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Tuesday, January 29, 2013


7 Pricing Mistakes That Can Seriously Stifle Sales


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When it comes to evaluating price, most of us don't have a clue what we're doing. According to Priceless author William Poundstone, much of our strategy boils down to "just winging it," and that's not an effective way to do business:
“People tend to be clueless about prices. Contrary to economic theory, we don’t really decide between A and B by consulting our invisible price tags and purchasing the one that yields the higher utility. We make do with guesstimates and a vague recollection of what things are ‘supposed to cost.’”
How can you stay ahead of the curve and price your offerings the smart way? The answer is to rely on rigorously tested behavioral psychology research. Today, I'm going to do some of the heavy lifting for you, and below you'll get a breakdown (in plain English) of some of the worst pricing mistakes you can make, informed by some of my favorite research studies on pricing. Let's begin!

1) Using Comparative Pricing

Chest-thumping about your low prices can actually hurt your chances of persuading customers if you do it the wrong way. According to new research from Stanford University, outright asking customers to closely compare your prices against a competitor (without a solid case as to why they should) can decrease their trust in you. According to the lead researcher of the study, “The mere fact that we had asked them to make a comparison caused them to fear that they were being tricked in some way.” With comparative pricing, consumers may decide not to buy at all or to minimize what they perceive as a heightened risk, instead of following the advice that the marketer/sales person had in mind.
The thing to keep in mind here is that this only applied to "explicit comparisons," or when customers were outright asked to compare prices. Many customers make "implicit comparisons" when evaluating their options, but marketers should be wary of triggering customers to think about a competitor's price, and should instead sell to customers based on the value their product provides.

2) Selling Money Over Time

Why do bargain beers like Miller Lite have slogans like "It's Miller Time!" instead of emphasizing their low prices? According to research from Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker, that would be a horrible pricing strategy to pursue. Her study found that in many instances, customers had more positive memories when they were asked to recall past time spent with a product rather than recalling the money they saved. According to Aaker, “Because a person’s experience with a product tends to foster feelings of personal connection with it, referring to time typically leads to more favorable attitudes -- and to more purchases.”
In additional research published by the Wharton Business School, Aaker and her colleagues were able to show that when prices were already low for an item, the best way to invoke positive thoughts about the product was to remind customers of the time they enjoyed with it or the time they saved by investing in it. Think of it this way: Does Miller Lite want you thinking about how cheap their beer is, or do they want you to recall a hot summer's evening you enjoyed by drinking cold beers with good friends? When you're selling bargain products, it's ideal to invoke these positive moments in time, rather than trying to sell customers on your already low prices.

3) Not Trying Out an Old Classic

Does ending your prices with the number 9 really work so well that companies should keep doing it? Isn't it trite and overdone by now? According to research from Quantitative Marketing and Economics, the answer is a resounding no. Prices ending in the number 9 were so effective, they were actually able to outsell lower priced goods. The study compared price points such as $39 and $34 for items of clothing, and the researchers were shocked to find that the $39 dollar price point actually outsold the cheaper price point by 24%.
One has to wonder… is there anything that can outsell the number 9? According to the study, sales prices ("Was $50, now only $35!") were able to beat the number 9 in almost all cases. There's only one problem ... combining sale prices + the number 9 was the best performer of all! So in the following two forms of pricing:
1) "Normally costs $70, now on sale for $55!"
2) "Normally costs $70, now on sales for $59!"
... the second version actually performed the best of all, even though it was being sold at a higher price. Avoid using the number 9 at you own risk, I guess!

4) Not Incorporating the Power of Context

When is one Budweiser worth more than another? Logic says that since they're the same product, the answer should be never, but this research study in New York Times Magazine proves that this just isn't the case. Researchers found that customers were more willing to pay higher prices for the same type of beer when it was sold from an upscale hotel than when it was sold from a run-down grocer (despite the fact that the beer was exactly the same). The lead researcher Richard Thaler was surprised that consumers had no objections to the higher prices when asked what they would pay.
What does this mean for you? Your prices can be raised by simply changing the context in which you're selling. I've noted in a previous article on raising rates that the very moment I started calling myself a "content strategist for software startups" rather than a generic title of "freelance writer," I was able to double my standing rate for client work. Are you selling products, or full-feature solutions? Is your ebook for sale, or is your complete training toolkit available for customers and ready to solve all their problems? These wording choices may seem trivial, but on the web they're often your best way to express your product's value; and as we've seen from the research, part of your product's value is based off of the context in which customers view it.

5) Not Offering Enough Price Points

One of the biggest mistakes that business owners can make is not offering enough price points. In particular, not offering prices that are high enough for super-users. Consider the following study from the book Priceless. Researchers conducted tests by using different prices of beer, starting out with just two prices and then shifting over to three. First, they started with a “regular” beer at a $1.80 price point, and a premium beer at a $2.50 price point, and measured the percent of people who bought either beer. This was the result of their first test (images by Nathan Barry):

As you can see, most people chose the more expensive option, which is a good thing for your overall revenue. The researchers then decided to see what would happen when they introduced a third price point into the equation. In this case, the third price was a bargain price, and was priced lower than the $1.80 beer and instead set to $1.60. Here were the results of this new test:
Not good! Adding the third price actually encouraged people to buy the middle price more often than not, decreasing overall revenue. But this study isn't over yet! Researchers then decided to take out that bargain beer and add a super-premium beer priced at $3.40. Here are the results from the final test:

As you can see, the final test performed the best of all, with slightly more people purchasing the "standard" beer, but with the added advantage of people now buying the super-premium beer as well, adding to overall revenue. The takeaway here is that you should be wary of anchoring your prices by introducing too many lower price points, but that you may be able to take advantage of the fact that many of your users will be perfectly fine paying for a higher price point as long as it offers a premium experience.

