Business Performance Innovation

Innovate for your brand’s survival

Let’s be honest, you can milk your Cash Cow for quite some time. However, like oil, one day it’s going to run out. Then what?

Well, by that point it’s too late. One, or several, of those pesky start-ups who launch good looking websites with shiny, multi-featured products, will have figured out how to monetise their passion and will be waving at you in slow-mo as they pass you by.

You’ll be left to wonder what happened and at some point you’ll look at your new market leaders and will lament “we could have done that”.

Ideas needed – apply within

So, you’ve seen the future and you don’t like it. What are you going to do?

Firstly, look to your customers. And particularly to those who aren’t your customers. Don’t start building anything until you understand what they need. Not necessarily what they say they want – or what you want – but what they need. There is a big difference. Answering a need secures a customer for the long term, answering a want will have you following fads and wasting resources.

Secondly, embrace the creativity in your workplace. Great ideas are not limited to the executive suite. The Support Assistant on the phone speaking to the irate customer may have the greatest insight of all in your business. A cliché it may be, but employees are the business’ greatest asset. Tap into it. Treat your employees like citizens, let them join the cause.

This is a cultural thing. Much like your brand in the social sphere, is your business happy to relinquish ‘control’ to the ‘masses’?

Consider it. It can produce exciting results.

A case in point

At the 2010 Onrec Awards for the online recruitment industry, won in two categories – one of which was for its candidate services. Amongst the products included under that banner, were Jobs-by-Twitter, BeMyInterviewer and RecruitRank.

Jobs-by-Twitter is an API integration between Jobsite and the micro-blogging platform. It was created as an experiment to understand how we can reduce the searching workload of jobseekers by delivering relevant jobs to a platform they were already using daily. It was also a direct response against the torrent of untargeted job tweets gushing into the Twitter sphere

BeMyInterviewer is an interactive interview practice service that utilises video to enable jobseekers to rehearse with top industry professionals, including the likes of Dragons’ Den mogul Duncan Bannatyne.

RecruitRank is a jobseeker feedback system, enabling applicants to rate recruitment agencies for the customer service they received. It came in response to research that revealed over half of jobseekers find the process of job hunting frustrating and demoralising.

All three products came to life through the creativity of Jobsite employees – be it initial concept or enabling the idea to flourish into a fully featured – and useful – product for our customers.

It was possible because the culture promotes such creativity – to step beyond the paint-by-numbers approach that has littered the industry with commodity products.

Be a market leader

Seth Godin, in his book ‘Linchpin’, defines a Hierarchy of Value as follows:

Lift, Hunt, Grow, Produce, Sell, Connect, Create

For your company to be (or continue to be) successful it will need to deliver at multiple levels across the hierarchy. However, to lead your market into the future you need to excel at creation, at innovation.

Take a look at what you offer your customers. How is that different to what your competitors provide? Now find out what your customers actually want and throw some grey matter at finding solutions. It’s crowd-sourcing on a company level. Get everyone in a room – physically or figuratively – and throw away the job titles. Leave them at the door, they’re not needed here.

Now start creating.

Business Performance

7 Top Tips for increasing revenue via the web

Kevin Costner lied to us.

‘Build it and they will come’

It may have worked for disgraced baseball playing ghosts in the Iowa corn fields, but that doesn’t mean it will work for your website.

The internet has long promised to be a Mecca for entrepreneurial types to make their fortune, but it’s never been a simple matter of laying out your website (or baseball diamond) and waiting for the customers (or ghosts) to appear.

It takes a lot of work and some smart, joined up thinking.

So wasting no time, how can you increase the revenue generated from your website?

Tip 1: There is no online and offline

Stop thinking of these as two separate entities. They are just channels. If you run them independently, as silos, then you’ll miss many opportunities to increase your revenue. You may need to hire people with different skill sets, but they should to be working together to achieve your business and revenue goals.

