Business Performance Customer Experience Social Media

Smile! You’re Feeding the Facebook Machine

Yesterday Instagram revealed that  as of January 16th, it will have the perpetual right to sell users’ photographs without payment or notification.

This disturbs me.

I’ve been a fan of Instagram for a long time, though not a prolific user. I admire their journey, how they built this incredibly popular tool and network with just a handful of staff.

The day they sold to Facebook, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, the founders got their big payday, the pay-off for all the hard work they put in. Can’t blame them. On the other hand, I had a sense of dread that Facebook were about to royally fuck it up.

Guess what? I think that just happened.

I’m a believer that a company can’t create a community. You can *faciliate* a community, by giving common-minded individuals a platform and the tools to connect. But you can’t force them to talk to each other; you can’t make them share their personal stuff.

For every Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, there are thousands of empty social network platforms that just didn’t take off or thrive (jury is still out on G+). All those successful platforms worked only in part due to the technology and tools. It’s the users that have made them successful.

Today, I think the community of Instagram users are feeling a little betrayed. Today is the day they realised they are in fact the product.

If you’re not paying for the service you are the product. These businesses have to make money eventually and the data you give up as a user is like crude oil to these new business giants.

Facebook paid $1Bn for Instagram and now they want some return. It had to come evenutally.

It’ll be interesting to see if any details emerge regarding the number of accounts deleted due to this change. I’m already seeing tweets and posts from individuals to that effect. I for one haven’t decided what I’m going to do with mine yet.

However, I suspect it won’t kill the network. Indifference is likely to be the common response (or lack thereof). The masses are generally unaware of what is happening to their data – they don’t see their holiday photos as valuable data – so I can’t see them leaving in droves.

There will be some media outcry, blogs will be written, indignant tweets will posted, then it will fade away. And the oil will continue to flow through the pipeline.

UPDATE: 9:20 am 19th Dec. 2012 – Last night Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom issued this statement to clarify the situation. He says there is much confusion in the media and it is easy to mis-interpret legal language. He acknowledges they need to behave like a revenue producing, sustainable business, so changes will be necessary. This was the section that drew my eye ‘it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.’

So there you have it. It’s not their intention to sell your photos. But then, they didn’t exactly come out and say they would not sell your photos. If their paymasters at Facebook say they have to do it, then I guess…

So we’re none the wiser really. Guess we have to wait and see how the language changes and then make a decision before the 16th January.

Business Performance Conversion Testing

Challenging your routines for performance optimisation

When we do something for long enough, we start to find ourselves falling into routines. It’s how we get through the day, the week, life, without having to over-analyse everything. The problem is those routines aren’t always for the best. We take shortcuts, connect dots where they shouldn’t be connected and hold on to conventions.

We believe what we’re doing is right. It only backfires when we’re completely wrong. Most of the time we don’t really notice, as the consequences are either too small or we don’t know what we’re missing.

In business though, it can make the difference being bad, good or even great at your job. You can continue to move along being average, getting average results for your average company or you can stop and question what you’re doing.

Let me give you an example. One of the websites I work on has a daily email process that has traditionally taken a long time to run due to the volume of recipients. It’s a core process, with a big return for the business. We’re pleased with the contribution it provides. We accept that it’s going to take all day to run, but that’s fine as long it gets sent to the customer.

There are a number of big assumptions in play here: 1) that’s how long it has to take to get through that volume 2) the business impact is optimal 3) daily is the important time factor for the customer.

Then one day, we upgraded the hardware running our core email process. Overnight, a 12 hour process was reduced to 4 hours and all emails are now delivered before 9 am instead of 4 pm.

Take a look at what happened to the traffic (split by hour of the day)…

Why was the behaviour so dramatically different?

Well, in a moment of serendipity, the hardware upgrade occurred at about the same time new customer research landed on my desk that revealed distinct time of day differences in user needs and behaviour. To quote a few lines…

Before work: This is the most common time to check email alerts. Many jobseekers rely solely on alerts to learn of opportunities, saving them having to check the source repeatedly. Reviewing alerts often takes place on the move using mobile or tablet devices to bookmark interesting roles and positions for further research at a later time.

So our acceptance of the previous process – the routine we had established – had in fact throttled user behaviour. Customers had wanted their email early, before work, and we’d only fulfilled that for a minority. Removing this limitation meant we could deliver on their needs and they responded eagerly.

