The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A 180 For the Web - Persuasion Architecture

There is a buzz in the air at online marketing agencies, interactive agencies, and in marketing meetings across corporate america, it's about Persuasion Architecture. If you haven't heard of P.A., it's a revolutionary model for developing persuasive selling systems on the web. The system was created by by the Eisenbergs (Jeffrey and Bryan). Their latest book, Waiting for Your Cat to Bark, immediately plunged me into brainstorming mode as I thought about projects that could immediately benefit from this model. So hold on to your hat (or should I say cat), here comes an idea that may have you excited, then depressed, and then excited again. I'll explain why as you read on...

The Current Process (and hopefully the soon-to-be extinct process...)
Let's take a step back for a second and review how most websites and e-commerce sites have been developed. We have a product, we want to sell the product online, we have a web development staff adept at coding, and marketing people adept at selling.

--The meeting begins..."we want to sell our widgets on the web, so let's focus on the features of the widget, we'll code the site for the lowest common denominator, target the top 1 of 2 types of buyers that will be hitting the site, and let them figure out the benefits based on the features."--

So, there may be 6 or 7 different types of buyers that will hit the site, but we are developing the site (design, code, copy, etc.) for 1 or 2. Can you start to see why the average conversion rate for e-commerce sites is between 1.5-2%?

--Then the interactive designer walks in..."Let's add AJAX for some interesting interface functionality and definitely add a flash movie that greets every visitor hitting the site."--


--Then the copywriter speaks up, "I will target our top 1-2 types of buyers with copy that jumps off of the page. The headlines, subheads, internal links and sidebar copy will sell like there's no tomorrow."--

OK, that sounds good, but what about the other 4-5 types of buyers? Are you seeing a pattern here?

Then the site is developed, it doesn't focus on the benefits of the product, it only targets 1-2 types of buyers, it's coded with functionality that will keep people from finding what they want, and the site converts at......1.75%. Woohoo!

How do we improve this situation??
In Waiting for Your Cat to Bark, the Eisenbergs explain how to create a persuasive selling system on the web. In Persuasion Architecture, there are 6 steps:

1. Uncovery - map out the business topology, understand the competition, the customers, the prospects, and other important aspects that can affect the buying process.

1a. Persona Development - determining the types of buyers that will traverse the site. This is not demographic information, it's more about how they need to access information and what they will need to make a decision.

2. Wireframing - (not storyboarding) a non-graphical decision trail through the site.

3. Storyboarding - site mockups which help flesh out the wireframe.

4. Prototyping - after the storyboard is ready, the prototype is ready for development.

5. Development - let coders do what they do best...code. If the previous 4 steps were done correctly, the development staff should almost entirely be able to focus on core development. No marketing decisions here for non-marketing people!

6. Optimization - with the proper web metrics program in place, you will be able to test and refine the site, paths, pages, and content to increase conversion.

This was obviously a quick introduction to Persuasion Architecture and I highly recommend you read the book, but I definitely wanted to introduce the model here. I plan to write more posts about this powerful model as I implement projects using Persuasion Architecture. If you are in web marketing, read the book, and then revisit my blog and post your comments. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Too Slick for Search?

First, a disclaimer: I am a huge advocate of using Rich Media to sell products and services, I love developing flash-based, interactive solutions for my clients, and I have even developed my own Rich Media products, heck, I'm Mr. Rich Media! That said, I have spent an enormous amount of time over the past two years working on search marketing initiatives (in conjunction with my Rich Media solutions). I know the power of Rich Media Marketing, but I also know the power of Search Engine Optimization. Now that I've got that off my chest, let's move on to my post!

When you need to build an interactive and engaging environment on the web, there is nothing better than flash. I started using flash 9 years ago, when it was a fledgling vector button program for Director, so I've had the ability to watch flash grow, and grow, and grow into the Object Oriented environment it is now... The problem with flash is that it cannot be indexed by the search engines. Go ahead and run a cache command in Google on a full flash site, and then click "click here for cached text only", and you will probably see a blank screen. Needless to say, this isn't good if you want people to find you via search. So, what can you do if there is definitely a need for using flash, but you also want the site to rank in the search engines? The answer lies in creating a hybrid site that uses flash elements, but within an html structure.

Here's an example...One of my clients absolutely needed a slick, eye-grabbing site that promoted their consumer goods product. The site needed to be engaging, but it also needed the ability to educate visitors and provide value added content that would help them understand the core benefits of the product. This was a perfect situation for developing a hybrid website. The core site is an html layout, that provides areas for html text. There is also a text navigation (which provides links to each webpage on the site using descriptive text.) The focus area of each section was developed in flash and provides highly interactive ways to get at more information. For example, you can roll over the product images to trigger a description, testimonials, and research from the industry. Forward to a friend was also built into each section. So, I used flash and html where both would be most powerful. The end-result is a highly engaging hybrid site that also ranks well in the search engines.

I'm all for creating ultra-creative solutions that engage your visitors, but you better believe that I want those same visitors to be able to find you on Google... In my experience, creating a hybrid website using both Flash and html works extremely well.

So, if you want to use Flash, but still rank in the engines, keep these pointers in mind:

* Don't develop full flash sites (without areas for html) If you need the power of flash, create a hybrid site so you can still add html content
* Don't use a flash navigation...always use a text navigation and use descriptive text
* And definitely do not develop a flash site that mimics an html site...then you are completely losing out on the benefits of both methods...

