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Why Behavior Scoring is the Missing Ingredient in Your Marketing Approach

Why Behavior Scoring is the Missing Ingredient in Your Marketing Approach

With inbound marketing becoming ever more popular in recent years, a marketer might be tempted to think broad when it comes to their approach. After all, when anyone can happen upon your brand, it means that anyone’s a potential customer, right?

That’s not quite true. In fact, the number of leads that actually become customers is only around 10 percent. So that means you should really be focused on creating highly targeted marketing messages that are likely to appeal to that small sliver of the population, rather than trying to please everyone.

But how do you find those people? And once you’ve found them, what can you do to make sure you’re speaking to them in a way that really resonates?

That’s where behavior scoring comes in. When you understand the behaviors that are most often exhibited by your customers, you can begin to identify your most promising leads and refine your marketing messaging so that it speaks directly to them.

What is Behavior Scoring?

Behavior scoring, sometimes called lead scoring, is assigning a numerical score or grade to prospects based on certain behaviors they exhibit. You start by analyzing the behaviors of your best existing customers. Are there ways they interact with your brand that consistently result in conversions? Is there a certain page on your website they visit, social media platform they follow, or email newsletter they sign up for?

When you understand the behaviors of your existing clients, you can then create a “composite sketch” of your ideal customer. Those customers who do X, Y, and Z convert a high percentage of the time, so your prospects who do those same things are given a high behavior score. They’re the people you want to focus your marketing time and effort on.

People visit sites or interact with brands for all sorts of reasons. Let’s say you own a tree care company. You may show up in search results for an apartment-dweller looking for advice on tending to her indoor potted tree, a student thinking about starting a lawn care business who’s doing research on pricing in similar industries, and new homeowner in the area who wants to replace some of the older trees on their property. Only one of these people has the potential to become a legitimate client, and since you don’t get full biographical information on those who visit your website, tracking behaviors can indicate their level of seriousness.

The woman in the apartment might watch a short video on plant care your site and then disappear. The student might beeline to the pricing page. But the homeowner looks at several pages outlining services and pricing, plus checks out your testimonials. If this is activity you’ve seen from past customers, then you know this is a lead worth spending some time on.

Lower Your Customer Acquisition Costs and Increase Customer Lifetime Value

Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) are two critical metrics to track for your business. When you understand how much it costs to acquire your customers and how much value they produce once you have them, you can tweak your sales approach and pricing models to ensure your acquisition costs are covered and you’re still able to make a profit.

However, the reverse is also true: When you understand the behaviors that make someone a promising lead, you can lower CAC and increase CLV. By only marketing to those prospects exhibiting desirable behaviors, you stop wasting time on prospects who will never convert. This means that you’ll get more marketing bang for your buck overall, since you won’t spend dollars chasing those who would never become customers anyway.

Plus, as you begin to develop a more and more nuanced understanding of your customers’ behaviors, you can continue to refine your marketing approach to get even greater results and drive existing customers towards purchasing bigger and better products. All of this leads to an increase in overall CLV.

Understand What Resonates with Your Promising Leads

When you understand the actions of your ideal customer, you can create marketing campaigns that drive prospects to take those actions. Experimenting with website layout, calls to action, and your messaging and tone can all help to drive people who are interested in your business to take the steps that are likely to lead to conversion.

A/B testing is a particularly effective way to further refine your approach. Try running different variations of your web pages to see which gains the greatest traction.

Showing half of your hot leads one option and the other a variant of the same page allows you to understand the messaging and layout that works best. If there’s a significant difference in response to the two variations, that tells you something.

You then can do the work of analyzing the differences, identifying the aspects that made the one page so successful, and replicating that approach across other pages, platforms, and channels.

Further Refine Your Outbound Approach

Once you understand what resonates with your hot leads, you can move beyond inbound tactics and create advertising that’s highly targeted to those leads.

Facebook’s advertising platform offers business owners a number of ways to identify and target hot leads. With the Facebook Pixel installed on your website, you’re able to track visitor behavior—a key part of the scoring process. On the Facebook advertising platform itself, you can create lookalike audiences, groups with attributes that mirror those of your existing customer base, allowing you to target them with advertising.

All of this becomes a positive feedback loop. As your marketing approach is refined, you continue to attract more qualified leads. These leads in turn give you an even more nuanced picture of what your ideal prospect looks like, which allows you to further tailor your marketing approach. Over time, you generate greater and greater results.