6) Not Reducing Friction

No matter what you're selling, according to neuroeconomics experts, you're always selling to the 3 types of customers that are out there: tightwads, unconflicted buyers, and spendthrifts. In this study from Wharton Business School, researchers break down the differences between these three as follows:
  • Tightwads (24%) - People that have a lower ceiling for spending
  • Unconflicted (61%) - Average spenders
  • Spendthrifts (15%) - People that have a higher ceiling for spending
Since previous research has shown that people will literally "spend 'til it hurts," these categorizations are based on the ability of certain people to bear the "pains" of buying something. But since nearly a quarter of your potential customers could be conservative spenders, you should understand how to properly reduce friction to be able to better sell to those "tightwads." According to the Wharton research, the following tactics work quite well:
1) Reframe your product's value. We all struggle with large numbers; they just aren't as easy to digest as smaller amounts are. That being said, "tightwads" have a really hard time evaluating potential value for long-term expenses. Here's an example: if I told you my service would cost $1000/year, you'd be a bit hesitant to buy, right? Right, that's because $1000 isn't pennies. What if, instead, I told you my product was $84/month? You'd be able to see (much more easily) if the $84 gave you enough value each month to justify a purchase. The thing is, those two price points are actually the same amount overall! For tightwads, though, being able to evaluate price on this smaller time scale has been shown to make them much more likely to buy. Referencing the cost of your product in smaller time spans can definitely help increase sales if you have a lot of conservative spenders.
2) Emphasize value at every turn. In what I've dubbed the "silliest bump in conversions ever," the CMU studies (cited above) successfully revealed that changing the description of an overnight shipping charge on a free DVD trial offer from "a $5 fee" to "a small $5 fee" increased the response rate among tightwads by 20 percent! Let's look at that change side by side, to point out how absurd it is:
  • "a $5 fee"
  • "a small $5 fee"
The research shows us that tightwad spenders pay close attention to these details, and are more prone to be persuaded by reminders of "small fees" than spendthrifts, who likely don't care about the fee at all. With a 20% increase in conversions by adding a single word, you need to be sure that your copy speaks to tightwads by emphasizing small fees when they are small, and by pointing out other details that frame the price as less inexpensive. Remember, while it may be obvious to you, these reminders make more cautious spenders much more likely to buy.

7) Not Keeping Prices Simple

This is one of the most surprising studies on pricing that I've ever come across. According to a recently published research paper from the Journal of Consumer Psychology on behavioral economics, researchers found that prices that contain more syllables when spoken seemed drastically higher to customers. What does that mean exactly? Compare the prices of:
  • $1,499.00
  • $1,499
  • $1499
They all mean the same thing, right? That's right. But according to the study, the subjects felt both the first and the second example were much higher than the third. Despite the fact that the prices were the same value, when the extra syllables (and commas) were added into the pricing, it felt like a higher cost to those in the study. According to the researchers, this phenomenon occurred even when the prices were not stated out loud, meaning that reading the price aloud in their head was enough to make it feel more expensive.
What does this mean for you? Ideally, you'll avoid any and all "unnecessary" additions to your pricing's structure. It may seem silly, but the research has shown us that you should have a "$2500" product rather than a "$2,500.00" product, despite the fact they represent the same cost.
Gregory Ciotti is the marketing strategist at Help Scout, the invisible support ticket system that makes email support a breeze for you and your customers. See how Help Scout can help your business by checking out our free email support software guide.
Image credit: Tax Credits


Read more: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/34118/7-Pricing-Mistakes-That-Can-Seriously-Stifle-Sales.aspx#ixzz2JOwEQT3z

The Anatomy of an Awful Marketing Email

 
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How often do you think about junk mail? Probably not too often, because there's a folder in your email that thinks about it for you, right?
But consider this: according to Return Path, marketing emails are responsible for 70% of 'this is spam' complaints. That means even if you don't think about junk mail as a recipient, as a marketer, you should all be thinking about it all the time -- specifically, whether your own marketing emails are part of that 70%.

Monday, January 28, 2013

 
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I’d like to take a moment to remind you of something Seth Godin once said: “How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?”
The world of inbound marketing, too, has provided so many amazing elements for us to use to our advantage, so it’s time we stand out above the rest and conquer!
To start, we’ve compiled this list of marketing stories of the week to help you get a better understanding about what’s changing in the world of marketing. You’ll notice that each of these stories follows along the same few themes: quality matters, visuals are important, people have short attention spans, and social media is always changing, but usually for the better.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Twitter Makes Video Marketing More Accessible With GIF-Like Mobile App, Vine

 
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We'll make this one fairly short and sweet, folks, because well, that's what it is. Yesterday, Twitter announced the launch of its new, integrated mobile video app called Vine. The GIF-like app, which was acquired by Twitter in October 2012, enables mobile users to capture and share short videos of six seconds or fewer, which complements the brevity of 140-character tweets quite nicely. Why is it GIF-like, you ask? Because these short videos play on a loop, just like an animated GIF does.
According to the Vine blog ...
"Posts on Vine are about abbreviation -- the shortened form of something larger. They're little windows into the people, settings, ideas and objects that make up your life. They're quirky, and we think that's part of what makes them so special."
While the app is currently only available on the iPhone and iPod touch, and free to download in the App Store, Twitter says it's working to make it available for other platforms, so be on the lookout. Users don't need a Twitter account to use Vine, and despite Mashable's report that its videos weren't getting shared to Facebook, the app claims it supports sharing Vine videos to both Twitter and Facebook, with more social networks "coming soon."