This was fantastic news for the business, but I’d have to admit, it was a stroke of luck rather than genius. We made a change from a backend technical need and we were fortunate to see a positive business performance uplift. With the user research to hand we were able to understand the reason behind the performance change. But it could so easily have been very different – what if we’d set the process to run at the end of the day instead? It also made us realise that we’d been sitting on a missed opportunity.

That said, this was actually a very positive experience, as we got to learn some valuable lessons that influence our thinking and approach going forward:

  1. Just because something is done one way it doesn’t mean it’s the best way or that it will continue to be the best way. Things change.
  2. Don’t assume you know what’s best for customers. It’s important to keep searching for insights. Ask them what they want.
  3. Bear in mind that what people say and what they want isn’t always the same thing. You need to verify that the actions match the words. You can mitigate the risk of change by running A/B or multi-variant tests – show a sample of your audience the new version and everyone else gets the default, existing version. Opinions lose out to results.

Those might seem rather simplistic – and perhaps obvious – suggestions, but can you honestly say you’re talking to your customers often enough or testing your changes to see if they’re actually improving your offering?

We’re all pushed for time, so going with what we believe is right or maintaining our routine is often seen as the quickest and easiest way of getting things done. But so much of this is a mind-set rather than reality. We need to change the way we think. Research and testing need to inform our decisions, not routines and opinion.

If you want to give your routines and assumptions a rude awakening, get yourself along to the Conversion Conference in London on 27-28th November. The past two years it has proven to be the most valuable conference I’ve attended for challenging my views on business performance. You’ll come away exhausted, but full of questions and ideas.

You’ll look even more of a genius in the office if you use this discount code – ITSDIGITALMARKETING2012 – when booking to get a 15% discount on your tickets.

Business Performance Personal Development Social Media

Digital talent: riding the wave of change

In his post ‘Social Media requires a different perspective on talent – developing a social workforce’, Felix Wetzel referenced a comment from Brian Halligan’s (Hubspot) presentation at Dreamforce:

‘No traditional marketing skills and background are required, instead “hire people who speak digital without an accent. Hire people that blog, have twitter followers and are on G+”

I’m sure it’s a bold and contentious statement for many, but from where I’m sitting it has merit.

For me, Social and Digital are about attitude. The skills can be learned, but it’s more about whether you ‘get it’. We’ve long since passed the point where we should be discussing the potential of the internet as commerce and communication channels, yet to some the thought of discussing – let alone doing – social media, ecommerce or digital is worse than a trip to the dentist. The words ‘tweeting’, ‘klout’ and ‘conversion optimisation’ don’t even appear in their vocabulary.

No, to be a success in the digital age you need to freely and readily embrace change.

The attitude I mentioned, includes the ability to question and experiment. Any of those pioneers at the dawn of the commercial internet had that ability in spades. They looked at the web and saw a way to challenge the norm, the traditional, and do something in a new and better way.

And because they needed staff to make their venture work, they hired people with the right attitude and skills – but not necessarily internet experience – who figured out a way to make it happen.

When I joined Jobsite in 1999, I was an unemployed photographer; our Marketing Executive was a part time doorman and our SEO expert was hired out of the kitchens of the local army barracks. None of us had any marketing experience, let alone any internet history.

Over the subsequent years, as the internet community and talent pool has grown, new hires into the team came with valuable web experience. Regardless of background, the ones who truly made a mark are those that continued the tradition of curiosity.

Today, as I welcome two new recruits to the team I now lead 12 years later, I urge them to question the way things are done, bring alive their ideas and not to be wary of experimentation. Standing still is no longer an option. Neither is being afraid of change.

And change is coming. Like the internet was a catalyst for change in traditional commerce, now social and mobile are changing the web. As traditional marketers were afraid of digital, now their counterparts must in turn face their own challenge. You cannot be a marketer today and not embrace social media. You cannot be a marketer if you can’t see how Mobile is totally changing how your customers are going to be using your product. Stand up and face the oncoming storm, throw open your arms and embrace it.

As Felix concludes:

Depending on where you stand, it’s either beautiful or scary.

From where I’m standing, it’s a bit of both. And that’s why it’s so exciting, right?

Business Performance Social Media

Unfollow the anti-social media policy

t irritates me when I hear Twitter, Facebook et al, blamed for loss of productivity and foot in mouth faux pas by employees. That inevitably leads to the discussion regarding banning the networks from the workplace or the introduction of a lengthy social media policy within the business.

Stop blaming the tools – it’s the people using them.

Extra Thick Crust, Hold the Common Sense

As Scott Stratton (@unmarketing) put it at Jobsite’s FreshThinking seminar, “Stop hiring morons”.