Pass on the Leads that Will Never Convert

The fact of the matter is that there are plenty of leads who will never convert, no matter what you do. If you spend your time and energy reaching out to every person, the majority of your energy is being dedicated to people who will never convert.

That’s why a critical part of behavior scoring is not just assigning positive points to those leads who exhibit certain behaviors that often lead to conversion, but also taking away points from those who exhibit less-than-promising behaviors.

Leads who consistently delete your emails without reading, have only been to your website once or twice, or are in a location that your business doesn’t service are ones that you should not spend time pursuing.

Inbound marketing can sometimes make you feel like you need to be everything to everyone. In reality, the most effective marketing strategies—inbound and outbound—are those that speak directly to the small percentage of the population that actually need the solution your business offers. When you use behavior scoring to better understand the actions of your best customers, you can create messaging that resonates with the leads who have the best shot at conversion. All of this saves you time and money, and it makes your customers happier, because they know they’ve found a business that really gets them.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Marketing Automation.

Google Ads Changes for Small Business Owners

The Seven Steps to Marketing Success – How to Build a Marketing System

Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch on Building a Marketing System

The key to an effective marketing approach is creating a marketing system. This is Duct Tape Marketing’s point of view and our key differentiator. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the seven steps you must undertake to build a successful marketing system for your business.

1. Focus on Strategy Before Tactics

The first step to creating a successful marketing system is to know who your ideal customer is, and what their core problems are. If you don’t understand the value that your business can bring to each engagement, it’s nearly impossible to select the tactics you should use to reach your audience.

When you understand the ideal customer and create the narrowest definition possible for who that is, you can then connect what you’re offering to solving the customers’ problems. This makes your approach not just about your products and services, but about your promise to solve those problems. If you don’t take the time to understand your ideal customer, there’s no way to build a marketing strategy that will speak to them.

2. Guide the Customer Journey – The Marketing Hourglass

Because of the internet, the way people buy today is largely out of your hands. They have so many places to do research, ask networks, find out about you, and discover the products and services to solve their problems before they ever contact a company.

The customer journey comes into play at Duct Tape Marketing with something called the marketing hourglass. The hourglass has seven stages: know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, and refer. These stages represent the logical behavior in buying that many of your customers want to take. Your job is to help them move through those stages sequentially.

Your first step is to understand how somebody would come to know about a company like yours. Likely, they’d turn to a search engine or they’d ask a friend. At these early stages, they know they have a problem, but they haven’t yet concluded how they’re going to solve it. Marketing at this stage needs to show that you understand their pain points and that you might have the right solution for them. From there, you need to establish trust in your brand and perhaps even give them a way to try you. When they do finally buy, that experience must be excellent in order to create repeat business. Not only that, but happy customers will also generate referrals.

All marketing efforts must be built around the concept of the marketing hourglass. When you understand how your customers buy and what they’re expecting to achieve at each stage, you’re able to build a marketing plan that exceeds their expectations along the way and creates happy, lifelong customers.

3. Make Content the Voice of Strategy

Content is not just a tactic, it is the voice of strategy. You have made a promise to solve a problem for your customers; you now need to be ready to meet people where they are (search engines, social media, etc.) and generate enough valuable content to dominate in those arenas.

We use something called content hubs to outshine in search and to create content that is valuable to read, find, and share. This content must also meet customers at every stage of their journey, from know and like all the way through to referrals.

4. Create a Total Online Presence

Even if you do the majority of your business offline and in person, in today’s world, you must have a total online presence. The internet is where people go to have an experience with marketing, to understand a company, and to do research. When someone refers you to their friend, the friend turns to a search engine or your website to learn what other people are saying about you and to see if you actually solve the problem that they have.

No matter what kind of business you run, you need to be tackling all the elements of online marketing. This includes social media, search engine optimization, content, website, and email marketing. All of these pieces must work together as an integrated whole.

5. Build a Reliable Flow of Leads

Leads are the lifeblood of getting your business going, and so you have to find a predictable way to generate enough leads to grow your business. There are numerous channels through which to generate leads, and again, integration is key.

Sales, content, advertising, networking, and online and offline events all play a role. There is no one way to generate leads; the key is in finding the three or four channels that you can consistently mine and establishing a process to develop leads through those channels.

6. Make Lead Conversion Your X Factor

Lead conversion must be your multiplier. The key here is to focus on all forms of lead conversion. Obviously someone buying your product or service for the first time is a conversion, but what about signing up for an ebook, registering for an online course, getting a free evaluation, or making an appointment? Those are all conversion activities.