For example, if you run an event such as a music festival, are you acquiring customers’ contact details when they register for tickets, so you can send email alerts for future gigs?

Tip 2: Instil Confidence

Appearances are important. A poorly designed website will act as a deterrent not a facilitator to sales. You don’t necessarily need to hire an expensive design agency, just a skilful one that understands your brief and is able to apply learnings from their experience building transactional sites.

And security is crucial. You must be able to clearly demonstrate your site is secure or your potential customers will be gone, off to your competitors before you know it.

Tip 3: Show the product

Youtube just announced that 24 hours of video footage is uploaded to their site every minute. Why? Because people respond to imagery. We love to watch. A picture paints a thousand words is a saying for a reason.

Don’t just tell your customer about your product, show it to them. Use photos or video, whichever lends itself to your product. If you’re selling books, a cover photo will suffice (better still, show them inside the book), but it you’re marketing a cruise or a motor show, use video to convey the experience. The words are important, but the imagery can bring it to life.

Tip 4: Social proof

The wisdom of crowds, as social proof is known, is when individuals look to others’ behaviour when faced with making a decision. The principle follows that if I see all my peers buying an iPad then maybe it’s the right thing for me too.

Examples you can use on your site are customer testimonials, ratings & reviews, number of subscribers, recommendations, number of products sold, press clippings, etc.

Your site can be set up to collect these as part of a process or as a feature, but don’t forget to take advantage of your real world interactions with your customers. If you have sales people, give them a Flip video camera and get them to interview their clients.

Tip 5: Test, test and test some more

If you have a shop, you probably move your displays around to see what works best for getting customers to fill their baskets. The same applies online. Here it is called A/B testing and multi-variate testing.

I’m a big fan of testing. Making small changes to your web pages can return huge dividends in sales. A common problem with most websites is that once built, they are left alone. The developer or web designer’s preferred approach is deemed the right one – i.e. the best way to convert a visitor into a paying customer.

Conversion rate optimisation challenges that limiting approach and finds the true path to financial enlightenment…the one trod by the customer.

I recommend reading my post ‘How to increase landing page conversions by 100%’ for a detailed explanation and case study.

Tip 6: Reduce waste – retarget

To maximise your advertising you need to ensure more of your visitors convert to sales. Conversion testing will help that from a process perspective, but you need something else to bring back the browsing visitor who is researching before purchase.

new form of display (banner) advertising is available based on behavioural targeting. It works by dropping a cookie on a visitor’s computer when they view a product (but don’t purchase) enabling you to present them with relevant display adverts on other sites they visit.

This is super targeted advertising. For instance, if you visited a job site, looked at a job but did not apply, the banner will show you the job you looked at, plus similar jobs. Every visitor will see different content in the banner, depending on the jobs they viewed. The reason why this type of advertising is so successful at driving conversions is because it serves relevant ads to the consumer whilst they’re ‘in-market’, in a buying frame of mind.

Tip 7: Capture email permissions

Finally, we come to email. If you don’t yet have a customer email database, get one. You can go through all of the above steps and successfully convert a visitor to a sale. However, if you implement a successful email marketing system and database, you can make multiple sales.

You have to get it right though, as breaking the rules can be costly to your business. You don’t want to go to all this effort just to get hauled in front of the Information Commissioner for spamming or having your emails blocked by the ISPs.

Read up on the legislation. Then read it again and make sure you’ve set up your system correctly. Remember it’s all about the permission. Don’t assume you can email individuals just because you have their address. Seek permission first.

Don’t stop with email addresses and permissions though. Try to collect more information on your customers – unobtrusively – so you can segment your audience.

For instance, what did they buy? When? Where do they live? Do they repeat purchase? What else did they look at? Etc. Use this data for future mailings, offering products and services of relevance. This way you can increase the yield per customer, whilst minimising the number of unsubscribe requests.