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How Marketers Are Using Vine

While it's only been a day since the launch of Vine, we've already seen marketers start testing it out for themselves in creative ways, courtesy of Mashable. Check out what a few companies have already created and shared:

How Vine Is Making Video Content More Accessible to Marketers

The first thing I can't help but think about is how this app plays into the whole visual content trend we're seeing more and more of, particularly in social media. To me, the app seems like a fusion of video content and static visual content like images.
And because of its ease of use, I also see it as a more accessible way for marketers to leverage creative video content. While marketers have long had video sharing services like YouTube that enable them to easily share videos in social media, the mobile, on-the-go nature of Vine seems to encourage more quick and dirty video creation and sharing that is less concerned with production quality, and more about the content itself. Vine's 6-second time limit also capitalizes on users' short attention spans, considering that about 20% of viewers will abandon your videos after just 10 seconds, according to Visible Measures.

Some Ideas for Creating Vine Videos for Marketing

Intrigued by the possibilities of using Vine for marketing? Let's get the creative juices flowing, marketers. Here are some quick ideas we've come up with for using Vine videos in your social media marketing ...
  • Sneak peeks to promote an upcoming event or webinar (e.g. speaker clips)
  • Short, funny clips to showcase the personality behind your brand (a la Moose Tracks)
  • Quick, bite-sized product demos
  • Clips showing off awesome new gear/swag/products in action
  • "Behind the scenes" looks at your office to show your company's culture and the people behind your brand
  • Quick highlight reels
  • Short features of customers enjoying your product/services
  • Clips highlighting PR initiatives, like employees doing charity work or award acceptance speeches
  • Brief announcements from your executives about product feature launches


Read more: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/34102/Twitter-Makes-Video-Marketing-More-Accessible-With-GIF-Like-Mobile-App-Vine.aspx#ixzz2J7w5l68f

 

How to Transform Yourself Into an Agile Business Blogger

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Many inbound marketers and business bloggers get so caught up in (or weighed down by?) the idea of creating blog content, that after hours or days of looking at a blinking cursor, there's nothing but an outline or a few introductory sentences to show for their work.
Well, I guess that's one way to approach business blogging.
But another way is the agile way -- the way that lets bloggers go with the flow, respond to new opportunities, and generally get over the fear of the blinking cursor and, as Nike said, Just Do It.
Being agile in any area of your marketing has a ton of benefits -- we've covered those in this blog post if you'd like to learn more about them -- but nowhere, in my opinion, are the benefits so strong as they are in business blogging. This post is going to show you exactly how you can be an agile business blogger, and why it is so beneficial for your marketing.

How to Be a Successful Agile Business Blogger

Create an Editorial Calendar ... That Isn't Set in Stone

Editorial calendars help marketers set and maintain their content strategy. Often organized on a monthly basis, they'll include things like topics to be written, keywords targeted within that copy, and publish dates and times. Even though this kind of advance content preparation sounds like the opposite of agility, it actually helps enable you to be an agile business blogger.
What an editorial calendar allows you to do is outline everything your blog should accomplish that month, and how you're going to use content to do it. So let's say you're a unicorn groomer, and you're setting your blog editorial calendar for the month. Your content might have to achieve three goals:
  1. Create blog content that brings in more unicorns at the top of the funnel.
  2. Create blog content that speaks to horses, the new persona you're looking to target.
  3. Create thought leadership blog content that increases your overall credibility in the unicorn -- and soon horse (fingers crossed!) -- grooming industries.
Now, knowing that, you don't have to stick to the exact topics on the exact days you've slotted them on your editorial calendar. Instead, feel free to move things around, and write about new topics that come into your head as the month progresses that still achieve these goals. Take advantage of guest content that unexpectedly comes your way; newsjack if the opportunity arises (more on that in a moment); heck, take a sick day if you have to! If you outline how you'll execute your editorial strategy at the beginning of the month, you have the structure to still meet your goals, but you'll also maintain flexibility to move content around as needed and write content that, in the moment, might actually be better than what you anticipated at the beginning of the month. So if you don't already have an blog editorial calendar, download our free template -- and check out our blog post about how to use it right.

Newsjack

Told you there'd be more on newsjacking! Whenever someone asks me about agile business blogging, this is the first example I usually cite. Newsjacking refers to the practice of capitalizing on the popularity of a news story to attract more attention to your business. So if some crazy new YouTube video goes viral, a celebrity had a faux pas people can't stop talking about, or Carly Rae Jepsen finds some way to outdo herself after "Call Me Maybe" (as if), a marketer might want to find a way to tie the story into their own marketing and ride the popularity wave to benefit their business. The thing is, this only works for your blog if you're agile, because newsjacking needs to take place early, and fast. Here, take a look at the lifecycle of a news story from David Meerman Scott:

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If you wait too long to jump on the popularity bandwagon, your efforts are largely for naught, and the content landscape is oversaturated with stories around that topic -- and interest is diminished. When you see trends emerging, hop on 'em like a hotcake (Is that a real saying, or did I make that up?) so you can see your blog reap the benefits.

