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May

20

2015

Form Length Isn’t Everything: 3 Other Ways to Optimize Your Forms for Conversions

how-long-should-forms-be.jpeg

What’s the best length for landing page forms? Would a shorter form increase submissions while retaining quality, or are longer forms better?

These exact questions have been at the center of a hotly contested debate that’s been raging on since 2009. In fact, the popular website WhichTestWon that catalogs A/B tests, has 40+ tests on forms alone. Because forms are a central component to your inbound strategy, it’s important to optimize them for conversions while retaining any of the indicators of quality that you and your sales team care about.

But here’s the thing: It isn’t all about form length. You should be creating specific forms based on on the context of your web visitors (like whether they’re arriving on your landing pages on desktop or mobile), as well as that of your own goals. Only after considering that context can you test and refine form length to provide higher or lower quality leads.

In this post, we’ll walk through how to consider the context of your forms, and how you can use dynamic forms to improve quality and lead flow.

What to Consider Before You Change Your Forms

Before you begin to alter form length or change questions within forms, be sure to …

a) Get a measure of lead quality.

I would recommend doing this in two ways. First, look at your overall leads and how many are making it to the marketing qualified lead (MQL) stage. Then determine the close rate (i.e. how many are actually turning into sales).

Once you have a handle on close rate, speak with a few people on your sales team and get their opinion on quality. Combining the qualitative information with in-person feedback can provide a good signal of whether lead quality needs to improve, or if it’s already really good that may allow you some room to experiment.

b) A/B test elements of your form.

If your forms have a lot of questions, consider asking them in different ways, or having different ways of filling out the form. For example, changing your form from requiring a free text response to offering multiple choice answers could increase form submissions and help standardize answers — as long as the variability in free text is not crucial to your team. 

Display a Dynamic Form by Channel

If your highest quality channel is email, you may be able to display a longer form to visitors knowing they won’t bounce as easily. For other channels that don’t provide as a high quality leads, you could choose to display a shorter form and nurture any low-quality prospects towards your goal, or display a long form to weed out potential low quality submissions.

How Do You Know If It’s Working?

Look at the form’s conversion rates, lead quality, and the bounce rate on that page by different referral sources.

HubSpot customers: You can use smart content to display different forms based on the referral source of the visitor, and to easily change out forms without needing a line of code.

Show a Mobile-Specific Form

Mobile visitors fundamentally interact with your site differently. If you’re displaying the same form to them as you are to desktop users, they may not complete it due to length, form fields, or style.

For example, if you have a number of questions requiring free text responses, it’s unlikely many mobile visitors will want to complete the form because typing out a long answer can be tedious. Instead, try showing mobile visitors multiple choice fields. Consider testing how the length of your form impacts conversion rates as well as quality, too.

Here at HubSpot, our standard form length for ebooks and similar content is 15 questions. We use this form for any desktop visitors; but recently, we started to display a shorter form for mobile visitors that has fewer fields that can be completed easily. The result? Our mobile prospects increased by 5X in two weeks.

While you should consider form length for mobile visitors specifically, first think about how long your form is today. If it’s only a few questions right now, try keeping it the same and then try increasing and decreasing the number of questions to find the optimal length.

How Do You Know If It’s Working?

Look at submissions of the mobile form in particular. Are they high quality enough for your sales team? Do they need additional information? Use these questions (and the submissions) to gauge next steps on your mobile form.

Display a Different Form for Prospects vs. MQLs

You want prospects who are already familiar with your business to have the best experiences possible. One surefire way to deter them from having a great experience? Continue asking the same questions all the time.

Instead, we should be asking different information about our prospects than we do about MQLs, or even customers. Consider removing questions that are unnecessary at different stages of the buyers journey. For example, the question “What’s your budget?” may not be required at the bottom of the funnel.

Changing the questions and form length for each of these can lead to a much higher quality of leads and information, a better experience for visitors, and an increase in conversions as a result.

How Do You Know If It’s Working?

Your close rate should be able to tell you how prospects are moving through your funnel. You can also look to see whether that conversion rate between each stage changes. 

There you have it: Three ways of changing your form length dynamically. It’s not necessarily all about the length of your form, but when combined with the context you can easily decide what length is appropriate while ensuring that you are getting the required information.

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Apr

28

2015

Inside ESPN.com’s Brilliant Redesign: Why You’re Going to See More Personalized Websites

Introducing_the_new_ESPN_com_copy

ESPN recently redesigned their website. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Companies redesign their websites roughly every 18-24 months. (You’re probably sick of yours right now, am I right?)

But this particular redesign garnered a ton of attention, earning coverage and analysis in Fast Company, TechCrunch, and VentureBeat, among other publications.

