Should PPC agencies be scared of automation?

Paid search professionals might be nervous about losing their jobs to automation, but columnist Anna Shirley makes the case that PPC automation may actually benefit them.

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How To Gather Split-Test Ideas For Your Copy Using Post-Conversion Questionnaires

Marketers often struggle to come up with new ideas and angles to improve their marketing campaigns.

So in this post, I’m going to show you an effective way of collecting the insights and ideas you need to create breakthroughs, by using post-conversion questionnaires.

Why I Started Using Post-Conversion Questionnaires in my Campaigns

A little while ago, I was helping some clients generate leads online with paid advertising.

We were operating in a fairly competitive niche, so I found myself constantly having to come up with new angles and ideas in order to keep my copy ‘fresh’ and to battle campaign fatigue.

After a while though, I ran out of ideas and I knew I had to go back and study my market in more detail.

However, this was a challenge.

There weren’t many resources online (e.g. online forums and blogs) that were available for my particular target market.

And I simply couldn’t rely on my clients to give me the information I needed.

My clients were too busy running their own businesses and even if they did have the time to speak to me, they would end up filtering information through their perspective and language, thereby defeating the whole point of the research.

What I needed was a way to listen to the market directly.

Now, at the time, I had call tracking software setup on the landing pages I had created for my client.

That way, I could track the number of people who called my client directly instead of submitting their details via the form on the landing page.

But the call tracking software had an unintentional benefit: it also recorded those phone calls and literally allowed me to listen into the conversations my market was having.

This seemed like the answer I needed.

Except there was one problem: only a very small percentage of leads ever called the number (less than 5%).

Most people simply submitted their details via the form on the page and waited to be followed up.

Since I didn’t have call recording setup for outbound calls on my client’s end (which would have been virtually impossible to do), I was missing out on an enormous number of conversations and in turn, the rich data I needed to improve my campaign.

It was then when I came up with an idea: Why not include an additional step in my funnel to capture information directly from the prospects that submitted their details on the landing page?

Well, that’s exactly what I did.

I added a brief, optional questionnaire after a prospect submitted their contact details.

Though the questionnaire was optional, 75-85% of people ended up filling it out (some in great detail).

This quickly gave me the information and insight I needed to come up with new ideas and angles in my campaigns.

And because these ideas came straight from the marketplace, I knew they each had a very good chance of succeeding.

Why the Questionnaire is Shown After the Conversion

Using questionnaires to survey leads and prospects is not a new technique by any means.

In fact, since Ryan Levesque released his book, ‘Ask’, the use of questionnaires has exploded across the world of internet marketing.

However, in most cases, questionnaires are placed before the conversion.

The reason for this is usually to increase the conversion rate by tailoring the funnel according to the answers provided by the prospect.

In our case, however, the primary goal of the questionnaire is to collect information, not boost conversions.

In fact, we do not want to alter the performance of the funnel at all until we have collected the information we need to make a well-informed change.

Now, another reason why we put the questionnaire after the conversion is because the people who convert tend to be the ‘hottest prospects.’

They resonate with the appeals in your copy, are motivated enough to take action and are therefore the ideal people to survey.

You may be asking then, “why don’t we put the questionnaire on the initial lead capture form?”

As mentioned before, we do not want to impact the performance of the funnel until we have collected the information we need, and adding more fields to a form will nearly always decrease the conversion rate.

Putting the questionnaire after conversion allows us to leave the conversion rate of the funnel untouched while still allowing us to collect the information we need to improve it over time.

process-lead-genPutting the questionnaire after a lead submits essential contact details allows us to collect information while retaining the performance of the funnel.

In practice, I’ve found that 75-85% of people converting end up answering the questionnaire anyway, even though it is optional, which provides more than enough data to work with.

conversion-rate-performance75-85% of leads usually end up answering the questionnaire

Advantage Over Other Market Research Methods

Post-conversion questionnaires have a few advantages over other market research methods.