Business Performance Conversion Testing

How to increase landing page conversions by 100%

An inordinate amount of time, effort and money goes into optimising paid search accounts. If you’re good at it, you can either save a lot of money, or get a lot more bang for your buck.

Anyone that has done paid search advertising will know that you can make some big improvements quite quickly just by optimising your accounts (I say ‘just‘, there can be a lot of work involved and unless you’re blessed with such talents it usually involves getting in a specialist or search agency to help).

However, there comes a point where the changes you make result in smaller and smaller gains. It’s still getting better but you’re not getting as much return on your efforts as you once did. This leads to a belief that the only way to achieve more conversions is to increase the budget.

Wrong. There is in fact, a massive opportunity staring you right in the face. The problem is you can’t see it because you’re probably looking in the wrong place.

Chasing your tail

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

You need to bring in traffic to your site, traffic that converts, buys your product or uses your service. You set up paid search accounts, organise your campaigns, ad groups, keywords and tracking URLs. You choose a page on your site to send them to (or knock up a bespoke one for that purpose, because that’s better right?) and start feeding Google the cash.

You check the reports, you make some tweaks, you fist pump when the conversions improve, you pour in more cash, report, tweak, fist pump, cash, report, tweak…until you reach the point when you run out of ideas to make it work better.

Enter, landing page optimisation.

Where did it all go wrong?

I say enter landing page optimisation, but to be perfectly honest, you should really be doing this right at the beginning of your campaigns, not when you’ve run out of ideas.

So how did we end up here?

There are basically two common mistakes with approaches to landing pages (or any website pages, in fact).

1. The ‘Build it and Leave it‘ approach – usually found in companies under-resourced or over capacity with ideas. There is so much going on and not enough time to do it. So the first page up there is staying up and don’t even think of slowing down the next project in the pipeline, thank you very much.

Unfortunately, there is a very high probability that this page is not the best it could be at converting your endless stream of – paid for – traffic. Whilst your company is quickly moving on to the next project to make money or improve efficiency, you’re busy pouring part of your marketing budget down the drain.

2. The ‘I Know Best‘ approach – is found everywhere experienced, enthusiastic, opinionated people are striving to make their company successful (it’s also found in companies where people couldn’t give a hoot for that matter).

Regardless of intention, sometimes that experience, enthusiasm and opinion can get in the way of making the right decision.

Avinash Kaushik, Google’s Analytics Evangelist and author of Web Analytics 2.0, describes this quite nicely when he talks of HiPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion). In a room full of potential contributors to a solution, the HiPPO’s way is invariably the way that it’s going to be. It’s not necessarily the wrong solution, but it isn’t always right. It’s just human nature – in times of tricky decisions we tend to look toward authority first.

The MVT Generation

The answer to both problems can be found in data. Yes, I know, big yawn, but trust me, when you use it in the way I’m about to describe you’re actually going to get excited about data.

What you need to do is employ Multivariate Testing (MVT).

If you’ve never come across the term before, then essentially, multivariate testing is a process by which multiple components of a page (or pages) on a website are tested simultaneously in a live environment to determine the variant with the highest probability of achieving your goal.

In other words, test a whole bunch of variations of the same page to find out which version is more likely to get your visitor to convert (i.e. purchase / sign up / download, etc.).

The great thing about multivariate testing is that it removes ego and opinion from the process. It relies entirely on data from real activity on your site. This is true customer led design. Who better to determine how your site should work than the people who actually use your site?

And for this small concession, this release on decision-making, you get better conversion rates. In other words, you get the greater return on investment you were looking for.

CASE STUDY: increase registration sign-ups by 103%

In the not too distant past, Jobsite were sending PPC traffic through to a site registration form, with a goal of increasing volume and lowering cost per registration. It wasn’t a particular pretty page – a clunky two column design made it unreasonably long, despite the minimal number of questions.

