Do include a testimonial with a picture of a human

Explanation

  1. Testimonials are the best in class for social proof. Groove and Drip both offer good examples of using not just a quote from a customer about the product, but also including a picture of that person. The picture is extremely powerful.Often the best testimonials are your customer’s actual words, but once in a while it can pay to write the text for a prominent customer and allow them to edit it. This lets you collect testimonials that are aimed at known customer objections. These perform twice the work.

Do include an FAQ specific to billing

Explanation

  1. It is extremely common for customers and prospects to have specific questions about billing. Your customer service people should inform you very well on what the common questions are.This is a great place to address billing practices, guarantees, refunds, and if you offer something like pro-rating upgrades.

    You can often address many of these concerns with a blanket statement about ‘always favoring’ or ‘always being fair’ to the customer. The most important thing to do with this section is allay common fears. You don’t need a comprehensive product FAQ.

    Hubspot has a quality example of this practice.

Do use familiar iconography but be extremely judicious

Explanation

  1. Familiar icons convey a lot of meaning quickly and attract the eye toward the things they were looking to find. Unfamiliar icons are confusing and clutter the screen. “Play” buttons, check marks, ‘X’ icons, and others are extremely iconic. Animal silhouettes and complex icons representing new technology or amorphous concepts like “the cloud” are not.

    Visual Website Optimizer uses icons overzealously in our opinion while Pardot shows a bit more restraint to greater effect.

Use a benefit driven H1 that speaks to your customer

Explanation

  1. Use a benefit driven H1 that speaks to your customer“Pricing” is not an H1. It’s a placeholder.Take the opportunity to speak to your customer like Bidsketch does. Benefit copy has been largely proven to be a more effective way to connect to your customer’s point of view. People tend to make emotional decisions and benefit copy speaks the emotional language people use to evaluate products.
  2. Use clear plan names that don’t require explanation to distinguish. It’s fairly clear what we mean by Basic, Standard, Pro, Enterprise or Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum. I have no idea if the Tiger plan is better than the Cheetah plan. Don’t get too creative for the sake of it on plan names. Opt for clarity.

 “Usually I like to maintain continuity from the main page on the core messaging for the software and then start tinkering with the headline. By the way, the very worst headline that you can have on a pricing page, which is present on many, many pricing pages, is pricing or plans and pricing. That tells you nothing.”

 – Patrick McKenzie

GoDaddy knows how to make bank by asking you if your email address is correct

I have a secret shame and it is buying domains I won’t or don’t use. I am reforming, but it will take time. While I’m working that out let’s take a look at a hardworking tactic from late in GoDaddy’s funnel.

 

 

GoDaddy sent me an email about updating my personal details that is a brilliant funnel piece for established customers. I will probably look at an official account info email where I might not look at renewing domain notices for domains I turned off autorenew.

This one insight — administrative subject lines create action — powers an email that has more than one goal and really succeeds with it.

Much like your “confirm your email” emails can do other tasks as well this is a great example of a routine account info email improving the funnel they’re optimizing. This email makes sure they have my contact info, offers me product I might want, and offers me more product and service marketing. On top of that, the official nature of the subject means I’m really likely to click on it.

I don’t know the conversion rate for this email but I can’t object to receiving something similar once in a while. It’s even good for account security. Improving your standard transactional emails to do extra work for the funnel is an awesome way to get incremental improvement from your funnel.

This is nice work from GoDaddy.

4 ways to avoid leaving money on the table with funnel design

envelope from georgia tech

I recently received a letter from my alma mater asking for money. They made 3 key mistakes in constructing this donation funnel. I’m going to explain how you can avoid these issues to reduce funnel friction and improve conversion.

I think fondly of my alma mater and I’m predisposed to donate. This is somewhat common for Georgia Tech grads who (last I looked) were the highest per capita donors. The school must do a good job of one of at least one of the following:

  1. Collecting money from alums
  2. Producing alums likely to donate money (i.e. fond memories, positive feelings, and have money)

We’re here to analyze this fundraising letter as a funnel and see how they are faring at the first task, but identifying alternative explanations for why a funnel might work for customers can be an important insight!

To the letter. Feel free to read through it (page 1, page 2), but I’ll also highlight the key portions.

There are a lot of facts here, but there isn’t much context in which to place them. I don’t know if all of the facts, awards, and numbers they present are good or bad in relative terms.

The ranking is nice though I’m not familiar with the source. The facts without a story or context are our first key mistake.

 

Key Mistake 1: Facts without a narrative

It gets said straight out only that “we’re going to carry this forward to the next…”

This really isn’t much of a vision and I have no idea from this letter what the goal of the fundraising is, that they are definitely seeking funds, nor what an appropriate donation would be for me.

The $2 billion dollar campaign that I heard about from the Institute was much more explicit about the vision for the money, the amount they needed, and had some context around what each alum would need to give to make the program work. This met with success and they were able to follow up with a glossy magazine/brochure that detailed all that they could do with the $2.6 billion they received.

