The new marketing mandate: Learn fast

Marketing technologists find themselves in the unique position to mentor their fellow marketers as the landscape changes rapidly. Contributor Justin Dunham explains how.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.
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Homepages vs Landing Pages: Where to Drive Paid Traffic for Higher Conversions

I’m going to give this to you straight. If you’re directing your hard-won PPC, Facebook, Twitter or banner ad traffic to your homepage…

There is a better way.

Conversion happens on landing pages.

And your homepage is not one of them.

Why?

Your homepage is a hub. It’s a jump off point to the rest of your site’s content. A landing page is a destination. It’s where you want visitors to end up.

Let me show you what this looks like.

Where to Go (and How You Get There)

Picture this:

You’ve decided to go on vacation. You call up your travel agent. You tell him you’re in the mood for tropical climates, white sand beaches, and public intoxication.

I know just the place, he says.

Your travel agent, who moonlights as an Uber driver, picks up you up and you’re away. Ready to soak up that mojito-laden air.

But, instead of taking you to a resort, he drops you off at the airport. He leaves you there — with no idea where you’re going or what to do next.

See where I’m going with this?

You are the prospect and your travel agent/Uber driver is your ad.

You had an idea of what you wanted and where you wanted to go. But instead of him taking you there — you’re left in a crowded terminal with only one question:

What now?

Sure, you may meander around for a bit. You might even stumble upon a flight to a coastal city.

But, odds are, you’ll find someone else who will actually send you somewhere. Someone who will set you on the path to a beautiful and exotic land—ing page.

It’s About Awareness, Intent, and Direction

Every visitor who clicks on an ad, comes to your site or buys from you, is in a certain stage of problem awareness.

Here’s a brief a rundown on the five stages:

  1. Unaware – The first stage The prospect doesn’t know they have a problem. Enter Dwight. The marketer who works his nine to five, five days a week without issue or complaint.
  2. Problem-Aware – This stage comes after something triggers a feeling of discontent. A disconnect between desire and reality. It’s Dwight at his desk at 9:37am, realizing he feels burnt-out. He doesn’t know what he needs. He only knows he has a problem.
  3. Solution AwareVacation. He needs a vacation. The solution stage is when a prospect identifies a way to solve their problem. But, still unaware of the options. He doesn’t know where he can go to get the relaxation he needs.
  4. Product-AwareIceland? Sydney? Hawaii? The next stage is awareness of the available options. It’s a prospect knowing your solution exists and what it can do.
  5. Most-Aware – Dwight likes Hawaii. The final stage is when the prospect is not only aware of your solution but when it’s also the top contender.

What does this have to do with paid traffic?

Two things.

First, the awareness stage dictates what they’re looking for, why they’re looking for it and how they got there.

In a word: Intent.

Second, knowing which stage a prospect is in allows you to write targeted ad copy. It’s the copywriting adage of joining the conversation that’s already going on in their head — in action.

And it’s not only your ads. Every page on your website addresses concerns at different levels of product awareness. The goal of paid ad campaigns is to prime for conversion by moving them through these stages.

So, which would better fulfil this goal? A homepage or a landing page?

If you answered homepage. Read on.

If you answered landing page. Nice. Read on.

Why Copywriters Hate Writing Homepages

I know what some of you are thinking:

Our homepage has the product on it. By sending traffic there, we’re making visitors product-aware. Plus, it’s littered with information about our value proposition. And THAT will move them into the most-aware stage. It’s the ultimate landing page. Bazinga.

Fair point. But, remember the ultimate goal is conversion. Convincing Dwight that Hawaii is the best place to be, doesn’t mean he’s booked the ticket. Getting to the final stage of awareness is still only awareness — not action.

And although visitors are “landing” on it, I’ll say this again:

A homepage is not a landing page.

Homepages are the gateway to the rest of your site. They are for visitors at every stage of awareness. This makes writing homepage copy a bit of a doozy.

