The Three Metrics You Need to Know Before You Waste Any Time on A/B Tests

It’s hard to argue that split testing (also know as A/B testing) is changing the face of marketing. According to Unbounce, 44% of online businesses are using split test software. And software products like Unbounce and Visual Website Optimizer are making it ever easier. Split testing, done right, with good context, can put a stop to all the guesswork, anecdotal conclusions, and correlation/causation errors that can abound in marketing circles.

But it’s not without risks: split tests are expensive to run, requiring investment for both software, and staff/consultants to run the tests. Not to mention the opportunity cost of lost time exploiting other profit levers in your business.

All of which underscores the importance of testing the right metrics in your business, and the potential cost in time and resources of testing the wrong ones.

While I can’t speak for all businesses, what I’ve seen again-and-again with clients and peers is businesses gravitating toward what’s easy to test – landing pages, checkout pages, email subject lines, and sales pages (all of which can be extremely important in the right context) – rather than what’s important.

That’s why one of the most meaningful changes you can make in your business is to implement a process for identifying which parameters to test and optimize. Below are 3 metrics you need to know before you spend one more minute split testing.

1. List-to-Sale Conversion Rate

What if I told you one simple calculation would tell you whether to optimize any conversion metrics between an opt-in and a sale, or to look elsewhere? That’s what the list-to-sale benchmark gives you. “List-to-sale” is the percentage of buyers of your product or service over a given time period relative to the number of opt-ins to your email list for the same period.

Say in a given month you get 1,000 opt-ins to your email list, and in that same month, you make 55 sales of your flagship product. Wondering whether you should go with a webinar funnel instead of an email onboarding sequence? Whether to incorporate video into your sales page? Whether to change the color of your “buy now” button?

The answer to all of them is “no”, and I didn’t even need to take a look inside your funnel. Why? With 55 sales, you’re converting at a staggering 5% list-to-sale.

To calculate, just take the sales in the last 30 days and divide those by opt-ins over the same time period.

list-to-sale-conversion-rate-formula

Some readers will be noticing the absence of a sales cycle in that calculation (i.e. since it takes days-to-weeks and several touch points to make a sale. We should be comparing this month’s buyers to last month’s opt-ins). You can control for this with a simple average:

  • Take the last 4 months, and average the opt-ins over the first 3
  • Then average the sales over the last 3.
  • Then perform the same percentage calculation. (Sales divided by opt-ins)

For example, say you’re calculating in August:

  • First you’d average the monthly opt-ins for April, May, and June. Let’s just say the average is 1500.
  • Then you’d average the sales from May, June, and July, in order to leave a 30-day lag. Let’s say that average came out to 75.
  • Dividing the sales by the opt-ins, and you’d get 5%.

The benchmark you should be aiming for? 1-2%. Below that, go nuts with split testing parts of your funnel. Above 1%, look elsewhere.

Above 2%, and I’d seriously consider raising your prices. In the hypothetical case of the 5% from above, I’d immediately double the price.

Next, and especially if your list-to-sale conversion is at-or-above the 1-2% benchmark, it’s time to look at your traffic.

2. Opt-in Conversion Rate

The vast majority of businesses I work with have list-to-sale conversion rates closer to benchmarks than their opt-in conversion rates. Put another way, if they’re wasting any resources split-testing their funnel or sales copy, they’re completely ignoring the sizable cohort of website visitors who never even see the offer because they bounce off the site.

As with list-to-sale conversions, you can do a back-of-the-napkin calculation for opt-ins. Just count your new subscribes from the last 30 days and divide it by total website visitors during that same 30 days.

The benchmark to aim at for opt-in conversion is 10%.

If you haven’t ever found your opt-in rate before, my guess is you’ll be astonished how low it is. I’ve seen it as low as 1-2%.

Luckily, there’s a simple strategy to improve it:

  • Find the individual opt-in rates of your biggest webpages and your 10 most popular content pieces. (If you’re using a plugin like SumoMe or OptinMonster, you can set up the software to tell you your opt-ins for each page.)
  • Look for the “outliers” – content pages often perform worse than home and about pages.

Once you’ve identified the worst-performers, perform this simple checklist (from lowest-hanging-fruit to more subtle)

  1. Can readers find your opt-in offer, or is it buried below the fold or ¾ of the way down a blog post?
  2. Are you giving your visitors only one thing to do on each page or post, or are you offering 3 different giveaways on various parts of your page?
  3. This is not the type of page you want to create if you’re looking to increase opt-ins.

    too-many-ctas-blog-post
    Don’t give your readers more than one choice when optimizing for opt-ins

  4. Is your opt-in offer not just well written, but well copywritten? Does it specify exactly who it’s for, describe a clear, specific benefit, and emphasize the urgency for opting in? (Even high performing opt-ins can usually be improved).
  5. Are you requiring your subscribers to double-opt-in? This will lower your opt-in conversions. Many founders I’ve talked to like to use a double-opt-in because it seems more “polite”. In my opinion, making somebody go off the page to get the freebie they just gave your email address for, let-alone to wait up to 20 minutes for it to arrive in their mailbox isn’t particularly polite. When I give my email address to get a lead magnet, I want it now – not after reconfirming my email address and waiting 20 minutes for the email.

Split-test ninjas take-note: if you’ve read this far, and your opt-in rate is indeed garbage, there’s ample opportunity to split test:

  • Two versions of a homepage with different opt-in copy/design.
  • Two versions of an exit-pop on a popular content piece.

Go nuts.

3. Traffic

If you’re among the extremely lucky minority with list-to-sale conversions at-or-above 2%, and opt-in conversions at-or-above 10%, and you’ve raised your prices, I have some disappointing (although kind of good) news: split testing is not a good fit for your business.

Here’s the question to ask: Are your monthly sessions at least 50% of your list size? (i.e. if your list has 2,000 subscribers, are you getting at least 1,000 uniques per month?) If not, you need a traffic strategy. Don’t waste your time A/B testing anything.

