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10 Online Marketing Lessons From 2014 That Will Drive Sales in 2015 and Beyond

By Josh Ledgard

In 2014 we, at KickoffLabs, witnessed 2.5 million conversion on our hosted landing pages and improved our own lead generation by 30%.  It’s time to reveal what all of these conversion have taught us about landing pages and online marketing so you can have an even more successful 2015.

Here are the big lessons learned in 2014… For more in-depth information about these topics, be sure to click through to the related linked articles.


 Lesson #1: Marketing Automation Works

Marketing Automation Works

We are firm believers in the power of marketing automation, so much that we conducted a webinar with guest host Rob Walling of Drip (creators of lightweight marketing automation that doesn’t suck).

Truth be told, we started putting our marketing automation into place before 2014 with analytics tool KISSmetrics, but we really tried to improve and drive it home over the last year

How We Do It:

  1. We have a course called “Landing Pages 107” that sends out a series of 10 emails on how to improve your landing pages and conversion rates.

lp107-automation

These are timed emails sent automatically on a daily basis. Throughout the emails, we sprinkle in advertisements about how to use KickoffLabs.

  1. We also use marketing automation for the new customer lifecycle. Where if you sign up for a KickoffLabs account, you’ll get emails about taking the pertinent steps with targeted information.

action based segmentation

We do that by way of what’s called “segmentation”, where we show different content depending on where people are in the usage of the product (the customer lifecycle).

  1. We also display different content if you’re qualifying yourself as someone who’s a startup, a marketer for an existing company, or an agency that does marketing for others.

auto-segmentation

What We Achieved:

You can imagine knowing that information upfront helps us better target, send customers better content, and also improves our conversion rate.

When we started breaking down our audience and where people were in the product lifecycle… we saw an increase in paid upgraded accounts by 25%.

That’s a HUGE BOOST for any business looking to get there.

It takes a little bit of time to properly setup, but once you do it’s almost fire and forget. You just go ahead and try to improve the email subject lines, the content, the calls-to-action within the email.

Tools We Use:

KickoffLabs – To generate the landing page, opt in forms and for collecting leads for our email course.

Drip (GetDrip.com) – Schedule and send automated email messages based on customer segments.

Mailchimp – Sending segmented newsletters. Depending on the audience our leads are in…

Marketing automation has been a big boost to our business… and anybody can use it!


Lesson #2: Good A/B Testing is Hard

Good AB Testing is Hard

Everybody reads these case studies where people claim “my A/B test increased conversions by 50%, just by changing the button color to orange!”… the reality is it’s not that simple.

Most of the time, you don’t see improvements just by changing colors on the page… you see improvements by changing big things like your headline or hero image.

How We Do It:

  1. We wait for enough traffic for the test to be statistically relevant.

Check out tools like KISSmetrics’ A/B Significance Test, with this calculator, you can be confident that the changes you make will improve your conversions.

  1. We run the test long enough so we know there’s a true winner or it’s time to give up on the test. If there’s no improvement, we stick with the original version.

  2. We run lots of tests with enough traffic, waiting and hoping for improvements. If there is none we dump that experiment and test something else.

  3. We ask our team and even customers for A/B testing experiment suggestions.

What We Achieved:

Surveying our customers, we found that they were using different terminology to describe our product than what was on our homepage headline.

A/B testing our headlines gave us a 59.8% improvement in free signups over the previous.

optimizely winner

Towards the end of 2014, KickoffLabs launched our smart new A/B testing feature… and of course we were going to be the first to give it a whirl!

We wanted to improve the conversion rate of our webinar pages and achieved a stunning 116.45% lead capture boost.

ab testing winner

Tools We Use:

KickoffLabs – Opt In A/B Testing to determine a winner based on the number of signups.

Visual Website Optimizer & Optimizely – A/B Testing click-throughs to determine a winner based on the number of clicks on certain elements.

SurveyMonkey – Get A/B testing ideas and suggestions directly from your customers with a great survey.

Good A/B Testing is hard.


Lesson #3: Content Marketing Still Wins

Content Marketin Still Wins

It shouldn’t be news that content marketing is key for any online business. If anything, we doubled down on content in 2014 because it still works!

We mean all sorts of content marketing like webinars, blog posts, ebooks, etc… creating something that is useful for customers. After all, people need to be well educated to get the most out of our product.

How We Do It:

Find Content That Is ALREADY Working, Then Improve & Amplify It

This is an extremely easy win… we found the top content inside of Google Analytics and said “how can we get even more out of those 10 pieces of content?”.

google analytics blog posts

This is waaaay easier than generating a new top ten list of content.

For example, our “Ultimate Guide to Finding the Perfect Background Image for Your Landing Page”… had always been one of our top performing blog posts, but really wasn’t an in-depth one.