So why did so many other publications want to cover such a common thing like a redesign? Well for starters, ESPN’s website gets a ton of traffic. In 2014, ESPN.com attracted 22 million daily users, notably more than CNN.com, BuzzFeed, and other high-volume sites.

But that’s not the only thing they did. They made one major strategic shift: ESPN redesigned the website to adapt to the person looking at it.

Building personalization features into the fabric of the new site, ESPN.com will now reflect the interests, location, and device of each fan. For example, when I visited ESPN.com for the first time after the redesign, it took a guess at my favorite sports teams based on my location, then enabled me to tailor my view for future visits. It looked like this (Clearly, I’m a bit of a townie):

ESPN-For-Boston

Once your preferences are set, the website will prioritize relevant content whenever you visit again. With dynamic delivery of relevant stories, ESPN.com becomes, as the company put it, “a constantly updating river of content” that is tailor-made just for you. 

“We’re hoping what you will notice is that you are more engaged and immersed than ever, getting exactly what you want, when you want it, wherever you are,” wrote ESPN’s editors in the redesign launch post. “That’s what all of us fans expect.”

ESPN was not the first to add personalization to its website, but given its popularity and the sheer volume of impact this approach will have, we expect this may signal a tipping point in website personalization.

Why You’ll See More Adaptive Websites

Personalized content on websites began in the ecommerce space with Amazon recommendations, and continues to be prevalent on many other sites today. Shop Direct, one of the largest U.K. retailers, recently launched a fully personalized homepage for its main brand, Very.co.uk. Shop Direct claims that this website will serve 1.2 million different versions of the homepage to its customer base and expects that number to rise to 3.5 million by the end of the year. 3.5 million different web experiences out of one website. 

Spurred in part by early experiences with personalization on ecommerce sites and a natural proclivity for relevant content, consumers in all industries are starting to expect some level of a customized experience. According to Janrain, nearly three-fourths (74%) of online consumers get frustrated with websites when content appears that has nothing to do with their interests.

Where customer demand exists, technology shortly follows. As more websites are plugged into contact and email databases, dynamically producing different views becomes technically much easier. While Amazon and ESPN likely have robust personalization and content delivery engines powering their entire sites, a wide range of companies are using tools to leverage what they know about visitors and personalize their most critical pages or conversion paths.

How to Make Your Own Website Adaptive

Get the Technology

To personalize your website, you’ll need a database to automatically store relevant information on each visitor about their on-site behavior. You’ll also need a tool to serve up different content based on a set of criteria from that database. (Full disclosure: HubSpot software does this or we wouldn’t know so much about the topic. There are also a number of other personalization engines out there you can research, including Monetate for ecommerce and retail.)

Start With Mobile

I know. I know. You want to get to the good stuff like personalizing for brown-haired, knitting fanatics or targeting CEOs who have visited your pricing page. But trust me, before you do anything else, start with mobile. Make sure your website, blog and landing pages can recognize the various devices visitors use to view your content and adapt to give them the best possible view. The reasons for this are manifold.

First, mobile-optimization is now weighed heavily as a search rank criterion on Google. If your site isn’t fully optimized for mobile, its ranking could plummet on mobile searches, no matter how good the content.

Second, making sure any person could easily read content and click on your links your links is the very foundation of creating a good user experience. But that good experience needs to adapt as your visitor moves from their static desktop to mobile phone to their tablet on the couch at home. Customer-focused personalization has to be rooted in a responsive, device-agnostic design. As Ryan Spoon, ESPN’s SVP of product development told Fast Company, “The last time we did a redesign, there was no concept of a mobile application or fragmentation between iOS and Android. As the world has evolved, we want all our experiences to evolve.”

Add in Lifecycle Stages

Think of a brand new, fresh-faced, first-time visitor to your website. Got ’em? Aren’t they adorable?

Now think of a long-standing, loyal customer of yours.

How different are their needs from each other? Furthermore, how different are those needs from the needs of someone who has been to your site repeatedly and is seriously considering purchasing your product or service?  

You see what I’m getting at. As an individual’s relationship with your company evolves, the content that is interesting to them is going to change too. Media companies, like ESPN, may differ on this slightly, but for my marketing dollar, the most important personalization I can do is to adapt my content to fit the customer lifecycle. By customer lifecycle, I mean all of the stages individuals go through when they’re weighing a purchase decision. People begin with needing exploratory information on the field, then progress into more and more specific questions related to your product and company. After someone purchases and becomes a customer, his or her content needs shift again. 

