Digital Marketer True Confessions #1: "I Go With My Gut"

Hands up, digital marketers: how many of us absolutely, truly do pre-live research into our target audience for our websites and landing pages before they launch? Be honest now.


First, let me qualify—pre-launch research is NOT:

  • Looking at your competitors’ sites and copying appropriating paying homage to the copy and design elements on their pages that you wish you’d thought of first

  • Asking five of your friends what they think of your mockups

  • Debating with your colleagues and coming to consensus about what to say or do

  • Going with your gut because it’s never steered you wrong ever since you ditched that weird blind date who ended up getting arrested for that weirder thing that made the newspaper

Your gut is your stomach. Your gut is a sense. Your gut is specific to you. Your gut has good and bad days (more kombucha, less burritos, okay?) Most important: your gut is not the actual thoughts and feelings of your target audience.

It’s not about you. It’s about your customer.

We’re marketers. We’re human. But we do ourselves, our careers and our brands a disservice when we fall into the confirmation bias trap or stop asking questions.

You know what isn’t susceptible to emotion (or indigestion)? You know what delivers answers? Data. Real analytics. Actual feedback.

So why aren’t more of us doing the pre-live website optimization research that can set us ahead of our competitors (and earn us accolades and year-end bonuses)?

It’s expensive. It’s time-consuming. And let’s face it: maybe we secretly don’t want objective analysis that could contradict what we say or think. Nobody likes to feel they’re not good at their job.


But what if we could be better at our jobs without spending a lot of effort? What if there were a way to look like a digital marketing genius without the time and expense of traditional A/B or multivariate testing? What if there was a highly predictive way to validate our gut feelings and get customer feedback before we go live?


Obviously there’s an answer, or this column wouldn’t exist.

That highly predictive way is called WEVO. With it, you test your pre-live pages for design and copy elements on more than 100 real people from your target audience. With it you can:

  • Better personalize your pages for your most valuable customer personas

  • Get curated verbatim feedback about how they felt about your page, so you can address any conversion issues before you risk real customers and real revenue

  • See predictive analytics and benchmarks for how your page will perform against competitors or even your different design ideas

And get this: all that only takes five to 10 days to do. So you can rely more on your head when it comes to making the website optimization decisions with the highest chance of success. After all, no guts, no glory.



5 Things I Learned in my First 6 Months at WEVO

Since joining WEVO six months ago, my entire conception of the digital marketing process has evolved radically. Like everyone else I knew, I had long relied on my finely-honed sense of marketer’s intuition and set of proven best practices when it came to improving website performance.

Ok, who am I kidding here? Basically I was guessing at what different audiences would respond to and using A/B testing to test (and hopefully validate) my guesses on live traffic. Sound familiar to you? After seeing dozens and dozens of websites WEVOed, I could never go back to doing that. WEVO gives marketers real data on how their audience will perceive their page before it ever goes live. The results have been eye-opening for the customers I work with, and me too.

Many marketers love what they do: helping companies solve a problem, communicating their story to their prospect. But we as marketers only have a small area of real estate and a few moments of time to get our messages right.

Joining WEVO has made me love what I do even more: because now I help marketers really, truly understand how their audience really perceives their page and if they can connect the dots their messaging lays out. WEVO helps our clients understand their audience’s perspective and get their pages right the first time.

When marketing fails us, or underperforms, a lot of us like to console ourselves by saying that our product is too sophisticated. Our audience is too specialized and hard to reach. If we’d only launched our page on the second Tuesday of the week instead of the first one. . . . or share your favorite excuse in the comments below.

Well, in the last six months, in the countless tests and client consultations I’ve had, there are indeed definite patterns that emerge across every industry I work with. Here are the top five I’ve seen since WEVO first rocked my outlook six months ago:

  1. This one is so basic and fundamental so I’ll get it out of the way first: you really really really reaaalllly need to know who your target is long before you create and deliver content to them.

