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Business Performance Conversion Testing Customer Experience Innovation Product Development Search Engine Marketing

How to growth hack your business and achieve sustainable results

The first rule of Growth Hacking? Don’t talk about growth hacking.

That was my paraphrased tweet quoting one of the speakers at the Growth Hacking Conference in London recently. It seems I’m not the only one who isn’t a fan of the name but feels the principles behind it are sound, if a little misunderstood.

Many people (maybe just us Brits?) roll their eyes when they hear the phrase ‘growth hacking’, thinking it’s a cheesy term applied to the processes of inflating numbers exceptionally quickly with a goal of reaching a ridiculous valuation figure that gets Mark Zuckerberg jingling his pocket change.

So it was refreshing to hear so many of the speakers at the conference talking about sustainable growth – yes, build a product that scales, but also one that provides value to its audience, not just for 3 days, 3 weeks weeks or 3 months, but on an ongoing basis. A product that would be missed if it were no longer there.

I scribbled a lot of notes throughout that day, so let me share a few of them here, along with the speaker slidedecks. If you want more, head over to the collaborative Google doc that was edited live throughout the event.

Find Product / Market Fit

The Father of Growthhacking (or at least the phrase coiner), Sean Ellis (@SeanEllis) hosted the event and shared his thoughts on the drivers of growth:

  1. Right product in the right market and
  2. Successful execution of ideas

Product / Market fit was a theme throughout the day. Ellis posits that without it, sustainable growth just isn’t possible. In fact, it’s critical for strong organic growth (Growthhackers are particularly keen on organic growth. Most argue the paid stuff should come once you have traction. That’s not to say you can’t scale a paid channel to achieve growth. You just need deeper pockets).

Ellis has a useful way of determining if a business has a strong product / market fit. He surveys the customer base and asks how many would be ‘very disappointed’ if they couldn’t use the product anymore. If you can hit 40%, then you have a strong product / market fit. Then you need to stack the odds in your favour by understanding what those people are getting from your product so you can reproduce it / scale it with others.

Hustle to find scaleable growth

Zack Onisko (@zack415), from Creative Market, talked of trying out creative, out-of-the-box ideas to get to your goal in the shortest possible time. He referred to it as the Hustle stage – trying out a variety of channels, potentially non-scaleable, to try and find one that could be unlocked and scale.

Gaining Early Traction by Doing Things that Don’t Scale (Hustling) from Zack Onisko

He gave 20 ways to hustle, of which my favourites were:

  • Speaking with customers to find out how to improve the product
  • Go above and beyond with customers – sending them surprise gifts, thank-you messages, building brand loyalty
  • Give something away for signing up – asking for info is high friction, so do an exchange. They give you their email address, you give them something of value to them (i.e. a book, free service, money)
  • Forge partnerships with other likeminded businesses – help each other
  • ‘Eat your own dog food’ – make sure you use the product yourself. Understand it, know its weaknesses and improve them

Build a positive Net Promoter Score

NPS Driven Growth or How to grow your startup w from Nilan Peiris

Net Promoter Score (NPS), was discussed several times, particularly by Nilan Peiris (@nilanp) of TransferWise, as an effective tool for measuring how your audience views your brand or product. NPS asks a single question:

How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend or colleague?

Customers answer on a 0-10 scale and labelled Detractors (0-6), Passives (7-8) or Promoters (9-10). To calculate your company’s NPS, take the percentage of customers who are Promoters and subtract the percentage who are Detractors.

Clearly you want as many Promoters and as few Detractors as possible. How do you do that? Build a ‘must-have’ product, provide great service and exceed expectations.

Be aware though that a large number of Passives isn’t ideal either as those people are indifferent to your product, meaning they’d have less resistance switching if an attractive alternative product was available.

Study your successes

It’s very easy to get caught up trying to figure out how you can persuade the disinterested to buy your product. An alternative approach was suggested by Dr Karl Blanks from Conversion Rate Experts. He suggests it’s more productive to focus on those that did buy. He recommends asking customers immediately after they have purchased this question:

What was the one thing that nearly made you not buy from us today?

Whatever their one thing was, it wasn’t enough to dissuade them, but it could be putting off many others who are dithering over their purchases also. If you can identify those issues and fix them, you’ll win those ‘almost-in-reach’ customers. That has got to be easier than trying to convert someone not interested in buying.