That may seem a little harsh, but let’s look at an example.

Dominos staff filmed themselves doing disgusting things to food in the kitchen before serving up to customers. They posted it on Youtube and were promptly fired and arrested for their endeavours. That wasn’t Youtube’s fault, it was the morons messing with the pizza.

Every time something like this happens, I just shake my head. Didn’t it occur to them that sharing this publicly meant it wasn’t going to end well for them? It’s common sense. Well, for most of us.

The Unpleasant Aftertaste

So what happens? Businesses panic, and before you know it, access to social sites are restricted or banned from the workplace and/or stringent social media policies are introduced in an effort to control employee activity (which ironically, is the opposite of being social).

This backfires on multiple levels:

  • Your staff will hate you. That won’t look good on your employee satisfaction report.
  • It won’t stop them. You know those shiny smartphones everyone has now? Makes your restricted access network at little redundant, doesn’t it?
  • You’ll lose their trust. You’re effectively saying they’ll only say something stupid so best shut up and let you do the talking.
  • You’re hurting your business by restricting your employees’ development. Get over the whole ‘it’s just people talking about what they had for breakfast’ nonsense. If you’re hiring the right people, they’re using it to learn from others through article sharing and discussion, they’re monitoring your competitors and the industry, and they’re making connections and forming relationships with potential new customers or employees. And if they mention what they did at the weekend, well, it makes them – and your brand – more human. And when was that such a bad thing?
  • And the biggest blow to your business? You’re oppressing the best source of ambassadors of your brand.  You could have people freely talking about the great stuff you’re doing, but if you’d rather be in control of the message that’s fine. Oh wait, did I mention you can’t control the message? People are saying whatever they want about your brand, whether you like it or not. You could perhaps influence that conversation by participating…oh wait, you can’t, you’ve cut off access to those that care about your brand the most. This social stuff is difficult, isn’t it?

Actually, no it’s not. We just make it that way.

The Ultimate Topping

Stop hiring morons and give your employees access to social media and forget about the rigid social media policy. Policies tend to be lengthy and focused on what you should not do. Instead, educate your staff. Show them how to use the tools – for their own benefit, not just for the business (it’ll pay off in the long run, as socially aware, responsible staff who enjoy their work, will just love talking about the great things you do).

Most importantly emphasise common sense when tweeting, posting, updating.  Take a leaf out of the Royal Navy’s book – their social media ‘policy’ consists of just two questions:

  1. What would your mother think?
  2. What would your commanding officer think?

If that doesn’t stop you from posting photos from the Stag/Hen weekend nothing will.

If you feel you need a little more reassurance than those two questions bring, consider writing a brief employee guide to social media use, rather than an epic, riling social media policy.

The guide should be short, focused on the positive and emphasise common sense. It should not be about restrictions, it should encourage use, authenticity and pride in the work you and your colleagues have achieved, whilst raising awareness of the individual’s responsibilities. Ultimately, it should encourage the exercising of good judgment.

Whatever your eventual approach, remember don’t blame the tools. Hire talented, responsible people and encourage them to get involved. If they believe in your product and actions, then you’ll have a strong advocate to help develop and grow your business.

And you’ll never have to look suspiciously at your slice of pizza.

Business Performance Customer Experience

Cut your advertising budget by 10% and invest in customer service

What do you think would happen if you took 10% of your advertising budget and invested it in customer service?

Your immediate reaction might be to think that whilst it’s a nice idea, it’s too risky to cut an advertising budget that doesn’t quite go far enough already. No Marketer in their right mind would willingly give up some of their budget anyway, right?

I’ll be honest, I’d be a little nervous making that suggestion to my Finance Director too. But let’s just play out the thought process here:

