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.]

 

Information Overload: Why Less is the New More

[Originally published June 24th, 2008 on GrokDotCom.com, an award-winning, but now defunct, Marketing Optimization blog.]

A new report entitled Information Overload: We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us was written up recently in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Commissioned by Basex, it details how information overload, particularly task interruptions, costs the Enterprise $650 billion a year in lost productivity.

That’s a very large price to pay for having everything at our fingertips, all the time, in any format.

Our decision-making processes can’t always keep up with our choices. The same challenge applies to website design and content. The Web is a fantastic place to shop, research, and be entertained, but sometimes when I’m online, I notice physical fatigue when I’m trying to figure out where to go next!

When I’m evaluating a vendor’s Services page, should I:

  • Sign up for their newsletter?
  • Read about the awards they’ve won?
  • Look at a list of clients?
  • Read the CEO’s blog?

When I’m shopping for a health supplement, should I:

  • Read about related products?
  • Read about their latest “green” program?
  • View my empty shopping cart?
  • Become an affiliate?

Even though we come to a website with the best intentions, we’re by nature drawn to the shiny distractions that marketers and designers put along our path. We go down rabbit holes in websites and sometimes by the time we find our way back to the trail, we’ve lost our momentum . . . or maybe we’ve been interrupted and have to go back to work 😉

So I’m wondering: How much money is lost each year because we overload our potential customers with information on our web pages? How many visitors are driven away by cluttered designs, too many messages, too many offers, and too many choices?

Here’s the problem: Marketers naturally want to use messaging, offers, promotions and more to persuade web visitors. But in their efforts, they often contribute to information overload, which is proven to hamper the decision-making process. Also, companies tend to add more content to their websites over time and rarely retire content that’s outdated or irrelevant.

The solution: Most web pages should have only one primary goal. If there are alternate options, offers, or next steps, that’s fine. But don’t interrupt the task at hand, and don’t overload your visitors with distractions.

The one exception I can think of is the homepage, which should, at a minimum, a) communicate Unique Value Proposition, and b) route visitors.

Should you remove these secondary goals and choices? Maybe, but sometimes making them less prominent is enough to move the needle. It comes down to a business decision whether your “Sizzlin’ Hot Summer Giveaway” promotion is worth distracting a certain percentage of visitors from their primary goal.

What if you don’t know the goal of all of your site’s pages? You could start with rediscovering who your customers really are, or some analysis of your website’s “data dump,” or you could hypothesize and run some tests. Sometimes the purpose of a page is simply to present options. That’s fine, but don’t distract visitors from understanding their options and making a decision.

So let’s get practical here:

  • Category page primary goal = route visitors to sub-category or product page
  • Product page primary goal = persuade visitors to purchase
  • In the News page primary goal = build brand credibility
  • Shopping cart page primary goal = get the cash!
  • General content page primary goal = build persuasive momentum

Although it seems hard at first, it’s actually pretty easy to find a single, primary goal for most pages on your site. Then you have the harder task of deciding how to do away with unnecessary distractions, get rid of design clutter, and allow visitors freedom without information overload.

Sometimes having a new pair of eyes look at your site can really speed this process up.

If you’re overloading customers with info, you’re not alone. Many world-class, million-dollar sites are guilty of information overload, and even the best online marketers need to work on it constantly.

Best of luck. To avoid information overload, let’s focus on answering three essential questions of site Optimization:

  • Who is your visitor?
  • What action do you want them to take?
  • What will persuade them to take that action?

Do Your Landing Pages Leverage the Rebuttal Approach?

business cat meme image captioned "I beg to differ."I’ve written a fair amount over the years about using the 3 stages of the decision-making process as a framework for doing analysis and Optimization. At each stage of the process, the prospect’s mindset and needs are different. Therefore, your tactics for persuasion, testing, and Optimization should be different.

Today I’m going to focus on “Middle” and “Late Stage” prospects, and on one crucial tactic for converting prospects at these stages of their conversion journey. The tactic is more often used in B2B (and especially SaaS) marketing, but I believe it can be applied effectively in B2C scenarios as well.

I call the tactic for this post the “Rebuttal” Approach. It’s a borrowed legal phrase which is also used in politics; especially in debates. A rebuttal is an expected opportunity to counter-argue known points that your opponent has made. In political debates, an opponent is often given, say, 30 seconds to make a rebuttal argument against a specific point just made.

In Optimization, the Rebuttal Approach is your chance as a marketer to make a counterargument against your competition in order to convert Middle and Late Stage prospects. This is a crucial tactic because prospects tend to engage in a lot of comparison research or shopping before they make a decision. A prospect on your site in Middle and Late stages is almost always conducting some sort of comparison between you and your competitors. Continue reading

3 Signs Your Personas Are Broken

danger iconLast month, the venerable Bryan Eisenberg wrote on his blog about Content Marketing Personas. The article was a good reminder for us that there are a lot personas out there in the marketing world, and many of them are sub-par if not dangerous.