So we went ahead and spruced it up then republished it under the same URL. Now we drive traffic towards the new updated post, as well as link to the resource in our marketing automation emails.

Find New Content That Works and Turn It Up To Eleven

We looked at where we really wanted to focus our content and just started cranking out content and posts that were related to that.

Our product is about landing pages and opt in forms, so we’re going to focus the content there… like our “15 Landing Page Reviews: Real Conversion Advice on What Works and What Doesn’t

We found what works and really increased our organic Google traffic of people coming in for that kind of content.

What We Achieved:

We increased our traffic by 56% Year over Year, and as a result have increased our leads by roughly 60% Year over Year with our content marketing pulls.

Releasing and revitalizing content has driven more traffic to our marketing site, which in turn has generated sales.

Here’s a quick rundown of our best performing posts for 2014:

Free marketing content helps to educate and convert customers.


 Lesson #4: Content Creation and Re-Use

Content Creation and Reuse

We’re not a huge company, so don’t have a ton of resources – and our guess is that if you’re reading this, you fall into a similar category.

In mid-2014 we started running live webinars where topics run from landing page reviews, to specialized topics that help maximize your conversion rate.

What we like to do is take our webinar content, and keep reusing it.

How We Do It:

  1. We have a recap page, where people can come to view the recap of the previous webinar.

  2. Generally, we’ll produce a blog post out of each webinar as well. If it’s something that we really want to promote we’ll break apart the slides and do a companion blog post that goes more in-depth with links, tools, tips and tricks (like this in-depth post).

What We Achieved:

We do the prep for it once, but instead of only having the impact of people that attended the live event, our webinars will have an impact on our business throughout the next year.

The content will be getting new opt ins. Along with that, we’ll also get that SEO hit thanks to the blog post.

Tools We Use:

KickoffLabs – Generate all the web pages: Signup Pages, Viewing Pages, Recap Pages, etc.

Mailchimp – Send out targeted email reminders before each webinar.

Google Hangouts & YouTube – We use Google Hangouts to produce and record the webinar. And afterwards it’s automatically available for viewing on YouTube.

Sure, there are other products like Adobe Connect, Gotowebinar and others. But we like to keep things simple. What we like about this setup is that there our attendees don’t have to install additional software just to watch the webinar. They just show up and press play!

Chatroll – A live chat is nothing without an interactive chat box.

Don’t think about a webinar and worry that only a few people will attend.  We’re a known company in the SaaS marketing space, and even for us it was (and still is) difficult to draw a good sized crowd.

And that may be true, especially if you’re just getting started… or you pick a bad day… or for whatever reason there’s just not as many people attending.

That’s okay!

Producing “evergreen” content to reuse will open up more opportunities to collect leads throughout the year.

Think about how to reuse marketing content over and over again.


Lesson #5: Create Win-Win Learning Opportunities

Create Win Win Opportunities

With traditional advertising there’s typically a business loss because you spend a lot of money on it, and the customer also loses because you’re trying to interrupt their day with something they don’t want.

One of our goals with our marketing has been to create “Win-Win Learning Opportunities”.

It’s a chance to educate our customers, so they get a win… and then we get a win because the content is branded, we generated a new lead, they shared the content, etc.

It’s a simple opportunity where everybody can win.

How We Do It:

In the last year we started running webinars, where every other week is for reviewing landing pages live.

We typically get around 20-30 landing page submissions per week. So when it’s webinar time, we’ll pick the best ones from the list and review them.

first landing page reviews webinar

The landing page is kept up as an “evergreen” page. So instead of just doing reviews on an irregular basis, we are always collecting landing pages for review.

What We Achieved:

  1. This creates a win for us because our product is about landing pages.

  2. It’s a great way for us (as business owners) to see what’s going on in the landscape in general, without spending an over-amount of time spying on the competition.

  3. Through these reviews we get to see trends, what people are looking for in landing page builders, questions people have… just a ton of valuable information.

So we are getting that market education and the customers are getting free value in the form of a free landing page review.

It’s been BIG for us, and every time we do one of these webinars we always see our signups and upgrades spike.

Tools We Use:

KickoffLabs – Quickly set up a landing page with an opt in form to collect attendees information.

Interact and engage with your customers to create win-win learning opportunities.


Lesson #6: Content Amplification Became Pay-to-Play

Content Amplification Became Pay To Play

It used to be that you had a Facebook Business Page and if you posted a good piece of content, would get equal opportunity viewing time.

But in 2014, Facebook after going public (along with their news feed algorithm change) said “pay us if you’re a business and you want people to see your content”.

And that’s very true, we saw our organic Facebook reach decline significantly. But as soon as we started paying for that amplification in Facebook we started seeing those returns again.

