I’ve had a hard time acting my age. That’s not it, exactly. It’s more like I’m straddling the Grand Canyon between my usual teen angst and dealing with the fact I’m supposed to be wearing support hose. It all started with my birthday. Two years ago.
Then recently a donkey came to the rescue that I work with. She was nothing special, really. Her “selling point” was her age, I guess. We joked about needing to carbon date her. We’re guessing upper thirties. At least.
Rule #1: Donkeys hate change.
She came into rescue and landed in a kind geriatric pen with a few other special needs cases. Nobody too active and there was a buffet; piles of hay, lots of fresh water, and feed pans brimming with senior feed. In short, paradise. But she was having none of it. She had more opinion than strength.
There’s an argument that she’d had a long life. On top of that, we’d just gotten a herd of starved yearlings in that needed foster homes, but we give everyone a chance. I offered to foster her at my barn. It’s slower and quieter here, and she was pretty wobbly. For me, there’s no rhyme or reason for when one animal stands out in this world of need, but it might have had something to do with those stupid support hose.
She had a crusty coat of felted dead hair; a few years’ worth that she hadn’t managed to shed out. And it looked like there might be damage to her hind end, she didn’t walk well. Coming to my farm was not a miracle cure. She still didn’t eat or drink anything. Donkeys are tough, but what if it was too late and her organs were shutting down?
She played with alfalfa but ignored hay. A few times a day, I tried some new mush concoction. Donkeys are notoriously nervous of water containers. If she was drinking, I couldn’t tell, so I tried changing those as well. On the third day, I used an old blue bucket and finally, she drank.
Rule #2: Donkeys please themselves.
In the meantime, I sat on a bucket in her pen, just sharing space. I already knew she wasn’t wild about being caught or led. She came with a warning that she didn’t like her ears being touched. Or apparently anything else for that matter.
Then one day I was on the bucket, cutting up an over-ripe pear to put on her mush, which was already the equine equivalent of a fine french meal. This pear was sticky-sweet and soft, and she walked right up to me. Her sense of smell was perfect. It took a long while, I sat very still, but she took a bite of the pear from my hand. Her face went soft and I could hear it sloshing around in her mouth. I dropped the rest of the pear onto her mush and left the pen. Of course, standing up meant that she backed off from her bowl, but I wanted to reward her.
People get too hung up on rescue animal’s histories. We love a tragic tale so we can feel sympathy and “tsk-tsk” and shake our do-gooder heads. If there’s one thing I know about the rescue, it’s that the past doesn’t matter nearly like the present does. Says the woman who wears her teen angst around her ankles like stretched out cotton underwear.
Rule #3: Donkeys can be, well, cantankerous.
She tolerates grooming but just to mid-flank. I still haven’t picked up a foot. Flies were eating her raw and I wanted to get some of that hot pink Swat ointment on her wounds. She gives a decent NO! cue, but I was marginally successful and she was steaming mad about it. Then I gingerly tried fly spray. She darted but then paused. I sprayed again. There were enough flies still there, that I could see them drop off her leg and hit the ground. It’s possible she saw them, too. Now when I walk to her with the fly spray, she stands and waits, as if I’m serving boat drinks at the beach. Clearly no signs of dementia. I started to think she might pull through; I started to think her name might be Lillith.
Just on the off-chance that you’re cooing and thinking she is just the sweetest thing… she isn’t. She bites. And kicks. The dead hair is gone, but a hand anywhere near her poll and she tosses her head abruptly. She’s a donkey of strong convictions.
But don’t feel sorry for the goat. On a day that I could catch her, I doddered her out to the greenest grass for a different kind of dental exam. She dropped her head and slowly rubbed her nose back and forth, crushing it and sniffing deeply. She didn’t even try to take a bite. Her lips can scoop up mush, but her front teeth are useless. Know those billboards that show drug addicts with horrible teeth? That’s her. She has greenish-black nubbins of teeth. Meth teeth, so no worries about eating any goats.
Cantankerous defined: 1. bad-tempered, argumentative, uncooperative, quarrelsome; irascible, disagreeable. 2. Difficult to handle.