I especially liked his suggestion that readers explore his “conversion trinity” on paid ads and landing pages using existing personas to see if they were up to the task of helping optimize a landing page experience. He has promised us more columns about “getting personas right” in the future, so I recommend you keep an eye out for those.

Coincident with me reading Bryan’s post, I was doing an on-site consulting engagement with a new client. They were looking to redesign a microsite with the goal of boosting lead conversion rate. I was relatively unfamiliar with their marketing efforts, so I asked if they had marketing personas. They answered, “Yes,” and I was delivered an 8Mb PDF with a professional layout, high-quality stock images, and content that was backed by legitimate research.

I deleted it minutes later.

Why did I delete these personas, choosing to “start from scratch” instead of leverage a document that had obviously taken many hours to produce?!? I won’t answer that specifically about this client’s personas, but it’s my segue into my 3 warning signs that your personas may be toxic. If the personas you’re using to do Optimization (or any Marketing) show any of these traits, you may be shooting yourself in the foot. Continue reading

Whoa! A Digital Agency Gets Their Homepage Right

When it comes to web design that “converts,” i.e. efficiently persuades prospects to take a desired business action, the websites of digital agencies haven’t typically been high on my list for praise.

Often times, the sites of digital agencies have over-relied on flash, high-resolution imagery, or inventive navigation to persuade their prospects that they should engage with the site and eventually take a desired action.

Further, the philosophy of “creativity for creativity’s sake” pervades many agencies, and the web designs they provide to clients often under-perform in terms of business KPIs like conversion rate and revenue.

Hence, many practitioners of Conversion Optimization distance themselves from traditionally “creative” agencies, instead testing their way to designs that are often aesthetically plain (even boring), but convert well.

Note: this isn’t always the fault of agencies. Their clients are often fixated on aesthetic design and aren’t thinking enough about website business performance. And, as we know, the client is always right when you work at an agency.

All of this contributes to my bias. Enter the homepage of POSSIBLE, a digital agency that I was introduced to recently. I was surprised to see that their homepage is doing some things really well that we can learn from in terms of persuasion and conversion optimization. Continue reading

How To Optimize Customer Testimonials Part 2: Designing A Test

In my Part 1 post about optimizing customer testimonials, I laid out my CAPP framework for thinking about the various aspects of a testimonial and the variables you might improve on and/or test.

In this post, I want to illustrate how I would apply this framework using a multivariate test to see which optimized combination of factors would increase conversions the most. Continue reading

How To Optimize Customer Testimonials Part 1: A Framework

The wonderful thing about testimonials is that they have the ability to increase conversion rates across a wide variety of applications: direct-response landing pages, B2B lead generation, eCommerce, etc.

Study after study has indicated that when we make purchase decisions, we listen to our friends and peers more than we listen to “experts.” Our social networks carry an amazing amount of authority, and testimonials tap into the authority of the crowd and give us ‘social proof‘ that our peers vouch for a product or service.

When I think about optimizing customer testimonials on client websites (which is quite often), I break my efforts down into 4 categories: Content, Authenticity, Placement, and Presentation (CAPP). The good news is that all 4 are great things to make a part of your ongoing testing efforts, either in isolation, or combined in a multivariate approach! Continue reading

What Do Your Trust Tattoos Say About You?

trust logos

Image courtesy of Actualinsights.com

A past client of mine coined a wonderful phrase when he mentioned the fact that his shopping cart “had all the usual security tattoos,” referring to the seals/badges/logos seen around the Web as credibility indicators and anxiety reducers.

While I laughed at the time, I now think that there’s something to this idea that trust badges on sites are like tattoos on people. You can make some pretty safe assumptions about people’s personalities based on their body art, so maybe online shoppers are making assumptions about your site based on your security “tattoos”! Continue reading

LPO: Speak to The Skeptic in All of Us

I recently came across a concept that got my curiosity revved up: a hosted eCommerce solution provided by none other than Amazon. I’m always interested in learning about up-and-coming eCommerce solutions, and you have to admit that Amazon “knows a thing or two” about eCommerce!

However, this post isn’t about their service, it’s about their landing page. [In doctor’s voice: No, no. Your web service is fine. It’s about your landing page…]

Since my curiosity was engaged, I clicked on a PPC ad to learn more. The landing page (click thumbnail to enlarge) I encountered became the subject of this post because, while it did a whole mess of things “right” in terms of Landing Page Optimization, it failed to speak to the skeptic in me. Read on to learn why this particular failure is so dangerous to conversion. Continue reading