Saturday, January 19, 2008

This Blog Has Moved

This blog has been permanently moved to

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Quite seriously the best book ever written on the science of persuasion. This book is essential for understanding the psychological foundations of marketing and selling both online and off.

I'd like to also share a great video that was posted on showing how LinkedIn leveraged several persuasive principal outlined in Robert Cialdini's book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion on the web.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Is There a Hole In Your Marketing Bucket?

Imagine poring gallons and gallons of water into a bucket with a hole in it. No matter how much you pour in, water just seems to rush out the hole. Websites are a lot like that bucket, no matter how much that faucet is pumping into that bucket it just keep springing holes and pouring out until you realize you’re just throwing money in just out of habit.

In the above example substitute water for media spend, content, anything and the holes are your websites usability, the navigation, the persuasiveness of your sites design.

We’ve all been there and it’s easy to justify when we are being held accountable to increasing the numbers on a weekly or monthly basis. But when it comes to online marketing it’s best to take a two-pronged approach. First plug the holes in your bucket. Then bring in new visitors to your site, otherwise you’ll never really make a difference. Sometimes you’ve got to take a step back before you start to run forward or else you’ll start to trip over yourself.

The two-pronged approach to online marketing

First plug the holes in your bucket, meaning improve your website by making it more persuasive so visitors coming in wont fall out the holes before converting to customers. So often is this first step overlooked, with everyone rushing around and putting out business fires on a day to day basis the knee jerk reaction is to redesign your entire site. Now don’t get me wrong sometimes a site can have so many problems that it needs to be redesigned from the ground up either because what it will take to fix it is a complete overhaul of the backend or over the years it has become a victim of just adding fix on top of fix without thinking of the big picture or the users experience. Overtime your site becomes a huge mess with no thought behind it.

Almost every website has a few holes in it’s marketing bucket and it’s the job of persuasive design to plug these holes one by one over time. But how can you plug these holes if you’re not quite sure where or what they are? If you’re not implementing web analytics on your site you should start doing so immediately. Getting a grasp on the numbers of your site will lead you towards what’s working and what’s not.

For example the average page views per visit which can be calculated by dividing your total page views by the total visits is a great indicator of how compelling your site is and how easy it is to navigate.

But the numbers will only lead you half way, next you’ll need qualitative data gathered from user testing and or surveys to verify your findings and to test your solutions with real users.

Once most of the holes in your marketing bucket are plugged then it’s time to bring in new visitors to the site and keep tracking and making continuous improvements.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Ads Will Become The Content

What is the future of online advertising?

Web Visitors hate online advertising and I don’t blame them. How can anyone welcome the constant interruptions of pop ups, banner ads and spam? If we didn’t hate them then we wouldn’t have things like pop up blockers or spam filters. Advertising has always been disruptive in every medium, and that is what’s holding back advertisings potential.

Consumers are more intelligent now than they ever have been before, over time they have become desensitized to ads and easily ignore them no matter what advertisers try to do. The more in your face an ad is the more annoyed today’s consumer becomes. So the Advertiser’s dilemma is, how to get the consumer to notice the ad?

To solve that conundrum we must first realize that the consumer is seeking content. Once advertisers understand that consumers are devouring content more than ads, the next logical step is for the ad to become the content. Some savvy advertisers have already realized this and have cleverly created content specific for consumers. This is why BMW has a specialty magazine for BMW owners.

In this instance the web is lagging behind print. But today Google may have changed that. Google’s new Gadget Ad format will distribute ads that look and act like mini-Web sites. These new ad formats can include videos, games, news, images, etc.

Does this mean web visitors will be able to have a deeper engagement with advertising without disrupting their experience on the site they were visiting? Maybe, maybe not.

What this does mean is that since Google is behind it the new content driven ads that are interactive will be relevant to the content the user is interested in based on the page they are browsing and that can only mean more successful advertising online.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

How do you know if your website is working?

If you’re not using web analytics to continuously learn and improve your website’s marketing results you’re marketing with a bag over your head.

The problem with analytics in most companies is that they don’t know what to do with all the data they can pull from the plethora of robust web analytics vendors on the market.

Where should online marketers start? Page views, unique visitors, leads, top exit pages, etc. it can all be overwhelming and daunting just to stay on top of and report much less use all of that information to improve your marketing results and be the superstar of the next Monday morning meeting.

The data in and of itself is useless, unless you:

  1. Establish Key Performance Indicators that are aligned with your unique business bottom line goals.
  2. Have a plan to produce measurable results from your web analytics.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) allow you to see at a glance the current state of your web site as it relates to your specific business. Each business is different and requires a unique set of KPI’s that are relevant to achieving the business objectives you’re accountable for.