She was in a separate pen where she could eat in peace, along with Arthur, the goat, who was in detention with a broken leg. They formed a bond of co-dependent aggravation. Eventually Lillith stopped standing outside during thunder storms and went into the shed. Once she crossed that line, she used the shed for shade, too. One day she went to the gate to my family pen and turned her head to stare at me. I pride myself on being bilingual, so I opened the gate for her.
That pen had the Grandfather Horse, Edgar Rice Burro, and the rest of my herd. Five minutes of careful consideration later, she moved through the gate. The mares push her off sometimes, but she kicks back at them. She can get her hind a few inches off the ground these days. Lillith takes long naps in the sun and tries to get someone to do some mutual grooming. The Grandfather Horse, who’s always loved the stiffest curry, finds her an unsatisfactory partner. It’s mutual gumming, to tell the truth.
It’s been four months since Lillith came. She’s sleek, she has lousy ground manners, and she’s in fine voice. Her bray sounds like a combination of a train whistle and a bunch of sixth-grade boys making fart noises. And she isn’t afraid to use it.
Right now we’re debating the last feed of the day. She holds, loudly, that I should feed at sundown. With the season change, I tell her the sun sets earlier; I tell her it was always about the time on the clock. Then she makes it pretty clear what she thinks about clocks.
Measuring time is a peculiarity to our species–clocks and calendars rule humans. I miss my friends who’ve timed-out and retired to warm climates, while I throw hay and think about reinventing myself one more time. I’m stubborn about what I want and I’m at an awkward age.
On the high side, I’ve finally found my spirit animal.
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Influencer Marketing News Roundup: Facebook vs. Snapchat, The Latest Instagram Stats & More
This week on the Mediakix blog, we showed you the new mobile apps social media stars are launching, shared how the best brand names are marketing using Instagram Stories, and published the 3 biggest Facebook trends disrupting social media. Additionally, we shared an exclusive interview with top YouTuber Raven Elyse, and broke down the 10 most significant Facebook video statistics. Last week we published an infographic detailing the salient differences between Snapchat Stories and Instagram’s clone, Instagram Stories—see how they compare for yourself and which one is potentially better here.
Today’s Friday roundup of influencer marketing news will dive into Snapchat and Instagram’s advertising trends, influencer marketing campaigns by MTV and YouTube, and more.
The average Instagram video ad has increased 67% in length just in 6 months
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Snapchat Acquires Vurb For $110M, A Search & Recommendation App
Snapchat’s success has much to do with the way that the app’s interactive camera features, (i.e. Geofilters and lens), which give youth the chance to communication a wide array of emotions (MarketingWeek; The Guardian). However, Snapchat is looking to bolster its messaging and search features by integrating image search with its acquisition of Vurb, a search and recommendation app (Business Insider).
One of the chief Snapchat “shortcomings” expressed by marketers, top Snapchat influencers, and users alike is the inability to discover and easily search for content and other users. Perhaps with the acquisition of Vurb, Snapchat is looking to finally remedy this described plight and offer its version of searchability. With improved messaging and search features, Snapchat holds massive potential for marketers to access increasingly immersed users.
Facebook Takes On Snapchat With Video Sharing App, Lifestage
Facebook is looking to counter Snapchat’s “cool” factor with its new Lifestage app, a video sharing tool that is accessible only to users under the age of 21 (Inquistr). Alongside Facebook Live and Instagram Stories, Facebook is increasing its focus on video, a format that younger generations gravitate towards. With the age-banded Lifestage app, Facebook looks to compete with Snapchat for a generation of millennials that find Facebook to be outdated (Forbes). Facebook’s new features continue to add on to Facebook’s dominance as an all-inclusive social media platform.
New Instagram Advertising Stats Point To Increasing Video Lengths
Studies this week found that video ads are rapid growing forces on Instagram. Following a general market trend toward mobile video advertising, Instagram video ads make up 25 percent of all ads on Instagram (MarketingDive). Moreover, the average duration of video ads has grown from 15 seconds to 25 seconds, a 67% growth in the span of half a year (Marketing Land). The significant growth in video ad time and frequency on Instagram indicate that marketers will need increasingly complex content to compete in social media.
