Blog Archives

Friction Free Forms for Marketing Ninjas

Happy New Year!

I’ve written before about the dangers of asking too much of your site visitors before you have established a meaningful, value-based relationship with them.

Now Lisa Margetis at Singlehop has reminded me of the importance of keeping any “asks” you must make of your customers as simple and pain-free as possible.

In her curiously titled “Contact Forms for the Minja” (which stands for Marketing Ninja, apparently!) infographic, Lisa illustrates how response levels and conversions fall as the number of fields in an online form increase. Using data from Dan Zarella, we can see that the optimal number of fields in a form is around 3 to 5:

More fields fewer conversions

And from Marketing Sherpa we also know which fields are most valuable to most marketers:

The fields marketers value the most

In summary, as Lisa rightly points out:

It’s all about finding the right friction

Too much friction (e.g. too many fields or hoops to jump through on your site) and people will refuse to fill out your online form. Too little friction and the data you collect are unlikely to yield sufficient insights to allow intelligent segmentation and targeted content marketing in future.

As Lisa’s infographic shows, there are many examples that prove, and sometimes disprove, the theoretical principles. But the simplest rule I think any marketer should follow is:

Only collect data that you actively plan to use.

In my experience, that’s by far the easiest way to ensure that all forms present the minimal amount of friction to your online customers and prospects.

Now go forth, learned Minja, and create beautiful, friction-free forms!

Three Charms But Four Alarms

Three is the magic numberWork, Rest and Play (Mars)

Power, Beauty and Soul (Aston Martin)

Soft, Strong and Long (Andrex)

 

We humans love seeing choices or lists presented in groups of three. Three gives a natural balance to things, as does five or seven.

But three really is the magic number for marketers and copywriters.

A recent study for the Make-A-Wish Foundation sought to find the messaging sweet spot for securing charitable donations. They randomly assigned a different set of reasons to research participants, each of which was designed to persuade them to part with their hard earned money.

TMIOne group received two egoistic reasons to give, another received two altruistic reasons to donate, and a third received all four reasons combined. Those in the last group, who were presented with four reasons to give, were less likely to donate than the other groups who received just two. It seems that at a count of four, the attempt to persuade had been too obvious, resulting in the participants actually being dissuaded to donate.

In another test, subjects were shown ads for a brand of shampoo that carried between one and six benefit claims. Those who were given an ad carrying just three claims rated the shampoo more highly than those receiving more or fewer claims. Again, it would appear that one or two benefits are not quite enough to persuade us, yet four or more start to feel like desperation, resulting in scepticism that throws into doubt the veracity of all of the claims.

So, next time you’re trying to persuade someone, keep your list of reasons why they should believe you to three. Simple. As. That.

Source and further reading: Influence at Work blog

Content 1 Advertising 0 – Why Great Content Wins Today

(This post by Allister Frost was first published on the Emarketeers’ blog)

Content, content, content… It seems everyone in marketing these days is talking about content. The stats prove it too with the number of Google searches for “Content Marketing” soaring 10-fold in the last two years.

And I’m a believer. I believe great content strategy should now lie at the foundation of every marketing plan. It is more important than SEO, PPC, CSR, or any other abbreviation you may know. It is the very essence of great marketing today.

To explain why, I’d like to you to come on a journey with me. A journey back to a simpler time, when computers didn’t yet rule the world.

Come on a journey with me…, to a time when the only compositions produced by One Direction are safely contained in their nappies.

Let’s go back a full two decades to 1993.

Everyone Looked Like This in the 1990'sWelcome to a post-recession Britain where unemployment and social discontent have brought waves of rioting to cities across the country. Hip-hugging, high-waisted denim jeans are all the rage, Wayne’s World picks up best soundtrack at the BRIT Awards and the only compositions produced by One Direction are safely contained in their nappies. Even Tim Berners-Lee is probably wrestling with his TV remote trying to find his ideal holiday on Teletext.

Aside from the macro-economic similarities, to be in marketing in 1993 was a very different affair to the modern day. Broadcast media channels were largely limited to TV, radio, outdoor and press. And if a potential customer wanted to find out what a company had to sell she had to phone up to request a brochure or to book a visit from a salesman (yes, it was nearly always a man).

All of which meant that companies could often maintain a firm grip over what customers knew about their business and the products they had to sell. Opinions could be controlled and shaped with advertising and clever PR.

The printed press, at the very height of its powers, put its journalistic focus onto naming and shaming heavy-handed corporations and government officials. Only rarely would its attention fall on the minutiae of individual customer complaints, usually to share the news of the discovery of a cornflake bearing an uncanny resemblance to Sylvester Stallone.