But, landing pages are purpose-built conversion-machines. They follow an optimized set of design principles. Squeezing out every sign-up, opt-in and sale possible. They do this by adhering to a staple of conversion copywriting:

The Rule of One.

The Rule of One is to design each page with one reader and one big idea in mind. For example, Spotify’s landing page for a product-aware prospect (one-reader) with a free trial offer (one big idea):

spotify premiumNo more, no less.

The purpose of the Rule of One is to convert. It gives a single visitor a single path.

This is why homepages are troublesome for copywriters. A homepage is for everybody, and so, it converts nobody. Sure, you may have a CTA above the fold, smack-dab in the center. But, how many conversions do you get compared to a purpose-built landing page?

A lot less, I’d assume.

Focus Trumps Clutter

The real problem with sending visitors to your homepage is onus of responsibility. You make them responsible for navigating through your site. You make them responsible for finding your landing pages.

You make them responsible for your conversion rate.

Let’s go back to Dwight. He knows he has a problem. He needs a solution — so he Googles:

feel less stressed work google queryDwight’s problem aware search query

And this ad comes up. What do you think he’d prefer to see when he clicks on it? A solution to his workplace woes? Or a page cluttered with links and information that may or may not be relevant?

Directing paid traffic to conversion relies on visitor expectationjoin the conversation that’s already going on in their head.

If they’re in the problem stage, they’re expecting a solution. If they’re in the solution stage, they’re expecting a product.

Give it to them.

The first page they see plays a pivotal role in convincing them your offer is worth their time and attention — make it count.

There is already plenty of content out there on designing landing pages. So we won’t get into that here. But, there is one aspect of landing page design that makes it a conversion beast:

Variation.

As in, multiple, targeted and focused designs. Here’s an example: Instapage — a landing page building platform.

If anyone knows how to design landing pages, it should be them, right?

Now, here’s where you come in. You have a problem. You need landing pages. And you need them now.

You go on the Google machine and search for “how to build landing pages”. You scroll down and click a link to Instapage’s homepage:

instapage guaranteeNot a landing page.

Immediately you see menu items, a CTA button, and a video play button. There’s also “3 Brand New Design Features” to check out. You don’t even know the old features yet.

You’re at the airport.

Why are you here? Where do you go? What’s the next step?

Now for comparison, here is the landing page after clicking on the PPC ad for the same search query:

instapage landing pageTwo roads did not diverge in a yellow wood.

See the difference?

The landing page has a clear path for the visitor to “GET STARTED NOW”. Clicking either button takes you to a page with a simple signup form — and nothing else. Below the fold, you see the features most pertinent to your search query: how to build landing pages.

instapage below the fold landing pageShould you get started or get started?

What’s more, every single clickable element leads to the same sign-up page as the first CTA button. Like Spotify’s landing page, it gives a single visitor a single path to conversion.

instapage customers tweetYes, even these testimonials at the bottom of the page are clickable.

The focus is on the visitor’s intent — anticipating their needs. And by presenting the right information, they meet their expectations.

Now, let’s see the search query: “high converting landing pages”. This is the PPC ad’s landing page:

instapage advertising landing pageNot only is the headline more ROI focused, but the hero image is also analytics-themed.

Again, above the fold there is a central focus — get started now. Below the fold are features relevant to the visitor’s intent and expectations. In comparison, the homepage now looks cluttered and directionless.

Targeted, focused, and relevant landing pages are the key to high conversions.

One company found their ad-specific landing pages outperformed their generic pages by 115%. And companies have seen a 55% increase in leads when increasing their number of landing pages from 10 to 15.

This is the beauty of directing paid traffic to landing pages. You can create them based on exactly what the visitor needs to see at their stage of awareness.

Homepages are static — There can be only one.

The Bottom Line

If you’re directing paid traffic to your homepage — you’re wasting your marketing budget.

Your homepage was never meant to be more than a central hub. A starting point. Whereas landing pages have every single element designed, tested and optimized for conversion.

You are paying money for this traffic.