While I’m a conversions expert and not a traffic expert, here’s a quick decision tree:

  • Determine your market size. If you could 5x your traffic, are there enough people in your market to support it?
  • Implement a content/syndication/guest-post strategy ASAP. It’s practically the only guaranteed winner across all verticals, but it can take up to a year to bear fruit.
  • Consider hiring a paid traffic expert for one month to test customer acquisition costs from various paid sources. Choose the most profitable and double down while you wait for organic traffic to grow.

Bottom line: the same month spent split testing two opt-in offers on a homepage, landing page, or content page, could provide a 2-4x increase in revenue (by, say, improving an opt-in conversion rate from 1% to 4%), while the same time and money spent trying to boost an already maxed-out sales conversion rate would have a much smaller return.

That’s why a little context can save you thousands.

About the Author: Nate Smith is a direct-response copywriter and funnel expert who helps businesses scale by exploiting their most powerful profit levers. Nate is founder of 8020MarketingGuy.com.

The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

The Making of Vidyard’s New Product Tour Videos

Recently, Vidyard quietly launched our new website. We didn’t want a lot of fanfare, but we knew it was time to deliver our customers something new and valuable.The previous site had been fairly stagnant for a while, and our product and story had evolved so much that it was time to revisit, readjust, and put our best foot forward so we could deliver to our customers what they deserved: something exceptional.

Being who we are, and believing so strongly in the power of video, we knew that video would have to be front and center in how we told our story and explained our product to our website visitors. We created a homepage video, of course, but that wasn’t enough. Our previous website had included a series of videos that we refer to as our “Product Tour”. Analytics proved that the videos were quite successful, so we were all game to replicate the approach. We needed to create a video tour that could help website visitors quickly and easily understand our newly reimagined, complex product: The Video Intelligence Platform.

Here’s a taste of what the tour videos are like:


 
You can check out the rest of them here!

So how did we create this product video tour? Let’s walk through what went into pre-production, production, and post-production to really get a look at what was involved.

Pre-Production

 

 

The message

First things first, a video needs a message. It needs a story. Yes, even a product video (or videos). We could say, “Well, our platform has this feature, and it has this button and this button, and if you click over here, this happens.” But what does that really mean to the end user?

In our case, a major factor in the message of our product video was that there wasn’t just one user of our product. Where at one point in our history (fairly recently, actually), we were focused solely on helping marketers achieve their goals, now our audience had expanded to what we call “three lenses”: marketing, sales, and internal communications. These lenses would all use our product in different ways, so how could we talk about the product without confusing one audience group, or excluding another?

We did it by focusing not just on the “features” of our product, but on the “benefits” of the Video Intelligence Platform. We knew that no matter which audience group or “lens” a viewer belonged to, they all shared similar goals: chronologically speaking, they needed to:

  • “Manage” their video assets so audiences can experience it (including sharing them on websites and social media),
  • “Optimize” the video content to move audiences through a journey (with options like A/B split testing, calls to action and email gates),
  • “Analyze” its performance to find out what content is working and what individual viewers are interested in (with detailed analytics on both videos and viewers), and finally,
  • “Act” on all this data to get strong business results (by integrating it with the tools they already use).

All of the features of our platform could fit into one of these four benefit quadrants, which helped shape and solidify our message: one video per quadrant, plus an introductory video to, well, introduce our three lenses to the Video Intelligence Platform. Five videos in all would make up our new product video series.

 

Concept

A homepage video may be a great opportunity to bring your company’s brand to life, and get creative with how you tell your story and really wow your audiences. A product video, however, needs to be direct, and packed full of the necessary ‘meat’ to help your audience easily understand your product (all while being concise enough to hold today’s short attention spans). That’s how they’ll walk away knowing if they’re interested, if you can give them what they need (or want), or if they should look elsewhere.

So we knew we didn’t want complicated scenes props, shots, lines…we wanted a clean, modern experience so nothing would overpower or take away from the message that we needed audiences to absorb. Being a software company, we don’t have a tangible product to admire the look and touch of, and we didn’t want to sit an actor at an office desk in front of a monitor either.

It didn’t take long to settle on our the final look and feel of our videos. There would be one actor (per video) on a white ‘cyclorama’ stage (a curved white backdrop that gives the visual impression of no walls or floor – essentially a minimalistic, floating white space), accompanied by minimal props.  The user interface (UI) of our product would be shown either on a laptop screen, or ‘floating’ in midair (the two UI options would offer visual interest throughout the video series).

 

Script

We had the message and concept down; next we needed the scripts. Video scripts are, of course, different from other communication mediums. They can’t be written the same way a webpage or brochure or other marketing collateral is done. Why? Because hearing someone say something is very different from reading it on page.

in line with our brand personality, the tone had to be intelligent, yet conversational and friendly. Scripts should be even more conversational and colloquial than other mediums, and sentences shorter, so the viewer feels a sense of personality from the person on screen, like they’re chatting in real life.

Ever sat in a university lecture hall and tried to absorb and remember everything you hear without writing it down? Video is perfect for conveying complex ideas because your viewers can see and hear you. We knew that the scripts shouldn’t be all buzz words, with our actors saying things like, “If you click here and then scroll down you’ll see this…” We could keep the actors’ dialogue direct and simple, and use the UI on screen to display the complex details of our product.

In one video, for example, we talk about our analytics, and what kind of information the viewer gets out of it. We could have made this too complicated and detailed to remember, but instead, the dialogue and UI balanced each other out perfectly:

“You’ll get incredible insights on what each viewer really thinks about you. Think of it as digital body language.”

Now here, instead of talking about engagement graphs and color-coding and all the other details, our actor simply said, in everyday language that viewers will understand and remember:

“You’ll know if they’re kinda interested, leaning way in, or turning away. You’ll get their true, honest reaction.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 4.51.03 PM

On screen, the UI depicted the engagement graphs and indicated different levels of each viewer’s interest. The actor’s language gave a human element to the product, helping viewers understand the benefit of the engagement graphs in terms they could relate to.

This all had to happen quickly, as well. These types of videos are best if kept around the two-minute mark so they’re easily digestible and memorable. It’s why we created a video series – not only does it divide the content into manageable, related chunks, it makes sure people don’t feel they have to sit through an hour-long sales pitch, and if they want, they can even skip to the videos they want to re-watch.

