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Archive for the ‘Conversion Optimization & Usability’ Category

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Laws of Marketing Power: Enter Action with Boldness

By | July 28, 2014

“Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid.”

So states the summary of Law 28 of Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power, which is “Enter action with boldness.”

bold spider

Bold jumping spider

One way marketers can achieve power is by boldly grabbing opportunities for influential communication. Marketers should also grab opportunities, period. As best-selling author Bernard Marr writes, “Success in work and life often depends on spotting and grabbing opportunities as they present themselves.” He argues that capitalizing on opportunities is “the one thing successful people never fail to do.” Marketers should heed the truth behind this statement and take chances.

Whether experimenting with a new technology or being genuine with customers about your limitations, the calculated risks we habitually avoid are often the ones with great payoffs. The new marketing channel may increase your reach, and customers may reward your honesty with increased loyalty, resulting in more business. The key is being decisive in whatever course of action you choose. Swiftness trumps hesitation, engendering confidence from others.

Another way boldness manifests itself for marketers is in creativity. As the German philosopher Goethe famously said, “In boldness lies genius, power and magic.” In inventing surprisingly good content, messaging or approaches, a marketer can become a magician, turning users into leads, leads into customers and customers into loyalists. Just as a rabbit materializes from under a magician’s hat, so, too, does the potential business reward emerge from certain forms of boldness. The very essence of an appropriately placed “call-to-action” button, for example, is in its contrast to the surrounding text (color, size, shape).  The principle? Direct the user to take action by making it easy and undeniable. The suggestion becomes the reality.

In this vein, perception matters more than anything else. The bold approach suggests strength: Consider the company that openly compares itself to competitors in marketing messages. By showing no fear of exposing its audience to its rivals, it puts itself first and asserts its assumed superior value to users. In fact, this strategy is highlighted in the Nielsen Norman Group’s B2B website usability report as one evidence-backed way businesses can earn the trust of Web users.

What marketing action have you taken recently? Has it been bold or lukewarm? Are you separating yourself from competitors and dazzling your customers? Or are you just trying to get by and copy what everybody else does? Take a cue from this law and use “shock and awe” to the advantage of your business.


This post is part of a series in which I explore in-depth how some of Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power relate to marketing.


Photo courtesy of Holley and Chris Melton via Flickr.

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E-Commerce Calls-To-Action

By | July 23, 2014

We all know that the marketer’s ultimate goal for retail Web page visitors is conversion. We want the consumer to read the product descriptions, learn more about the merchandise or service, and ultimately be so convinced that it is exactly what they have been looking for they take the plunge right then and there. They make the purchase, download a manual, or request more information.

But sometimes the consumers need a little push. After possibly scrolling through many similar pages, they need something to make them take the plunge and actually make a purchase or supply their email address. Here is where a call-to-action can help. It lets customers know exactly what to do next. A few call-to-action options include:

  • Buy now
  • Shop today
  • Click here for more information
  • Add your name to our email list to learn more
  • Shop women’s
  • Men’s shirts on sale
  • Download the free manual now

This is just a sample of some viable options. Calls-to-action like “shop women’s” and “men’s shirts on sale” help direct the shopper to exactly the desired place on the website without thinking. People can be impatient if they don’t find exactly what they are looking for right away, so putting some of a company’s biggest sellers as click-ready buttons or text can be helpful and save time.

Other call-to-action ideas such as “add your name to our email list” may not get immediate shopping results, but this can help gain long-term customers. This gives access to potential customers to entice with discounts or notices about the newest products or services.

Calls-to-action should be kept simple and include visual elements. If there is an entire paragraph of clickable text, a consumer is likely to just gloss right over it. Using short, eye-catching phrases is best. Free trials or memberships are excellent (if applicable). Everyone likes free.

Calls-to-action can be clickable phrases, tabs at the top of the Web page or even buttons made to stand out and look like actual 3D buttons. This makes it even easier for the consumer to know where to click to find the wanted product or service. In the end, we are trying to convince the consumer to click and purchase this merchandise or supply information, so think about phrasing that would make us want to click on it ourselves.

