Josh Ledgard

The Secret to Running a Great Social Contest

For a long time I thought running an online contest was something I’d never be able to manage. How do you promote it? How do you get people to share it? How do you pick the winner? Then we started seeing people use KickoffLabs for contests and working through these issues.

We’ve learned a lot partnering with these customers and wanted to share some of their secrets.

Leverage your existing audience

It’s a great chance to get them engaged by sending them a link to the contest and encouraging them to enter and share.  Publizice it in your newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, or even to your Google + account… hey someone has to post something there right?

Partner up

You’ll get a lot more out of a cross promotion with a related service.  This way you also get to extend your reach to a new audience. It could be as simple as you both agreeing on a similar level of prizes.

Optimize for Sharing

Include remarkable pre-filled copy in the social share boxes so that as part of the entry, people share your message and link back to your contest page. It helps to write in a natural, conversational tone.

Offer an amazing prize that is relevant to your audience

 Time and time again we’ve seen contests giving away something like an iPad or something. Sure that’s great and all, but does it provide real value to your audience? We think not. Spend time thinking about your users personas. What would motivate them to do business with you? Remember this: the higher quality the prize (not necessarily in $); the higher quality your leads will be.

Okay, we’ll say it flat out… you need to bribe people in order to get their email addresses. Maximize sign-up rate and extend your reach by offering a great incentive (that can be early access to a beta, an e-book, an infographic, etc.).

Have a reward for sharing

For choosing the winner, a random drawing is probably the least biased way, though you can always encourage sharing by offering a prize to the person with the most signup referrals. The goal here really is to leverage your current subscribers social network and reward the influencers.

Don’t let people feel left out

When the contest is finalized, email your entire entry list to notify about the winners. So your subscribers don’t feel left out, you can include a promotional offer. You already have one of the most valuable assets a marketer or startup can have; their email address. Some people may take you up on the offer, but many will not… yet. It’s up to you to keep them engaged until they’re ready to make a purchase.

Want to learn more about how to bribe your audience? Read our past blog post here.

Do you have any great tips to share? Just reply and let us know.

BTW - We just released a great new contest theme called “Three Step”. You can learn more about it here.

Get More Leads With These Three New Landing Page Templates

We’ve recently released 3 new themes, hand crafted by our design team and designed improve your conversion rates. Can’t wait to try them out for your campaign? Build your landing page now.

Let’s have a look at each to see how they can help get you more customers.

Grow your audience with a “Three Step” social contest.

First up, we have Three Step… a new contest theme built using customer feedback we’ve received from successful campaigns. Customers follow your social channels, enter their email address, and then are prompted to share the contest. For example: A valid entry, your users would need to:

1) “Like” your company Facebook Page (or other social channels).

2) Add a valid email address.

3) Share the contest via social networks.

Three Step Contest Theme

This great new theme will allow you to get a contest up and running in no time. Simply change the background image, upload your logo, enter some compelling copy and choose from unlimited color combinations. Three Step is optimized to help make your contests go viral. See a live preview here.

Here’s some additional tips to make sure you get the most from your contests (or any other campaign).

  • include remarkable pre-filled copy in the social share boxes so that as part of the entry, people share your message and link back to your contest page. It helps to write in a natural, conversational tone.

  • Offer an amazing prize that is relevant to your audience. Time and time again we’ve seen contests giving away something like an iPad or something. Sure that’s great and all, but does it provide real value to your audience? We think not. Spend time thinking about your users personas. What would motivate them to do business with you? Remember this: the higher quality the prize (not necessarily in $); the higher quality your leads will be.

  • Okay, we’ll say it flat out… you need to bribe people in order to get their email addresses. Maximize sign-up rate and extend your reach by offering a great incentive (that can be early access to a beta, an e-book, an infographic, etc.).

  • For choosing the winner, a random drawing is probably the least biased way, though you can always encourage sharing by offering a prize to the person with the most signup referrals. The goal here really is to leverage your current subscribers social network and reward the influencers.

