Tag Archive | "Convert"

The Bot Plan: Your Guide to Making Conversations Convert

Posted by purna_v

Let’s start off with a quick “True or False?” game:

“By 2020, the average person will have more conversations with their bot than with their spouse.”

True, or false? You may be surprised to learn that speaking more with bots than our spouse is precisely what Gartner is predicting.

And when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg says “messaging is one of the few things that people do more than social networking,” it requires no leap of faith to see that chatbots are an integral part of marketing’s future.

But you don’t need to stock up on canned peaches and head for the hills because “the robots are coming.” The truth is, the robots aren’t coming because they’re already here, and they love us from the bottom of their little AI-powered hearts.

Bots aren’t a new thing for many parts of the world such as China or India. As reported by Business Insider, sixty-seven percent of consumers worldwide have used a chatbot for customer support in the last year.

Within the United States, an impressive 60% of millennials have used chatbots with 70% of those reporting positive experiences, according to Forbes.

There’s no putting bots back in the box.

And it’s not just that brands have to jump on board to keep up with those pesky new generations, either. Bots are great for them, too.

Bots offer companies:

  1. A revolutionary way to reach consumers. For the first time in history, brands of any size can reach consumers on a personal level. Note my emphasis on “of any size.” You can be a company of one and your bot army can give your customers a highly personal experience. Bots are democratizing business!
  2. Snackable data. This “one-to-one” communication gives you personal insights and specificity, plus a whole feast of snackable data that is actionable.
  3. Non-robot-like interaction. An intelligent bot can keep up with back-and-forth customer messages in a natural, contextual, human way.
  4. Savings. According to Juniper Research, the average time saving per chatbot inquiry compared to traditional call centers is over four minutes, which has the potential to make a truly extraordinary impact on a company’s bottom line (not to mention the immeasurable impact it has on customers’ feelings about the company).
  5. Always on. It doesn’t matter what time zone your customer is in. Bots don’t need to sleep, or take breaks. Your company can always be accessible via your friendly bot.

Here in the West, we are still in the equivalent of the Jurassic Period for bots. What they can be used for is truly limited only by our imagination.

One of my most recent favorites is an innovation from the BBC News Labs and Visual Journalism teams, who have launched a bot-builder app designed to, per Nieman Lab, “make it as easy as possible for reporters to build chatbots and insert them in their stories.”

So, in a story about President Trump from earlier this year, you see this:

Source: BBC.com

It’s one of my favorites not just because it’s innovative and impressive, but because it neatly illustrates how bots can add to and improve our lives… not steal our jobs.

Don’t be a dinosaur

A staggering eighty percent of brands will use chatbots for customer interactions by 2020, according to research. That means that if you don’t want to get left behind, you need to join the bot arms race right now.

“But where do I start?” you wonder.

I’m happy you asked that. Building a bot may seem like an endeavor that requires lots of tech savvy, but it’s surprisingly low-risk to get started.

Many websites allow you to build bots for free, and then there’s QNAMaker.ai (created by Microsoft, my employer), which does a lot of the work for you.

You simply input your company’s FAQ section, and it builds the foundation for an easy chatbot that can be taken live via almost any platform, using natural language processing to parse your FAQ and develop a list of questions your customers are likely to ask.

This is just the beginning — the potential for bots is wow-tastic.

That’s what I’m going to show you today — how you can harness bot-power to build strong, lasting relationships with your customers.

Your 3-step plan to make conversations convert

Step 1: Find the right place to start

The first step isn’t to build a bot straightaway. After all, you can build the world’s most elaborate bot and it is worth exactly nothing to you or your customer if it does not address their needs.

That’s why the first step is figuring out the ways bots can be most helpful to your customers. You need to find their pain points.

You can do this by pretending you’re one of your customers, and navigating through your purchase funnel. Or better again, find data within your CRM system and analytics tools that can help you answer key questions about how your audience interacts with your business.

Here’s a handy checklist of questions you should get answers to during this research phase:

  • How do customers get information or seek help from your company? ☑
  • How do they make a purchase? ☑
  • Do pain points differ across channels and devices? ☑
  • How can we reduce the number of steps in each interaction? ☑

Next, you’ll want to build your hypothesis. And here’s a template to help you do just that:

I believe [type of person] needs to solve [problem] which happens while [situation], which will allow them to [get value].

For example, you’re the manager of a small spa, whose biggest time-suck is people calling to ask simple questions, meaning other customers are on hold for a long time. If those customers can ask a bot these simple questions, you get three important results:

  1. The hold time for customers overall will diminish
  2. The customer-facing staff in your spa will be able to pay more attention to clients who are physically in front of them
  3. Customers with lengthier questions will be helped sooner

Everybody wins.

Finally, now that you’ve identified and prioritized the situations where conversation can help, you’ll be ready to build a bot as well as a skill.

Wait a minute — what’s a skill in this context, and how do they relate to bots? Here’s a great explanation from Chris Messina:

  • A bot is an autonomous program on a network
  • A chatbot is a bot that uses human language to communicate
  • An AI assistant is a chatbot that performs tasks or services for an individual
  • A skill is a capability that an AI assistant can learn

Each of them can help look things up, place orders, solve problems, and make things happen easier, better, and faster.

A few handy resources to build a bot are:

Step 2: Add conversation across the entire customer journey

There are three distinct areas of the customer decision journey where bots and skills can make a big difference.

Bot as introducer

Bots can help your company by being present at the very first event in a purchase path.

Adidas did this wonderfully when they designed a chatbot for their female-focused community Studio LDN, to help create an interactive booking process for the free fitness sessions offered. To drive engagement further, as soon as a booking was made the user would receive reminders and messages from influencer fitness instructors.

The chatbot was the only way for people to book these sessions and it worked spectacularly well.

In the first two weeks, 2,000 people signed up to participate, with repeat use at 80%. Retention after week one was 60%, which the brand claims is far better compared to an app.

Adidas did something really clever. They advertised the bot across many of their other channels to help promote the bot and help with its discoverability.

You can do the same.

There are countless examples where bots can put their best suit on and act as the first introduction to your company:

  • Email marketing: According to MailChimp research, the average email open rates are between 15% to 26% with click rates being just a fraction of that at approximately 2%–5%. That’s pretty low when you compare that to Messenger messages, which can have an open rate of well over 90%. Why not make your call-to-action within your email be an incentive for people to engage with your chatbot? For example, something like “message us for 10% off” could be a compelling reason for people to engage with your chatbot.
  • Social media: How about instead of running Facebook ads which direct people to websites, you run an ad connecting people to bots instead? For example, in the ad, advise people to “chat to see the latest styles” or “chat now to get 20% off” and then have your bot start a conversation. Instant engagement! Plus, it’s a more gentle call-to-action as opposed to a hard sell such as “buy now.”
  • Video: How about creating instructional YouTube videos on how to use your bot? Especially helpful since one of the barriers to using this new technology is a lack of awareness about how to use it. A short, quick video that demonstrates what your skill can do could be very impactful. Check out this great example from FitBit and Cortana:

  • Search: As you’ve likely seen by now, Bing has been integrating chatbots within the SERPs itself. You can do a search for bots across different platforms and you’ll be able to add relevant bots directly to your preferred platform right from the search results themselves:

Travel Bots

  • You can engage with local businesses such as restaurants via the Bing Business bot that shows up as part of the local listings:

Monsoon Seattle search with chatbot

The key lesson here is that when your bot is acting as an introducer, give your audience plenty of ways and reasons to chat. Use conversation to tell people about new stuff, and get them to kick off that conversation.

Bot as influencer

To see a bot acting as an effective influencer, let’s turn to Chinese giant Alibaba. They developed a customizable chatbot store concierge that they offer free to brands and markets.

Cutely named dian xiao mi, or “little shop bee,” the concierge is designed to be the most helpful store assistant you could wish for.

For example, if a customer interacting with a clothing brand uploads a photograph of a t-shirt, the bot buzzes in with suggestions of pants to match. Or, if a customer provides his height and weight, the bot can offer suggested sizing. Anyone who has ever shopped online for clothing knows exactly how much pain the latter offering could eliminate.

This helpful style is essentially changing the conversation from “BUY NOW!” to “What do you need right now?”

We should no longer ask: “How should we sell to customers?” The gazillion-dollar question instead is: How can we connect with them?

An interesting thing about this change is that, when you think about it for a second, it seems like common sense. How much more trust would you have for a brand that was only trying to help you? If you bought a red dress, how much more helpful would it be if the brand showed you a pic of complementary heels and asked if you want to “complete the look”?

