1 True Path to Sustainable Marketing Success — Keep Promises
Maybe you went home for the holidays, and over a lovely Christmas ham or Hanukkah brisket, your life choices came up as part of the family discussion. Your older brother, the doctor, made a derogatory comment about the marketing industry; perhaps while wearing O.R. scrubs (“Oh, are they?”). The insinuation being that your life path, your career choice — marketing — is a less-than-honorable profession.
Effective Marketing Isn’t Trickery, It’s Candor
Look, I’ll admit it. There are probably some marketers who are tricking customers and getting sales or leads.
But you could say the same thing for doctors. Or bankers. Or butchers and bakers and candlestick makers.
What you’re intending to do every day in marketing is create satisfied customers by helping them make the best choices for themselves. Aside from the moral and ideological reasons to be a decent human, here is the realpolitik justification:
Unsatisfied customers simply aren’t very profitable.
To create satisfied customers, you have to help them accurately perceive the value of your products and services.
In other words, make and keep promises. But the thing is … that’s hard. What do customers want? What true value does your company deliver? And are you keeping those promises?
Wile E. Coyote’s Gravity Lessons
Sure, you could just make stuff up out of whole cloth. Never deliver. And expect success. I call this the Wile E. Coyote business model. Yeah, you might get a few sales here and there, but you can only hang in midair beyond the edge of the cliff for so long. Soon enough, gravity will kick in.
Frankly, most marketers don’t underperform because of any devious reasons of not following through on promises. Their mistakes are usually inadvertent. When I’ve fallen flat in my own career, it’s because I inadvertently set the wrong expectation to the customer. We live in a skeptical era, and customers can think this is intentional.
For example, one time we had a few extra MarketingSherpa Benchmark Reports lying around. So I thought it was a great way to provide extra value for people who purchased a MECLABS online conversion marketing course — to give them a benchmark report along with it. One or two people misinterpreted the offer, and when they learned they wouldn’t get a benchmark report totally for free, accused me of trying to trick them.
Maybe I wasn’t clear enough in the offer wording. Maybe they just had a lot going on and didn’t read it fully. This disconnect between the creator and receiver of a message isn’t new. In fact, I think it can best be explained by these words from the Babylonian Talmud, “We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.”
And really, when you hear from upset customers, it’s not a tragedy, it’s a gift. If only more of our customers were like Larry David, marketing would be so much easier. More often than airing their grievances to you, customers just don’t act at all. Let’s take the simplest possible promise as an example: a link.
Oh yes, a link is a promise. You are setting up a certain expectation of what value people will get after the click. And it’s hard. If it were easy, everyone would have 100% conversion rates after that link click. Here’s an example from “How to Discover Exactly What the Customer Wants to See on the Next Click: 3 critical skills every marketer must master.”
A Marketing Experiment With a National Bank
A national bank was working with MECLABS Institute to discover how to increase the number of sign-ups for new checking accounts.
Customers were getting to the landing page from a link that said “Open in Minutes” in a Banking section of the homepage. The link was located next to the word “Checking.” (All of the below creative samples have been anonymized to protect the bank’s identity).
After clicking on the home page link, visitors were taken to a four-question checking account selector tool.
After filling out the selector tool, visitors were taken to a results page that included a suggested package (“Best Choice”) along with a secondary option (“Second Choice”). The results page had several CTAs. Website visitors were able to select an account and begin pre-registration (“Open Now”) or find out more information about the account (“Learn More”), go back and change their answers (“Go back and change answers”), or manually browse other checking options (“Other Checking Options”).
After going through the experience, the MECLABS team hypothesized that the selector tool wasn’t really delivering on the expectation the customer had after clicking on the “Open in Minutes” CTA. They designed an experiment using A/B testing with two treatments that were compared against the control experience.
In the first treatment, the checking selector tool was removed and, instead, customers were directly presented with three account options in tabs from which customers could select.