  • When the contest is finalized, email your entire entry list to notify about the winners. So your subscribers don’t feel left out, you can include a promotional offer. You already have one of the most valuable assets a marketer or startup can have; their email address. Some people may take you up on the offer, but many will not… yet. It’s up to you to keep them engaged until they’re ready to make a purchase.

Want to learn more about how to bribe your audience? Read our past blog post here.

 Even if you weren’t thinking about running a contest any time soon. We highly recommend that you look into it as contests convert very well, and are a low-cost solution to growing and engaging your audience.

Two Minimalist Themes For Events, Newsletter Sign-ups, or Launches

Our next 2 themes were created to help you start cultivating subscribers right away and build immediate hype for your company with ease. These two bold new designs avoid conversion-killing clutter and focus on getting more signups. Suave Theme

Suave is a simplified form with a clear call-to-action hovering over an elegant background image. See a live preview here.

So Neat Theme So Neat is a streamlined boxed form with a customizable background image. See a live preview here.

Like all KickofflLabs landing page templates, these 3 new themes are fully customizable and include our exclusive Viral Boost feature, to help generate more signups and reward influencers; support for custom forms, so you can get more detailed information about your sign-ups; look great online and on mobile devices; and so much more

If these themes aren’t exactly what you’re looking for, we have another 20+ templates that you can choose from; optimized for Launching, Lead Generation, Contests & Sales Pages. Check them out here.  

 What do you think about our new landing pages? What other new template designs would you like to see built? Go ahead and leave your comments below!

PS: For more in-depth tips, you really should check out our Landing Pages 107 email series, where we cover how to create landing pages that vastly improve sales.

Use Customer Data as Merge Tags in KickoffLabs Email Marketing

You’re asking customers for their name, email address, and favorite color. You want to use that information to personalize your email responders and newsletters sent with KickoffLabs. We’ve now make this much simpler.

Below our email editors you’ll see a list of replacement tokens you can leverage based on the information you are collecting.

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We also give you some helpful tokens that are available for every customer…

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These tokens can be used in email auto responders, our influencer email, and newsletters that are sent through KickoffLabs.

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Of course we’ll also keep sending this information to any 3rd party email providers you use like MailChimp or Aweber if you’d prefer to leverage their email service instead.

Bribe Your Audience With Digital Downloads for Opt-Ins

Most opt-in pages and forms lack an incentive for someone to sign up. It’s crazy. Don’t expect people to just hand you email addresses without getting something in return.

At KickoffLabs we know that having great incentives will dramatically boost your conversion rates. That’s why we’ve made it much simpler to give away a digital download as a bribe in return for a customers email address.

There are now two great ways to do this.

1. In the automatic response email.

digital_asset_in_email

Every paid plan at KickoffLabs comes with automatic emails you can edit when someone signs up. We’ve now made it possible to upload file attachments to that email. Just click the file attachment icon and upload your digital asset.

This way anyone who signs up on your landing page, through our widgets, or our API will receive the file via email.

2. In the on-page thank you message.

digital_asset_in_page_thanks
Lets say you just want to deliver instant gratification on your landing pages so your customer doesn’t have to wait for the email to reach their inbox. You can also insert the download directly into the thank you message that can be configured in the landing page editor.

Bonus: Viral Boost Rewards
What about a special reward for someone who gives you a Viral Boost by referring a friend?
Did you know we can also send an “Influener Email” as a reward to anyone that successfully refers a friend? Just click over to edit your “Influencer Email” and add a special reward just for them using the same steps.

digital_asset_upload_box

Split Test Ads with Amazing Landing Pages For the Win

Great ads and amazing landing pages will make your paid media campaign a success. Anyone can do it. All you need is the discipline to run split tests on your ads and follow some best practices for creating landing pages.

We partnered with LaunchBit to deliver a webinar that teaches you exactly those two skills.

