A fast and easy way to increase your Trust Pilot score

There are two huge reasons why you should care about your Trust Pilot score:

  1. Google uses Trust Pilot a lot for to work out its own star ratings, which then appear in search results and business listings.
  2. Trust Pilot appears near the top for pretty much any “[business name] review” search

They can either be a god send…

hostpresto reviews Google Search

Or a nightmare…

mothercare reviews Google Search

Whether you like it or not, this score is influencing people’s decision to buy from you.

Continue reading

Better email marketing applying the scientific method

Email marketing should be every marketer’s dream. As well as requiring creative thought and strategic planning, you instantly know whether it is working or not. Every aspect of it is trackable, testable and reportable.

Rather than approaching making changes an ad-hoc or subjective basis, you can improve your email marketing performance consistently and iteratively by using the scientific method.

What is the scientific method?
The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge (source).

The steps of the scientific method

scientific method

Taken from https://moz.com/blog/campaign-tracking-without-going-crazy-keeping-order-adwords-optimization

For the purpose of this article, I will use the example an online portfolio creator for designers, photographers etc. to showcase their work, that offers a 14-day free trial. I will name the company ‘Pyxels’ (note: this is a totally made up company to illustrate my points).

Purpose: State the problem

Before you start making changes to your email marketing, take a step back and think about the end goal i.e. the problem you want to solve.

Email marketing is a means to an end, serving your business goals. It is not a goal in its own right.

For example, even if you want to to increase click-through rates, those clicks serve the purpose of increasing traffic to your website via email.

Your metrics should be serving a bigger purpose e.g. We want our email marketing to…

  • Reduce customer support phone calls
  • Increase basket size
  • increase referrals
  • Etc.

After reading this SaaS conversions benchmark study, Pyxel are unhappy with the number of customers converting from the 14-day free trial to a paid account. This currently stands at 2%.

Research: Find out about the topic

To make any changes, we need to work out what differentiates successful customers from ‘unsuccessful’ customers, and how our email marketing can help solve the problem.  

Try to use data to identify the characteristics of customers rather than anecdotal evidence. We want to know who…

  1. Converts into paying customers
  2. Spends a lot
  3. Buys frequently

Once you know who they are, you can start building mechanisms for new customers to perform those actions quickly and easily.

For example…

Free trial sign-ups

We have identified an area that splits active users and inactive users.

The next step is to review how we are currently addressing this problem (if at all), and  the best way to achieve that outcome.

Based on these figures above, Pyxels need to get more of their trial sign-ups to customise their default portfolio theme.

The logical place to start is how Pyxels are currently communicating the customisable portfolio feature to new sign-ups.

Here is their free account sign-up welcome email:

Welcome To Pyxel

Hi [Name],

Thanks for signing up to Pyxels, it is great to have you on board.

Pyxel makes it easy for you to showcase your amazing work and attract new clients, so let’s get started.

[Button] Login to your account [/Button links to account home page]

Kind regards,

The Pyxel Team

The email is short, friendly and comes with a very clear call to action to login.

However, based on our data we now know that it is not directing people to perform the action we want them to do.

With this in mind, we want to try a new welcome email that achieves that goal.

Welcome To Pyxel

Hi [Name],

Thanks for signing up to Pyxels, it is great to have you on board.

Pyxel makes it easy for you to showcase your amazing work and attract new clients, so let’s get started.

Getting started

Your first step to success is making your portfolio your own. Add your own unique style quickly and easily with our editor.

[Button] Customise your portfolio [/Button links to editor]

Kind regards,

The Pyxel Team

Hypothesis: Predict the outcome to the problem

What change are we expecting based on this change? By building a hypothesis before you start you can judge whether the change has been a success or not.

Additionally, although my example focuses on one change, it is more normal to have multiple areas/problem you want to improve upon.

Your hypothesis should also include the uplift you expect from your change, based on on quantifiable numbers such as

  • Revenue
  • Basket size
  • NPS
  • Support queries
  • Number of subscribers
  • Open rate
  • Click through rate
  • Social sharing
  • Etc.

This then allows you to prioritise your resources to focus on what you expect to have the biggest returns.

Our hypothesis is…

“Our new welcome email will make it easier for new customers to customise their portfolio, increasing our conversion rate from 2% to 3%”.

Experiment: Develop a procedure to test the hypothesis

The simplest way to test anything is run an A/B test and email marketing is perfect for this.

All we have to do is send 50% of new sign-ups the old version (the control group) and 50% the new version (the test group).