  2. Your images matter more than you think they do. Our clients are often surprised by the negative customer feedback they get on their photos. Customers can tell when you’re using an overly sterile stock photo or one that seems inauthentic to them. And if they have no emotional connection or identification to your images, how easy do you think it’s going to be to sell them on your product or service?

  3. Many sites are too complicated and visitors get lost in the content. It is critical to make it easy for a visitor to “get” what you do and what you offer. Simplicity of message and they way you present complicated information is a key differentiator and impacts all aspects of a visitor’s experience of your website.

  4. Don’t repeat yourself. You have limited space to communicate your message to your potential customers. Redundant information turns people off and is a wasted opportunity. If you have to market to two target audiences on one page, focus on the option that turns off the least amount of people as opposed to the option people will like more.

  5. Content and headlines need to address your audience’s biggest hopes and fears. Whether it’s the secret fear of being the dumbest person in the room to being the best possible parent to their kids, your copy needs to get to their heart of hearts quickly and effectively. Show them you get them, even if they haven’t told you what they want (shameless hint: if you use WEVO, they won’t have to) Headlines that instead demonstrate your audience how clever your writer is aren’t going to move those bottom-line numbers.

Every digital marketer I’ve worked with wrestles with these issues. They all have the best intentions, but the echo chamber that marketing is becomes a funhouse mirror and skews our perception of how the world is.

Your landing page is like your organization’s front door. You only have a few moments to capture your audience’s interest and make them want to come in. You know it has to communicate its message as quickly, effectively and compellingly as it can. Before I joined WEVO, I’ll admit I was guilty myself of using my intuition on what I thought would work best. And as I work with WEVO clients, I like to go on that journey of discovery with them. I make my own private guesses prior to WEVO’s pre-live tests to what I think the outcome will be for my clients. (I still get a couple guesses wrong from time to time, but I’m getting better!) And the best part of all is when I see it click in for our clients and they find out something so critical and fundamental that changes the game for them.

Good marketers know there is no silver bullet to conversion. As much as we know our audience’s demographics and psychographics down to the molecular level, we are not usually our own target audience. As much as we’d all like to think we’re excellent judges of consumer behavior, we’re not psychics.

And WEVO is the closest thing to getting into our audiences’ minds and knowing exactly WHY visitors will or will not convert. As marketing has become more enmeshed in everyday life, it’s become more competitive for organizations to grab their share of wallet--not to mention minds (awareness) and hearts (loyalty). And if you’re not taking advantage of every opportunity to understand your audience, personalize your content, and pre-test it on a representative sample audience, then you’re really not marketing. You’re just guessing. And that’s not solving the problem.


About WEVO

WEVO is the first technology platform that optimizes digital experiences before you go live. Leveraging crowdsourced visitor insight and artificial intelligence, WEVO generates recommendations that have proven to significantly increase conversion. WEVO has successful experience working with Fidelity, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Harvard University, Santander Bank and others.


Do You Feel Like You're in The Dark Ages of Digital Marketing?

It’s a dirty little not-so-secret: as a whole, we digital marketers today are not sufficiently informed before launching a webpage. We usually lack the sufficient time or budget to listen to our audience. Our decisions on design and content are typically subjective, and are based on a best guess of what we personally think will resonate with visitors.

Do we really need to wait for live traffic in order to understand how visitors will react? Is visitor behavior something we can only analyze through seeing where people clicked and what was the last thing they did before bouncing? Ten years from now, when we look back at 2019, it will be clear: these are the Dark Ages of digital marketing.


I’m Optimizing My Sites & Tracking Every Click

All marketers are doing it, and we’re all doing it pretty well. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of tools that help us analyze our marketing funnel, optimize our sites using A/B testing, and let us track every visitor action. OK, but is that really enough?