Watch the video

Check out the slides

Read our brief recap

Better Ads Will Lower Your Cost
It makes sense when you realize that companies like Google make money only when someone clicks on your ads. You may bid less than a competitor, but if you get more clicks, you’re ad will get shown more to better placements. This means it literally pays to improve your ads!

Document Your Tests
For about a year we didn’t document any of our split test results. Not on ads or landing pages. What this meant is that we were constantly repeating tests. New people, helping us out, would try things we’d already tested. We wasted time and money because of this.

Testing without learning won’t help. You need to keep documentation on all of your tests that is accessible to anyone that’s brought on to help with your ads and landing pages.

Don’t test bad landing pages
It’s time consuming and expensive to A/B test landing pages because of their complexity. before you test the landing page make sure you’ve covered the basics…

  • Does your landing page match the ad? Does the visitor see the relationship between the ad and the landing page?
  • Are you speaking to your target customer or about yourself? The best landing pages target the specific customer and speak to their problems BEFORE pushing your solution.
  • Does the page length match the cost? Shorter pages are best for small purchases or simple email/lead captures. Longer pages are best for pushing a large purchase.
  • Does the page explain what’s unique about you?
  • Is the landing page memorable, does it teach people something?
  • Is there an incentive to take action today?
  • Can you see the call to action from 10 feet away?
  • Do you have social proof that demonstrates success?
  • If you are selling something do you offer a secondary conversion to collect email and build your audience?
  • Do you leverage a Viral Boost that encourages people who’ve just signed up to socially share your landing page? Does that sharing have an incentive?

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Was this valuable? Should we do more of these types of presentations?

Thanks!

Josh

Check to Agree – Required Checkboxes on KickoffLabs Landing Pages

We shipped an update that allows checkbox fields to be required before a form is submitted on a KickoffLabs landing page.

From the KickoffLabs landing page designer click the “Form” tab, add a checkbox, and choose to make it required.

required_check_settings

With this checked the visitor won’t be able to submit the form without checking the box. Our customers have been using this to:

  • Confirm someones age (over 13, 21, etc) before they are signed up to a mailing list.
  • Get an on page opt in that ensures people know they are signing up to receive a newsletter. Typically this would be done in place of (or with) a double opt in confirmed through email.

It’s one of many, small, but powerful changes we’ve got lined up for KickoffLabs.

Let us know what else you’d like to see our forms support!

Improved Tracking for Your Viral Boost

We’ve improved our Viral Boost feature with better tracking.

Background: The Viral Boost is the set of signups you generate because someone signed up and clicked to share your landing page. We’re able to credit those signups to the person who first shared the link.

viral_boost_cookie

What’s better now?
What if someone clicked on one of these shared links, didn’t sign up right away, and came back later without the the tracking code in the link? Well… now we’re still going to credit the first person that shared the link.

This means that more people will get credit for sharing links even if the person that clicked on them decided to come back later and sign up.

This improves your ability to determine who’s truly influencing your conversion rates and knowing who’s influential is critical to building personal relationships with the right people!

Magical Customer Insights… Delivered Daily

You probably ask for an email address when you run a lead generation campaign. Imagine if you collected 50 email addresses and received a summary mail that magically added age, sex, location, social profiles, a biography, current job title, and a picture. Would that information by helpful?

Of course it would.

We just shipped that feature!

Now, when you receive a daily or weekly summary email it will include all the magic data we can find about that person.

status mail image

This data could be invaluable to your business.  With it you could:

  • Improve landing page copy to better target your customers and improve your conversion rate.
  • Customize your automatic reply email so it speaks more directly to the people signing up.
  • Improve your product based on this new customer data.
  • Share what you’ve learned with other people… you can have this mail automatically delivered to them.

Did you also know that last week we enabled you to have both instant lead notifications and daily/weekly lead summaries.  

Email Marketing: Why it’s Important — and How KickoffLabs Makes it Easy

Selling your online business is a lot like dating: you make your site look as pretty as possible, you say friendly things to get your “date” (i.e., the customer) to like you, you expend all this effort to keep them interested (i.e., buying your product). It is exhausting!