Get Advanced With Interest- and Persona-Based Personalization

The second major personalization feature you should implement is based on what topics are most relevant to certain types of people. This is the strength of a website redesign like ESPN’s. In a world of hundreds upon hundreds of sports teams, how do you appeal to everyone?

You can get a sense of what’s interesting to each individual viewer by keeping tabs on their viewing history. That’s where the contact or subscriber database comes in. By leveraging cookies to store the pages, articles. and other content each viewer consumes in a running profile, you can start to pick up on and leverage trends based on that behavior. If, for example, I only read articles about the New England Revolution and skip articles about the Boston Celtics, you might start to guess that my interests are squarely in the soccer/football arena. By surfacing those articles above the articles on basketball, ESPN would save me the step of having to search for them, making my whole experience on the site more relevant and fulfilling.

Allow Your Visitors to Contribute to Their Own Personalization Settings

Every website visitor brings with them a certain amount of information when they land on a site — it’s kind of like a digital footprint. From the moment someone arrives on your site, your analytics can recognize the device they’re using, the channel or site from which they came, and their general location based on the IP address associated with their computer. That IP address is what told ESPN that I was accessing their site from a computer in Massachusetts.

Given that, they then took the educated guess that I would be interested in Massachusetts based sports teams. It was a good starting point because it meant the personalized experience began right away.

But what if I wasn’t into Boston sports? What if I liked the Denver Broncos, The English Premier League, or somehow (inexplicably!) the New York Yankees? ESPN was smart to follow up their automatic personalization with filters I could tweak to correct my view. Checking in with your website visitor directly to make sure you’ve gotten personalization right is a great move to keeping your viewers engaged.

When in doubt, ask — particularly if personalization is going to have a big change in the visitor’s experience of your website. Sales Benchmark Index, an entirely different type of company from ESPN, does this kind of visitor-selected personalization to send visitors down the conversion path that works best for them.

SBI-personalization

Time will tell if ESPN’s website results in better numbers for the media company. The move to create a website that acts more like living, evolving channels than static brochures, however, seems to be a trend that is swiftly finding its way toward the norm. There is still more to discover in this space, including more than a few mistakes I’m sure companies will hit along the way, but a personalization strategy rooted in the desire to create a better experience for visitors holds a lot of promise for marketers and media companies alike.

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Mar

7

2015

Is Personalization Creepy? 6 Experts Weigh In

personalization-creepy

This post originally appeared on Agency Post. To read more content like this, subscribe to Agency Post.

You would think that personalization of content and ads would be a welcome tactic, considering how many people complain about irrelevant advertising.

But many marketers are concerned about crossing the line; of being seen as “Big Brother.” And not all customers are comfortable brands using their information in this way. A study by Ipsos found that 68% of U.S. smartphone users are concerned about having their online activity tracked in order for advertisers to serve them more targeted ads. 

So, how do you combat the idea that personalization is creepy? How can you create content, emails, and advertising that aligns with and matches the visitor’s mindset?

We asked a few advertising executives why marketers should reconsider personalization and how they can use it as a tool for relevance. Here’s what they had to say.

Understand the Audience First

Marketers today must understand whom their audience is to determine how personalized to get. Digital natives tend to be more open to personalization because they’re aware that online activity can be public knowledge. That being said, we are currently in a transition phase. When retargeting technology was created in 2007, people were surprised when a product they searched for showed up on other sites around the web. Now, this is much less surprising. In fact, a recent survey cited that about half of consumers wished ads were more tailored to their interests and more than half expected to see personalized ads. Today the difference between ‘creepy’ and ‘not creepy’ is if an ad is so personalized it can only be for you. For example, an ad telling you to ‘buy diapers now because you’re giving birth in two weeks’ is much too, but an ad for diapers isn’t. Drawing the line between each is an art, not a science, and marketers must be always be considerate of their audience.

– James Green | Magnetic

Add Value

Personalization can mean a lot of things, so it’s important to understand what a marketer thinks it is and how it’s creepy. This can often clear up initial concerns. Then for us, the guiding personalization principle is to figure out if and how it adds value to the end user. Today personalization enables a range of new behaviors and there are a lot of untapped and exciting opportunities to weave it into experiences and products that may not seem like an immediate fit. In the coming months and years, we’re going to see it become a powerful tool for building relationships and creating better ways to do things. Personalization has already changed so many categories, so it’s really about understanding how to get the most out of it for your brand or product.

– Paul Munkholm | Kettle 

Increase Relevance

To marketers who argue that personalization is creepy, I ask: do you think Amazon is creepy?

If so, I’m not sure you really understand why websites and marketers personalize. It’s all about creating a better user experience for your site’s visitors and providing relevant information to the right people at the right time, not showing off your ability to track every move someone has taken on your site.

