the value propositions of three different webpages — AppViewX,Core Hospitality Furniture, Video Brewery — and shares tips on how to more effectively communicate your brand.
His first caution — beware of using too many nouns.
Background: Willow Creek Association is a nonprofit organization committed to transforming leaders in their respective communities. Each year, they host a two-day event (Global Leadership Summit) to provide those leaders with training from speakers in successful companies.
Goal: To increase order conversion
Primary Research Question: How can we create more value to increase conversions?
When The Global Leadership Summit team saw a significant decline in conversions from 2015 to 2016, they established a testing culture to understand why the change. One of the hypotheses behind the decline was removing the incentive, but testing proved it was not the incentive that affected the decline; it was the value proposition. Their next step was to analyze their current page for the gaps in perceived value for the prospect. The GLS team held a Value Proposition Workshop and applied their new learnings to their 2017 homepage for the summit — the results are worth sharing.
To begin, let’s focus on the value delivery of the control. At first glance, the GLS team noticed that the page held very little perceived value in the headlines and the copy. The GLS team concluded that the headline “About the GLS” did not give enough value. To a new prospect, who has never heard of The Global Leadership Summit, “GLS” might be a big jump. To assume that the prospect would understand this (or even need this information) is dangerous because it does not meet the prospect where they are in the thought sequence. As marketers, we need to ask ourselves: what is the sequential process in their minds as they enter this page? The prospect will probably ask questions more aligned to: How does this summit benefit me? What do I get out of it? Where is it located? Where do I have to travel? Who will be there? How can this improve my current career path? If marketers fail to ask the correct questions with the prospect in mind, we fail to find the correct answers.
As we journey down the page, we finally come across some useful information for the prospect. There is value in the “Location and Dates” section because it answers these crucial questions the prospect might have: Where is it located? Where do I have to travel?Can this product help me? Answering these questions are great. However, its location on the page is not. What is it doing in the middle of the page? If the page fails to answer these critical questions in the first 4 inches, in combination with prospect’s impatience, the conversion could be lost. The GLS team discovered this is a problem that needed to be addressed.
And finally, after analyzing the entire page, there is absolutely no mention of the speakers in attendance. The GLS team observed that they were neglecting the other crucial questions prospects might have when entering this page, as aforementioned.
Here is the new Global Leadership Summit page. GLS team extracted the real value of the summit and transferred it to a homepage, only after attending the Value Proposition Workshop. Let’s see how the GLS team addressed the value perception gap.
The GLS team added quantifiable claims in the headline … in the first 4 inches of the page. We can already see a stark difference in the headlines from 2016 and 2017. The larger headline reads “Two days of World Class Leadership Training,” and then goes back to read smaller text above the headline: “You have Influence. Join 400,000 of your peers to learn how to maximize it with …” The smaller text quantifies the number of people in attendance and popularity of the summit, while the larger text uses numbers to start showing instances of the Primary Value Proposition. This is an effective way to initially capture interest and build Credibility.
This headline does not only hold Credibility in the numbers, but there is also Specificity in the blue call-out box at the top of the page. The sub-headline under “The Global Leadership Summit” is specific on the location of the event, which erases the concern for travel arrangements (a potential pain point for prospects) thus, creating value. We will continue to see more of the same information elaborated further below, which creates congruence.
They also added specific information about the speakers. In the control, there was virtually no information about the speakers. In this version, we can see the speakers listed, and additionally, we see that the GLS team provided vital information that fostered conclusions. The GLS team leveraged speaker headshots, names AND positions at their respective companies; this increased the prospect’s perceived value, answering the question: “What do I get out of this?”
And finally, they added value throughout the page. At MarketingExperiments, we call this Congruence. At the top of the page, there was copy that read “convenient location near you.” Although the “Location near you” section seems far from the top, the GLS team still alluded this Primary Value Proposition in the main headline. Since this is the expanded section of the main Value Proposition, it creates congruence and reaffirms to the prospect that there is value.
So, what does the GLS team get from building credibility and being specific? Not just a forceful Value Proposition, but more than double the conversions.
Without value, you are doing nothing for the prospect
As blunt as that may seem, the truth is the truth. People do not spend time delving into webpages or emails without knowing they are receiving something at the other end. Friends, marketers, do not waste your time replicating other webpages with their nonsense information, designs and vernacular; instead, test and use the prospect’s thought sequence. Ask the right questions to get the right answers. These tools will give you the results that you want for your company.
