The MEC 2006 Marketing Blueprint in Practice

Case Histories and Success Stories

Synopsis

In our last brief we looked at the 15 separate steps in the MEC 2006 Marketing Blueprint.

The feedback we received after that call was both generous and consistent in its theme: the volume of information was overwhelming.

So how can you take all that information and apply it to your own business this year?

In this brief we are going to answer that question by breaking the 15 steps down into three simple stages.

In addition, we will share test results and case histories to illustrate how the process works… and the kinds of results it can achieve.

Findings

Product, Presentation and Channel

In our last report, we presented a 15-step blueprint optimized for a new business or an existing business interested in proactively optimizing its online marketing efforts in 2006.

Because 15 steps and 60+ reports can be quite overwhelming, we’ve decided to break it all down into three strategic stages. They are product, presentation, and channel, and are represented by the following formula:

O(PR) > O(PRN) > O(CNN)

Where:

  • O = Optimize
    PR = Product
    PRN = Presentation
    CNN = Channel

In plain English, product optimization is greater than presentation optimization, which is greater than channel optimization. In other words, the greatest impact you can make on your marketing success is through your product offer itself. Secondly, your presentation (primarily your website) is very important. Finally, you should optimize for the various marketing channels (such as the comparison shopping engines or pay-per-click search engines).

Stage 1 — Optimizing Your Product or Offer:

This step covers Steps 1 and 7 in our Marketing Blueprint (Conduct a Competitive Analysis and Price Testing), but also covers market analysis, quantitative analysis, product and program strategy, usability testing, and similar efforts.

Stage 2 — Optimizing Your Presentation

This stage covers the following steps from our Marketing Blueprint:

  1. Optimize Your Home Page and Landing Pages
  2. Optimize Your Website Copy
  3. Implement Your Website Metrics and Testing Platform(s)
  4. Improve Your Order Process
  5. Develop Your Email Capture
  6. Pursue Site Credibility Indicators

Stage 3 — Optimizing Your Marketing Channels

This stage covers the following steps from our Marketing Blueprint:

  1. Set Up Your Comparison Shopping Engine Campaigns
  2. Set Up Your Pay-Per-Click Campaigns
  3. Optimize Your Website for Natural Search Engines
  4. Implement a Linking Campaign
  5. Utilize Email Marketing
  6. Explore Alternative Marketing Channels
  7. Explore Additional Marketing Opportunities

Using these three stages, it should be easier for a busy marketer to approach our previous research in a systematic manner. Not every business will benefit from taking the 15 steps precisely in the order they are presented. Below, we will look at two existing businesses which have improved their marketing by focusing specifically on a small group of steps.

CASE STUDY #1:

The first company is an established online publisher. For this company, we initially focused on four key areas of improvement:

  1. Optimizing landing pages.
  2. Testing a free-trial offer.
  3. Improving site offer copy.
  4. Optimizing the subscription path.

Most of these improvements fall within the above category of “Presentation” (Stage 2). The company already had a very strong product, so we moved directly to optimizing the presentation, prior to any channel-specific optimization efforts.

Here are the results of our testing:

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What You Need to UNDERSTAND: These four improvements resulted in a compounded gain of 6068% in conversion rate.

In a previous brief we showed how small, incremental gains can produce significant gain when compounded in a sequential manner.

When the gains themselves are significant, the compounding effect is quite impressive. Albert Einstein is widely rumored to have once said that the most powerful force in the universe is compound interest, and we can clearly see why from the above data.

There is also a compounding effect spreadsheet tool that will help you project the combined gains of your own unique business:

What did we actually learn from this testing?

  1. Landing Pages – This effort involved three primary improvements: including the offer price on the landing page (which also removed one page in the order process), switching from standard buttons to radio buttons, and highlighting the call-to-action more effectively. This resulted in a 64% increase in conversion.

    For more on landing page optimization

  2. Free-Trial Offer – After our previous landing page optimization, this subsequent test included a 7-day free-trial offer on the primary landing page. Because potential customers were allowed to try the service before they made an actual purchase, the overall site conversion to paid subscribers increased by 541%.

