Helping industrial B-2-B marketers keep up with evolving digital marketing methods, terms and technology is mostly what this blog is about. Intermittently, I like to highlight certain SMS projects that I think are interesting or required solutions that some might find helpful, and every once in awhile there are announcements and musings about staff comings and goings. Today, I wanted to explain a few key concepts behind one the most important buzz words making the marketing rounds, but not before wishing a happy retirement to long-time client and friend of SMS, Chuck Locke.
Chuck is leaving the position of Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Drummond Scientific Company after 25 years and for all of them he’s partnered with SMS on a number of projects ranging from video and collateral to web development and AdWord campaigns. We’ll miss his strong sense of loyalty, professional exuberance and down-to-earth charm but wish him all the best going forward. Get at those fish, Chuck.
Now, Conversion Rate Optimization, or CRO. I’ve written previously about organic search optimization, a component of SEO that involves regularly adding useful content to a website in order to perform well in organic search rankings. The post was specifically about the power of meta descriptions and how they should be as engaging and relevant as ads in order to attract clicks. Applying effective CRO might be considered the next step – if converting leads to sales is a company’s primary objective. I think we can agree that it is.
Digital marketing acronyms seem to be multiplying like weeds lately, but we can’t talk about CRO without also talking about ROI (Return On Investment). I’m going to guess that most digital marketing managers have accepted the tenet that websites are never “done”, and therefore understand that an increasingly greater portion of marketing resources are being allocated to website development and supporting digital tools like landing pages, banner ads, and social media platforms. As a result, they’re under a commensurate amount of pressure to prove that their favorite digital marketing tools are budget worthy. It’s something of a Catch-22: everyone knows they need them, but they can’t always prove that they work.
CRO involves many things, from properly organizing the elements of a homepage so that engagement is “above the fold” to the study of data and analytics which help determine where the digital sales cycle is getting caught up. The goal is to convert visitors into customers as opposed to simply increasing traffic. Among other things, effective CRO requires a deep understanding of the behavior of one’s buying audience or persona. Attention spans vary depending on markets, but we can all agree that they’re getting shorter overall so it’s vital to capture a visitor’s attention with a clear value proposition and have them interact with a “call to action” like a contact form or mailing list signup as soon as possible.
Optimizing for conversions involves a delicate balance between direct messaging and indirect selling that requires testing, and it can differ wildly from audience to audience. For an analogy, think about how teachers enter different rooms as they make their way around a school. Each environment calls for a specific demeanor, and each demands that you bring something engaging to offer. If you miss on either point, you’ll likely get tuned out. Teachers learn very early that, despite entering the profession to make a difference, they must first get their students’ attention. To do that, they must find a way to reach an audience who may or may not be aware that they need to improve, or even think that it’s necessary. If we design our websites as if they were us, standing in front of a room of children who challenge every second to be worthy of their time, we’re probably on the right track. If we imagine a situation where those children can get up and leave whenever they please, we’re definitely on the right track.
Optimizing one’s website for higher conversion rates need not be as difficult as winning over a classroom of kids, but there are standards and methods that can make them more cost-effective. Keeping up with them will ease the pressure, and improve investment returns.
– S. Norton