For more about our value proposition training, click here. To watch The Global Leadership Summit webinar, click here.
In an earlier Quick Win Clinic, Flint McGlaughlin, CEO and Managing Director of MECLABS, talked about the importance of determining a clear objective for your webpage.
But where does the marketer go from there?
The next step is to determine the most effective way to accomplish your objective.
“What is my objective and what is the most effective way to accomplish my objective? … We have to give people a reason to invest their mental energy in going forward.”
—Flint McGlaughlin, CEO and Managing Director, MECLABS
It is at this point that we marketers should avoid making the mistake of rephrasing the question and asking, “How can I accomplish my objective?”
The “how” question is insufficient because it doesn’t force you to (1) generate options and (2) select from those options the one that promises the best way to accomplish your objective.
In this Quick Win Clinic, McGlaughlin optimizes The Recruiting Code, a webpage submitted by Bryan, whose objective is to sell a book. Watch the video to see if the objective was accomplished in the most effective way.
“Sometimes, when we get excited about the latest technology we can apply to a page or the most beautiful design, we miss the most important element — the soul of what we’re trying to talk about.” Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS Institute
As marketers, it’s only natural that we like professional-looking webpages with sleek designs, clever headlines, hero images, perfectly placed forms, clear CTAs … the list goes on.
And, yes, all of these elements are good for conversion rates (if done correctly). But, you have to remember that at the end of the day, marketing is simply a conversation with the people in your audience. It’s all about the message. Without a strong message, your images and copy don’t matter.
In this Quick Win Clinic, Flint McGlaughlin optimizes the homepage of organic winery Sedlescombe that, at first glance, looks relatively weak. However, McGlaughlin points out that while there are plenty of opportunities for improvement, the page has the most important element a homepage or company needs — a genuine story, a strong message. From that story, you can build headlines and craft copy.
Watch the episode to get tips on how to leverage your company’s story to help you connect with your audience and boost conversion rates.
Here is an example of a value proposition argument (sometimes these are referred to as the short-form value proposition statement) from the program’s MMC 5435 Messaging Strategy & the Centrality of the Value Proposition course. It starts with the word “because” in order to answer the question, “If I am your ideal customer, why should I buy from you instead of any of your competitors?”
Because PR Newswire has the most established1 and largest2 news distribution network in the industry, enabling you to more reliably reach your target audience3.
Industry leader for 59 Years. Established relationships with major news sources such as: Yahoo!, MarketWatch and New York Times
Distribution to over 200,000 media points and 8,000+ websites, dedicated journalist website with 30,000 active members per month, 150 mobile apps that carry PRN content (broadest in the industry).
PR Newswire provides flexible and cost-effective distribution options to help you reach niche markets across the U.S.
When this short-form statement was applied to a landing page in an experiment, it resulted in a 22% increase in clickthrough. You can see the winning treatment below and how it naturally flowed from the value proposition statement.
B2B database marketing solution
Here is another great value proposition example from the UF/MECLABS program; this one is from the MMC 5436 Messaging Methodologies and the Practice of Conversion Optimization course.
This is for a company that provides database marketing solutions for small to medium-sized business.
Because we have the most comprehensive1 and accurate2 lead database.
Includes access to over 210 million U.S. consumers, 14 million U.S. businesses, and 13 million executives.
We have a team of 600 researchers that verify the data daily and make over 26 million verification calls a year, 80,000 calls a day.
That value proposition was applied to the following webpage:
When the webpage was tested as part of an experiment, it generated a 201% increase in lead capture rate.
Realtor Kristan Cloud-Malin
I can’t share every example from the UF/MECLABS program, of course. So here are a few publicly available examples.
“A value proposition argument or statement rarely makes a direct appearance on page or in an advertisement. Typically, it’s more likely that you’ll find a single highly-exclusive evidential expressed in marketing collateral,” Gregory Hamilton, Director of Education, MECLABS Institute, and Associate Professor, University of Florida, told me.
Here’s an example from a Realtor in Jacksonville who used nice evidentials to provide credibility to the way she expressed her value proposition.
Another example Greg gave me was Delta Airlines, which does a nice job expressing an “only” factor in an otherwise commoditized industry.