  1. You can collect information on your target market very quickly. It should only take you around an hour to add an additional page with a questionnaire into your funnel. After it is setup, you can start collecting a significant amount of data on your target market very quickly. For example, if you have a funnel that generates 100 leads a week; you will end up with around 75 – 85 completed questionnaires after a week.
  2. You can collect information for virtually no additional cost or effort. You are already spending money to generate leads with your funnel. The post-conversion questionnaire allows you to tap into this existing asset and capture the information you need at virtually no additional effort or cost.
  3. You are collecting quality information. When someone converts (whether it’s to request a consult or download a lead magnet), they are in a state of action. They are consciously feeling the pains, frustrations and desires as demonstrated by their motivation to act. By capturing their thoughts while they are in this state, you will gather very accurate insights that can be used to recreate this state in other people in your target market.

What Questions to Ask

In your questionnaire, you can ask closed-ended questions to get a better idea of who the person filling it out is.

However, open-ended questions are what will end up providing the most useful information for improving your campaign.

Open-ended questions encourage people to express their problems, frustrations and desires in detail, without any constraints.

This is especially important because we want to not only capture what problems and desires our market has, but the way they articulate them.

Two open-ended questions I often like to use are:

  • Tell me a little about your situation
  • What is your biggest challenge with XYZ?

example-post-conversion-formAn example post-conversion questionnaire with closed and open-ended questions

“Tell me a little about your situation” is a very open-ended question that doesn’t specify what information is desired from the respondent.

It simply allows the prospect to talk about anything they think is relevant to their situation, whether positive or negative.

This could include how they ended up where they are now, their motivation for wanting to make a change, their current problems and frustrations, their goals or any other relevant details about their situation.

“What is your biggest challenge with XYZ” on the other hand, asks more specifically about the negative issues the prospect is experiencing.

The reason why we ask about the problems and challenges they are facing is two-fold.

Firstly, the human brain has evolved to react more strongly to negative stimuli than to positive stimuli. Pain can therefore often be a stronger motivator for action than wants and pleasures.

By uncovering what problems, pains and challenges our prospects are experiencing, we can use them in our copy to motivate them to buy our product or service as the solution.

Secondly, people often find it difficult to articulate exactly what it is they want in detail and with accuracy – especially if they have never achieved or experienced it.

However, people find it very easy to articulate their exact problems, pains, frustrations and challenges since they are experiencing it in the present.

How I Used Questionnaire Answers to Create New Copy

Here is a Facebook ad I ran to help a client generate first-time homebuyer leads:

facebook-ad-homebuyer-1The control ad

As you can see, the bulk of the copy is focused on an individual’s financial situation. For example, having limited savings for a down payment, poor credit score or a complicated employment situation.

I used the post-conversion questionnaire as shown in the previous section to gather new ideas and angles for the campaign.

Here are some actual answers to the question “Tell Me A Little About Your Situation” on the questionnaire:

answers-post-conversion-questionaireSample of real answers collected from a post-conversion questionnaire.

Even from this small sample of responses, you can see a variety of ideas, angles and phrases, including:

  • Being “tired of renting” and wanting a place of their own
  • Buying a house in order to “establish a base” and give their family a stable environment to live in
  • Battling against rising rent
  • Feeling “ready to buy”
  • Issues with their current landlord
  • Finally discovering the area they want to live in for the rest of their life and wanting to buy a home there
  • Wanting to buy but having financial barriers holding them back (not much money available for a down payment, low credit score, bankruptcy)
  • Already paying a lot for rent and wanting to use the money to pay off their own home instead
  • From the answers in the questionnaire, I was able to ‘feed’ some of the ideas back into the copy of a new test ad:

    facebook-ad-homebuyer-2The new test ad

    Here is a comparison of how the new ad (“TNew”) performed against the old (“TCon”):

    facebook-ad-performanceHow the new ad performed against the control.

    The new ad performed well, achieving a similar cost per lead to the control after a short period of time (the cost per lead tended to stabilize after a few conversions and would stay at roughly the same cost for more than 50 conversions. So even though the number of conversions of the new ad at this point was far less than the control, I knew this ad was good).

