Are long forms killing your landing page conversions?

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Listen, I know you want a lot of information on prospects that download your gated content. But some brands need a reality check on the value of their offer compared to the information requested. I saw an offer today on LinkedIn. The asset offer was for a research paper so I understand that it took time to create it. Analysis and conclusions take work to develop. But I’d be very curious to know what their bounce rate is for this landing page. I’m going to guess it’s high because these are the things they request on the form:

  • First and last name
  • Company name
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Number of employees
  • State
  • Country
  • Currently use their products

These are all required fields! If I had to put this piece of content in a buyer’s journey stage (haven’t read it, just inferring from the little information provided), I would say it’s either awareness or consideration. I lean a bit more toward awareness because the “value” of the research paper is to prove that doing X leads to Y. And Y is something a prospect would be happy about. In the awareness stage, it makes more sense to ask for less information. It’s the getting to know you phase. I recommend asking for name and email only. With a prospect opting into email, you have a channel to communicate and nurture the relationship by providing more content and eventually a decision stage offer of a consultation, price quote or demo.

I checked other platforms. The same offer is on Twitter and FaceBook; no distinction at all between the three posts (not even a hashtag on Twitter). I also know this is a global company with thousands of employees, and I would assume a healthy marketing department and budget.

I’m sure this is a very valuable asset, but the execution and promotion are off. Here is how I’d fix it:

Does the landing page practice good conversion-centered design? I’d say no. Here are some areas of improvement.

Context: Have they considered the context of where someone might be landing from? No. By posting on social media, it can be shared with people that don’t follow their brand. And those people have no context about who the brand is. Read more on context here.

Clarity: The posts for the asset say it’s a research paper and provide a name of someone who worked on it, but none of that is on the landing page. Also, if they are going to use someone’s name then they should tag the person so that people understand he or she is a credible source.

Congruence: This is big fail. Every element of the landing page should align with the goal. The goal is to get users to download the asset. Yet on the actual landing page there is one sentence and eight fields.

Closing: This principle focuses on getting the click. There are many elements on the page that influence conversions. This landing page has little context and requests a lot of information. Its call to action is simply “submit,” which is a negative word, at least subconsciously. There are many other positive words and phrases to use that can propel a user to convert.

In addition to the improvements need to align with conversion-centered design, their promotion strategy seems to be nonexistent. They should post it on social media based on the platform: FaceBook (visual), Twitter (use a hastag and tag the writer) and LinkedIn (longer post and tag writer).

So I guess you could say I’m silently critiquing your landing pages. If you’d like me to do it out loud, send me a note and let’s chat.

 

Social Media Marketing: Be Strategic, Not Random

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Why do so many brands treat social media like an afterthought? The randomness and complete lack of a strategy is quite frankly, shocking. In other words, it’s better to do nothing than to do it poorly

This is what I imagine might be happening in business across the world. It’s like one day in a panic Bob from sales called Linda in marketing and said start posting stuff on social media. Linda has a FaceBook account and a profile on LinkedIn so she’s basically an expert, right? Then Linda starts haphazardly throwing up posts and links. Ninety days later, social media marketing hasn’t brought them any quality leads, and no one engages with their content. Why didn’t it work? There’s one clear answer: they didn’t have a strategy or goals. Don’t be like Bob and Linda, do this instead:

Set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time bound) goals. If you don’t have an objective then it’s all for naught.

Create a content marketing plan. Here’s what I start with:

  • One focused topic monthly that is an eBook or Whitepaper
    • Recommend this is an “awareness” stage asset, meaning it should be education and information focused and place consideration on the user as being at the beginning of the buyer’s journey
  • Blogs on each of the points within your main asset
  • Repurpose the content into other formats: infographics, video
  • Create a landing page that offers your asset
  • Determine which platforms you want to post on – focus on three max. You can determine which ones are right for you based on your industry and where your ideal buyers and competitors are.
  • Find similar content by thought leaders in your industry. Quote the article in one of your blogs. Share third party content related to your topic.
  • In addition to the featured topic, place some additional blogs on your calendar that compliment the topic.