And important. Business relationships require just as much nurturing as their romantic counterparts, and follow-up is equally important — and woefully neglected — in both.

Not to worry! Email can fix that in a jiffy.

What is Email Follow-Up?

We wrote a whole tutorial about email marketing here, but all you really know is that consistent communication between you and your customers converts potential leads to loyal customers.

Email marketing is the easiest way to do it – and we’ve got the tools to make it as easy and painless for you as possible:

  • Newsletters – alert your customers to special promotions, or just check in on them (or say hi to new ones) by sending out newsletters tailored to different segments of your customer base. You don’t have to send it to everyone all at once; you can tailor it to your biggest spenders, inviting them to take first crack at new stock. Or even the folks who’ve given you a viral boost, which we talk about here. Build a central list on MailChimp, AWeber, or Zapier and we can easily integrate that into our system.

  • Autoresponders – Thank someone for signing up for your business or service INSTANTLY with one of our automatic emails. You can customize it to your heart’s content… and use them to reach your customer base in lots of other ways, too (like sharing your site with a friend, which we talk about below!)
  • Influencer Emails –Automatically drive word of mouth by using our influencer emails. Our analytical tools will help you recognize when customers share your content, and encourage them to keep sharing by sending them a “thank you” email the moment they do.

You can do all this on your own. We know you can. But, you’ll have to juggle multiple tools in multiple places with multiple accounts. And write a ton of emails. And schedule them. And worry about keeping your message consistent to all of those different segments of your customer base. Total headache!

That’s a hassle. We make it easy. We put all that information in one place, along with the tools to manage it. And then we automate everything for you (because we love you).  We do all the hard work you don’t want to do, saving you time and effort AND making you look like a prince in your potential customers’ eyes. Score!  Check us out.

Why is this important?

Every single one of these interactions shows your interest in your potential customer. Reaching out consistently, with polite, personalized communication that’s specific to their interaction with your site, builds trust. That trust builds a relationship, which in turn builds business.

Make the most out of those interactions. They are impressions. Do not give your leads any reason at all to drift away from your message. Check in often. Be friendly and personable. Customize your response.

See how friendly that is? Why wouldn’t your customer want to share your stuff others if you’re that friendly?

Key Takeaways

In a sea of cold, unfeeling internet businesses, you stand out like a knight on a white horse by giving a personalized response. From a real email address. You stand out by being different – and that makes you look exceptional.

Let us help you become your customers’ prince charming. There’s enough frogs out there already.

 

Lessons Learned: The Seven Marketing Secrets that Grew MRR 73% in 2013

growing_kickofflabs

As we move into 2014 at KickoffLabs, we’ve decided to give you the inside scoop on the tests, pricing and marketing experiments we’ve used in 2013 to grow MRR by 73%. We’ll walk you step-by-step through every failure and success we had, and share the lessons we learned in order to help you succeed, too. Ready? Here we go!

 1. Should you charge up front or let people have a free trial?

In January 2013, we ran an experiment with trial accounts and decided to offer access to our premium accounts for the first time without committing any money. We still asked our customers to enter credit card information, but we didn’t charge them unless they chose to keep the service at the end of the monthly trial period. In 2012 we had asked people to pay as soon as they entered a credit card.

 Assumption: We thought more people would upgrade because they didn’t have to pay on the spot. They would be able to use the product for the next month and get familiar enough with it to want to continue with it.

We did get a slightly higher number of trials and signups, the percentage of customers we ended up billing actually declined. Previously, about 86% of customers who signed up for the service would make it past the first month to become a paying customer. After this experiment, that number dropped to 55% because of the people that dropped out during the trial without having paid anything.

It turns out that people that paid something up front were more invested. We could see they created and published more pages without giving up as easily. They also ended up sticking around longer past the refund period to become long term customers.

Bottom Line:  The slight positive that produced more trial signups was negated by the drop off in customer success and ultimately our ability to bill and retain them.

