Top online marketing myths

Top 5 Online Marketing Myths

Jumping into online marketing with unrealistic expectations or a misunderstanding of what is required to position yourself for success is a surefire way to waste both time and money. So, I put together the top 5 online marketing myths and misconceptions that I’ve heard from friends and clients:

Online Marketing Myth #1:

My product is so good, I don’t need marketing

This is probably the #1 online marketing myth that many business owners and entrepreneurs still believe. “All I need to do is post my idea on social media, and it’s definitely going to go viral!” While the internet offers a great and (sometimes) inexpensive medium to get the word out about your company to a potentially large audience, you’re competing with the millions of other companies and websites all vying for attention, mind-share, and wallet-share. So while it absolutely helps to have an exceptional product/service and can even be critical to the long term success of your business, you still need to get the word out and then convert visitors into customers once they are at your site. Apple spent millions (and later billions) advertising the iPhone even though it was a game-changing product. And while it’s great to have viral, easily share-able elements in your marketing, the expectation of your business going viral, or even a reliance on that happening is simply not a marketing plan.

Online Marketing Myth #2:

People will buy my product because it’s cheaper than the competition

First, people have to actually know you exist. Offering a cheaper price than your big name competition doesn’t do any good if no one knows about you. Some of the products I offered through my sites were cheaper than what Amazon.com sold them for. Yet Amazon probably sold 10 times the amount of that product than my company did, because Amazon has far more customers and greater awareness. Cheap prices don’t automatically translate into massive word of mouth, PR and market share. You still have to create awareness using fundamental online marketing tactics and still have to convey a sense of trust and value that goes beyond just offering similar features to a competitor at a lower price. Incidentally, it’s wise to consider if can you still offer such low pricing once you factor in the time and expense associated with creating awareness for your site.

Second, the problem with focusing on price is that it leads to you getting the type of customer you’re asking for: price shoppers. [Tweet “Focusing on price gets you the type of customer you’re asking for: price shoppers.”] Alex Turbull from Groove (a customer service SAAS product) puts it well:

[Price shoppers are] higher maintenance, far less loyal, and gone at the drop of a hat when a cheaper option comes along. Plus, if you try to compete for customers on price, a bigger player can always lower their prices to bleed you out of business. We learned that we had to compete on other differentiators. Ones that actually made people want to do business with us because we were the best choice for them, not because we were the cheapest. We needed customers who were motivated by more than price.

Tony Hsieh, founder and CEO of Zappos.com has said the same and even stopped offering to price match competitors for these same reasons.

Online Marketing Myth #3:

I want the most traffic possible to my website

There is a big difference between attracting traffic and the right kind of traffic.  Getting 100 highly qualified prospects to your website of which 15 become leads or customers is better than 1000 visitors of which 10 become leads or customers. The online marketing myth that says your goal should be to get as many eyeballs as possible on your site is simply not accurate. That’s likely to be expensive and ultimately unproductive. You goal is to create content that has value and appeals to your target audience to attract them to your site and to focus on marketing through channels that you believe will produce relevant prospects.

Online Marketing Myth #4:

I created a great site, so my work is done

You’ve hired great designers to create a beautiful website. Spent hours coming up with the copy for each page. It’s gone live and your friends and employees you showed it to think it looks great. You’re all set, right? Not even close. If you aren’t expecting to have to consistently create great content and find ways to engage your customer through a variety of channels outside of your site to build an audience, your investment in your attractive new site could be for nothing. It’s a lengthy, time consuming process to start generating meaningful traffic. Make sure you have allocated the time and budget to execute an ongoing online marketing plan. Your great new site will hopefully help convert those visitors into leads and customers, but even the site itself is always a work in progress.

Online Marketing Myth #5:

I don’t sell products online, so I don’t really need to do internet marketing

At the very least have a presence on the web so that customers, business partners and even potential employees can quickly and easily find out more about your business and the products or services you offer. Ensuring that your presence accurately and reflects your brand can help your business build a relationship with your customers that extends offline. Furthermore, it makes your brand more memorable next time they are in the market for your product or service or passing by your location. Even using your site for non-transactional purposes such as to generate leads or cultivate a mailing list allows you to locate customers online and drive them to your offline business. Finding new customers and engaging existing customers through online channels even for an offline business is critical to the success and growth of your business.

What others can you think of? Be sure to leave it in the comments!

Split Testing

What is Split Testing?