    Though I was not able to significantly reduce the cost per lead with the new ad, the fact that it performed similarly to the control ad despite containing different ideas, confirmed the effectiveness of the post-conversion questionnaire.

    It also meant that I had a new converting ad which I could put into rotation to extend the life of my campaign while still maintaining my lead cost targets (since the ROI on the leads was already very high for my client, making sure I could extend the life of the campaign as much as possible and deliver a consistent volume of leads, actually mattered more than decreasing the cost per lead).

    Conclusion

    Post-conversion questionnaires can be used in virtually any online marketing campaign that requires people to convert. They are a quick and effective tool for discovering new angles, ideas and ways of articulating your market’s hopes, fears and dreams.

    Try adding them to your campaigns today. It will only take an hour or two and the information you gain from them will be well worth the time spent.

    About the Author: Nathaniel is a digital marketer who specializes in lead generation with Facebook Ads. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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10 ways to improve your business locators

Multilocation businesses often have store locators, but many aren't making the most of them. Columnist Adam Dorfman suggests ways to optimize your locator to provide a better user experience and increase conversions.

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The Value of a Happy Customer: Action steps to a great customer experience

What is the real value of a great customer experience? And once you know, how do you create one? Join our experts as they provide actionable steps to create an amazing customer experience with your brand. You’ll also hear more results from the groundbreaking Harris/Lithium research with real-world...

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Marketing Versus Sales: Metrics to Highlight Each Department’s Contribution To Revenue

So much has been written over the years about the “sales and marketing divide” – frankly it’s an exhausted discussion and one that’s never made much sense to me.

Don’t get me wrong; sales and marketing conflict exists in many organizations today. But in almost every organization I’ve encountered the success or failure of the sales and marketing teams are intertwined – these departments simply must learn to win or lose, collectively, as a team. Sales and marketing conflict stems from a lack of accountability from either a sales leader or a marketing leader, but to me the solution needs to come from the top (CEO) down. Here’s my recipe for solving these woes once and for all.

  1. Intelligently track a series of metrics around both sales’ and marketing’s contributions to revenue. This is not about creating an “us versus them” scenario – it’s about being intelligently and honestly informed on the role that each department plays at your company.
  2. Create incentives/bonus structures so that your sales and marketing teams succeed or fail together.
  3. Have your sales and marketing leaders jointly present all revenue related updates at your board, executive, and all-hands meetings. If you do this and your sales and marketing leaders are not on the same page, it will very quickly become apparent.

This post seeks to identify the process and metrics you can use to identify both sales’ and marketing’s contributions to revenue.

Start With Some Acknowledgements

Before jumping into a discussion around the metrics you’ll use to determine sales’ and marketing’s contributions to revenue, I think it’s worth having a discussion where you ask your leaders to make some common sense acknowledgements. This sets the tone that you’re here to have a reasonable, important discussion; not to argue over each person’s or department’s worth. There are four points that I like to start with that I think are universally applicable.

  1. The biggest shift in sales over the last decade has been buyer empowerment. According to Forrester, 57% of a buyer’s purchase decision is complete before a buyer ever talks to a sales rep. Online reputation management, product demo videos, product reviews – that’s part of the sales process that’s now typically owned by marketing.
  2. Your company could be selling to SMBs with an almost no-touch sales process, you could be selling to mid-market companies with a blended approach, or you’re selling to enterprise accounts with long and complex buying cycles. It’s worth acknowledging up front where your business tend to fall on this scale.
  3. Cold calling should always be a last resort. I feel strongly about this and am always curious why I often get pushback on this point. Anyone who has ever been tasked with cold calling will tell you it’s a brutal, frustrating gig. There is nothing at all efficient about calling someone who has shown no indication of wanting to talk to you, to attempt to sell them a product they may never have even heard of. When was the last time you bought a product like this? My point here is not that you can’t make the unit economics associated with cold calling work – it’s just that you’d be better off exhausting other channels before turning your attention here. Inbound marketing programs are designed to deliver better quality leads, more cost effectively and at a greater scale than cold calling programs.
  4. Acknowledge that some of the work marketing does may impact revenue, but it’s really difficult to measure. For example, investments in branding may be tough to quantify particularly in the short term. That doesn’t mean that this work isn’t worthwhile, but without a more direct tie to revenue we won’t waste effort trying to draw some lose correlations at this stage.