You need to map the experience of each of your leads and clients so you can be sure that they’re having a great experience throughout. This is how you create repeat business and reactive those clients who have been lost. Once you begin tracking customer experiences, you then need to measure these activities. When you understand customers’ behavior, you can create better experiences; even if that only increases each conversion activity by one or two percent, that has a huge impact on the business overall.

7. Live By the Calendar

When you’re developing a system, you have to have a plan. It doesn’t have to be long-term—focusing on three to four important priorities for the quarter is ideal. From there, you can break those priorities down into activities and projects so that you can plan the quarter and not expend energy chasing the next new thing.

You have to have fewer priories, and you have to make marketing a habit. It has to be something that you do daily. You have to build meetings with the appropriate people to make sure that you’re moving those priorities along. Once you establish that habit, you should start documenting your processes. From there, you can decide what tasks you can delegate, either by adding more staff or outsourcing to others.

The reality is that marketing never ends—it’s a cycle. Once you go through the seven steps and build your marketing system, you want to constantly be reviewing, seeing what works and what doesn’t, and changing your approach accordingly.

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

Not All Prospects Are Created Equal

Marketing Podcast with Scott Oldford 

conversion funnels

When  marketers create one size fits all marketing campaigns they turn away about 80% of their market.

Now, your numbers may vary, but the point is that even if someone is a perfect match for what you do they may not be ready to learn about your awesome services because there is a very good chance they don’t even realize the nature of the problem you might be proposing to solve.

And that’s where so many marketers go wrong.

In order to impact the greatest share of your ideal market, you have to reach them where they are right now. Some are ready to learn more about your awesomeness, some are starting to wonder how to solve a problem they have and some are just starting to get a sense that something is wrong.

[tweetthis]When  marketers create one size fits all marketing campaigns they turn away about 80% of their market.[/tweetthis]

My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Scott Oldford, entrepreneur, founder of INFINITUS, and marketing coach. We discuss marketing, lead generation and lead funnels based on personalization that allows you to speak to your entire market.

Oldford uses the metaphor of sidewalk, slow lane, and fast lane to describe lead funnels and campaigns that meet people in their current buying journey and invites them to enter whatever track suits them. The goal then is to move people into lanes with increasing calls to action.

Questions I ask Scott:

  • How can you get great results without an overly complicated funnel?
  • How can you track lead conversion in funnels?
  • How do you move someone from the Sidewalk to the Fast Lane?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How to automate lead generation effectively.
  • The 3 different mindsets a new lead may have.
  • How to take advantage of obligation in your leads.

Want to learn more about INFINITUS? Visit goinfinitus.com. You can also find out more from Scott at www.limitlessbusiness.com.

Must-Use Lead Conversion Tactics for Video Marketing

On SnapChat the other day, one of the live feeds featured was “Farm Life.” Because I have a friend who is building a business in the ag arena, I thought this would be a great opportunity to get the word out about his video production company. It’s free to upload a photo or video to the stream and gets viewed by countless SnapChat users; approximately 16.5 million people look at SnapChat every day. As we discussed options for creating awareness via SnapChat, there was one question that surfaced to the top, “How can we convert leads using SnapChat video?” 

videoVideo isn’t “the next big thing” in marketing. Video is now! If it’s not in your marketing strategy, it needs to be. One article projects that by 2017, videos will account for 67% of all consumer internet traffic. That’s huge, considering the many other ways consumers can consume information on the internet.

Videos make consuming information easy, which is why they are such a hit with consumers. You can get a ton of information into a shorter amount of time, no one has to read anything and the imagination needed is truly minimal. It’s the laziest way to soak in information. Let’s take advantage of the fact that our consumers want their information in the easiest way possible!

There are tons of good articles about how to make videos appealing. Video marketing is another form of content marketing; similar to writing good content, the better and more valuable your video is the more people will watch it.

So back to the question. What is the best way to convert leads using video on SnapChat, Instagram, Vine, or any platform that allows video? How can we take advantage of the fact that customers want to consume our message via video?

So I did some research and came up with six ways that you can steer prospects into leads by using video, to send them to your website or a landing page, or even your social media sites. (Note: Not all of these tactics will work with every medium.) Ready?

Here they are:

1. Create a custom end card

You’ve watched videos where at the end it says, “If you liked this video, subscribe to my YouTube channel.” Now take that idea and instead, have them like your brand on Facebook, follow you on Twitter, or better yet, send them to a landing page to download a free eBook or checklist – where you directly capture their contact information.

