B2B Warning: One Persuasive Video May Not Be Enough

I was reviewing a usability test of a B2B site recently, and I heard two very different reactions to the same video. I’ll paraphrase:

  1. That video was a waste of time. They could’ve conveyed the same information in way less time. My questions aren’t answered.
  2. That video was awesome! I feel much more educated about their service now, and it was very professional-looking.

Scary, right? The video was professionally shot, edited, and produced. It conveyed good information, but it did so in a style that started to persuade one test subject, and didn’t remotely persuade the other test subject.

It got me thinking about how important video can be for persuading B2B site visitors, but also about how different types of videos are persuasive to different types of visitors. Video is just another type of content, so the rules of content (different content persuades different prospects) still apply!

I think a lot of B2B and SaaS lead generation sites go out and get themselves a video to stick on the homepage and think that they’re “done,” and that their conversion rate will start doubling every week or so. But, I propose that one video may not be enough, because you’re trying to persuade people in very different personality profiles. Further, I think the truly optimized B2B site can benefit from multiple videos, in multiple styles, in multiple sections of the site, from multiple video-production vendors!

I’m sure I’m not making any friends with budget-constrained site owners, but hear me out. The real budget-waster is investing in one video that tries to be “all things to all people.” You’ll end up with a disjointed video that’s too long for anyone to tolerate.

Let’s take a minute to review some common types of videos featured on B2B sites:

  1. The “Get to know us” Video – these videos are great for showing the people behind the website/business. Humanistic customers will love them. Methodicals will probably hate them.
  2. The “Make the complicated more simple” Video – these videos help explain complicated concepts in ways that web copy and static visuals can’t do as well. The Competitive and Spontaneous will appreciate this kind of high-level content.
  3. The “Product Demonstration” Video – perhaps the most common video on B2B sites, this one takes visitors through the benefits and features of a digital product using voice overs, animation, and screen recording. Depending on how detailed they are, these videos might resonate with Spontaneous or Methodical customers.
  4. The “Testimonial” Video – these videos add a human touch to the standard, text-based testimonial. These again will be attractive to Humanistics, but the added layer of “realness” can help move the skeptical Competitive decision-maker. They can be testimonials about the working with the company, or about a particular service.

So before you start putting makeup on your CEO and rolling the cameras, I advise that you spend some time thinking about the scenarios your visitors are acting out on your site today, what questions or concerns aren’t being addressed, and if or if not video is the right medium to educate (and begin to persuade) them. You may find that several short, less slick videos that answer your personas’ un-answered questions, placed strategically throughout the site, are more persuasive than that super-slick, Hollywood-style video.

[Originally published April 2nd, 2009 on GrokDotCom.com, an award-winning, but now defunct, Marketing Optimization blog.]

Buying Stage Mismatch In Your Customer Experience

Every visitor comes to your site in their own “stage” of their individual buying process. The buying stages are actually a wide spectrum, but I generally break them into Early, Middle, and Late buying stages:

  • Early stage means that the visitor has a problem, and is looking for a solution. They may not know who you are, or that your product/service solves their problem.
  • Middle means that they have an intention to buy a product or service that solves their problem, but not necessarily from you.
  • Late means that they’re persuaded to buy from you, and intend to “close the deal.”

Sometimes, websites seem to be doing everything right, but the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) just aren’t as high as everyone expects. Their sites are functional, accessible, usable, and intuitive. Their look and feel is credible, and their content is high quality. So why do their visitors not behave as we expect? Why do well-planned and well-executed scenarios (e.g. PPC ad → landing page → lead generating form → thank you page) not always convert?

You guessed it: Buying Stage mismatch.

Buying Stage mismatch is when your selling process doesn’t jive with the visitor’s buying process. It’s when your conversion funnel is designed for a buying stage that the visitor isn’t in. Take a look at your site’s conversion funnel…it’s most likely designed for Late Stage buyers, right? Take a look at one of your PPC campaigns…are you showing Early Stage searchers a Middle Stage ad that sends the visitor down a Late Stage funnel? Poor visitor 🙁

The key point is to be aware that multiple buying stages are traversing your designed scenarios. It’s fine if your funnel is fine-tuned to Late Stage buyers, but do you have easy navigation paths to let an Early or Middle stage visitor branch out and get more information? It’s fine if your PPC landing pages are perfect for a Middle Stage searcher, but can an impatient Late Stage searcher “Buy Now”?

How do you identify buying stages to improve your scenarios?

A few ways, using basic analytics tools and skills, are:

  • Look at your keyword lists (in-site search, organic keywords, and paid keywords) and start segmenting by buying stage. Guessing is OK.
  • Look at click paths and navigation (which pages would be attractive/informative to the various stages?)
  • Look for those who bail out of conversion funnels (it could be that they’re not ready to buy)
  • Look at entrance sources (organic vs. PPC vs. referrals vs. direct visits)

[Originally published February 18th, 2009 on GrokDotCom.com, an award-winning, but now defunct, Marketing Optimization blog.]


Offline Reps Need to Care About the Online Experience

I finally tracked down that hard to find item online. It was the right size, the right shape, the right finish, and a tolerable price…and free shipping!

I clicked the nice, big, obvious “Add to Cart” button to dive headlong into the conversion funnel. ERROR. Some jargon written by a software developer. No phone number. I did what anyone in the mood to buy would do – I clicked the back button and tried again. ERROR. I clicked back again, and luckily for this eTailer, the toll free number was prominently displayed in the active window, AND I didn’t have any of their competitor sites top-of-mind.