My final words...go ahead and craft highly engaging flash environments, but make sure you leave ample space for html text. Your clients will appreciate it, especially when they get thousands of incremental visitors each month from Google!

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

So Now It's Called WOM!

Don't we just love acronyms?? WOM, SEO, SEM, PPC, CPM, CPC, blah, blah, blah...

WOM has been around since the beginning of time, however, there has never been such a powerful catalyst for WOM like the Internet! I think everyone that’s been involved with online marketing has seen the powerful effect of WOM in one form or another, whether it’s a blogger sending thousands of visitors to your site or a viral component like forward to a friend that helps drive traffic (and hopefully sales.) Since word of mouth has become so hot, I thought I would elaborate on the two main forms of WOM (from my standpoint).

Organic WOM
This is, “Glenn buys a laptop from Dell and tells every client he has about how great the laptop is. He loves the widescreen display, its durability, and reliability”.

This is the purest form of WOM and it’s what every company hopes to achieve. Now add the web, which fosters communication like no other medium today… You can blog, IM, post to forums, communicate with people thousands of miles away in a nanosecond. It's a world where one blogger can influence thousands of people with two lines of text.

In my experience with helping clients build and execute WOM campaigns, the key question is, “how do we harness the power of web-based WOM?” Are we ready for the extra traffic, the questions that need answers, the pressure on our fulfillment system, etc? It’s scary for some customers, especially small businesses, that don’t have enormous budgets. I’ve had to “turn off” a few campaigns over the past year due to the excessive traffic and pressure on customer service and fulfillment.

In order to help clients launch organic WOM campaigns, I have created a structured process that enables me to research the business topology, understand my clients’ customers, and build campaigns that help generate quality traffic yielding long term customers. I will be posting more about organic WOM in upcoming weeks so please check back.

WOM as a Campaign-Driver
So we’ve all seen media-based WOM sites that try to entertain us as well as help spread the word about a product, brand, or company. There are some great examples out there…the Dell DJ Ditty and Orbit’s Friends of Bright to name a few. Coming from a multimedia background, I definitely see the value in utilizing this type of WOM to help the performance of a marketing campaign. Don’t get me wrong, organic WOM rules in my mind…however, to help generate sales for a specific campaign, I’m all for creating viral content that hopefully informs and educates people, but that also sells. Heck, I just wrote four webisodes for one of my clients that uses a fictional character to help sell video content! The webisodes are funny, entertaining, but also provide special offers to visitors, provide portable web-video, and provide the opportunity to visit the fictional character’s blog (and to even communicate with him.) These types of campaigns are shorter, more targeted, and simply tap into the viral nature of the web to get more people to the site. And, if you've done your job correctly, you should see a nice bump in sales.

I believe in both forms of WOM, depending on my clients’ goals and expectations. Organic is what we all aim to achieve, but WOM as a campaign driver can sure help a specific campaign succeed.

More about WOM in upcoming posts...So go ahead and be the poster child for WOM and go tell someone about this post! ;-)

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

How RICH is Rich Media?

{This is the first post in a series of posts that I will be writing on Rich Media and its impact on conversion, sales, and revenue. Check back each week for another post!}

For those of you new to my blog, I have been developing Rich Media-based solutions for 11 years ...starting when CD-Roms were a hotter topic than anything Internet-based! Yes, I feel old even though I'm only 34! When presenting my work to potential clients, I always get the reaction, "Wow, your solutions look robust, but how are they affecting conversion, sales, and revenue??" Great question and one I thought I would begin to address in this post.

Let's take a step back for a second, I developed Heighten Marketing Technology™ in 2003, a video-based e-Marketing platform that enables you to provide flash video solutions that incorporate real-time reporting, connection detection, and forward to a friend functionality. Heighten is a great solution that has been used extensively by my clients for selling their products and services online. Why do I bring this up? Well, Heighten has given me incredible data when it comes to Rich Media and its impact on performance.

In the industry, everyone is finally on board with using web took a few years, but we finally have critical mass. With all of the web video you see online, how much of it is actually helping companies earn money??

So, does Rich Media actually help increase conversion, sales, and revenue? I believe the answer lies in the application of Rich Media... For example, showcasing a product using short video segments based on each feature is much different than providing a service demo using narration, which is also different than marketing a high priced item in an online auction using streaming video. You need Rich Media Brainpower that understands the business at hand, understands the power and limitations of each technology, and bases your core marketing strategy on real experience. How many of us have seen (or tried to see) a video-based website that wouldn't load, or only loaded 20 seconds of a clip only to gasp for breath?? Which brings me to my first formula and it's a doozy:

# of visitors who cannot view your website * average sale price = $0.

Pretty simple, huh? Now go tell your CEO that this is what happened when you hired a few college grads to develop your latest campaign! ;-) The Rich Media answer lies in how you apply it in your online marketing campaigns. Each solution is different... each business is different... and you need to build strategies that are flexible, use the power of Rich Media correctly, and that always tie back to the end goal...conversion, sales, and revenue!

Next week I will delve deeper into this subject so please check back. Now go and visit to watch an eight year old spilling spaghetti on his kid sister's head! :-)

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