Your KPI’s are directly tied to a continuous improvement process. The measurement of your desired results against current conditions and changing the direction of ebbs and flows over time to increase your results is what the continuous improvement process is all about. Success in optimizing your web site is based on incremental and constant improvements. A website, unlike print collateral is never really finished. Web design is organic and flows back and forth constantly improving and learning from your unique visitors.

The combination of web analytics and persuasive web design is where measurable results are formed. Persuasive web design guides users, influences human behavior and motivates your visitors to take action that is measurable through web analytics.

Persuasive design is both visual and verbal. Visual persuasion successfully guides your visitors through your site by using persuasive principals to compel visitors to take more action more often. Some ways visual persuasion accomplishes this is by removing roadblocks, improving visual communication and enhancing the usability of your site resulting in a better user experience with your company brand and your website.

Verbal persuasion provides the right content at the right time in the right way to effectively encourage visitors to take action on your site. Content on your site designed around a persuasive path touches on a visual mental image within the imagination of your prospects. Compelling verbs, attention-grabbing nouns and spell binding adjectives will pull your readers through a persuasive pathway, at each step bringing them closer to closing the action that meets your business goals.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Are you using the most important page on your website?

What’s the most important page on any website?

Most people think the home page of their site is the most important, and therefore it has to be the most persuasive to pull visitors in towards conversion, but most people would be wrong. Although the home page is where most internal stakeholders attention is and where most of the time will be spent on any average web design project, it is actually not the most important page of your site. Unfortunately more hours and debate, not to mention opinions will be wasted around this one single page since everyone from each department wants a piece of it. If only the internal stakeholders knew all their concerns were surrounding a page that doesn’t even rank in the top five of importance. The reason for this has to do with how sales works.

Does your website have a sales formula?

Any good sales person knows the “AIDA” formula, which stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. First get your prospects attention, peak their interest for your product, create a desire around their needs and finally get them to take action. The online equivalent of the AIDA formula puts the home page at the interest stage. Attention would be your promotions vehicle used to generate awareness and bring visitors to your site. At the interest stage of the sales funnel your prospect has more than likely arrived at your home page and are scanning the page to see if there is anything relevant to them. Once they find that nugget of relevance they click and poof they’re gone from the home page. Generally the home page has the least amount of time spent on the page and is the least engaging. Think of it like this, a website home page is the front door to your business it’s only purpose is to get prospects to enter to engage with the real content on the inside. It is no more than a hotel lobby, it sets the tone provides an impression and the helpful clerk behind the counter tells you how to get to your suite upstairs. Once upstairs you kick off your shoes fix a drink from the in room bar and relax in chair on the balcony before you unpack. This is where you want to be not the home page.

But what about persuasion?

Continuing the Attention, Interest, Desire, Action formula you can easily see how the interior pages of your site, like your product detail pages are where you create desire in your prospect, these pages are more important than your home page but still are not the most important or most persuasive pages on your site. It is in the desire stage where your prospects are thinking about buying.

On the web your prospects need to explore, the job of your site is to provide them with the tools they need to do this with the least amount to resistance possible. Resistance in this case would be anything that gets in their way from completing their task. This can come in the form of poor usability practices, weak navigation, and pages that have not been designed around your specific prospect. Aligning your prospects needs with the needs of your business is what persuasive design is all about.

The further your prospect gets in the sales funnel the more valuable they become because they are closer to converting into a customer. Therefore the more important pages on your website are the pages that are further into your site, where the customer has chosen to be. These interior pages are where persuasive design can be fully leveraged in order to get the most bang for your buck.

The most important page on your website

The most valuable page on any website is the thank you page, the page that your customer see after completing a transaction. A transaction can include anything from completing a contact form, a registration page or an online purchase. The thank you page is also the most persuasive but often overlooked. At this point your customer is at the furthest point into the sales funnel, they have raised their hand and taken action. All to often this page says nothing more to the customer other than Thank you. A this point your website has the best opportunity to be persuasive.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Online Marketing Game

Practice makes perfect
Any professional athlete spends more time practicing and training then actually playing on the game. That’s how they become so good at their sport and are able to compete at a professional level. What makes them pros is that they never settle for second best, they continue to develop themselves and strive for improvement. Why should online marketing be any different?

What does continuous improvement really mean?
The challenge to constantly improve oneself is what continuous improvement is all about. It’s more of an online marketing philosophy and a way of life than anything else. With a kindred spirit of an athlete strategies and design should be refined based on actual in-market observations of how online consumers respond on your website.