  • It’s often cheaper to retain an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one. This makes sense, as you already have the customer, you’ve just got to keep them happy. Yet, so many companies focus more on finding new business and playing the tricky – and costly – game of trying to convert prospects
  • Look at your current promotions. They’re aimed at new customers right? Sign up and get 5000 free minutes of phone calls. Transfer your account and receive a £100 bonus. When you’ve been a customer of a business for several years, how do you feel when you see a better deal being offered to new – and sometimes brand-hopping – customers? Shouldn’t you be rewarding loyalty in your customers instead?
  • One way to ensure a happy customer is to give them a fanatastic product or service at a reasonable price. And to keep on giving it to them. How much time and effort do you put into improving your product – changes both  big and small? Do you listen to customers or just use your own ideas? Do you monitor conversion data to identify the problems in your products or rely on gut feeling?
  • Look at the output of your customer service team. What is the average response time to customers who contact you via email or a website form? How long does the average customer wait in the queue on the phone? Now put yourself in their shoes. When something goes wrong with your order on a website or you need to arrange an insurance quote, how do you feel having to wait so long for an answer?
  • Look at the average salary of employees in each department within your business. Where does your Customer Service Rep fall within that scale? If they’re not at the bottom, I’d guarantee they’re not outside the bottom quarter. Maybe that’s fine – I’m not trying to devalue the skills and contributions of those in other areas of the business – but what is the gap between those salaries?
  • If the average customer service rep salary is one of the lowest in the business, how does that reflect on the company’s opinion of customer service? Does that perception and the renumeration motivate those that do the role or those that are considering joining your organisation?
  • Whether your company structure diagram acknowledges it or not, your Customer Service department is an extension of your Marketing Dept. – these Reps are your Marketers. They are the face and voice of your brand at the coal face and experience more interaction with customers in a week than most of your ‘official’ Marketers and Executive Management do in a year (or more). You want these people to be motivated, to be enthusiastic about your brand and product.
  • Don’t think it stops there either. Whilst your customer service people have the most contact with your customers, EVERY employee who speaks to a customer is a representation of your brand, be they in Accounts, Sales, IT, Procurement, Legal or wherever else. The experience an individual has with these employees IS the brand.

So when you say your customers are important to you, that you’re a customer-centric business, what does that actually mean? That you care about their experience, or that you care about their wallet? Put your wallet where you marketing message is, by investing in your customer experience.

Scott Stratten (@unmarketing) said at Jobsite’s FreshThinking event recently “People don’t talk about average, they talk about awesome”.  Consider how you can you can apply this to your customer service. How you can get your customers talking about the awesome service they receive from you?

So that 10%, what could you do with it?

  • To riff on Scott’s quote, awesomeness starts at home. Do something special for your customer-facing staff (and others too). Give them a thank you gift to show how much you appreciate their work. Don’t make it a one-off.
  • Give them £1000 to leave. I take no credit for this idea, it is all Zappos. For Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, great customer service is the cornerstone of a successful business. So following 4 weeks of training and immersion in Zappos culture he meets with each new staff member and offers them $1000 to resign. His thinking – if they take the cash they don’t have the commitment that it will take to do the job. What would be the equivalent in your company?
  • Give them the tools they need. Don’t make do with the tools and systems you provide your customer service team. Needs change, new products emerge – let your staff service your customers as quickly and efficiently as possible, using the right tools.
  • Look at your headcount. You’re in business to make a profit. That’s fine, but consider whether you’re scrimping on customer service headcount. Earlier when I mentioned the average response time, what was your answer? Happy with that? If you add extra headcount, what impact will that have your customers? Providing better service can lower costs by 1) retaining existing customers who were considering leaving due to an issue and 2) win new customers who were impressed with your business when they made enquires.
  • Consider time. Do your customers buy your products 24 hours a day? If you’re an internet business, then there is a good chance they do. So why do you only offer service between the hours of 9am and 5.30pm? Can you automate your product by providing a self-service option? What happens when a customer has a question at 1am – how will you deal with it? Can you earn new custom – and repeat business – by providing a product and support that reflects your customers’ buying behaviour?
  • Hire or assign a Marketing Manager to the Customer Service department. Or incorporate the team into the Marketing Dept. If your service reps are truly the ambassadors of your brand, shouldn’t they have a greater understanding of your business’ goals, marketing message and company ethos? It’d give them a greater voice in discussions about new product ideas, things to fix, and timings of launches – the opposite of the current situation in many businesses.
  • Continuing the thought on the awesomeness theme – what could you do for your more loyal customers? How can you say “thank you. I appreciate you sticking with us. I value your loyalty and custom. Here is _________ as a thank you”. The _________ is up to you. It could be a discount on their order or an additional product. Or it could be some other ‘value add’ or perk – like client activity days or free seminars. You’ll need to do the math. What is the activity cost versus the cost to acquire new business should you lose their custom?
  • Of course, you wouldn’t need to offer so much customer service if you had a great product. Or at least one with minimal flaws. Draw up a list of everything that is ‘broken’ and fix it. Listen to your customers and staff and ask them what needs to be done to make your offering better. Scott at FreshThinking put it best – “Think Stop. Start. Continue. Ask your customers: What should we stop doing? What should we start doing? What should we continue doing? If you can deliver on those answers then you’ll have happier, more loyal customers. Don’t use the excuse of lack of resource to make these changes. If you can’t divert your existing resources, invest in contractors to speed up the development and delivery.