– Marc Herschberger | Revenue River Marketing

Make Visitors Feel Welcome

Personalization is only creepy if you make it creepy. Only use personalization in areas where people expect it (after opting in, in emails, etc.). The goal of personalization is to make a lead or customer feel welcome. The moment they feel welcomed on your site you have succeeded with personalization. 

– Seth Fendley | ClearPivot

Compare Tracking to In-Store Behavior

When talking to marketers who think tracking and personalization are creepy, I like to compare their website to a brick-and-mortar store. You know when someone is window shopping, who has come in, and what products they are looking at. Tracking and personalization provide this level of service for the digital world. 

– William McKee | Knowmad

Use Personalization as a Greeting 

I will agree using personalization in the wrong way can be creepy as heck. However, thinking that all personalization is creepy is like saying knowing someone’s name is creepy. Can you imagine having a real-world conversation with someone who never used your name? Now that is creepy.

In the real world, we can see they have brown hair, blue eyes, and walk with swag. Personalization done right let’s them know that we know who they are and that we dig their wicked swag.

– George Thomas | The Sales Lion

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Feb

2

2015

3 Simple Ways to Personalize Content by Referral Source

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Most marketers know the importance of creating unique content for different social mediums. For instance, would you use the same exact copy in a paid search ad that you did in a tweet? I hope I’m hearing a resounding, “No!” 

And yet, many marketers aren’t fully prepared for what comes next: when a visitor actually clicks on a link and lands on their website. If a visitor comes from a paid ad promising a coupon — and then they don’t see the coupon as soon as they arrive on your website, how do you think they’re going to feel? Confused; maybe even frustrated.

But according to a Jackson Marketing Group study, less than 10% of B2B companies are using personalized website content. The companies that do use personalized content are benefitting. In fact, according to an E-consultancy/Monetate report, companies that personalize their website see an average of a 19% increase in sales.

Sound compelling? To help you get started, here are a few simple methods to personalizing content by referral source that your customers will love.

Personalize Content for Social Media Campaigns

Visitors who come to your webpage from social media have different motives and interests than those coming from email marketing or paid campaigns. Why not cater to these specific motives and interests?

For instance, a visitor to your page that got there by clicking a link on Twitter is likely familiar with the Twitter platform and apt to sharing content on Twitter. In this case, Twitter would be that visitor’s last referring social source.

By creating personalized content from a visitor’s last referring social source, you can pinpoint the platform they’d most likely want to share your content on. You can also include textual references to the visitor’s last social media source to cater to their interests.

Below are examples of personalized content made for visitors coming from specific social sources: Facebook and Twitter. 

For Facebook Users

With more small businesses on Facebook than ever before — 30 million, according to TechCrunch — the competition for organic reach is becoming fiercer by the day. But by personalizing content for visitors who land on your website from Facebook, you can increase customer activity and involvement on the social platform.

The example below boasts personalized text and social sharing buttons (highlighted in red) specifically for visitors coming from Facebook. 

example of using personalization by source

The Facebook sharing icon on this company webpage allows Facebook visitors to immediately share content from their own accounts with one click. There’s also personalized text that clearly mentions Facebook. It’s a win-win situation: The content is customized just for Facebook visitors so they can easily share your content, and it caters to the visitor’s unique social media preference. 

For Twitter Users

According to MediaBistro67% of Twitter users are far more likely to buy from the brands they follow on Twitter. Go a step beyond simply using Twitter for brand awareness by personalizing content on your webpage for Twitter users, thereby improving their experience with your brand.

Notice how the click-to-tweet button in the example below makes it easy for Twitter users to share your company’s content.

example of how to use personalization by source

Site visitors who like to use Twitter will be able to quickly tweet out these short, snackable quotes — without ever having to leave your webpage.

Personalize Content for Email Campaigns 

Composing a successful email campaign involves coming up with a list of email recipients with specific interests. But why spend so much time carefully selecting email recipients when you’re just going to direct them to a generic webpage anyone has access to? To give them a better user experience, send them to a webpage with content specifically catered to their interests.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say HubSpot creates an email campaign for customers who might like a photo editing feature in their product. In their email to those customers, they include a link directing them to the company’s product page, which contains more information about that feature.

The problem is this: That specific photo-editing feature is not at the top of the page. So when email recipients click through, they see a different feature first — whereas the photo-editing feature they clicked through to see is actually buried below the fold.

