Living in New York City, I like to venture out and explore. What are the digital entrepreneurs and marketers on the streets of New York thinking these days?
Last week, I dropped by BizTechDay 2010, a bona fide professional networking event with an impressive speaker lineup—now touring major U.S. cities—that came from humble beginnings as just another Meetup.com group. What could be a better testament to the power of “conversation”—it’s not just about retweets!
Here are three takeaways that I thought could serve as useful illustrations of conversion optimization principles.
Takeaway #1: It’s not about finding people for your product; it’s about finding products for your people
Throughout the event, the audience was treated to a number of new ventures. These ranged from full-scale presentations like the crowd-funding disruptor Profounder to one-minute pitches like the troubled-youth-educating Ruby Nuby.
The distinguishing characteristic was that they had started with identifying a need in the marketplace. They noticed that people wanted to accomplish something, but didn’t have the right tool or the right support structure. Profounder helps people aggregate venture funding from a wide network of friends and family, yet bypassing the awkward dinner table conversation. Ruby Nuby charges companies for training their software developers, and piggy-backs pro bono training for the disadvantaged youngsters.
When we teach about the clarity of the value proposition on landing pages, one subtle point is so often overlooked: that a value proposition is not determined in the boardroom; it grows out of need.
Takeaway #2: Propaganda makes bad PR (even to the folks at FOX News)
I rarely get to deal with traditional PR, so Clayton Morris’ presentation on how to get TV exposure sounded exactly like what we teach in landing page optimization. His point was: eliminate unsupervised thinking in your press release by clearly communicating value to TV producers.
In Clayton’s world, companies bombard him with press releases that focus entirely on what the company wants to tell the world: new CEO is crowned, new product is launched, and so on. What this cookie-cutter PR misses is that he and his producers are not looking to learn about your company—they are looking for TV show content.
A press release that is not focused singularly on showing how you can add value, is asking Clayton & friends at FOX to figure that out on their own. While they are certainly capable of doing so, these press releases arrive by the hundreds. Which ones get through? The ones that require less work, ones that clearly demonstrate how the story can be used, practically laying out the screen play.
Takeaway #3: If a keynote is given without a PowerPoint, it still does make a sound
Not surprisingly, all things “social” received significant air time, Seth Godin dominating the speaker lineup with an impressive performance. However, the event certainly was not about social media.
Why was Godin’s presentation effective? Relevance is part of it. Engaging tone and enjoyable anecdotes were also key—it came across as more of a conversation than a presentation.
It also helped that to most attendees, he was the biggest name on the roster, if not the reason for showing up. At the same time, he didn’t need to work hard to establish credibility even with those who had never heard of him—he was introduced like a celebrity, plus each attendee had received a free copy of his latest book.
Conversion optimization lessons
In speaking with business executives and marketing professionals, by far the easiest way to explain conversion optimization in five minutes is to illustrate the three “golden” questions. These are primal questions in the minds of page visitors—whether conscious or unconscious. Your pages must answer them definitively.
1. Where am I? – Relevance has been proven repeatedly to increase conversion, and establishing relevance requires that you answer the underlying need. Start by considering why visitors had clicked or typed in your URL in the first place. They were prompted by something: an ad, an organic search result, a word-of-mouth recommendation, etc. Whatever that previous experience was, it both answered a need and created an expectation. Therefore, when the visitor sees your page, you must immediately—in the logo, the headline, the first sentence—make it clear that their need can be met. You can’t meet that expectation in a sentence, but you can start the conversation that leads there.
2. What can I do here? – A Web page must lead visitors toward a specific objective, like a press release must clearly demonstrate what the TV producer can get out of it. Some site visitors will indeed jump through hoops—especially if someone they trust had recommended—to do business with you. However, when people browse through search results, they are not trying to understand what your site has to offer—they are trying to eliminate you from consideration. In the simplest terms, you need a clear, unbroken eye path that leads from content that communicates your value proposition to the call to action that is obviously the primary purpose of the page.
3. Why should I do it? – I knew when I was sitting in a keynote presentation. But that’s because the speaker was Seth Godin. Your landing page, however, is not Mr. Godin. Lack of credibility is a silent conversion killer, leaving executives and marketers scratching their heads, wondering why visitors browse, but don’t buy the best fill-in-the-blank. The answer is: because they don’t trust you; because everyone says they’re “the best.” To go from “this seems like a good product” to “I am buying it,” third-party credibility indicators are essential. The bigger the brands of those third parties, the more credibility rubs off on your site. At the very least, establish social proof with customer testimonials that clearly indicate that whatever you want your site visitors to do, is their best choice.