2. Include a verbal call to action

You’re making the video, your customers are watching the video, you have their attention, why not use this time to tell them where they can connect with you further? Video is a great way to gain your audience’s trust for you and your brand, so use this trust to further your relationship and engagements. Chances are, if they find you hilarious, intriguing or valuable, they’ll want to follow you for more hilarious, intriguing or valuable updates.

3. Insert the link in the video description

On most platforms where you’re uploading a video, you’re going to have the option to enter a description. Use this space to tell the story of your video and why they should click your link to further connect with your brand. Just posting the link probably isn’t enough to get prospects to click through, but if you add descriptive copy and your video is valuable, this is as good a spot as any to capture your leads.

4. Use an email gate

Capture names and email addresses directly from your video with an email gate. This is the most direct way to capture leads from video marketing. Rather than leading a customer to a page or form, you actually require their contact information before they can watch the video – or before they can see a certain portion of the video.

5. Place the video directly on a landing page

This lead capture tactic doesn’t use a third party to publish your video but instead relies on the fact that your viewer is already on your landing page. Now, the video is simply used to make the push to fill out the lead capture form. This, paired with the verbal call to action, can be a very effective way to use video for lead capture!

6. Use annotations within your videos

For YouTube users, you may notice that some videos you watch have pop-ups throughout the video. They may make comments about the video, add facts or valuable information, or even provide updates to an old version of the video. Use these annotations to push leads to your social media sites, website or landing page! You can add a link with a caption, directions to check out the link in the description or even a phone number to call. This tactic requires no extra effort by the viewer to see how to connect more, much like the verbal call to action, and can be a very effective way to connect with viewers!

Video marketing isn’t new; you’ve been watching commercials on television for decades. Videos on the web aren’t even new, but they are becoming easier to make and more accessible and shareable than ever before. The possibilities with video are endless and sometimes overwhelming. If you use one or many of the above lead capture and call to action tactics above, you can use video to drive in hot leads and quickly grow your business pipeline!

Do you use video currently? Are there any other lead capture tactics you’d recommend using?

Kala Linck is the Community and Content Manager at Duct Tape Marketing. You can find her blogging her travels and tweeting about marketing, coffee, and cats.

How Wedding Planning Taught Me How to Nurture Social Media Leads

As a marketer, sometimes it ‘s hard to stop thinking about marketing and remind myself that I am also a customer. I’ll find myself during commercial breaks on TV analyzing the scripts and how I would change the copy. I hear ads on the radio offering free content, and I immediately think about the strategy and commend them for using content to market their business. It is hard to turn it off.

Lately, I’ve gotten a nice little reminder of what it is like being a customer with not enough information. It has come during one of the most daunting events of many people’s lives: Wedding planning.

Table set for an event party or wedding reception


For those who have been here in the past, you can probably attest to the daunting nature of wedding planning. Not only is getting married a major step in life, but there are also plenty of venues and options to choose from. Each has their own rules, regulations and offerings and sometimes it is difficult to grasp all of those options. To me, this can make the decision scary. What if I miss something? To make it even more terrifying, this is probably the first decision you must make.

That’s why one morning while answering emails and scheduling venue tours, I tweeted about my planning. To my pleasant surprise, a venue I hadn’t even found replied.


This got me thinking about how businesses should be using social media. I’ve written about listening posts in the past, and how you can use social media to identify potential customers. But it takes effort to reach out to potential customers, effort that is easily recognized by your customers.

Seeking out Social Media Leads

To identify me as a promising social lead, the venue had to search for people tweeting about wedding venues, and had to narrow the search to only those in the Kansas City area using the “Near Me” tag. Luckily, there aren’t that many people tweeting looking for wedding planning advice at any one time. These select few are your prime candidates and are deliberately looking for someone to trust. Why not reach out? If it takes 5 minutes to identify and reach out to these customers, all it takes is one conversion to make this worth your time.

I may not rent out this potential venue, but I wouldn’t have even known about them if they hadn’t have reached out. With a simple 140-character tweet, they took me through several steps of the customer journey. They introduced their venue to me while getting me to like and trust them just because of the effort they gave to reach me. Now, I have scheduled a venue tour, bringing me up to the try level of the customer journey.

