Are you setting yourself up for success?
Or are you unintentionally undermining your digital marketing efforts? You might be. We know this because we’ve worked on campaigns in which this has happened.
Though we pushed our clients to change underperforming strategies and tactics, often our pleas fell on deaf ears. With one client in particular, their lead-generation campaign was performing miserably. The campaign was headed for total disaster – until…
Why do campaigns underperform?
Even brilliantly conceived campaigns can fail to perform to their potential because the creative released into the market is reliant solely on so-called “smart thinking.” And smart thinking, even when informed by the best research data, amounts to no better than hypotheses – aka assumptions, opinions, and biases – about what headlines, body copy, CTAs, imagery, colors, graphics, etc., the target audience will respond to.
Unless that creative is validated and enhanced via pre-market testing or in-market testing and optimization, its performance hinges on a roll of the dice.
Imagine if an automaker released a new model based solely on its experience making cars but did not actually test that model for safety, performance, or reliability. How would that vehicle perform? How soon would something break? How safe would it be? By driving it, would you be gambling with your life?
That’s sort of what’s happening when you approve marketing deliverables to go live without a testing and optimization program behind it. You’re putting it in front of your consumers with no pre-validation that it will perform to an acceptable standard.
Do you really want to gamble like that?
What’s holding you back?
So, the client mentioned above hired the agency where one of our founders had once worked. Our founder was a senior project manager on their lead-generation campaign.
The client was one of the oldest and largest organizational culture and leadership development consultancies in the world. Their legacy success, however, was being threatened by newer, more nimble players nipping at their heels. They hired the founder’s previous agency to help them generate more leads for one of their flagship services – and keep them a step ahead of the hounding competition.
The agency was up for the challenge and began to drive an abundant amount of traffic to the client’s website through a number of beautifully executed Facebook and LinkedIn ads. However, once that traffic landed on the client’s website, essentially no visitors converted to leads.
Why did this happen? The agency’s hypothesis was that the client’s landing pages, frankly, were awful.
Prior to hiring the agency, the client had just implemented a wholesale makeover – redesign, information architecture restructuring, content overhaul, etc. – of its website into a dark, heavy, cluttered, and navigationally confusing mess. And the landing pages were full of long-form content, with lead capture forms buried way down at the bottom. (A facepalm emoji would probably be appropriate here.)
The site makeover had been an internal project and the client was extremely sensitive and protective of its decisions and branding. Therefore, the agency at first tried to be subtle and diplomatic about its opinion of the new site and landing pages. Over a few months, however, as the campaign impotently limped along and the client blamed the agency and hinted at terminating the contract, the exasperated agency became more open and direct about its opinion that the client’s landing pages were the root of the problem.
The client eventually conceded that point a bit and allowed the agency to test only a minor restructuring of one landing page by shortening the content a little and moving the lead capture form closer to the fold. The client, reluctant to let go of any further control, did not allow the agency to make the updates directly, instead taking the design mockup and copy doc and having its own internal dev team implement the updates. This test resulted in a small but ultimately negligible conversion rate improvement – and more frustration all around plus a greater impending sense of the relationship withering to its final conclusion. A disastrous end was all but inevitable.
What was obvious to the agency team was to test a wholesale makeover of the landing pages. But the client simply would not consent to it.
So the campaign’s project manager – a founder of Euphoria Digital – said to his team, “Screw it. Let’s just build what we believe will turn this campaign around, test it, and ask for forgiveness later. We’re in a sinking ship anyway.”
The campaign’s creative director responded, “I like that idea. Yeah, I really like it.”
And so the team built landing pages in which all content, including the lead capture form, was above the fold. The copy was shortened to a thought-provoking headline, a catchy blurb that functioned as a payoff to the headline, and a few benefit-infused bullet points. The form itself was shortened to the minimum number of fields possible while still giving the client’s salespeople the essential info they needed. And the landing pages were built on a platform the agency had complete control over – so the agency team could do as much testing as their hearts desired.
The team seriously considered just pushing the landing pages live without permission, but then thought better of it. They decided that they’d show the concepts to the client first for consent but be firm in their resolve that it was critical to the salvation of the campaign to deploy them.
The day of the weekly status call with the client arrived. The team dialed in via conference phone and fired up the Webex video link. After the pleasantries and a review of the latest iterations of Facebook and LinkedIn ads, the moment came for the big reveal. The team glanced at one another around the room and took a deep collective breath. The account manager nodded and then leaned in and, in an enthusiastic voice, said into the triangular-shaped conference phone, “Hey, we’ve got something to show you!”
She brought up the long-neglected problem of traffic dying at the landing pages, building the case for the team’s solution, before adding, “With that said, here is what we propose.”
A team member then clicked the arrow to move the PowerPoint presentation in the Webex feed to the next slide, revealing one of the landing pages. The creative director jumped in and read through the landing page copy and explained the rationale behind each element and the overall concept as a whole. He continued on likewise as the presentation cycled through each of the several landing page concepts.
When he finished, the account manager chimed in, “Okay, now that you’ve seen what we propose, what are your questions, thoughts, feedback?”
Silence on the other end. Silence that lasted probably only a few seconds but felt like an agonizing eternity. Then some whispering could be heard. And more silence. Doubt crept into the team members’ minds.
Then: “Sorry, we were just discussing our impressions.”
Ugh. The team glanced at each other with trepidation in their eyes.
The client then added, “So, our overall impression is that it looks good. In fact, honestly it’s great. And it’s on brand. We now understand what you’ve been trying to propose to us. I’ll have to share these with my boss for approval, but I really love them and will push hard for his approval.”
The team erupted into fist pumps and air-high-fives. “It’s okay, guys, we’re on mute,” the account manager said. The team blurted out a few shouts of “Yes!” and “Woot!” and gave each other real high fives.
“Okay, shhh, we’re going off mute now,” the account manager interrupted and then unmuted the phone. “Alright, we’ll await your green light, but we’re ready to go live with them as soon as you are,” she told the client.
Within a few days, the client got her boss’ approval and, after a couple of minor feedback tweaks, the new landing pages went live.
The new landing pages performed really well. So well, in fact, that in subsequent weeks each new landing page concept we shared was met with almost automatic approval to go live for immediate in-market testing. 🙂
The new landing pages produced the following improvements*:
- Increase in conversion rate** from 0.18% to 5.52%
- The subset of incentive-based landing pages that offered a download – i.e., report or whitepaper – yielded a ridiculous conversion rate of 24.64%
Overall, the campaign also delivered the following results:
- Cost per lead almost exactly half of industry benchmark
- Over 2,100 leads added to the pipeline for services that can generate up to six figures of revenue per sale
Moral of the Story
Test everything you can. Never rest on your laurels. Don’t settle. Always push, push, push the envelope. Don’t let fear paralyze you.
Take the example of Facebook. At any given time, they are running 10,000 tests of their platform. For years, they pushed the mantra “move fast and break things.” They have no fear of breaking something; they actually encourage it. They know it moves the needle of ever-increasing optimization and success.
Say what you want about the company, but can you really argue with their success?
If your digital marketing efforts are underperforming, if they’re just sort of sputtering along, don’t just accept the status quo. Start testing. Test everything. Test often. Always optimize.
If you can do it yourself, go for it. If you need help, then contact us. We won’t be afraid to challenge any assumptions and hangups sabotaging your best-intentioned marketing efforts. We’ll come in and shake things up to help you achieve more traffic, leads, conversions, and ROI.
*Pre- vs. post-deployment of new landing pages; post-deployment through original campaign end was 5 months
**Conversion = lead form submission