 

2. Should you offer a free account or go paid only?

Since launch, we’ve offered a free version of our product. The free account is limited to a small number of themes with KickoffLabs-branded URLs and pages, and our Free subscribers were able to test our services without entering credit card information.

We decided to remove free accounts on July 27, 2013 because we wanted to focus on paying customers.

Assumption: We thought we’d encourage more serious leads to convert to premium accounts by removing access to the free ones.

Immediately after we removed those accounts, our number of weekly signups decreased by 80%! Not our best move. But, what we found even more disconcerting was that our number of weekly conversions stayed flat. We didn’t increase conversions at all — and we lost the opportunity to gather more people to market future upgrades to.

Here’s that lesson in numbers: while we added 600 people to our mailing lists in July, we only added 350 in August after removing free accounts. We lost about 250 people in 2 months simply by removing the free accounts.

Those 250 people were ones we could have reached out to in other ways — through our regular updates, or Landing Pages 107. Thankfully, we were able to recoup those numbers because of this widget to capture email addresses.

KoLSS3--ECU

We lost valuable impressions by shunning the free accounts. Lesson learned.

Bottom Line: Even though we expected a decrease in signups, that decrease was much greater than we anticipated. Also, it’s ok to change your mind (we did). We brought back free accounts – and you can sign up for one by clicking here.

 

3. Does having branding on free accounts work?

For November, we gave free accounts the ability to customize their landing page domain. It would still have KickoffLabs branding, but at least they’d be able to choose their own URL. It was more freedom than they’d had before, and — again — we thought it’d convert more accounts to upgraded services.

Assumption: We thought more people would leverage the free accounts because we knew that access to custom domains was a big upgrade driver. This would lead to more upgrades, and drive more business to our site since all the pages still had KickoffLabs branding.

Again, not the result we expected. We saw upgrade rates drop 50% and it became clear that custom domains were something that pushed people to get serious and upgrade.

Another problem is that the people taking advantage of this didn’t succeed as well as paying customers did. While 75 domains were added, only 20 of them were published — and of those 20, most received little web traffic. Because they got it for free, they didn’t put work into marketing it..

This meant we didn’t get the expected boost from having our branding on truly free accounts. We went back to having free accounts simply be a way for people to get comfortable with our platform before deciding to commit money.  Since then we still get a similar number of upgrades from our branding campaigns.

Bottom Line: Free is great, but the customer who pays (even a dollar) is in a totally different group than the one who’s never paid for anything. Make sure you get the value out of your branding campaign before you cannibalize your primary upgrade drivers.

 

4. Should you increase your prices?

When we first launched our service 3 years ago, we had a different feel and focus to our product, and set our prices accordingly. We charged 15/25/49, respectively, for our Starter/Premium/Business plans and thought it was great. But as we spent the next year collecting feedback, tweaking designs, adding features, and making the software more user-friendly, we realized we were doing a heck of a lot more than we anticipated. We thought we should charge more for our services.

So we did!

The First Price Increase

On May 5, 2012 we raised our prices… the first time. We went from 15/25/49 for our Standard/Premium/Business services to 19/29/99, respectively, for new customers. We made sure to grandfather the old rates for existing customers (because we’re not jerks), and waited to see what happened.

Assumption: We thought that increasing our prices would increase revenue but  decrease our conversion rate.

Our conversion rates didn’t really fall! And our overall revenue increased almost immediately! We thought the higher rates would deter new customers from signing up, but the data proved us wrong on that one. Our cancellation rate even stayed the same.

But before you run off to double your prices, read what happened the second time…

The Second Price Increase

We spent the next 4 months further developing our product. We hired developers and designers to add some really beautiful themes. We felt we’d greatly increased the product’s value, so we raised our prices again and waited for another happy result.

Assumption: Same as the last price increase — increased revenue without a big hit to conversation or cancellation rates.