Rep: Welcome to [store with error-ridden website.com], how can I help you?

Me: Well, I’m trying to buy [Item X] on your website, but I can’t, so can you start by checking whether it’s in stock?

Rep: OK, I can help you buy [Item X] no problem.

Now, let’s imagine that conversation as it should have been…

Rep: Welcome to [store with error-ridden website.com], how can I help you?

Me: Well, I’m trying to buy [Item X] on your website, but I can’t, so can you start by checking whether it’s in stock.

Rep: Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear that! What happened? Can you describe what you were doing when our website failed you? Did you get an error message? What browser were you using?

Note the difference? A little empathy would’ve been effective and memorable…maybe even blog-worthy. Don’t sound matter-of-fact that your website blew up, or I’ll never use your online channel again, and your brand has been damaged.

And I’m sure the technical team behind that website would’ve LOVED to get their hands on the error code that I’d written down and done some tinkering. And they should’ve, because that website was bleeding money yesterday.

[Originally published September 18th, 2008 on GrokDotCom.com, an award-winning, but now defunct, Marketing Optimization blog.]

Are Your Digital Experiences 2017…But Your Forms 2007?

[Originally published September 16th, 2008 on GrokDotCom.com, an award-winning, but now defunct, Marketing Optimization blog.]

I was recently reminded, for the millionth time it seems, that forms are the “bread and butter” of almost every website, app, and digital experience. Whether it’s the Contact Us form on a B2B site, the Sign Up form on a social networking site, or the Checkout of an eCommerce site, they all have forms in common. And in every case, forms are what stands between our site visitors and the action we’ve persuaded them to take.

The irony is that companies spend thousands, sometimes millions, on making their sites functional, accessible, usable, intuitive, and sometimes even persuasive, but don’t always spend enough on making their transactional experiences (forms) as optimized as possible. Add to that the money spent starting a relationship with customers via online or offline marketing. And when it’s time to take that relationship the next level and close the deal, online forms have the responsibility.

So like the title of this post, I have questions:

  • How much have you spent on your homepage and landing pages in the last 12 months? (Design, UX, Content, etc.)
  • How much have you spent on your forms?
  • How many resources work on your homepage and landing pages? (Design, UX, Content, etc.)
  • How many resources work on your forms?
  • Do you A/B and Multivariate test your homepage and landing pages?
  • Do you A/B and Multivariate test your forms?
  • Do your homepage and landing pages employ the latest technology, code, and standards?
  • Do your forms…?

If you’re like most companies and marketing organizations, and answered honestly, there was a heavy skew towards focusing on digital experiences, yet oddly little focus on forms, the places where the “rubber meets the road.”

Of course homepages and landing pages are important, and deserve lots of attention. But don’t forget that the bottom of your conversion funnel is where all the serious action is. It’s where dollars either flow into your bank account or…elsewhere.

So what can you do to start to rebalance the focus and give your forms more love?

  1. Start a “Forms Task Force” within your company–make it cross-disciplinary–and take a good, hard look at your forms.
  2. Conduct User Tests that prompt interaction with your forms.
  3. Look at every question on your forms. To paraphrase Web Form Design by Luke Wroblewski, consciously decide to “keep,” “cut,” “postpone,” or “explain” every question you ask your customers.
  4. Once you’ve revisited your forms, begin (or revitalize) the ongoing process of form testing and optimization.

Don’t Dismiss the Base Hits

[Originally published September 3rd, 2008 on GrokDotCom.com, an award-winning, but now defunct, Marketing Optimization blog.]

Readers of my blog, and especially those involved in testing, know that conversion rate optimization is the goal we’re after. It’s a great feeling to know that a test you worked on increased conversion or some other KPI, especially when it’s a “Home Run.” I define Home Runs as triple-digit increases in conversion rate.

But one of the dangers of early testing efforts is the problem that some baseball players have: “swinging for the fences.” (Apologies for the baseball references, but it’s getting to be that time of year.) What if your test, or series of tests, doesn’t appear to raise conversion rate? Do you dismiss the tests as failures because they’re not home runs?

Of course not!

Worst case scenario is that you’ve learned something about executing meaningful tests, and about what does or doesn’t resonate with your customers. But more often than not, you are affecting your website in more subtle ways. Remember that conversion rate is often a blended, averaged, blunt instrument. Especially when it’s averaged across large volumes of organic search traffic, SEM traffic, email house list traffic, different product lines, etc.

Here are some things you can monitor when your tests aren’t having huge impacts on your overall conversion rate:

  1. Micro-conversion rates – If you’re testing product detail page layouts and “Add to Cart” buttons, check if those test variables are having an effect on the micro-conversion rate of adding products to the cart.
  2. Funnel conversion rates – If you’re testing lots of minor copy changes to your shopping cart, check for changes in your funnel conversion rate.
  3. Bounce rates – If you’re testing images, copy, or other changes designed to build up the credibility of your site, watch for changes in bounce rates.
  4. Conversion rate by segment – If a key traffic source’s conversion rate goes up in a test, but is “averaged down” by other less important traffic sources, that may in fact be a successful test.

These types of incremental improvements are test results to get excited about! If your micro-conversion rate increases, and your funnel conversion rate stays the same, that’s still more money in your bank account. If you reduce the bounce rate, you’ve gained the chance to convert that customer later, instead of your competitor.

So don’t dismiss the base hits because you’re disappointed about not hitting a home run (this time.) Take it from a patient analyst who’s favorite baseball player was famous for lots of base hits and not all that many home runs 🙂