 

Storyboarding

Scripts provide the words, but what are the actions? That’s what storyboarding is for. Once the scripts went through a number of rounds between the Director of Product Marketing, the CMO, and the Brand and Creative Manager, the scripts were passed to the Creative Director and Video Production Manager, both of whom are experts in bringing a video script to life.

How do you bring a video to life that you’ve already made the choice will have a blank, clean set, minimal props, one actor, and some UI? How do you make it visually interesting? “Talking-head” style videos, with a person’s head being the sole focus of a video, is considered outdated and completely unengaging. So our two video wizards drew up what every single shot would look like for all five videos: where each person would stand or sit, if there would be any movement, and even what posture they would have to provide the best composition.

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The director reviewing the script and storyboard on set. Notice the bare feet – shoes weren’t worn on the white cyclorama set to avoid any dirt and scuffs.

It had to be determined at the storyboarding stage where UI would appear on screen. Not just at which parts of the dialogue, but literally where on screen. If the user interface that was being talked about was more detailed and complex, it would likely need to take up the whole screen so viewers could see and understand it clearly. If the UI could be pared down to be understood at a minimal glance, it could share the screen with our actors.

With placement of UI covered, how would it animate on screen? The style of the videos were clean and modern, while providing detailed information so it was important to keep the effects clean, as well. No flashes and booms and screens dancing their way onto the screen and off again. Even these details aren’t too small to plan, because every aspect of a video can help make or break attention span, engagement, and retention.

 

Casting

Casting can be a fun part, because it’s the first stage where the video feels like it’s beginning to jump off paper or screen and become human and relatable. Our product tour videos featured not paid actors, but Vidyardians. Why? Two reasons: first, it was important from a brand and culture perspective that our own employees, who understand and love the company and our product, were included in the videos. Secondly, and candidly, we knew using our own actors would keep the budget lower than if we had hired professional actors for five videos.

But we didn’t just pick at random. A few things we considered: of course we wanted diversity in our casting. Both men and women play an equally vital role in our company’s success, so it was only right that both were featured prominently in our videos. Our cast members included both senior and junior, veteran Vidyardians and new, from different teams, so each person would bring their own personality and love of Vidyard into their video.

When casting non-actors, especially for videos like our product tour which would be hosted on the website long-term, we decided to hold on-camera auditions. Someone may be hilarious in person, or tell great stories, or have great posture, but something magical happens when a camera is turned on inexperienced actors: it turns the most charming, eloquent people into bumbling, stuttering messes. The auditioners were given chunks of script to memorize and speak to the camera, and let’s just say there are quite a few interesting outtakes on our Vidyard cameras and hard drives. But five great performances stood out from the crowd, and their faces and personalities are now helping to bring Vidyard’s product to life.

 

Production

 

 

The studio

Vidyard’s office includes our very own in-house studio. However, it’s fairly basic, and we knew for this project, our studio wouldn’t cut it. We needed something bigger, so the video experts could move around lights and cameras to zoom out far enough to get actors and UI on screen. We wanted the clean white ‘cyclorama’ environment as well. So after some research into location, availability, and budget, we booked a studio in Toronto for three days of shooting that would offer everything we need. It was a very large stage with bright overhead lights and a cyclorama that was painted freshly off-white at our request so we wouldn’t have to do too much editing or use any green screen techniques. Fun fact: these studios are tons of fun – standing in the ‘corner’ of the rounded cyclorama makes you feel like you’re floating with no sense of wall, floor, or ceiling.

 

IMG_0988

Timbits, purchased for snacking during the drive to the studio, look as though they’re sitting in space.

 

Props and wardrobe

There were a few things needed on set that we brought ourselves with a small moving truck: the few props we used, including a bench, small table and some chairs, and a couple little items for visual interest. We included different furniture and small props in each video to add personality and uniqueness to each. It was also important to us that each video didn’t feel like it was just a regular old office; our brand is unique, fun, and creative, and we think our customers are too, so these interesting furniture choices would help our videos feel more relatable and engaging.

We contemplated having our employee actors dress in their own clothes, or keep them in our official green Vidyard t-shirts with our newly redesigned logo emblazoned on them. Did we want them to express their own unique personalities, or did we want them to create a unified picture of Vidyard and the brand traits that go along with that? After many enthusiastic rounds of Rock-Paper-Scissors (kidding!), we decided on both: the actors would wear Vidyard t-shirts to represent us, our brand, and V-Bot our trusty mascot/logo, but they would all wear individualized pieces with the t-shirts, whether a sweater, plaid shirt, jacket, or even statement necklace. That way, all the videos feel unified yet offer a sense of fun individuality – after all, our customers are all unique, and we wanted to speak to them on a human, relatable level.  

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One of our newest Vidyardians wearing just a t-shirt to show off the Vidyard logo, and jazzed up with a necklace and glasses.

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One of our veteran Vidyardians, showing off a hint of V-Bot underneath this own (still brand-appropriate) shirts.

 

The crew

The phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen” can definitely apply when creating videos, so we kept the crew on set small: our Creative Director and Video Production Manager handled the equipment and directed the videos, while the Brand and Creative Manager (me!) acted as script supervisor on set to help the actors with line delivery and accuracy.

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Going over lines with one of our actors while his microphone is being set up.

 

The tech

Since we were shooting these videos ourselves without help of an agency, we had to have the right tech to do the job, including camera, audio, and lighting. Equipment that is more capable helps production go more easily and smoothly, and and makes editing easier afterwards.

Previously, we had been using Digital SLR cameras, which produced an image at a maximum of 1920×1080 (1080p) resolution. They didn’t create the most “data-rich” encoded files, which complicates editing, especially colour correcting and grading – for example, think about it this way: a rainbow of only red, yellow, and blue won’t give you the visual richness of one that also includes the mixed shades or orange, green, and purple. We needed a camera that would allow us to control and pull out what we needed. So we purchased a camera that gives us a 4K video resolution, and richer “8 bit 4-2-0” encoding. Bonus? With this new camera we could still use the fairly inexpensive SD cards for storage to save on some of the investment costs. It’s always important to have an idea of what you want your end product to look like so you know what your tech limitations or opportunities are.