For the chatbot to be truly helpful as an influencer, it needs to learn from each conversation. It needs to remember what you shared from the last conversation, and use it to shape future conversations.

So, say a chatbot from my favorite shoe store knew all about my shoe addiction (is there a cure? Would I event want to be cured of it?), then it could be more helpful via its remarketing efforts.

Imagine how much more effective it would be if we could have an interaction like this:

Shoestore Chatbot: Hi Purna! We’re launching a new collection of boots. Would you like a sneak peek?

Me: YES please!!!

Shoestore Chatbot: Great! I’ll email pics to you. You can also save 15% off your next order with code “MozBlog”. Hurry, code expires in 24 hours.

Me: *buys all the shoes, obvs*

This is Bot-topia. Your brand is being helpful, not pushy. Your bot is cultivating relationships with your customers, not throwing ads at them.

The key lesson here? For your bot to be a successful influencer, you must always consider how they can be helpful and how they can add value.

Bot as closer

Bot: “A, B, C. Always be closing.”

Imagine you want to buy flowers for Mother’s Day, but you have very little interest in flowers, and when you scroll through the endless options on the website, and then a long checkout form, you just feel overwhelmed.

1-800-Flowers found your pain point, and acted on it by creating a bot for Facebook Messenger.

It asks you whether you want to select a bunch from one of their curated collections, instantly eliminating the choice paralysis that could see consumers leave the website without purchasing anything.

And once you’ve chosen, you can easily complete the checkout process using your phone’s payment system (e.g. Apple Pay) to make checkout a cinch. So easy, and so friction-free.

The result? According to Digiday, within two months of launch the company saw 70% of the orders through the bot came from brand-new customers. By building a bot, 1-800 Flowers slam-dunked their way into the hearts of a whole new, young demographic.

Can you think of a better, more inexpensive way to unlock a big demographic? I can’t.

To quote Mr. Zuckerberg again: “It’s pretty ironic. To order from 1-800-Flowers, you never have to call 1-800-Flowers again.”

Think back to that handy checklist of questions from Step 1, especially this one: “How can we reduce the number of steps in each interaction?”

Your goal is to make every step easy and empathetic.

Think of what people would want/need to know to as they complete their tasks. For example, if you’re looking to transfer money from your bank account, the banking chatbot could save you from overdraft fees if it warns you that your account could be overdrawn before you make the transfer.

The key lesson here: Leverage your bots to remove any friction and make the experience super relevant and empathetic.

Step 3: Measure the conversation with the right metrics

One of my favorite quotes around how we view metrics versus how we should view metrics comes from Automat CEO Andy Mauro, who says:

“Rather than tracking users with pixels and cookies, why not actually engage them, learn about them, and provide value that actually meets their needs?”

Again, this is common sense once you’ve read it. Of course it makes sense to engage our users and provide value that meets their needs!

We can do this because the bots and skills give us information in our customers’ own words.

Here’s a short list of KPIs that you should look at (let’s call it “bot-alytics”):

  • Delivery and open rates: If the bot starts a conversation, did your customer open it?
  • Click rates: If your bot delivered a link in a chat, did your customer click on it?
  • Retention: How often do they come back and chat with you?
  • Top messages: What messages are resonating with your customers more than others?
  • Conversion rates: Do they buy?
  • Sentiment analysis: Do your customers express happiness and enthusiasm in their conversation with the bot, or frustration and anger?

Using bot-alytics, you can easily build up a clear picture of what is working for you, and more importantly, what is working for your customer.

And don’t forget to ask: What can you learn from bot-alytics that can help other channels?

The future’s bright, the future’s bots

What were once dumb machines are now smart enough that we can engage with them in a very human way. It presents the opportunity of a generation for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Our customers are beginning to trust bots and digital personal assistants for recommendations, needs, and more. They are the friendly neighborhood machines that the utopian vision of a robotic future presents. They should be available to people anywhere: from any device, in any way.

And if that hasn’t made you pencil in a “we need to talk about bots” meeting with your company, here’s a startling prediction from Accenture. They believe that in five years, more than half of your customers will select your services based on your AI instead of your traditional brand.

In three steps, you can start your journey toward bot-topia and having your conversations convert. What are you waiting for?

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How to Write Marketing Case Studies That Convert

Posted by kerryjones

In my last post, I discussed why your top funnel content shouldn’t be all about your brand. Today I’m making a 180-degree turn and covering the value of content at the opposite end of the spectrum: content that’s directly about your business and offers proof of your effectiveness.

Specifically, I’m talking about case studies.

I’m a big believer in investing in case studies because I’ve seen firsthand what happened once we started doing so at Fractl. Case studies were a huge game changer for our B2B marketing efforts. For one, our case studies portfolio page brings in a lot of traffic – it’s the second most-visited page on our site, aside from our home page. It also brings in a significant volume of organic traffic, being our fourth most-visited page from organic searches. Most importantly, our case studies are highly effective at converting visitors to leads – about half of our leads view at least one of our case studies before contacting us.

Assuming anyone who reads the Moz Blog is performing some type of marketing function, I’m zeroing in on how to write a compelling marketing case study that differentiates your service offering and pulls prospects down the sales funnel. However, what I’m sharing can be used as a framework for creating case studies in any industry.

Get your client on board with a case study

Marketers shy away from creating case studies for a few reasons:

  1. They’re too busy “in the weeds” with deliverables.
  2. They don’t think their results are impressive enough.
  3. They don’t have clients’ permission to create case studies.

While I can’t help you with #1 and #2 (it’s up to you to make the time and to get the results deserving of a case study!), I do have some advice on #3.

In a perfect world, clients would encourage you to share every little detail of your time working together. In reality, most clients expect you to remain tight-lipped about the work you’ve done for them.

cobert-gif.gif

Understandably, this might discourage you from creating any case studies. But it shouldn’t.

With some compromising, chances are your client will be game for a case study. We’ve noticed the following two objections are common regarding case studies.

Client objection 1: “We don’t want to share specific numbers.”

At first it you may think, “Why bother?” if a client tells you this, but don’t let it hold you back. (Truth is, the majority of your clients will probably feel this way).

In this instance, you’ll want your case study to focus on highlighting the strategy and describing projects, while steering away from showing specific numbers regarding short and long-term results. Believe it or not, the solution part of the case study can be just as, or more, compelling than the results. (I’ll get to that shortly.)

And don’t worry, you don’t have to completely leave out the results. One way to get around not sharing actual numbers but still showing results is to use growth percentages.

Specific numbers: “Grew organic traffic from 5,000 to 7,500 visitors per month”

Growth percentage: “Increased organic traffic by 150%”

We do this for most of our case studies at Fractl, and our clients are totally fine with it.

Client objection 2: “We don’t want to reveal our marketing strategy to competitors.”

A fear of giving away too much intel to competitors is especially common in highly competitive niches.

So how do you get around this?

Keep it anonymous. Don’t reveal who the client is and keep it vague about what niche they’re in. This can be as ambiguous as referring to the client as “Client A” or slightly more specific (“our client in the auto industry”). Instead, the case study will focus on the process and results – this is what your prospects care about, anyway.

Gather different perspectives

Unless you were directly working with the client who you are writing the case study about, you will need to conduct a few interviews to get a full picture of the who, what, how, and why of the engagement. At Fractl, our marketing team puts together case studies based on interviews with clients and the internal team who worked on the client’s account.

The client

Arrange an interview with the client, either on a call or via email. If you have multiple contacts within the client’s team, interview the main point of contact who has been the most involved in the engagement.

What to ask:

  • What challenge were you facing that you hired us to help with?
  • Had you previously tried to solve this challenge (working with another vendor, using internal resources, etc.)?
  • What were your goals for the engagement?
  • How did you benefit from the engagement (short-term and long-term results, unexpected wins, etc.)?

You’ll also want to run the case study draft by the client before publishing it, which offers another chance for their feedback.

The project team

Who was responsible for this client’s account? Speak with the team behind the strategy and execution.

What to ask:

  • How was the strategy formed? Were strategic decisions made based on your experience and expertise, competitive research, etc.?
  • What project(s) were launched as part of the strategy? What was the most successful project?
  • Were there any unexpected issues that you overcame?
  • Did you refine the strategy to improve results?
  • How did you and the client work together? Was there a lot of collaboration or was the client more hands-off? (Many prospective clients are curious about what their level of involvement in your process would look like.)
  • What did you learn during the engagement? Any takeaways?