A bonus tip from Blanks: reverse engineer success by creating a custom segment in Google Analytics for those that bought from you. Then look at their behaviour and the content they looked at and try and figure out why those were successful.

Find your customer’s voice

SEO Tactics to Love vs. Leave from Rand Fishkin

Moz‘s Rand Fishkin (@randfishkin) and his legendary coiffed hair adorned the stage to speak about organic SEO growth. His slides were full of great nuggets but if I’m only to pick one, I found his thoughts on using the customer’s language thought provoking. He discussed ‘intent keywords’ and how to build a list of them to target with content. Keyword suggestion tools have their limits, so he recommended these three activities to generate them:

  1. Look at your competitors activity – see what they rank for
  2. Talk to customers directly (and your sales people) – what words are used in the conversations
  3. Look for conversations online in forums and places like Reddit – what is the language used?

It’s surprising how often businesses make assumptions about the words to target for SEO and content. The gap between assumption and reality is often a chasm. Locate the words used by the customer, not you.

Other Awesome Speaker Decks

There were so many great speakers at the Growth Hacking Conference, it would take quite a lengthy post just to summarise the main takeaways. So instead I’ve rounded up the remaining slidedecks I could find and included them here.

Hands-on Hacks – A Flipbook of Inspirational Growth Wins from Marie Steinthaler

The 3 Ugly Ducklings of Growth. from Geckoboard

 A Growth Checklist

As the day closed, I tried to summarise the main takeaways in a list to take back to the office. So in my newly educated opinion, If you want to build sustainable growth for your business I would suggest:

  • Build an awesome product (find Product/Market match)
  • Develop a strong Customer Value Proposition (i.e. why you’re relevent, what you offer, why you’re better)
  • Provide great customer service
  • Build in feedback loops to your product (and act on it)
  • Find likeminded partners to promote
  • Ensure data / measurement are baked in to your product and processes
  • Optimise the journeys (using conversion rate optimisation testing, i.e A/B or MVT)
  • Delight your customers (and measure with NPS)
  • Find smart people to advise you (and to ground you when you fall in love with your product and can’t see when you’re wrong).

So, all in all a great conference, one of the best I’ve attended. There aren’t too many events you can attend where you can discuss product, data, conversion rate optimisation, customer service, partnerships, entrepreneurship, with smart people who are equally happy to talk about their mistakes as well as their successes. If its on again next year, I’d recommend you attend. I’ll see you there.

Awesome photo courtesy of Dan Barker, ecommerce & online marketing expert and dab hand with a camera. Worth a follow on Twitter @danbarker

Categories
Innovation

Our Future Technology: It’s Child’s Play

Me: what did you do at school today?

Son: Learned about the world using Google Earth.


I really hadn’t expected that answer. If you think about that for a moment it’s quite staggering. My son is 5 years old and in his first year of school. When I was 5 I can’t imagine I even knew what an atlas was and maybe I didn’t know the world existed outside my town, let alone my country.

So after dinner we took a trip up and around the top of Mount Everest. We also visited Ayers Rock in Australia, the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and my personal favourite, we zoomed in to the 50 yard line of Soldier Field, home to the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

Ain’t technology awesome.

From the past

Three years ago in the early days of this blog I wrote an article entitled ‘Sticky Fingers: Our Children’s Technological Future’, in which I marveled at my then 2 year old son’s intuitive use of my iPhone and his frustration with the ‘archaic’ non-Touch television we own.

I also wrote this:

From a school perspective, it’ll be interesting to see how it develops.

I still remember the excitement of being allowed to use a calculator in class for the first time, I can’t imagine being able to open up a browser to access the web via the school WiFi.

Much will depend on education funding, but isn’t it likely that within just a few years all school children will be working from laptops or iPad-like devices in class, rather than with books and pens?

Much of this technology is already available, but what else is to come? How about…3D experiences of faraway places, visiting the Pyramids or back in time to ‘witness’ historical events?

Funnily enough, I recall on the day we took the tour of the school, chuckling at the line of kids that passed us in the corridor each with a school laptop firmly grasped in their little hands. Now to hear my son has regular tours of the globe via Google Earth makes me think again about the impact of technology on our children’s lives.

