Archive for September, 2010

Relax, fella.  We’re just testing you.

If you’re like me (and I feel for you if your are), you like to test and measure stuff.  Web pages for example.  Which headline will draw a bigger response?  Which approach will visitors prefer?  Which offer?  Which tone?  Consider some tips:

1.  Don’t test a page you already think is a dog.  Test something you believe is doing the job OK for now.

2.  Use an overlay page (one that shows up when a respondent does something) when the visitor chooses the leave an “offer” page.  The overlay should remind the visitor of something that will entice them not to leave and get them to think “What the hell, I’ll fill out the form”.

3.  Get up and stand away from your screen. Take a look at your page(s) from five or six feet away.  What jumps out?  What attracts the eye?

4.  Make the “Download Now” words big and clear.

5.  Use separate buttons for different demographics or different categories of customer.

6.  The word “enterprise” is stronger than “corporate”.  People don’t think of themselves as corporate.  They identify with working in an enterprise.  Don’t you?

7.  Begin your order forms right on the page.  Don’t make visitors go somewhere else.

8.  Use images of people, not products.

9.  Test all images of people for positive responses.

10. Don’t spend money on testing.  There are loads of free tools out there.

11.  A good vendor will guarantee results.

12. Your test should run 21 days (15 business days).

13. Measure all ongoing traffic simultaneously.

14. Start by testing something small.  A page, a portion of a page, a few lines, a small campaign.

15. Seek to drive down your cost-per-visitor and your cost-per-conversion.

16. Determine your most important metrics as dictated by your business model, business plan, sales and marketing objectives.  Your particular business mission.

17. Be politically correct!  Test pages that are politically “neutral”, at least at first, before you test your boss’s pet page to show how lame it actually is.

18. Work closely with your IT people.  Make sure that something you set up to test doesn’t bring down your site or cause a sudden, prolonged downturn in traffic.  Make sure there is a quick fix at hand.

19. Test early and often.  Google does.

20. Test one or two things at a time.


Free ride's over. No hard feelings.
Was that a fun lunch or what?

Today, more than ever, boring is deadly. What your users want the most, what they place the most value on, is more about the how of what you are delivering than it is the what.   The points below are adapted shamelessly from a great piece today by The Nametag Guy. My apologies, guy:

The basic question is, how do the users you are interested in feel about using your service (or product)?

That’s the question that matters most because everyone has users, even if you don’t refer to them as such.  And if you can’t or won’t deliver your value with an abundance of user friendliness, you lose.

We live in an “experience” economy today, a commoditized marketplace and hyperspeed culture. That means people are no longer satisfied with good, fast and cheap – they want it perfect, now and free.

1. You aren’t your user. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s cool – it matters if users enjoy using it. And it doesn’t matter if you get excited about it – it matters if users tell their associates about their positive experience of using it.

Stop superimposing onto your users what you think they should want. Instead, just ask them what they need. I’m sure they’d be happy to tell you. Learn to say, “Help me help you use me.”

Continually ask yourself how you’ve made it easier for people to interact with you.

2. Never underestimate the profitability of findability. If they can’t find you, they can’t use you; and if they can’t use you, it won’t matter how friendly you are: Visitors will leave before they get a chance to become customers.

Peter Morville is the father of findability. He first defined the term in 2005 in his book Ambient Findability, as “The ability of users to identify an appropriate website and navigate the pages of the site to discover and retrieve relevant information resources.”  There three “secrets” embedded here:

1. Ease and comfort.
2. Relevancy and “realness”.
3. Demonstrating to users that you’re worth being found.

Findability enables approachability. How findable are you?

3. Respond to the idiosyncratic needs of each user. If you force everyone to conform to the same style, you run the risk of losing people who matter. Instead, position your service in ways that make it easy for the people you’re looking for to access you.

It’s not that users don’t like you – it’s that you’re not speaking on their frequency. If you want your message to be heard in a more approachable way, you have to also consider how people hear. Are you customizable?

4. Preserve people’s sense of control. In the psychology manual, The Handbook of Competence and Motivation, the research proved that human beings operate out of a model to feel autonomous and in control of their environment and actions.