We also had a fairly new set of three Ikan brand LED lights that gave us the flexibility to adjust colour temperature and brightness by using dials. These lights are lightweight for travel and easy setup, and function well on most small-medium scale productions. When picking a studio, we selected a space that had pre-hung lights for the white cyclorama backdrop so when we came into the studio all we had to do was work out our actors’ exposure in comparison to the preset background lighting to achieve a nice bright white scene.

For our audio equipment, we had to keep in mind the studio and the crew. We used a hidden Sennheiser G3 lavalier microphone over our Rode NTG-3 shotgun microphone since we didn’t have an assistant to hold a mic boom, and, just as importantly, we didn’t want to scuff up the white floor of the cyclorama set with a stand. It’s good to keep in mind all aspects of a shoot when selecting your tech, because each facet of a shoot can impact others.

 

Post-Production

 

Editing

After shooting wrapped, the video team focused on polishing up the video footage into our new, snazzy video tour. Full productions can be great because they remove a lot of the guesswork that can happen for a live or unplanned video. Since everything was planned out beforehand, the video experts just needed to follow the script, and place on the storyboard ‘timeline’ the best takes for each scene.

To get a completely polished and clean look, the videos needed to be color corrected because the default doesn’t offer a visually rich experience. The color representation had to be accurate and not too creative because our actors were were wearing t-shirts in our branded Vidyard green. The white background was cleaned up to remove any scuffs from shooting (we kept our shoes off during the three shoot days, but scuffs and dirt still happen!). And, as simple as it sounds to achieve a white background, there are various “flavors” of white you can aim for. Some people shoot videos that have their white tones lean towards a yellow-ish tinge, but we chose blue-ish white as it’s typically perceived to give a more crisp, clean, and professional appearance.

Even default audio isn’t quite good enough for a rich sound. We levelling our actors’ voices to the music, and added some mild bass and resonance to create a more “full” tone. Proper audio levels are an often overlooked piece of the editing puzzle, especially if someone is new to producing video content. It is just as important to have great sound as it is to have a great image to look at. Otherwise, an actor’s voice mixing too much with the background music can inadvertently cause viewers to tune out and not retain information.

Music

When selecting music, our video experts looked at multiple music sources to find an appropriate song for a fair price. What else went into music selection? The song needed to fit with our brand – friendly, engaging, modern, fun but not too wacky, professional and intelligent. It needed to not overpower our actors’ voices, but offer a good pace – too slow can bore viewers, and too fast can make viewers feel almost anxious. A song that’s well-paced with script can help entice people to want to know more and keep listening.

Design elements

User interface shots needed to be designed for each video. Many UI images aren’t a direct screen grab from our product because often, a product shot includes a lot of content, and, while important for function, can feel too visually cluttered when you’re looking at it quickly for the first time. So the graphic designers worked to polish up the images, minimize clutter, and display only the pertinent information that was talked about. If UI would be shown on a laptop the way a Vidyard user would experience it, the right image was carefully curated and shown in all its detailed glory to give the impression that Vidyard itself is rich in detail and information (because the more information our users get, the better and more informed their decisions will be!). The final effect is a crisp, modern design that keeps visual interest while informing viewers.

There you have it! As you can see, a fair bit goes into creating a product video series, but it’s all worth it! With detailed planning, creativity, technique, and a lot of willingness to have fun, you can produce a great product video (or 5) that will wow your audience and turn them into customers.

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The crew on route to set, getting hyped up for a long shoot day.

Check out our product tour yourself and let us know what you think!

The post The Making of Vidyard’s New Product Tour Videos appeared first on Vidyard Video Intelligence Platform.

Blog – Vidyard Video Intelligence Platform

3 Ways to Re-work Your Folder Structure in Salesforce Pardot

One of the key benefits of marketing automation is empowering Sales by providing actionable data on their leads and contacts. We’re talking insight into page visits and form submissions, interaction with Engage Email Templates, visibility into list membership, and automated task creation. These activities are key to qualifying leads, but what if you offer more than one product or solution? Are your reps enabled to easily identify cross-sell and multi-solution opportunities or does this data get lost in the shuffle?

This scenario is solved by leveraging Scoring Categories. Scoring Categories work by assigning a category to a folder, and when prospects interact with assets in that folder, Pardot will create a separate prospect score for that particular category. This new feature is subtle but impactful.

As a member of the Client Advocate Team, I speak to clients daily. As new features are rolled out, I’ve seen our clients get excited, but as priorities change, implementing something incredibly useful like Scoring Categories, falls off the list. The good news is: there are simple solutions to most of these common scenarios.

Scenario #1: I never set up a folder structure or my folder structure isn’t accurate

That’s okay! Whether you’ve been with Pardot for years or just wrapped up implementation, it’s easy to overlook folders because the go-to “Uncategorized” Folder always has your back. If you’re like me, you may think to yourself, “I’ll come back and move this to a new folder after I create all of the related assets,” but then you keep living your life and next thing you know all of your assets are ending up in that uncategorized folder. Sound familiar?

Solution: Table actions can be used to easily reorganize your marketing assets. Using table actions to relocate your assets is even more straightforward if you have been using a naming convention to organize your materials. For example, let’s say all of your files related to Product A have “Product A” in the title. Search your file table by “Product A” and select the desired files using the checkbox to the left of the title to reorganize and use the table action at the bottom to “Move to Folder.” Haven’t created your folder? No problem! You can actually create the desired folder in this step as well.

Scenario #2: My folders are too complicated

I definitely understand that! As a previous end user myself, when folders rolled out I was so excited (almost too excited) and I made my folder structure overly complicated. Learn from my mistakes – within your folders, you can sort by content type (form, landing page, email, so on) so you do not need to create subfolder for every marketing asset. If navigating into your folder tab in Pardot makes you shudder, here’s what you can do.