For additional insights, check out “Call-to-Action 101.”

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Call-to-Action 101

By | July 8, 2014

Most people would agree that the call-to-action is the most important part of a landing page or email message, whether it’s meant to collect leads or inspire a purchase. So it’s important to take the right steps to ensure that there are no obstacles standing in the way of your audience and the end goal of your page. Below are a few tips to consider when designing calls to action for your landing pages, emails or any web pages that are part of your conversion funnel.

CTA button FB

Be specific.

Vague, lackluster verbiage such as “Buy Now” or “Click Here” is pretty bad, but “Submit” is probably the worst CTA you can use. Stick to clear and concise wording when choosing CTAs so that your audience knows exactly what they are doing when they click the button. For example, “Download the Conversion Guide” is obviously more descriptive than “Download Now.”

Stand out.

Don’t be afraid to draw attention to your CTA. The user clicked on an ad or email link for a reason, and the last thing you want is to hide the main purpose of your page and potentially lose the user’s attention. Try to stick to one main CTA, but if you really need to have more than one, make sure to prioritize, so that the more valued one is more prominent.

Easy ways to help your CTA stand out:

1. Contrast between button color and text color.

2. Choose a button color that goes with your branding but doesn’t blend in with the page.

3. Make sure the button and text are large enough compared to the rest of the page elements.

4. Use a rollover effect such as changing the button or text color.

White space is your friend.

It’s OK if your page isn’t filled from top to bottom with images and text—in fact it’s better if it isn’t. Don’t bury your call-to-action in the middle of too many distractions. Determine how much information your audience needs in order to decide whether or not to click on your call-to-action. The greater the investment by the user, the more information they will likely need in order to convert.  For instance, you probably need less details to get a user to download a free whitepaper than you would need in order to convince your audience to hand over their credit card information and purchase a $200 industry trend report.

Create urgency.

This one is pretty simple: If a person feels they are going to miss out on something, that person is more likely to convert. Use a limited-time offer, an exclusive discount for a same day purchase or remind that supplies are limited.

Point it out.

Ideally your page is designed well enough that the user can easily determine what they need to fill out or where they need to click. That doesn’t mean that you can’t use certain elements in order to help guide the user’s eyes where you want them to go. Using images that face towards the form or CTA, adding an arrow to the CTA button and aligning page elements so that there is an easy transition from information to the form or CTA are just a few ways to help lead your user in the right direction. If you have a dedicated designer on your team they should be able to help do this in a subtle way.

Reduce anxiety.

Eliminate any reasons your audience may have to worry about converting. If they’re signing up for a free trial, make sure to highlight the word free. If the user is paying for something, call out any warranties or money-back guarantees that you offer. Also, using logos for secure checkout or accredited organizations that your company is part of can help to ensure your audience that you company is legit.

Test. Test. Test.

Remember that no two audiences are identical, and therefore, what works for one landing page will not necessarily work across the board. The above tips are starting points, but you should continually test aspects of your page in order to establish what works best for your audience. If you use multiple landing pages for different segments of your audience, you will find that even those segments don’t always respond to the same things. If you don’t have the internal development resources to conduct testing there are plenty of good resources that make it relatively easy to run tests, such as Optimizely, Unbounce and Google Analytics Content Experiments.


Image courtesy of Sean MacEntee via Flickr.



Feel the Need. The Need for Speed.

By | July 1, 2014

Fans of classic 80’s movies will recognize the quote “I feel the need. The need for speed!” as the rally cry of Maverick in Top Gun. He was a hot-shot fighter pilot, but if you care about the success of your B2B web presence you also should feel the need for speed. maverick

In a recent Q&A at the SMX Advanced conference Matt Cutts from Google made a deliberate point to say “You really need to be thinking about mobile. Mobile is happening much faster than almost anyone expected.”  Is your website going to be a good experience for mobile visitors?