Embrace New Industry Trends

Things change fast; agile business bloggers are totally cool with this. When new ideas, products, or technologies emerge, get excited about it -- don't fear it! The bloggers that are the first to embrace new trends by testing them out, and writing about them, are the ones who see the most success. Those are the folks who are true thought leaders -- they're telling the rest of their community when they should (or shouldn't) care about something, and how it fits into their daily lives. For instance, when Pinterest started gaining massive popularity, we dug in to see if there were any B2B applications of the social platform -- and wrote this blog post about it for our B2B brethren.
Now, it's totally possible there were no B2B marketing applications for Pinterest ... and sometimes, our little experiments with new technologies that emerge do end up being total busts. But for every three investigations we start, one of them ends up being a pretty big deal. The initial time wasted trying to see if the latest and greatest idea or product is a big deal or not is pretty miniscule, when you compare it to the results you see when the latest and greatest actually is a big deal, and you get to be the one that tells everyone all about it.

Be Open to New Content Formats

The traditional blog post format is great: Introduction, points, sub-points, and a brief conclusion. But an agile business blogger, whether by necessity (say, a time constraint), or by design (say, a desire to experiment to improve results) should be open to new blog content formats. Here are some things you might want to try:
  • Experiment With Length: Maybe your audience is looking for more in-depth content, or something shorter-form that is less time consuming.
  • Turn Written Content Into Visual Content: Turn an old post -- or one you were planning on writing -- into a piece of visual content if the story is better told through visuals than words. We've done this with great success, first publishing a written post about shameless marketing tactics here, and then creating a visual for it here.
  • Try Multimedia Content: Content can get even more interactive if it's a video, a slideshow, or even a new tool you've built. See if you can use your blog real estate to get readers interacting with your content more.
The great thing about doing this with your blog is ... it's just one blog post! If it doesn't work, hey, next time you don't have to do it. That's what agile marketing is all about; failing fast, and making iterative improvements.

Listen to Your Blogging Spirit Animal

In other words (and far less ridiculous words, at that), write what inspires you. It's critical that a business blogger is able to write toward a specific goal. That means if you need to generate net new leads via your blog, you can write blog posts that will do that. If you need to get product awareness out there, you can write blog posts that will do that. If you need to gain credibility as a thought leader, you can write blog posts that will do that. But there's also something to be said about writing because you're inspired to do so.
Let me tell you what I mean by this through a little story. Whenever someone new joins our team here, they come over to talk about blogging. "What should I write?" is always the first question. My response is always, "What do you want to write?" That's not my response because they can just write whatever they want to, and have it published on the blog; we have topic guidelines and editorial standards to which we must adhere. But by knowing what they like to write about, we can get to a topic that's exciting for them. I go through this exercise with new bloggers because time and again, when I read blog submissions from people who wrote about a topic they don't really care about, it sounds forced, incomplete, and is generally pretty hard to get through. When they write about a topic they know a lot about, and really care about, it comes through 10,000% in the writing.
So, read other stuff, let ideas percolate, keep a notepad by your bed so when you dream about blog posts you can write them down (other bloggers will know what I mean by that). This is why you have that agile editorial calendar of yours -- so you can bang out those exciting blog posts when they hit. I think you'll be surprised just how well content performs when you really believe in it, because that passion is usually reflected in the writing.

Have a Second Set of Eyes Ready at All Times

Bloggers move pretty fast as it is -- you've got to keep that hungry blog fed. But agile business bloggers are moving at the speed of light. So it's important to have someone there by your side, gut-checking your ideas, your decisions, and your content. Because when you move fast, you don't really have time for those little doubt monsters to creep into your head, and evaluate whether your amazing idea is actually as amazing as you think. This doesn't need to be a full-time blogger or editor, necessarily; but you should have someone who has some content chops that can check for the following in your blog posts:
  • Your grammar and spelling is accurate.
  • Your content is factually correct -- nothing instills less confidence in your readers than spewing inaccurate information.
  • Your content reads well -- the general tone and flow should be easy to get through for readers, and it should consistently align with a written style guide.
  • You're not offending anyone (readers, investors, co-marketing partners) with the content.
These are all things that can befall any blogger, but agile business bloggers are even more prone. If you have this trusted buddy by your side, you should feel confident about your agile mindset, and reap the benefits of it, too!


Read more: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/34096/How-to-Transform-Yourself-Into-an-Agile-Business-Blogger.aspx#ixzz2J7v7xIrn

Friday, January 18, 2013


Facebook's Graph Search Holds Promise for Social Marketing

image credit: Facebook

If you've ever tried searching Facebook for a specific piece of information, you know how clunky it can be. You might have to navigate to multiple pages before you find it, and even then it may not be exactly what you're looking for.
Facebook took a big step this week in making search within the social network much easier by announcing the launch of Graph Search. Graph Search is an internal search engine that allows you to find things based on the interests and recommendations of friends and also their friends. You'll be able to search on things like restaurants, movies you should see, businesses you might like or photos of your friends taken in a specific city. For example, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained how you can search for "Indian restaurants liked by my friends from India" or "my friends who live in Palo Alto, California and like Game of Thrones." If you're recruiting for a specific job, you could search for friends of a particular person who works at the company you're recruiting for.