But how do you solve this problem? Thankfully, you don’t need to create unique product pages for every email single email list would be extremely time-consuming. Instead, by personalizing by referral email source, you can build onto an existing webpage to highlight a specific part of the page that users from that email source are interested in. When an email recipient clicks the link in that email, they aren’t taken to a generic product page — they’re taken to a customized product page that shows the photo-editing upgrade first so that it’s the first thing users see.

It’s all about personalizing for the individual visitor. Personalize by referring email source so you can pinpoint information — such as an image, video, or GIF — that caters to the visitor’s unique needs as soon as they land on your webpage. 

Customize Content for Paid Search Campaigns

If you’re going to devote a portion of your budget to paid search ads, then it’s best to send the people who click on those ads to pages optimized for their conversion. It can be very frustrating for a visitor to read certain text in an ad, such as information about a sale, only to land on your webpage and not find any more details on the matter.

But if you personalize content for visitors coming from a specific paid search campaign, you can highlight key information included on the ad right onto an existing webpage to drive more conversions and improve overall user experience. 

Take a look at the example below. This dress company is running a marketing campaign for its new dress line. As part of the campaign, the company created a series of Google paid search ads that feature an exclusive discount code, highlighted in red below. Originally, the company’s paid search ad linked to the new line’s generic product page that all visitors could see (highlighted in black in the image below).

unpersonalized_paid_search

Although this product page includes the summer dresses mentioned in the ad, the discount code is missing. The visitor may become frustrated and confused when the promised 50% off discount — a major driving factor in why the visitor to click on the ad in the first place — isn’t displayed right away. 

Creating a unique webpage that highlights information from each individual paid search ad (such as a discount code) would be an incredibly time-consuming process. But, by using a smart content tool like HubSpot’s, you can personalize content for all paid search ads in the same campaign to make it easier for customers to find the information that they are looking for.

The image below shows the same dress company’s personalized content, created just for visitors coming to their website from their paid search campaign. Notice the banner containing the discount code information at the top of the page.

with_personalization_paid_search

Personalized content by ad search campaigns will help visitors to find the information they are looking for while also increasing the number of conversions and satisfied customers on your website. 

What methods has your company used to personalize content by source to enhance user experience on your website?

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Nov

24

2014

Let’s Get Personal: 12 Ways to Tailor Your Marketing to Individuals

personalizationPersonalized marketing is more than just a buzzword you should use when trying to fit in at networking events. Gone are the days of the generic blast email and one-size-fits-all website. Today, three out of four companies personalize their marketing efforts, most commonly across websites and emails.

And it’s what consumers want. Overwhelmingly, customer engagement is cited as the top reason for prioritizing personalization in marketing. It makes sense, really — why wouldn’t I prefer content that speaks directly to me and my interests? Maybe I’m skewed as a marketer, but if you’ve taken the time and energy to learn a bit more about me, I’m more likely to take the time to listen to your pitch and probably more likely to make a purchase.

When you know more about your audience, you can present them with customized marketing, all targeted through the channels they engage in most. What could you do with more, enriched information about your prospects and customers? Here are some ideas for different types of information you can gather about your audience, and how you can use them to personalize your marketing efforts. While not all of these may be applicable to your business and your audience, they can give you a jumping-off point for new personalization ideas.

Demographics and Interests

1) The Basics

Job title, age, gender, marital status, education level … these are some of the very basic pieces information you may already be collecting that can easily be used to offer targeted content to your audience. For example, someone who is married may be interested in a two-for-one vacation offer via email.

2) Life Events

These refer to major life changes, like purchasing a first home, moving to a new area, becoming a parent for the first time, etc. Be thoughtful about what might be on someone’s mind as they experience these events and provide them with related content and offers. Someone who just purchased a new house, for example, may be very interested in a blog post on the top three things to know about homeowner’s insurance.

3) Life Stage

These attributes indicate things like presence of children in the home, whether someone owns or rents, if an individual is a business owner and more. Life stage is another attribute where you can assess what could be on someone’s mind and provide them with the right content at the right time. A great example is offering a discount on dorm room essentials to the parents of students about to go off to college.

4) Channel Receptivity

This attribute answers the question “How receptive is someone to marketing programs in different channels?” For example, if you know certain people have engaged with you in the past via email, email campaigns could be a more appropriate channel to reach those individuals rather than through Facebook.

Website Activities

5) Recent Purchases

Understanding someone’s shopping habits and particularly what someone most recently purchased from you can be especially powerful for retailers looking to cross-sell their customers. For example, if someone recently purchased one type of cosmetic, you could surface a related product that other similar customers have purchased in the past.

6) Site Arrival

How did your site visitors arrive? Was it a referral through social media? A Google search? A click in an email campaign? Knowing this can help you target visitors with content most relevant to what they are seeking, such as creating a custom call-to-action to share a piece of content based on the social network someone’s coming from. 