Next is execution:

  • Develop the content.
  • Build your landing page.
  • Determine keywords/hashtags you should highlight in your posts.
  • Then schedule your posts using a platform like Hootsuite

You aren’t finished. No need to go on autopilot. If users start engaging with you, show up! Thank people when they share your content. Answer questions. Encourage conversation. Ask questions when you post your content to prompt engagement.

Then it’s time to measure. What was your engagement? What posts were most popular? What posts led to conversions. And you have to look at all the data in context. If you earned 80 new followers in a week, why? If something is working, leverage it. If something failed, tweak it.

Your social media success is dependent more on relevant content than probably any other element. Posting a link to one of your web pages isn’t a strategy. I’m a bit embarrassed for brands that do this. You must add value to someone’s feed; otherwise, you’ll be quickly discarded.

Also, you’ve must cover and manage the details of posting. Does your image post correctly? Is your meta description displaying? Are your graphics professional and eye-catching? Are the pages you are linking to mobile-friendly? Users don’t click on links that don’t display correctly. It also makes your brand look incompetent. That’s the last emotion you want to conjure.

So just to recap, don’t be like Bob and Linda, throwing random content up and hoping something will stick. Start with a strategy, produce engaging content, post it on the platforms where your buyers are and measure!

Is your marketing confident?

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If you want your audience to take your brand seriously, you must market confidently. But confidence doesn’t mean being boastful or using every superlative available. It means that you lead with value, and let your audience know how your solution can revolutionize the way they do something. If your message veers off course, whether that is because you’ve gone from confident to condescending or show uncertainty, then your conversions will suffer.

Here’s an example from my own career. A designer and I created a landing page with the goal of getting users to request a demo of our software. It was a really well designed page that provided an outline of how the software worked, emphasizing ease and convenience. It also relayed the key values the user would experience, including reducing time spent on data entry, cost savings and improving the quality of their current process. It also included a link to an educational white paper, which was a free link (no form completion required).

The call to action included some specific confident language. The close was xyz will change the way you do xyz. Chat with us today to learn how we can improve your process. The close was focused on what the software could do for its users and that the brand was confident in its delivery of an effective product.

The landing page was used in a variety of channels, including an Adwords campaign, social media and email marketing. It was a very successful landing page, pulling in an 8 to 9 percent conversion on Adwords and over 40 percent on email.

Then the president of the company took issue with the confident wording, saying it was too much of a guarantee. He had a hard time understanding that marketing isn’t a legal contract. The language never guaranteed anything or exclaimed that it would change their life! Unfortunately, I had to change the language. The new language didn’t radiate confidence. It was just very bland and ordinary.

Ninety days later, I reviewed the metrics. And not to my surprise, conversions declined, mainly in the Adwords campaign, which of course was real dollars and less returns. I reported the data to my boss. He still would not allow me to change the language back. The landing page continued to have good conversion rates, but it never hit the same numbers as it had. This was the only change made so I had to attribute the decline to the change.

Fear often keeps people from making the best decisions for growth. Marketing, executed with focus and confidence, is the heart of any great growth strategy. If you don’t end with a confident close, users will sense this and lose confidence in your brand.

I’m in Love with Knowledge

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I began my love affair with knowledge as a young child. When your mother and grandmother are both teachers, it’s easy to fall for knowledge. When you adore knowledge as I did and still do, it can be both a blessing and a curse. But I’m still very much in love.

My mom taught me to read before kindergarten. Her first years of teaching were to kinders so I had an early advantage. She also exposed me to all kinds of knowledge and history I’d never find in class. Even though we lived in a small town in North Carolina, my mom’s love of Europe and open mindedness toward what was not the norm, started a desire in me to learn, travel and grow.