How We Do It:

The way we’ve played in that space that’s worked well for us and for our customers is to use “retargeting” ads.

Rather than targeting random people with normal Facebook ads – which we haven’t had as much success with. We decided just to advertise our content only to people that have visited our website.

So anyone that had visited our website once – whether or not they had signed up for an account –  we’ll start displaying targeted ads that push back to our free educational content.

What We Achieved:

It’s relatively cheap to do this kind of retargeting, and allows people to opt in from our content while becoming a great source of leads.

We did find that people don’t necessarily take well to direct ads where they say “hey, come sign up for an account now”  – or maybe we’re just not the best at creating these…

perfect audience campaigns

It seems to work much better to get people’s foot in the door saying “here’s some useful information for you… by the way, we have a product that makes this really simple.”

Tools We Use:

PerfectAudience – The perfect tool to manage our Web, Facebook and Twitter retargeting ads.

Bonus Tip:

It’s worth mentioning that retargeting ads work really well for our customers landing pages.

If you set up a campaign or contest landing page, people might not sign up right away. Even if you’re getting a 20% conversion rate, that’s 80% of people who didn’t sign up!

You can win them back by saying: “hey, it looks like you were interested but didn’t sign up yet. Here’s this free educational content you’ll get if you sign up now” or “you might now be interested in signing up”.

As with any good channel, there’s a time when things are free and you get big wins. But then everybody starts taking a cut.


Lesson #7: Lead Capture is Constantly Changing

Lead Capture is Constantly Changing

We’re constantly improving the way we do lead capture, trying to pull people in with that automated content we mentioned earlier.

How We Do It:

We power an exit intent widget on our website where it pops down and says “hey, sign up free for the Landing Pages 107 email course”.

This is sort of like retargeting, where it seemed people are interested in our product but aren’t ready to sign up now. So before they bounce the site we offer them useful content.

What We Achieved:

Compared to doing just an opt in box that popped up from the bottom, we got a 30% relative incremental improvement over our previous lead capture.

Naturally we’ll be testing and optimizing this more throughout the year.

Tools We Use:

KickoffLabs – Using our beta exit intent widget to intelligently collect leads before they exit our website.

We’ve gotten a lot requests for this functionality, and we’ll have one that anybody can use on their landing pages and website shortly.


Lesson #8: Niche Community Participation is Key

Niche Community Participation

People always ask us: What’s the best way to drive people to a landing page or website?

Adwords and pay-per-click ads are the ultimate piece, but there’s still free (as in sweat equity) ways you can participate to get leads back to your business.

How We Do It:

Quora (a question and answer community) works really well for us. In 2014, it was our #1 referral source (taking away organic search, seo and just looking at referrals from websites).

In the above screenshot, you can see the activity of our co-founder Josh; where he posts less than an answer a week.

He simply goes in and quickly looks for the most interesting, related question and posts an answer with a link back to some of our content.

People appreciate the answer, other people see it and it works as a great advertisement to pull people into our customer pipeline.

So again, we’re reusing and leveraging our existing content.

What We Achieved:

Quora alone generated us $47,000+ in new revenue in 2014. And for the most part there wasn’t that much participation!

If you aren’t looking for communities related to your business where you can share useful thoughts and information, you’re missing out on a lot of potential customers!

Tools We Use:

Blood, sweat and tears – Well, mainly just sweat.


Lesson #9: There Is Never One Source

There is Never One Source

All of these lessons culminate to: there’s never one source for any campaign or for any business… and the goal is primarily about generating more “touches” with the customer.

You’ve heard the old adage that says “you need to make 7 good impressions before somebody is convinced to make a sale”. This holds true for our business too.

How We Do It:

We track and differentiate the source of our leads by either using social referral links (generated automatically by our KickoffLabs platform) OR by creating a custom tracked URL link using Google UTM parameters.

What We Achieved:

We learned that nearly 50% of people that converted to customers had experienced multiple of our tracked campaigns.

Unfortunately, Google makes it impossible to track if someone comes in through organic search traffic, then hit our tracked campaigns, then started going through our customer pipeline… If we could track this, that percentage would be a lot higher.

KISSmetrics path to sign up

This means people are revisiting our site, reading our blog articles, contacting our support team,  and more… several times before they even decide to sign up.

This gives us immense opportunity to create “touches” and interact with our leads, many of whom upgrade to paid KickoffLabs accounts :)

KISSmetrics path to upgrade

So one of your goals for 2015 should be “how do you generate these additional touches with your customers?”.

Is it a contest? Something that drives engagement like an ebook? A referral campaign? Is it great content that pulls people in?

Do not neglect the list of opt ins that you have, keep offering them great stuff and they’ll reward you back. And think about all the different ways that you can “touch” people besides using email.

