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Archive for the ‘Conversion Optimization & Usability’ Category

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How & Why to Use Testimonials in Higher-Ed Marketing

By | January 30, 2014

Female college studentsWhen students face the decision of which school to attend, they not only require more information than needed for lesser decisions. They also often conform to others’ opinions. It’s a big decision that involves big research. And adolescents tend to look to their peers for cues concerning the correct decision. Adolescents are especially actively seeking social proof to assist them in decision-making.

Higher ed marketing professionals can help connect prospective students with the confirmation they require to find the right school. We often attempt to persuade them with well-written value propositions and flattering claims about the institution, but students are probably skeptical if your school is always complimenting itself.

If you’re not supplementing your content with confirmation or social proof, some prospective students will altogether dismiss what your institution has to say. One of the best and easiest ways to counter this is through the use of testimonials. Testimonials validate any claims by providing evidence from actual students or graduates that the institution’s message is indeed accurate.

When utilizing testimonials:

Choose testimonials that provide evidence that back your claims.

The testimonials should support and enhance your institution’s message.

Provide varied perspectives.
Testimonials should be carefully chosen to represent a variety of unique and specific details. Avoid using generic or impersonal comments that can be perceived as having the same voice or holding no authenticity.

Choose personas that will connect with prospective students on a personal level.
By utilizing testimonials from students or graduates who are most like your target audience, those testimonials become easily relatable and build a trusting rapport.

Focus on the student/graduate experience and success rather than your institution.
Make it less about the school and more about the student. How are current students and graduates benefiting from attending the school?

Provide personal details.
Revealing details about the person sharing a testimony, such as name, academic program, graduation year, or a photo of the student whenever possible, can add great value. Show your prospective students who the writer is and why their opinion matters. Otherwise, the person’s opinion might hold little significance.

Use short video testimonials in addition to written testimonials.
Video can add a lot to the authenticity of testimonials. It helps by putting a face and personality behind the opinion, helping the viewer to form a stronger personal connection. Avoid a scripted demeanor to maintain authenticity.

Add testimonials to other content.
Rather than clumping all of your testimonials together on one dedicated page, include them at various touch points whenever a little bit of coaxing might be needed. Your school can improve conversion optimization by placing testimonials near lead-gen forms or other calls to action.

How have you seen success with testimonials? Share your tips in the comments.


Learn about how to nurture across the student life cycle and earn $26 for every $1 invested in marketing automation:

Nurturing Across the Student Life Cycle

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How Creative, Conversion and Analytics Joined Forces to Reinvent the Fathom® Website

By | January 16, 2014

About one year ago, Fathom decided to focus even more tightly on areas of industry expertise.

At this time, the Fathom website –the most important medium for reaching new customers and generating more sales – was in need of a new identity to reflect our evolving approach, services, areas of expertise and brand identity.

(Cue superhero music) Enter a dedicated marketing team with the sole purpose of promoting and establishing the Fathom brand.


As we began digging into the analytics of the website, we found ways to boost the conversion rate, audience engagement, and overall user interaction.

From a design perspective, the original version of the website was not mobile-friendly, and was not automated to react responsively to browser window sizes. Responsive Web design (RWD) is an approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience — easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from mobile phones to desktop computer monitors). A site designed with RWD adapts the layout to the viewing environment by using fluid, proportion-based grids,flexible images, and CSS3 media queries.

Also, there was an incredibly large amount of real estate in the upper-left-hand corner of the home page that was ripe for repurposing. Your top priority “above-the-fold” should be establishing who you are and how your products or services can benefit your potential customers. Think of it as your storefront window; it is a peek inside of your business. If it is not appealing almost immediately, then chances are that your prospects will move on very quickly (attention deficit issues are at an all-time high on the Web these days, if you haven’t noticed).


Issues with the problematic homepage included wasted space and a lack of conversion elements.

Elements to focus on with a redesign of the homepage included wasted real estate, mobile viewing, and a lack of conversion elements.

Another balance designers must achieve is aesthetics vs. usability, i.e. user-centered design (UCD). UCD is focused on the usability of a site, or what makes for an easy and seamless user experience, including the ability to complete tasks (especially conversions, from the commercial perspective). We needed to integrate conversion-centered design (CCD) with a total creative redesign of the website. UCD and CCD do intertwine, but the major distinction of CCD is that it aims to persuade the user to achieve your business goal while ideally matching it to the user’s.