We can then see if there is an uplift in our key metric of free to paid conversions amongst the test group.

Analysis: Record the results of the experiment

This is the easiest part of the process. Your email marketing software will do all this for you. Tools such as MailChimp have this built in, and are very easy to set up.

mailchimpAB

Conclusion: Compare the hypothesis to the experiment’s conclusion

Now is the moment of truth. Has our new test version performed better than the control version?

For Pyxels, we identified a problem (low conversion rate), we stated what we wanted to achieve (free to paid conversions of 3%) and we researched the best way to do this (direct new users to customise their portfolio).

We can easily directly compare the data for both versions of emails.

Control

Test

Emails sent

5,000

5,000

Paid conversions

35

160

% conversion

1.4%

3.2%

These stats are all illustrative, and show a positive uplift. However, even if the change you makes has a negative impact, it is still a test worth running, because know you now.

Additionally, you only exposed a test sample to this version which means you can now roll back, and test a new idea/version.

What next?

We move on to the next test!

Assuming we have a list of goals we want to achieve, along with supporting hypothesise to test, we can now begin to systematically improve our email marketing.

By using the scientific method and applying values to each hypothesis to create your list of priorities, you will quickly see improvements you can measure and build upon.

How to find out why your customers are leaving

Do you fully understand why your customers cancel your service? Not when or how, but why?

Using time-based cancellation data to perform churn and cohort analysis will show you when they leave (and allow you to surmise why), but this alone can’t tell you the real reasons behind it.

2-retention-over-user-lifetime

(Image source)

“So I know my customers have a higher propensity to leave in the first month – if I only I knew why.”

To really understand why your customers are leaving, you need to go deeper.

In this post I will look at three way you can find out why your customers cancel:

  1. Post-cancellation survey
  2. Identifying on-site friction points
  3. What separates successful and churning customers

Don’t be afraid to ask – Post-cancellation survey

It may seem counter-intuitive to expect customers who cancel your service to answer some questions, but you’d be surprised how many will.

Set up an automated email (fired upon cancellation) that links to a very short survey, asking why they left, would they use you again and the opportunity to leave open feedback.

I have used this method myself, and got some great insights.

For example, I found:

  • They found getting set up difficult – Our onboarding upon initial login was not good enough, and we needed to hand hold a lot more when customers tried to use the service for the first time.
  • We were forcing them to contact support for basic questions – Our support database had out of date content and it was difficult to navigate.
  • We assumed customers would find products themselves if they needed them – Customers did not know about some key add-ons we sold.
  • It wasn’t all negative! – Half of the customers who cancelled did so because they didn’t need the product anymore. In fact they had a positive view of us, and would use us again. The way we would remarket to that group instantly changed.

Here is an example survey you can use. 

1. Which product did you cancel? (assuming you are multi-product and can’t automate this)

  • Your product list

2. Why did you cancel?

  • I no longer needed it
  • Poor documentation
  • It didn’t perform to my expectations
  • It was too difficult to use
  • Poor customer experience
  • I found a better price elsewhere
  • Other [Text field]

3. Would you use us again?

  • Yes
  • No

4. How do you think we can improve?

  • [Open text box]

The aim is to get as much information as you can, in as few questions as possible.

Don’t let yourself fall in to the trap of asking these questions and not using the information. Over time, as new projects grab everyone’s attention and energy, this is a real danger. The best way to prevent this, is to automate and formalise as much of the process as possible.

Ask > Collect > Catalogue > Store > Analyse > Act > Measure

There are six stages to using customer feedback to inform your product and brand marketing:

  1.     Collecting – Collection of the data (dealt with above)
  2.     Cataloguing – Putting the data into distinct groups
  3.     Storing – Where the feedback is stored to be retrieved
  4.     Analysing – The ability to analyse volume, trends and value
  5.     Acting – Putting the ideas into practice
  6.     Measuring – Are the changes having a positive impact?

Cataloguing

The way you structure your questions will have a huge impact on your ability to store the feedback and act on it. Closed questions and selectors make it easier to identify trends.

Storing

I would recommend bringing all the data into one single database/GUI, all linked to your customer accounts. This data can be used by the your customer services, sales and marketing team for their specific needs.

  • Using their characteristics: Market segments and persona data
  • Transactional behaviour: Customer segmentation
  • Their brand sentiment: Net Promoter Score
  • Value of that segment: No. customer accounts, Monthly Recurring Revenue, Life Time Value

Combining this data will allow you to tailor the messages you send, as well as track a customer’s metrics over time – including reactivations.