Include the three crucial elements of a case study

There’s more than one way to package case studies, but the most convincing ones all have something in common: great storytelling. To ensure you’re telling a proper narrative, your case study should include the conflict, the resolution, and the happy ending (but not necessarily in this order).

We find a case study is most compelling when you get straight to the point, rather than making someone read the entire case study before seeing the results. To grab readers’ attention, we begin with a quick overview of conflict-resolution-happy ending right in the introduction.

For example, in our Fanatics case study, we summarized the most pertinent details in the first three paragraphs. The rest of the case study focused on the resolution and examples of specific projects.

fanatics-case-study.png

Let’s take a look at what the conflict, resolution, and happy ending of your case study should include.

The Conflict: What goal did the client want to accomplish?

Typically serving as the introduction of the case study, “the conflict” should briefly describe the client’s business, the problem they hired you to work on, and what was keeping them from fixing this problem (ex. lack of internal resources or internal expertise). This helps readers identify with the problem the client faced and empathize with them – which can help them envision coming to you for help with this problem, too.

Here are a few examples of “conflicts” from our case studies:

  • “Movoto engaged Fractl to showcase its authority on local markets by increasing brand recognition, driving traffic to its website, and earning links back to on-site content.”
  • “Alexa came to us looking to increase awareness – not just around the Alexa name but also its resources. Many people had known Alexa as the site-ranking destination; however, Alexa also provides SEO tools that are invaluable to marketers.”
  • “While they already had strong brand recognition within the link building and SEO communities, Buzzstream came to Fractl for help with launching large-scale campaigns that would position them as thought leaders and provide long-term value for their brand.”

The Resolution: How did you solve the conflict?

Case studies are obviously great for showing proof of results you’ve achieved for clients. But perhaps more importantly, case studies give prospective clients a glimpse into your processes and how you approach problems. A great case study paints a picture of what it’s like to work with you.

For this reason, the bulk of your case study should detail the resolution, sharing as much specific information as you and your client are comfortable with; the more you’re able to share, the more you can highlight your strategic thinking and problem solving abilities.

The following snippets from our case studies are examples of details you may want to include as part of your solution section:

What our strategy encompassed:

“Mixing evergreen content and timely content helped usher new and existing audience members to the We Are Fanatics blog in record numbers. We focused on presenting interesting data through evergreen content that appealed to a variety of sports fans as well as content that capitalized on current interest around major sporting events.” – from Fanatics case study

How strategy was decided:

“We began by forming our ideation process around Movoto’s key real estate themes. Buying, selling, or renting a home is an inherently emotional experience, so we turned to our research on viral emotions to figure out how to identify with and engage the audience and Movoto’s prospective clients. Based on this, we decided to build on the high-arousal feelings of curiosity, interest, and trust that would be part of the experience of moving.

We tapped into familiar cultural references and topics that would pique interest in the regions consumers were considering. Comic book characters served us well in this regard, as did combining publicly available data (such as high school graduation rates or IQ averages) with our own original research.” – from Movoto case study

Why strategy was changed based on initial results:

“After analyzing the initial campaigns, we determined the most effective strategy included a combination of the following content types designed to achieve different goals [case study then lists the three types of content and goals]…

This strategy yielded even better results, with some campaigns achieving up to 4 times the amount of featured stories and social engagement that we achieved in earlier campaigns.” – from BuzzStream case study

How our approach was tailored to the client’s niche:

“In general, when our promotions team starts its outreach, they’ll email writers and editors who they think would be a good fit for the content. If the writer or editor responds, they often ask for more information or say they’re going to do a write-up that incorporates our project. From there, the story is up to publishers – they pick and choose which visual assets they want to incorporate in their post, and they shape the narrative.

What we discovered was that, in the marketing niche, publishers preferred to feature other experts’ opinions in the form of guest posts rather than using our assets in a piece they were already working on. We had suspected this (as our Fractl marketing team often contributes guest columns to marketing publications), but we confirmed that guest posts were going to make up the majority of our outreach efforts after performing outreach for Alexa’s campaigns.” – from Alexa case study

Who worked on the project:

Since the interviews you conduct with your internal team will inform the solution section of the case study, you may want to give individuals credit via quotes or anecdotes as a means to humanize the people behind the work. In the example below, one of our case studies featured a Q&A section with one of the project leads.

The Happy Ending: What did your resolution achieve?

Obviously, this is the part where you share your results. As I mentioned previously, we like to feature the results at the beginning of the case study, rather than buried at the end.

In our Superdrug Online Doctor case study, we summarized the overall results our campaigns achieved over 16 months:

But the happy ending isn’t finished here.

A lot of case studies fail to answer an important question: What impact did the results have on the client’s business? Be sure to tie in how the results you achieved had a bottom-line impact.

In the case of Superdrug Online Doctor, the results from our campaigns lead to a 238% increase in organic traffic. This type of outcome has tangible value for the client.

You can also share secondary benefits in addition to the primary goals the client hired you for.

In the case of our client Busbud, who hired us for SEO-oriented goals, we included examples of secondary results.

Busbud saw positive impacts beyond SEO, though, including the following:

  • Increased blog traffic
  • New partnerships as a result of more brands reaching out to work with the site
  • Brand recognition at large industry events
  • An uptick in hiring
  • Featured as a “best practice” case study at an SEO conference

Similarly, in our Fractl brand marketing case study, which focused on lead generation, we listed all of the additional benefits resulting from our strategy.

How to get the most out of your case studies

You’ve published your case study, now what should you do with it?

Build a case study page on your site

Once you’ve created several case studies, I recommend housing them all on the same page. This makes it easy to show off your results in a single snapshot and saves visitors from searching through your blog or clicking on a category tag to find all of your case studies in one place. Make this page easy to find through your site navigation and internal links.

While it probably goes without saying, make sure to optimize this page for search. When we initially created our case study portfolio page, we underestimated its potential to bring in search traffic and assumed it would mostly be accessed from our site navigation. Because of this, we were previously using a generic URL to house our case study portfolio. Since updating the URL from “frac.tl/our-work” to “frac.tl/content-marketing-case-studies,” we’ve jumped from page 2 to the top #1–3 positions for a specific phrase we wanted to rank for (“content marketing case studies”), which attracts highly relevant search traffic.

Use case studies as concrete proof in blog posts and off-site content

Case studies can serve as tangible examples that back up your claims. Did you state that creating original content for six months can double your organic traffic? On its own, this assertion may not be believable to some, but a case study showing these results will make your claim credible.

In a post on the Curata blog, my colleague Andrea Lehr used our BuzzStream case study to back up her assertion that in order to attract links, social shares, and traffic, your off-site content should appeal to an audience beyond your target customer. Showing the results this strategy earned for a client gives a lot more weight to her advice.

On the same note, case studies have high linking potential. Not only do they make a credible citation for your own off-site content, they can also be cited by others writing about your service/product vertical. Making industry publishers aware that you publish case studies by reaching out when you’ve released a new case study can lead to links down the road.

Repurpose your case studies into multiple content formats

Creating a case study takes a lot of time, but fortunately it can be reused again and again in various applications.

Long-form case studies

While a case study featured on your site may only be a few hundred words, creating a more in-depth version is a chance to reveal more details. If you want to get your case study featured on other sites, consider writing a long-form version as a guest post.

Most of the case studies you’ll find on the Moz Blog are extremely detailed:

Video

HubSpot has hundreds of case studieson its site, dozens of which also feature supplemental video case studies, such as the one below for Eyeota.

Don’t feel like you have to create flashy videos with impressive production value, even no-frills videos can work. Within its short case study summaries, PR That Converts embeds videos of clients talking about its service. These videos are simple and short, featuring the client speaking to their webcam for a few minutes.

Speaking engagements

Marketing conferences love case studies. Look on any conference agenda, and you’re sure to notice at least a handful of speaker presentations focused on case studies. If you’re looking to secure more speaking gigs, including case studies in your speaking pitch can give you a leg up over other submissions – after all, your case studies are original data no one else can offer.

My colleague Kelsey Libert centered her MozCon presentation a few years ago around some of our viral campaign case studies.

Sales collateral

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, many of our leads view the case studies on our site right before contacting us about working together. Once that initial contact is made, we don’t stop showing off our case studies.

We keep a running “best of” list of stats from our case studies, which allows us to quickly pull compelling stats to share in written and verbal conversations. Our pitch and proposal decks feature bite-sized versions of our case studies.

