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

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

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

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

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

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

1. List-to-Sale Conversion Rate

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

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

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

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

list-to-sale-conversion-rate-formula

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

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

For example, say you’re calculating in August:

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

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

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

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

2. Opt-in Conversion Rate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go nuts.

3. Traffic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Turn Online Marketing Leads into Online Marketing Sales

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

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

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

What’s going on?

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

When Things Go Wrong

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

To be honest, this came as a surprise.

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

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

What more could you ask for, right?

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

wait-what

What were we doing wrong? 

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

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

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

That job rests on the shoulders of the sales team.

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

Turning Leads Into Sales

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

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

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

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

You’re Not the Only Business After Their Business

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

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

However, first to call is first to close.

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

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

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

The Internet is a Distracting Place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

epic-fail

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

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

Getting Marketing and Sales in Alignment

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

Talk to Sales!

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

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

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

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

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

There is Such a Thing as Too Many Leads

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

Insert the money, out come the leads.

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

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

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

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

So, how can you avoid this?

Easy, just keep your sales team hungry.

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starting from Zero? A Customer Acquisition Playbook for New Websites

Every new ideas begins with a new domain name.

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

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

Go ahead with some crappy shared one like Bluehost.

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

Here’s why, and how to fix it.

Why ‘Search’ Can’t Help You

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

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

Things have evolved. Been refined.

But they haven’t changed.

The principles are still the same.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertising Probably Ain’t Gonna Happen, Either

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

When done correctly, it’s neither.

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

But despite all this…

There’s an opportunity cost.

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

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

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

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

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

Then Where Are Your Early Visits Going to Come From?

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

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

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

That leaves us with Referrals, Social and Email.

Awesome. Now we’re getting somewhere.

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

Don’t.

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

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

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

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

In short, influencer marketing.

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

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

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

Specifically, here are five sources to tap today.

Source #1. Channel Partners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

treehouse-student-perks

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

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

Source #2. Offline Events

Real people don’t read.

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

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

Outside. IRL. At events.

Step 1. Go to them. (Shocking.)

Step 2. Volunteer/speak/help them.

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

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

sf-bayarea-machine-learning-meetup

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

hakka-video-of-talk

Source #3. PR Outreach

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

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

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

It’s easy. Here, I’ll show you.

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

Hi, Danny!🙂

facebook-wants-to-kill-clickbait

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

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

linkedin-common-connection

See. Literally the first try.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

referral-candy-referral-programsImage Source

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

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

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

Source #5. Become a Sought-After Expert

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

But in reality, it makes everything easier.

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

measure-influencer-roi-webinar

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the power of personalization.

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

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

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

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

Three Types of Personalization

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

1. Product-Specific Personalization

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

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

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

amazon-frequently-bought-together

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

customers-bought-viewed-after-product

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

personalied-product-recommendation-type-usage

It works due to three reasons:

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

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

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

2. User-Focused Personalization

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

You can further divide it into two sub-categories:

A. Data blind personalization

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

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

nakedwines-survey-questionnaire

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

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

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

ll-bean-geolocation

B. Data backed personalization

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

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

amazon-inspired-by-your-browsing-history

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

amazon-featured-recommendations

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

3. Real-Time Personalization

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

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

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

burton-real-time-weather-personalization

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

volcom-personalization

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

If you must use it, use it sparingly.

Before You Start Personalization: Things You’ll Need

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

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

1. The right audience

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

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

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

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

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

How do you find this data?

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

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

2. The right message for the right customer

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

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

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

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

demandbase-salesforce

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

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

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

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

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

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

messaging-matrix

3. The right place to show your messages

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

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

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

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

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

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

target-guests-also-bought

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

How to Use Personalization in Your Business

By now, you should have:

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

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

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

1. Focus on capturing data

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

Here are a few questions you should have answers to:

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

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

lufthansa-my-country-language

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

doggyloot-custom-landing-page

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

sbi-choose-your-role

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

sbi-personalized-page

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

sbi-similar-blog-posts

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

jetblue-happy-anniversary-email

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

For example, you can run two Facebook campaigns:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lynton-non-converted-leads

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

lynton-custom-landing-page

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

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

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

inbound-marketing-consideration-awareness-stages

3. Personalize based on user’s past behavior

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

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

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

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

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

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

welcome-to-play-like-a-girl

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

play-like-a-girl-personalization

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

nike-male-female-website

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

hubspot-personalized-ctas

4. Personalization based on data from other users

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

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

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

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

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

Target does this exceptionally well:

guests-also-viewed-ultimately-bought-target

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

asos-buy-the-look

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

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

barilliane-personalization-whitepaper

Conclusion

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

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

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

And finally, always keep testing.

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

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

QR codes are largely pointless.