To the future

Sometimes I feel we don’t see the speed of technology evolution. In a similar way, as a parent you don’t always see how your baby changes over a few months when you see them every day. So in some ways, we take tech for granted. The development and adoption curve of new technology is moving at such a rate that I think we lose sight of those ‘WOW’ moments (consider the arrival of the video player, the Walkman, the ipod). Today, we get excited by an announcement of a new phone from Brand X, but its quickly replaced by a ‘phablet’ from Brand Y the following week. We become a little blind to it.

So for our children – at least in certain parts of the world – technology is a hygiene factor. It’s there and will be used everyday. To them its no different than when we used our pencil and notebooks.

As a parent I think it its important to help your child develop the right skills for this future. It’s why the Code.org initiative caught my eye and is worthy of support.

If you haven’t heard of Code.org before, it’s a non-profit foundation dedicated to growing computer programming education. It’s supported by luminaries from the world of tech, business, politics, sports and entertainment, such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, President Bill Clinton, Richard Branson and Stephen Hawking (check the incredible supporters list). Their goal is to get computer science and computer programming into the curriculum of every school.

Yes, this would help address the worldwide shortage of computer programmers, but for me it’s not just about that one profession. Regardless of role, it would equip our children to be part of the future conversation, to be the instigators of new businesses and innovations.

As it happens, Steve Jobs agrees with me:

“I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”
— Steve Jobs, the Lost Interview

If your child understands technology, they can shape technology. They can see its possibilities and address its weaknesses. They can speak the language of those that will build it line by line.

Parents and schools need to go beyond the code, however. Kids need to be encouraged to question, and not to be rebuked for challenging the status quo. They need agile minds to be able to solve puzzles. Creativity needs to be embraced – not just through technology but with good old fashioned pencil and paint. Let them get messy, stretch their imaginations.

And please, teach them the value of money and of investment. Help them develop a strong work ethic and the importance of not giving up.

Technology is awesome, but not as much as those creating it.

Categories
Innovation

Who needs talent when you have technology?

Is technology reducing the need to learn new skills? Do you think it undermines talent?

Recently I downloaded Instagram. Yeah, a bit late to that party, I know. It quickly became one of my favourite apps. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a simple app that enables you to take a photo on your iPhone and apply filters to produce images like the one above.

Not too long ago this kind of manipulation of images used to be limited to a talented, minority group of people who had worked to attain technical and creative skills, usually photographers and designers.

Today, I bypassed any study and produced the same results by clicking a button.

The pace of change

In my distant past I studied photography. We learned the technical process of developing film in darkrooms and experimented with manipulation of chemicals to produce effects not too far from those replicated by Instagram.

Shortly after I learned those skills, they became redundant, as digital technology overtook the photography market and enabled the process and manipulation of images to take place in the camera, PC and products such as Photoshop.

Today, I need no training, no time investment. It happens in an instant.

Instagram is not unique in providing this ‘leg up’. There is a proliferation of tools and products available today that enable you to take a short cut to results – the WordPress content management system springs to mind, and even Rock Band or Guitar Hero!

The role of talent

So, does this simplification of the process by technology make us all artists or is talent still the differentiator?

Clearly, the quality is not always there (my one and only attempt at Guitar Hero, a case in point). However, is it good enough for people’? If so, isn’t there a danger that the need for trained professionals will diminish in the face of commoditised skills?

There will be an impact. As with most things there are winners and losers. Specialists suffer as their skills are diminished by technology, but the masses have the means to become creators and producers themselves. New businesses and outlets (e.g. blogs, music, video) have appeared and creativity has been unleashed as individuals are no longer shackled by their technical skill set.

What technology doesn’t do, however, is remove the need for talented people. Talent is still the differentiator. Anyone who has ever worked with a good web designer and then built their own website using WordPress, will know the difference talent makes. The template of this blog you’re reading looks good because of the talent of its designer. When I first installed it, I was impressed with how it looked – I was even able to modify parts with some basic code editing – but there are still parts that I’d like to change – if only I had the skill set to do so.

Ultimately, Instagram and WordPress are just tools – very clever creations that have distilled something very complex down to a simple process. They have reduced the skill gap, but are no substitute for talent.

What do you think?

I’ll leave you with Baby Nico playing Rock Band…

Categories
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.