To sum it up, CCD is a discipline targeted specifically at designing page-level experiences that achieve a single business goal. It seeks to guide the visitor towards completing that one specific action, using persuasive design and psychological triggers to increase conversions. In Fathom’s case, that single business goal was to get users to request a free marketing opportunity assessment.


Now that we had established a conversion-centered design, the next steps were to mock up a website that not only maximized our new desired conversions, but also appealed visually to our target audience, and behaved in a responsive manner.

We redesigned the entire site to be responsive within our existing CSS template, but for the sake of time and this article, we will focus on the design of the homepage. The plan was simple: Focus on key elements that spoke to our customers with clarity about three very important topics:

  • Who Fathom was and why we exist
  • Our approach to digital marketing
  • Industry specialization

The initial mockups resulted in two varying designs of the homepage consisting of essentially the same content. Version A focused heavily on our digital funnel management approach to marketing, and included many features:

  • Industry areas of expertise
  • Ticker for tracking revenue delivered to clients
  • “About us” video
  • News and blog feed
  • Featurette of one of our teams
  • Resource library slider
  • List of the company’s top accomplishments and awards

Version B primarily concentrated on who Fathom was as a company, our goals, and our service areas of expertise. Version B was designed to be much simpler and more visually appealing than Version A, and included a large image slider with large calls-to-action; a breakdown of our digital funnel approach; a list of industry areas of expertise; our “about us” video; a news and blog feed; and a resource library slider.

Both variations included two main call-to-action buttons: “Free Assessment,” and “Chat with Our Experts.”


Versions A and B of the newly redesigned Fathom homepage



After some quick and masterful development within WordPress by our resident front-end Web developer/genius, Matt Thompson, it was time to put Versions A and B of the revamped homepage to work. With the help of Visual Website Optimizer, a multivariate conversion testing application, we put the two variations of the homepage face-to-face in a battle for conversion glorification. We focused our tests on three important variables:

  1. Our Approach (clicks to the ‘approach’ page through any stages of the funnel breakdown buttons)
  2. Engagement (overall time on the website)
  3. Free Assessment Conversions (clicks on the green button to our assessment request page containing a lead form)

The results of the test, which ran a total of three months, although very close in some cases, gave us some very important insights (see below).


While Version A led by a hair in conversions to the “Free Assessment” page, winning by 0.30%, Version B won the test for website engagement and clicks to learn more about our approach. With these analytics, we were able to conclude without a doubt that Version B led to higher engagement, keeping visitors on the site longer, resulting in higher education about Fathom’s approach and services.  With this knowledge, we have set Version B as the static and full-time variation of Fathom’s homepage.


And the testing is far from over! Now that we know Version B holds the highest engagement, we will utilize this data to formulate and create three new variations of Version B to A/B/C test. Because we now know that our homepage visitors did not overwhelmingly request the “Free Assessment”, we can focus one of our variations around it with a slider banner image. Other elements we are planning to test include:

  • Variations of CTA button designs within the slider to increase clicks
  • Moving the “about us” video above the fold to increase engagement/time on site
  • Focusing the top entirely on our industries of expertise
  • Designing the top fold to be “approach”-centric, educating our audience on the services and people who make Fathom unique

The bottom line is: We will never stop testing, and neither should you! Web design and content architecting is the perfect storm in which creative, conversion and analytics fuse together to become the ultimate proving ground for your business. Do you have what it takes to appeal to your audience while maximizing conversions for your business? Balancing these interests can be a challenge, but the only way to truly refine and perfect this art is through the fusion of creative, conversion and data. The measuring stick to this balancing act will always be testing – and you should never be satisfied.


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Reflections on the Healthcare Patient Experience

By | November 5, 2013

Larry Freed, President of ForeSee, kicked off the 2013 Greystone Healthcare Internet Conference with an important presentation on the state of the online healthcare experience. Much of it focused on the multiple channels that patients now use. Interestingly, in the coming months, Google Analytics will offer a groundbreaking feature that will let you track your patients across their various devices. Patients will be looking for different things on different channels – quick-hitting tidbits on their cellphones, deep articles on their desktops – so be sure to offer what they’re looking for, where and when they want it.

Mr. Freed also reinforced that your patients’ expectations are rising every day, as they experience amazing websites from the for-profit sector. While it isn’t fair – those for-profit companies have far more resources than your hospital’s small digital team! – consumers are expecting the personalization of, the richness and nuance of the New York Times, and the ease-of-use of the main homepage. You can’t keep delivering the same thing in 2014 that you did in 2013, because you will disappoint your patients.