The concept is decent. But the execution is flawed.

Think about it for a second:

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

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

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

Here’s why, and how to avoid it.

When Flat Design Strikes Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hubspot-website-grader

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

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

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

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

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

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

The more egregious conversion killers are still to come.

Putting the ‘A’ Back in IA

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

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

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

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

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

amazon-multi-level-navs

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

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

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

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

correlation-brand-strength-mckinseyImage Source

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

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

deep-flat-site-architectureImage Source

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

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

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

Carousels: The Epitome of Groupthink in Action

B2B companies love themselves some carousel sliders.

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

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

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

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

carousel-conversions-website-statsImage Source

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

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

should-i-use-a-carouselImage Source

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

Compromise.

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

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

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

When design by committee happens, everyone loses.

Designers lose because their excellent work slowly erodes away.

Marketers lose because their voices get overrun and ignored.

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Use Qualitative Research to Expand on Your Marketing Personas

The marketing persona is a tried-and-true customer segmentation strategy that many companies rely on to get the big picture about the people they serve. At the same time, these marketers and their teams are gathering copious amounts of data from and about those customers.

Because there is so much data out there, it can be difficult to tie all that information to specific segments. But that doesn’t mean it has to go to waste. In fact, with the data you’re collecting right now, you can make some pretty impressive leaps in better understanding and serving your customers. Here’s how to do it.

Overview: What is Qualitative Research and Why Does It Matter?

Oftentimes, marketers will use terms like “qualitative research” and “quantitative research” to mean the same thing, when they are quite different. 

Qualitative research, as we’ll discuss here, is understanding the motivation behind something, its underlying reasons, opinions and so forth. From a marketing point of view, it asks why customers behave or react a certain way. A video of a user testing session or a focus group are examples of qualitative research.

Quantitative research, on the other hand, looks at the numbers to quantify opinions, attitudes and so on to create results from a larger sample size. These methods include surveys, polls and telephone interviews. It is designed to uncover things like shifts in perspective or to detect certain user patterns. Many times marketers will use both to better create fuller, multi-dimensional user personas – however, it’s the qualitative research that provides for the most insight in this case. The quantitative research simply backs up your findings.

To remember which is which, it may be helpful to keep in mind that quantitive is quantity. Quantity is numbers, and therefore quantitive research deals with numbers.

b2bresearch

A study last year from Cintell shows that understanding drivers and motivators from customers is on the priority list of B2B companies

Uncovering New Customer Personas

marketing-bulb

By analyzing the qualitative data you’re gathering, you’ll start to see what motivates your customer to take action. But what if you can’t tie that motivation to any existing persona? The solution is to then create a new one! These days there are now more tools than ever available to help you discover customer intent and monitor customer behavior. You can tap into the “person behind the metrics” to add new facets to your existing personas – the kinds of deep, granular detail that haven’t been possible until now.

As your customer persona comes into better focus, you may even find some outlying information that just doesn’t add up. That’s where potentially creating a new persona, or an offshoot of an existing one, can help. New personas and segments represent a major positioning strategy that can give you that all-important “first mover” advantage with an untapped or under-served market.

Going Beyond the Numbers

customer-service

Another area where qualitative research shines with regard to marketing personas is getting at the underlying core of what makes that person tick. Humans are a fickle, ever-changing bunch, and it can be hard to pin down behavior of why they might abandon a cart one day and then seamlessly ride through checkout the next.

Marketers may look at the numbers to see that a great deal of people are stopping right before checkout and leaving without placing an order. The numbers tell us that much – but they don’t tell us why.

Taking a more qualitative approach, such as videoing a prospect going through the process and recording their thoughts as they proceed provide accurate, clear and actionable reasons why they made the choices they did. There’s no guesswork, no fruitless searching for reasons why. It’s all out there in the open, ready to be acted upon.

This kind of live recording also captures many things that typical analytics cannot, such as eye tracking, facial movements and reactions, so you can see precisely the effect that your call to action is having on prospects. What are they focusing on? What are they ignoring? What are they struggling with and what questions do they have? These are all questions that can be answered in great detail by analyzing the qualitative information you’ve gathered.

Putting the “Person” Back in Persona

buyer-personas

Finally, you could look at qualitative research as the type of study that puts the person back in persona. Analytical numbers are great for determining technical mishaps, uncovering the best ROI channels and other areas where core numbers make a difference. But with marketing personas, much of what has already been created is based on what little personal information can be gleaned from those numbers. I’m talking about things like gender, location, referrer, device and so on.

These details are great for building the “skeleton” of a persona – but they do nothing to dive into the motivations behind their actions. And despite our capricious urges as online shoppers, many of the things we do are predictable and can be measured. We typically ditch sites that ask for too much information from their forms, or require us to create an account first. We take a considerable amount of time to read reviews and comparison shop on larger purchases, and we often look for recommendations from those we trust before we decide. It’s not just human nature, it’s smart business.