She would often find me reading, not just the standard Nancy Drew mysteries or Babysitter’s Club, but also the encyclopedia and dictionary. This was before Google could tell you everything so if you wondering what an encyclopedia is, it’s like Google before Google.

I still have my mom’s college dictionary. It’s one of my most treasured books. As a child I would read through it and mark words I liked, or when I used a new word in my writing or in conversation, I’d put a mark by it. I fell head over heels in love with words, and I writer I became.

I wrote my first short story when I was five. I remember reading it to my mom. She gave me her attention, and I could see a light in her eyes. I don’t recall what the story was about, but I do know that I wrote a lot of mystery stories in my youth, being influenced both by the ghost stories my Pop would tell me and by Stephen King books that I read (maybe not the best genre for a kid, but my mom was pretty progressive) and Alfred Hitchcock.

In school, I did very well. That was the expectation set by my mom at an early age. We would talk about where I was going to college often and what I would study. My mom nurtured the writer in me and never said no to going to get more books. I will say she probably didn’t think I’d actually be a professional writer as an adult; she saw me as a future lawyer.

I had a public school education in a rural town in the foothills of North Carolina. And it was a great education. I remember being a bit bored in third grade but by fourth grade I was moved to AG (academically gifted) classes and was challenged to read more and grow. By middle school, I was reading F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Dickens, Faulkner and also still Stephen King!

The craving for learning was further propelled by some amazing teachers. My sixth grade teacher was very creative and crafty, which opened up lots of new ideas for me. I am not artistic; I can barely draw straw people. But I started to see how you could put together certain things; it was kind of a beginner’s course in graphic design.

In eighth grade, I had an incredible history teacher. The focus was on the state’s history that year. It was the start of realizing how important history is and to not look at it as just the past but as real stories of amazing and horrible things that happened.

Then high school, which was four years of heartbreak and achievement and challenges. My teenage years weren’t like most, as my mom got sick when I was 15. That changed a lot about me, but not my eagerness to learn and write. By this time, I had been writing for years, and it was and remains my best outlet. My junior year English teacher was one of the biggest influences in my writing life. She was a very gifted writer, and she really challenged me to shape my own voice. And the books we read! Everything from The Scarlett Letter to Sphere. I was able to take a creative writing course with her my senior year. I owe her a lot of gratitude because she’s one of the first people who believed that I could be a writer.

So I’ll be honest, college was not easy. It was a huge transition, and my mind wasn’t always on studying. But even after my mom died my freshman year, I never thought of giving up. I never thought that I’d be better off just to take time off. That’s not what my mom would have wanted. She would have wanted me to fill my head with thoughts and opinions not noise.

College exposed me to more new authors, and I was able to take classes beyond the general 101 classes in my studies of literature and history. I would never trade those moments and those interactions. They keep me grounded today and have provided a firm foundation of truth and reality. I don’t need to necessarily google things about Nazi Germany because I took a class on it in college. I don’t need a long explanation on 20th century British literature; I spent a semester immersed in it.

Once I was a college graduate, the learning didn’t stop. My first boss was an attorney and a very intelligent man. I absorbed as much as I could when I was around him. I’m better for it. After several years in the workforce, I decided I needed more knowledge. So I went to class at night for my MBA and worked during the day. Graduate school was different than undergrad. I was more focused, less prone to be at the bar on a Tuesday night. I studied more and was beyond challenged in the classes that were mostly math related. Math is not my forte. But I persisted and earned that MBA.

So I guess I knew everything at this point? Not even close. So much has changed since my grad school days. There weren’t any inbound marketing classes back then or social media or anything specific to digital marketing. I think a lot of the overall marketing concepts I learned still hold true and have influenced where the industry is now.

I just keep learning. I find new classes online on new and emerging trends and have taken certification classes on multiple topics. I read a lot – probably 25 or more posts about marketing a week, along with probably one book and maybe hundreds of other articles and posts.

