Our very own Tim Kachuriak, SVP of Innovation and Optimization, was invited onstage to talk about a case study on successful landing page optimization at the 2012 Optimization Summit this past week! Watch his presentation below and let us know your thoughts. MarketingExperiments wrote a great blog post about it here as well.
As we press deeper into the information age, people allow streams of content to come to them on-demand. Where brands used to only message when they had something specific to say or sell, now they must compete to maintain consistent awareness and mindshare among their customers.
We in the nonprofit world have always called this “cultivation” — though we aren’t all necessarily good at it. Sometimes it seems so urgent to make an ask every time you get the opportunity to speak to a constituent. Short-term thinking would tell you that you might get a gift, so you might as well solicit. We must think in the long-term when it comes to our constituent relationships. True philanthropy occurs when a donor gives because they are moved by a story or the opportunity to make an impact — not by relentless hounding or panhandling. The great news is that in the information age, we know so much more about our constituents. Use that data not just to be tactical about your asks, but to be tactical about the story you are telling as you cultivate.
Below is a link to a great article about the “lightweight interactions” that nonprofits can use to stay in touch as they prime donors for the eventual ask. Best of luck!
An emphasis on empathy, exhibited both with peers and with customers, seems to be the emerging trend in today’s business community. Data and storytelling work hand-in-hand to drive empathetic relationships through a foundation of first knowing your constituents and then communicating with them in a way that is individually catalytic. Pursuant operates from a “data first” approach because it is the natural starting point for any relationship. From an informed level of trust is bred meaningful messaging that is capable of 1) resonating with its audience and 2) providing additional data to further advance the relationship.
This great article from FastCo Create dives deeper on this topic.
Best practices are only best practices for you when they produce the desired results. Rather than trust industry best practices or your intuition, test several options with your audience and continue to refine based on the outcomes. If you have an idea and you’re not sure it will work, test it out with a control version. The results don’t lie. Strive for RELEVANCE. Personalize the subject line or salutation, change the layout to look more like an email coming directly from the inbox of the president of your organization, shorten your copy, improve your Ask, provide an INCENTIVE for signing up, eliminate FRICTION in giving. Test, test, test, and trust your results to inform what you send in the future.
Adequacy is the Enemy of Excellence
These lessons apply to more than just email. If your website, email or direct mail program produces lackluster results, find your way out of the status quo by applying the science of optimization. Consider the conversation you wish to create in the minds of your donors and prospects and apply that to every type of campaign you pursue. The best place to start is by taking off your nonprofit hat and getting inside your constituents’ minds to really examine the messages you’re sending. And then, once you know, do something about it. It could be as simple as changing the way that you structure the OFFER by presenting something that represents value to them. Or improving the RELEVANCE of the offer and mitigating some of the ANXIETY associated with taking the next step. Remember, optimization doesn’t happen on the page — it happens in the mind.
Do you need help getting your email marketing and fundraising program into shape? Drop us a line.
The first step of successful email capture is to enable website visitors to give an email address. The average nonprofit sees slightly more than 2% of website visitors registering an email address—there’s lots of room for improvement here. Place your subscription box on the home page, make it easy to find and clearly state what you’re OFFERING in return for their address. HINT: If the information you desire to share with constituents looks or sounds just like what they’ve seen on every other website, it’s time to re-craft your message.
How to Optimize Email Capture
Build a strong value proposition connecting the prospect’s desire for your information and the exclusivity of the offer. Remember, it’s a mental conversation. They are giving up their contact information; what are you going to offer in return and is it equal in value or worth way more? HINT: It doesn’t hurt to throw in an incentive — like access to a special report — to tip the scales in your favor. Is it clear what you are signing up for? Is the offer compelling, clearly communicating a unique value proposition?
Once you’ve developed a desirable and exclusive offer that incentivizes the prospect to give you an email address, you’ll want to look at open rates for the email messages they receive. This number tells you how many people looked at your email. The nonprofit average is 18% for email appeals.
Optimizing for Improved Open Rates
Focus on the “To” Line, the “From” Line and the “Subject” Line. Making small changes like personalizing the “To” Line can increase response as much as 10% or more. Remember RELEVANCE, OFFER and INCENTIVE as you think of the conversation happening in your constituents’ minds.
Whether it’s fundraising, advocacy or registration, the goal of any email is to get a click. The click-through rate tells you how compelling your content was based on the number of unique clicks divided by the total emails delivered. The nonprofit average is 1.76% for a fundraising appeal—lots of room for improvement here! What most marketers do not understand is that most people are not looking for a reason to click—they are looking for a reason to delete. Sometimes we provide too much information in the email body that we force the recipient to make a decision before we have presented our full value proposition.
Optimizing for Improved Click-Through Rates
RELEVANCE is the key to improved click-through rates. There are two types of RELEVANCE: internal and external. Internal relevance is applied through segmentation; External relevance is applied across segments. Consider any of these options to add RELEVANCE to the conversation going on in the minds of your constituents.
Personal interests Demographics
Level of engagement
The Conversion Rate for your landing page is the total number of goal completions divided by the total unique visits. On average, 2.7% of the people that come to a nonprofit website will give a gift.
Optimizing Landing Page for More Conversions
The psychology of giving a gift online is the complete opposite of the psychology of ordering a product online. When you buy something online, the benefit comes later, when you receive it in the mail. When you give online, the benefit already came: you’ve been blessed, you’ve been inspired, and you’ve been motivated. Make it as simple as possible to give online. To optimize your landing page, focus on:
• The OFFER – The Ask is the impact promised in exchange for a gift.