If you currently have ads directed to your homepage, direct them to a relevant landing page. Go, now.

If you already direct them to a landing page, ask yourself:

  • Is this the most optimized landing page for the intended reader’s stage of awareness?
  • Does the landing page present information that they’d expect to see?
  • If it doesn’t, can I build another landing page that would be better suited?

Remember, Dwight needs the vacation. Don’t leave him wandering through the airport.

If you show him the boarding gate — he’ll get on the plane.

About the Author: Andy Nguyen is a professional copywriter for hire. He helps B2B SaaS and marketing companies produce content their audience wants to read.

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Your Summer Reading List from the Copyblogger Editorial Team

Editorial Roundtable

I don’t believe in a “writing gene.”

Writing comes more easily to some folks, for sure. But those aren’t always the people who end up writing really well.

Writing is a skill that requires plenty of practice. But practice is always more effective when you’re working on the right things.

That’s when it’s time to seek out some good advice.

This week, we asked Copyblogger’s editorial team to share some of their favorite writing books. There’s a mix here — some books are about the art of writing, some about craft, and some about strategy.

Any of them will help you put your words together in more powerful ways.

Here are the recommendations, in each writer’s own words:

Brian Clark

Fun Fact: I’ve never read a “normal” writing book, only copywriting and screenwriting books. So:

Advertising Secrets of the Written Word, Joe Sugarman
I have a lot of copywriting books and courses, and if I were starting out from square one today, I’d start here. Joe Sugarman is a direct marketing legend, and he does a great job of getting basic copywriting concepts across in an enjoyable way. So if you’re brand new to copywriting, this is where to go.

Editor’s note: This edition of Sugarman’s book is out of print, but was reissued as The Adweek Copywriting Handbook.

Breakthrough Advertising, Eugene Schwartz
For the advanced, here’s the money book, courtesy of the late, great Gene Schwartz. When you’re ready to take it to the next level, this is what just about any highly successful copywriter will tell you is the Holy Grail of deep psychological insights that lead to breakthrough marketing campaigns.

Stefanie Flaxman

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk!, Al Ries and Jack Trout
It’s a quick read, but every time you pick it up as you progress on your marketing journey, something new clicks into place or it sparks new ideas for a project you’re working on.

And I’m going rogue on my second submission 😉

My suggestion is to treat every book (or article) you read as a lesson. Why do you like the writing? Why do you dislike the writing? If you answer those questions and study the craft of other writers, you can improve your own writing. See if you can adapt the qualities you like to fit your own style — and avoid the qualities you dislike. 

Robert Bruce

The Unpublished David Ogilvy
Though he is most famous/infamous for his industry-shattering Ogilvy on Advertising, Unpublished offers a deeper look into the original Mad Man. His tactics, motives, and strategies are laid bare … not to mention some of the funniest internal memo writing you’ll ever read.

Selected Letters (3 Volumes), Charles Bukowski
Another case (for me) in which the writer’s offhand, non-staged work seems so much more alive than what he is known for. Or, maybe I’m just too old and too dead inside to reach for his poetry and fiction over this fascinating, exploding, and beautifully human correspondence.

Jerod Morris

On Writing, Stephen King
I love On Writing. It cuts through all the bullshit and gets right to the heart of what it means to write. “Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.”

The War of Art, Stephen Pressfield
It actually shares some over-arching thematic similarities to King’s in how uncompromising they are about the commitment it takes to be a good writer, and how writing isn’t about staring out a window and waiting for the muse … but strapping on your work boots, sitting down, and typing. 

Kelton Reid

Besides the obvious — Cialdini, Ogilvy, Schwartz, Hopkins, Godin, McKee, King, Clark, Simone, and Bruce — I have a few other go-to faves:

Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon
New York Times bestselling author Austin Kleon has been called “one of the most interesting people on the Internet” by The Atlantic magazine. An authority on “creativity in the digital age,” this guide offers the message: “You don’t need to be a genius; you just need to be yourself.”