What you can learn

More importantly, they have some insight about my frustrations searching for a wedding venue long before the tour. As any salesperson can attest, the more you know about your potential buyers, the easier it is to relate to them and prove your product will solve their problems, and the easier it is to make the sale.

Social media is not meant to be a place to broadcast your message. You’re not going to convert people or gain followers and influence by simply sending out un-engaging messages. What makes social media special is that it offers a direct channel your customers and potential customers. If you want the most from your social media marketing, you must take advantage of this, reach out to your customers and nurture those social media leads.

Have you ever searched for or reached out to potential customers individually on social media? Or has someone sought you out to any success? Let me know in the comments below.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

How to Determine When A Lead Is Sales-Ready

Today’s Guest Post is by Ellen Gomes – Enjoy! 

Relay runners know that the exchanges make or break a race. The same is true for businesses of all sizes. Whether you’re an enterprise industry with huge marketing and sales teams or a small business owner piecing everything together yourself, figuring out when a lead is ready to buy can be tricky business with potentially serious consequences.

Leading scoring is how successful business of all sizes “practice” the exchange. It is a key element to lead nurturing that helps companies determine whether prospects need to be fast-tracked to sales or nurtured further. There are four basic dimensions to lead scoring:

1. Lead Fit
2. Lead Interest
3. Lead Behavior
4. Buying Stage

Each dimension will help you assign a number value to actions and characteristics that create a “score” for each lead. All you have to do then is determine what score makes him qualified for a sales contact.

Lead Fit

Scoring lead fit means collecting some data on your prospect. You can collect data with online forms for gated content or registrations.

  •  Demographics—This consists of information on the lead himself, such as his job title, years of experience, etc.
  •  Firmographics—This is information you want to capture about organizations, like the company size, revenue, and locations served.
  •  Budget, Authority, Need, Time (BANT)—This is more advanced qualification, but can tell you where the lead is in the buying journey by collecting information on her budget, purchasing timeline, etc.

Calculating an initial lead fit score will help you focus on those who might actually become sales.

Lead Interest

Determining lead interest involves monitoring a prospect’s interest in, and interaction with, your content and networks. This score will tell you how interested someone is in your brand, in addition to your information. Monitor behaviors like email opens and click-throughs, social media engagement, and downloads.

Lead Behavior

Monitoring lead behavior starts to move beyond determining if a lead is a good fit, to determining where she is on the buying journey. These scores are developed and honed over time, but if you know your audience and your industry, you can put together a strong initial estimate.

Consider which behaviors and online activities tend to correlate with leads which eventually become customers. Those are “active behaviors,” and should come with high scores. Conversely, “latent behaviors”—like early-stage content and blog posts—earn much lower scores.

Buying Stage

Determining a lead’s buying stage is the final touch to pinpointing where he is on the buying journey. One simple way to structure and score the buying stage is to align it with a traditional sales funnel.


  •  Early Stage—A person who is aware of your business but may or may not ever become a qualified lead. She will read blog posts, download infographics, and share funny videos.
  •  Mid Stage—This is when a person becomes a lead. He has engaged with your content over time, and displayed some of the usual buying behavior. He has moved on to content like buying guides and ROI calculators. He may have contacted you for more specific information.
  •  Late Stage—These are qualified leads that would either pass to sales or start receiving content like pricing, demos, and discount offers.

Once you establish criteria for your buying stages, it will be much easier to score leads and get an objective perspective on where they are on the buying journey.

Lead Nurturing Means Lead Scoring

Businesses that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at a 33% lower cost, and the metric for effective lead nurturing is a strategic lead scoring system. This process can help SMBs from the start, and scale as the business grows into an enterprise.

If you don’t have a system in place for scoring leads, it’s never too soon or too late to start, and no business is too big or too small. Start at the top by identifying some of the simple lead fit data points that characterize your target audience, and then score your current leads against them. Before you know it, you’ll be nurturing more effectively, timing sales calls perfectly, and closing more business.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Marketing Automation.

Author: Ellen Gomes is a Content Marketing Specialist at Marketo and co-author of The Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing—a newly released eBook that offers unique insights, and practical lessons for nurturing leads like the pros.

6 Sales Is a Function of Marketing Pure and Simple

Over the years one of the great breakdowns in many of the small businesses that I’ve worked with lies in area of sales.

Now it might be tempting to conclude that what I referring to is a lack of sales, but what I’m really getting at is a misunderstanding there’s actually a distinction between sales and marketing.

Some of this might simply be semantics because the terms are widely fumbled around in various places, but here’s what I find to be true.