Online marketing discipline

It takes discipline, dedication and patience to implement a continuous improvement process. Online marketing does not end when a website is implemented. Improvement is organic and requires constant change. Dedication requires continuous measurement in order to benchmark improvements. Small incremental steps are key. Each business goal will go through the improvement cycle several times with increasing results each time. Online marketing is honed to gain peak performance with a bit of patience. The biggest mistake online marketing can make is trying to accomplish too much at once or rolling out with a complete redesign without knowing any metrics or benchmarks from the previous website. By jumping in all at once, you will never fully understand what factors were responsible for which result, wasting money and time. That’s not how athletes train and that’s not how online marketing should be done. Success in optimizing your marketing is based on incremental and constant improvements.

According to Shop.Org the average conversion rate of their members is about 1.8%. (State Of Online Retailing 3.0 - April 2000) A top athlete wouldn't settle for these stats, why should you?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Conversation of Conversion

Conversations build trust
I was reading my copy of The Age Of Conversation last night and that got me thinking about how conversion is tied to conversation. Improving your websites conversation skills can dramatically increase the conversions of your online sales or lead generation.

What kind of dialogue is your site having with your prospective customers?

From the moment a web user enters a website they have essentially entered into a conversation with your company brand. To maximize this conversation your web presence needs to be designed for conversation in order to take advantage of conversion.

Conversion happens one step at a time, at each step an online prospect is actively making a choice to learn more through the links on your site. With each click a prospect is moving closer and closer through your conversion pathway and buying into what you’re selling or realizing that what you have to offer is not right for them, that is what’s driving them to convert weather that’s in one visit or multiple visits.

Is your Brand on Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, The Podcast Alley, Etc. Etc.

Along the way to conversion a conversation is taking place. Your brand is communicating with your prospect through design and the language used throughout your site. And if you’re leveraging blogs and other web 2.0 applications your prospects and customers are hopefully communicating back.

Your Brand needs to leverage all the touch points it possibly can with it’s online presence. Each touch point like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Podcasting, Blogging is an opportunity to further that communication and move your prospect one-step closer to conversion.

Is your brand communicating towards conversion as effectively as it could be?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Persuasive Online Forms

Distinguished Professor of Marketing and Regents’ Professor of Psychology Robert B, Cialdini, Ph.D. describes in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion the principal of human automatic action demonstrated in an experiment by Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer.

Here’s a passage from the book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B, Cialdini, Ph.D.

A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do. Langer demonstrated this unsurprising fact by asking a small favor of people waiting in line to use a library copying machine; Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush? The Effectiveness of this request-plus-reason was nearly total: 94% of those asked let her skip ahead of them in line. Compare this success rate to the results when she made the request only: Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine? Under those circumstances, only 60% of those asked complied.

This example works well in the real world where we can interact with someone directly but can this translate to the online equivalent human automatic action?

On a website the need for reassurance is even higher because of the lack of direct human interaction. The nature of the web puts the user in control and when that control is challenged users tend to bail out since there’s no guilt holding them back. They are not walking away from an actual person after all.

The cutting in line experiment is the online equivalent of when a company form page or registration page asks for information that may be beyond what the user is comfortable with providing or information that has nothing to do with the expectations of the task. For example why ask for your mailing address if you’re just signing up for a free online membership? The user has no expectation to receive anything in the mail and therefore assumes they just want to send him or her junk mail or worse yet sell his address to several other people who want to ensure the mailman has plenty to stuff in his box.

The lessons learned on persuasion in the experiment can be easily adapted to this online situation and as a result improve the conversion rate of all online forms. If in the real world conversion went up 34% we can at least expect an equivalent online.

Below is an example of how the lesson of human automatic action can be leveraged by adding a simple reason why to a contact page.

In the example rather than simply asking for information a bit of verbal persuasion is used to reassure and explain why the user should be filling in his valuable information.

This simple act of explaining, “Entering a URL allows us to review your site so that we can begin thinking about improving it before we speak to you.” Not only provides a human level of comfort but also directly relates how entering this information will be beneficial to the user filling out the form. “…so that we can begin thinking about improving it before we speak to you.”

Monday, August 6, 2007

The New Marketing Mix

We’re all familiar with the 4 P’s of marketing Product, Price, Place and Promotion but in today’s Internet age of Social media, Web 2.0 and ROI is the old marketing mix still cutting it?