Could you leverage a social network? Improve your SEO?

We’ve made the mistake of looking only at the “last touched source” for determining our main referral source…

But maybe people didn’t sign up right away, came back and read 3 pieces of content, clicked into one of our marketing campaigns, saw a retargeting ad on Facebook, got those 7 marketing touches and then decided to sign up after a friend posted a link to Twitter.

In the past, we may have given Twitter credit for that customer upgrade and focused more (lost!) effort there. But by meticulously digging through our data, we’re able to identify the much more valuable “original touch source”.

Tools We Use:

KISSmetrics – Customer intelligence and web analytics for insights to optimize our marketing. Hands down, the best tool for tracking customers… takes a bit of setup though.

Google URL Builder – for building custom tagged URL links. This is the bread and butter of tracking links back to your site.

Google Analytics – General web analytics and reporting. You really aren’t in business if you’re not using this tool to track metrics.

Google Analytics has a great way of looking at “assisted conversions”. Take a look at that report to help you figure out what is generating those assisted conversions.

It’s all of these things added together that make a bigger difference than just focusing on one.


BONUS Lesson #10: Viral Boost & Social Referrals for KickoffLabs Customers

Viral Boost And Social Referrals

Assisting our own customers, we’ve seen a ton of success with KickoffLabs Viral Boost.

What this means, is that you get one person to sign up, encourage and incentive them to share with friends (having a great incentive is key)… and they will.

It happens over and over again with our customers campaigns…

Anthem Boxers

In the above screenshot, you’re looking at a campaign from Anthem Boxers where they launched their product and ecommerce site virally for ComfortableBoxers.com

They ran it with this social referral campaign, where depending upon how many referrals, you get 1, 2 or 3 pairs of free Comfortable Boxers.

Their campaign saw a 56.9% conversion rate on their landing page.

If you look at average conversion rates for landing pages, that’s exceptionally good!

To add, 86.6% of their leads are coming from KickoffLabs social referral mechanism. That means that for every $1 they are putting in to drive people to the page and sign up, they are getting roughly $1.86 worth of return out of that.

They are not just getting their $1 dollar back (or losing that dollar), they are getting this Viral Boost, which can work wonders for any business.

The founder of the company emailed us before they had officially launched the campaign and said “Dude, we’re trending in Canada and haven’t even launched the page yet!”.

In that 1 weekend, they got 25,000 leads! That’s right, in 1 little weekend… all because of people sharing with the incentive.

In 3 weeks, they were closer to 40,000 leads as they went through and promoted their campaign.

Check out the Reddit post with the story on how they did it: https://www.reddit.com/r/entrepreneur/comments/2v7fib/how_i_gathered_35000_emails_in_2_weeks/

How about some additional KickoffLabs Viral Boost success stories to motivate you?

MakoHaus

This customer launched a contest campaign that offers rewards to signups with the most shares.

MakoHaus Leads

With a great incentive, it’s not unusual to see influencers with upwards of several hundred social referrals.

Co-Ed Supply

Another customer that used a contest mechanism to attract interest for their targeted offering…

coedsupply viral boost

…which garnered a whopping 138% viral boost.

The Beer Hammer

A lot of customers are leveraging our platform to collect email for pre-crowdfunding campaigns.

the beer hammer conversion data

The_Beer_Hammer_by_Luke_Brown_-_Kickstarter_-_www_kickstarter_com_projects_1172715772

Where our Viral Boost really helps cause a social stir and assists in successfully reaching their funding goal.

Northwood.ca

Every little bit helps, even with a 26.9% Viral Boost

50% Conversion Rate

…this customer achieved an impressive 49.9% average conversion rate

Read more about their story here: https://www.reddit.com/r/Entrepreneur/comments/2o74u2/how_i_got_a_50_conversion_rate_on_my_landing_page/

Ready to get your own Viral Boost?

Sign up for your free account now!


“Always Be Converting”

Always Be Converting

The big lesson here is to always be looking for new customers and new ways to convert people into paying customers.

Even when customers leave, or maybe haven’t bought anything from your ecommerce site in a while. Ask your former customers why they haven’t been back? Why did they quit?

If nothing else you get education about what customers think of your offering.

We’ve re-converted an awful lot of customers just by reaching out and offering to help if they get stuck somewhere in our customer pipeline. It generally doesn’t cost us much and we convert somebody back again into a customer.

Focus on always converting throughout the customer experience.


How did your business fare in 2014?

Did you launch the business you wanted? Did you become profitable?

At KickoffLabs, we have the perfect solution to GROW your business in 2015.

Get started with your free account today!

Now go out and convert more customers.

Oh, and be sure to send us a comment via social and let us know. Thanks in advance for sharing!