Consider how you can incorporate case studies into various touch points throughout your sales process and make sure the case studies you share align with the industry and goals of whoever you’re speaking with.

I’ve shared a few of my favorite ways to repurpose case studies here but there are at least a dozen other applications, from email marketing to webinars to gated content to printed marketing materials. I even link to our case studies page in my email signature.

case study email.png

My last bit of advice: Don’t expect immediate results. Case studies typically pay off over time. The good news is it’s worth the wait, because case studies retain their value – we’re still seeing leads come in and getting links to case studies we created three or more years ago. By extending their lifespan through repurposing, the case studies you create today can remain an essential part of your marketing strategy for years to come.

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7 Golden Rules for Hosting Webinars that Engage and Convert

Webinar shock. Familiar with it? Probably not, because I just made up the term. But you’re probably familiar with Webinar Shock’s sister term, Content Shock. It’s the idea, first described by Mark Schaefer, that we have entered an age in which “exponentially increasing volumes of content intersect our limited human capacity to consume it.” In
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The post 7 Golden Rules for Hosting Webinars that Engage and Convert appeared first on Copyblogger.


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How to Know Exactly What Content to Deliver to Convert More Prospects

“Whether you’re consciously telling a story or not, prospects are telling themselves a story about you.” – Brian Clark

Back in the 1940s, psychologists Fritz Heider and Marianne Simmel conducted an experiment. They showed study participants an animated film consisting of a rectangle with an opening, plus a circle and two triangles in motion.

The participants were then asked to simply describe what they saw in the film. Before you keep reading, take a look at it yourself. I’ll be here when you come back.

So, what did you see? Out of all the study participants, only one responded with “a rectangle with an opening, plus a circle and two triangles in motion.” The rest developed elaborate stories about the simple geometric shapes.

Many participants concluded the circle and the little triangle were in love, and that the evil grey triangle was trying to harm or abduct the circle. Others went further to conclude that the blue triangle fought back against the larger triangle, allowing his love to escape back inside, where they soon rendezvoused, embraced, and lived happily ever after.

That’s pretty wild when you think about it.

The Heider-Simmel experiment became the initial basis of attribution theory, which describes how people explain the behavior of others, themselves, and also, apparently, geometric shapes on the go.

More importantly, people explain things in terms of stories. Even in situations where no story is being intentionally told, we’re telling ourselves a tale as a way to explain our experience of reality.

And yes, we tell ourselves stories about brands, products, and services. Whether you’re consciously telling a story or not, prospects are telling themselves a story about you.

Are you telling a story? And more importantly, does that story resonate with the way your prospective customers and clients are seeing things?

This is the key to knowing what your prospect needs to hear, and when they need to hear it, as part of your overall content marketing strategy. And in a networked, information-rich world where the prospects have all the power, this is your only chance to control the narrative.

What kind of story to tell?

You need to tell a Star Wars story. And by that, I mean you need to take your prospects along a content marketing version of the mythic hero’s journey.

In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell identifies a “monomyth” — a fundamental structure common to myths that have survived for thousands of years. Campbell’s identification of these enduring myths from disparate times and regions has inspired modern storytellers to consciously craft their work following the monomyth framework, also known as the hero’s journey.

Most notable among those inspired by the hero’s journey is George Lucas, who acknowledged Campbell’s work as the source of the plot for Star Wars. As a content marketer, you can also consciously incorporate the monomyth into your launches, funnels, and general editorial calendar.

Hero's Journey

The image above shows the general elements of the hero’s journey, which can be broken down into much more detail than presented here. It’s important to note that not all monomythic stories contain every aspect, but the original Star Wars faithfully follows almost every element of the hero’s journey.

Let’s focus on the first two steps of the journey, in the “ordinary world” before the journey truly begins. Here’s how those elements occurred in the original Star Wars.

  • Luke is living in the ordinary world of his home planet, working on the family farm.
  • The “call to adventure” is R2-D2’s holographic message from Princess Leia, the classic princess in distress.
  • Luke initially refuses the call due to his family obligations, until his aunt and uncle are killed.
  • Luke meets his mentor and guide, Obi-Wan Kenobi, who convinces Luke to proceed with his heroic journey.
  • Obi-Wan gives Luke a gift that determines his destiny — his father’s lightsaber.

How does this apply to content marketing? Simple. As I mentioned last time:

Your prospect is Luke. You are Obi-Wan.

The mistake most often made in marketing is thinking of your business as the hero, resulting in egocentric messages that no one else cares about. The prospect is always the primary hero, because they are the one going on the journey — whether big or small — to solve a problem or satisfy a desire.

  • The prospect starts off in the ordinary world of their lives.
  • The call to adventure is an unsolved problem or unfulfilled desire.
  • There’s resistance to solving that problem or satisfying the desire.
  • A mentor (your brand) appears that helps them proceed with the journey.
  • You deliver a gift (your content) that ultimately leads to a purchase

By making the prospect the hero, your brand also becomes a hero in the prospect’s story.

And by accepting the role of mentor with your content, your business accomplishes its goals while helping the prospect do the same. Which is how business is supposed to work, right?

8 core steps in the buyer’s journey

I’ve been using the hero’s journey to teach marketing and sales since 2007. I’ve found that just the act of thinking of the prospect as the hero makes you a better content marketer.

When you think in terms of empowering people to solve their problem by playing the role of mentor, you’re naturally performing better than competitors who take an egocentric approach.

This is also the exact way we come up with content marketing strategies for our own launches, funnels, and general editorial calendar. After years of using this strategic process, I’ve found that every buyer’s journey contains key points where you must deliver the right information at the right time to succeed at an optimal level.

Remember, each journey is tied to a particular who that you have documented. Some people create content journeys for multiple personas, but my advice is that you pick one at first and focus. Even Apple stuck with one target persona for the entirety of the Get a Mac campaign.

You’ll notice I use the word “problem” below, rather than “problem or desire.” An unfulfilled desire is a problem in the mind of the prospect, so it works on its own.

1. Ordinary World: This is the world (and worldview) that your ideal prospect lives in. She may be aware of the problem that she has, but she hasn’t yet resolved to do something about it. You understand how this person thinks, sees, feels, and behaves due to the empathy mapping process.

2. Call to Adventure: The prospect decides to take action to solve the problem. It could be a New Year’s resolution, a longstanding goal, or a problem that rears its head for the first time.

3. Resistance to the Call: At this point, the prospect starts to waver in her commitment to solving the problem. Maybe it seems too hard, too expensive, too time consuming, or simply too impractical. As we’ll discuss in a bit, this is a key content inflection point.

4. The Mentor and the Gift: This is the point that you are initially accepted as a mentor that guides the buyer’s journey. The prospect accepts your offer of a gift, in the form of information, that promises to help her solve the problem.

5. Crossing the Threshold: This is the point of purchase where the prospect believes that your product or service will lead to the problem being solved, which will lead to transformation. The most important thing to understand is that, unlike flawed funnel metaphors, the journey does not end at purchase.

6. Traveling the Road: The customer begins using the product or service with the goal of achieving success in the context of the problem. Who cares if the customer stops the journey right after purchase, right? Wrong — too often this leads to a refund request; plus you miss out on the huge benefits that accompany a happy customer.

7. Seizing the Treasure: The customer experiences success with your product or service. What does this look like for them and you? How will you know when it happens?

8. The New Ordinary: The customer has experienced a positive transaction with you, and yet we’re just now getting to the really good stuff. This is a perfect time to prime them for repeat or upsell purchases or referrals. At this point, deliver content that aims at retention for recurring revenue products, and make savvy requests for direct referrals, testimonials, and word of mouth.

Of the eight, only Traveling the Road isn’t universal — if you’re an electrician, you show up and either fix the problem or don’t. But if you’re selling software-as-a-service, for example, content that gets users engaged with the platform is critical to reducing churn.

These core steps can provide you with a beginning framework for a detailed map of the buyer’s journey. The next step is to add the touchpoints that are unique to your product or service.

Your unique journey map

You may be thinking about how exactly you’re supposed to map this out. Fortunately, there’s already an established procedure for this, just as during the who phase.

An experience map is a visual representation of the path a consumer takes — from beginning to end — with your content, and then with your product or service.

By mapping the journey, you know where the additional crucial touchpoints are, and what content can empower the journey to continue.