Categories
Innovation Mobile

Mobile statistics: Building a case for your mobile site & app

  • ebay sell 1 item every 2 seconds via mobile
  • In 2014 there will be 300m mobile coupon users
  • 7.1 million Brits now access the internet through their mobile

(If you’re just here for the mobile stats, scroll down, I won’t be offended)

In my recent ‘60 second mobile review’ post, I explained a very simple health check for your business to determine whether you should be building a Mobile offering. Even though you may feel your company or industry is not ready, your Analytics may prove otherwise. A quick check will illustrate just how popular your website already is with mobile users.

If you’ve tried accessing your website on a mobile phone, you may have already realised that those visitors might not exactly be getting a premium customer experience. You may already be deliberating which is better for your business – a mobile site or smart phone apps.

However, to get your mobile site or app built you’re going to need to present a business case. You can pull together your supporting evidence – including existing mobile statistics – from both internal and external sources.

Three of which include:

  • Existing site analytics data – use this to illustrate how your audience already wants to access your service via a mobile device. It could also highlight the need for a mobile-specific interface, if the mobile stats don’t paint a pretty customer experience
  • External data / case studies – sometimes the biggest impetus to getting something signed off comes from showing the successes of others. The whole ‘its working really well for them, so it should be okay for us to do it too’ thing. It’s about confidence – if you can show how its worked for others it makes it easier to feel comfortable with any associated risk
  • Survey customers / prospects – sometimes the easiest way to get an answer is just to ask the question. Just be careful how you ask the question though. Asking ‘Do you think we should have a mobile site and iPhone app?’ will probably get you plenty of ‘Sure’ answers but won’t be very enlightening. You’ll be better off trying to understand their behaviours and needs via your questions and their answers.

The important thing to remember with the business case is to be clear why you need a mobile site or app. Just having one isn’t enough. Why should your company foot the development bill? What is the return on investment?

If it’s going to be a mCommerce site and generate revenue (selling products / services / access) then justify it with a financial forecast to offset the development costs.

However, it doesn’t need to be revenue generating to justify development. Adding value to the customer experience could be your reason – my favourite example is the Sky+ App that enables you to record your favourite TV programmers remotely. Sky doesn’t make direct revenue by charging for the App but it does contribute to the loyalty and retention of their customer base.

The final reason is innovation, or experimentation. This may seem a little fluffy, but for many it is justification enough to have observed the behaviours and trends and to want to experiment with a new product or service to see how customers respond. You may hit on something and grab market share with first mover advantage. Just be wary of the development costs with this approach, in case you have a few misses.

Mobile Statistics that may help your business case (or just interest you)

The majority of the following mobile stats came from Google’s recent Think Mobile seminar at the Royal Opera House in London. Others have come from a variety of sources. I have credited the original source where known, otherwise apologies, let me know and I’ll update.

  • 2 million iPads were sold in the first 59 days after release (that is one iPad sold every 3rd second (Apple, 2010)
  • Mobile advertising is expected to grow to £355m in Britain by 2014 (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2010)
  • 24% of mobile users have a smart phone
  • Today’s mobile phone would have cost £1 billion to build in the 1970s and would have been the size of a house
  • In 2014 there will be 300m mobile coupon users
  • 50% of mobile users start their activity with a search
  • 90% of all apps are deleted in 30 days (so make it a good one with real value!)
  • 25% of Android searches are made using Voice search technology (Google, 2010)
  • 48% of US smart phone users have used a mobile browser
  • Mobile search is growing as fast as mobile apps (
  • ebay sell 1 item every 2 seconds via mobile
  • 10% of all PaddyPower sales come via mobile
  • 1 billion mobile phones were bought in the first 14 years – 1 billion mobiles sold in the last 12 months
  • 11.5% of all UK shoppers use their mobiles to research before they shop (ITPro.co.uk)
  • 48% of social media users check Facebook / Twitter after they go to bed. 7% said they’d even check during an ‘intimate moment’ (SF Gate, 2010)
  • In the UK, 81% of mobile media users access mobile media more than once a week with 46% using it daily (MobiAd News, 2010)
  • 7.1 million Brits now access the internet through their mobile phones (Internet Monitor Survey, 2010)
  • Each month in the UK, 4.2 million consumers visit retailers’ websites using the mobile internet (GSMA & Comscore, 2010)
  • Despite the recession, over the last year m-commerce has accounted for nearly £123million worth of goods sold in the UK and this is predicted to double by 2013 to £275million (eBay & Mobile Marketing Association, 2010)
  • iPad applications have downloaded over 35 million times (Apple, 2010)
  • More than 1 in 10 mobile users will download or buy mobile tickets in the next four years (Juniper Research, 2010)
  • There are more than 150 million active users accessing Facebook through their mobile devices (Facebook, 2010)
  • People that use Facebook on their mobile device are twice as active on Facebook than non-mobile users (Facebook, 2010
Categories
Business Performance Innovation

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Customer Service via Twitter

“HE RECKONS IF YOU CAN’T SEE THE TWEET IT DOESN’T EXIST”

What’s worse – not providing customer service or providing poor customer service?