This also reduces the number of irrelevant emails going to those who have negative brand sentiment, and are unlikely to buy.

Acting

There is nothing worse than spending time giving feedback, only to feel like it has disappeared into a black hole.

Use the positive changes you make to customers’ products and services to curate positive brand sentiment, reactivate churned customers (“You spoke, we listened, we acted. Come back!”)

Identify the specific points of friction, not just the general page

Are there areas of your website/control panel that people find difficult to use?

Google Analytics will be able to tell you how long people stay on a page, and which pages see the most significant page exits, but it won’t be able to tell you why.

For this you will need to be able to report on how customers interact with a page’s components.

You can quickly and easily set-up heatmaps, funnel visualisation, user recordings and more using www.hotjar.com.

Here is an example of their visitor recording…

HotJar recording

How many of your customers are finding and clicking on the page’s primary action points?

I have used the free plan on a personal website and the data is a gold mine. It is also a very simple copy and paste job to get set-up.

What differentiates successful customers and churners?

The first month is traditionally the most critical for any SaaS product. Based on a multitude of public case studies/blog posts (and my own experiences), this is when customers are most likely to churn.

Your challenge is to give customers with the right tools, signposts and motivation to successfully use your product.

The first step is to identify the most important quick wins that customers who stay long-term perform, compared to those who leave. This is the ‘why’.

Generally this tends to be the “Aha!” moments – those moments that tip the customer over from a passive user to an active user.

To use my own personal experiences, with MailChimp it was:

  1. When I saw the first subscriber appear in my mailing list
  2. When I successfully sent out my first newsletter and saw the stats rolling in

You’ll notice there were two moments.

In some cases you may have one moment, and in others you may have multiple moments – there is no set rule.

If we assume my MailChimp subscriber moment is what divides customers who renew and customers who cancel, I would…

  • Focus my efforts on educating people how to add a subscription form to their website, and import any existing mailing lists.
  • Include a progress bar/ list in the control panel that includes this as one of the key steps to tick off.
  • Set up an automated email to accounts that haven’t added a subscriber within x days (where ‘x’ is the average number of days it takes a renewing customer to add their first subscriber).

Better results from your marketing/design feedback loop

Badly organised feedback loops between marketing teams and designers always increases the amount of time a project takes, inflates costs, demotivates everyone involved and generally results in a piece of work no one is really happy with.

A lot of this is totally avoidable by using a predetermined and structured feedback loop.

The initial brief

Include as much information here as possible. Assume nothing, and specify exactly what you want.

The worst thing you can do is simply hope the designer creates what you have envisioned. Chances are you’ll be disappointed by their inability to read minds.

If you have a clear idea of what you want, let them know before they start.

“We need an arrow!”

OK…

arrows-in-circles

If you only have a general idea or simply just a need for some collateral, and you need their creative input at a more granular level, there are still plenty of ways you can speed up the process. Key information to provide includes:

  • Brand guidelines/ colour schemes and logos (if you are outsourcing)
  • Deadlines – So, so important but often overlooked
  • The target audience
  • The context in which it will be used – magazine, Facebook, website, hand out, exhibition…
  • The purpose of the collateral – what do you want it to achieve?
  • Dimensions
  • File size limit
  • Are there any text ratio limits (like Facebook enforces)?
  • Can it be animated, and if so are there any time/frame restrictions?

If you struggle to articulate exactly what you want, a great way to help get your designer off on the right foot is to provide examples of other work that you like the look of.

Obviously you don’t want a carbon copy, but this acts as a mood board to illustrate your thinking.

How to give good design feedback

Plan ahead

I would recommend creating a feedback schedule in advance that everyone agrees to, and signs off.

Use your launch date/deadline and then work your backwards, pinpointing when each iteration should be ready for feedback.

Gantt

A Gantt chart with each stage broken down by time and responsibility is a great way to do this.

Remember to allocate enough time between each stage for your designer to work on any amends.

Too many cooks…

If there are multiple stakeholders who are giving feedback, make sure one person is given responsibility to gather it all and disseminate.

Additionally, you should all discuss any conflicting opinions and come to a compromise before submitting feedback to the designer.

intercomm

(Taken from intercom.io)

There is nothing worse than having multiple, contradictory opinions to deal with.

Be specific

Again, be specific with what you want changing. Just giving a general sense of “we think it needs to be more striking” is impossible to action.