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Mason Currey
How did the greats get it done? If you’re like me and you nerd-out on the processes of annoyingly productive creatives, this is for you. A well-written survey of the daily rituals of 161 novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, and more, on how they “… get done the work they love to do, whether by waking early or staying up late.”

Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors, Sarah Stodola
Accomplished journalist, editor, and creative nonfiction author Sarah Stodola compiled a fascinating collection of the habits and habitats of heralded scribes titled, Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors. Much word-nerdery here. Enjoy!

Sonia Simone

Since I put this together, I got the benefit of seeing what everyone else wrote. I share a lot of the favorites above, but here are a few that my colleagues didn’t mention.

Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg
I read this over and over when I was just a wee writer, and it’s always stuck with me. Goldberg talks about writing as a Zen meditative practice, and this is a book that can help you get out of your own way and start to find your writing voice.

The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structures for Writers, Christopher Vogler
These days everyone and their Aunt Frances has written about the “hero’s journey” and how it informs the stories we tell. Vogler was one of the first, and his book (intended for screenwriters) has lots of juicy ideas you can swipe to inform the stories we tell with content today.

Marketing Bullets, Gary Bencivenga
It’s well worth your time to seek out copywriting advice that was written for direct response — particularly what we usually call “junk mail.” These writers had to make every syllable work hard to offset the high costs of a direct mail campaign. Gary Bencivenga was one of the most successful writers ever to work in that format.

His advice “bullets” are old-school (sometimes they might even strike you as cheesy), but they’re still smart and they’re still powerful. Reworking them so they make sense in today’s environment and with your individual voice will make anyone a more effective and persuasive writer.

All Marketers are Liars and Permission Marketing, Seth Godin
Seth fills out the other side of the persuasion equation. You want to express yourself clearly and give people the information they need to make a buying decision — that’s what copywriting techniques are for.

But you also need to speak to the desire for belonging, the yearning for connection and shared values, that marks every human society, past or present. That’s what Seth’s books and blogs are for. I found these two particularly useful, but if you have a different favorite, of course I want to hear about it below. :)

How about you?

Do you have any favorite writing books? Are they more “art of writing” or “science of persuasion?”

Let us know in the comments …

The post Your Summer Reading List from the Copyblogger Editorial Team appeared first on Copyblogger.

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Marketing Day: Instagram Stories, SEO for brand protection & PPC strategies

Here’s our recap of what happened in online marketing today, as reported on Marketing Land and other places across the web. From Marketing Land: Questions are the center of great websites Jun 20, 2017 by Brian Massey When you’re optimizing a campaign or website, it’s easy to become fixated on...

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.
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Questions are the center of great websites

When you're optimizing a campaign or website, it's easy to become fixated on having all the answers. But columnist Brian Massey explains how generating questions can lead you to success.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.
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5 User Engagement Strategies for SaaS Product Marketers

Want to sustain growth?

It all starts with user engagement. SaaS businesses must aim to educate and entertain their users to boost satisfaction and retention.

For your team, that means building a marketing strategy that keeps users engaged. You want customers to feel compelled to login to your platform in the morning, during lunchtime, and even before bedtime. You want the stickiness factor.

“Once people start using your product, SaaS companies need to focus on making that product as sticky as possible. Your customers need to be using it in their day-to-day workflows,” says Paul Schmidt, a senior consultant at SmartBug Media.

Ready to engage more? Check out the following five user engagement strategies.

1. Send Triggered Messaging

Communication plays an integral role in customer relationships. You’re already emailing customers welcome messages, product updates, and the occasional thank you note.

Powered by data, it’s possible to send more relevant emails to your audience. Triggered messaging takes advantage of customer behavior to automatically deliver a personalized experience.

“Real-time triggered emails get good results because they respond to subscriber actions and are relevant to them, so they benefit from current high engagement. Whereas routine marketing emails can be more like interruptions and are sometimes rejected as irrelevant,” states Mike Austin, a technologist and email marketer.