Surely the 4Ps still have some place in the world of marketing if anything as the basis for marketing but long gone are the days of a marketplace where the store vendor knew everyone of his customers personally. Where interaction was on a one to one level with real human voice and physical connection, despite the promise of a one to one website application.

Today the customer is clearly in the drivers seat with both hands on the steering wheel, which is why marketers need to add a 5th P to the marketing mix, Persuasion.

The New P - Product, Price, Place, Promotion and Persuasion

  • What specifically helps a user make a choice?

  • What information tells your prospect why they should believe your product or service is the best solution for their problem?

This is where Persuasion comes in. But first let me make one thing clear. By persuasion I don’t mean some sort of trickery or manipulation. Persuasion focuses on your prospects experience with your product or service. It’s what makes a Browser into a Customer. Persuasion focuses on making a prospective buyer comfortable and increases his or her trust level with your brand. The greater the trust the greater the likeliness your browser will buy.

Persuasive Design
Visual persuasion removes roadblocks, improving visual communication. Verbal persuasion provides the right content, in the right way at the right time. The combination of verbal and visual is what makes up persuasive design and can greatly encourage your prospects to take action.

Everything Old is New Again
Persuasion is what takes the place of the vendor at the corner store who once knew everyone of his customers personally. That old marketplace vendor was the embodiment of trust and ease of use. Both visual, if he needed to conduct a product demo, and verbal, with his reassurance and commitment behind his product, all at once.

How are you using Persuasion in your marketing mix?

  • Is your website strategy integrated with your sales cycle?

  • Does your Web site reflect your offline brand?

  • Have you clearly defined what you want customers to do online?

  • Are customers accomplishing those tasks on your site?

  • Can customers find the information they need on your site?

  • Do your online marketing efforts have a major impact on your bottom line?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Debriefing – the U.S. military does it, why not design?

Debriefing as defined by Wikipedia is a one-time, semi-structured conversation with an individual who has just experienced a stressful or traumatic event. In most cases, the purpose of debriefing is to reduce any possibility of psychological harm by informing people about their experience or allowing them to talk about it.

What can Design and Marketing Learn from The Military?
OK. It’s obvious how that relates to the military but how can we as marketers use debriefing? Although most marketing campaigns and some work environments can certainly seem stressful and traumatic and after a long 9-5 workday, psychological harm is often reduced by telling our spouse about our rough day. Does debriefing really have a place anywhere else outside of the diner table?

With ROI on the tip of everyone’s mind and accountability at an all time high, debriefing needs to become standard practice at work not just at the diner table the over lunch with coworkers.
A debriefing evaluation needs to be a part of the design process. Design and Marketing is not a pass-fail event, we need to learn from success and failure. The military has know this for years and it’s time agencies and design firms stepped up and followed the same system.

We've Got to Work Together for Improved Results
Debriefing is nothing more than evaluating and testing our creative and the results generated. The secret to any successful marketing effort is test, test, test. If we keep switching agencies and chief marketing officers we create an environment where everyone becomes afraid of making a mistake much less learning from our mistakes and improving. Creativity and success thrives in a culture where mistakes are not seen as a bad thing but as an opportunity to learn and grow.

In order for a debriefing environment to work agencies need to partner with clients and clients need to work cooperatively and creatively with their agencies. Both the client and the agency needs to accept responsibility for improvement and continuous learning.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Media Revolution

Marketing, design and the way we interact, communicate and connect as human beings is changing. The world is changing through things like facebook, twitter, podcasting, secondlife and so much more. Never has there been a more interesting time to be alive than today. Marketers that refuse to keep up and completely redesign the way they communicate, and do things in the coming age will be left behind. Let this be a wakeup call to all marketers and designers everywhere.

Is Prometeus fiction or a look into what will come? I’ll let you decide.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

How Should Agency Pricing Structure Change?

There was an article recently in USA today about value based pricing structures for agencies. The article talks about several potential solutions, from flat fee pricing to performance based pricing. It reminded me of a discussion that was started in the Six Pixels of Separation Podcast by Mitch Joel a few months ago.

There is no question that the current pricing structure between client and agency is broken. A time based price structure and a 30 percent markup is a disservice to both agencies and clients. 30 percent markups make agencies no more than retail middlemen. Fees based on hours puts creative, both design and strategy on the same level as a mechanic. The current state of the industry pricing structure downplays creativity and ideas. Ideas are what clients are going to agencies for, why then do agencies give them away for free and charge based on markups and time? Is a an idea that took forty hours to come up with any more valuable than one that took only 10 hours?