Awesome-screentshot

Tools such as ‘Awesome screenshot app’ allow you to annotate and draw on images. This cuts down on any misunderstanding of what you are describing you want changing.

Remove subjectivity as much as possible and test

A major problem with design is that everyone has an opinion. Unlike programming code or mechanical engineering, we all have our ideas about how something should look.

There are times when this leads to conflict, and with out someone backing down, it can lead to a compromise design or no design at all.

If there are two opposing opinions on a major component (e.g. the image to use in a website’s home page header), remove personal opinion and test them both with an A/B test. If the disagreement is over something relatively minor, trust your designer, that;s what you pay them for!

Don’t use email to manage design projects

Email is a terrible way to manage feedback on any project. Multiple conversations and versions make version control very difficult.

It can also very easily result in different groups knowing different things as conversations develop.

Slack logo

I would recommend using software such as Trello or Slack. Both of these offer free plans, and all feedback, files, comments and to do lists are all in once place for everyone to see.

 

Tools to instantly improve your marketing for only £15.47

Now more than ever, we all have free (or low-cost) access to marketing tools and technology that used to cost thousands of pounds.

The extent to which you manage and analyse your marketing efforts is no longer a budgetary decision.

Marketing performance is an area that is full of amazing free, and super low cost tools. Here are the tools you need to improve your marketing, that are either free, or ridiculously cheap.

 

A/B testing

1

Tool: Google Analytics Content Experiments

Instead of guessing, or using educated assumptions, use data to direct you towards the perfect page.

Google Analytics comes with A/B testing built in, allowing you to statistically determine the best way to present information to achieve your goals. Read my post about running your first A/B test.

Cost: Free

 

Email Marketing

2

Tool: MailChimp

I use MailChimp myself to manage this blog’s subscribers and automated emails. MailChimp is very easy to use, and quick to pick up. You’ll need to upgrade to a paid account (starts at $10 per month) to remove their branding or use the automation tools.

Cost: Starts at free

 

Brand awareness tracking

3

Tool: Google Consumer Surveys

You can use this service to run a survey asking “Which of the following companies have you heard of?” listing your own and your direct competitors. After your brand campaign has finished, run the survey again and track the changes in awareness. I’ve covered this in more detail in my post “How to do brand awareness tracking without spending thousands.”

Cost: £60 per survey

 

Customer surveys

8

Tool: SurveyGizmo

A very easy to use, hosted survey tool. Everything is point and click, and you can easily add your own branding. Analysing your survey results is made as simple as possible as well.

Cost: $25 (£15.47) per month

 

Project/ task management

4

Tool: Trello

I am a huge fan of Trello, and have used it extensively for large and small projects, across multi-office teams. Trello helps to stay on top of all your projects and tasks, including documents and comments.

Cost: Free

 

Event marketing

5

Tool: Get Invited

If you organise events for your customers (and here is why you should), don’t run it through email and Excel. Get Invited has all the tools (including sign up form) to keep on top of all the admin surrounding any event. Here are my 9 tips for running a successful customer conference.

Cost: Free (free events) or 2% + 50p per ticket (for paid events)

 

Giveaways and competitions

6

Tool: Rafflecopter

Run competitions on your website with this copy and paste tool. You can also incentivise people to share the competition via social media. Plus it integrates with leading email platforms (including Mail Chimp) to help you generate more leads. You can see a live example here.

Cost: Free to $84 per month

 

Image creation

7

Tool: Canva

I only came across this excellent online image creation and editing tool, but the more I play with it, the more impressed I become. It comes with ready made templates (e.g. Social media profiles, blog graphics, posters, business cards, presentations etc.) and a huge library of free pictures, icons, shapes, illustrations and more. I used Canva to create the images in this post.

Cost: Free (with some images charged at $1 each)

Grand total = £15.47

How to rebrand your small business

A strong, recognisable brand is vital for any business, no matter how big or small. Strong brands stand out in the market, attract more customers, and keep more of those they already have.

However, times change and with it so do customers, trends and technology. What was once a strong brand identity 10 years ago, doesn’t necessarily translate in to one now.

Change for the sake of change is never a good idea, so how do you know when it is time for a rebrand?

 

Good reasons for a rebrand include:

  • Growth is too small, flat or even negative
  • Your customer base is changing – or you want it to change
  • Your business linked to something you don’t want to be e.g. bad customer service
  • Your company – logo, service, pricing – simply feels out of date

Just changing your name isn’t a rebrand. Rebranding is about changing the way your business operates, and how it addresses your customers.