That’s a question I’ve pondered recently as a consumer, whilst experimenting with utilising Twitter as a means of contacting brands when I’ve needed assistance. It’s been an interesting and varied experience, something we as marketers should consider for our own businesses.

You don’t need me to tell you times are changing. With the prolific adoption of social media, companies that are not monitoring brand mentions are missing a huge opportunity to serve their customers or to build / repair their reputations.

The conversations about your brand are happening in the social space whether you like it or not. Making like an ostrich and sticking your head in the sand is not going to make it go away.

But why would you want it to? The benefits of monitoring the social sphere are plentiful. For instance:

  • answering customer questions to aid use or encourage sale
  • addressing / resolving customer complaints to improve satisfaction
  • directing non-customers to useful services or info (both your own and others), as a longer term, value-based relationship builder
  • crowdsourcing new product development ideas or improvements to existing products

The list could go on, including being a revenue generating source, if appropriate to your business (though I’d avoid the direct, hard sell approach).

It’s early days as a service medium however, and consequently customers are encountering a mixed bag of experiences. Here are 3 of my own:

The Good – LOVEFiLM

I love film and love the approach of this company. They clearly ‘get’ how to use this medium for relationship and brand building. Not only do they share film news, run competitions and converse in an engaging, cheerful manner, they provide bloody good customer service.

For example, having watched ‘Numb3rs – Season 1’ (sue me, it’s a guilty pleasure), I wanted to move on to Season 2 but it wasn’t listed on the site (though Season 3 was). A quick exchange of tweets with @LOVEFiLM and they’d dispatched an enquiry to their catalogue team with a promise to come back to me with an update. Crucially they did, less than 24 hours later I received a follow up tweet to say the DVD had been sourced and would be available shortly.

One happy customer.

The Bad – Halifax bank

The polar opposite of LOVEFiLM is the Halifax bank. They don’t even have a Twitter account. So when they changed their bank charges at the end of 2009 – a move that appeared to leave a large proportion of their current account customers worse off – the howls of protest online fell on deaf ears.

Now, could they have lessened the negativity by participating in the conversation? Maybe, maybe not. But wouldn’t that have been preferable to adding to the frustration by ignoring their customers?

(I switched to a much friendlier bank, by the way)

The Ugly – BT

BT has a customer service account – @BTCare – though many would agree with my assertion that the name is a fabulous oxymoron.

They clearly try to provide a good service, having invested time, money and resource into their solution. For this they must be commended. However, they may want to review its application.

When I tweeted about the trouble I was having with my internet connection, they were quick to respond with a tweet within a couple of hours – even though it was the weekend. Their apology and offer of help was appreciated. Ignoring my reply was not.

When I did finally get a response a couple of days later (following more tweets), it was evident I was being dealt with by someone who had no record of our earlier conversation (or didn’t look it up). Then when I had to switch the conversation over to the telephone I had to start my conversation all over again.

I found the whole process incredibly frustrating. When you can’t get something to work and someone comes to your rescue offering a solution, only to disappear, then reappear with some kind of amnesia and no solution, your hopes are cruelly dashed.

It doesn’t help that they seem to have a lot of problems with their service. A thankless task for their customer service people, if I ever did see one.

Make my day

So, back to my original question – which is worse? Not providing any service like the Halifax or having a poor experience such as the one with BT?

In a vacuum I’d probably say no service, but in reality I was more annoyed with BT. Of course, I’d love it if all companies I dealt with were like LOVEFiLM. Sadly, they’re not, but its something we as marketers should aspire to with our own businesses.

What are your best experiences with businesses using Twitter? What about the worse? Please add your comments below, I’d love to know your thoughts.

If you aren’t monitoring your brand in social media and would be interested in finding out more, I’d recommend speaking with the good folks over at 6Consulting, the UK partner of Radian6.