Here’s an example from Adaptive Path for Rail Europe:

rail-europe-experience-map

This map demonstrates the journey a consumer would take while riding the trains in Europe. It follows her from the early stages of research and planning to the end of her trip.

You see what she is doing (searching Google, looking up timetables), what she is thinking during each action (do I have everything I need, and am I on the right train?), and what she is feeling (stressed: I’m about to leave the country and Rail Europe won’t answer the phone).

Do you see the correlation with the empathy mapping exercise you did back when developing a snapshot of your ideal customer? It’s no coincidence that we’re now applying what the prospect is “Thinking,” “Seeing,” “Doing,” and “Feeling” in their ordinary world to the journey they need to travel.

In a piece called the Anatomy of an Experience Map, Chris Risdon at Adaptive Path suggests your experience map should have these five components:

  1. The lens: This is how a particular person (or persona) views the journey. Keep in mind, this journey will not be the same for everyone. You will more than likely have more than one experience map.
  2. The journey model: This is the actual design of the map. If all goes well, it should render insight to answer questions like “What happens here? What’s important about this transition?”
  3. Qualitative insight: This is where the Thinking-Seeing-Doing-Feeling of an empathy map comes in handy.
  4. Quantitative information: This is data that brings attention to certain aspects of your map. It reveals information like “80 percent of people abandon the process at this touchpoint.”
  5. Takeaways: This is where the map earns its money. What are the conclusions? Opportunities? Threats to the system? Does it identify your strengths? Highlight your weaknesses?

You can find more detailed information on creating a customer experience map here. Like empathy mapping, it can be done solo, but works even better as a collaborative process, so that everyone on your team understands the journey from the perspective of the prospect and subsequent customer.

Mapping the 7 key influence principles

When you consider influential content, you may naturally think that it’s about how your present the information. While that’s true from an engagement standpoint, which principle of influence to apply and when to emphasize it is an exercise in what as well.

In other words, beyond the raw information of the what, you’ll also want to identify the order of emphasis for things like reciprocity, social proof, authority, liking, commitment and consistency, unity, and scarcity.

Every successful digital marketer I know purposefully applies those seven principles in their content and copy, because they all treat Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini as their bible. If you haven’t read it, you should — but in the meantime check out this six-page PDF that explains the original six principles, and here’s an article by Sonia Simone on the all-important 7th principle of unity.

At Rainmaker Digital, we think in terms of four different types of content when mapping the buyer’s journey. Keep in mind that great marketing content contains all of these elements; you’re simply selecting a category based on the primary aim of the individual piece at the appropriate time.

First up we have Attraction content, otherwise known as “top of funnel” information. This corresponds best with the Resistance to the Call point of the journey — it addresses the problem while also addressing common objections to moving forward. In addition to creating the feeling that “you’re reading their mind,” you’re also invoking early influence through reciprocity, social proof through share numbers, and establishing authority.

Next up, you have your cornerstone influence principle thanks to Authority content. The important thing is that you demonstrate authority, rather than claim it. Your Attraction content sets the stage, and your Authority content should be gated behind an email opt-in. At this stage, you’re establishing clear authority, continuing to leverage reciprocity and social proof, and adding liking, plus commitment and consistency thanks to the opt-in.

Affinity content solidly positions you as a “likable expert,” but it goes beyond that. This is where you let your core values shine. You reflect the prospect’s worldview back to them in a completely authentic way, prompting the powerful principle of unity. Never underestimate how often people choose to do business with people they like, and who also see the world like they do.

Finally, it all comes down to Action. Unlike Phil Connors, you don’t look for ultimate action at the beginning of the journey. But you do rely on smaller actions along the way, especially at the bridge between Attraction content and Authority content. That said, the key influence principle at this stage is scarcity, which you’ve earned the right to employ thanks to the other six principles. People fear missing out more than they desire gain, so make sure to use it ethically.

This is the outline of your story

It’s tempting at this point to try to imagine how you’re going to execute on your strategy, but you’re not quite there yet. Soon, I’ll share with you a “real world” example of how this looks in action.

For now, map the journey experience. In addition to your character, you’ve now got the plot points in the narrative you’re weaving.

All that’s left is to figure out how to tell the story. That’s up next week.

The post How to Know Exactly What Content to Deliver to Convert More Prospects appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Scaling Geo-Targeted Local Landing Pages That Really Rank and Convert – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

One question we see regularly come up is what to do if you’re targeting particular locations/regions with your site content, and you want to rank for local searches, but you don’t actually have a physical presence in those locations. The right track can depend on a few circumstances, and in today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand helps you figure out which one is best for your organization.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Scaling Geo-Targeted Local Landing Pages That Really Rank and Convert - Whiteboard Friday

Video Transcription

Howdy Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re talking about geo-targeted or geo-specific local landing pages for companies that are trying to reach many geographic regions and need to have that scale, but don’t necessarily have a local physical location in every city they’re trying to target.

So if you can imagine I’m going to use the fictitious Rand’s Whisky Company, and Rand’s Whisky Company is going to be called Specialty Whisky. We’re going to be running events all over the country in all sorts of cities. We’re going to be trying to reach people with a really local approach to whisky, because I’m very passionate about whisky, and I want everyone to be able to try scotches and bourbons and American whiskies as well.

Okay, this sounds great, but there’s going to be a big challenge. Rand’s Whisky Company has no physical location in any city other than our main Seattle headquarters. This is a big challenge, and I’ve talked to many startups and many companies who have this same problem. Essentially they need to rank for a core set of terms in many different geographies.

So they might say, “Hey, we want to be in Nashville, Tennessee, and in Atlanta, Georgia, and we’ve identified a lot of whisky consumers in, let’s say, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. But we can’t open physical, local office space in every one of those geographies. In fact, we could probably only start by having a Web presence in each of those. We haven’t yet necessarily achieved sort of scale and service in every single one of those geos.” It’s not like I’m running events in every one of these the day I start. I might start with Seattle and Portland and maybe Boise, Idaho, or Spokane or something like that, and then eventually I’ll grow out.

This presents a big challenge in search results, because the way Google’s results work is that they bias to show kind of two things in a lot of categories. They’ll try and show you the local purveyors of whatever it is that the person is searching for in the local or maps results. Obviously, Pigeon had a big change and update to these, changing the geographic areas and changing the ordering of those results and now many map results show up, and those sorts of things. But obviously they’re still very present.

We see them a lot. MozCast sees a very high percent of local intent queries even sometimes without the city modifier. If you’re in a geography, you search for a whisky store, and you know what? Liquor stores and specialty liquor companies and that kind of stuff, they’re going to show up in your search results here in Seattle in those Maps local boxes. So that makes it tough.

Then the other category is, of course, the organic web results. That’s where folks like this, Rand’s Whisky Company and other folks who are trying to scale their local presence, need to show up because you really won’t have an opportunity in those local results unless and until you have true local physical space. So you’re aiming for those Web results.

You’re oftentimes competing with people like Yelp and Angie’s List. A lot of the old Yellow Pages folks are in their directories and guides. Then sometimes, occasionally there will be a company that does a great job with this.

So there two companies that I want to call out. One is Uber, which everyone is pretty much familiar with, and Uber has done a great job of having their website contained in unique portals for each city in which they operate, unique social accounts, unique blogs. They really have put together a segmented operation that targets each city that they’re in. They do have physical space, so they’re cheating a little bit on this front.

Then another one is a company called Ride the Ducks, and Ride the Ducks has different websites for every city that they operate in. So there’s a duck tour in Boston, a duck tour in Seattle, a duck tour in Los Angeles, all this kind of stuff. You can ride the ducks in any of these cities.

Now let’s say that you’re a startup or a company starting out, and you’re thinking, “Okay, fine. I’m going to have my Specialty Whisky page for Seattle, and I’ll just put some generic information in there, and then I’ll replace Seattle with Portland, with Los Angeles, with Baton Rouge.” That’s my Baton Rouge page. That’s my Los Angeles page. This is called the find and replace.

Even if you push this out, even if you customize some of the content on this page, try and make it a little more specific, have a few addresses or locations, you will fail. Unfortunately, Angie’s List, who I mentioned, they do a really terrible job of this. They have a lot of pages that are what I call find and replace pages. You could just plug in nearly any city, and that’s what the results would look like. They do rank. They are ranking because they were early and because they’ve got a lot of domain authority. Do not think that you can copy their content strategy and succeed.