So what does it mean to businesses selling a product or service? It's important for a couple of reasons:
1. Purchase decisions. People who search for things on the web tend to be in a purchasing mindset so there's never been a more important time to ensure your business is on Facebook.
2. Advertising. Graph Search will likely offer an opportunity to advertise next to search results, much like you can with Google or the other search engines. This could be a huge revenue opportunity for Facebook, but doesn't look to be an immediate focus. "This could potentially be a business over time, but right now we're focused on building a good user experience," Zuckerberg said.
Related: The Best Days to Post to Facebook, Based on Industry (Infographic)
Facebook is rolling Graph Search out slowly to a limited number of beta testers and will first focus on four main areas -- people, photos, places and interests. The company wants to see how people use the search engine and refine it before launching it "very slowly" to a greater number of users. If you'd like to be among the first to try it, you can sign up for the waitlist.
It's worth noting that Facebook is also taking the issue of privacy seriously with the new function. In a press release, the company explained "we've built Graph Search from the start with privacy in mind, and it respects the privacy and audience of each piece of content on Facebook. It makes finding new things much easier, but you can only see what you could already view elsewhere on Facebook."
What do you think about Graph Search? Is it something you're likely to use? Let us know in the comments below.
Read more stories about: Facebook, Search, Facebook Marketing


The 9 Circles of Marketing Hell: Where Will You Spend Eternity?


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We've all committed marketing offenses. Hopefully nothing bad enough to get yer arse canned, but you know, people mess up. But sometimes there are offenses so egregious, so blasphemous, so INCREDIBLY REPREHENSIBLE that we just can't help but ... make a content visualization about it.
Whatever, we're marketers, that's what we do.
To put these marketing sins into perspective, we organized them into the 9 circles of marketing hell -- our own little spin-off of the literary classic, Dante's Divine Comedy, better known as Dante's "Inferno." Muaaahahaha. Take a look at the 9 marketing sins that could land any of us in an eternity of fire and brimstone, and most importantly, the tedious, sometimes torturous punishments that we'll have to endure for committing these sins!
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The 9 Circles of Marketing Hell

Circle 1: Creating Ugly Content

You know the stuff, it's hard to consume, with giant chunks of long text, and no images or formatting to break it up.
The Punishment: You only get two colors to play Draw Something with: brown and gray. And you have to play uninterrupted, for the rest of eternity, with sound effects on.

Circle 2: Being Boring

The internet is full of stuff, stuff, stuff. The last thing we need is something unremarkable and unoriginal that puts an audience to sleep.
The Punishment: Clean up the entire internet. Read every single word of every single page that's published, and filter out the low-quality content.

Circle 3: Not Monitoring Social Media

People are using social media to communicate with you -- for customer service, research, and sales -- whether you like it or not. Don't leave 'em hangin'.
The Punishment: You have to personally respond to every angry customer complaint that comes through social media, for every brand in the world.

Circle 4: Bad Automation

You know when you get the same push notification 3 times in 3 seconds? Emails that are clearly sent from a workflow you shouldn't be on? One of the thousands of tweets automatically sent out to the Twittersphere. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about ...
The Punishment: Every time a message is automatically sent to the wrong recipient via email, social, or mobile, Lou Bega's "Mambo No. 5" plays while someone flicks you in the ear.

Circle 5: Bad Targeting

Hi [FIRSTNAME], Are you interested in buying more cat food? ... said the email to the dog owner. Major faux pas.
The Punishment: You have to listen to a never-ending sequence of poorly constructed sales pitches for products and services you don't need.

Circle 6: Misleading Messaging

Don't dupe people into clicking your blog post, email, call-to-action, or anything else with tricky copy that promises something you don't deliver.
The Punishment: If you pull the ol' bait & switch on people, you get to spend eternity swimming in a pile of rotting fisherman's bait. Gross.

Circle 7: Copyright Infringement

Copying and pasting someone else's content, without permission, and with no credit given (not to mention an inbound link) isn't just bad internet etiquette, it's bad marketing that results in duplicate content for which you'll be punished in the SERPs.
The Punishment: All the bad internet content being filtered out of the second circle will come to you, which you must copy word for word on a blackboard, using your nails as chalk.

Circle 8: Email Spamming

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Email inboxes are sacred. Oh, and also, email spamming is illegal. Double whammy!
The Punishment: You will, literally, eat and sleep SPAM. The only food you'll have to eat will be canned SPAM, and your bed will be a fluffy, SPAM-tastic mattress, pillow, and blanket.

Circle 9: Interruptive Marketing

There's a lot you can do to annoy your audience, contacts, and even your fellow marketers, but nothing's more annoying than interrupting someone's day. To sell them something. That they probably don't want, anyway.
The Punishment: You'll be engaged in an eternity-long slap bet in which, at any point and with no warning, someone will come out and slap you across the face. You will live in constant fear of impending and inevitable slaps.
What other sins would you add to this marketing inferno?


Read more: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/34055/The-9-Circles-of-Marketing-Hell-Where-Will-You-Spend-Eternity.aspx#ixzz2IM4iIZna


How to Make Sure Your Website Passes the Dreaded Blink Test


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Visitors judge the value of your website in a matter of seconds. Hours and hours of hard work are distilled into one glance, when they decide whether or not your website is worth their time. This, of course, is what we marketers call "The Blink Test," and it refers to the commonly accepted 3-5 seconds during which a visitor lands on your website, judges it, and decides if they want to stay there and do something, or abandon ship.
You need to grab attention, get your message across, and spark interest in your viewers ... all within just a few seconds. Seems pretty difficult, but there are some best practices you can refer to for your web pages to ensure you're not losing visitors to silly, easily remedied mistakes. After all, the repercussions of an F on your blink test means lost conversion opportunities, as in lost opportunities for new leads and customers. Yikes. That's one test you don't want to fail.