Start Simple – A/B testing

We started our experiment with a simple A/B test (one version versus another). As ever, you need a default design (A) to compare against the new version (B). In this instance, A was the single page form and B was the same form split over two pages.

Variant A – Single Page

Variant B – Two Pages

There is a web convention that says you should minimise your user journey to increase the likelihood of the task being completed. It’s not unreasonable to view this as a recommendation to minimise the number of pages.

Well, in this case, it didn’t work out that way. Sometimes conventions just have to fall by the wayside.

Our visitors preferred to complete the process over two pages, as we experienced 30% uplift on Variant B over Variant A.

Whilst unconfirmed, it could be surmised that breaking the form into two chunks made it a less daunting task for the visitor.

Step it up a gear – multivariate testing

Next, we moved to testing the elements on the two pages – titles, text, buttons, colours and positioning.

Multivariate testing page elements

How this works technically will vary depending on the MVT product you use. Essentially, you get to slice the page up into element boxes and the software will create variations of your original page using different combinations of these elements. This could result in 5 pages, 50 pages or 500 pages, depending on the number of elements involved.

The software will then serve these variations to visitors in a live environment. You do need a reasonable amount of traffic to the page to run a test; otherwise the sample size will not be sufficiently robust to make an accurate assessment.

As visitors interact with the test pages, the software will identify page combinations that are converting higher than the default page. More traffic will then be diverted to those pages to test the indication. The test will continue until a point where a page (or pages) has established a clear higher probability of outperforming the default page.

Depending on traffic levels, this could take a few days or several weeks.

At the end of the Jobsite test, the winning combination of elements produced a page that increased registrations by an incredible 103% over the original page.

Looks like hard work – do I need it?

If a significant proportion of your marketing budget each month is spent on PPC to buy in new business, then you need to be doing multivariate testing.

What do you think the reaction would be in your company if you reported a 100% increase in conversions?

Let’s make up an example and do some sums:

PPC spend of £10,000 – gets 15,000 visits – converting at 5% = 750 new customers

Average spend per customer = £20
Revenue = £15,000

50% higher conversion following A/B test (1125 new customers)
Revenue = £22,500

100% higher conversion following multivariate testing (1500 new customers)
Revenue = £30,000

Now I’m not saying multivariate testing is guaranteed to get you a 100% increase in your own key metrics, but it is possible. The important thing to remember is that every site, every page and every audience is different. What works for one site does not necessarily work for another. You have to test it for yourself.

A few landing page tips

To get you started, here are some pointers on good practice for designing landing pages. Remember, your site is different to my site, so experiment.

  • Streamline to one objective on the page.
  • Minimise on-page distractions and means to navigate elsewhere.
  • If you’ve pushed visitors to the page (e.g. via PPC), ensure the page meets their expectations. If you’ve promised a free whitepaper, do not dump them on your homepage and expect them to go find it.
  • Minimise the work of the visitor – keep it simple and collect only the data you need.
  • Experiment with differing headlines, buttons, images and calls to action.
  • Consider adding examples of social proof – e.g. testimonials or statistics – to demonstrate why the users should be following the wisdom of the crowd and signing up to your service.

Multivariate Testing Tools

I have experience of using Maxymiser and Google Web Optimizer and both have done an excellent job. Maxymiser is the more advanced offering of the two and they can provide an account team to minimise your workload (they’ll help set up the test, design the page elements and provide you with reporting), but obviously this comes at a price.

Conversely, Google Web Optimiser is a free service, and hence you don’t get all the bells and whistles, but it is a very good piece of software and is perfectly capable of doing the tests most people need.

Other multivariate testing providers include:

Web Trends

Next up

As you can see, multivariate testing can be a game changer for you and your company. On a personal level, it’s a great opportunity for you to make a substantial difference in your own performance. Big improvements at no extra cost tend to get you noticed.

I for one will be doing a lot of testing in 2010. I have a very exciting test underway, as I look to understand how above the line TV advertising impacts online conversion metrics. I’ll share the results at a later date.