• The INCENTIVE – Introduce an appealing element to motivate the gift.
• Eliminating FRICTION – Minimize anything that causes psychological resistance including numerous hoops to jump through (registering, logging in, too many clicks, landing pages that don’t look like the initial message, etc.) before arriving at the giving page.
The Psychology of Optimization
To further understand optimization, it’s important to understand that it’s not something that happens on the page. In fact, it happens in the mind. Whenever we send a message, regardless of channel, we are entering into a mental conversation with people. In the case of email, that mental conversation begins when we capture the person’s email address. It carries forward through the “From” line, the “To” line and the “Subject” line, all of which inspires them—hopefully—to open the message. The conversation continues through the message body, which inspires the click, and that carries all the way to the landing page that inspires the individual to act. If we think about it this way, we don’t need to optimize our email campaign; instead we need to consider how to optimize thought sequences.
Best Practices Are Not Enough—You Need A Rigorous Methodology
If I were to show you three different emails—all designed by top notch agencies—how would you determine which one is “optimized”? Would you look at the amount of white space? The use of colors and images? Would you evaluate the copy, the messaging, the call-to-action? How do we really know when something is optimized? The reality is, we don’t. While we all pride ourselves as wonderful marketers and cunning fundraisers, the key to success is humility. We need to come to terms with the fact that while best practices may be helpful, they are not enough. And though we like to trust our marketing intuition, we find often that testing trumps marketing intuition. So, if the key to optimization is testing, how and what should we test? That’s where you need a rigorous methodology—a methodology that has been developed through years of scientific testing. MECLABS conducts rigorous experiments in the new science of optimization. Here’s a snapshot of their Optimization Methodology, which we’ll refer to throughout this series:
eme = rv(of + i) – (f + a)©
eme = email marketing effectiveness index
rv = relevance to the constituent
of = offer value
i = incentive to take action
f = friction elements of the process
a = anxiety elements of the process
It reads in plain English like this: Email Marketing Effectiveness equals Relevance times Offer plus Incentive minus Friction, minus Anxiety.
Start by Identifying Value Factors and Inhibitors
To begin to apply this formula to the mental conversation you’re having with your constituents, start by identifying the Value Factors in this formula, which are RELEVANCE, OFFER and INCENTIVE. You’ll also want to consider the Inhibitors, or the FRICTION and ANXIETY your constituents experience when they go through the mental process of moving to a decision point. MECLABS describes this process as an inverted funnel — your donors are not falling in, they are falling out. What we need to do is help them through the series of micro decisions that lead them to the macro decision. To accomplish this, the marketer must increase the Value Factors as much as possible and to mitigate the Inhibitors as much as possible.
Small Changes Can Make a Dramatic Impact
There are four aspects of the Email Messaging Sequence—or the touch points where the mental conversations take place—Email Capture, Open, Click-through and Landing Page. This is how MECLABS states the formula:
ec < op < ct < lp ©
ec = email capture
op = open
ct = clickthrough
lp = landing page
In our next entry, we’ll walk through each aspect in the sequence one at a time.
“Clarity trumps persuasion.” That’s what my friend and mentor Dr. Flint McGlaughlin says is the key to successful marketing communications. He would know; Dr. McGlaughlin heads up MECLABS, a market research company that works with Fortune 100 companies to optimize their sales funnel. Through their 10 years of research spanning1,300 plus experiments, including more than 1 billion emails and 10,000 landing pages , MECLABS has developed a rigorous methodology that has been proven to optimize email campaigns.
But how might this methodology work in the nonprofit world? That’s been the focus of my research over the past three years. This whitepaper will introduce the new science of optimization and provide you with practical ways that you can apply rigorous testing to your email campaigns.
What IS Optimization?
Optimization is defined as:
• To make effective, perfect, or as useful as possible;
• To make the best of something;
• To be optimistic,
• To constantly push forward.
Peter Drucker once said it this way: “Adequacy is the Enemy of Excellence.” As it relates to email marketing, your website or even direct mail, what you did last year…or even last month…could be communicating the wrong message, wearing your donors out or, worst case scenario, convincing them to ignore you. But where do you begin to optimize your donor communications and move them from adequate to excellent?
Start with the End in Mind
Oftentimes we are so excited to test out a creative idea that we fail to think through what we were trying to accomplish in the first place. We end up sending mixed messages, like the direct mail package that says, “A nickel could save a child’s life.” So, by mailing a nickel, what did we just do? Is that what we want to communicate to our donors? No, but if we neglect our strategy, we will regularly fail to execute on our goals. Instead, we say things we don’t mean and mean things we don’t say. Yet hopefully, through such failures, we learn what not to do and can optimize our efforts for next time. Later in this series we will cover the psychology of optimization and some practical formulas and tips to start optimizing immediately.
In case you missed part one of this case study, you can see it here. This was recently featured in Fundraising Success Magazine.
Kachuriak says there are two key takeaways that were unearthed from this partnership:
- Testing trumps marketing intuition. ”One of the things I’m constantly surprised at … is that when we test things, we find out that best practices aren’t best practices at all. That’s what’s exciting — to redefine those things by seeing how people interact with our communications,” he says. “That’s really what’s so fun about the online side of things. WE have so much data, so many different attributes that we can test and we can learn not from focus groups or a survey but by watching how people interact directly with the conversion path that we’ve put before them.”
- Humility is the key to marketing success. ”If I think that I have all the answers, then that’s usually when I find out that I’m dead wrong,” Kachuriak says. “We try to empower clients to think like that as well. It’s when we’re partners and not a vendor and a nonprofit where we can both have the most success.”