Thus: The feeling of being in control is a basic human need. And your challenge is to make sure your users don’t lose that feeling. How do your reinforce people’s sense of control over the direction of any discussion or presentation about your service?

Key: The two things that matter are how people experience you; and how people experience themselves in relation to you. And if “in control’ isn’t part of that equation, people will not be inclined to establish a relationship with you.

5. Most people suck at remembering. Not just names, but everything. Partly because they don’t pay attention. Partly because they don’t write everything down. And partly because human memory is a mystery.  The point: consider how you can encourage a memorable user experience

For example, the human memory can handle about seven bits of information at a time. Do everything you can to accommodate that capacity. Make it easy for people to organize and remember material.  The friendliness of their user experience will grow exponentially.

6. Boring is deadly. A friend of mine recently purchased an online sales training course for his employees. When I asked him why his salespeople liked the program so much, his answer surprised me: “Because it’s fun,” he said. “Look, we can get good content anywhere. But the personality of this program is what makes it so cool.”

Lesson: Nobody buys boring, nobody notices normal and nobody pays for average. There’s an old saying – People don’t sue people they like.

The challenge is to figure out which unique attribute of your personality, life experience and expertise you can leverage in a remarkable way. That means: Values before vocation, individuality before industry and personality before profession.

Never forget that people buy people first. How are you leading with your “person” and following with your service?

7. Uniformity is beauty.  Consistency is far better than rare moments of greatness. First, consistency between: Your actions and your attitude. That’s what enables your users to listen to you.  Consider this question daily: How is what you’re doing or considering to do with your service right now consistent  with the user experience you’re striving to deliver?

A survey we co-conducted earlier this year with CIO Executive Council and  CIO Magazine revealed that I.T. executives have had it with the lack preparation by unsolicited vendors who, in tough times, have become more aggressive than ever.  In fact, it was the number one gripe of the CIOs we surveyed. Unwanted inquiries and spam are inundating the data center today. Sixty percent of the nearly 300 CIOs who responded to the survey, representing the likes of DuPont, MetLife and Bank of America, say that cold calls are the most annoying thing they experience with vendors. Seventy percent complain that the calls, and the email spam, are becoming much more prevalent. showcased the research findings in a webinar last February.  It was hailed by buyers and vendors alike for its candor and practical tips.  Put simply, vendors can do themselves a big favor by finding out the most pressing issues and needs of the prospect.  (Isn’t this what the Internet is for?)  CIOs can use permission-based filters to ensure that legitimate inquiries get through.  Seems that some I.T. buyers have mixed feelings about these issues.  They need to stay current on vendors, deals and offers but hesitate to take that phone call.  So how about a subscription Web page where a vendor can state their case and engage, Facebook-like, with a prospect more conveniently (read: less intrusively)?  What do you think?

Companies still prepare case studies according to content model above.

(Ed. note:  this post first appeared July 1, 2010.)

The best practices of social media reflect what we’ve yammered about for years.  Case studies work. They sell.  Case- studies drive people to your site.  They enable you to be found.  They create interest, qualify leads, build brand, drive down the cost of sales.  One catch: There are case studies and then there are self-serving, self-congratulatory loads of dreck posing as “case studies”.  What distinguishes the former from the latter?  Clear descriptions of three things:

1.  The most valuable benefit of the product or service being featured. This assumes that you understand what it is about the product that would arouse the attention (read: make somebody reach for their checkbook) of a user/customer/consumer. In other words, you know what your target customer holds dear.  What they value most.

2.  What it took the user in the case to adopt your product. What did he have to unplug?  Undo?  Buy extra?  Learn? Re-learn?  What was your product’s (or service’s) adoption cost?

3.   The price. At very least, some order of magnitude of what your stuff costs relative to alternatives. 

Those three elements constitute your value proposition.  And any case study that doesn’t communicate it is not worth the pixels on the screen.  Your value prop is compelling only to the extent that the size of #1 exceeds the sum of #2 plus #3.