Business owners either fail to address the functions as separate or choose to view selling as marketing. Either way, they end up limiting the effectiveness of both.

The trouble with this mindset is that social media and inbound marketing has actually made the distinction even harder to appreciate. There was a time when marketing created brochures and sales people delivered them. Now prospects can create their own brochure of sorts using reviews, search engines and social connections and they certainly don’t need a salesperson for an information dump.


In the most traditional view marketing is charged with lead generation, lead conversion and customer experience. Lead conversion, or what one might think of simply as sales, is a central and separate function that must be wholly integrated into the entire marketing framework.

The tricky part is holding the view of separate and integrated simultaneously.

So often lead generation dominates the marketing mindset and sales is either not addressed in any systematic manner or simply left to “the sales guys” to do what they do. (And let’s not even bring up how little thought is given to the customer experience part of marketing.)

Ever wonder why the greatest challenge most organizations face is getting sales and marketing on the same page?

Here’s my recipe for treating sales as function of marketing while giving it the appropriate separation.

Bring sales into the marketing planning phase

Field sales people often understand the needs, wants, stories and personas of your best customers better than anyone else in the organization and yet they are rarely included in ideal client and value proposition discussions. Everyone involved in the marketing function, yes this includes sales and customer service people, should play a role in digging up research, crafting the message, outlining objectives and determining how the marketing game is played from quarter to quarter.

Create an integrated sales process

If you follow step one then it makes logical sense that the entire marketing department play a role in crafting an integrated sales process and not just the sales manager. Everyone involved in the selling function should have a clear process for discovery, presentation, nurturing and converting. The process must be fully understood and supported by marketing and everyone must be taught how to conduct the process. Here’s a tip, look to the most successful salespeople in the organization and odds are they have your process ready to be mimicked.

Hire more educators and engineers

The common belief is that good sales people are good relationship builders. While relationship building is crucial, it’s often viewed in the light of outward social skills. In sales today relationships are often judged not on the merits of likability, but on the merits of value. What prospects need from a sales person is someone who can get them to think differently about a problem or teach them how to do something they don’t yet understand. Your tech people might actually be the best people for this type of selling.

View sales as an extension of lead generation

Today’s sales people need to write and speak as well as network and follow-up. Smart salespeople understand that they are also in the brand building, reputation monitoring, community managing business and marketing departments and sales managers need to enable sales people to produce content, participate in social networks, contribute expert articles and get to podiums as often as possible.

Blur the lines between lead conversion and customer experience

I’ve always contended that a sale isn’t a sale until the customer receives the result they are expecting. This mindset suggests that the sales staff should be intimately involved is measuring results, introducing new ways to use old products, solving problems and digging up referrals at significant moments of truth.

Largely what I’m suggesting is that you make sales a separate function by creating a separate process but you integrate it by overlapping the function into lead generation and customer experience.

People Who Search Convert

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Terry Costa – Enjoy!

People who conduct searches on a website convert at a higher rate than people who don’t.

So it makes sense to find ways to improve the search on your e-commerce site. There are several ideas for doing this. And the good news is that these ideas – taken from our “Big Book of Site Search Tips,” available at http://getsliebooks.com – don’t demand too much from your IT experts when you’re working with a full-service site search vendor.

Keep all eyes on the search box: The search box should be designed so that it’s different from other forms or boxes on your website’s home page, such as a newsletter subscribe box. Given that site visitors expect to easily find the search box – and given that they may abandon your site if they can’t find it – you should highlight the search box prominently on every webpage. To avoid confusion, in a newsletter-subscribe box, you can add text that reads “Your email,” which tells people that this box is expecting an email address, not a search term. Also, avoid using images that look like a search box, such as text inside a small rectangular box.

Another good way to get people to pay more attention to the search box is to name the button that begins the search process something like “Search,” “Find,” or “Go” – or use an icon such as a magnifying glass, which is clearly recognizable to visitors. Another alternative is to use a triangle that looks like an arrow. Some website owners use a combination of text and an icon – a good strategy, as both clues are clear and recognizable. In fact, the search box for Duct Tape Marketing, seen at the top of this blog, adds both features. Also, you can see here how the shoe retailer Footwear etc. adds text to its search box.

Since we’ve already concluded that people who search convert at a higher rate than people who don’t search, it makes sense to find ways to get people back to your search box again and again. To ensure your search box is always visible to visitors, float it so that it always appears at the top of the page as visitors scroll down. If you go to the website for wedding retailer American Bridal, you can see how this works: as you scroll down the page, the search box and coupon codes are always visible.