Categories
Conversion Testing Innovation

Impact of TV imagery on website conversion rates

It’s an unwritten law: spend big £/$ on a TV campaign and your website traffic will go through the roof.

Your overall cost per visitor will naturally follow suit. So how do you get more out of the traffic you’re buying in?

The answer is pretty simple – conversion rate optimisation. Test and tweak your pages and processes until you can get more people doing much more of the things you want them to do.

A case study in conversion rate optimisation

The company I work for – Jobsite.co.uk – is into its 2nd year of TV advertising. The traffic levels during the campaigns have been incredible (see graph below for search query peaks during two TV bursts).

UK search trends for ‘jobsite’ – Google Trends

Whilst looking at the data, I wondered what the impact on conversion rates would be if we used the same imagery from the TV ad on the site’s homepage search box. Would it encourage more searches?

As we were about to run another burst of TV advertising in January 2010, we had a prime opportunity to do some conversion testing to find out.

If you’ve worked on a brand’s website during its TV campaign you’ll be familiar with the following traffic pattern: a tremendous surge during the ad period, followed by a gradual, not sudden, drop during the subsequent weeks – known as the ‘Halo Effect’. In our case, TV ads aired throughout January, with the halo effect running into February.

The conversion test

I wanted to test 3 things:

  1. What impact would TV imagery have during the TV period?
  2. What impact would it have during the halo?
  3. What impact would it have during a ‘normal’ month?

When testing, you need to identify which conversion metric you are looking to improve. Given the nature of our site, my preference tends to be job applications or CV (resume) uploads. However, in this instance, I felt there were too many variables that could influence either metric (particularly the fact that jobseekers often leave the website to prepare their application before returning in a separate session to apply). So for this test I chose to track on site job searches.

Could switching the search box imagery from the default stock photo of people over to the TV image (featuring British actor, Max Beesley) actually increase the number of visitors that become searchers?

Rather than a simple A/B test (Max vs the People), we ran multivariate tests, featuring variations of the search box heading, the search field label and the imagery. This would give us insight into which element(s) improved the number of searches.

Results during TV

As expected, the winning page combination during the January TV campaign was a version that featured Max Beesley. Based on the visitor figures for the month, running this version on 100% of visits would have resulted in an additional 11,328 job searches.

The % uplift over the default version was not dramatic – a 1.3% increase – but sufficient enough to be noticeable when you’re dealing with a highly trafficked website.

What was clear with this test, however, was that the heading ‘Find a Job’ outperformed the default heading ‘Job Search‘, with an 87% chance of beating the original headline (on the default version).

Into the Halo Effect

Things began to change in February with the ‘halo effect’. Traffic to the site was still high, TV had stopped but other digital brand advertising (PPC, Mobile pre-rolls) continued.

The same Max variant continued to outperform the original, but its impact had begun to decline (down to +1.0% over the original combination). In fact, it had slipped into 2nd place, behind a variant using the original stock library image (+1.18% over the original combo). Based on February traffic figures this new lead variant would have generated an additional 8,181 searches if the creative had run for 100% of visits.

The impetus for this performance increase was the heading ‘Find a Job’ (+1.09% over the original heading) – the call to action was more of a factor than the choice of image at this stage.

Interestingly, we also saw a rise in the performance of a 2nd heading – ‘Search Jobs’ – amongst the successful variants (+0.93% over the original)

Under ‘normal’ conditions

As we moved into March, there was enough distance from the high profile ‘Above the Line’ activity to consider it a ‘normal’ environment.

Of the 19 variants we were testing, only 3 outperformed the original – and just barely. All three made use of the stock library imagery. The best performing variant was almost identical to the original, with the only difference being a heading of ‘Search Jobs’ instead of ‘Job Search’ (a simple switch of word order creating a call to action instead of a description).

This variant increased searches by 0.32% over the original – extrapolated to 2,338 extra searches in March.

When you look at the individual components’ performance, ‘Find a Job’ was still marginally ahead of ‘Search Jobs’ (+0.54% to +0.52% improvement on the original), but in combination with the other elements, the latter featured in the best performing variant throughout March.

Interestingly, if we’d used the best performing TV imagery variant in March, it would have resulted in 1,169 FEWER searches than the original.