I’ll love knowledge forever. We are bonded and unbreakable. When you love knowledge, there’s no fear of the unknown. However, I will say that the curse of knowledge is that I’m not naive to anything. There’s also frustration that comes with knowledge because not everyone desires it. Many would rather hide from it, especially if it doesn’t fit their perception.

I’ll leave you with these thoughts on loving knowledge:

  • Read a book; turn off reality TV.
  • Expand your vocabulary; stop writing in shorthand or acronyms.
  • Read Wikipedia – it’s an unbiased, factually based place to find quick facts.
  • Watch a documentary on a topic you know nothing about.
  • Have a conversation with a stranger, and listen to their story.

Love of knowledge is a beautiful thing. They say, “Knowledge is power.” But really knowledge is empowering.

Twitter Experiment: How will brands respond?

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In the past week, I ran a little experiment. I didn’t necessarily intend to, but it seemed like a good opportunity. I tried to engage three brands on Twitter. Only one responded, although late. So what does this say about all the consensus out there in social media marketing that Twitter is a great place to serve customers? Well, first, I think there are many brands out there that do a great job of engaging followers on Twitter. Hubspot wrote a great blog with some examples. The examples were wide ranging from consumer goods to a university to a research company.

My tweets to these brands were not negative or combative. I was trying to start a conversation. Maybe these brands don’t have a plan to respond or are too afraid. Here’s a look at my experiment.

Southwest Airlines

I wrote a blog recently about a trip on Southwest that turned into a nightmare. I wanted them to read it. I posted it with a call out of their handle on January 9.

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No response so I retweeted on January 12, calling them out for not using Twitter as a customer service channel. They replied, and we had a conversation via DM. I can report that I did receive a refund for the canceled flight, which was approximately what the rental car cost. But they did not make any attempt to further compensate me. They did apologize. I still am not overly impressed with their Twitter responsiveness, but it was better than the other two!

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L’Oreal

I don’t follow L’Oreal on Twitter, but I do use their products. Not really makeup, but shampoo, conditioner and hair styling products. A promoted tweet came up on my feed. Promoted means well they paid for it, and they must have the goal to increase followers. I didn’t think the tweet really answered what the value is for me to follow them, so I let them know this.

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Again, not I’m not trying to drag them in any way. Just trying to start a conversation. Tell me why I should follow you, and be more specific than news and updates. They could have responded and shown how powerful social media can be but instead just crickets.

Luzianne

I love iced tea. It’s the most southern thing about me. I don’t have a brand preference for tea bags, buying typically what is on sale or what I have a coupon for, so I go back and forth between Lipton and Luzianne.

So I came to the end of a 24 count box of Luzianne, only to be left with only three tea bags instead of four. It takes four tea bags to make a gallon, thus I should be able to make six gallons. Yet, for the third time, I seem to have been missing a tea bag. So I though Luzianne should know.

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Luzianne did not respond at all. I am thinking maybe this is something they should look into – I could’ve provided where I purchased the boxes because obviously, they are only putting 23 in there! No response to me means they either don’t care, aren’t aware or don’t know how to respond – which are all extremely concerning. So Luzianne, I can’t buy your teabags anymore.

I’d love to hear what you think about these Twitter fails. Tweet me, and let’s have a conversation!

 

I Don’t Have a Five Year Plan

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I’ve always had a plan. I am a planner. Not to say I’m not up for spontaneity, but you won’t find me waiting for a table on a Saturday night because I’d have a reservation.

I’ve always wanted to be in control of my future. Planning seemed the logical path. However, most of my plans have required revision and rerouting. It’s important to be flexible. Not everything can be planned for in life.

I was an ambitious planner in my teens and 20s. I had a vision. I knew what I wanted. I did everything I could to get there. I had lots I needed to check off my list. My young self never got tired (even migraines rarely slowed me). I was emphatic about what and who I was going to be: happy, successful, something.

I finished my second novel at 25. And was busy planning for more. I was submitting poetry and fiction to journals weekly. I was writing pitch letters to agents, researching everything I needed to do to get noticed and basically doing everything to say I’m a writer!