Learn to “searchandise” results: You should be able to manually control the order of search results, which is useful when you want to showcase something that’s different from what your search is showing. For instance, you can place sale or promotional items at the top of search results to attract attention.

Highlight different content types: It’s becoming more common for websites to add content such as blog posts, community forum posts, and videos to their search results. If you’ve spent time creating this content on your own website, it’s good practice to make this content easily searchable. The health and fitness website for 24 Hour Fitness uses tabs to draw attention to social media content.


Show a “breadcrumb” trail: Breadcrumb trails help visitors keep track of where they’ve come from when they are navigating through your site.  A search-oriented breadcrumb trail will show the search term the person used, and any refinements that they have applied to narrow down their search, like color or price options. It makes it easy for visitors to remove refinements and go back to a broader range of results – say, for example, if they think they narrowed down the search too much.

Make the most of search results “cells”: To help people more easily scan search results, organize information into what are called “cells.” Place each result in a thinly outlined box, or in a box with a colored background. If you want to create a more open look and feel, add enough white space between each cell so that people can easily tell the difference between products. If your product images have a colored background, spacing them just a few pixels apart should be enough to provide a natural separation. Search results cells typically contain a product title, product image, price, and a short description.

If your website is product-focused, think about showing larger product images when people mouse over a thumbnail image in search results cells. The reason is that search results pages usually show smaller thumbnail images that make it hard to see the full detail of the product. By adding a large image pop-up when people mouse over results, they can easily examine the close-up details without having to click to the product page.

You can also use “quick view” windows in cells – they help people view more product information without leaving the search page. Add a button that opens a product detail window, which eliminates the need to load the whole product page and saves people time.

Also, think about adding inventory status to search results cells. People like to know if a product is available before they begin checkout (and it annoys them if they find out they can’t buy something once they’ve set their minds on the purchase). One way to provide current stock or inventory information is to add it to your search results – for instance, including a message such as “In Stock” or “Out of Stock” in the search results cells next to each item, as Harry & David does here with a sold-out item:

If you include inventory status in search results, people can quickly find alternate items if their first choice is out of stock, and they’ll be less frustrated and less likely to leave your site.

Search results pages present great opportunities to promote sales and discounts, since people are usually sensitive to price and interested in chances to save money. Add a special “on sale” logo or banner to the relevant search result cells, place sale items at the top of results, or let people refine results to see what’s on sale.

Another good idea is to show both the full price and the sale price in search results for items that are on sale. If you show shoppers the savings they’re receiving by contrasting regular and sale prices, you give them even more motivation to make a purchase.

Include social sharing buttons: By helping your website visitors share your products and information on their social networks, you broaden the reach of your marketing. Consider including social sharing buttons such as Facebook “Like,” Pinterest “Pin it” and Google+ “+1” in search results. These social endorsements are even more useful for shoppers when they’re shown among a collection of similar products in your search results.

Add infinite scrolling: You may have noticed this feature on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter – when you get near the end of the page, more posts are loaded automatically, creating an endless scroll. In site search, when users reach the bottom of visible search results, more results are loaded without them having to click on “next” or a page number.

Use synonyms to offer more results: For instance, if a site visitor searches for iPods, and your site offers other MP3 players, connect these and other similar items so that they appear together in search results. This provides shoppers with more alternatives, encouraging them to browse similar products.

Allow people to refine by price: For product searches, as opposed to searches for content like news articles or blog posts, it’s helpful if people can refine results by price, since that’s an important part of many buying decisions. One option to consider is a price slider, which allows people to easily set a bottom price and a top price. It takes up less screen real estate than a list of price ranges, and it offers more flexibility than fixed price ranges.

Monitor keywords that are gaining popularity: Watch the keywords that your visitors are using more often so you’re able to meet increasing product demand. Trends around popular terms may shift with the seasons, or with popular songs and movies. As people use the same search terms with growing frequency, you get advance word, so to speak, that the products that go along with those terms will likely also gain in popularity.

As you make improvements to your website’s search function, keep a close eye on changes in visitor behavior – for instance, more people using search, more people making purchases after conducting searches, or a lower abandon rate. This will tell you that the features you’re adding to your site are actually working.

Terry Costa is vice president of marketing at SLI Systems (www.sli-systems.com/). 