It is a reality of business that a website design project is often an exercise in compromise. All the desired elements won’t fit the budget or won’t fit the timeline for launch. Unfortunately, a common element left out of a website redesign or launch is optimizing the mobile version. If you were looking at mobile traffic to your site when you last redesigned it and mobile visitors were less than 10% I will bet that responsive website design or a mobile strategy was not included.

If that is the case, then your website in unlikely to perform well on mobile devices. “So, what?” you may ask. If you care about traffic from Google, you should care. They recently announced they may have a rankings demotion factor for slow mobile sites. Does “ranking penalty” set off any alarms in your cockpit?

Even beyond search engine implications, you should care.

If your website does not perform well on mobile devices, you are likely to frustrate your visitors. If you frustrate your visitors, your website will not convert them to clients or customers.

If you are convinced that having a good experience for mobile visitors is an important part of your marketing strategy and would like to have supporting evidence that your current site is not meeting that requirement, you are about to jump in the pilot’s seat.

pagespeedinsights Google offers a tool called PageSpeed Insights. Simply enter your website in the text box and in seconds (remember, we have a need for speed) a report is generated for you.  It will give you an overall score, which will let you know generally if you have problems.

The more useful part of the tool, however, is the practical and specific suggestions of how to improve your performance. There may be some simple code updates that will improve your site without initiating a large project.

The example I used is As you would expect, they do really well.  You will also see that you can generate a report for the desktop performance of your site.  Tip: if your conversion rate is dramatically different between your mobile visitors and your desktop visitors, look at where there are the biggest gaps in performance.

Armed with this data, I dare you to light the afterburners on your website and buzz the tower to celebrate your better-performing website.  Aviator shades are optional.


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Higher Education Website Design: How to Choose the Right Imagery

By | June 10, 2014

Imagery is one of the first things prospective students see when they arrive at your website or landing page. Even if you aren’t able to hire your own professional photographer, paying close attention can help you make a memorable and accurate first impression on students. Find out how to choose the right images for higher education website design – even if you’re limited to stock photography:

  1. Choose imagery that reflects your school’s brand. This will help your visitors to immediately identify who you are and what you do. Pay special attention to lifestyle, demographics and even color pallet. The more ways in which you can align your imagery with your brand, the better.
  2. Pay special attention to color, vibrancy and style. Form a consistent, site-wide look by seeking out images that go together. Look for photos that will maintain a uniform color pallet and vibrancy. To be sure your imagery doesn’t compete with your call to action, look for photos with more muted tones.
  3. Include photos of people. Human faces tend to form a stronger connection with students than non-living objects, but even implied humanistic characteristics can work.
  4. Choose photos that display emotion. A connection can often be enhanced through empathy formed from an emotional response. When students experience certain emotions, their ability to be persuaded can often increase.
  5. Choose normal, everyday people. Stray from using models that look like they’re models. To form a stronger connection, choose photos of people who seem relatable or approachable.
  6. Avoid the typical “stock” photo look. Try to choose photography that looks natural and not staged, posed or cliché. Staged photos can make you look phony or insincere, especially when you’re trying to build trust.
  7. Avoid imagery that isn’t believable. Don’t use photographs that look unnatural or overly Photoshop-ed. Choose photos that appear crisp, in-focus and professional yet realistic.
  8. Tell a story. Choose photos that offer a deeper message than merely a visual. Resist the urge to make the story too literal, but don’t tend toward overly generic either. Aim for a happy medium, leaving just enough up for interpretation to connect with the majority of your audience.
  9. Pay attention to images that could be subjective. A photo has the ability to completely change the meaning of a headline or other copy. Be sure your copy and imagery work well together.
  10. Pay attention to directional cues within the imagery. There are many subtle cues in imagery that may seem subliminal, yet have a crucial effect on where users focus. Take advantage of cues such as line of sight, forward motion, pointing, or even the direction in which a model is facing to direct attention toward your call to action.

How do you choose the right imagery for higher education website design? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


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