Learnings from conversion testing

Overall, we can conclude from this test that the use of TV imagery within your search box DOES improve your conversion ratio of visitor to searcher during your campaign. However, it should be coupled with a strong call to action to maximise its impact. In this case study, it provided the possibility of 22,000+ additional searches over the 3 months.

So what else can we take from this test?

In general terms, I would recommend the following tips:

  • Continuous testing is important – external influencing factors, e.g. advertising campaigns, news, events and seasonality, can impact the conversion performance of your site. Test and change your design accordingly
  • Give consideration to your use of imagery – its not there just for aesthetics. It can be a powerful aid to conversion
  • Use clear Calls to Action in your copy, especially titles and/or buttons. Stick to a single call to action in a creative to avoid mixed messages

In regards to Jobsite, we’ll be returning to TV again next month (May ’10). My specific recommendations are:

  • Use TV imagery and ‘Find a Job’ title throughout the broadcast period
  • Continue with same creative for first fortnight of halo effect period
  • Switch back to original creative thereafter but with a call to action in the title – either ‘Search Jobs’ or ‘Find a Job
  • Continue testing – introduce new variant options, such as alternative imagery, text, buttons or even background color.

As with all conversion testing, this isn’t a blue print for success with your own website. You’ll have your own set of external factors to contend with, your own site design and product offering to influence results. Set up your own optimisation tests and see how you can improve your own conversion rates.

I’d love to know about your successes with conversion rating optimisation – what has been your most interesting or successful conversion test? Anyone done any conversion testing with websites & TV with a story to tell? Please do share your comments or experiences.

Categories
Innovation

Sticky Fingers: Our Children’s Technological Future

I have sticky finger prints smeared across my flat screen TV.

They’re not mine, I might add. Rather they belong to my two year old son. Unlike his other random markings around the house (walls are a particular favourite), these are deliberate and with purpose.

He tries to operate the TV like he would my iPhone. That is, he competently swipes and pushes objects (buttons) on the flat screen as a means of navigating to the content he wants.

When the TV doesn’t respond he gets annoyed and airs his displeasure. For instance, a favourite programme of his starts and ends with the characters entering a lift (elevator) – the top floor housing a fun play room. One day, as the programme was coming to an end and the doors to the lift closed on the departing characters, he began to furiously ‘swipe’ the doors on the screen, yelling “no, no, no!” – desperately trying to open the doors so the programme wouldn’t end.

But end it did, and in tears.

It struck me watching this, that he’s two years old and already he’s frustrated with the speed of technology advancement. To him, there is no reason why a TV shouldn’t work in the same way as Daddy’s iPhone.

Which makes me wonder, how fast will technology evolve in just the first couple of decades of his life?

Flash back

When he’s old enough to understand, he’ll probably laugh when I tell him about the technology I had when I was growing up.

Two main broadcast technologies, TV and Radio – three channels on the former and mainly national stations on the latter. As a kid, the height of cool was owning a twin deck radio cassette player (for recording the Top 40 Charts on Sundays). And…, well, that was about it for the early years.

Then came the technology revolution, as the (top-loading, not front loading) video player burst on to the scene to change the entertainment world forever. Not that our family was an early mover on this one. We were well into the Late Majority before I discovered Vader was actually Luke’s father.

Consumer-owned computers appeared in my teens in the 90s but I barely touched them until I left college (mid 90s). Then of course technology exploded again, as we marched in the new millennium, with the next wave of game changers – the iPod and iPhone.

The odd thing for him is that these new technologies are all standard devices. They are so everyday in our house that he doesn’t understand why the other (older) shiny things don’t work in the same way.

Flash forward

Being fortunate (unfortunate?) to have a parent working in technology, there is a good chance that he’ll adopt emerging technologies and activities quite quickly. From a school perspective, it’ll be interesting to see how it develops.

I still remember the excitement of being allowed to use a calculator in class for the first time, I can’t imagine being able to open up a browser to access the web via the school WiFi.

Much will depend on education funding, but isn’t it likely that within just a few years all school children will be working from laptops or iPad-like devices in class, rather than with books and pens?

Much of this technology is already available, but what else is to come? How about:

  • User Generated Content Story books, placing the child within the (e)book (viewed on a Kindle-esque device, naturally)
  • Desks and ‘blackboards’ using Minority Report style interfaces?
  • 3D experiences of faraway places, visiting the Pyramids or back in time to ‘witness’ historical events?
  • Virtual classrooms, with remote teachers delivering lessons by teachercam or holographic projection?
  • Collaborative projects using wiki-based platforms?
  • Start-ups formed as part of the Business studies or Economics curriculum (with Intellectual property rights shared with the school, of course)

All of these things are achievable within this next decade. I can’t even comprehend what it will be like by the time he reaches his teens.