Solution: Folders are actually really easy to reorganize from within the folder interface itself. You can select one item individually and use the “Move to Folder” action in the right bar to immediately re-organize that file. Additionally, you can use “Command/Control + Click” to select several assets that may not be listed back to back to back in the folder and use the same action to move all of the items selected to the same folder. If your assets are listed back to back to back, you could simply select the top, hit the shift key“Shift,” and click the bottom of the table to move all items selected to a new folder.

Scenario #3: My team is large or complex and folder placement is inconsistent

Companies that have several different products or services will often times also have unique teams for each product or service. This could mean two or more marketing departments, a creative team that’s developing assets for all of the different products, various contractors or other members responsible for uploading lists and managing campaign launches. With so many different team members involved in all stages of campaign development, it can lead to inconsistencies in where assets are stored, how they’re labeled,or even excessive or duplicative folders and subfolders. It can be difficult to know how to restrict team members’ access to only the folders that are relevant to maintain a productive structure.

Solution: Custom User Roles are available to clients on the Ultimate edition of Pardot, or who have purchased Custom User Roles as an add-on to the Pro edition. Custom User Roles provides the ability to set up Folder Permissions, which let you protect your content in folders and assign access to user groups. Setting up Folder Permissions is a great way to ensure only users only have access to the assets and folders that are relevant to their role. While users with Custom Roles will only have access to relevant folders, administrators in Pardot will have access to all folders. For more information on creating folder permissions, check out the Knowledge Base.

As you can see, reworking your folder structure doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking. There are areas within the tool that were designed to make folders a flexible and user-friendly experience. If you’re not currently taking advantage of folders and scoring categories, taking a step back and assessing how your assets are stored can be a great way to take the first step in using these two pieces of functionality together.

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Marketing Automation – Pardot

Why Churn Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

You love your customers.

So, when they decide not to renew, it affects your SaaS business. It takes a lot of resources to acquire new buyers.

But is all churn bad? What are the underlying reasons for your customer’s departure?

Consumers churn for several reasons, including price and customer service. Therefore, it varies based on the sector.

“Customer churn rates that could be considered fantastic for one business might be atrocious for another. Why? Because not all business models are the same, and even companies with similar business models might define churn differently,” writes Dan Shewan, a web content specialist at WordStream.

Let’s explore when churn might be acceptable for your company.

Churn: Different Schools of Thought

In the SaaS industry, churn is a debatable issue. The Quora community has discussed more than 180 questions on the subject.

Several methods exist to calculate churn. Managers possess multiple strategies to improve the metric. And on top of that, there are different types of churn.

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Image Source

Top-level leaders perceive churn differently. Some experts believe churn is a natural part of your business operations. Customers will come and go.

They suggest setting a churn benchmark. Then, using it as a guide for future growth.

“[D]on’t try and compare the churn of your SaaS product to anyone else. Rather, try and get a feel for what you think the ‘background’ level of churn should be within your business,” states James Barnes, co-founder of StatusCake.com.

Other thought leaders see churn as preventable. They would advise that your team take a proactive approach to retaining buyers.

“Considering all the ways churn hurts a company, there doesn’t seem to be any reason… that you should sit back and just accept churn as either inevitable or a good thing,” writes Lincoln Murphy, founder of Sixteen Ventures.

So, it begs the question: Is churn always bad?

It really depends on the school of thought, the circumstances, and your company.

Examine these three particular situations:

1. Wrong Customer Fit

We assume that every buyer fits our SaaS ideal customer profile.

Why? Because the person actually bought our product.

But that’s not necessarily true. Sales funnels are flawed.

Customers can churn because they weren’t properly onboarded. So, the person gets frustrated with the product and leaves.

Customers can churn because they were misinformed about product features. The lack of a specific function renders your service useless to them.

Some leaders will suggest that all customers won’t fit your buyer persona.

And despite your customer success team’s efforts, the buyer will never see the value of your product. To the customer, the cost will always outweigh the service.

Therefore, don’t fit a square peg in a round hole. Instead, focus on the buyers that meet your criteria.

On the contrary, other experts will encourage your team to upgrade your funnel. Research shows that “67% of customer churn is preventable if the customer issue was resolved at the first engagement.” So, execute strategies to fill the gaps in your sales process.

Taking it a step further, you may even want to improve your product for those “wrong customers.” Develop ways to meet their needs.

“If a customer insists on something untenable, like a crazy new feature or a 24-hour on-call customer service, you can’t appease them. But if this is happening over and over, you need to evaluate your customer success team and see if they’re helping clients unlock more value from your product,” says Steli Efti, CEO of Close.io.

Not every customer will find your product valuable. Before accepting that notion, think about how you can reach their desired outcome.

2. Customers Go Bankrupt

In the B2B market, businesses can dissolve unexpectedly. This leaves your company without a client.

And what if your customer merges with another company? Well, the go-to person handling vendor relations may change. And the new company may decide to stick with your competitor.

How can your team recover?

A few professionals will recommend calculating these situations in your current churn rates. Business ebbs and flows. You can’t predict when a company will go out of business. Too many unknown factors exist.

However, some experts feel that you can plan ahead for these incidents.

Start by targeting a viable customer base. For example, some industries are well known for lacking stability. They will continuously swap merchants.

“SMB customers tend to go out of business more frequently than bigger businesses. They switch products more regularly because switching costs are low. They simply aren’t as reliable customers as bigger companies,” writes Tomasz Tunguz, a venture capitalist at Redpoint.

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If your customer is acquired, use it as an opportunity to pitch the new buyer. That means showing value beyond the commoditized services. Compete on customer experience.

“Adding value beyond your bare product or service creates stickiness. It creates an environment where your customers start depending on you for reasons other than just the product or service you deliver,” says Ross Beard, former marketing manager at Client Heartbeat.

Your customer may become insolvent. Choose how your team will deal with it.

3. Competing in a Transient Market

Trends and fads have an effect on your churn rates.

Some companies operate in environments where customers discontinue services today, but renew again in two months.

“In a transient market, churn is expected because customers change their minds frequently, their situations change and they have to lower costs and then they get more money and they come back…”
Many experts will consider it the nature of the business. Therefore, monitor your cash flow and learn when your customers will leave and return.