Sure, there are significant operational and opportunity costs of running several iterations of A/B tests. Yet that’s not even going to guarantee we’ll reach a version that will satisfy our target audience. All we know is that version 'A' is better than 'B'. Isn’t it unreasonable to launch an unoptimized webpage design, knowing that it will require so many more iterations not so far down the road? Engineers don’t build the bridge first, experiment with live traffic (cars and pedestrians!); and then make iterative improvements third. Yes, seeing what visitors did on our websites is really valuable. But it doesn't address what we really want to know: Why aren't they converting?

Rear-view analysis cannot sufficiently inform our pre-live decisions. Therefore, we will always fall short of fully addressing our digital marketing needs. Without knowing why my content or webpage design didn’t lead visitors to convert, how will I know what to improve? The answer is simple. I probably won't.


Am I Listening to My Audience?

“One of the major downfalls in my companies has been when the personal interests of your marketing team or decision maker outweighs the direct feedback and demand of the customer.” Says Daniel Griggs, CEO of ATX Web Designs. “For example, you may be redesigning your website and would like a field of pretty flowers on the hero banner, but your customers would prefer to see an arrangement of flowers in your storefront.”

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Without listening to our audience, we cannot pinpoint what they expect, what they're concerned about, and what is relevant to them. Click data and analytics only show us actions. Neither can tell us what our website visitors are thinking, in their own words. Collecting verbatim visitor feedback, at scale, is critical to our success.


Is My Data Actionable?

Some of us may equate having lots of data with listening to our audience. Today’s modern marketer, with a CDP, CRM, DMP, ML, AI, BI and (my favorite) NBA tools, think they must have all the necessary customer intel to launch a killer website. How can this be the Dark Ages when I have all this data on my customers?

It’s true that not too long ago we didn’t have any of these tools, any of this data (and perhaps any of this headache). But today, with so much data, and so many ways to process it, we're left struggling to actually use it effectively and to draw actionable conclusions from it. In fact, 33% of marketers surveyed by ClickZ and Fospha said that “data complexity” was their greatest challenge. All of the customer and prospect data in the world means nothing if we can’t act on it.


A Quickly Changing Landscape

Today more than ever, audiences expect that we marketers will provide them with digital experiences that are appealing, relevant, and most importantly, personalized. So we must keep top-of-mind awareness on rapid change and high opportunity cost. Our organizations must be agile enough to meet these expectations without getting bogged down by expensive and time-consuming market research. We need an efficient way to understand what will work with our target audiences. We need actionable insights to drive the design changes that launch an optimized experience. For me, relying on gut hunches, and then experimenting on my target customers to fine-tune them, just doesn’t cut it.

Intuition and guesswork are not sound design principles. But too many of us employ them before launching a webpage. And as a result, there are serious and lasting negative effects on our online acquisition, conversion and overall brand reputation. It's time to end the Dark Ages and progress into the Digital Marketing Renaissance!

Stay tuned for the follow up on this post, where I will dive into some of the consequences of launching digital experiences without first performing pre-live testing with target audiences. Please comment and share your thoughts. I'm particularly interested to hear how people feel about their preparation before launching a webpage.


About WEVO

WEVO is the first technology platform that optimizes digital experiences before you go live. Leveraging crowdsourced visitor insight and artificial intelligence, WEVO generates recommendations that have proven to significantly increase conversion. WEVO has successful experience working with Fidelity, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Harvard University, Santander Bank and others.



The Secret to Loss Aversion-centric Design

Those who follow the behavioral economics space already know that loss aversion plays a huge role in how humans make decisions, but how does it apply to marketing and design?

The term itself - Loss Aversion - is fairly self explanatory: a distaste for or disliking of loss. On the surface, it seems almost too obvious - who among us doesn’t dislike loss? When we look at loss aversion in terms of the behavioral economics of design, however, there is more to the story than meets the eye.

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It seems logical that a gain or loss of equal value would produce equal amounts of joy or sorrow, but this is not the case. Imagine that I offer you a bet. I’ll flip a coin and if it lands on heads, I’ll give you $20. If it lands on tails, you have to give me $20. Would take the bet? Most people would need to have the chance to win at least double the potential loss before they would play. Psychologists have found that the potential of loss tends to weigh heavier and cause stronger emotions in people than a potential gain. The weight of the fear of loss can impact the decision making process, more so than the desire for gain. This is the root of loss aversion.