The list could go on. You need to stop and look closely at your own business. Where can you make it better for your customers?

Find out the churn rate of your customers. Is the number acceptable? How much could you improve it with a greater investment in customer service? And would the value of that improvement be greater than the revenue generated by spending 10% of your budget on new customer attraction.

It’s a bold idea. Are you brave enough to try it?

Business Performance Social Media

Social Sports: the ball is in your court

Sport is big business. The competition on the field is nothing compared to the competition off it for fandom, viewership and in this economic climate, the fan’s dollar / pound. Recognising its potential, Sports businesses are looking to social media to help them reinforce and develop their relationships with fans – and of course to broadcast their product in as many different channels as possible.

Global brands such as New Jersey Nets, Manchester City (image above) and multi-billion dollar entities such as the NFL (3.1 million Facebook fans and counting) are already forging ahead with engagement via social media, including foursquare check-in competitions, Commissioner Q & As and team and player fan pages.

Whilst the Big Boys of sport are already finding success, would this work for other, smaller sports? What would this approach bring to leagues and clubs that are fighting to raise awareness and put bums on seats?

In his blog post ‘How football clubs can use mobile and social media to their advantage’, Felix Wetzel suggests “Opening up these channels would give live events a completely new dimension. It would bring even more energy and most importantly whet the appetite of all the people that are not in the stadium and consequently drive attendance for live matches in general”.

If this is indeed correct, are smaller leagues and clubs taking notice?

To put this to the test, I took a look at a minority sport here in the UK – Basketball – and looked to see how the top flight, the British Basketball League (BBL) utilise social media. I have a very limited familiarity with British Basketball having only seen a few games back in the ‘90s when there was a team nearby. So I was viewing this with fresh eyes.

There are two parts to my review – how the League uses social media on an ongoing basis and how it’s used for an event – in the latter’s case – the 2011 Playoffs Final in Birmingham, the showcase event of the season.

The Social Day-to-Day

Facebook Updates from the League

The BBL is clearly aware of the importance of having a social media presence. They have both a Facebook and Twitter account, and actively promote them in a prominent position on their website. They actually have both a Facebook Group (929 fans) and a newer Fan Page (611 fans), which is a little confusing , plus 633 followers on Twitter. I was a little surprised the Facebook figure was not higher given the 12 teams of the BBL have a combined 6,300 facebook fans.

Both channels are used to broadcast news stories from the league (all links point back into the article on the league website) and score updates during and after games. To a much lighter degree, Facebook has some conversational status updates (i.e. “Who do you think will win between X and Y tonight?”), whilst there are number of retweets of BBL Club accounts’ tweets on Twitter.

As such the league do a very good job of keeping fans up to date with news and events via two of the most popular social networks. Rather than rely on fans visiting the league website, they take the news to the places where their fans are hanging out. This is a good starting point.

Where they don’t do so well, is engagement. Their approach is broadcast, not conversation. I suspect a fair amount of automation in their social activity – likely due to resource, like many organisations. It looks like they use the RSS feed of articles posted on the league website to distribute to the social hubs (using Twitterfeed).

Whilst there is nothing wrong with streamlining activity to make it more efficient, the downside of this approach is that you can be unaware of what is happening in your online community if you’re not present. So you see a lot of news articles, some fan comments and questions, but no response from the league. Ignoring your fans is not a great way of developing a loyal customer base.

As an example, as a paying attendee to the Finals, I enquired via Facebook as to the schedule of events on the day. Attending with a small child, this information was important to me and not available on their website. Sadly the question went unanswered, probably due to an unmanned account.

The Finals Day

Let me just say the BBL Playoff Finals were one of the best, value for money sporting events I have attended. For £21 per ticket, you could see the Final, the All-Star game, a Schools Final, a French acrobatic Basketball Display Team and several other events. The day was very well organised and a great showcase for the BBL.

In terms of social media activity on the day, I had low expectations – and that is not anything to do with the BBL per se. Social media use as an event enhancement is still in its infancy. The NBA and Premier League examples mentioned above are more the exception than the rule, and I wouldn’t expect anything significant in a smaller league, particularly as geo-location adoption is still in an early (but rapid) growth phrase.

Fan Photo Tagging Competition

What I was pleasantly surprised to see leading up to the day was a fan photo tagging competition on Facebook, with a prize of tickets to the Final. It was encouraging to see them experimenting with this approach. Hopefully it proved successful, enabling more innovation in the future.