12 Ways to Ensure Your Website Passes the Blink Test

1) Build Pages That Load Quickly

The more you add to your site, the longer it takes to load. In this age of instant gratification, if your site doesn’t load immediately, it will be abandoned. In fact, according to a study done by Gomez, the average online shopper expects a page to lad in two seconds or less, down from four seconds in 2006; and after three seconds, up to 40% will abandon your website.
Because load time is increased with images, scripts, and multimedia, it’s important to use them judiciously, and test loading times -- you can use free tools like Page Speed or YSlow for this. And to ensure your images load quickly enough, change the file format to the following:
  • Use a GIF if the image has only a few colors, like a logo.
  • Use a JPEG if the image has a lot of colors and details, like photos.
  • Use a PNG for high quality, transparent images.
You can also take a high quality resolution picture, and downsize it to an appropriately viewable size for your website. For example, if you start off with an image at 3000px resolution, scale it down before you upload it to your website, and it won’t compromise your quality or slow down your load time.

2) Use Attractive Visual Design

Your website should be attractive and easy to consume. Captivate people -- without confusing them -- using high quality images that align with your site's message. That last part's critical -- the most beautiful image in the world doesn't mean anything if a site visitor doesn't immediately understand how it relates to what your company does. Apple does a great job of quickly explaining their brand with images; here, take a look:

Apple homepage

With a giant, high quality picture of an iPad mini, Apple's message is obvious and impressive.
Don’t be afraid to be bold when designing your website, though. If you create a website with a design that stands out from competitors, that's good, too. It's different. It's memorable. It makes people want to stay and check your website out. Just make sure your structure is simple and organized so people can easily find what they’re looking for without getting overwhelmed. It’s wise to limit your page to a one- or two-column layout, and avoid jamming too many things onto your homepage. If you think you're suffering from some visual clutter, find opportunities to eliminate unnecessary elements, and embrace white space to make your page more clean-cut.

3) Start With an Informative Headline That Conveys Your Value Proposition

Your audience won’t take the time to search your page for the most important material, because they expect to see it right when they arrive. According to Brian Clark, the founder of Copyblogger, eight out of ten people read a page’s headline, and only two of ten read the first paragraph. Start with a headline that states what you feature, and the benefit to the audience. This part of your website should be concise and informational. If you start off with “Welcome to our website,” for instance, you’re going to be losing visitors pretty quickly.

treehouse homepage

In addition to a clear message, it’s important to write a simple, pertinent, one sentence value proposition to explain to your reader why you’re better than your competition. For example, if you’re marketing a sandwich shop, your company value proposition could be something like “We use garden-fresh, local ingredients to craft made-to-order, high quality sandwiches and wraps in the Back Bay area.” This statement will help customers see the unique benefits of coming to your shop, and why it’s better than other sandwich shops in the area.

4) Provide Easy Navigation

Your website's navigation should be intuitive and easy to use. Provide people with the options they might expect upon visiting your site, and make sure the top-level categories of your navigation reveal the most important, easy to understand content. Going along with the sandwich shop example, a good list of top navigation tabs could be: Menu, Nutritional Info, Special Event Catering, Our Locations, Contact, and Home. These tabs organize every important aspect of the website, are clear in their wording, and can bring customers to where they want to go with the click of button.

5) Use Images That Explain What You Do, and Support Your Copy

A picture's worth a thousand words. Are yours communicating what you want them to? Everyone has seen the corny hero shots of people shaking hands, and groups of people in suits jumping in the air. These mean nothing. It’s imperative that your pictures help explain what your company is really about. Use unique, quality photos that actually represent who you are and what you do. So, not like this:

fake employees
Instead, choose something like this, where you choose photos of your actual customers and/or employees:

Hubspot Employees

6) Provide Content That's Easy to Consume

Visitors aren’t willing to read a novel to understand what you’re trying to say. People are always in a hurry on the web, so make sure your writing is extremely clear and focused. Optimize content so it's easy to scan, and convey the maximum amount of information in as few words as possible, to hold people’s attention. Some ways you can achieve this are:
  • Write copy devoid of jargon. People don’t like what they don’t understand.
  • Use viewer-focused language, like "You" and "Your" instead of "We" and "Us."
  • Speak in the voice and tone to which your target persona is most accustomed.

7) Create a Congruous Experience

This means you've ensured the path to your site is logical, and bump-free. If someone clicks on a result in a search engine, a banner ad, or a pay per click ad, they're expecting to find what the description stated. For example, if someone clicks on a banner ad advertising black flats, they need to see black flats instantly featured on the ad’s landing page. If there is a disconnect between the ad and the matching landing page, you could lose a visitor’s trust, leading them to leave your page without further action. Here, take a look at an example from Zappos. If a searcher inputs the term "back flats," here's what will appear:

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And if you click either of those listing, you'll land here, the flats section of their website:

fixedzappos


8) Prove Your Site Is Credible

Today, 94% of Americans are worried “bad things” can happen when using the internet. A study conducted by Harris Interactive and sponsored by Mancx found that whether it’s the fear of getting a computer virus, losing money, or risking fraud, people are very concerned about the safety features of websites they visit. If a reader thinks your information or your intentions are less than noble, he will immediately leave your site in search of something more credible.
If you want to keep visitors on your site, present professional, trustworthy material by including testimonials, privacy trust seals, and a detailed privacy policy. This furniture company, Olejo, does a great job showing their site is credible.

oleja

As you can see, they include an eye-catching customer review button right at the top of the page. This gives customers the option to click and see honest feedback from people who have used the site before. Also, two privacy trust seals are included in the bottom corners of the page to show visitors the business is legally registered and follows good security practices. Olejo also includes a privacy policy tab at the bottom of their page that describes what they do with customer information, credit card transactions, and other security concerns.

