Strategy Challenges for Effective Online Marketers, Part 2

  |  October 23, 2009   |  Comments

Questions to ask when aiming to improve testing and usability, metrics, and conversion rates.

In my last column I covered the first three of seven online marketing challenges. Marketers often find they need to:

  • Reach more people.
  • Reach better people.
  • Have more resources.
  • Improve testing and usability.
  • Redesign.
  • Obtain better metrics.
  • Improve conversion rates.

Let's consider the latter four challenges:

4. "We need better testing and usability."

  • Evaluate how easy it is to buy from you.
  • Determine if your visitors quickly can find what they're looking for.
  • Check out the ease of your check out process.
  • Collect feedback from visitors.
  • Set up tests to watch how visitors actually behave.
  • Isolate which variables are most important to visitors.
  • Determine which offers work best.

That's a start. Next you must ask yourself the bigger questions:

  • What motivates people to buy even when a site isn't usability-friendly?

  • If usability is the only critical factor, why haven't our conversion rates kept pace improved usability?

  • Are we testing the wrong things?

  • Is the solution to our problem in a metric we haven't looked at yet?

  • Which variables really matter?

  • How can we tell whether pages up or down the click-stream are affecting the page we are testing?

  • Do our tests include a hypothesis for the outcome?

  • Does a viable theory support our hypothesis for the outcome?

  • Do we use a statistically meaningful sample size to validate (or refute) our hypothesis?

  • Do we have a framework for evaluating our results so we can make informed decisions?

  • What can we learn from a test that we can apply to other situations?

  • Can we create different click-through paths for different audience segments so we yield a cumulatively higher conversion rate rather than the best average conversion rate?

5. "We need to redesign."

  • Isolate what isn't working and what is.
  • Write copy that is more persuasive.
  • Use illustrative and persuasive images.
  • Refresh your company image.
  • Update your technology.
  • Determine whether you need to re-conceive your site because too many elements bog down the original design.

That's a start. Next you must ask yourself the bigger questions:

  • Do we need a redesign or can we work with what we have?

  • Exactly how would a redesigned site better serve our visitors?

  • If the best-converting sites are often boring in their design, are we willing to design our site with that in mind?

  • Can we achieve the same goals with incremental changes?

  • Will we incorporate a scientific testing methodology into our redesign so we can optimize click-streams based on a prediction of how different audience segments engage with the site?

6. "We need better metrics."

  • Measure the impact on conversion of every element on your site.
  • Determine if your Web analytics program is set up correctly.
  • Turn all your data into knowledge you can act upon.
  • Measure whether your predictions of visitor behavior are accurate.
  • Identify the campaigns, keywords, site elements and audience segments that give you the best return on your investment.

That's a start. Next you must ask yourself the bigger questions:

  • Can we better implement the Web analytics program we currently use?

  • Do we understand exactly how each metric affects our financial statements?

  • Are our metrics based on our visitors' buying cycles and personalities, or on the design of our Web site?

  • If our metrics don't tell us how to refine our Web site to meet visitor expectations, are we gathering the wrong data?

  • Have we designed an intentional path so our metrics can separate the signal from the noise, or are we simply trying to divine order from randomness?

7. "We need a better conversion rate."

  • Define the minimum acceptable return on investment from your traffic.
  • Remove obstacles to conversion.
  • Reduce shopping cart abandonment.
  • Design lead generation forms so more visitors complete them.
  • Improve your content's ability to persuade.

That's a start. Next you must ask yourself the bigger questions:

  • How will our conversion rate affect our advertising and promotional budget?

  • If we attract a smaller audience that converts better, we've increased our conversion rate. Are we prepared to reduce our conversion rate if we can generate more sales at a higher net profit?

  • Could a strategy that increases the conversion rate fail to produce the most overall sales or best results?

  • Assuming our offering is good, have we identified all the reasons why a visitor wouldn't convert today, in seven days, in 30 days, in 60 days, etc.?

  • What percentage of visitors would we expect to lose to each of those reasons?

  • If we identify the reasons why a visitor wouldn't convert and the projected conversion rate remains 20 percent, why would we set an even lower goal? (Answer: In the absence of data to the contrary, you have no reason to set a goal lower than that. Surprised?)

Meeting Your Challenges

Answering the bigger questions requires:

  • Objective, critical self-appraisal.
  • Intimate knowledge of your business.
  • Detailed knowledge of your marketplace.
  • Familiarity with your audience and their objectives.

In review:

  1. Begin with a new set of assumptions: The problem is systemic, not granular.
  2. Embrace a new perspective: See what customers see. Understand the questions customers ask as they try to solve their goals.
  3. Ask a bigger question: Why do customers buy?
  4. Develop a new strategy that reflects this perspective. How can I answer questions the customers ask and help them buy?
  5. Remember, it's too early for tactics. Understand the big picture and how it affects the customer's system for buying.

These are the ingredients of success online.

We hope they help guide you through the process or help you reconsider your strategy.

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Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES,, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at

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