Fortunately, smart marketing teams developed a neat way to discretely deal with unhappy customers (and who wouldn’t be unhappy to spot Rocky in their cereal bowl?). The inbound customer service phone line was born and the complaints of a generation of dissatisfied consumers were quietly paid off with the promise of money off vouchers or refunds.

It was a golden era of control for the marketing manager.

To coin a phrase: Marketeers had never had it so good.

Jump forward twenty years to 2013 and things are very different. With a multitude of digital avenues to consider—alongside the traditional analogue channels that still attract huge audiences—choosing where to place your message for the best results has become a marketing minefield. And while the fortunate marketeer with a generous advertising budget can still buy a substantial presence in paid media channels, there’s no longer any guarantee of control over what the masses ultimately hear about your brand. Today’s marketing manager now also has to compete with the voices of millions of digitally-empowered consumers. And most of the evidence now suggests it’s a battle we cannot win.

In their armchairs and bedrooms, coffee shops and trains, anyone with Internet access can now publish their opinions to a worldwide audience. This daily chatter, about the things that really matter to ordinary people, courses through social networks, discussion forums and review sites. These voices have ushered in a new marketing world order, where everyone’s opinion matters and the casting vote falls to those we trust the most.

You already know the bad news. 84% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know, while only 62% trust TV ads (source: Nielsen, Sept 2013). These are stats that should be etched into every marketer’s brain. People trust people, they don’t trust advertising, marketeers, salespeople or spin.

This isn’t a new phenomenon.

People have always trusted the people they know more than strangers or fancy advertising messages. But what has changed is the nature of the people we trust. In 1993, the people we knew comprised those we grew up with, lived near or worked with. In 2013, the people we know—or feel we know—now encompasses our extended social circles online and almost any human-made content we find on our personal journeys through cyberspace.

The intimacy of our online experiences can now create instant trust in content.

We are witnessing this remarkable shift playing out before our eyes. The intimacy of our online experiences can now create instant trust in content. When our internet journeys lead us, sometimes serendipitously, to useful content or advice, we are highly likely to consume and believe it. Our behaviours have changed a great deal from the passive consumption of advertising messages during the broadcast era. Today we know how to seek out the information we need and intuitively—although not always accurately—know what we can trust.

Fortunately for us marketeers, human brains are wired to work this way. Logic tells us that not everyone on a review site can be wrong. Or that if a friend of a friend once “Liked” a brand of dishwasher tablet, that brand must be worth considering next time we go shopping. These cognitive biases allow us to make sense of a rapidly changing world, to adapt quickly to new forms of information and not feel overwhelmed by the data. This brings both great responsibility and opportunity to everyone in the marketing profession.

Great Content beats Advertising
And that, in a nutshell, is why great content really matters.

We are long past the day when organisations could rely on advertising alone to cut through the clutter and get our brands in front of the right people. Control has shifted from the few to the many. Today we need new skills to produce useful, creative content of many forms—blogs, videos, diagrams, reviews, photos, stories, whitepapers—and deliver it to places where it can be discovered, trusted, consumed, and shared. Crucially, our content must bring utility to people’s lives, answering questions they ponder or providing relevant entertainment that intensifies their relationship with the brand.

How do we do this? Join my exclusive Emarketeers webinar in December to find out. More details below.

 

WANT MORE? SIGN UP FOR OUR FREE CONTENT MARKETING WEBINAR

Allister Frost will be discussing this and all things content marketing on a special free webinar for Emarketeers on Friday 6th December at 1pm GMT. Registration is now open at http://www.emarketeers.com/events/how-social-content-can-elevate-your-brand. We hope you’ll join us there.

Selecting A College With Gen Z And Its Parents

Wild Orange LearningWhile preparing for my keynote address at The Association of Colleges’ Annual Digital Engagement and Marketing Conference in December I’ve recently been pondering some of the digital challenges facing education establishments.

Selecting a college and course to study is up there with the most important decisions of our lives. But what has the greatest influence over this decision these days? Do advertising and shiny prospectuses play the same role as in the past, or are we more susceptible to outside influences like what current students say and the daily chatter on social networking sites?

Pullquote1Today, anyone under the age of 18 belongs to a tribe that sociologists refer to as Generation Z. These young people have never lived in a world without computers. They are a highly-connected, technically savvy, and hyper-informed generation. These are the main constituents of this year’s student intake; a collective of purebred digital natives, who demand flexibility and choice in all aspects of their lives.

So when the time comes to select a college for further education, how do these young people decide? And will their parents or carers also turn to the same sources for advice?