I’d be very interested in hearing your own multivariate testing stories. Either leave comments here or share them with me on Twitter.

Business Performance Innovation Search Engine Marketing Social Media

Top 10 It’s Digital Marketing Posts of 2009

And that was 2009.

Hopefully yours was a good one, it certainly was for me.  On reflection, much happened in 2009 – both from a personal and web perspective. So much, in fact, it’s hard to imagine it all happened in just 365 days.

I felt like I learnt a lot this year. Much of which, I can say was due to Twitter. On the 5th of January 2009, I wrote my first blog post, entitled ‘What’s the point of Twitter?‘. I’d heard about it, wasn’t overly enthusiastic about it, but thought it was worth a go for a month. I never looked back and now check it at least a trillion times a day via my laptop or iPhone.

Twitter gave me access to the minds of brilliant people. Particular favourites being Chris BroganBrent PayneBrian ClarkLisa BaroneScott Stratten and Steve Rubel. I’ve learnt a tremendous amount from them all (many thanks!), impacting my day job and the handful of personal endeavours that have spawned over the year. It’s been an incredibly enriching experience.

It makes me very excited about the prospect of 2010 – what on earth will we learn and acheive this year?

As we close the book on 2009, I’d like to thank everyone that has read my blog this year (or at the very least, come looking for images to re-use). It’s been a very enjoyable experience – one that I need to dedicate much more time to this year.

For one final look at 2009, I’d like to share with you the Top 10 It’s Digital Marketing posts this year. Enjoy!

1. Twitter Statistics: UK traffic increased 22-fold in a year (24th June)

2. Google Profiles to take on in job market? (7th May)

3. 10 Insider Tips to win a Search Agency pitch (2nd March)

4. Ryanair: Cheap flights and cheap service (24th Feb)

5. Building an App for Twitter (2nd July)

6. 10 Signs you’re addicted to Twitter (25th March)

7. Social Proof: The wisdom of crowds (15th Sept)

8. To find a job think like a SEO (13th Feb)

9. Sex, Drugs & Rock & Roll: Google Maps Mashup Style (23rd Nov)

10. Social Media Innovation (9th Oct)

Have a happy and prosperous 2010 everybody!


Business Performance Social Media

Twitter statistics: UK traffic increased 22-fold in a year

Robin Goad, Research Director of Hitwise UK revealed some interesting statistics regarding the growth of Twitter today.

Writing on his Hitwise blog, Goad reported UK traffic to the micro-blogging site has increased 22-fold in the last 12 months. That growth has meant that has leapt from the 969th most visited site (May ’08)  in the UK to 38th (May ’09). The most impressive aspect of that growth is the fact that 93% of it has come in the first five months of 2009 alone.

As Goad rightly pointed out, that number in all likelihood should be even higher if you factor in the vast number of third party applications such as Seesmic, Tweetdeck and Twitterific that people use to access Twitter remotely.

On the same day it was reported that the number of companies using Facebook’s automated advertising system has tripled over the last year.

According to the article on,

‘Brand owners are increasingly attempting to utilise the developing range of social media tools to connect with consumers, with Coca-Cola, Kraft and Starbucks among the most successful proponents of this strategy on Facebook thus far.

The website – which has 200 million users worldwide – is expected to generate ad revenues of over $300 million (€214m; £184m) in 2009, enhancing its position at the expense of rivals such as MySpace.’

Which leads me to think that if the guys at Twitter want to make any money they had better move quickly with a monetisation model to capitalise on the social network’s massive growth. Many would argue that they have already squandered an opportunity by observing this popularity tipping point rather than acting when the signs were there at the beginning of the year.

An ad supported service is a highly contenious issue that never fails to produce polar opposite opinions. But Twitter only needs to look towards MySpace to realise that sometimes your time in the sun can be finite and that perhaps now is the time to act.