Upon arrival at the venue – the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham – I checked in on Foursquare. I was the only one, but it was early. Perhaps that would change nearer tip-off… It did, but sadly it peaked at 4 people. My chance at the ‘Swarm’ badge will have to wait a little longer. Maybe next year. It would be unfair to put this on the BBL. It’s a reflection of geo-location uptake generally.

A scan of Twitter around related terms revealed very little in the way of conversation from fans during and after the game, the majority being score and news article updates from the League or clubs.


The great thing about all the new social platforms, apps and technology is that there is so much to play with. It’s a great opportunity for an organisation to experiment and strengthen its customers’ loyalty towards it product or service. With the BBL, for starters, I would suggest:

  • Monitor and participate in the conversion around the BBL brand (Radian6 is great for this). At very least, respond to direct questions via Twitter and Facebook. Preferably, start and encourage conversation.
  • Merge the two Facebook accounts. You’re doubling your efforts and reducing your impact. Go with the newer Fan page (has benefit on being able to message all your fans) and don’t forget to switch the link on your website homepage

The NBA on Youtube

  • Consider other social networks. A Youtube channel would be a great way to share what is a very exciting and visual sport. Check the NBA page on Youtube as an example. Put game footage up there. Let fans add their own videos. Perhaps run a fan video competition. The same approach could be taken with a Flickr photo account. In both instances, let the fans add content – make it theirs, not a corporate place – and you’ll strengthen their interest and connection
  • Make it easy to share the website articles by adding social share buttons. Given the popularity of their networks, I’d certainly recommend a Twitter Tweet button (from either Twitter itself or Tweetmeme) and a selection of the Facebook suite of buttons (Like, Share, Send, etc.). This gives fans an avenue to share content of interest with their friends, removing the reliance on the league to be the only source of distribution.
  • On game day during the season and at events, encourage the use of a hashtag, such as #bbluk or #bbl2011, so fans on Twitter can follow and join in the conversation (just don’t use #bbl as it means “Be back later” in Twitter parlance).
  • Make use of geo-location technology by running a game day check-in competition. Using Facebook Places or Foursquare (or both), any fan who checks into the venue will be eligible for the competition – be it to win merchandise or perhaps a prize draw for entry into a half-time free throw competition.

Overall, I think the BBL are taking very positive steps into the social arena and it could pay dividends. Their approach going forward will be crucial. Social media use is growing at an astronomical rate and other sports are already staking their claim to space within it. If basketball in the UK is to thrive, the League should embrace social with a passion and view it as a central pillar of their acquisition and retention strategy.

How else could the BBL use social media to engage with its fans? What have you seen from other sports or clubs that has worked successfully? I love to hear your thoughts so please fill free to chip in via the comment section below.

If you liked this article, please stroke my fragile ego by clicking the ‘Like’  and/or Tweet button. It makes me smile.

Business Performance Conversion Testing

Who owns Conversion Rate Optimisation in your company?

“Who owns the website?”

It’s a simple question, but one that is difficult to answer. I couldn’t say for sure, when I was asked it this week. If you asked the same question to people from different departments across your organisation, I expect you’d get many different answers. The majority of which would be along the lines of “I/we do”.

Perhaps the answers differ because each department has a different understanding of the question. IT builds and maintains the product/website, so they own it. Sales are selling the product, so they own it. Marketing are promoting and attracting the customers, so they own it.

So if it’s hard to answer the question at such a general level, how do you answer the second question:

Who owns conversion rate optimisation?

Who is responsible for making sure that your product is converting as many of your site visitors into customers?

Let’s look at what may go into adding a new product or feature to your website (this will vary considerably, of course, across companies. Use your imagination!).

A solution to a customer need is identified. It is evaluated (business / strategic fit, cost benefit analysis, etc.), a business requirement drawn up, a technical spec produced. Wireframes sketched, code written, design created. Tested. Launched.

Throughout that somewhat whirlwind tour of the development cycle, it touched people from multiple disciplines and departments. Commercial people, technical people and creative people.

So who is responsible for making sure the new product converts?


If you’re producing the wireframes for the process flow and the page layouts, you’re heavily involved in conversion rate optimisation. Do you own it?

IT Development

If you’re writing the code that produces the pages and functionality within a process, you’re heavily involved in conversion rate optimisation. Do you own it?


If you’re responsible for driving the traffic into your site and ensuring as many convert (register, buy, subscribe, etc.), then you’re heavily involved in conversion rate optimisation. Do you own it?

You’re probably sensing a trend here.