For parents supporting a college selection decision, conventional guidance likely still holds considerable influence. Open days, brochures and course catalogues, will all play their part in guiding the decision. But so too will online channels like the college website and other sites that feature high in search engine results pages. This means review sites, college comparison tools, Ofsted reports, press articles, Wikipedia, and student forums are all likely to play a role in the choices parents make.

For the students, search engine results are also likely to dominate their research, and particularly those sites that render well on mobile devices. But so too will a largely hidden world of online chatter with peers. And it’s this loose, free-flowing banter that will likely have the greatest impact on each student’s final personal preferences, almost irrespective of the official literature a college may publish.

The task then for colleges looking to attract the best students and enhance their reputation, is to understand the full breadth of online and offline channels that are being used to inform decisions today, and to ensure that appropriate content can be found there. And then, by bringing together well-worn marketing techniques (like college prospectus and open days) with emerging digital channels (like chat forums and review sites), education establishments should have a better chance of persuading both parents and prospective students that their college is the right choice.

This means printed prospectuses that feel alive with up-to-date content, filled with the real voices of students speaking their minds. It calls for Open Days that encourage real-time feedback, opinion sharing and reviews. And teaching staff who embrace emerging digital channels and add their perspectives to the online debate.

Pullquote2Done well, the end results should feel accessible to all generations, yet be as authentic and trustworthy as the most socially-driven content on the web today.

It’s a daunting task, but one that every college must undertake. In the intense battle for relevance and standout, those who embrace the future today will be best placed to survive the longest.

I’ll be discussing this and crisis management in my talk in December. And we’ll also be looking at the future of digital marketing and some of the emerging techniques that innovative college marketers will be experimenting with very soon.

Want to learn more? Join me at The AoC Digital Engagement and Marketing Conference 2013 in London on 4th December to explore this topic further. Registration is now open on the AoC site. I hope to see you there.

Mind The Gap – Consumers 1 v Marketers 0

Mind The Gap London Tube

We live in a fast-changing world. Which means the longer you’ve held an opinion, the greater the chances your views may have fallen behind the times.

The latest fast.MAP Marketing Gap study (the 9th annual edition) shows once again how disconnected some marketers’ views are from those of their customers. Let’s take a look at some of the findings:

MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS

Overall, marketers expect around twice as many people to be “happy to receive” marketing communications than consumers claim. Across the 29 industries examined, the most welcomed sector for email marketing amongst consumers is ‘competitions’, appreciated by 32% of consumers. The least welcome are mortgages (6%) and loans/credit cards (7%), the appeal of which was over-estimated by marketers by more than a factor of two (at 15% and 18% respectively).

In fact, 58% of consumers now state they would prefer not to be contacted at all, through any channel, by companies they have no relationship with. Marketers again underestimate the extent of consumer rejection by almost 25%, believing that only 44% of consumers would feel this way.

Preferred Communication Methods Chart

TELEPHONY

No surprise that all forms of telephony marketing (landline/mobiles calls and SMS) are uniformly disliked, being welcomed by no more than 4% of consumers in any category. Yet marketers still over-estimate consumer willingness for telephony by between 100% and 400%. Two people in three would opt-out of text messaging marketing completely if there were a “Text Preference Service” that operates like the existing Telephone Preference Service,

Almost half (45%) of consumers now claim to hang up straight away when they receive a marketing or sales call, that’s up from 36% in 2011. Almost 1 in 10 (the mischievous 9%) will leave the phone off the hook to tie up the call centre line!

DIRECT MAIL

Around a third (32%) of consumers will open direct mail from any company (down from 38% in 2011), but marketers under-estimate this at 24%. It seems the general public is still more likely to open direct mail than the industry believes. It’s not all good news though; almost one in four consumers (23%) say they now don’t open any direct mail, up from 13% in 2011.

Interestingly, marketers also routinely overestimate the value of creativity in some channels. For direct mail materials, a third of marketers (33%) think interesting packaging will ensure it gets opened, but only 18% of consumers agree. Similarly one in four marketers (25%)  think design can increase open rates, but only 9% of consumers share this sentiment. An attractive envelope can motivate 10% of consumers to open a direct mail pack, but that is well short of the 18% estimated by marketers.

REVIEWS

Many businesspeople are terrified of negative consumer reviews, with marketers estimating that 23% of people share negative experiences through review sites. But the reality is that only a tiny minority (4%) of consumers behave this way.