7) Abandoned Carts

If you’re an ecommerce business, you can find out a lot about someone based on what they considered purchasing from your online store. Use abandoned shopping cart information to remarket those forgotten items to them via display ads or email campaigns, perhaps even offering a discount they can’t refuse.

8) Types of Content Being Viewed

Keeping tabs on the types of pages your website visitors are engaging in can tell you more about what stage in the buying cycle they are in. This helps you target them with more relevant target to push them further through the funnel. For example, someone looking at your pricing pages is more likely closer to a purchase than someone who only downloaded a whitepaper.

9) Topics of Content Being Viewed

Are your visitors seeking out specific content or topics within your site? This information can be a great way to personalize with relevant content. For example, if someone just downloaded an ebook on Facebook marketing, they probably would love more information about Facebook.

10) Blog or Newsletter Subscriptions

If someone signs up to receive your blog’s updates or your email newsletter, you can take advantage of preference centers to find out what topics your subscribers might want to learn more about. Additionally, if someone subscribes for your content, that means they are likely very engaged with your brand, and may be open to learning about the products and services you offer.

11) Device and Location Access

Knowing whether someone accesses your website on their mobile phone or their desktop computer can help you deliver the right form of content for the size of the screen. Additionally, knowing where location-wise your visitors are when looking at your site can be an opportunity to regionalize content you display.

12) Guest vs. Logged In

If you have a member or customer portal that visitors can log in to, you can present content and offers that are targeted to that status. Another way to use this information is through frequency of log in — someone who logs in to your site regularly may want to see different content each time.

What other attributes are you personalizing offer based on? How are you gathering this information? Tell us in the comments!

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Nov

17

2014

4 Creative Ways to Make Your Website More Personalized

personalization_ideasWe’re now encountering more personalized experiences than ever before. Before, it was just your favorite coffee shop barista who greeted you by name. Now, your News Feed is customized to your interests and behavior, your online purchases are largely influence by what Amazon’s algorithm think you’d like, and you can’t open up an email without it saying, "Hi [First Name]."

You can thank technology for all of that. It’s made it easier and easier for companies to personalize their products, services, and marketing to individuals — but it’s also risen consumer expectations. In fact, a study by Janrain showed that 74% of online consumers get frustrated with websites when content appears that has nothing to do with their interests. 

As a marketer, you need to be prepared to offer personalized experiences to your audiences — and we’re not talking about adding someone’s first name in the greeting of your next email send. Keep on reading to discover a few ways you definitely should be personalizing your marketing.

1) Cater to individual personas.

Your website should be catered to different buyer personas and serve relevant content to individuals in your core personas. For example, let’s say you sell time management software and you have two very different personas. The first is HR Harry who is looking at any of his hourly employees times and any concerns with time and payment are correct. The second is Independent Contractor Isabella who is consistently monitoring time to ensure she is as productive as possible, and she appropriate stays within her project limits. 

How would you personalize your website for each of these personas? To start, think about your homepage, where all of your visitors get a first impression of your business. Utilize CTAs, content, and imagery that specifically address your main personas’ needs and interests. In the context of the previous example, if we were personalizing our pricing page, we’d want to show HR Harry information on employee time management. Independent Contractor Isabella, on the other hand, should be shown information about personal project time tracking.

2) Display different content based on social referral source.

The referring location a visitor comes from can tell you a lot about what they are interested in. If a visitor comes from a Twitter link, for example, they may prefer to read shorter-form content and have shorter forms that allow you to quickly capture their attention and then move on. However, if a visitor comes from The New York Times they may prefer more thorough or in-depth explanations that contains more detail. 

So how should we actually personalize these experiences?

Look at your top referral sources for one high-trafficked page, and then tweak messaging, content length, and imagery (among other things) for each referral source. If that is successful, then try scaling the personalization strategy to other landing pages with high traffic.

3) Show a unique experience to first-time website visitors.

When a new visitor comes to your website and you don’t have any of their contact information, how do you deliver an experience that delights them?

Because each device connected to the Internet has a IP addresses, you can use this IP address to get a general idea of where your visitors are coming from. As a result, if you have a significant number of visitors in the U.S. and Germany, you can show visitors from Germany a version of page written in German. Or, you could show "Contact Us" information to get someone in touch with an office more local to them.

You can also try personalizing based on the device someone’s using. For example, you can show visitors coming from smartphones shorter-form content and the ability to send any offers to themselves via email (rather than download them directly). 

4) Nurture individuals through your funnel with lifecycle stage specific content.

