Marketing is often a very unpredictable science as much as it is a corporate artform. Unlike salespeople, so many marketers today struggle to find methods, formulas, and principles that work for every kind of lead, circumstance, and piece of content. What worked yesterday is not really something guaranteed to work a week – or sometimes even an hour from now.
To make matters even more complicated, the marketing materials you push out today may only start to reap value for your company in the future when a customer remembers your offering but just can’t put their finger on why.
One of the few tools we have at our disposal is metrics. We can see how many people click through to our website from specific collateral and how many go on to be customers. This enables us to see (and most importantly, prove) the value of our marketing efforts.
However, is there a way we can generate more value from the clicks that come to our marketing, and if so, what exactly can you do about it?
This is what conversion rate optimization is all about, and in this blog post, I’ll show you a proven formula that you can use to generate more value from your clicks.
What is Conversion Rate Optimization?
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is the process of increasing the percentage of website visitors that take the action you want them to take. Sometimes it means downloading a whitepaper, other times it means clicking the link to a pricing page and for more bottom-funnel pieces, it means contacting a salesperson. Whatever it is, conversion rate optimization is there to increase the chances of your marketing doing what it’s meant to do.
While it is good to focus on tactics that generate clicks or email addresses, we should never forget why these pieces exist in the first place – generating value. Developing the right CRO strategy always considers the question, “How much revenue does a specific tactic bring in?”. As marketers, I’m sure we’re all too familiar with tactics that generate more clicks but fewer conversions, and I’m just as sure that these tactics ultimately contribute very little to your company overall. So, with CRO, there needs to be a balance struck between inspiring immediate consumer action and longer, more in-depth engagement that leads to value. In short, an equal amount of attention should go to quality as well as quantity.
The Formula for Conversion Rate Optimization.
Thankfully, the journey to discovering how to improve your conversion rate isn’t all trial and error. A formula exists to help you determine what you need to change in order to gain the maximum conversion rate possible.
That formula is:
This formula is known as The Conversion Sequence Heuristic from the MECLABS Institute. While it doesn’t look very helpful right now, by the time we cover the details below, you’ll have a good idea of how to apply it to your own marketing methods.
Don’t worry – the numbers don’t mean you have to do the math. They simply indicate how important each element of conversion is. All you have to know is the higher the number, the more impact the element will have on the probability of conversion.
Let’s begin by explaining what C means in this context.
C is for Conversion.
This is why the formula exists in the first place and why you’re probably reading this post right now.
Conversion concerns itself with what your objective is. Ask yourself, what does ‘conversion’ mean for you?
Perhaps you’re trying to get more people to share their email addresses. Maybe you’d like them to click-through to your pricing page. Potentially, you could even identify successful conversion as a high-value customer rather than just any order or website visitor.
Ultimately you want to answer two questions here:
- Who am I trying to convert?
- What am I trying to get them to do?
Whatever a conversion is for you, it’s helpful to identify it. The next few steps will reveal the best way to generate more of these kinds of conversions.
M is for motivation.
The element with the most impact on your conversion rate – remember the numbers – is motivation. If your potential customers have no motivation to make a purchase, they simply will not convert. Conversely, if your customers have a lot of motivation to purchase your product they will be well on their way to converting.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot you can do to change the motivation of your potential customers. However, you can position your content, messaging and general collateral to better appeal to their motivation. You do this by gaining an understanding of your potential customers’ motivations. Read the article from Julie on Buying Persona’s if you want to learn more on this topic.
The following questions will help you gain this understanding.
- Where do most of your customers and leads come from?
- What do you need to convince your leads of before they decide to buy?
- What are their pain points? What do they value?
Motivation can also be used to maximize the effectiveness of your marketing messages by tailoring your marketing to be better aligned with the answers to these questions.
V is for value proposition.
The next most important element of optimizing your conversion rate is how you answer the all-important question for your customers – “Why should they buy your solution rather than your competitors?”