Surprise! Our conversion rates took a hit this time. They dropped nearly 35% and stayed there. The drop in conversion rates taught us what our customers were willing to pay. We froze our rates and moved onto other experiments.

Bottom line: Pricing can be easily tested and changed. Don’t be afraid to try something new! It can make a significant impact on your bottom line — just remember there will be trade-offs between growing user base and revenues/profitability. There are limits to what people will pay.

 

5. Are freemium users more likely to upgrade if you give them more before they pay?

Since we launched we’ve been adding new themes/page templates to KickoffLabs. Now we have themes for launching new businesses/campaigns, lead generation, contests, sales and more. Our Premium members have access to all of them, while Free and Starter accounts only have access to a handful of them.

Then we had a thought. “What if,” we wondered out loud, in our offices, “we gave everyone access to all of our themes? Can we convert any of the lower paying customers into higher paying ones by offering them temporary premium content?” The walls didn’t have answers for us, so between October and November 2012 we tested our idea. We gave away all of our themes for free. ALL of them. Free and Starter plan users had access to the same templates as Premium users and we crossed our fingers that they’d upgrade.

Assumption: We assumed Free and Starter plan users would be more willing to upgrade once they’d been given access to more themes.

Nope. We didn’t see a significant impact on sales or cancellations for either of those months, so we reverted back to our original plan.

Bottom line: Experiment! Even though we didn’t initially see much change, the act of giving aspects of our product away kept us thinking about how we could better serve our customers.

 

6. Do email email lifecycle campaigns work?

On December 15, 2012, we launched Landing Pages 107. The idea behind this course was to demonstrate our expertise and build trust with new customers while providing high quality content for conversion focussed entrepreneurs and marketing professionals. Anyone who signed up received emails every 3 days over a 30-day period filled with bite-sized, actionable chunks of content.

We knew it would attract users who wanted to learn more about landing pages before creating a KickoffLabs account, and we included it as a bonus for everyone who did. We hoped it would encourage new customers to opt in to our services — and it gave us 30 days to build a relationship with them that would hopefully allow them to trust us.

Assumption: We created this site, and all of its accompanying material, with the assumption that it would increase conversions by building trust and demonstrating our expertise.

It worked! Significantly! Over the next few months, we saw more and more new customers tagged with the campaign name “LP107” and our conversion rates nearly doubled before starting to plateau. We’re seeing about 10% of our paying users coming from this campaign now, and we consider that to be a success.

Bottom Line: Focus on building trust. Once you’ve earned a customer’s trust, sales will follow.

7. Does improving the first 5 minutes of your product improve the upgrade rate?

We keep a really close eye on various tracking measures, and we know where drop offs in user activity occur. We’re big on tracking our users’ first five minutes. While we noticed that the majority of users who signed up were able to pick a theme they liked and create a site, the drop off usually occurred when it was time to publish their page.

We asked our customers why, and the response we got more than any other was lack of  customization. They had difficulty making the page look the way they wanted and work the way they wanted, so they never published it.

Made sense. So we fixed it.

In October, before the update, 20% of customers that signed up ended up publishing a landing page. At the end of October, we launched a new editor to improve user experience. Previously, changes could only be made from the sidebar. Now? Users were could make changes directly on the page, among lots of other things we added in.

The result? Success! Over the next few weeks we saw a higher engagement rate. The overall percentage of pages published increase by from 20% to 27% and our upgrade rate increased a similar percentage.

Bottom Line: Use analytics to track where your users are dropping off to focus on areas of improvement.

 

Conclusion

If there’s one lesson we learned over and over at KickoffLabs, it’s test test test! We increased our pricing, made premium items free, and redesigned our page editing features — all because of testing. Testing our assumptions to find the best strategies for our customers is helping us grow in our success…. and it can do the same for you

Now it ‘s your turn! Tell us what lessons you’ve learned about your business over the past year. Have you had any surprises or successes that we didn’t touch on? Let us know in the comments below — and if you have any suggestions for us, we’re all ears!