The next one is a little bit more scaled out. This is a little bit more like what someone such as a Yelp or TripAdvisor might do for some of their landing pages. They’ve got some unique info in each city. It’s the same for each city, but it’s scaled out and it’s relatively comprehensive. So, my Specialty Whisky Seattle page might show our favorite bars in Seattle. It might show some recommended stores where you can buy whisky. It might show some purveyors, some vendors, that we like. It could have some local events listed on the page. Fine, great. That could be good enough if the intent is always the same.

So if every city’s intent, the people who are searching for restaurants in Portland versus restaurants in Seattle, you’re basically looking for the same thing. It’s the same kind of people looking for the same kind of thing, and that’s how Yelp and TripAdvisor and folks like that have scaled this model out to success.

If you want to take it even one step further, my final recommendation is to go in that direction of what Uber and Ride the Ducks and those types do, which is they essentially have a customized experience created by a local team in that city, even if they don’t necessarily have a physical office. Uber, before they open the physical office, will send people out. They’ll go team gathering. Yelp did this, too, in their history as they were scaling out.

That kind of thing is like, “Hey, we’ve got some photos from some of our events. We’ve got a representative in the city.” This is Seattle Whiskey Pete, and Whiskey Pete says, “Yar, you should buy some whiskey.” It’s got a list of events. So Knee High is stocking up for the holiday (presumably at the Knee High Stocking Company, which is a great little speakeasy here in Seattle), and whisky at Bumbershoot. You can follow our @WhiskySeattle account on Twitter, and that’s different from our @WhiskyPortland, our @WhiskyLosAngeles or our @WhiskyNewYork accounts. Great.

There’s a bunch of top Seattle picks. So this is a very customized page. This experience is completely owned and controlled by a team that’s focused purely on Seattle. This is sort of the Holy Grail. It’s hard to scale to this, which is why this other approach can really be okay for a lot of folks trying to scale up and rank for all of those geo terms plus their keywords.

What’s the process by which you go about this? I’m glad you asked because I wrote it down. Number one, we want to try and determine the searcher’s intent and how we can satisfy the query and at the same time delight visitors. We’ve got to create a unique, special experience for them and delight visitors in addition to satisfying their query.

So for Seattle whisky, I can show them where they can buy whisky in the city. I can recommend some bars that have a great whisky selection, and then I can delight them by showing some tips and tricks from our community. I can delight them by giving them special priority access to events. I can delight them by giving them a particular guide that they could print out and take with them or the ability to register for special things that they couldn’t get elsewhere, buy whiskies that they’d never be able to get, whatever it is, something special to delight them.

Number two, I want to select the group of keywords, and I say group because usually there are a few keywords in every one of the verticals that I’ve talked to people about. There are usually between 3 and about 20 sets of keywords that they really, deeply care about per each geography. Do be careful. You’ve got to be wary of local colloquialisms. For example, if you’re in the United States, whiskey is often spelled with an “e”, W-H-I-S-K-E-Y, whereas in the U.K. and most of Europe, most of the rest of the English language speaking world, it’s spelled W-H-I-S-K-Y with no “e”.

Also you want to take those groups, and you want to actually combine them. So say I’ve got a bunch of keywords over here. I might want to say, “Hey, you know what? These three keywords, whisky tastings and whisky events, that’s the same intent.” I don’t need to create two different landing pages for those. Let’s take those and bunch them up and group them and make that one page. That’ll be our Seattle Whisky Events page, and we’ll target tastings and events and festivals and whatever other synonyms might go in there.

Third, I want to create a few of these, one of these two models of really amazing pages as a sample, as an instruction for all future ones. This is what we want to get to. Let’s make the best, most perfect page for Seattle, and then we’ll go make one for Portland and we’ll go make one for Los Angeles. Then we’ll see how do we get that into a process that will scale for us. You want that process to be repeatable. You want it to be well-defined. You want it to be so that a content team, who comes in, or contractor, an agency can take that document, can look at the examples, and replicate that on a city by city basis. That’s going to require a lot of uniqueness. You need to have those high bars set up so that they can achieve them.

The fourth and last thing for these pages you’re creating is you’ve got to be able to answer this question: Who will amplify this page and why? By amplify, I mean share socially, share via word of mouth, share via email, link to it. Who will amplify it and why? How are we going to reach them?

Then go get them. Go prove to yourself that with those two or three amazing example pages that you made that you can actually do it, and then make that part of your scaling process.

Now you’ve got something where you can truly say, “Yes, we can go geo by geo and have the potential to rank in market after market for the terms and phrases that we care about in the organic results.”

Long term, if you have a lot of success in a city, my next suggestion would be that you move from this model to this model where you actually have a local team, just one person, even a contractor, someone who visits. It doesn’t have to be a permanent resident of that city. It can be someone who goes there a month out of the year, whatever it is, every few weekends and owns that page and that experience and that section of your site for that specific geo that produces remarkable results.

They build relationships. That furthers your press, and that furthers your brand in that town. There’s a lot of opportunity there. So that’s eventually where you want to move to.

All right, everyone. I hope all of you out there who are building local, geo-targeted landing pages at scale have found this valuable, and I hope you’re going to go build some phenomenal pages. Maybe someone will even start a whisky company for me.

All right, everyone. Take care. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.

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How to Convert a Client’s Goals into Reportable Metrics – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by DiTomaso

Metrics are really only effective markers of business success if they’re measuring your progress toward your organization’s goals. How, though, do we make the leap from goals to reportable metrics? In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Dana DiTomaso (a partner at Kick Point and a MozCon 2014 speaker!) walks us through that process.

Want to see more from Dana? You can watch her presentation “Prove Your Value” from
MozCon 2014 for free.
(If you’re looking to turn turn the marketing learning volume up to 11, you can purchase all of the MozCon presentations on that page!)

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Video transcription

Hi, I’m 
Dana DiTomaso. I work at Kick Point, which is a digital marketing agency in Edmonton. I presented at MozCon 2014 this year, talking about reporting and how people love it so much and how you can make your reporting better.

One of the slides in my presentation that people had a lot of questions about afterwards was what you see behind me. This is not my handwriting. It’s much better than my handwriting. Left-handers and whiteboards don’t mix. One of the things that we wanted to talk in this slide was you can take a goal that the client gives you and drill it down to what you report on in the actual report. The reason why you do this is that you can report on basically everything. That’s one of our super powers as a digital marketer. Because of that, it means that you’re able to take what the client says are their business goals and turn it into things that you actually report on. Because you’re able to do this for a client, they’re much more likely to like you, keep paying their bills, keep you around, last company fired when all the contractor budgets get cut, those sorts of things.

We find that reporting to clients goals proves your value much more strongly than anything else you could possibly do, including delivering great results, to be honest. Clients appreciate honesty, and they appreciate it when you are able to say, “This is what we’re doing to meet your goals. This is the work and here’s how it all fits together.” You’ll have an easier time selling what it is that you do. The client’s going to be happy, you’re going to be happy, everybody’s happy.

Let’s start with how this works. The idea here is you take the client’s goal. When we start with a client, we say to them, “What are your business goals for this year and next year? Give us all your goals.” They often say, “Oh, no marketing company has ever asked for this before,” which is kind of crazy. So start asking your clients for these goals. Again, that’s already a competitive differentiator, and this is before the client has even signed on with us. This is in the proposal meeting. After you’ve done your research, you can come back to the client and say, “Here’s how we’re going to break down your goals into the strategy that we’re going to execute on once you sign on the nice dotted line and give us a check.”

I find that definitely doing that research part is an important part of our proposal process. It might be an important part of yours. What we really like to focus on is making that sure we understand all the pieces of how the client’s project is going to fit together before we tell them how much it’s going to be to execute on it. Because of that, not all clients are like, “Oh I have to pay you money, and then I have to pay you money again.” They are kind of confused, but at the same time you have a way better grasp of what’s going to happen. There are no nasty surprises like, “Oh, you paid a company to black hat link building for you. Well, that’s great.” Then you’re going to have to revise your estimate, etc., etc., etc.

Doing this goal setting as a part of the research process, before you quote on the actual piece, is crucial. If a client doesn’t agree to it, we actually don’t work with them as a client. I know it means that you get less business, but at the same time you get way better business. Clients who are invested in this process are awesome clients.

Back to the goals, this is a real goal from one of our clients — increase gross sales to $ 17.5 million in 2014. For this client, to set some context, they have recently cancelled all of their print. They weren’t doing any radio or TV. It was just print advertising. They have gone strictly digital. What they’re going to get leads in now is word-of-mouth, referral, being known in the industry, and digital marketing. Great, so now we have this goal.