However, there’s another point of view. Make your product an integral part of your customer’s life. Whether that means offering 24/7 support or loyalty rewards, give buyers a reason not to cancel.

The Baremetrics team recommends the following:

“Another way to make your product indispensable is with multi-user support. Adding this feature means your product becomes part of an entire company or department’s workflow, making it much harder to part with.”

The world of business is volatile. Either recognize it as the cost of doing business or create ways to move around it.

Churn Still Matters

Expect customers to discontinue their services with you. Whether you consider churn good or bad, it will remain a staple in your SaaS business.

“Churn isn’t going away. And that’s okay, if you’re willing to commit to churn reduction as a key element of your conversion rate optimization strategy. Just as you optimize your software and marketing, you can optimize keeping customers loyal and happy,” states Corey Pemberton, a copywriter and marketer.

Work with your team to improve your churn rates. Research uncovers that lower churn can boost your company’s growth.

And that’s what you desire. The chance to gain more market share and provide more value to your customers.

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More often than not, churn isn’t the fault of the customer. According to an Accenture study, “customer service, not price, remains the top cause of customer churn.”

Change how you serve your buyers. Reform your competitive advantages. Listen to your customers’ complaints.

Serial entrepreneur David Skok says, “Ask yourself if you know what are the key features that make your product sticky, and then use measurements of customer engagement to see which customers are not using those features.”

Churn is here to stay. Adjust your long-term strategy accordingly.

Monitor Your Churn Rates

Some thought leaders believe churn is unavoidable. And others think you need to combat churn no matter the situation.

Find buyers that fit your ideal customer persona. Diversify the industries where you sell products. And find alternative ways to mitigate churn before it happens.

Good churn? Bad churn? Just do what’s best for your SaaS company.

About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter @shaylaprice.

The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

Measuring Your Performance and Increasing Engagement

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Recently, we discussed a few of the ways an email marketing plan can help you communicate with and advertise to your customers. But, that’s only the beginning. Identifying your audience, developing a communication strategy, and determining your message will help you start moving in the right direction, for sure. But once subscribers have joined your list and start engaging with your email, there’s more to learn and consider.

Tracking your customers

From the moment they join your list, your subscribers start providing you with a wealth of useful information. MailChimp signup forms can be customized to include fields that collect everything from a customer’s address and age to their interests and subscription preferences. But it can also be easy to overlook one of the most valuable pieces of data they can provide—signup method and location. If you’re an e-commerce business, the route your subscribers take to join your list can help you understand how to better communicate with them in the future, not to mention give you an idea of where you might want to focus your advertising efforts going forward.

For example, if you find that the majority of your signups are being generated from a Facebook form, you might want to focus on connecting with customers—and potential customers through social media. Or, if you’ve connected your store to MailChimp, you’ll be able to identify subscribers who were added to your list after completing a purchase, then target them with a slightly different message than the subscribers who haven’t yet become paying customers.

Signup source can be found in each subscriber’s profile, and you can easily segment your list to target people who joined your list through a specific method, whether it’s a integration like Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress, an app like MailChimp Subscribe, an e-commerce integration, or a regular hosted form. If you embed your form on multiple pages, you can even add a hidden field to your forms to help you determine signup location and then use it when creating segments later on.

Try placing your signup forms in several different locations to see where your subscribers are coming from—you might be surprised by what you find. And, if you want to take things even further, use our Goal integration for a better understanding of the path your customers are taking from signup to email to website. Goal will help you track where customers are going and what’s drawing their attention. Then, set up abandoned cart messaging to help encourage lapsed patrons to visit your store and complete additional purchases.

Learning from your reports

One of the most valuable benefits of using an ESP like MailChimp is the ability to measure results after sending a campaign. MailChimp reports contain a lot of data—data that can provide a lot of helpful insight. Opens and clicks are your most essential metrics. After all, if customers aren’t engaging with your campaign, your email marketing efforts are probably not going to be as successful—or as profitable—as you’d like. Be sure to keep in mind, however, that the engagement data for each campaign doesn’t exist in a vacuum. With each campaign you send, you’re able to gather more information about what’s actually driving that engagement, and you’ll begin to discover trends that can help shape your future marketing plans, too.

For example, if you check your reports regularly, you’ll start to notice even the most subtle improvement (or decline) of your engagement rates over time. If engagement is trending upwards, it can serve as validation of your current marketing strategy. Maybe you’ll even be able to identify trends within the trends, so you can double-down on send times, content, or calls to action that seem to boost customer engagement. If rates start dropping, it might be a sign that you need to make a few adjustments. Consider testing different template designs, adding incentives to your campaign, or sending on different days of the week.

Digging a little deeper

Engagement data often takes top billing, but there’s plenty of other useful data present inside your campaign reports, too. You’ll find a full list in our Knowledge Base, but we’ve highlighted a few of our favorites below:

  • The E-Commerce tab in your reports is your go-to location for all things—you guessed it—e-commerce. Once you connect your store with MailChimp, you’ll find everything you need to know about the products you’ve sold, the revenue each product has generated, and a full breakdown of each subscriber’s purchases. This can be especially helpful for tracking which products are driving revenue—and which aren’t—so you can make changes for future campaigns.
  • The Links tab will help you get a better idea of how well each tracked URL in your campaign has performed. Do links near the top of your campaign result in more clicks than links towards the bottom? Does your audience respond well to links with a distinct call to action like Click Here or Buy Now? This is where you’ll find those answers.
  • Facebook has become an integral tool for marketers who want to connect with customers and expand their audience, and the Social tab in your reports reflects how well your campaign is performing across the platform. Once you’ve connected your account to Facebook, this tab will display a list of folks who liked your campaign and a map that shows your social clicks from across the globe. This tab also includes a list of the top influencers and referrers for the campaign, so if any outside sources happen to generate engagement for you by linking back to your campaign (in a write-up about your company or in a press release, perhaps), you’ll find that here as well.

No matter your line of work, your MailChimp account can provide you with a lot of great information about your customers, your products, and the effectiveness of your overall marketing efforts. All of the information you’ll uncover is actionable, too—as you continue to learn more about your customers, you’ll start to think of new ways to engage and delight them. And as it turns out, engaged and delighted customers like to buy things.