Conversion rate optimisation clearly affects people across many areas of a business, making it very difficult to pin ownership on one department or person.

And when no one owns an activity, it usually goes one of two ways.

1.       It either gets neglected and doesn’t happen, or

2.       You spend a lot of time arguing and achieved nothing

So, how do you determine who owns it?

I don’t have a definitive answer – though I do have an opinion – but I’d love to know how it’s done in other companies. I know there are some very bright people out there who must have gone through this thought process before, so it’d be great if you could share your opinion in the comments.

So, my opinion?

I think you need to go back to a question I asked earlier:

Who is responsible for making sure that your product is converting as many of your site visitors into customers?

Who actually tracks and is measured by site conversion performance? Find that person in your organisation and you have your answer.From one company to the next that person could sit in different departments. In my current organisation it is a Marketing person, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me something different.

The department doesn’t matter as much as the person. They need to have an inquisitive mind, a need to delve in and understand why. They need to understand cause and effect, and what makes people tick. They need to be excited about the concept of continuous optimisation and grin from ear to ear when their percentage points trek northwards.

No true journey is best done alone however.

Conversion optimisation is at its most effective when a business and its people are working together to achieve it. Not wasting time about who owns it – that has been decided – but bringing together their talents and skill-sets in a coordinated movement to improve processes and designs in the areas they touch. So it’s a cultural thing too.

So, who owns conversion rate optimisation in your company? I’d love to hear your thoughts or about your experiences overcoming the same question. Or maybe you have a totally different way of viewing it – I can’t wait to hear that 

Business Performance

Your website stinks!

Picture this internal monologue in the mind of a prospective customer…

Argh, time to renew my home insurance again.

What was the TV ad I saw with the special deal if I switch to them? The one with the singing pig…

Bah, I’ll Google it…’l-o-w c-o-s-t h-o-m-e i-n-s-u-r-a-n-c-e’…

Hmmm, was it this one? [click]…that rings a bell…not sure though…

What about this one? [click]… No, don’t think so but it has kind of got the same deal…can’t be bothered to keep searching, I’ll give it a go…

What you were just privy to there, was the thought process of your potential customer as they walked out the [digital] door.

The galling thing was that it was your website they were looking at first. They looked but didn’t stop because they weren’t sure it was the one they were looking for. There was no reference to the deal, and no pig in sight. This happens every day, across all industries and products, no matter whether its ads on TV, print, radio, or outdoor media.

Why? What’s missing?


Follow your nose

We’re not talking some kind of new fangled sniff-o-vision or those perfume inserts in magazines. Scent refers to the visual clues that the individual uses to connect – and carry over – brand elements from one medium to another. This can be images, taglines, logos, calls to action or any other significant identifier that is used consistently.

Scent is essential when drawing customers from your offline media to online, as there is inevitably a chasm in the process where they must leap from the advert to your website. Those that are smart build bridges to aid the customer across – they place the URL in the ad – but even that is reliant on memory or the ad being to hand. It is the scent, the recognition of the visual clues, which reassures and builds confidence within the customer, presenting opportunities for conversion.

With digital media the problem is slightly different. Thankfully, the hero of the internet – the humble hyperlink – not only carries them across the bridge, it does so in the blink of an eye, removing – or at least limiting – pesky distractions.

No, the problem digital media experiences is less Herculean than the path the offline conversion treads. It’s laziness. Unfortunately, despite the ability to harness the power of the link to carefully shepherd the customer down our conversion funnel, we internet marketers have a tendency to brain-fart at times and take our carefully segmented, behavioural targeted prospects and dump them on our generic, catch all homepage.

Whilst the potential customer knows they’re on the right website, it hardly helps the conversion process if they experience no correlation between the two mediums.

The Sniff Test

Whether its on- or offline media, we need to ensure the scent flows from one media to the next  – consistency is key.

If you run an ad campaign – TV, print, email, display, whatever – featuring a singing pig, make damn sure that pig is smiling up at you when you hit the website. If your pig has a witty ‘bring home the bacon’ catchphrase or strapline, then get it in your Google Adwords copy (and yes you need to be bidding on ‘pig advert’ too – sadly they won’t always remember your brand, no matter how big your budget).

Then make sure your homepage and your bespoke landing pages feature our perky, pink friend to reassure your customer as you tempt them down the path to conversion.

The true test to you as a marketer is to get all your ducks in row (sorry more animal metaphors). Your customers have a multitude of ways into your website – are they all telling the same story?


(and full disclosure, I worked on this campaign)

You have a TV ad (or print, billboard, etc.) running offline.