Qualitative research puts these kinds of actions back into the marketing puzzle. Imagine showing a focus group your new product and gauging their reaction to how you’ve chosen to brand it. What are they focusing on, and is it the same thing that you thought would appeal to them? So much of what can be built out of a persona based on numbers alone is pure guesswork – but being able to see their reactions, their focus and their feedback firsthand provides the kind of insights you can’t get from charts and graphs.

Now It’s Your Turn…

Are you using qualitative research in your own marketing analyses? Have you uncovered any new persona segments or discovered something completely new about your target audience as a result? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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

Lessons Learned From Integrating Marketo into a SaaS Marketing Strategy

Marketo, the lead nurturing platform, is one of the best tools for marketers to create long-term relationships with customers, from creating prospects to converting them into advocates.

This “lead nurturing” is a proven tactic for moving prospects through a marketing funnel and improving customer engagement. For a SaaS business, which can oftentimes rely on personalized demos or free trials for prospects, nurturing can be a critical component of the marketing strategy. Considering that 40-60% of free trial users will never become paying users, it is especially important to use nurturing to educate and engage your prospects through content, as well as to ensure they understand the value of becoming a loyal, paying customer.

First Lesson: Nurture with Educational Content

Whereas traditional businesses make a sale once a prospective customer converts, SaaS businesses rely on the success of software free trials, creating a higher-risk, higher-touch relationship with leads who haven’t converted into paying users.

Baremetrics used educational content and other tactics to reduce churn by 63%.

customer-education-landscapeImage Source

But a lot of times, after bringing prospects into the funnel using educational and organic content, you may find yourself wondering: where are the conversions? When does the magic start to happen?

Second Lesson: Middle-of-the-Funnel Advantage

Because of the nature of the SaaS business model, there is a low barrier of entry for prospects. A common conversion point for many SaaS is a freemium model as it allows users to “try before they buy” into a subscription. Trouble is, once the user has already provided their contact info, the clock starts ticking. Unless your product is capable of selling itself, you’re going to need informational and promotional content to convince trial users to convert to paying users.

Because of the number of prospects and opportunities in the middle of the funnel, SaaS businesses are forced to segment users on more than a demographic score but also on a behavioral score. This is the activity your users have taken to get to the point where they are now.

Nurturing users who are in your free trial is a great way to test the effectiveness of your educational content. If more users convert after being delivered targeted messaging, Marketo is smart enough to convey similar content, a technique called Content Personalization.

These middle-of-the-funnel nurture campaigns can help your prospects stay enthralled during the trial; they can also assist with the final conversion point: your product or service.

good-content-marketing-makes-every-sellImage Source

First-touch attribution is the crux of any SaaS marketing analytics effort. Understanding where your customers are coming from and how to pour gasoline on that fire is the surest way to scale growth. Marketo does this well. Every user that comes onto your radar is tracked by IP, even without any other information about that visitor.

However, Marketo is more than an email service and “automation” doesn’t simply mean customers are sent emails. Marketo also has a fantastic analytics feature and numerous integrations which can greatly improve every facet of your marketing process.

Consider These Implications

TRACK REPEATED USE

You cannot be passive and let free trial users sit idly by. Engaging and educating prospects should be a priority. Encouraging feedback and actual conversations with your customers is the only way you’re going to make those relationship real. Thus, a metric for your software should be repeated use from nurtured users. There are a number of in-app integrations that can assist with this, but a simple one is Google Analytics. Set up a custom property to track users who are using your service. A more robust option is Kissmetrics.

SYNC WITH CRM

A database sync to Salesforce or another CRM is critical, so come into the process with a clean database in hand, or face the consequences. Your CRM will sync with Marketo and send data back and forth. Any mistake you make with Marketo will reveal itself on the CRM side. Unless you’re a professional Salesforce Architect, be careful not to ruin years of work. You also certainly don’t want to upset your sales team.

CUSTOMER-FIRST, FIRST

You’ll need to sharpen your understanding of your customer base. Collecting emails for anyone who enters your funnel doesn’t help you nurture, so identify a way to segment prospects during the conversion. A great example of this is to invite your newsletter list to download an industry-specific ebook or white paper. If they take the (free) bait, then you know they are interested in that content. If you think you need 13 points of personal data to close a sale, try to figure out a way to get one or two more pieces of data every time you communicate with your audience. Develop your nurture campaign after you’ve defined your ideal customer.

Third Lesson: Develop a Roadmap

Your roadmap should be customer-focused, which should be second-nature to any successful SaaS. Customers are interacting with your Marketo implementation just as much as your marketing team.