MailChimp Email Marketing BlogMailChimp Email Marketing Blog

How to Maximize Inbound Marketing with Techniques You Already Use

Inbound marketing is not a new thing, the idea was around long before the catchy term. While it shouldn’t be relied upon to deliver leads on its own, inbound marketing is a useful strategy to have as part of your overall marketing plan because it’s great for filling the top of your sales funnel. From new prospects who aren’t familiar with your brand, to new markets that you’re trying to educate about your business, inbound marketing excels at attracting new eyes to your content and your website. And once you’ve drawn them in, you can use other techniques to move them into the sales funnel.

But by far, the best part of inbound marketing is that you most likely already use it. Yes – you read that right. These common marketing techniques are all considered inbound marketing, and here’s how you can maximize their value.

Creating Videos

You might think video is really just more content – and it is. It’s one of the most easily accessible and regularly shared pieces of content (take a look at your Facebook feed if you’re wanting proof). There’s no limit to the amount of reach a video can have, particularly if it’s on a topic that is going to appeal to a broad audience. When it comes to B2B marketing, animated videos that break down complex concepts, crisp, professional mini-movies that explore the impact of an industry, or clever visual gags and puns that entertain and teach buyers about a particular business or brand make the kind of videos that are perfect for inbound marketing.

Promoting User Groups and Communities

While user groups are often oriented around current clients who already own or use one of your products or services, they can also attract new prospects looking to learn more about an industry or business area as well.

If you’ve got an active user group, or are trying to start one, walking that fine line between inbound and outbound marketing is all about branding. Keep in mind that inbound marketing is angled towards a very, very soft sell. It aims to get prospects to engage voluntarily because the content itself is valuable to them, so a good tactic might be to create an industry-applicable group that anyone can join – regardless of what products they use. If you ensure that a few of your users take part, or open up an existing, active user group to the wider industry, your clients can be your best evangelists, and you’ll have access to a huge amount of new content that you can leverage for better prospecting.

Intelligent Social Media

Social media is a central focus for marketers looking to do more inbound marketing, and it makes sense. It’s a largely free, open, global series of platforms for promotion, and if used correctly, it can spread your brand and your message like wildfire. But let’s go back to that last caveat: if used correctly. The problem with social media is that it’s highly subjective, and that can make it difficult to say whether it’s used correctly. While 94% of B2Bs use social media (Content Marketing Institute), not all of them use it well.

When used in the context of inbound marketing, the goal of your social media should be less about generating leads to fill pipeline and more about sharing valuable, interesting content with your followers, and engaging in conversations. This (very fine) distinction is easy to confuse, but it’s important to get the cadence right in order to accurately determine the ROI of your inbound marketing efforts here. Think about what people use social media for, and focus on giving your followers information they can share. Link to your best content in the form of whitepapers, eBooks, case studies, or infographics, or talk about interesting industry statistics and news. These things aren’t product focused, but should have a wider appeal for your target audience.

Sending Out eNewsletters

Opt-in email marketing is another inbound tactic that can be very successful for filling the top of your sales funnel. It’s a great way to educate prospects about your brand by providing a weekly, or monthly series of thought leadership content. Offer new prospects the opportunity to sign up through a blog or a landing page, and once they’ve done so, send them a regular digest of your best content. Include links to helpful or useful resources – so long as they’re not product focused or heavily branded. One thing to be sure to avoid is over-communication. You don’t want to spam – even if you’re only sending useful information, or links to your content. Remember that your prospects are receiving a huge volume of information every day – much of it via email. Instead, if you promise to only send a monthly newsletter, stick to that promise and send the best possible monthly newsletter you can. You’ll build trust with your prospects, and show them that your content is worth consuming.

Going ‘Viral’

While true viral stardom is nearly impossible to achieve on purpose, there is a version that’s easier to aim for and should be part of every marketer’s strategy. Highly shareable content combines several elements including timeliness, humour or insight, wide audience appeal, and accessibility. Start by looking at your most shared, viewed, or accessed piece of content. How was it promoted? Where was it promoted? What type of content is it? These questions should give you a starting point for replicating that success with other pieces of content.

One of the benefits of inbound marketing is that it readily works together with other techniques to help you move prospects through the sales funnel. Using a user group to encourage prospects to visit your booth at a conference for example, or offering your eNewsletter through a banner advertisement. It’s important to look at every channel available to ensure that you’re not just attracting prospects, but also moving them through the sales funnel successfully.

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Content Marketing – Pardot

Video Marketing How-To: YouTube vs. Your Website

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Video Marketing How-To! This week we want to tackle a question that comes up often — whether your video should live on your website, your YouTube channel, or both!

First thing’s first is understanding that YouTube, alone, isn’t a video strategy. You need to be using both YouTube and your own website as part of your video strategy, but there is definitely a difference in what each channel means to your business.

Your videos on YouTube can have a variety of objectives — awareness building, generating subscribers, and driving traffic back to your website. Videos on your website can similarly have multiple objectives, from teaching customers about your product to generating leads, but one important distinction is the final destination. YouTube should drive traffic to your website. Your website should keep people there as long as possible, and move them through the buying funnel.

For YouTube, focus your attention on content you wouldn’t normally have gated. Assets that are top of funnel, and not too product focused. Anything you need to have a prospect fill in their info for, like full webinars, or lead generation content isn’t something you should have available to everyone.

That said, YouTube is a great place for hosting your blog content, company culture content like holiday videos and memes, and of course your campaign content. Just make sure you always use the description and YouTube annotations to drive viewers back to your website to take the next step.

Once prospects are on your website, you’ll want to make sure your videos compel them to take action. Here you can host your feature-length webinars and gate this content, so you can use it as a lead generation tool.

Your more complex product-based how-to content can also live on your website, as hopefully people aren’t searching YouTube for deep support questions. Same goes for your event content — by all means, have a trailer on YouTube, but don’t give away the entire keynote series for free.

Together, your website and your YouTube channel are a powerful way of getting eyes and leads from your video. But, as a rule of thumb, if you’re not interested in giving it away, don’t put your video on YouTube.