So what’s the secret?

The key to utilizing loss aversion is all in how you frame your offering. In marketing, it’s natural want to talk extensively about the features and benefits a user stands to gain from the offering. What the theory of loss aversion tells us, however, is that highlighting potential losses such as FOMO (fear of missing out) might actually capture a customer’s attention and emotional interest more. The followup to this is to make clear what actions are necessary in order to avoid the loss you’ve just highlighted. This could be buying a certain product, signing up for an email list, or clicking on a specific offer. After all, psychological studies on loss aversion tell us that people are actually willing to risk more to avoid loss than they are to gain something. Framing a benefit as a way to avoid loss will make prospective customers more willing to take the risk of pursuing your offering.

Implementation

With this understanding of loss aversion it’s time to move on to design and implementation. The most important thing is to run your marketing materials through the “loss aversion filter” - what does your user stand to lose. Here are some best practices you can start with.

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Create Ownership

If you can, offer a free trial or a money back guarantee. This technique works especially well with higher value considered purchases, but can be applied to nearly any product. By giving your customer the chance to “own” your product or service, it will be that much harder to give it up.

Frame the Loss

When framing a product, describe losses in terms of actions visitors can take to prevent them. An example in email marketing would be, “Order within the next 6 hours or your free shipping offer will expire.” This way you directly correlate the desired action with loss prevention in the mind of the customer.

Benefits are Facts

Wherever possible, the benefits of your product or service should be expressed as nouns. This leads customers to view them as guaranteed and without risk. For example, you could describe a product as being made from “ultra durable material,” for a benefit statement, and say “won’t rip or tear” to appeal to the loss averse consumer.

Understanding loss aversion is an incredible eye opener, and you’ll start to see these, and other tactics in marketing materials and campaigns all over the world. The real secret is to use these same techniques in your own marketing efforts. WEVO helps pinpoint these opportunities and identify how effectively you have framed your offerings from a wide variety of behavioral economic principles, including loss aversion. With WEVO, you can test and compare different versions of your site before coding or launching, to ensure you put forth the site that leads to maximum conversion, and a more satisfied customer.

How to Implement Personalized Marketing the Smart Way

It is no surprise that brands and consumers alike are embracing personalization in marketing more and more. After all, the more consumers are bombarded with mass marketing and irrelevant advertising, the more inclined they are to just tune it all out. Consumers are much more likely to respond positively to marketing tailored to their unique likes/dislikes, expectations, hopes, and concerns. Personalized marketing tends to lead to a better relationship with your company perceived by customers and prospects, which then leads to more conversion.

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However, highly specific personas of your ideal customer will only be applicable to a small handful of people viewing your website or other marketing materials. After all, your web page viewers aren’t personas, they’re real human beings.


Roadblocks to Personalized Marketing

It is essential to do research and have information on your different audience segments before you can personalize your marketing effectively. Most marketers understand this, but are still left feeling unable to personalize their marketing effectively due to a lack of insights, or restraints on time and resources available to collect the necessary insights.

Unfortunately, very few companies have the advantages of Netflix and Amazon of having an unmatched collection of data on basically every consumer that has ever opened an internet browser. Without this amount of data or insights from actual human beings, any personalization you do will be solely based on assumptions.

Once someone is a customer, or has at least raised their hand, you can start collecting data and information on them to personalize their experience. You can keep track of their demographics, psychographics, what they clicked, what pages they viewed, etc. But what about consumers who are having their first interaction with your company-the consumers you don’t know? How can you ensure that your website and landing pages speak to them? You’ll want to know and track what messaging, segmenting, and advertising worked for them.