11 The Selling System Technology Toolkit

selling toolbox

Image credit: chuckoutrearseats via Flickr

In response to yesterday’s post Installing a Selling System, a reader asked me what tools I favored for each of the steps in the system I described.

There’s no question that the act of selling, building trust, and educating prospects has been dramatically impacted by the onslaught of online tools available today, but I think the perfect blend lies in fusing the online with the offline. Selling is still about building relationships and few things compare to hugs and handshakes in the relationship arena.

Smart marketers and salespeople are using technology to help provide additional points of contact, training, and research in ways that enhance, rather than replace, the overall process of moving people to making a purchasing decision.

With that in mind, here are my tech toolbox suggestions for amplifying the selling system. This is not meant to be the complete list of every option, but more of a starter list of tools I like to help get you thinking about fusion. (Details on each step)

Discovery – Move a lead to the next planned step

  • Wufoo – a brilliant form building tool that can be used to present a series of qualifying questions that feed your CRM pipeline
  • Flowtown – a tool that appends an email lead with a full suite of social media and online activity giving you a much richer picture of a prospect. (Integrates with Wufoo and email service providers)

Presentation – the planned act of presenting your unique approach, case statement and story

  • iPad – the small, yet brilliant display of the iPad running Keynote or even a PDF viewer makes the perfect intimate presentation tool. Don’t create the 50 slide info dump, but use a handful of slides to create impact and reinforce your primary point of view and story.
  • SlideRocket – an online slide presentation tool that can be used live or as an on demand show. The power of this tool is the ability to create presentations that contain multimedia and forms tied to your CRM system

Nurturing – Keeping a prospect interested and engaged as they move through their buying cycle

  • Office AutoPilot – a little known tool that has the power to run your entire marketing automation process. The full suite includes form based email marketing, direct mail integration, lead scoring and tracking, and pURL technology, but best of all, it’s built with the small business in mind.
  • InfusionSoft – another small business oriented tool that includes CRM features, autoresponders, branching and personalized follow-up based on click tracking
  • Constant Contact, Vertical Response, MailChimp, AWeber – all great, reputable email marketing services that allow you to create multifaceted email follow-up campaigns

Transaction – a process that focuses on delivering a remarkable experience once a prospect decides to buy

  • MavenLink – one of the many online project management suites, but focused on simplicity for the service provider. Using a tool like this allows you to create an online portal for every client and give them access to orientation materials as well as an online collaboration space for project work.
  • Central Desktop – another project management tool, but with a nice wiki feature for building lots of easily searchable content for your customers.
  • Jott – this tool does a lot of things, but primarily it’s a way to speak a message and have it sent via email. Try this right after you meet with a new client and send the action steps from your just completed meeting via email as you drive back to the office.

Review – one of the most overlooked points in selling is measuring results, both your’s and the client’s

  • MyNextCustomer – a simple way to measure phone calls, web leads and sales from social media, seo, paid search and offline marketing campaigns to determine where your highest conversion payoff is.
  • GetSatisfaction – a very nice tool that facilitates the act of bringing customers and companies together to create a better shared experience.
  • SurveyGizmo – my favorite online survey, poll and questionnaire tool

11 I Didn't Know You Did That

So, honestly now, have you ever heard the words in the title to this post from a long-time customer? We all have, I’m afraid, and shame on us.

When a customer becomes a customer, it’s usually to purchase a specific product or solve a specific problem. When we solve that problem or ship that product the job is done, right? To build true marketing momentum the job has just begun.

I often talk about part of the lead conversion or selling process containing what I call a “new customer kit.” This is simply a set of orientation materials that provides your new customer with all the information they need to successfully work with your organization.

One of the elements of this kit should be an introduction to all the products and services your company has to offer. That’s a good start of course, but you must do much more than that to drive this information home. When a customer is new to your organization they may only have one simple need so your must commit to a long-term process of education as well.

My advice is to create a monthly process of introduction to some aspect of your business and offer this information in several forms. For example, a monthly mailing to your entire customer base, a lunch and learn with your referral sources, a telesession open to the public, an autoresponder series for newsletter subscribers, and post on the company blog.

Keeping all of your products and services featured and top of mind is one of the best ways to do more business with your existing customers and partners. Build this education system and put it on auto-pilot and you may start hearing, I’m glad you offer that!

I don’t say this enough, but the images I use on this blog and in my workshop presentations are from my favorite stock photo site iStockphoto. It rocks, just go check it out.

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