If you’re using email to nurture prospects through your buyers journey, why shouldn’t your webpages also be personalized for each of these steps along the journey, too? 

You should change headline messaging on your homepage to show different copy to people in different stages of the buying journey. This is how we’d do it if we were working for a landscaper:

  • Visitor: Prepping your house for winter is a tough task. Download this free checklist to make sure you’re not forgetting a thing. 
  • Marketing Qualified Lead: We’ve helped over 80 customers with fall cleanup. Find out how we can help you!
  • Customer: Welcome back! It’s time to schedule your next appointment.

Going beyond just headlines, you can display completely different content to each of these groups to tailor the experience. This personalization to individuals and tailoring to the needs at that time in the buyer’s journey helps make your page far more relevant and more likely to generate the desired results. 

How else are you using personalization? We’d love to hear your ideas below.

download your free marketing personalization ebook

Nov

10

2014

The Psychology of Personalization: Why We Crave Customized Experiences

psychology_of_personalizationThe Dark Ages.

For those of you unfamiliar with Medieval history, the Dark Ages refer to a period of crippling technological degradation. A time when there was no Amazon.com. No Netflix. No Hulu. No Spotify or Pandora or Sirius radio.

During the Dark Ages, consumers didn’t get personalized recommendations based on their past purchases. Nor did they receive personalized recommendations for new music, movies, or TV shows based on what they’d already listened to and watched. 

In fact, to watch their favorite TV shows, people had to “tune in” at specific times. Presumably, the TV industry was creating content for us. Yet if we ever wanted to watch it, we had to do so on their schedules.

It was truly a dark time.

OK, so my Medieval history might be a little off. But my underlying point here is that people prefer — and often crave — personalized experiences. And by “personalized experience,” I mean an interaction or engagement with a piece of software, a piece of content, or a person (duh) that leaves you feeling like your interests and preferences were actually being taken into account.

Personalization is like someone giving you a fitted baseball cap with your favorite team’s logo on the front and your initials stitched in on the side.

In contrast, non-personalization is like someone giving you a one-size-fits-all baseball cap with some team you hate’s logo on the front. No initials. No consideration for your preferences whatsoever. It’s like the person who gave it to you bought a 48-pack of baseball caps on Amazon and you were just one of the many “lucky" recipients.

Fortunately, modern (non-Dark Age) technology allows us to take advantage of personalization like never before. For example, as marketers, we’re now able personalize our home pages, landing pages, forms, calls-to-action (CTAs), and emails so the content and messaging we display is always tailored to the person engaging with it.

If you’d like to learn more about incorporating personalization into your marketing, check our new guide, How to Master Personalized Marketing.

If, however, you want to learn more about why people crave personalization at a psychological level, just keep on reading and I’ll do my best to explain.

Why Do We Prefer Personalized Experiences?

According to a study from the University of Texas, we can attribute our preference for personalized experiences to two key factors: desire for control and information overload. Let’s tackle “desire for control" first. 

So, we know that a personalized experience — by its very nature — is in some way different from the status quo. You’re not just getting what everyone else is getting with personalization. Instead, you’re getting something tailored to you. And because of that, it makes you feel more in control.  

Truth be told, you aren’t actually making a choice when, for example, you view personalized content on a site page. But when you know you’re getting something that’s tailored to your interests, you still perceive having some level of control over what you’re engaging with.

Even if this sense of control is an illusion, it’s still powerful, and can have a positive effect on your psyche. According to Psychology Today, people who feel an internal sense of control — i.e. they believe that they are in control of their life outcomes, as opposed believing external forces are responsible — tend to be healthier physiologically and more successful.

Now, let’s turn to the second factor mentioned in the University of Texas study: information overload.

According to the study, another reason we prefer personalized experiences is because they help reduce information overload. Or, more precisely, personalization can help reduce our perception of information overload.

For example, when you know that the content being displayed on a website is tailored to you, it provides a more manageable framework for engagement. With personalization, you aren’t presented with thousands of resources to sort through and consume. Instead, you are — ideally — presented with exactly the information you were looking for. Hence, you never feel “overloaded" with information.

Relevance to the Rescue

Of course, the notion that personalization can satisfy our collective desire for control, as well as our desire to reduce information overload, only applies when we know that personalization is actually happening. 

Think about it: If there are no overt signals of personalization (like seeing your first name in the greeting of an email), how can you even tell that something has been personalized?

In those cases — when someone isn’t aware that they’re engaging with personalized content — feelings of control and reduced information overload don’t come into play. And yet, research (including this study) confirms that people prefer personalization, even if they aren’t aware they’re experiencing it.