Let’s imagine that new users who don’t take a significant action on your platform within 2 days of signing up are more likely to churn. You can set up a triggered message to nudge these users to login to their accounts.

Below is a triggered message I received from Buffer. Their system automatically emailed me when my social media post surpassed a specific audience reach.

Kissmetrics Campaigns can help you deliver behavior based, automated emails to keep customers engaged every step of the way. You also can build targeted segments and measure your campaign impact.

Keep the conversations going beyond the routine emails. Take advantage of customer behavior to send timely messages.

2. Engage with In-App Chat

Over the years as a marketer, you’ve acquired a lot of knowledge about SaaS products. You understand how most platforms work, and you could probably navigate new software within a couple of hours.

The same can’t be said for your customers. They don’t eat and sleep SaaS technology. Therefore, users will need ongoing assistance to achieve their desired outcomes.

“Simply establishing the fact that you are available makes your customers feel better. It makes them not just view the product as some pixels on the screen, but as an extension of the people behind it’s creation: you,” writes Ryan Angilly, CEO of Ramen.

In-app chat is an effective tool to provide one-on-one help to your customers. You’ll learn what features users find difficult, and you can ask users specific questions about their engagement. Your conversations might look the following image from Pipz:

pipz in app messagingImage Source

Some in-app chat platforms offer the capability to segment users. You could identify key behaviors hindering customers from achieving full product adoption. Then, initiate an in-app chat to guide users through their particular roadblocks.

You also want to remind your team to respond to chat messages quickly. Most people don’t like waiting for answers for long periods of time. Another good tip is to be personable on chat support. Emojis help break the monotony.

3. Garner Attention with Video Tutorials

After a customer makes a purchase, it’s important to provide continuing education. An informed customer is more likely to find success with the product, as a result increasing your retention rates.

While well-intentioned customers want to learn, your SaaS product continues to compete for their attention. There are the everyday demands of work, family time, and several other random distractions vying for your customer’s time.

Blogs, eBooks, and guides are the most common forms of educational tools used by businesses. It’s cost-effective and gets the job done. However, text isn’t always an engaging content format.

Video tutorials are one way to compete for your customer’s attention. Videos are visually stimulating and convey your message faster.

Check out the example below from Wrike. The project management company created a video series of tutorials to walk users through their features and benefits.

wrike explainer videosImage Source

To produce captivating video tutorials, start with your customer in mind. What do they want to learn? Schedule time with your customer success team to match your content with users’ pain points.

Beyond the topic, the video should connect with your audience on an emotional level. Use storytelling tactics, like narrative patterns and conflicts, to draw people in and make the experience memorable.

4. Add User Incentives

The right incentive works as a catalyst to influence user behavior. Depending on your company’s goals, you want incentives to serve a real purpose for your customer.

Most companies fall into the trap of giving their customers superficial incentives. That might include a free key chain or the chance to enter a sweepstakes. While these incentives are useful, they might not correlate with growing your engagement.

So let’s skip the swag bags for now. Instead, concentrate on activities that will create product stickiness and transform dormant users into habitual advocates.

Some of those activities may involve offering beta test opportunities for users to try out new features or inviting users into an elite community, like Sprout Social’s All Stars Program.

Sometimes, it can be as simple as creating a Facebook group for users to share tips and ask questions. That’s exactly what CoSchedule did!

coschedule Facebook group

Incentives should be highly valued by your users. Practice strategies of exclusivity or surprise and delight to get users excited about receiving an incentive. A customer who isn’t expecting your incentive will be even more thrilled to receive it.

5. Employ Gamification

The concept of engaging customers with games isn’t anything new. For decades, businesses have seduced customers with seasonal contests.

What’s different now is the method of implementation. The Internet is making it practical to employ gamification principles on a larger scale and at the customer’s convenience.

SaaS businesses see this an opportunity to remedy low customer engagement rates. With the right games, your team can persuade customers to stay on your platform longer.