I don’t know the Dean and I don’t have any clue what his vision of ‘the next level’ happens to be. I wish I did.

This is the second key mistake. Any campaign, email, page, donation request, or product should be clear about the purpose and benefit for the customer/prospect. I don’t know what I get out of this campaign nor for what purpose the money will be used?

Key Mistake 2: What do I get?

So, what are we doing with the money? What’s the story and emotion behind why I’m giving?

How much is appropriate for me to donate? I don’t know what an appropriate donation is. While you may receive less when you suggest less, you will often receive nothing if you make people stop and think.

Key Mistake 3: Don’t make me think.

 

I understand that the stamp costs money, but I think it would have been worth spending. Especially so if you included an easy way to donate specific amounts.

Key Mistake 4: Don’t add friction.

Physical friction sometimes costs you twice as much in a digital world.

There was a good opportunity for the College to use a marketing tactic where you have already recruited key donors and peers to show progress (usually 50% is the initial goal), add peer pressure, and add social proof to the campaign. Then you can use a powerful bit of psychology where you tell me what my average peer has donated and invite me to join my peers in powering this campaign to the next level.

I think this funnel probably serves them well enough. I know they have a lot of happy and willing donors that owe a lot to the education they received, but I also know that we have highlighted some missed opportunities that might have raised the bar for this campaign. I bet they left 25% on the table.

How to use anticipation and social psychology to get more sales

How can Ramit Sethi (I Will Teach You To Be Rich) make millions with a single email?

Let’s start by checking out the funnel at a high level.

This is a simplified view of the funnel, but it’s meant to convey the entry points and strategy used to move leads to paid conversion. The primary site currently has a quiz interface that asks a range of questions, requests an email address, and places you on the list in a campaign for an introductory (free) course that delivers some value and tees the prospect up for interest in more (paid course).

There’s a lot going on here and we’re going to focus on a single email in the introductory course campaigns. The level of attention to detail in this email is a testament to how well tested, considered, and constructed this whole funnel is (I don’t have any commercial relationship with Ramit or IWT).

screenshot of email

Here’s an email reminder from Ramit Sethi. This is a warm-up in a sequence that goes out before you are let into the (free) course that you signed up to take. You sign up either post-quiz from the IWT home page or directly on the intro course site.

The warm-up is smart because it allows for some of the other tactics to take place and primes you with anticipation. Often anticipation is a greater force than the object or experience we anticipate, but we know that anticipation can still greatly improve the experience and make it seem more exclusive, interesting, and of higher quality.

In addition to that, we know that delivering some value and building trust with these initial emails and an introductory course will greatly improve the quality of the email list beyond a certain stage. Most importantly, this improves conversion and the number of chances you get to convert the prospect.

On to the meat. Let’s take a look at the email itself.

Time for a blow by blow on the tactics in this super targeted, tight piece of work.

 

1. Vision casting

 

He asks the reader to imagine what they will do with the object (a business) that they desire (pays for the life you want). He’s asking you to imagine the future you could have at the end of the course once you achieve the thing the course is promising. This builds anticipation and excitement. It also improves the psychology of getting the people to take action. Imagining your future place can create some of the effects of loss aversion to motivate you. Loss aversion is the psychological effect where humans feel losing something at twice the magnitude of gaining the same thing. Here, you don’t want to lose your vision.

 

2. Social proof

“Thousands of other people” will be joining you. Humans crave shared experience and here he’s offering you that, but he’s also using it to give you a reason to invite your friends. Friends that he can add to this funnel and he knows you likely have such interested friends because you’re here and interested. He has tied together a play for referrals with a reference that is an element of social proof.

 

3. Scarcity

“Class starts TOMORROW” is a classic scarcity play. You often need the reader to take action NOW or they probably won’t do so at all. This call out functions well to create some feelings of urgency (scarcity of time) in the reader and get a much better conversion rate on sharing actions.

 

4. Make it easy to share

If you want your reader or lead to take action, make it as easy and frictionless as possible for them to take that action. We can share three different ways here with a click and Ramit can track which ones people are using most.

 

5. Call to action for more, now!


Sometimes people get so fired up they want to engage with your product or service right away. You don’t always want to offer a quicker way to purchase, but you can often offer another way to engage like more content, sharing, a community, etc.

These are great touches in a warm-up sequence. They are on top of their game over at IWTYTBR. Except maybe that acronym?

Barbara Tuchman’s “The March of Folly”

The March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman cover art

A book review and discussion. This is a first for this particular blog, but I’m planning to make it a more regular occurrence.

You can keep up with the best of my readings here, but if you want more you can get in touch and we can connect on Goodreads.

Now, on with the entirely written show.

I read this book in 2016 and it figures as one of if not exclusively my favorite for the year.