Here are the metrics I recommend tracking to help your organization better understand the role of the sales and marketing teams at your company. It’s worth noting that there aren’t any complex equations here, nor any singular metric that’s the be-all-and-end-all answer. Instead, looking at these metrics consistently and collectively should help everyone in your organization have a common understanding of each department’s contributions towards your revenue goals.

Lead Source Metrics

% Marketing Sourced Leads
Typically this is a pretty easy metric to track – any marketing automation of lead attribution tool can help here for inbound, online lead generation programs. If there are other marketing events or conferences that contribute significant lead volume, simply agree with your counterpart whether those leads should be attributed as marketing or sales generated.

% Sales Sourced Leads
Again, this should be a pretty easy metric to track. In most instances sales generated leads will need to be input into your CRM system by a business develop representative (BDR). The real struggle here is getting your BDRs to consistently input each and every lead they are working into your CRM. An easy fix here? If a deal is closed that’s not input into your CRM with proper attribution, no commission is paid on the sale. This works every time.

Conversion Rate Metrics

Marketing Lead to Customer Rate – What percentage of your marketing generated leads become paying customers?

Sales Lead to Customer Rate – What percentage of your sales generated leads become paying customers?

These two conversion rates are simply a useful barometer of lead quality and how efficient you are in turning each lead type into a paying customer.

Revenue Contribution Metrics

% Revenue From Marketing Sourced Leads – What percentage of your total closed revenue resulted from a marketing generated lead?

% Revenue From Sales Sourced Leads – What percentage of your total closed revenue resulted from a sales qualified lead?

These two metrics are perhaps the most important. That said, you’ll want to make sure that there are not significant differences in how you’re following up with each individual lead type to avoid built in biases in these measurements.

Product/Service Adoption – It’s worth acknowledging that revenue does not just come from new customer acquisition, but can also come from your organization selling additional products and services to existing customers. If that’s the case, I typically advocate for the sales team or a customer success team owning the responsibility of upselling existing accounts. One measurement that can be helpful though is attempting to quantify the impact of a particular marketing campaign focused on the adoption of a new product or service.

For example, your company has 1000 existing customers using product A. You also offer product B, and have seen about 5 accounts each month also buy product B without any marketing campaigns or efforts really designed to push product B. Holding as many other variables as steady as possible (seasonality, etc) run a marketing campaign then measure the uptick in purchases of product B that you realize. That should give you a good sense of the revenue gains the marketing campaign helped to deliver.

Conclusion

While these metrics are pretty straightforward, I believe that they are the right place to start in the sense that they are simple, relatively easy to measure, and collectively should give you a sense of each department’s contributions to revenue. Could you get more scientific in your approach – probably – but I’d argue that more time and effort spent hashing through this may only further increase the sales and marketing divide you’re trying to fix. And a word of caution – stay away from any arguments over marketing or sales “influence” – marketing and sales are both likely “influencing” almost of your sales by one means or another.

If you’re still struggling with sales and marketing conflict, a more drastic measure could be the solution; consider switching up your organizational structure. This can be a larger, more complex effort but is one that can result in huge efficiency gains. I have seen a number of companies move away from having “traditional” sales and marketing departments, instead forming cross functional “customer acquisition” or “revenue” teams. Imagine a team staffed with marketers solely focused on lead generation via paid search, with an inside sales rep specifically tasked with closing those leads. Any issues with efficiency or lead follow-up tend to melt away with this level of specialization and focus.

About the Author: Geoff Roberts is Co-founder of Outseta, a lightweight operating system for early stage SaaS start-ups.

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