Even when Delta has to convey a more generic message — essentially, “we’re big” — it uses evidentials and specificity to convey a more forceful value proposition.
The Honest Company
This next example comes courtesy of Gaby Paez, Associate Director of Research, MECLABS Institute, who came across it while conducting a summary competitive analysis for a MECLABS Research Partner.
The company has a strong, unique value proposition, using a good mix of health and safety, and also unique designs.
And the Honestly Free Guarantee promises customers very safe products.
Here’s how The Honest Company expresses different elements of its value proposition:
Exclusivity: It’s the manufacturer (not just a reseller) and offers the unique Honestly Free Guarantee
Credibility: Founders’ video, giving back timeline, awards and certifications
Clarity: Video with co-founders (human touch) and unique and clear section on product pages for third-party awards and certifications
“They are masters to me. Every customer touch point has been carefully designed to provide or remind value,” Gaby said.
So, keep the above in mind as an example of good presentation strategies to communicate or support value. But Gaby pointed out you must also remember that if your company is not truthful, things will backfire for it sooner or later.
Apple iPod launch
For over nine minutes, Steve Jobs takes the audience step-by-step through a unique value proposition when launching the iPod.
And then goes on to say, “HP provides the products, services and solutions that help you simplify IT. Because your business is everywhere you are.”
This is an example of what I like to call blandvertising. A copywriter put those words together, and they sound vaguely businesslike and professional, but they also just kind of wash over you. What do they really mean?
I don’t blame the writer; I blame the marketer. If you’re working with a freelance writer or agency, you need to make sure they are empowered with a clear and forceful value proposition. Or else, the writing you get back will be well-formulated and sound professional but also be fairly meaningless to prospective customers.
So, what could Epson and HP do differently? Well, I’m guessing the resulting conclusion they’re trying to get across is, “We’re big. And we can solve a lot of your problems. All over the world.”
If that’s the intended goal, specificity could really help them get across a powerful value proposition. For a nice example of how to convey this value proposition in a forceful way, just scroll up and see Delta.
You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content, MarketingExperiments, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.
A good marketer is aware of the need for a clear value proposition and states this in the first few inches of the landing page. However, the value proposition must continue at the process level where you ask for a response from your customer.
If you are like many businesses, you are probably slammed with priorities and trade-offs, and really, you’re just trying to get things done. Optimizing your webpage sign-up form may be low on your list of priorities, but revenue is often lost in overlooked details like this.
In today’s Quick Win Clinic, Flint McGlaughlin uses the MECLABS Conversion Sequence to analyze the landing page at My Pooch Face, a pet portrait service. It has a unique value proposition but lacks a process-level value proposition where the sign-up form is located. There is not enough incentive to counterweigh the friction and anxiety that is being created in the customer’s mind because questions like “Will you clog up my inbox with emails? Will you sell my name to advertisers? Is my information secure?” are not being adequately addressed. So, the customer’s perceived cost — which is not necessarily the price — is too weighty to continue with the sign-up process.
If there is a very high mental energy cost associated with your website’s sign-up form, you need to change it. To get ideas to add value and reduce cost on your own landing pages, watch the latest episode of MarketingExperiments Quick Win Clinic.
BairFind is a Jacksonville-based nonprofit founded by former minor league pitcher Dennis Bair, who has been hard at work helping to find missing children for almost two decades. “It is sports marketing — we are leveraging the power of sports,” is how Dennis described BairFind in the article. “Minor league baseball has been our proving ground. We’re doing something the families cannot do for themselves, which is to get pictures of their missing children out there to millions.”
For the past year or so, MECLABS has taken on BairFind as a Research Partner, although a Research Partner with a unique pro bono relationship due to the foundation’s small size and nonprofit nature.
Here is an image of the original BairFind sign. Before you scroll down and see our analysis, you might want to look at the sign yourself and, using your own conversion optimization skills, consider how you might optimize the sign.
In fairness to the all-volunteer team at The BairFind Foundation, the signs were working pretty well — 183 children were located in the 2016 baseball season.
However, as with any conversion optimization scenario, the opportunity always exists to improve the messaging to increase conversion. With any sufficient amount of traffic, your messaging should convert at some level. And in BairFind’s case, that traffic is substantial — 40 million baseball fans.