The question is: How do we track that goal? What do we need to find out in order to make sure we’re delivering on that goal? That gets broken down into KPIs, key performance indicators. That’s gross sales, average sale size, and average time to close sale. That’s the three things we need from the client. Because we communicate to this client at the very beginning, we can then set up a process to say, “Okay, so when it’s report time at the end of the month, this is the kind of stuff that we need from you.” The client is ready, able to deliver it right away. It’s not a huge turnaround time on the reports.

The next thing is tactics. Of course, there are way more tactics than this. This is kind of a broad overview of the tactics that you think about. This includes things like link building or content marketing or outreach or anything like that. What we’re looking at right now is: How are we going to deliver, and how are we going to deliver on our end? What is the stuff we’re thinking about when we actually do stuff like content marketing?

So this helps to sharpen your focus to say, “All right, we’re going to right a blog post about how our client is really awesome at environmental sustainability,” for example. Then we know that we need to make sure that we’re setting up lead tracking and lead scoring and that there’s a nice call-to-action at the end of that content piece, because we need to make sure that it turns into leads, and blah, blah, blah.

A couple of tactics, use lead tracking to determine the percentage of lead sources per industry and their source. For this client, they want to sell more to specific industries, so we want to make sure that we’re tracking that on the form. There is a drop-down on the form, but also people hate self-reporting. They’re really bad at it. They often pick “other” or “I don’t want to tell you” or they just don’t fill out the form. If you can remove that and then try to get the industry in some other way, either through demographic information. For example, once you get your email address, you can look it up. If it’s a client with a low volume of leads, that can be really effective or some other method, and then you can remove that from the form. That helps improve your close rate.

Lead scoring to identify high close rate, fast closing leads and their source. What we want to know is not just how many leads did you get, but what were the best leads. Which ones closed the fastest? Which ones gave you the most money? Let’s get more of these. We want to find out their source so we can say, “Wow, that referral campaign we did was really amazing. Let’s make sure we do more of that.” That’s the tactics.

Next is metrics. This is what are we going to pull out of Google Analytics or whatever reporting method you’re using. For example, this could also be a social goal that’s related strictly to social media, such as improving share of voice in your industry. In that case, you would look at different metrics like the share of voice. You would look at mentions. There’s lots of different stuff that you can look at. For this case, we’re looking at lead form fills and specifically the multi-attribution model. I want to take a minute to talk about that. I think that by default, of course, Google Analytics reports on the click before the last click attribution model. What we want to report on is all the different steps that went into that. Annie Cushing had a great quote about this, “Reporting on last click attribution in 2014 is like buying a football team and only paying the players who score.” If you only report on last-attribution modeling, the problem is that you are shortchanging yourself. Often, for example, organic traffic is very high up the funnel. We want to make sure that we’re getting credit for every touch point that the client makes before they fill out that form.

The first time you present multi-attribution modeling to a client, if you aren’t doing it already, and if you’re not doing it already, then start. I know it takes a little bit of work with customer reporting and stuff, but it’s totally worth it. You usually have to sit down and explain to the client. I have used Annie’s quote. It works really great to explain how this stuff works. Just sit down with them and show them and actually open up Google Analytics and take them through the model. Say, “Look at all these different paths. Isn’t this crazy? Did you know somebody visited your website 78 times before they filled out form?”

They are often horrified, but also a little confused, as we all are about user behavior on the Internet. I find that it’s important to show the client this so that they understand and they get a real appreciation of all the different pieces that come in together. There’s very rarely a, “I clicked on your ad. I filled out a form.” That’s not necessarily a transaction that happens a lot, especially in the B2B space, which is where this client is.

Make sure that you’re using multi-attribution in all your reporting, that you’re explaining it, and that you’re giving credit where credit is due, even if it isn’t something that you particularly did. Let’s say you’re not responsible for email marketing. That’s a client. Email marketing can be a really important channel, drives lots of leads. No, you didn’t do it, but report on it. The client is going to appreciate that. Make sure you use the multi-attribution model.

In the report itself, now we know these are the metrics you’re going to report on: number of leads; attribute leads to channels, this is really important; and attribute high value leads to channels. This is the golden thing that’s going to be able to tell us what is really working well for this client and what we need to focus on in the future.

Then, of course, that rolls all the way back up to this goal again. By putting all the pieces together, you can become incredibly valuable to your clients. They appreciate honest, accurate reporting. They appreciate reporting that relates back to their business goals, so then when it comes time for your client’s boss to ask questions about why they’re paying all that money to the digital marketing agency, they can come back and say, “Look what they did to hit those goals.” That should help you out with reporting. Thanks.

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7 Social Psychology Studies to Help You Convert Prospects into Paying Customers

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When it comes to converting more prospects into paying customers, it all boils down to how well you understand your buyer’s mind and what they want from your business.

The thing is, your time can’t scale in every circumstance, and there may come a point where you aren’t able to know each and every one of your customers personally. When that’s the case, what’s to be done?

The answer is to turn to rigorously tested research in social psychology.

We’re all different, but in many instances our brains are prone to respond in a very similar manner, and understanding these common elements in the human mind can help you find more ways to ethically move more buyers towards saying “Yes!” to your products or services.

Below you’ll find 7 such studies that will help you understand what makes many of your customers “tick”, and what you can do to create a more effective selling experience.

1. Play the devil’s advocate

Are you familiar with how the term “devil’s advocate” came to exist? It’s actually from an old process the Roman Catholic church used to conduct when canonizing someone into sainthood.

A lawyer of sorts was instructed to be the devil’s advocate for the candidate, taking a skeptical view of their character in an attempt to find holes in their arguments for why they should be considered.

The marketing world has an important lesson to learn from this process.

According to research by social psychologist Charlan Nemeth (and his colleagues), the role of devil’s advocate certainly plays a part in persuasion, but it is not one of creating dissent.

Nemeth concluded that when people are confronted with someone who truly appears to oppose their position (true dissenters), they begin to try and understand their perspective.

Those playing devil’s advocate? They actually increase the effectiveness of the original argument! This is because group members do not take the critiques from the devil’s advocate as seriously, and since the group is now bringing up (and dismissing) possible alternatives or flaws, they are more confident in their original stance.

For marketers, this offers an opportunity: playing devil’s advocate for your own products can actually enhance your persuasive efforts as people see their concerns addressed (and dismissed) before they buy.

The Takeaway: Playing the role of devil’s advocate has been found to increase people’s resolve in their decision making, not hinder it. Be your own devil’s advocate and back up typical objections with solutions for your offerings.

2. Use urgency … the smart way

Creating a sense of urgency in your copy is one of the oldest tricks in the book … and still one of the smartest. To top it off, Cialdini lists “scarcity” as one of the 6 pillars of influence, and it’s easy to see why: great demand leads to great sales.

In spite of this, I have some research that explains how urgency can completely backfire on you and ruin your meticulously written copy.

How can this be? More importantly, how can you prevent it from happening to you?

The research comes to us from a classic study by Howard Leventhal where he analyzed the effects of handing out tetanus brochures to subjects.

Leventhal handed out 2 different pamphlets to participants, both sparing no detail on the horrid effects that the tetanus disease can have on the body.

The difference was that the control group received a version of the pamphlet that had the effects of the disease … and nothing else.

The second group received a similar pamphlet, but theirs had minimal information that indicated where they could schedule an appointment to get vaccinated.

The results?

Those who had the second pamphlet (with the sparse follow-up info) were much more likely to take-action: the rate that they followed through to get vaccinated was vastly superior to the first group. They were also more engaged with the tetanus information they received.

Why?

Even though the follow-up information provided in the second pamphlet wasn’t at all comprehensive, Leventhal concluded that our minds are susceptible to blocking out information that evokes a sense of urgency if there aren’t any instructions regarding what to do next.

Those in the first group were prone to convincing themselves that, “I don’t need to worry about this because it won’t happen to me anyway,” whereas those in the second group had less incentive to feel this way because they had a plan to take action and couldn’t put it aside as easy.

The Takeaway: Urgency can be “blocked” by your customers minds if you don’t give them specific instructions on how to solve the problem that you’ve identified. Don’t give vague instructions, tell your audience exactly what to do when the time comes.

3. Highlight strengths by admitting your shortcomings

Is it ever a good idea to admit to your faults? After all, people don’t really want the “real” you, right?