9) Put Important Information on the Top of Your Page

Web users spend 80% of their time looking at the information above the page fold according to a study by the Nielsen Norman Group. This means people spend most of their time on the part of the page that is visible, and then maybe they'll scroll down for a brief period of time to see what's below the fold. You stand a much better chance of keeping people on your site if they immediately see what they're looking for after the page loads. Visitors have short attention spans, and consider reading and scrolling to be extra work. Anything truly important should be in the real-estate above the fold. Below is a great example of HootSuite's expert use of their space above the fold.

hootsuite

10) Avoid Excessive Calls-to-Action

When a visitor arrives on your page and is immediately greeted by a pop-up asking to subscribe to your blog, a blinking CTA offering a free trial of your product, and another asking to download your latest ebook, that visitor will most likely become paralyzed with too many choices and leave your site. To stop people from quickly clicking the "Back" button, be sure to pick the most important and relevant calls-to-action to build your design around.

11) Make it Easy to Take the Next Step

Give your visitors a clear path to follow; you don’t want to require people to think too much when they arrive on your site, nor should they have to dig around to figure out what to do next. Keep your call-to-action above the fold and near the top of the screen so no scrolling or eye-darting is necessary to find it. Additionally, your CTA should look clickable, preferably resembling an actual button so visitors know what to do. To make it stand out more, you can provide a little extra white space around it. Finally, make sure you use obvious language so your visitor knows what to expect when clicking on your CTA. For a little inspiration, take a look at a CTA that makes it easy as pie to figure out what to do next.

cta

12) Optimize for Mobile and Tablet

Today, people often surf the web on devices other than desktop computers. According to Pew Research Center, 45% of American adults own a smartphone, and 25% have a tablet. Making your website easy to read and fully functional on a mobile device is critical. To do this, be sure to:
  • Scale your page to size using responsive web design.
  • Make your images viewable on mobile devices -- use HTML5, jQuery, or JPGs so content can be rendered.
  • Make text concise and easily readable.
  • Make links easily clickable -- the area should be large enough for thumbs.
  • Present your content in a single column.
  • Keep the CTA above the fold.
  • Use simple forms.
Don't miss out on conversions. Be sure to optimize your site to pass the blink test for mobile devices, as well as desktop.
So, does your website pass the test? What other tips can you share to help marketers design websites that will keep visitors' attention?
Image credit: mcclanahoochie


Read more: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/34061/How-to-Make-Sure-Your-Website-Passes-the-Dreaded-Blink-Test.aspx#ixzz2IM3lh6Es

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


When NOT to Use Lead-Gen CTAs in Your Marketing


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Calls-to-action (CTAs) are the directional signals on your website. If the goal of inbound marketing is finding people who are excited to learn about your product or service, then your CTAs are the big (occasionally red and blinking) heralds telling your site visitors where to go next.
We know that marketers who use CTAs on their websites are more likely to convert visitors to leads than those who simply post a 'Contact Us' button on their site and pray. And over time, you'll even learn which CTAs perform better than others to reach your different lead generation goals -- like converting net new leads, versus nurturing leads into marketing qualified leads.
But inbound marketing isn't always about the bing-bang-boom conversion; sometimes, we need to put our conversion obsession aside and focus on other marketing goals. Just like dating in real life, sometimes making an upfront ask just isn’t the right call -- and that means sometimes, your marketing actually shouldn't have a call-to-action. If that sounds like marketing blasphemy, then read on to learn about some of those rare cases in which you actually should not use a lead-generation CTA in your marketing.

PR and Social "Buzz" Campaigns

There are certain PR and social media campaigns where your goal isn’t to drive new leads, but to generate buzz. If the whole point of a campaign is to create a little mystery and get people talking about you, adding a big red CALL NOW! option at the bottom of your page will ultimately distract from your overall goal.
This teaser play works really well for interesting new product launches, or even if you're just trying to expand the top of your marketing funnel. For instance, when we launched our parody of the popular "Gangnam Style," we didn't include a CTA. Not in the video itself, or even the blog post we used to promote it. Why? Because we weren't looking to use that video directly to get new leads. Instead, we wanted to generate interest in HubSpot among a wider audience than those we were already reaching. And frankly, who would want to read an ebook about using Facebook for Business after watching a Gangnam Style video? I doubt very many.
But a little bit of mystery, especially when it's well-deployed at the beginning of a relationship, can be a great way to get future customers to learn about you. Once you've built some social buzz, nurture those new social contacts by following up with great content like blog posts and lead-generation content to show people the heart of your company.