Related Post: The Most Impressive Instagram Statistics For 2016
YouTube, MTV, and Social Media Influencers
YouTube plans to take original content creation to the virtual reality (VR) level with influencers iJustine and The Dolan Twins as Google is developing a new virtual reality platform called Daydream (Tubefilter). YouTube’s content creators and partners are the major attractors of new audiences and will prove to be a challenge for other VR platforms to overcome.On the same note, MTV is working with influencers Shannon Boodram and Josh
On the same note, MTV is working with influencers Shannon Boodram and Josh Levya on an eight-part “MTV Guide To” franchise that dispenses sex, dating, and relationship tips published on MTV’s channel to gain viewership for the upcoming VMAs (Digiday).
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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.
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)
- Can readers find your opt-in offer, or is it buried below the fold or ¾ of the way down a blog post?
- 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?
- 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).
- 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.
This is not the type of page you want to create if you’re looking to increase opt-ins.
Don’t give your readers more than one choice when optimizing for opt-ins
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.
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.
Dallas Cowboys Rumors: Jerry Jones Not Happy About Ezekiel Elliott Visiting Weed Shop In Seattle [VIDEO]
Ezekiel Elliott has yet to suit up for an official NFL game, but the Cowboys first-round draft pick is already creating a buzz for the wrong reasons. Jerry Jones described his visit to a weed shop in Seattle as ‘not good.’
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Brock Lesnar WWE Rumors: Backstage News On 'SummerSlam' Ending, Changes Throughout Card [POLL, VIDEO]
WWE ‘SummerSlam’ 2016 will go down as one of the oddest nights in the history of sports entertainment, and perhaps too many moving parts is a reason why. Rumors have surfaced regarding the ending to the main event and original plans for the card.
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Why The Biggest Social Media Stars Are Launching Their Own Mobile Apps
We live in The Era Of The App. Today, mobile applications, or “apps,” have changed the way we do almost everything, from communicating to sharing our photos with friends to dating. To capitalize on this cultural and technological trend, some of the world’s top social media stars aren’t just creating engaging content for apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and Vine, they’re actually developing their own mobile products for social media followers to buy, download, use, and share with others.
People spend 198 minutes using mobile apps each day.
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4 Examples Of Apps Launched By Social Media Stars
Viner Logan Paul’s “Splitmoji” GIF App
Vine star Logan Paul is well-known for many things, and one of them is doing the splits in front of/on some of the world’s most famous monuments. To expand his brand, Paul worked with ScStan, LLC to develop the first-ever customizable emoji and GIF keyboard. The app’s silly nature encourages users to create and share their unique GIFs on social media accounts, thereby increasing the awareness of Paul’s brand and boosting app sales.
Related Post: Why NBC Sent Logan Paul To Cover The 2016 Rio Olympics
Dude Perfect’s Mobile Gaming App
With almost 12M YouTube subscribers, Dude Perfect is one of the most popular channels on the platform. To keep social audiences engaged between video releases, Dude Perfect released a series of apps—Dude Perfect, Dude Perfect 2, and Endless Ducker—made for users of all ages. The original Dude Perfect mobile gaming app picks up where the influencers’ YouTube content ends by letting users attempt impossible “trick shots” while playing as one of the Dude Perfect members.
Team 10’s “Squadmoji” Emoji & Sticker App
Like a modern-day Rat Pack, social media supergroup Team 10 (which includes Vine star Logan Paul’s brother, Jake Paul) is a collection of digital stars who have teamed up to “take over Hollywood.” For only a few dollars, social media audiences can gain access to over 250 Team 10-related emojis and stickers, including cartoon likenesses of group members and catch-phrases that can be integrated into text messages or on social media content.