What’s folly?

Tuchman defines it as a policy against self interest conducted across multiple administrations. So, it doesn’t count if only one individual does dumb things. We’re looking for governments, people, and successions of leaders that persist in counter-to-self-interest policies.

The first quote I highlighted is Gustavus Adolphus’s Swedish contemporary in Count Axel Oxenstierna relaying his dying conclusion, “Know my son with how little wisdom the world is governed.”

That quote really sets the stage as we examine the Trojan War from Homer’s Odyssey, the Renaissance Popes, the British loss of the American colonies, and the American self-betrayal of Vietnam. Much of the real world folly is related to the tragic tale of Troy and how clearly the warnings called out the wisdom lacking in rolling a giant wooden horse inside the city walls.

Many German states cared little for the piety of Luther, but they knew a movement when they saw it and jumped at the chance to break with the Holy Roman Church to avoid the financial and political entanglements. The Popes of the age over indulged without regard and believed themselves too unshakably the illusion of power.

The British clearly had no amount of taxes to collect that could recompense them for the potential loss of the colonies, but the enforcement of policy that didn’t even result in revenue as a principle went too far awry for recovery. They repeated folly in their poor preparedness and ill judgement of the colonies ability to fight a professional European army.

The War of American Independence need never have been fought. A wonderful note from this part of the book was the fact that the French did not offer alliance to the Colonists arbitrarily or to help them. It was a cold political calculus that turned on the Colonist’s victory at Saratoga which served not as worthy evidence the Colonists could win, but rather as a sign the French thought even the British could not miss and the French rushed ahead with the alliance before the British could offer acceptable terms to the Colonists. The British terms arrived two weeks late.

The American failures in Vietnam are well chronicled and it was a theme of my readings in 2016. I plan to continue with the 4 part series about LBJ in 2017 or early 2018. The stunning thing about Vietnam is that they were a ready ally in both 1945 and 1954 when we became involved and then equipped and transported a French army respectively. They believed in the dream of America. To top that off, the Kennedy administration knew before escalation that the whole enterprise was folly and doomed to fail but felt we had to press to save face internationally. If we could only bomb them enough, they might accept terms that would be a means to save face. People fought and died on that principle.

I have more highlighted quotes from this volume than perhaps all the other favorites from 2016 combined. For any student of history I highly recommend both The March of Folly and The Guns of August.

Starting with why, B corps, and ceilings

img_20160625_163059
String Lake, Grand Teton National Park

I recently happened upon Simon Sinek’s Start With Why TED talk while I was reading Alex Turnbull and Groove’s excellent startup blog. If you haven’t seen the talk it is a very worthy 18m and this post won’t do much for you without the context.

It took me very little time to get into the talk and reflecting on my own collection of whys. I’d like to summarize what it means for me as I write this.

I’ve built at least three products with a focus and a basecamp setup in the swamps of What. It’s so much more work to communicate why someone should purchase from you in particular and to build trust when you start with making a thing that solves a problem.

I have an awesome new widget. It’s better than ABC Co.’s widget because it has X and Y. It’s also Z times bigger/smaller/faster/easier-to-use.

These claims are not credible on the face of them even if they are true. This is a big reason why testimonials and guarantees are so crucial for most smaller businesses. Often, as a marketer, I hardly believe myself in writing them.

Mr. Sinek’s talk encourages the How portion of your work to be driven by why instead of what. You don’t make a differentiated widget. You believe something about the world. People that believe what you believe should do business with you. This makes a tremendous amount of sense to me and it rings true emotionally.

I am an avid outdoorsman and I like to do business with Patagonia because I share the belief in the power and value of open wild places. I would rather pay more to do business with them because I know how they treat their employees and how they vet their suppliers.

Reading more about these ideas led me to B corps. I stumbled on an open letter by Ian Martin in reference to his decision that their company embrace this movement of harnessing business to do good for people, profit, and the environment. This meant a lot to me and I want to join the B corp movement with my next foray into business.

I think doing right by the environment and the people who work for you resonates deeply with my own sense of purpose. I’m utterly happy to project meaning and purpose where perhaps there is none.

I’ve long struggled with the products I’ve started as not really making much of a difference in the world. I thought myself too shallow to step away from tech and the lifestyle toward something that looks like non-profit work. I have family engaged in that work and I think I have some feel for it, but I have a different vision of what I want my life to look like.

This feels not only like a better path for my convictions, but also for my community and the environment. I’m still fashioning a coherent articulation of my own why for my currently in the shadows project, but I know that this absolutely connects to it. I think having a why and a conviction about what we’re doing will materially impact the ceiling for where the business can go and the chances for success.

The B corp piece isn’t a complete why in my mind. The product and the customers deserve to be included in there as well. I’m excited to pen the piece that outlines our B corp assessment and the details of our commitments and I hope that you will join the movement. Let’s make things better one small moment at a time.