Prospect and Fan/Follower Generation

Similar to buzz campaigns, at the very top of your funnel sometimes prospecting, and not lead generation, is the primary goal of your pages.
When your audience is in their exploratory phase, you want content to successfully showcase your thought leadership and earn readers' trust. Dropping a lead-gen CTA too early might scare off visitors who are interesting in performing some action with you ... just not something so high-commitment as becoming a full-fledged lead. To further the dating analogy, it's like asking your date up to your apartment, when a goodnight kiss would have sufficed.
That's why it's important to give your readers some options, particularly on your more top-of-the-funnel marketing assets, like your blog or social media channels. For instance, on our blog we include options for new readers with whom we haven't built up enough trust for them to become a lead, like a CTA to simple subscribe to our blog, or social share and follow buttons. For a new reader, it's much more reasonable to ask them to share a great article or sign up to read more in the future, than to ask them to attend an hour long webinar we're hosting next week.
And remember, there are other legitimate marketing goals you can try to reach with your content other than lead generation. Increasing your list of subscribers and social media reach are two extremely important ones -- ones that often result in more leads down the road.

Content You Want to Give Away Form-Free

A raging debate among marketers is whether or not you should always give away certain kinds of information for free. To gate or not to gate, also known as "free" versus "form-free," is a question of what resources you allow users to access without requiring they provide information via a landing page form. While we believe that leaving all content ungated makes growing your a Marketing and Sales machine more difficult when you're operating off a lead generation model, when you advance further down the marketing funnel, there are indeed some instances where you might want your content to be totally void of CTAs.
Many businesses decide to use CTAs to generate downloads of their middle- and bottom-of the funnel content in an attempt to generate marketing qualified leads (MQLs). However, for many companies (ours included), gating this kind of content actually harms lead and customer conversions. As far as case studies go, many leads -- particularly for B2B sales organizations -- don't perceive case studies to contain enough value to bother converting again. In fact, it could even be perceived as a barrier to moving along in the sales process, as this is the content they should be receiving for free from their sales rep to help close a deal. So while another conversion may be great to advance leads further down your funnel, including a call-to-action to view it might be costing you more than the new lead intel you gather gives you. Some other MOFU and BOFU content you might consider ungating include customer testimonial videos, product pricing and other sales-centric information, and content designated for existing customers,.

It can be difficult to strike the right balance between generating enough leads, and generating qualified leads. Do some testing in your target audience on what kind of information your audience is willing to "pay" for with their information, versus the kind of credibility and trust you build by offering up content for "free."

Nonprofit Outreach, or Other Altruistic Causes

Online media has an incredible power to bring people together. As digital marketers, we primarily use these tools to bring our prospects together with our marketing content, and hopefully our sales teams. But there are certain major events that compel us to step outside of ourselves for a second, forget that we’re inherently selfish, and try to help one another.
And you know what makes inbound businesses uniquely poised for this transition? They spend a lot of effort developing a following, which they can leverage for good ... good that has nothing to do with lead generation. If your business is trying to raise money for a good cause -- we did this when we were trying to raise money for the Red Cross over the holidays -- our marketing content was completely devoid of lead generation CTAs. For instance, we purposefully left a lead-generation CTA off of our blog post promoting Red Cross donations -- because not only would a CTA be in poor, but it really isn't the point of the post in the first place.
And remember, it's not just philanthropic causes that should cause you to leave the lead-gen CTA at the door. For instance, when Sales and Marketing industry leader Zig Ziglar passed away, we published a blog post honoring his teachings -- which also included no lead-gen CTA. Again, the point of the post was not to generate leads; it was to come together as a community and honor an industry legend and share some of his best quotes with the world.

Business Models Not Based on Leads

Finally, it's incredibly important we all recognize that a lead generation campaigns only make sense if your business model relies on, well, leads. For other business models, adding a lead-gen CTA is likely to distract from your page’s primary objective, rather than complementing your marketing approach.
For instance, there are plenty of businesses out there working off of an ad- or impression-based model. These marketers aren't looking for leads, they're looking for impressions and clicks. Think folks like NBCUniversal, CNN, or Boston.com.
And don't think we've forgotten about our ecommerce marketing friends. Instead of focusing on generating leads, it's usually more important that you drive transactions; these will yield new contacts you can then nurture into repeat customers. When online success depends on website sales, your best bet is to channel your audience directly to a product page and/or shopping cart, not a gated tip sheet about how to one of the products you're selling. Inserting competing CTAs on a page can be distracting -- if the purpose of a page is to sell hiking boots, don’t ask people to do anything else.
In what other instances do you recommend marketers not include a lead-gen CTA? Share your thoughts in the comments!


Read more: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/34036/When-NOT-to-Use-Lead-Gen-CTAs-in-Your-Marketing.aspx#ixzz2IBBAbJ5w


How to Totally Suck at Marketing [Slideshow]


 
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Are you partying ... I mean marketing ... like it's 1999? Unfortunately, many of the marketing tactics that were considered best practices 15 years ago are actually indications of crappy marketing today. And while we generally use our blog to give marketers advice and provide helpful tips, how-to's, and information about the latest trends so they can do marketing that doesn't suck, sometimes it's also helpful to understand what "bad" means so you know exactly what to avoid -- and create marketing people love instead!
So if you're curious about what you should be doing to totally suck at marketing, the following slideshow will show you the way. Just don't say we never told you so ...
What else can you do to totally suck at marketing? Share your wisdom in the comments below!


Read more: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/34050/How-to-Totally-Suck-at-Marketing-Slideshow.aspx#ixzz2IBA53t3A