This was early 2000s. Online journals were fairly new. Pitch letters were mailed. Social media hadn’t really become a thing. Back then self publishing was not what you did as a serious writer. So for years, I was planning and working every day. I stayed convinced I could be something. I paid little attention to my own world; wrapped up instead in the worlds I had created.

Perseverance would get me noticed I thought. But it didn’t. There were small victories: short stories and poems were published. A few agents actually wrote me back. So I kept pushing until I had to walk away. Had to find a new plan and tame that dream.

By this time writing was my job. I realized that in marketing I could get paid for writing; it just wasn’t going to be my story to tell. So I rechanneled my energy. I could be a success in marketing. So I went to grad school. Worked all day and went to class at night. Those were long days, but it kept me busy. I needed to be busy. And needed to believe this plan would work. I would shape brands and make the money I deserved. Ambition suited me well; always has.

After grad school, I got a new job with unlimited possibilities. I threw myself into building this brand and increasing business. Work became all I was. My personal life was in shambles so I needed the diversion. Most weeks I worked 60 hours. There was no boundary between life and work. I answered emails late at night and calls on Saturday mornings. Because in my plan if I just worked harder and longer then I’d get where I needed to go. WRONG.

Life’s not fair. Rewards rarely come for the ones always there doing what they say they’re going to do. People will use you, manipulate you and disappoint you. I was burning out when another offer came my way. This opportunity had more structure and a chance to build a marketing team. It seemed like a win. I still had so much drive; so much I wanted to offer.

I did a lot in my time there. But there were still long hours and lots of miles traveled. What was worse was the wall of frustration. I couldn’t get excited about a project because I knew like the 100 before, it would go nowhere. When you don’t allow people to succeed and shine, you dim their passion. When passion is extinguished there’s no resuscitating it. So I had to go leading me to where I am now.

Which is me not really having a plan. I mean I do have a broad picture in mind. And I still keep lots of running lists of what I need to do to further myself. I’m not always motivated. I’m not always my own cheerleader. I could do more.

My plan looks different now. It’s not about money or status or titles. Success looks a little different now. I want to be excited every day about what I’m doing. It’s about loving writing again and not looking at it as a chore.

What will I do without that five year plan that every guru tells me I need? I’m just going to be a rebel. Look, I had plans. They didn’t work out. I waited patiently for that big break, for someone to tell me I was talented. I’m still waiting. Waiting for that one post to go viral or for one publisher to think I’ve got what it takes.

Yet I still feel like a failure 93% of the time. I still worry every day I haven’t lived up to my potential. I’m still haunted by things I should have done differently. I think these things, but there’s nothing I can do to change the past. Maybe I wasn’t ready for success earlier. Maybe my voice has to get stronger.

So what do I do? Keep writing. Keep posting. Keep believing that if it’s good stuff people will read it. I once heard that dreams can’t become more than that while you’re still sleeping. I’m awake now. Wide awake.

Marketing Chat: Insights & Best Practices

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I’ve had the pleasure of being part of many great conversations about marketing, both with those in the discipline and outside of it. I’m always happy to share my experiences, what I’ve learned, my opinions and what I think are the most critical strategies. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions or discussions I’ve been a part of recently.

1. What are the best ways to build an email list?

First, you have to do it legally. Anyone you email has to agree that you can email them, and they have the ability to unsubscribe at any time. Email is a currency. You get people to “pay” with their email address so you have to create value. Hubspot recently posted a blog on this that was spot on. This is what I think are the best strategies:

  • Landing pages with relevant offers – typically this would be high value content that is targeted to specific segments and is centered on education and information rather than a product
  • Social Media: connecting with followers in almost any platform provides you the opportunity to allow them to opt in
  • Website forms: include forms throughout your website for a variety of offers based on what pages they are landing on – subscribe to blog, download an asset, schedule a demo or any other CTA (call to action)
  • Webinars: these are low cost events that are virtual in nature and should again be educationally focused. If you have a great topic that can genuinely help someone with their challenges, they will sign up for webinars, and spend an hour with you.