Research from social psychologist Fiona Lee would assert that it is, and in fact, it may be the best strategic decision to highlight your strengths.

The study she conducted looked at companies who admitted to missteps and examined what effect (if any) these admissions had on stock prices. Lee and her colleagues had experimenters read one of two fictitious company reports (both reports listed reasons why the company had performed “poorly” last year).

The first report placed emphasis on strategic decisions. The second placed emphasis on external events (economic downturn, increased competition, etc.).

So what were the results?

The test subjects viewed the first company far more favorably than the second.

Interestingly, Lee found (after examining hundreds of these types of statements, over 14 real companies) that the companies who admitted to their strategic faults also had higher stock prices the following year.

Her conclusions were that admitting to shortcomings in areas like strategic thinking showcased that a company was still in control, despite their faults. Blaming external forces (even if true) created a sense that the company didn’t have the ability to fix the problem (or were creating excuses).

The Takeaway: Customers still don’t want you to overshare irrelevant details. But admitting to honest errors helps your customers understand that you are in control of the situation and not prone to making excuses.

4. Embrace the power of labels

You might think I’m referring to brand labels, but far from it: I’m telling you to label your customers!

Sounds like bad advice, right?

WRONG!

As it turns, the research has shown us that people like being labeled, and they are more likely to particpate in the “group’s” message if they feel included in it.

The study examined the voting patterns of adults to see if labeling them had any effect on their turnout at the polls.

After being casually questioned about their normal voting patterns, half of the particpants were told that they were much more likely to vote since they had been deemed to be more politically active.

(This wasn’t actually true, these people were selected at random)

The other half of participants weren’t told anything.

Despite this random selection, the group that was told they were “politically active” had a 15% higher turnout than the other group!

Our brain seeks to maintain a sense of consistency (even if it’s artificial), and this is why the foot-in-the-door technique works so well even on prepared minds. We enjoy being consistent so much that if we feel apart of a group by being told that we are, it’s still likely to affect our response.

For instance, smart people are obviously going to be interested in an internet marketing course that’s made for smart people, right? The label is at work to make you realize you’re part of a desirable group.

The Takeaway: Even when given an artificial connection, people tend to take action in order to maintain a consistent image if they are labeled as being apart of a group. Don’t be afraid to label, people like being members of groups that they approve of.

5. Make their brain light up “instantly”

There are few things that our brains love more than immediate stimulation.

As a matter of fact, research has shown that instant gratification is such a powerful force that an ability to control against it is a great indicator of achieving success.

Wow!

In terms of your customers, you’re actually looking to do the opposite: in this case the gratification is about getting instantly rewarded by doing business with you, and your copy should remind customers of this benefit at every turn.

When your customers are on the verge of purchasing a product from you (or about to sign up for your email list), they are heavily influenced by how quickly they can receive their desired outcome.

Several Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) studies, including one on nicotine addiction, have shown that our frontal cortex is highly active when we think about “waiting” for something.

On the other hand, our mid-brain is the one that lights up when we think about receiving something right away (that’s the one we want to fire up!).

Words like “instant”, “immediately”, or even just “fast” are known to flip the switch on that mid-brain activity that makes us so anxious to buy.

Researchers have noted that the key to these words is that they allow us to envision our problem being solved right away; whatever pain point we are seeking to fix by buying becomes more enticing if we know we won’t have to wait very long.

The Takeaway: Our brains love “instant gratification” and light up when thinking about eliminating pain points instantly. Let people know that they will be rewarded quickly and they will be more likely to make the purchase.

6. Know how to sell to your 3 types of buyers

Every business (no matter the industry) is going to have to deal with the 3 types of buyers out there.

All other aspects aside, these 3 groups are defined by the “pain” that they receive when purchasing something. Neuroscientists have defined human spending patterns as a process of “spend ’til it hurts!”, so understanding these different levels of paint points is essential to increasing your sales.

According to the research, all customers are grouped into the following categories:

  1. Tightwads (24%) – people that spend less (on average) before they hit their limit
  2. Unconflicted (61%) – average spenders
  3. Spendthrifts (15%) – people that are able to spend more before they hit their limit

Guess who the hardest group of people to sell to is? Since they take up nearly a quarter of your potential customers, you should learn some of the smart techniques to minimize buying pain for your “tightwad” customers.

Fortunately, the secret boils down to utilizing well-written copy.

According to some remarkable neuroimaging studies, minimizing buying pain for “tightwads” (and everybody else) can be accomplished successfully by incorporating the following strategies…

1. Re-frame the value

If I told you that my product costs $ 1,000 a year, you’d definitely approach with a little hesitation, right?

Right. That’s because $ 1,000 isn’t peanuts.

What if I told you instead that my product costs $ 84 a month? Not bad right? If you got enough utility out of it for your business (or for yourself) every month, it would be a very worthy purchase.

The thing is, that’s the same as $ 1,000 a year!

If you’re offering something that has a recurring cost or that could be broken down into smaller increments, look into how you might be able to incorporate this into your pricing.

2. Reduce pain points through bundling

Neuroeconomics expert George Loewenstein has noted that all customers (but especially conservative spenders) prefer to avoid purchasing multiple accessories if there is an option to complete their purchase in one swoop.

He cites our willingness to upgrade from different car packages, but how difficult it is for the brain to justify each individual upgrade (“Yes, I will pay extra for the navigation… and leather seats… and…”, etc).

Lowenstein would assert that these individual purchases create individual pain points, whereas a bundled purchase creates only one pain point, even if the price is much higher.

3. Sweat the small stuff

We know that “don’t sweat the small stuff” isn’t all that applicable to copywriting, but just how small of a change matters?

In what I’ve named the goofiest bump in a conversion rate that I’ve ever seen, research from Carnegie Mellon University University reveals to us that even a single word can affect conversions.

Researchers changed the description of an overnight shipping charge on a free DVD trial offer from “a $ 5 fee” to “a small $ 5 fee” and increased the response rate among tightwads by 20 percent!

Has the word “small” ever felt so big? With a single added word increasing conversions by that amount, I think it’s safe to say that the devil is definitely in the details.

The Takeaway: No matter what business you’re in, you will always have 3 types of customers. Know how to sell to tightwads, they make up a large base of your potential buyers and you can reduce their buying pain with the right choice of words.

7. Make an enemy

In the business world, meaningful connections are paramount to your success.

That being said, you still need an enemy.

Why? When could this ever be a good thing?

Turns out, it’s a great thing if you’re looking to achieve a cult-like addiction for your brand.

In a hightly controversial study entitled Social categorization and intergroup behaviour, social psychologist Henri Tajifel began his research trying to define just how human beings were able to engage in acts of mass hatred (such as the Holocaust).

His findings were shocking to say the least.

Tajifel found that he could create groups of people that would show loyalty to their in-group and outright discriminate against outsiders … all with the most trivial of distinctions!

In the tests, subjects were asked to choose between two objects or people that they had no relation to (one test had people picking between 2 painters). Despite these trivialities, when it came time to dole out REAL rewards, subjects had a huge bias towards their in-group and avoided handing out rewards to the so-called “other guys.”

Sounds an awful lot like big companies going toe-to-toe, doesn’t it? Like the Mac vs. PC commercials or Miller Lite taking potshots at un-manly light beers.

The thing is, you don’t need a physical enemy, you need to be against a belief or an idea. Copyblogger would assert that real publishers are self-hosted and that well-written content is the centerpiece of the web.

Solidifying your unique selling proposition is as much about deciding who your ideal customer is not as much as it is about defining who they are.

The Takeaway: You’ll never find your brand’s true voice without something to stand against. This doesn’t have to be another brand, but in order to divide your ideal customers into your “camp,” you need to be against some ideal, belief, or perception, the way Apple was against “boring” PC users in their ads.

Bonus Tip: Keep ‘em on their toes

You know that the social construct of reciprocity is a powerful force, but did you know that further research has showed that surprise reciprocity works even better?

Since you’ve made it all the way to the bottom, I’d like to surprise you with a beautiful, free e-book revealing more insightful data on your audience and customers.

All courtesy of the Help Scout team, we hope you enjoy it!

Click here to download it instantly.

Thanks for reading, I’d also love to hear your thoughts, specifically: which of the above studies did you find the most surprising?

See you in the comments!

About the Author: Gregory Ciotti is the marketing guy at Help Scout and the founder of Sparring Mind, where he takes psychology + content marketing and makes them play nice together. Get more interesting customer data by downloading this free e-book.

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