I believe a performance based price structure that is based on value would be best for both client and agency. However, to accomplish this type of pricing a true partnership based on trust and common goals would need to be established. I’m not quite sure if clients or agencies are ready for that level of commitment and trust although I believe that is where the industry needs to go to elevate ideas and creative strategy to where they deserve to be. Giving away ideas for free and just charging based on time and markups devalues the big idea and the industry as a whole.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Are All Online Customers Created Equal?

Do all customers have the same value? Sure everyone’s money may be good inside of an ecommerce shopping cart but are some customers more equal than others?
It would certainly seem every customer is equal on the web right? After all we’re all hiding behind a few mouse clicks. Just imagine what it would be like if marketers knew that some customers were more valuable than others. Now of course we all know that it takes less marketing dollars and less effort to increase sales for existing customers than it does to get new customers but what if the value of each customer was dynamic and it changed all the time.

Well actually it does if you think of it in terms of a buying funnel.
1. Need - the process by which a need is determined and identified.
2. Awareness - determining what solution will satisfy the need.
3. Research / Consideration - gathering of information to proceed with a purchase. Determining which solution will best meet the requirements and satisfy the need.
4. Decision - finalizing the details, including pricing and solution support.
5. Rationalization - qualifying the purchase after the fact. Was the correct choice made in the selection process?

The further a customer goes down the funnel the more valuable they become because they are getting closer and closer to a purchase. The size of a market segment further down the funnel is much smaller however but the value is much greater. Media buyers have always based campaigns on the size of the segment, how many eyeballs see an ad, and online media has been guilty of this as well. There is been a marketing allure to 435,000 views but what does that really mean to marketers? If only 100 people walked through your door and all them bought, signed up, converted, etc. isn’t that better than 1000 people showing up and 999 of those people leaving after hearing your offer? If this is the case it’s just a matter of finding the right people or attracting them.

Before a potential customer enters the funnel they are not interested or they don’t even know they need for your product. Marketing has handled this in a traditional approaching through mass media. At this stage the value of the customer to the retailer is at it’s weakest yet this is where most of the marketing effort is, i.e the 30 second spot, etc.

An interested buyer at the research / consideration level, obviously has a greater value than someone at the top of the funnel. Just ask any car salesman who pounces on some poor schlep that just finished a test drive.

Online it is possible to orchestrate a users pathway and optimize it for persuasion. Think of your website as the buying funnel. The further a user gets into the site the more valuable they become which means you have an opportunity to market to them differently the further along they are.

A website provides the potential to focus on different messages to different segments of your market in many different ways, for example.

  • Customer database email lists – different messages to different groups, one to one marketing approach.

  • Product selector tools – lead a visitor down paths based on what is important to that individual visitor with a unique message at the end and along the way of that path which speaks directly to that segment. (being able to talk differently to people who are at different stages of the buying process.

  • Customer segmentation based on type of customer.

Persuasive design combines with performance metrics tracked across different customer segments allow for rapid adjustments and continuous improvements which maximize the value of each individual group, by increasing the value across each segment more value is brought to the consumer and also the business profit and brand, the costs of efficiently targeting each segment online are minimal at best after all there are no print costs, or distribution costs associated with a web page. Therefore the size of the customer segment is of less importance producing a long tail effect for the marketer.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

5 Ways to Design an Experience

Recently I went on a trip to Memphis Tennessee, the largest city in the state of TN right on the muddy waters of the Mississippi river home of Elvis and The Peabody Hotel, a masterpiece of elegance combined with historical richness. At the time I was at the hotel there were 5 special guests staying there with a rooftop palace all to themselves. I didn’t have the pleasure of staying at The Peabody but I did get to visit the roof top palace of those 5 special guests, oh did I forget to mention those 5 special guests were Ducks?

Not just any ducks mind you they are The Peabody Ducks. These ducks draw a crowd of amazed and delighted guests twice a day in a time-honored tradition dating back to the 1930s. What makes these Ducks special is that they march to the tune of John Philip Sousa's “King Cotton March” from the elevators to a fountain in the grand lobby down a red carpet which was rolled out by the duckmaster himself who also provided a small set of steps for the ducks to waddle up and jump in the fountain for a swim. The scene that was created for the crowd of spectators was akin to a paparazzi event with velvet ropes to keep the crowd at bay, that is the crowd that was by the elevators, not to mention the in the lobby itself surrounding the fountain and even the crowd looking down from above, in the balcony.