Anything else is fair game, and will likely help you build a great YouTube channel subscriber base, but always make sure you’re using a YouTube annotation or call-to-action in the description to get people back to your site. YouTube views are nice, but leads are nicer! That’s all for this week, and definitely tune in in another few weeks for another episode!

The post Video Marketing How-To: YouTube vs. Your Website appeared first on Vidyard Video Intelligence Platform.

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How I Teach Social Media in My University Classroom

Social media is one of my favorite classes to teach at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. It’s inspiring to see so many students who want to pursue a career in the fast-changing field. But social media is one of the most demanding, time-consuming, and challenging courses to teach and take at the university level right now.

The social media landscape is always changing, and so too do the assignments, lessons, and syllabi. Professors and students alike have to work twice as hard (maybe even three times as hard) compared to other classes just to keep up with the industry.

There are many ways to set up a social media class, but there are a few steps I take before each semester. First, I determine the focus of the class and what I want to cover. Is this going to be an introduction course or an advanced strategy course?

Next, I break the semester down into different modules of areas to cover, such as introducing social media and ending the semester with future implications and trends. The last thing I do is add the specific assignments and tie in the relevant articles, resources, and videos I want the students to consume. There is a structure to the class with some room to adapt and change due to the evolution of social media trends.

Types of classroom exercises I do

The class I teach at the University of Louisville is framed more like a strategic communications capstone class. We work with real clients in Louisville and the students have a semester-long group project creating a social media proposal. However, there are some individual assignments that capture the students’ own interests and relate to social media. Here are some of the exercises I incorporate into my classroom:

Online reputation audit

Knowing how to evaluate your brand on social is just as important as having one. I have my students work on doing not just an audit of their own personal brand, but have them compare it to professionals they would want to work with at an agency, startup, or major brand. The audit I have my students conduct was inspired by the assignment Keith Quesenberry created for doing a brand social media audit.

Hootsuite’s Student Program

I was first introduced to the Hootsuite Student Program a few years ago by William Ward and have been a fan ever since—the program is taught in my class each semester. It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to learn more about how to use the Hootsuite dashboard. While in the program, the students are able to practice writing updates, creating their own reports and lists, and monitoring hashtags, as well as view lessons on current topics from leading experts in the social media industry. At the end of the program, students are able to complete an exam and receive their Hootsuite Platform Certification.

Student workshops

With a fast-changing landscape like social media, oftentimes the students have something to teach the professor. Last semester one of my students, Danielle Henson—who was our resident class expert on Snapchat—conducted a class workshop on how to design and create your own branded Snapchat filter.

She created a brief presentation for the class, and then opened up Photoshop and walked through the process of how to create a filter.

Social media etiquette and class participation

In order to teach social media, you have to use social media. What better way than to set up a community on a platform like Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, or even one designated specifically for a class? I am a fan of Twitter, so this is the platform I use. But if you are going to be using any platform for class, you want to share your own email and social media etiquette policy with the students so they know your expectations for the class discussion.

This is a brief guideline of what you expect from the students from their online correspondence and interaction with you, their fellow classmates, and the online community. Similar to what you see from a social media policy for brands and other organizations, this provides a framework of communication and online expectations for proper conduct you have for the class.

Strategy briefs using social media

This assignment helps students think strategically about how to use social media for local businesses, non-profits, or clients. This is one from my class that focused on Snapchat.

The point of the strategic brief is to outline key objectives (what do you want to accomplish with Snapchat, for example), and your target audience. The next part is coming up with strategies and tactics for the platform, such as building brand awareness, hosting social media takeovers, and running ads and contests. The last part of the lesson outlines how you will evaluate success—new followers, click-throughs, and engagement, for example.

How and where I find new teaching topics

As noted, social media is a constantly-evolving space, and coming up with new and innovative assignments for students is a challenge. Luckily I have many different ways to generate new ideas.

I participate in Twitter chats

There are many chats that are beneficial for both the students and the professor: #Hootchat, #HESM, #SMSports (for social media and sports), #PRprofs (for PR professors), #SMSsportschat (for sports business and PR), #ChatSnap (all about Snapchat) are some of the ones I follow on a regular basis.

I keep in touch with alumni who are working in social media

I do this primarily on Twitter and there is a class alumni hashtag that former students are encouraged to use to share social media advice and tips with current students.

I follow other social media professors

The community of fellow professors who are teaching social media is truly wonderful. It provides a great opportunity for collaboration, brainstorming, and sharing of ideas and exercises. For example, Emily Kinsky wrote about how she set up an exercise for students to live-tweet a class session and the learning benefits this had for the class. Matt Kushin explored an assignment for his class where he had students write BuzzFeed articles for class. Ai Zhang shared on Brian Fanzo’s website how she uses Snapchat for her classes. Each professor has inspired me to try out some of these activities in my own classes with great results.

I share my course plan with social media professionals

My syllabi needs to be updated every time I teach the class, and I work on it at least two months before the start of the semester. Once I have the first draft, I send it out to my network of social media professionals to get their input. I want to know if I’m covering material that’s relevant to the current state of the industry, and if there’s anything else I should be including.

I invite guest speakers to my class

Whether it is in-person or virtually, bringing in professionals to share their stories, expertise, and insights about what is happening in the industry is always helpful and interesting to my students.

What I learned teaching social media in the classroom

When it comes to teaching social media in the classroom, I’ve learned that you can’t try to do everything. It’s important to have a focus—what is the goal of the class, is it an introduction course? Or is it a data and analytics course for students to take after a research methods course?

I’ve also learned how important it is to stay flexible, as social media is always changing. I book at at least two weeks in my syllabus for “Future Developments and Trends,” so I can determine what is new and relevant for my students.

While teaching social media is intense and a lot of work, it’s also one of the most rewarding classes I have taught in my career as a professor. I teach social media for the opportunity to be inspired by my students’ interest. Expertise in social media grows over time. Helping future generation of professionals learn from the current ones is why I love teaching social media.

Do you teach social media at a college or university? Integrate Hootsuite into your classroom with Hootsuite’s Student Program.

Learn More

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