Your audience may see it away from their computer, so you continue the theme on your mobile site:

You use the same wording from the TV creative in your PPC ads:

And finally you repeat the messaging / imagery on your website’s homepage:

The path is complete. Throughout each touchpoint you’ve been consistent with your message, your imagery and your brand, leaving no doubt in the mind of the potential customer.

So what do you think? Do you have any great – or poor – examples of scent in campaigns you’d like to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Business Performance Conversion Testing

Talk like a customer to attract a customer

Does your Search specialist input into the briefing of your creative agency for your next print, TV or radio campaign? No? How about your Email marketer?

Probably not and why would they? That’s offline. These guys focus on clicks not branding, right?

In many businesses there is a distinct line separating the Online (technical) marketers and the Offline (creative) marketers. And that’s a big mistake.

Qualitative versus Quantitative (or both)

Think about it. The Creatives discuss the brand, its values, the messaging and then create ‘above the line’ ads to raise awareness or shift perceptions and hopefully, eventually, increase conversions and revenue.

The brief comes from the business. The ads come from the minds of the Creatives.

What’s missing from the process is the audience. Budget allowing, you’ll show your ads to focus groups – maybe a total of 10-100 people depending on the size of your wallet. This will give you valuable ideas and insight, but still requires some interpretation.

Understanding which words your audience will respond to is difficult. Especially when the feedback is qualitative.

What is missing is the quantitative data, and it’s sitting right under your nose.

If you’re running PPC or email campaigns, you already know the words that encourage the click / action:

  • The high click-thru Adwords headlines and copy
  • The headlines and call to action on your highest converting landing pages
  • The subject lines of emails with the highest open rates

And of course, you’ve been running conversion tests on the whole process to identify the best copy, message, offers, guarantees, etc. Let’s not forget, there’s also your Analytics package, which shows you the words customers are using to find you through search engines in the first place.

This data is extremely valuable to the development of your offline campaign.

Blah, blah, blah

With all this data to hand it’s important to ensure you work with Creatives who appreciate it. Creating a visual / aural work of art is great, but it’s not enough.

If your ad is full of words or phrases unfamiliar to your audience then you’re simply not going to connect with them. Use their language. What do your customers call your products / services? How do they refer to it in conversation? What does your data say?

Once you’ve figured that out go through your ad scripts and throw out anything that smacks of marketing talk.

Your agency might not appreciate it, but your customers – and your conversion rate – will.

Business Performance Innovation

Sell your competitors’ products

If you’re a customer of the shopping behemoth, you can’t have failed to have noticed that Amazon let competitors use their website to sell their products. Known as Marketplace, like many others you’ve probably thought it’s a little odd. A bit counter-intuitive, isn’t it?

I’m just guessing, but I suspect you don’t let your competitors do the same?

Why not?

It’s a calculated move by Amazon and it’s very clever. Whilst it might seem barmy, if done seamlessly it can establish your site as the single place to go to buy your industry’s products.

Why? Well, crucially, it reduces effort on the part of your customers, which will ALWAYS improve your conversion rates. As a consumer I don’t really care where the book comes from as long as it doesn’t require any extra work on my part and I still get the assurance that comes from buying via Amazon.

The Pros and Cons

So how can that help your business?

There are many reasons why you should consider such a bold move:

  • Your customers will stay loyal because you always have the product they need
  • They’ll repeat purchase
  • You’ll establish a reputation as the authority in your industry
  • You’ll receive more referrals as your customer satisfaction increases
  • You can generate a revenue share from competitor sales

So what are the risks to your business?

  • Amazon is successful because the majority of sales come from their own listings, not via Marketplace. So Marketplace is an additional option for the customer, not the main one. If you don’t have many products and a customer frequently views or buys items from competitors on your site, they may begin to question which brand is the authority.
  • Tip #1: counteract this by limiting the product listings from each competitor
  • Tip #2: Ensure your site features a sufficient number of your own listings
  • Tip #3: Place your products first in search listings, ahead of competitor products
  • Tip #4: Only pull in competitor listings if you have insufficient listings of your own for that product
  • Be wary of the user experience. Be careful not to compromise it for the sake of making a few more sales.
  • Tip #5: Make the process seamless with no (or minimal) variation to your standard user experience (particular the checkout process). Ideally you don’t ask the customer to register again on a second site.

Promoting your competitors’ products is undoubtedly a bold move. You’ll need to balance the pros and cons, but it’s a strategic decision that could fundamentally shift your position within your market.