In essence, you have to differentiate yourself from your competitors as much as possible. You would primarily use the following four aspects when doing this:
- Appeal – how desirable your product is.
- Exclusivity – how scarce a resource your product is.
- Credibility – how reliable and trustworthy your claims are.
- Clarity – what your product actually is and what it can do.
Throughout your content, no matter what it is or where you position it, you need to hit on these four elements all the time, with every piece.
I and f are for incentive and friction.
Money isn’t the only thing that prevents people from buying your product. Anything that causes negative emotions for your leads can be classified as friction. Friction is one of the costs you have to take into account for the formula and is offset by incentive (more on that below). Some common examples of friction include the number of forms or number of form fields your leads have to fill in before converting, the time it takes for your sales team to get back to them, or how difficult it is for your leads to navigate your website.
Every time your lead needs to perform an action can be categorized as friction. However, this is countered by a positive factor – lead incentive.
Incentive is generated by the perceived value of whatever it is you’re offering your leads who deal with the friction involved. For example, someone may be frustrated if all they get at the end of filling out a long-form is a blog post, but they may feel differently about a live webinar. The reason for this is because the incentive outweighs the friction involved.
Not all actions should be classified as Friction. Just the actions at that are not nicely orchestrated experiences. Eg Completing the same form fields over and over.
A is for anxiety.
Did you ever wonder how so many older people refused to use online banking for so long? The answer is anxiety.
Anxiety for our purposes represents the concern your prospects harbor that they may not receive your product or the benefits that it promises. It’s the feeling you get when you’re not sure if the holiday you booked in the Caribbean is legitimate and not a scam.
As marketers, the more we alleviate this kind of anxiety, the more conversions we will get. There are a few ways we can alleviate anxiety.
- Target specifics – there are a lot of sources of anxiety depending on what you’re offering. You must be able to identify each source and speak specifically about each one during the customer journey. Depending on your website, these sources may be quality, reliability, pricing, security or trustworthiness.
- Careful placement – once you have found the source of anxiety, you need to be careful about where you alleviate that anxiety. For example, it doesn’t help to talk about how secure your cloud product or service is at the start of the customer journey when the anxiety only appears before they invest at the end of the journey.
- Match intensity – if the anxiety is a major concern for your leads, you have to treat it as such and in detail. Likewise, if the anxiety exists but is not a big deal, you shouldn’t dedicate an entire webpage to it – or it just may raise anxiety.
Putting it all together.
Once you have evaluated and ranked each element, you can work out a number. The higher the number, the more probable a conversion is with your current approach. However, one should remember that the parameters of the formula change – which means that the likelihood of conversion is in constant flux. Marketers would do well to not try to ‘make the formula work’ for them, but instead, use it from time to time to review their marketing tactics. This way, marketers can optimize their tactics for conversion, taking into account that quality means more than quantity.
Optimizing conversion in B2B.
When it comes to B2B marketing, conversion optimization is a little more complicated than the formula presented above. In B2B you should be focusing on long-term interactions and engagement with your customers, measuring your interactions with them from the start to the end. The best way to do this is by addressing the silos within your organization and getting the data within each to work with one another.
For example, if you are promoting via social media, the results from that will give insight in the reach and engagement within that channel. Most probably you have invested in setting up reporting to measure where traffic is coming from and created conversion goals in your web tracking application. This data is essential to the success of your other channels.
Once your leads move on from social media and leave their contact details on your website, your marketing automation platform is able to track progress and connect to your CRM to give you insight into whatever value is generated. So while the technological aspect can be quite straightforward, the process and alignment across the organization is sometimes a bigger hurdle to tackle within B2B marketing.
Thus, to develop a sound CRO strategy, marketers and sales need to get around the table and agree on the definitions of what value means within an organization. There is no right or wrong, it is just about using the same vocabulary and objectives. Only then we are able to optimize for the right desired action and take stock of the value of those actions into account.
Excerpts from Luc Zanders, Marketing Consultant at Engagement Factory