But this is where it helps to sometimes get an external opinion. Because you live, eat and breathe your product every day, every week, every month, it can be difficult to see your messaging with fresh eyes.
When Dennis first discussed the sign with us in our boardroom, there were a lot of things that were unclear to us, and we had a lot of questions simply because we were outsiders to the world of finding missing children.
In addition, Adam Lapp, Senior Director, Services Operations, MECLABS Institute, led an analysis of the sign using our methodology and MECLABS Conversion Sequence Heuristic. Here are a few key optimization opportunities he identified:
No clarity around the images of children — What are they? Are they missing? What should I do with them?
Viewers may lack motivation because they feel like they can’t make a big difference
No clear call-to-action to go anywhere (if you don’t see the small bairfind.org)
Official minor league baseball charity message might be too small to understand
Here is a look at the sign after we optimized it.
A headline was added above the images — “Have you seen these missing kids?” — to provide needed clarity around what the pictures are. The headline solves the previous difficulty/confusion-related friction, and a bright, yellow color was used to attract attention.
“We increased the size of the children’s images because they are truly the most important part of the posters. We squeezed every extra pixel we could out of the available space to increase their prominence and visibility,” said James White, Senior Brand Designer, MECLABS Institute.
The headline was changed to “Help Bring Kids Home” to add clarity to what search the sign is asking them to join. A subhead was added — “by looking, you just helped” — to reinforce their activity.
Messaging was added to the bottom of the sign to solve the issue of no clear call-to-action — “Text FIND to 91999 to donate BairFind.org.” Also, a bright color brings attention to it.
“The new copy at the top and bottom were very important new pieces which immediately conveyed the purpose of the signs and let the viewer know how they can help. We selected a vibrant ochre yellow taken directly from the central image to contrast well against the black background and draw the eye quickly to these important additions,” James said.
“This year, we had big time improvements to the visual aspects of our signs, thanks to MECLABS. MECLABS took our sign, which was very basic, and optimized the photos and really made the sign attractive to look at and made the children’s photos pop. They also helped us to clarify our message. And the feedback from all of the GMs [general managers] of the Minor League Baseball teams, the fans and the league presidents has been 100%: ‘Wow! Holy moly, these signs are sharp!’ Thanks to MECLABS, they are even more impressed with us and even prouder to feature our signs in their ballparks,” Dennis told me.
During the 2016 baseball season, 183 children who were featured on the signs were found.
During the 2017 baseball season so far, 334 children featured on the signs have been found — and there’s still a month left in the season.
Now, unlike a landing page A/B split tested in a controlled environment to ensure there are no validity threats, we can’t be sure that the optimization changes helped find more children. There were other changes as well. For example, BairFind’s network of minor league stadiums featuring the signs grew from 139 to 151.
And more children were featured on the signs. Instead of featuring the same four on each side of the sign, four children were featured on one side of the sign, and a different four children were featured on the other side of the sign. (However, if anyone has ever tried to increase clickthrough in an email or conversions on a website by simply featuring more links or CTAs, you know you might get some increase, but it is incremental and certainly not equal to the amount of new links added).
Applying conversion optimization methodology beyond digital marketing
Overall, the point of this article is not to show an example of a valid experiment, like we normally do. But rather give you some ideas for using core conversion optimization methodologies beyond the landing page.
If you’ve spent any time following MarketingExperiments and the MECLABS Institute, I’m sure you’ve seen how the Conversion Sequence Heuristic can be used to optimize landing pages, emails and PPC ads.
However, the Conversion Sequence isn’t really optimizing any of those digital marketing channels. It’s really being used to optimize a brand’s interaction with a customer’s thought sequence. And those digital channels are merely the avenue to facilitate (and test) that communication.
For example, I’ve used this heuristic when making recruiting trips to universities to show students how the Conversion Sequence can help them pick the best job when entering the workforce. I’ve used it to discuss how PR professionals can optimize their own work. And as shown in this article, we’ve used it to optimize physical, outdoor advertising signs. I’ve even heard talk around the labs of people using the Conversion Heuristic to help optimize their relationship with their kids or spouse. What have you used the Conversion Sequence to optimize? Message me on Twitter @DanielBurstein and let me know.
You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director Content, MarketingExperiments and MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.