Why We Write Reviews

With this in mind, surely marketers must have a clear grasp on the channels consumers most want to use when dealing with a customers services team? Again, the opinions of marketers seem well wide of the mark, with 21% thinking people would most prefer to use the phone, while in fact 32% of consumers would now most prefer to use email. Twitter, Facebook and LiveChats are also less likely to be used by consumers seeking customer service assistance than marketers believe:

Customer Service Preferences

SHARING

But, thankfully, everyone’s sharing content online these days. Except they’re not. More than half of all consumer (54%) say they don’t share any content online, but marketers estimate this amount at just 24%. And amongst those who do share content, most do so to entertain or make others aware, quite different and more altruistic motivations than those cited by marketers:

Content Sharing

DEVICES

At least we know which devices consumers use these days. Most people have a tablet and smartphone, right? Nope! The laptop and desktop computer remain by far the most popular tools for internet access, underestimated by marketers by 45% and 30% respectively . Now we know why those fancy tablet and smartphone apps alone were not enough to hit last quarter;’s sales target.

Internet Access

COUPONS

How much must the face value of a coupon be before it will be redeemed. Marketers, it seems, have more expensive tastes than the average consumer. 81% of consumers will happily redeem a 50p (UK pence) coupon, up from 74% last year. But only 23% of marketers feel that a 50p coupon is sufficient to encourage redemption. Sometimes, it doesn’t take a huge reward to incentivise buying behaviour:

Coupons

And while we’re on the topic of coupon discounts, only 20% of consumers claim to have used Groupon in the last year, well short of the 50% estimated by marketers. Similarly, newspaper collectible offers like The Sun Holidays and Daily Mirror LEGO are only used by 7% of consumers, against a 21% prediction by marketers. Most consumers, it would seem, simply cannot be bothered with collecting tokens any more.

PRICE PROMOTIONS

Consumers love price offers, far more than most marketers realise or are prepared to admit. A staggering 85% of consumers would be happy to switch brand if an alternative brand offered  a ‘Buy One Get One Free (BOGOF) deal, but only 42% of marketers believe this could happen. Even a 10% price advantage would be enough to switch brands for 68% of shoppers, far more than the 24% claimed by marketing professionals.

Price Offers

CSR

A quarter of marketers believe that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is unimportant, but only 7% of consumer agree, with the majority (60%) saying they feel it is very or quite important. Proof, if it were needed, that consumers expect companies to do the right thing and be held to account if their actions don’t benefit society as a whole.

 

SUMMARY

I’ve shared a lot of data in this blog post. The headline findings though are consistent: many consumer attitudes are changing very rapidly and marketers are often out of tune with real world consumers.

Ostrich Man Head in the SandThe only way to find out if your long-held opinions may have passed their expiry date is to stay closely connected to your customers.

  • Don’t stick your head in the sand and fall into the trap of believing accepted wisdom

  • Don’t lose sight of the realities of the modern world; some things change quickly, others take a little longer to become mainstream

Get out and speak with your customers, live in their shoes, see how they live their lives.

The opinion gap between consumers and marketers is as big as ever. What will you do, right now, to close the gap in your organisation?

Durex Condoms In Social Media Flop

Batman BadgeMy friend Eileen Brown brought a delightful social media #fail to my attention today in her column on ZDNet.

You’d have thought Durex Condoms would always play it safe, but their latest Facebook marketing campaign has turned into a bit of a flop thanks to a remarkable lack of planning (or should that be foreplay?)

SOS Condoms App for iOSThe trouble begins with a curious “insight” that some couples don’t think to buy condoms in advance, but they are foresighted enough to install an app from iTunes allowing them to request an emergency delivery as long as they have previously ensured they will only be in coitus in a city where the service exists.

Of course, there’s no way Reckitt Benckiser could promise rapid deliveries of “SOS Condoms” to every corner of the world, so they ran a vote on a microsite, promoted via Facebook, inviting would-be consumers to choose the city where they would like the emergency service to next be available.

In the true spirit of the empowered consumer, voters were left to their own devices to pick any place in the world rather than having to select from a shortlist of pre-qualified cities. Quite naturally, this resulted in some online jokers looking for ways to spice up the outcome. And, you guessed it, the most requested location for SOS Condom deliveries was Batman, a city in Turkey.

Batman Road signWell done Batman! You amassed more votes than Paris, London and New York combined, and your residents can now look forward to breathlessly opening the door to fresh supplies less than one hour after ordering. Whether the service is now off the ground is unclear but we can only hope that uptake is strong from Turkey’s luckiest amorous couples.

Durex has conceded that its campaign was hijacked and has closed the voting, possibly prematurely. I’m sure its intentions were good (or should that be bona fide?), but this is a timely reminder to all marketers to carefully think through the implications of allowing full crowd ownership over the outcomes of marketing campaigns. Surrendering control to the social web is sometimes a smart tactic, but without sufficient attention to detail and crisis planning your next activity might not be heading for a happy ending.

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