I have no doubt children of his generation will readily adopt any new technology and application that emerges – perhaps the biggest question will be how will we keep up?

Categories
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, Jobsite.co.uk 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.

Categories
Innovation Mobile

MOBILE: iPhone or Android – which is more App for your business?

Have you seen our iPhone App? Do you have one? No? Really?

Been asked that recently? I wouldn’t be surprised if you had, mobile seems to be on the lips of everyone. If you haven’t got an iPhone app, some would have you believe it’s a minor miracle you’re still doing business.

So, should you be rushing out to find a mobile developer?

Yes, no, maybe, well, it depends.

Don’t be a lemming

First of all, you don’t have to follow the crowd. Just because it’s cool and trendy, doesn’t mean it will be successful (see the ‘popular’ kids at school as an example). There are some fundamental questions you need to ask of your business first, before you can determine your mobile strategy.

Five Questions to ask of your business:

Does your business lend itself well to mobile?

You have to be realistic. There are just some businesses that don’t lend themselves well to the mobile web – certainly the App market – and you have to ask yourself, is yours one of them?

Anecdotally, the average lifespan of an iPhone App is 2 weeks – in all likelihood because the App is pointless or poorly thought out or designed. To justify the expense of developing one you need to be sure it will be used.

Brainstorm a few ideas and share them with your customers. Feed the response back into the decision process.

Can you improve the customer brand experience via mobile?

If your customers access your product via the web, could you make their life easier by providing mobile access too? The key here, is to ensure that the mobile and web version are integrated, otherwise there is a disconnect and you compromise on the customer experience.

Should I do something right now?

Tricky one. Ask yourself whether you’ll be left behind if you don’t – and if your brand will suffer if you release a shoddy product. Rushing doesn’t guarantee the latter, but it’s a risk. You need to find a balance between speed and quality. ‘Bells and whistles’ could always come in the version1.1 update, whilst you gather feedback from the initial release.

Which first – iPhone, Android, Mobile or other?

Ah, the hot potato. There is a lot of information out there on mobile use and many of the numbers are conflicting. However, what all the Mobile experts can agree on is that big things are about to happen in the market.

In a nutshell, we can thank Apple, their iPhone and their marketing budget for kick starting the smart phone market. That got consumers interested, now Google are coming along with Android to mount what is expected to be a serious challenge.

So which should you do first? Well, it depends on your business. If you’re ready to go now, it could be worth launching an iPhone App to go with market surge. Once live you might want to get started on the Android version pretty quickly to jump on that bandwagon as the platform gathers traction.

Conversely, you might find that your niche is already a little overcrowded in the iPhone App store, so you could dive straight into the Android space and be the big fish gobbling up market share before your competitors get there.

Or to continue with the nautical metaphors, perhaps you’d be better off swimming against the smart phone tide altogether? Whilst apps may be sexy, the mobile web (i.e. sites accessible via mobile browsers), may be where your biggest wins could be found.

Would you be better off making a great mobile-friendly site so any internet enabled phone can access it? It’s certainly a bigger market.

Do my audience want a mobile offering from my product?

Exactly how big a market is actually an important consideration. The global uptake is huge, but that doesn’t really matter to you. How big is it in your market?

Try this. Go to your analytics package and look up the Browsers/Operating System report. You probably don’t delve in there too often and you might be a little scared by what you find when you start adding up the number of visits from Mobile devices.

Look at the data over the past year or two – how much has it grown? One site I worked on recently, experienced a 136% increase in mobile visits in just a 9 month period and nobody knew.

So the worrying thing is you may already have a mobile audience and they can’t use your product. Is the audience big enough to jump the smart phone Apps in the development queue?

Decision time

It’s clear when you consider the answers to the five questions that it’s not as simple as just responding to the excitement of the iPhone with an App of your own. What’s in the best interest of your company?

It’s an important time for businesses as we adapt to the changing media consumption of our audiences. We must move swiftly, but not hastily, and embrace the opportunities new technologies provide.

So what will Mobile mean to you?