The Solution

With WEVO, you don’t need vast amounts of data or time at your disposal to gain insights prior to adding personalization to your marketing. We collect feedback on your web page from actual human beings based on your target demographics, and our AI technology brings you only the most valuable feedback, which you can then sift through by demographics such as age and gender. This helps you understand how different segments view your page, even those that are not already customers. Within our platform you can see page visitors’ likes, dislikes, expectations, hopes, and concerns, all within a number of days.

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WEVO allows you to test multiple pages or multiple versions of pages. This way you can see what pages and/or elements work best with what segments of your audience. This can then be utilized to perfect your personalized marketing. Contact WEVO today to collect insights to inform your personalized marketing.







Why Webpage Conversion Optimization is not One-Size-Fits-All

It would certainly make things easier for digital marketers everywhere if there were a nice, neat set of rules to follow to increase conversion on their webpages. If only we could all make our call-to-action buttons blue, our font Times New Roman, write a simple description of our offering in plain, uncreative language, and guarantee millions of conversions. Unfortunately, this nice, neat set of rules does not exist.

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“What’s the Right Button Color?”

When it comes to getting visitors to convert on your webpage, there really are no “best practices.” Every digital marketing article or blog you come across has a different stance on what button color leads to the most conversions. Some say green because it symbolizes “go”, some call for a vibrant blue, and some are champions of the BOB (Big Orange Button). No matter how amusing the online debate on call-to-action button color gets, the truth is there will never really be a winner. Because there isn’t just one correct button color to make your page visitors convert. The only way to find out what the right button color for your page is, is to put it to the test.

The same is true of all elements of your page. What works and doesn’t work can drastically change from industry to industry, business to business, and page to page. Elements that might be generally accepted as good for conversion may not work for your audience and vice versa.

Knowing Your Audience Gets You Closer to Conversion

To increase conversion, you must understand YOUR audience. It is essential to know not only what they like and dislike, but also their expectations, their desires, and their concerns. As digital marketers we need to look at our pages from our audience’s perspective and make sure that what matters to them is being addressed, and what doesn’t matter to them isn’t taking up valuable space on our websites.

There is no such thing as mass marketing anymore.

As marketers we cannot just put out something that we think can be generally accepted as appealing by the entire human population. We must understand what our audience wants and needs and WHY. This understanding is what guides us to add elements, design, and content to our pages that will help visitors understand how clicking the call-to-action button will bring them one step closer to what they want.

WEVO is Here to Help

At WEVO, we deliver individualized customer insights from your audience to help you understand their expectations and what they want from your page. WEVO’s conversion drivers help you understand what goals your page needs to accomplish to get visitors to convert. There may not be a list of best practices for conversion optimization, but WEVO can show you what will work best for your audience.

Adding More Insight to Your Visitor's Experience

Every visitor who lands on your website or landing page comes with a pre existing set of concerns, needs, hopes, or aspirations that guide how they evaluate and engage with your page. Shining a light on the aspirations and addressing the concerns can make a huge difference in visitors’ perception of both your brand and your offering.

Traditionally, these hopes and fears have been largely hidden from digital marketers, only accessible through small focus groups and user testing. While helpful, these findings (like most results from user testing and focus groups) are limited by the law of small numbers. At best, this means that you only have access to a small portion of the needs and concerns of your prospective audience - at worst, you might design a landing page that speaks to the wrong fears, and highlights the wrong features. WEVO’s latest update solves this problem.

Introducing Audience Expectations

With the release of audience expectations, digital marketers can now see exactly what matters most to their visitors and and how well each page addresses these hopes and concerns. At a glance, see the most significant expectations your target audience has when coming to your page and exactly how well your page met or didn’t meet these expectations.

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Want more? Dive deeper into the qualitative feedback from your audience and understand why the page did or didn’t meet their original expectations... in their own words

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The most effective pages speak to the hopes and fears of their target audience. They address aspirations of a better career in higher education, answer key questions interest rates in finance, or talk about quality of care for insurance. With help from WEVO, digital marketers are better able to adapt messaging and content to tailor to what matters most to your target audience.