These feathered friends as well as the experience itself all played a part in making the brand come alive as the duckmaster performed what was essentially a show both visually and verbally he explained that in1932 the Peabody general manager, a passionate sportsman returned empty-handed from a weekend hunting trip. The general manager and a hunting buddy had a bit too much Tennessee sippin' whiskey, and decided to play a prank and put their duck decoys in the fountain of the hotel's Grand Lobby. The reaction from the guests and the owner was one of delight and from that this ritual was born.

It is the duckmasters responsibility to train and care for the ducks. Each duck team lives in the hotel for only three months before being retired from their Peabody duties and returned to a farm to live out the remainder of their days as wild ducks. How’s that for a likeable brand, animal lovers feel good about the kind heartedness of the hotel and if management treats their ducks with such respect and care imagine how it treats human guest and employees. That’s the kind of brand extension that pays big dividends. By designing an experience around this tradition the hotels brand accomplishes a few key things that make it stand out among a sea of other ordinary hotels.

Here are 5 ways design can be used to create an experience?

1. Create Rituals

The Peabody has created a unique ritual of the marching ducks that it shares with its guests. By surrounding that ritual with the drama of theater and props like the red carpet, the fountain, velvet ropes and the small set of duck steps it becomes larger than life and draws more importance. There’s a lesson here that all brands can learn from, don’t take things for granted, there are rituals surrounding your brand right now, which ones can you turn into a theater to create an experience for your customers?

2. Storytelling

Your story should be authentic much like the Peabody story that was born out of a silly prank but it’s true and intuitively we collectively tap into that truth. In a world of cluttered advertising messages people are starved for authenticity.

3. Merchandising

By tying in the Ducks with the brand image the next logical step is to monazite that experience and extend it into other channels like memorabilia. Several duck related items lined the shelves of the Peabody gift shop. From a brand experience perspective once the crowd was satisfied with a good story why should their experience end? Merchandising offers an opportunity for everyone to take home a bit of that experience so they can remember it and tell the story to others with a prop of their own.

4. Word of Mouth

People love to hear and tell stories, they create emotional reactions which help spread the story. A customer is not going to tell his or her friends and family about a product without a story wrapped around it. But to have that word of mouth really take off it has to be good. What can you frame around your brand story so that people will spread it with word of mouth marketing?

5. Experience

All communication like a good joke comes back to how you tell it. Although born out of haphazardness the Peabody story was indeed designed for an experience. Every element from the props to the cast of characters was designed around an experience to delight and create emotion.

To learn more about Experience Design read The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage

Monday, April 16, 2007

Testing your site with the Google Website Optimizer

Posted by: Creative Thirst

Have you ever wondered which image would motivate your users to take action? Would the image of the product peek the interest of your web visitors or would more visitors buy if they saw your product in it’s natural environment and in use by people just like them? Or is the offer really he most important thing? Or maybe it’s just the price? Realistically it’s a combination of all of these things and more, which is the basis of
persuasive design.

Well you can stop wondering because Google has just released a new tool called the
Website Optimizer which helps you improve the effectiveness of your website in getting a return on your investment, currently the Optimizer is still in the beta stage ( as of April 2007) but sign-ups are open. What the Optimizer allows internet marketers to do is test different versions of a landing page to determine what the most effective elements are or combination of elements. This allows design to be used strategically enabling your site to motivate your web users and achieve higher conversion rates.

Essentially the Optimizer is a free
A/B Testing tool where you can set up different versions of a landing page. On each version you can test different headlines, images, and text to examine which page has a higher performance for your specific visitors.

Once data on all the different versions in your test have been gathered Google presents the results in the form of a combination report and a page section report. Each report provides different insight into how responsive your visitors are to the combination of tested elements on your site. With this knowledge you can learn two things. First, what elements work and which don’t work for your customers. This newfound knowledge can be leveraged on future marketing campaigns for all areas of your brand communications. Additionally, by learning how well a particular combination of design elements performed in a real world environment you can then easily develop a more successful landingpage and maximize your marketing results by determining what will best attract your unique users and lead them to convert on your site.

The sample combination report below shows the performance results for several combinations of test pages for content as a whole in comparison of the original control page design.

The sample page section report below in contrast focuses on which variations to each page section performed best.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Continual Improvement

Posted by:

In today’s fast paced world of content hungry intelligent consumers who have seen every marketing gimmick out there it is becoming increasingly difficult to successfully sell your products and services. Marketers need to constantly innovate and connect with their customers on deeper levels across the entire relationship of consumer to company. A long term approach to marketing communication is the key to achieving this. Usually when the marketing message begins to slip, if a company is even lucky enough to keep a tight view on analytics long enough to determine it has slipped that is, the first reaction is always the same, “Let’s get a new agency, we need some fresh blood.” This knee jerk reaction is based on the idea, at least subconsciously that success happens in creative sprits thus it must be time to find new creative to put some new life into marketing.