A Beautiful Mess’s Photo Editing Mobile App
For years, the creators behind lifestyle and DIY blog A Beautiful Mess have been captivating followers with their unique style of editing photos and videos. To provide audiences with a way to emulate their gorgeous aesthetic, A Beautiful Mess created a successful photo-editing app, complete with filters, text, and other fun ways users can decorate Instagram photos (all while spreading A Beautiful Mess’s branded content to millions of Instagram users).
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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 also shows you products viewed/bought by other customers:
According to one study, this type of personalization generates the highest revenue for E-commerce stores:
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.
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.
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.
Or Amazon’s “Featured Recommendations” based on recent history:
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.
Here’s another example from Volcom. Depending on your location, you would see two entirely different pages:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
Based on their choice, users are sent to a page with handpicked posts from the SBI blog:
If a user downloads an eBook or guide, SBI shows them additional content recommendations:
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.
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):
After Lynton has qualified the lead, it shows a custom landing page (for inbound marketers):
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).
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:
Logged-in users, however, see a personalized greeting:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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5 Brands Marketing With Instagram Stories To Create Amazing Content
Since Instagram debuted in 2010, the photo-sharing app has been widely adopted by brands in every advertising category. According to a 2016 study, 86% of the world’s top 100 brands now use Instagram for marketing (Simply Measured), and one survey found that Instagram users engage with brands 10x more on Instagram than on Facebook (Inc.). Now, Instagram’s newest disappearing content feature, Stories, is giving innovative brands a “Snapchat-like” way to reach social media audiences.
86% of the world’s top 100 brands use Instagram for marketing.
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Why Instagram Stories Is Ideal For Marketing Initiatives
Instagram’s large user base (500 million-strong, according to Instagram’s Press Page) and “brand-friendly” format makes marketing with Instagram Stories particularly effective, especially for companies that have spent years building their social media followings. Nike’s first Instagram Story, for example, generated nearly 1 million views, thanks in large part to brand’s preexisting audience (AdAge).
Furthermore, while Instagram Stories doesn’t (yet) offer features that make Snapchat so engaging—interactive lenses, for example, or Geofilters (both of which can be created and used by brands)—Instagram’s searchable content means branded and/or brand sponsored Instagram Stories are much more visible than Snapchat content.
Examples Of Brands Using Instagram Stories
From quick service restaurant (QSR) brands like Taco Bell to leading video game-maker Playstation, these five companies are proving adept at leveraging Instagram’s new Stories feature to create “in-the-moment” content and capture the attention of millions of Instagram followers.
Retail giant Marshalls used Instagram Stories to take followers on a virtual shopping trip through the store and showcase some of the brand’s unique items along the way—something the company would likely never have done with Instagram’s standard, highly-curated format. To increase user engagement, Marshalls used one of their Instagram Story slides to remind followers to post photos of their favorite items with the hashtag #MarshallsSuprise.
To promote the release of their upcoming action-adventure game and generate excitement among the brand’s 5.1M Instagram followers, PlayStation posted a series of screenshots from The Last Guardian on their Instagram Stories feed. For video game companies, Instagram Stories offers a viable way to tease new releases and generate engagement/buzz/awareness by using “must-see” content not often available in official video game trailers.
Leading nutrition supplement brand Quest leveraged Instagram Stories to give social media audiences a behind-the-scenes look at a branded event. Once a Snapchat staple, this type of “off-the-cuff,” unedited content is now available to brands on Instagram as well.
Ever the social media innovator, Taco Bell was (unsurprisingly) one of the first brands to begin publishing content on Instagram Stories. For this Instagram Story, the QSR brand took followers around the world to show different menu items in different countries, including Spain, The U.K., Canada, Japan, and more. After capturing users’ attention, the final photo encouraged followers to see other culturally-unique offerings by visiting Taco Bell’s website.
Another social media maven, Red Bull used Instagram Stories to tease a thrilling BMX bike video, then asked social media followers to “click the link” in the brand’s bio to see the full video. Instagram allows brands to easily redirect audiences to their website, yet another reason why Instagram (and Instagram Stories) is more brand-friendly than rival Snapchat. Snapchat does not currently allow users to click to an external URL or site.
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