Without that depth of change, customers will see through the superficiality of the process and you will see no positive return or uplift.

In fact, you will probably end up losing the brand equity you currently have.

You must be able to deliver on any brand promise.

Have a clear mission

Make sure you know what are you looking to achieve as part of the rebrand, and then do everything you can to ensure your stakeholders understand it as well.

Are you rebranding to stay in touch with your evolving target audience, are you facing increased competition and you want to stand out in a crowded market place, have you started to look old-fashioned in an industry where image matters, are you consolidating multiple sub-brands into a simpler structure..?

Create a mission statement supported by SMART objectives to gauge success, and keep everyone focused on what you want to achieve. For example:

Mission: To always put our customers first.

Objective one: “Reduce telephone support response times to 30 seconds, within 3 months of the brand re-launch”

Objective two: “Upgrade our customer support database content and navigation reducing our phone support calls by 30%”

Research and customer insight

You can’t know where you need to go, without understanding where you are and what the road ahead looks like.

The first step is to gather feedback from your customers and employees about what they think about you, what they like and what they dislike.

Look at key areas such as customer support, product quality, pricing, positioning, and your competition (direct and indirect).

By combining both qualitative (e.g. focus group, interview…) and quantitative (e.g. survey) methodologies you will build a picture of your current strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities to move your brand towards.

Define your marketplace

As well as looking internally, you should map what your marketplace looks like. This includes both the market’s customer segments, and where you and your competitors fit on a perception map (with each axis representing two key factors that matter to your customers).

With this data you can identify the segments you want to appeal to, as well as how successfully you are currently doing this.

Research what matters to these customers? Is it value for money, reliability, security, personal service…? You can these align your new brand around these principles.

Unless you work in an industry that is already extensively covered by industry reports (Mintel is a good source of those), this is very difficult to do yourself.

For something this important, I would strongly recommend using a professional market research company.

They will be able to:

  • Segment the market
  • Give a value to each of the segments – Which segments to target
  • Identify the characteristics of the segments – How to position brand

Support the change with a story

People are traditionally averse to change and customers often equate a steady brand with reliability.

The best and most successful rebranding projects are usually wrapped in a positive story for customers and staff to get behind.

A fresh new look isn’t a story to lead with. The story should be one that benefits your customers, and runs deeper than a new graphic.

Here are some examples I have created to illustrate my point:

  • Responding to customer feedback to improve your customer service = “You spoke, we listened, we changed”
  • Upgrading your technology/platform = “Become a faster, more agile business”
  • A new control panel = “Everything you need to manage your business online”
  • Repositioning your business to a younger audience = “Now with added awesome”

Testing and feedback

I would strongly recommend using a professional designer to update your brand’s look and feel. Marketplaces such as 99Designs will connect you with professional designers who can create collateral, including a new logo, for as little as £189.

Test your new brand proposal and the basic design aesthetics before you commit to a new brand. Get feedback from a focus group that represents your target audience.

Do they express what your brand stands for accurately unprompted?

Don’t be afraid to take a step back and make changes based on this information. These are your customers after all, and the purpose of this rebrand is to attract more of them

How to communicate the change

Your most important asset are your customers. You must be clear why these changes are happening, and why it benefits them.

Give them the chance to ask you questions and get involved.

There are three general approaches to rebranding your business.

  1. Launch your new brand in parallel with the old
  2. Do it in stages
  3. The big reveal

There are pro’s and con’s to doing any of these:

Launch your new brand in parallel with the old

Orange and T-Mobile’s launch of EE (Have a look here)

Pro’s

  • Lower risk of disrupting your existing customer relationships

Con’s

  • More expensive to support two brands
  • Run the risk of competing with yourself
  • Can confuse the marketplace

Do it in stages

Norwich Union’s evolution into Aviva (Have a read of this)

Pros

  • Less risk of anything going wrong
  • Customers see an evolution over time

Cons

  • Increased cost to support each iteration of the brand
  • Loses PR impact potential

The big reveal

Pro’s

  • Create excitement within the market = huge PR opportunities

Con’s

  • A higher chance for something to go wrong
  • Can confuse your customers is it is too abrupt
  • Requires communication spend to make sure everyone knows your new brand
  • Ideally needs a strong story to back up the change

Whichever approach you decide to take, a good rebrand will tick four boxes.

  1. The new brand message is clear and easy to understand
  2. You differentiate yourself from the competition
  3. The process respects the emotional attachment your employees and customers have to your existing brand
  4. You deliver on your new brand promises