Success however doesn’t work this way. Success is more of a series of continual improvements over time rather than a short sprint.

Jim Sterne – wrote in his book, Advanced Email Marketing:

“The secret to truly successful marketing is actionable measurement. Measuring your results alone isn’t enough; the key is feeding them back into your sales and marketing process to make continuous improvements. Many marketing projects fail in this regard.”

This is the basis for the continual improvement process which makes small improvements overtime, learning from each success and failure with each improvement. These small and consistent improvements in design, ad copy and web usability have a much larger impact than wiping the slate clean and starting with a fresh agency.

The first step in the practice of implementing a continual improvement process if to define your business goals, which was discussed in another blog post. Once a clear definition of success has been squared away you will need to be able to know what your current situation is in the form of measurable metrics by defining what key performance indicators are important to your unique business goals. Your key performance indicators need to be constantly measured so that your current conditions can be compared against your desired results. Without knowing the distance of this gap there’s no way of knowing how far design will need to jump to get you to the other side.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Your Brand is Naked

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The power of influence is shifting to every consumer with a voice, which is everyone. In this new economy your brand is naked for all to see, comment on, and share with the world. There's no avoiding it, this is simply the world we are living in today, this really isn’t anything new, this phenomenon has been around since the beginning of marketing, back then it was called word of mouth. The difference now is that with the Internet, the consumer’s voice has just been given a megaphone that can be heard across the world.

The megaphone like devices have taken form in blogs, podcasts, secondlife, social network sites like Digg,, and consumer-written product reviews pioneered by Amazon. The power of advertising and marketing is truly in the hands of the consumers.

The truth is that companies have never really controlled their brand; their customers control it with blogs, YouTube and podcasting just to name a few ways. For proof of this we don’t have to look any further than Dells exploding battery, which was accelerated by the blogosphere and YouTube videos.

As scary as this may be for some, a unique opportunity exists to create an authentic connection between brands and consumers. One-size fits all mass media no longer exists in today’s marketplace, you don’t need to be big, today you can be small and be big within a niche market. The size of the market segment is much smaller but the value is much greater. Media buyers have always based campaigns on the size of the segment, how many eyeballs see an ad, and online media has been guilty of this as well. There is been a marketing allure to 435,000 views but what does that really mean to marketers?

  • Do different segments have different motivations?

  • Is there a different financial value for different segments?

  • Do different segments use different media?

In a world where consumers own the broadcast towers, you tube, podcasting, blogs, the collective consumer voice becomes even more powerful. Within all of this lies an opportunity to hand over control to your customers in the new social media consumer content driven space. Because your best customers are the greatest marketing mouthpieces you can ever have.

The challenge for marketers is how to create brand enthusiasts in a genuine way, how to listen to them, and cultivate a relationship with them. How do you go about designing that relationship?

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Empowering Web Design with Analytics

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The Internet more than any other medium lends itself to measurability, perhaps because of the availability of immediate information one can get on web site visitors with products like click tracks, google analytics and webtrends in the form of analytics. In this fast paced world it is increasingly important to generate results in less time, and there is no better method for doing that that to leverage design and analytics.

Web analytics is the analysis of how visitors use a web site. Once visitor data has been collected, analyzed and measured over time against clearly defined goals for your specific web site, design can be used to convert analytics into actionable results through a continual improvement process. Design can then become empowered through analysis and user testing; metrics can provide insight on the success of an online strategy.

Several factors including design and usability to name a few impact a users experience with your site, product, message and brand. By minimizing the guess work and combining analysis of visitor behavior over time design improvements can continually advance specific key metrics that are important to your business model and your success.

The true value of design is in it’s effectiveness in meeting the desired business goals. Improving communication as a result of better design means a web user can be impelled to act more often ensuing higher returns to your bottom line.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Design Accountability

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The role of designers, like all things in this information age, is evolving. We are entering into a creative age and that will change the way designers think, act and work in the business world and more importantly how they interact with business executives.

In the past and present, depending on where you look, there has always been a clear distinction between the creative department and the business department, better know by ad agencies as the suits vrs. the creatives. With the dawn of the creative age, creativity and innovation are on the next horizon to propel business forward. In this new age “the suits” and “the creatives” will both need to talk the same language and work much closer together than they have ever before. This new collaborative style of working combined with accountability from both sides will lead to breakthroughs in innovation.