Need some numbers to prove the value of a good patient experience? According to Foresee, highly satisfied customers are 100% more likely to return to the website, and 145% more likely to recommend the website, and 141% more likely to use your website as a trusted resource. Moreover, Foresee claims to have a statistic that is 270 times more powerful than the Net Promoter Score any healthcare marketer is familiar with; I’m excited to learn more.

The second presentation of the day was Dr. Natasha Berger speaking on social media in healthcare, and all the notes are here.


For more illustrations on how patients use social media and search, check out our webinar on The 2014 Digital Patient Journey on Tuesday, March 25th at 2 pm.

Patient Journey Webinar

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Customer Personas Simplified

By | October 25, 2013


[Ed. note: This post is the last in a series of guest-post exchanges between Fathom and Right On Interactive, a marketing automation company that emphasizes lifecycle marketing “that helps organizations win, keep and grow business.” Lauren Littlefield is Right On Interactive’s director of marketing.]

I think we are all on board with the notion that mass marketing is out and personalized communications are in. The Custom Content Council reports 61% of consumers say they feel better about, and are more likely to buy from a company that delivers custom content. Where most marketers disagree is in the approach to getting the right content to the right person at the right time. One way in which you can segment your database is by creating customer personas.

In an early 2013 Search Engine Watch article, author Adria Saracino offers a “quick guide to developing customer personas.” She suggests analyzing analytics, surveying your existing audience, interviewing key customers and recruiting additional research participants to gather the right information to then ask the right questions to develop the customer personas. I don’t know about you, but nothing about that process seems “quick.”

Instead of taking this “quick” approach why not utilize customer lifecycle marketing and base your customer personas on already identified lifecycle stages?

Customer lifecycle marketing uses existing data to segment contacts based upon a 3D scoring metric: Profile + Engagement + Lifecycle Stage. Each lifecycle stage is split into quadrants, meaning there are 4 customer personas in each stage ready to be segmented based upon attributes that are important to your business (e.g., gender, age, location, etc.). If you have 5 lifecycle stages, then you have 20 customer personas ready to communicate with and analyze results from.

Take for example the “Initiate” stage of your business. These are contacts who have yet to engage in a conversation with a member of your sales team. Within this stage, there are 4 customer personas, each based upon a contact’s profile score and engagement score:

  1. Not a profile match & not engaged
  2. Profile match & not engaged
  3. Not a profile match & engaged
  4. Profile match & engaged

At a glance, you can see the customer persona you want to reach with personalized content. For example, the contacts in the second quadrant (Profile match & not engaged) need some nurturing to increase their engagement with your brand. The contacts in the fourth quadrant (profile match & engaged) are most likely to advance to the next lifecycle stage and are ready to speak with a salesperson.

Customer lifecycle marketing takes on the time-consuming task of defining and identifying customer personas and allows marketers to focus on content creation, nurturing campaigns and other tactics which can increase engagement.

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Overhauled Fathom Website Brings Responsive Design, Human Touch

By | September 23, 2013

Last Thursday, we officially unveiled our redesigned updated website. With all due respect to the talented Fathom developers and designers who had a hand in the project, the reason I’m avoiding redesign is because we launched not so much a full-scale redesign, but primarily a visual overhaul. OK, let’s call it a mini-redesign. Basically, the fundamental structure remains as it was, but things should be a little easier to explore and a lot easier on the eye.

Victoria karaoke

Best of all, I would argue, the current version more fully represents our people, who are an essential part of what makes Fathom unique. Other improvements include:

  • Responsive design, adapting to specific devices and window sizes (If you’re reading this on a desktop/notebook computer, fiddle with your browser window size and you’ll see for yourself)
  • Reinforced company identity and philosophy (what distinguishes us from other marketing/analytics agencies)
  • More intuitive navigation
  • Warmer tone, more colors
  • More prominent buttons/icons
  • Revised industry pages (articulating common goals of businesses just like yours)
  • Better-looking and easier-to-use forms
  • Other content updates (including new competitor comparison chart)

To our regular blog readers and site visitors, we hope you and all our new guests enjoy the new site experience and that you find it more usable. We also hope it communicates our passion for growing your business, along with more of our personality (and personalities).

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