So why, psychology speaking, do we still like personalized content better in these cases? Simple: It’s more relevant. And, as human beings, we are naturally more inclined to engage with information that we find relevant and interesting.

Not satisfied with that answer? Me neither. Let’s dive a little deeper.

You see, it all has to do with your brain’s reticular activating system, or RAS (which, FYI, is number 7 on my list of “Top 10 Favorite Activating Systems”). Moving on …

Your RAS is the gateway that information passes through in order to reach your brain, and it filters that information so you know what you should pay attention to. Ever hear of “selective attention” or “selective hearing”? This ability to focus on one bit of information, while simultaneously ignoring other information, is controlled by your RAS.

As Dr. Rachna Jain once noted in a Social Media Examiner article about psychological influence, "Most commonly, the RAS is associated with the concept of selective attention, which means that we naturally orient to information or ideas that we are invested in.”

reticular_activating_system

(Image source: howourbrainswork.com)

One of the most common examples of your RAS in action is known as the "cocktail party effect." Here’s how it works:

If you’re at a party with dozens of people chatting around you, you’ll likely find that you can easily ignore or tune out of those conversations. They’re just background noise. But, as soon as someone says something that is of particular interest to you, you will magically tune into that specific conversation. The important information will, thanks to your RAS, rise above the noise.

Want to know one of — if not the — biggest “cocktail party effect” triggers around? We’ll explore that next.

The Sweetest Sound

"Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

– Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

Carnegie’s point here was that remembering a person’s name — and using it whenever appropriate — is key to winning that person over to your way of thinking. He was so keen on this notion, in fact, that he came up with his own system for remembering names effectively.

Clearly, Carnegie understood that something special occurs when people hear their own name. And, as I alluded to in the previous section, the “cocktail party effect” also backs up this idea: Your name, as it turns out, is one of the easiest sounds for your RAS to hone in on.

While you can easily ignore that stranger in the background complaining about their job or talking about their kitchen renovations, as soon as they mention your name, your ears will inevitably perk up.

So, what exactly is going on here? My scientific answer is as follows:

Something. Something is definitely going on. And yes, there is scientific research that backs up my bold claim.

According to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Brain Research, when people hear their own first name (vs. hearing other first names), there is a unique reaction in the brain.

More specifically, hearing your own name — as opposed to other names — triggers greater brain activation, particularly in the middle frontal cortex (which is associated with social behavior), the middle and superior temporal cortex (which are associated with long-term memory and auditory processing, respectively), as well as the cuneus (which is associated with visual processing).

Based on this research, it’s clear that hearing your own name definitely causes something special to happen in your brain. But how can you use this information practically for improving your marketing?

Easy! Start using dynamic tags in your lead nurturing emails so you can address recipients by name. You could also greet returning customers by name on your home page. With smart content, the sky’s the limit.

Looking for more examples of how you can leverage the psychological power of personalization in your marketing? Our new guide has got you covered.

download your free marketing personalization ebook

 

Oct

28

2014

Free Ebook: How to Master Personalized Marketing

personalized-marketing-blogBefore the rise of inbound marketing, traditional marketers often focused on broadcasting their messages to as wide of an audience as possible. Their tactics were expensive, interruptive, and, perhaps most egregiously, untargeted. 

(more…)

Jul

17

2014

6 Smart Strategies for Segmenting Your Dynamic CTAs

panther-chameleon-300px-wideAre you using calls-to-action in your marketing? What about dynamic calls-to-action? As far as I’m concerned, dynamic calls-to-action are the only calls-to-action.

Not hip to the difference? Whereas a standard CTA is the same for every viewer, a dynamic call-to-action (CTA) — or a Smart CTA (more…)

Jul

5

2014

The Resources You Need to Master Smart Content [In Under 100 Words]

smart_contentFirst, make sure you know what smart content is and how it works. (Hint: It’s also known as dynamic content.)

Then, you need to create a smart content strategy to address different target buyers who are in different stages of the buying journey. Sound confusing? Use this template to get organized. (more…)

Jul

2

2014

TMI? How to Personalize Your Emails Without Being Creepy

first-nameYears ago, I would have been shocked to receive an email that said “Hello Rachel,” but today it would shock me to see an email that didn’t greet me by my first name and feature content tailored to my individual interests. 

But with all the information we marketers know about our contacts … it’s very possible that we can over-personalize emails. (more…)

Jun

20

2014

Embarrassing or Adorable? MySpace Emails Users About Their Decade-Old Photos

embarrassing_photos_myspaceThis post originally appeared on the ecommerce section of Inbound Hub. To read more content like this, subscribe to the ecommerce blog here.

Personalization has proven to be an important part of developing consumer trust, but what happens if you take it too far? (more…)


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