Design is being pushed to the forefront through products like the iPod and brands like Target all of which use design as a competitive advantage. With the increasing bombardment of messages all competing for viewers’ attention an opportunity exists for design to rise up. Designers will need to be more accountable for the results of their creative ideas and business managers will need to become a part of the creative process, with neither side directing or leading but working together toward a common goal. Gone are the days where we can point the finger of blame for the failure of a campaign or product launch or low conversion rate, design as well as management must become accountable.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject or ways you may have already propelled design accountability in your company. Let the conversation begin.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Design Strategy

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For design to have an impact on a business goal, it must revolve around a guiding strategy. To simply design something without an underlying strategy that supports a specific objective will not utilize design as a competitive advantage.

Although the design may be aesthetically pleasing, it may not generate as large an impact on results that you are striving for and may be developed subjectively as opposed to what will have the highest impact. Additionally, there are usually several business goals to meet and the likely hood of intuitively or subjectively maximizing all of them can be difficult, which is where design strategy should be leveraged.

Design strategy is not a particular color, or graphic image, or a logo, or a design concept or any other design element.

A design strategy is an approach to how a particular objective will be accomplished with design or any of design’s core competencies. The design strategy should always be joined to a particular business objective and its purpose is to provide a clear starting point for the team to develop solutions. It provides a measurement against which to analyze the solution. An example would be:

Business Objective:
Improve market share and the bottom line.

Design Strategy:
Develop design concepts that improve the recognizability of the brand across all product groups. Reinforce the brand promise and strengthen the relationship with the customer.

Using a design strategy liberates the creative mind to think out of the box for business solutions and provides you with an advantage over your competition.

Monday, January 1, 2007

The Subjectivity of Design

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Let me begin my making a clear distinction, design is not art.

Simply stated art is created for the artist and the artist alone. The artist paints a picture solely for the purpose of self-expression of how he or she sees the world. Anyone can look a piece of art and like it or dislike it. Art is subjective, either you like Van Gogh’s sunflowers or you don’t.

Design on the other hand is not created for self-expression but for a client with a particular goal in mind. If a design accomplishes the desired goal, for example to increase the response rate of a particular message by 63%, then it has satisfied it’s objective and purpose for being created. If subjectivity is added to the process of design approval the purpose of design has been completely removed and has become subjective.

So someone’s opinion may be that they don’t like a particular color or that the empty white space can be filled with something, but that is not design, that is an opinion.

Design is the accumulation of principals and elements that perform on many levels with several different parts all contributing to a desired influence. Every element in design has been placed or chosen for a reason and to change something that may seem trivial like color or white space just because of an opinion could result in a negative desired outcome.

Truth be told, no designer or copywriter or art director or even you can know beyond any doubt what the best design will be, until it’s test. Design is a process that must constantly evolve and grow.

Web Design’s Impact on Marketing

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Design has a tremendous impact on marketing results, it can make the difference between achieving your business goals and often surpassing them or driving your customers as far away from your objective as possible. Design is far more than simply look and feel and certainly more than an add-on service at the midpoint or end of the development phase. Design is as much scientific as it is instinctual and should never be done without a specific reason. Fundamentally design communicates in a visual way and taps into a subconscious decision making process which words alone cannot achieve.

A simple design element like the position and color of a call to action button or the amount of white space on a web page, if used as part of the design strategy, can enhance or reduce the power of your marketing.

It is no secret that perception is dependent on presentation, which contributes to the response to your marketing message or lack there of. On the web the effect of design is amplified because all any prospective consumer has to go on is your web presence. The visual look, usability and design of your site is your company or product. Your web site is the interface with your potential customer at the time of purchase, when they are considering starting or continuing a relationship with you.

Design has too much of an impact on performance to be reduced to a subjective opinion of whether someone or some committee likes it or dislikes it. Because of this impact on communication it is important to measure and test design just like any other part of your marketing mix. It is also important to note that design testing is not the same as usability testing, which is also vitally important and should not be ignored.

Design testing measures your customers’ behavior in relationship to your brand and can combined with good design can improve your site's conversion rates. Under the lens of a properly conducted design test there will be no question that design B increases some business metric by x% vrs. design C which decreases the same metric.

Measuring design and other web analytics are ultimately good for the business intention. However, there is some backlash within the industry that believes it creates too much of a focus on the short-term. The
Creative Thirst solution is to combine design testing with usability testing, along with qualitative data and observation of visitor behavior over time. This combination is the key to developing deeper insights into your customers and is the basis of the continual improvement process that will ensure greater gains to your bottom line through the design in situations where you cannot afford to guess.