“Can we do something about our users’ shrinking attention span? No. Can we try to keep them engaged and learning despite the dire circumstances? Absolutely. Gamification and interactive content (e.g. quizzes) are only part of the new dynamic content trend that is emerging in training documentation,” says Noa Dror, content manager at Iridize.

Quuu Promote showcases a great example of how SaaS companies can influence product usage. Their team uses loyalty badges to encourage users to promote more content. The badges are earned when a user’s content attains a specific number of clicks or shares. And as a bonus, the user can earn free credits toward their next purchase.

loyalty badge showcase

Not ready to scale gamification to all your customers? Run a beta program on a segment of your user base. Then, monitor your predetermined success metrics, like usage frequency, to see whether your program produces positive outcomes.

Start Engaging Your Users

Customers are the lifeblood of your business. To retain your users, experiment with different engagement strategies to improve retention.

You can send triggered messaging to remind users to login to your platform. Work with your SaaS team to deliver customer solutions with an in-app chat tool. Lastly, consider how user behavior coupled with gamification can increase engagement.

Engage to retain.

About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter @shaylaprice.

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A Simple Plan for Managing and Completing a Content Project

"Think about where you could be one year from now if you start today." – Stefanie Flaxman

On June 20, 2009, I was reading Copyblogger and I got a new idea: I should write an ebook.

At that point, my writing and editing business was less than a year old, and I had never written anything that resembled a book.

Could I actually do it?

I knew I wanted to try, so I established a plan on July 1 that would help me write, design, and self-publish an ebook on my website by September 15.

I’m going to share that plan with you today, so you can adapt it to any type of content project you’d like to finish by the fall. You’ll also learn some habits I like to avoid when there is a specific goal I want to accomplish.

Select the right topic

Writing an ebook could easily take a year or two … or five.

But launching it as soon as possible was an important step for my business. The ebook would help:

The last bullet point above was especially critical because I didn’t have my own blog yet. I’ll explain that in a bit.

In order to complete the project by the end of the summer, I decided to create a short guide to avoiding common writing mistakes.

If I had chosen a more complex topic, either the quality would have suffered or I wouldn’t have been able to release it on September 15.

Carefully select a project you have the time and resources to finish.

Set final deadlines

On July 1, I set these deadlines …

  • August 1: complete draft
  • August 15: complete editing
  • September 1: complete design
  • September 8: complete guest posts for promotion
  • September 15: launch ebook

As you can see, I had a pretty weak promotion strategy. It made me nervous, but since my goal was to produce an ebook, I didn’t worry about it too much.

The project taught me countless lessons about writing, content creation, and marketing that I could apply in the future.

If you don’t try something new because you don’t feel confident about every aspect of it, you’ll never learn those lessons.

Work on weekly goals

After I marked my calendar with my final deadlines, I outlined weekly goals for how I was going to meet them.

Even though I made daily to-do lists to keep me on track, I preferred to measure my progress at the end of a week. Daily goals are often too strict for my creative process.

Sonia recommends forming a support group with other entrepreneurs to help manage your stress and keep yourself accountable. If you’re more of a lone wolf, adopt a no-excuses attitude.

Don’t treat your deadlines as options. Meet them like your job depends on it.

But also recognize that no project goes perfectly. If you have a week that doesn’t quite go as planned, simply reschedule the tasks you didn’t work on.

It’s possible to have a flexible attitude each week and still finish everything by your final deadlines. Find the space where hard work and fun co-exist.

My website didn’t have a blog

How embarrassing is this?

Although I don’t regret spending a lot of energy in the summer of 2009 on that ebook, it would have also been wise to set up my own blog.

I had already been guest posting on other websites, but my online home was a basic “brochure” site that described my services.

I missed out on a lot of opportunities to build my audience (and business) but came to my senses about a year later when I was ready to blog regularly. :-)

What’s your next project?

It could be:

Think about where you could be one year from now if you start today, and let us know in the comments about a new goal you’re ready to focus on this summer.

The post A Simple Plan for Managing and Completing a Content Project appeared first on Copyblogger.

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