Split Testing Overview

Split testing (also referred to as A/B testing or multivariate testing) is a method of conducting automated and random experiments with the goal of improving a predetermined website metric, such as number of clicks on a specific element (I.E. add to cart button, register button, play a video, click for more info), form completions (I.E. registrations, opt-ins, contact requests), or purchases. Incoming traffic to the website is distributed between the original (control) and one or more variations. This is transparent to the visitor, who does not know they are part of an experiment. You, the tester, waits for a statistically significant difference in behavior to emerge. The more traffic the page gets, the faster you can obtain statistically relevant results. The results from each variation are then compared to determine which version showed the greatest improvement. If it is determined that there is a clear winner, you would likely update your site to incorporate the elements from your winning experiment. (And then start a new experiment to improve it further!)

What Types of Elements Can Be Split Tested?

Nearly any element can be varied for a split test. For example:

  • Visual elements: pictures, videos, and colors (Does a photo of a smiling man help convert better than a serious man? Does an orange button convert better than a green one?)
  • Text: headlines, calls to action, and page copy (Does “Get Your Free Quote” convert better than “Receive an Instant Quote?” Do bullet points convert better than a paragraph? Does adding a customer testimonial help increase conversions?)
  • Layout: arrangement and size of buttons, menus, and forms (Does a form with 3 fields convert better than one with 5? Does a register button on the left convert better than having it on the right?)
  • Traffic flow: how a user gets from point A to B (Does a 2 page checkout convert better than a 3 page checkout? Do more people sign up for a free trial on page 3 after visiting page 1, then 2, then 3? Or Page 1, then 4, then 3?)

ab split testing

Split Testing Email

Split testing isn’t only used for testing webpages. It can be very useful for testing your emails as well. You can answer questions such as, What’s the best day to send your email marketing campaign?  What time? What kind of subject line works best? Something promotional? (Save 10% on Widgets Today Only!) Or something more subtle and informative? (Find Out How Our New Widget Can Save You Time.) You can set goals such as opens, clicks, or ROI for each email variation. First, make sure you integrated analytics into your emails. Many email service providers such as Mailchimp and Aweber can do this for you automatically and also offer certain reporting capabilities such as the number of opens and clicks directly in their system. You can then set up segments of your email list, perhaps sending one version of an email to 10% of your list and then 10% to another version (or the same version, but at a different time.) You can then see which performed better and send the remaining 80% out using the winning version, or at the winning time.

A/B Split Testing

(Courtesy: Mailchimp.com)

Some Split Testing Best Practices

  • Simplify: generally, fewer page elements create less distractions from the conversion goal.
  • Don’t forget about the overall business goals: test with the overarching goal of the website in mind, not just the goals of individual pages. For example, one page might generate more clicks, but fewer checkout completions. Or, one version of an email might generate more opens, but less sales.
  • Test one element at a time: Testing one element at a time is called A/B testing, while testing multiple elements on a single page is called multivariate testing. Unless you have a testing tool capable of interpreting more complex multivariate results, it’s important to test one element at a time (although you can have multiple variations of this one element.) For example, just change the call to action, or an image on the page, or the position of your testimonials. Otherwise you can’t be sure which element had an impact, and by how much. If you test two elements and one results in an increase on performance of 10%, while the other results in a decrease of 10%, you might assume that the net benefit of your changes is zero; that there was no difference in page performance. In reality, if you only added the positive performing element, you would have seen a 10% increase which could be a big win.
  • It’s not all about drastic changes: Don’t be seduced by the idea that all variations in an A/B test have to be huge, obvious transformations. Even subtle changes can have a demonstrable effect, such as slightly editing a list of product features to persuade users to request more information, or phrasing a call to action differently to drive user engagement. It’s a gradual, granular process. Keep iterating until your conversion rate for that page is maxed out.
  • Don’t make assumptions: Just like a scientist tests a hypothesis, that should be your approach to split testing. Use hard A/B test data to make informed business decisions – no matter how much it surprises you.
  • Resist the temptation to jump to a conclusion: Even if you’re getting strong initial results, let the test run it’s course.  Economists and data scientists rely on a principle known as statistical significance to ensure that the data has a high probability of accuracy and this relies on a large data sample. Without it, you run the risk of making business decisions based on bad data.

Split testing doesn’t have to be complicated. Services such as Visual Website Optimizer, AB Tasty and Optimizely offer interfaces that allow you to create page variations without touching your website code. Conversion Rate Experts has a great breakdownof the numerous split testing tools and platforms that are available. With easy ways to do split testing of your website and emails, there is no excuse for settling for the status quo. There is always room for improvement throughout your site. So once you find improvements, don’t stop there. Keep testing!