Smarter Visitors Demand Smarter Marketing (Case Study)


Our target market is smart, and getting smarter. They’re informed, and we need to design for that.

Sometimes an informed target market is awesome, like when a prospective client on chat knows exactly what she wants from your business and you’re totally able to do it. Or it can suck, like when you use a statistic from 2013 in an article and an outspoken reader informs you it was disproven a year later and you look like an idiot (thanks Jeff…).

The internet is a playground for digital marketers and a jungle for digital marketers marketing to digital marketers.

Not only are they shopping around more than they ever used to, but it’s getting a bit hot out there: they’re aware of our A/B tests; they’re clearing their caches because they know damn well we’re chasing them with a remarketing campaign; they’re reading reviews like never before (and leaving them) and evolving as fast as we are.

The buyer, and the buying cycle, is changing.

So be aware of it. Test with it in mind. And learn how to optimize for conversions by getting out of their way.

This article will tackle two split tests we ran on our homepage. The first looks into a boost we got from simplifying our headline, and the second examines a simplified layout test we did on our product display. I’ll also be getting into the why of it all to see if we can’t come away with something meaningful.

Let’s get rolling.

Simplifying our Headline Results in a 71.4% Conversion Improvement

We, like most of our competitors, have tested our homepage headline more times than our startup has pissed off the law firm next door (a lot).

As we’re not really a business for large images of smiling men looking at a value proposition, our headline is the focus point of our above-the-fold.

And the most influential change on that headline (at least from the past six months) is the one below—a test in which we moved from “Simple Tools for Epic Marketing Campaigns” to “Simple Marketing Software.”

Small change. 71.4% conversion improvement.

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Why This Worked:

  • Our target market can smell a “sell” from a mile away. They know as well as we do that “Epic Marketing Campaigns” is a sale.
  • Our business’ focus is simplicity. We have been trying hard to make things possible for SMBs that were previously only possible for massive organizations with massive budgets. Simple is the key word in our USP; and everything else draws away from that focus.
  • A solid subhead is a big deal (and believe me, we test that as much as we do the copy above it). Because our subhead is comprehensive, detailing everything we offer, I think it’s safe to say making a simple headline is a good call.

Decreasing Page Length and Simplifying Images Boosts Conversion by 15%

The second test, which I classify as “getting out of our own way,” is, again, on our homepage. We invested a significant amount of a talented designer’s time creating eight colorful and eye-catching images for each of our tools. These had won a previous A/B test but only minimally.

We decided to test simpler images, more options to convert, and shorter text.

Here’s our control and variation side by side:

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Why This Worked:

  • First and foremost I think this was a page-length test. Removal of the full-width images and paragraph descriptions decreased page-length by about 40%. This resulted in a page that got to the point far more quickly (something which our smart marketer target audience responded to).
  • Product titles: The paragraph format of our control read “generate more leads on your website with popup forms,” whereas our variation read “Website Popups.” We got out of our own way, reduced the amount we were asking our traffic to read, and boosted conversions.
  • The second element of this test is the addition of contrasting CTA buttons below each product, trafficking to an individual product landing page. While I have waxed eloquent and often about the need for a single “Ask” on landing pages, offering visitors multiple chances to convert based on multiple draws (one of our tools, rather than another, for instance) can be a good call.

The Psychology Behind Getting Out of Your Own Way

Let’s say, for the sake of a simplified argument, that there are two types of traffic to your site: those who know exactly what they’re looking for and those who don’t.

The way you optimize is largely based on which of those two customer types you’re targeting. Our business found success when we simplified the description of our tools (went from “Run contests & promotions on Facebook, Twitter, websites and mobile” to simply “Social Promotions”).

We recognized that our customer type is the “know what they’re looking for” type, so we got out of their way.

Essentially, we went from telling them all about the cool things they could do with our business, and simply told them “yep, we have that.

But you say, “okay James, I understand “getting out of the way” of traffic who knows what they’re looking for, but what about that other type, the type who needs their hand held?”

Why do you think they need handholding?

No, seriously. That’s what content is for.

Think about it this way:

Even if your prospective customers don’t know exactly what they’re looking for, they’re not going to your product page to find out.

They’re downloading your ebooks. They’re listening to your podcasts or webinars, subscribing to your blog list, talking to friends or colleagues, checking out industry reports. They’re researching.

So when they come to your homepage they’re not looking for a sales pitch. They’re looking for things they’ve read about. They’re looking for keywords they recognize and capabilities they’ve heard they need.

Design simply and deliver value and education in content.

The Changing Way We Adopt Technology:

There’s a temptation to design for “those who don’t know what they’re looking for” like they’re “laggards” using IE and running Microsoft 98.

But the laggard of 2005 is not the laggard of a decade later. They’re an informed laggard, at the very least. And not only is the early majority demographic becoming larger, but late majority and laggards are disappearing fast.

Here’s my updated look at the Innovation Adoption Curve (based solely on conversations I’ve had, responses from leads and customers, and optimization tests we’ve done):

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How this Influences Design:

  • Growth in the early adopter and early majority demographics means our websites must cater to an informed target market more than an uninformed one. This means communicating a USP quickly and differentiating ourselves from competitors obviously.
  • The decreasing number of laggards means that we can put more resources toward product development and differentiation and pull back on explaining ourselves.
  • The overall changes (which are continuing) mean that an optimization test we ran even six months ago should be run again today. We need to prove that what worked for us still works.
  • Terminology can change. We don’t have to over-simplify the language we use in an effort to make our grandmothers understand UX. It’s 2015—my grandmother Skyped me this past weekend by hotspotting from my granddad’s 4G.

In Conclusion

Optimize for the market you have today, not the one you want or the one you had when you started. We’re not satisfied with 1.41%, and are trying everything we can to better communicate the value we have to an audience who knows how to use it.

Do you agree with the changing lines of my “Innovation Adoption” graph? Do you think the results of our tests were caused by something else? Get the conversation started in the comment section below.


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