The second treatment’s landing page focused on a single product and had only one CTA. The call-to-action was similar to the CTA customers clicked on the homepage to get to this page — “Open Now.”
Both treatments increased account applications compared with the control landing page experience, with treatment No. 2 generating 65% more applications at a 98% level of confidence.
Simply put, Treatment No. 2 did a better job of keeping the promise of “Open in Minutes” than the control did.
How Do You Know When You’re Keeping Your Marketing Promises in Your Digital Marketing?
This is where data and analytics and metrics come in. Being a data-driven marketer has been an immensely popular idea of late, but what does it really mean? If you strip away the complexity and the buzzwords, you’re only using data for two things:
- to discover what promises to make, and
- to ensure you’re coming through on them.
Here are some red flags you can look for in your landing page analytics to indicate that you may not be keeping the promise that brought customers to that page:
- Low Conversion Rate or High Bounce Rate — Obvious red flag, which you need to dig deeper on, create a model of your customer’s mind, and determine what promise is not being kept.
- Pogosticking — When a user goes to a page, and then jumps back. Sometimes, they go back and forth between the two. This could be caused by a technical problem, like a slow loading page. Or customers could be simply clicking on the wrong link, because the links on a mobile email are too close together or because the previous page is loading slowly on a tablet, causing the links to jump around as the page loads.
However, it could also be a telling indication that you’re not keeping the promise that got them to the page. They go to the page, don’t see what they were expecting, go back to the link to reaffirm what they thought they were going to get, then go back to the page. Etc. Etc.
- Lots of Clicks to the ‘About’ or Home Page From Your Landing Page — This could be an indication that visitors are unsure if you will keep the promises you’re making on the current landing page. They could be going to the About or Home page to learn more about your company, and determine if is trustworthy. You can overcome this anxiety by adding more credibility to the landing page.
Those are some indications you aren’t keeping your promises for a landing page. But what about for the brand, as a whole? Some things to watch out for:
- Good Performance Early in the Funnel, Poor Performance Later in the Funnel — If you’re seeing significant leaks in your funnel, it could be because a certain expectation was set to get customers into that funnel, but you aren’t delivering on it.
- High Cancellation Rates — Customers may feel like they weren’t getting what they were promised. This could be because your product or service actually isn’t delivering value. Or it could be because your company has done a poor job of communicating the value. (Sometimes, we don’t realize the value we’re receiving.) Consumers may have a specific issue, or had a change in their ability or desire to pay at the current price. Make sure your cancellation process addresses these types of issues with effective communication. The best way to keep customers is with clearer value communication, not a friction-filled, onerous cancellation process that alienates customers and torpedoes your word-of-mouth marketing.
- High Spam Complaint Rates — For example, Publisher’s Clearing House closely monitors for when subscribers mark an email as spam, to ensure its emails are living up to the expected promise people had when they subscribed. That’s one way PCH has achieved a 99.2% delivery rate, even though its uses “blacklisted” words.
- High Complaint or Return Rate — Again, let’s assume for a moment that you’re not an evil genius. If your company is trying to serve its customers with the best intentions, a high complaint rate can signal a disconnect with the expectation your customers think you promised, and what you actually intended to promise. Sometimes this is obvious, like a product keeps breaking. But sometimes a customer just has a different expectation of what a product will be like or what is included in an offer.
Keep this customer-first approach in mind when you go back home for Easter, Passover, or whatever your next family holiday of choice may be. Next time your brother — the doctor — ribs you about your career choice, just tell him your job is “promises made and promises kept.” And then tell him to put on some normal clothes for dinner, because those scrubs look like a pair of pajamas. 😊
You can watch the free video “How to Discover Exactly What the Customer Wants to See on the Next Click: 3 critical skills every marketer must master” (no form-fill or squeeze page required, just click and watch) to learn how to keep more of your marketing promises.
Daniel Burstein is the Senior Director, Content and Marketing at MECLABS Institute. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the marketing direction for MECLABS — digging for actionable discoveries while serving as an advocate for the audience.