But do not buy lists! These people don’t know you. Your unsubscribes and bounces will go up. Don’t spend your marketing dollars here. 

2. What should I post on social media?

I typically advise that the rule should be 50/30/20: 50% should be your content that is general, educational and informational; 30% should be content not authored by you but is relevant to your industry or audience (leading experts, SMEs) and 20% promotional, wherein you have a specific social media promotion, like a giveaway or offer, to generate leads.

3. Should we do direct mail campaigns?

In most circumstances, I’d say no. They are costly and have little response. It’s hard to track ROI on this unless there’s a promotional code. For B2B, I would advise it only if it’s clever and relevant. Do you have an actual product versus a service? When I worked in the large format printing industry, we had a laser cutter that was a really innovative piece of machinery. I often toted around small samples of what the machine could do. People could see the quality and intricacy of the finished product. To add relevance, I often brought them samples of their logo to keep. This would have been a neat direct mail campaign that could have generated interest from current and prospective customers. For any direct mail campaign to work, it’s got to be targeted and executed well.

4. Do I need a content strategy?

YES! Content strategy at its most fundamental is creating the right content for the right audience and posting it in the right place. It’s not something that’s best done off the cuff. It takes research and planning to learn how to cultivate and repurpose content and to ensure it has a clear voice while also changing tone where appropriate. Content strategy is a huge part of your overall marketing plan and shouldn’t be ignored.

5. Why inbound marketing?

I’m an inbound marketing enthusiast. I absolutely believe in its ability to connect with audiences and generate quality leads. It has the power to convert unlike outbound marketing or cold calling. It relies heavily on well-written, authentic content. It takes into consideration who your buyer is and where they are on the buyer’s journey. It integrates content, SEO, email and social media. I could write for days on the marvels of inbound marketing. If you are not currently embracing it, do your research. Understand its importance in elevating your brand to the next level. I recommend inbound.org as a starting point.

6. How can I increase my open rate on emails?

When considering open rate, think about these metrics:

  • How many people actually received the email (hard and soft bounces)
  • Is it optimized for mobile? We as a society now tend to open most email on phones.
  • Am I clearing spam filters?
  • Is my subject line intriguing? Is it short enough? Does it present the idea of value?

7. How do I determine what content I should require an email to view versus what do I give away?

This is subjective. But I’ve considered this when building websites and took on a scoring approach. The shorter the content the more likely I was to tag it as free. The content I felt was really for those at the beginning of the buyer’s journey I typically didn’t require an email. Whitepapers, which are longer and require more research, most likely required an email. The more work I had to put into producing it; the more valuable I believed it to be so I wanted an email for all my hard work! You can also look at trends to see how well content fared from a landing page or email campaign. It if it was popular that may mean people are willing to pay with their email address. Also more targeted content usually required an email address because it was for such a select industry or group.

8. What are the biggest obstacles to marketing success?

Speaking personally, the challenges I have faced in being successful were:

  • Lack of Tools: not having the right software or platforms to manage, measure and automate. If you have do most of this manually, it takes a long time, and you don’t have time to focus on more important things. Tools provide amazing insights and help you see trends so that you are aware of when a lead is sales ready.
  • Inability to Execute: Fear from the powers that be kept me from executing many planned out strategies. I developed websites, product launches and social media strategies that never went anywhere because the company didn’t really understand the value of marketing. They were so afraid to make any little mistake that fear kept them from doing anything. I’m not a status quo kind of person so it was pretty impossible to succeed in this type of environment. When you hire people that are experts in their industry, trust them! They really know what they’re talking about, and if it doesn’t work, then keep trying and learning.

These are a few highlights from recent conversations. I’d love to hear from you! Tweet me, or reply below. I’m glad to answer them or have a discussion. I’m always up for a marketing chat!