    For more on free-trial offers

  3. In addition, we have created a spreadsheet tool that helps you calculate the profitability of free-trial offers

  4. Site Copy – This third optimization effort was a radical redesign of the page layout and offer copy. We included significantly more information up front, eliminating guesswork from potential customers. The efforts resulted in a 47% improvement in conversion.

    For more on long copy vs. short copy

  5. Subscription Path – This final optimization effort was our most significant redesign. We reduced the subscription order process from nine pages to three, which resulted in a 293% increase in conversion.

    For more on subscription path optimization

CASE STUDY #2:

Our second case study involves NetDetective.net, a provider of a searchable database of 211 million names, used by private detectives and individuals researching the public-domain history of individuals in the U.S.

Again, this was an existing business, so we departed from our recommended order of steps. As in our first case study, we focused on the “Presentation” stage.

We ran a series of three optimization efforts. The first focused on price testing:

Case Study #2 – Test A: Price Testing
Price Point Conversion Rate
$29.00 0.44%
$34.95 0.36%

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What You Need to UNDERSTAND: The $29 price point converted at a 22.22% higher rate than the $34.95 price point.

The purpose of testing the two price points was to raise the affiliate commission paid out to websites referring new customers, so the actual profit at each price point remained the same.

KEY POINT: Because of additional sales (up-sells and cross-sells) made to existing customers, the higher conversion rate proved to be significantly more profitable over time, despite the lower price point.

Related:  The Best Conversion Rate optimizers do NOT make changes to webpages…

In our second test, we implemented a mechanism to recover abandoned shopping carts. This was accomplished via an email capture page that occurred as “Step 1” of an order process. If a prospect did not complete the form, an email follow-up message would be sent to attempt to resolve any problems:

Here were the initial test results:

Case Study #2 – Test B: Basket Recovery
Variable Conversion Rate
Before Basket Recovery 0.49%
After Basket Recovery 0.73%

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What You Need to UNDERSTAND: By adding the basket-recovery mechanism, the site was able to improve conversion rate by 48.98%. This improvement in conversion rate occurred before ANY email follow-up was sent.

When the basket recovery was implemented, instead of the standard “order now” button, the form used the following text to make it clear how simple the order process was: “Become a Net Detective in just 2 steps.” Step 1 was a simple email capture box with a button that said “Continue to Step 2.” Step 2 gathered the remainder of the customer’s information, including payment information.

What we believe happened is that the text and two-step system was a better call-to-action than “order now.” Before any email follow-up messages were sent to recover abandoned orders, conversion was up by nearly 50%.

KEY POINT: In the process of testing, you will sometimes discover “accidental successes” that will further improve your marketing optimization.

For more on shopping-cart recovery

In our third test, we tested two new landing page designs against the existing control page. Here are the three pages:

Here were the results of that test:

Case Study #2 – Test C: Landing Pages
Page Conversion Rate
Page A (Control) 0.67%
Page B 0.66%
Page C 1.05%

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What You Need to UNDERSTAND: While Page B was not an improvement over the existing landing page, Page C converted 56.72% better.

After the test period, the company switched to Page C as its main landing page. Overall conversion did drop slightly but the page still performs much better than the old.

For more on landing page optimization

The overall (compounded) improvement in conversion from these three tests is charted below:

Case Study #2: Compounded Improvements
in Conversion Rate
Implemented Change Improvement in Conversion Rate
Test A – Price Testing 22.22%
Test B – Basket Recovery 49.98%
Test C – Landing Pages 56.72%
Total Improvement 187.27%

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What You Need to UNDERSTAND: These four improvements resulted in a compounded gain of 187.27%.

In the two case studies above, we have seen how two companies used several steps of our marketing blueprint to greatly impact the marketing success of their businesses. These are just two of the many businesses that have used these techniques to improve their marketing. While your own mileage may vary, these 15 steps were developed by implementing these techniques for dozens of companies.

The full 2006 Marketing Blueprint is available here

About This Brief

Credits:

Editor — Flint McGlaughlin

Writers — Brian Alt
Nick Usborne

Contributors — Jalali Hartman
Jimmy Ellis
Bob Kemper
Aaron Rosenthal

HTML Designer — Cliff Rainer

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