Make sure you include reporting in your roadmap. A solid reporting framework will take some time to set up. To avoid common first-timer mistakes, include a simple report in every smart campaign you set up, the first time you set it up. You can always improve the report and identify your stakeholders later on at the reporting level, but going through every active campaign and checking the flow will save you a few hours of work later on.

reviewtrackers-sales-flow

ReviewTrackers Process – Flow showing score and SQL alert.

Another good tip is to group alerts together using smart lists. Once a person (what a lead is called in Marketo) reaches qualification, ensure the right alert is triggered. Set up SQL alerts, MQL alerts, and a General alert, making sure the proper stakeholders are notified.

Lead scoring is the foundation of Marketo. Decide, with your sales team, how to establish a behavioral sales-qualified lead and a marketing-qualified lead. From there, develop your marketing-qualified leads as a ramp-up to the SQL.

You can add layers of personalization to every brand message you send your audience.

Setting Expectations, Managing Up and Down

You won’t find a perfect solution, but the advantage of Marketo is the numerous integrations with third-party solutions that can help. Direct third-party integrations with Marketo can be found at launchpoint.marketo.com, so if your SaaS relies on one specific tool, you may want to check there first and see if it is available.

Software solutions are rarely “turned on with the flick of a switch.” Make sure your executive team is aware of the scope and timeline of a marketing automation integration.

If your SaaS is currently using automation, a realistic time frame for moving to Marketo is 3 months.

If you’ve never used automation, expect it to take 6 months. Even then, marketing automation is an endeavor which may take years to master.

Something will inevitably break: your API, your CRM sync, your nurture streams, or a webhook. By anticipating the disconnect, you can implement redundancies.

Fourth Lesson: Start With a Phased Implementation

Don’t sync with your CRM on the first day. In fact, you may not want to sync with your CRM at all. Once you’ve synced to Marketo, there is no turning back. To implement this properly, start on-site with the Munchkin code, and split-test some leads with a Marketo form. These are your guinea pigs. As leads are added to your Marketo database, you’ll be to able to see just how much power the software has.

Establish a pilot program, literally. Draw a line in the sand and announce to all stakeholders about the new automation program and be sure they understand the implications. Your sales team, your management, your social media agency, etc. Make sure they understand how the leads are different and what the expected outcome is.

Once you have a successful pilot program, move your newsletters and landing pages to Marketo. A/B test to ensure your copy and visuals haven’t impacted conversions.

Finally, take the plunge. Sync your CRM. Drive traffic with email blasts, re-qualify old leads in your database, and add customers that have re-engaged to your nurture campaigns.

Set up reporting and make sure stakeholders understand the data. Not all CRM data will align with Marketo, so if there is a discrepancy, choose one reporting engine and stick with it.

Fifth Lesson: Adding Your Favorite Integrations

Chances are, there is a way to integrate Marketo with the tools and processes you are already using. Sometimes, you’ll find an integration at the Launchpoint portal, but if you don’t, there’s a webhook for that. Here are some useful integrations for a SaaS:

SLACK

The Marketo-Slack integration has improved our productivity, reduced emails, and increased response time for customer inquiries. Through the webhook integration, our entire sales team is alerted of our customers and prospects’ interesting moments, demo requests, and free trial conversions. They are able to quickly claim a lead, discuss opportunities and follow up, right in the Marketo channel. Jenna Molby has a fantastic guide for setup, which can be found here.

WORDPRESS

WordPress.org, the open-source publishing platform, is one of the most popular self-hosting options for website and blogs. Due to its low cost and easy customization, it is especially popular amongst the lean startup crowd. While there are some integrations available for Marketo and WordPress, it may be easier for most SaaS companies to use the gravity form add-on and Marketo munchkin code to track visitors on your site.

SUMOME

SumoMe is a suite of lead generation tools designed to grow traffic and increase conversions. It includes a number of pop-ups, pop-overs, slide-ins, and widgets that can improve newsletter subscriptions and social shares. The integration with Marketo is relatively new and the full documentation for integration can be found here.

Conclusion

For a SaaS, the middle of the funnel can be extremely important, especially for businesses with a freemium model. It can keep prospects engaged, educate them, and ensure they get the most out of your software. It can align sales teams and ensure they are receiving the most qualified leads possible based on prospects’ interaction with marketing assets. It can help you reduce churn and improve retention. With a proper setup and numerous integrations, Marketo can communicate with customers at the most opportune moment, and deliver a personalized experience not possible with other automation suites. Integration in your SaaS marketing strategy is worth the effort.

About the Author: Brian Sparker is Head of Content Marketing for ReviewTrackers, a review monitoring and customer feedback platform designed to help companies efficiently monitor online reviews, manage reputation, and enhance the customer experience in ways that make a positive impact on the bottom line.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.