This year’s Conversion Conference in Chicago was chock-full of innovative ideas centered around the optimization of landing pages, email blasts and search marketing. Naturally, I found the discussions about content marketing tactics, testing strategies and industry statistics to be engaging. But what resonated most with me was a simpler message that we learn early on in our marketing careers, yet too often forget: In order to market to your audience, you have to think like your audience.
It sounds like something out of marketing 101, but speakers at the conference brought up this back-to-basics concept over and over again. It’s easy to get caught up in a content generation frenzy—we sometimes see this with our clients. They know that content is essential to their marketing efforts but sometimes forget to put their customers at the center of their marketing stories— a mistake that reduces relevance, resonance and can cost conversions.
Here are five tips for more empathetic marketing:
1. Answer the questions your audience is asking.
This concept seems obvious, but so many marketers are missing easy opportunities to create the informative content that their audience is actually looking for. We worry so much about generating more content, but we fail to examine what type of content our audience wants. A simple way to find out what questions prospects are asking is to analyze the search data that lands users on your website. What questions come up most? What assets can you create in response to these questions?
Another great way to fill content gaps is to talk to the sales or client services teams. These people are talking to prospects on a daily basis — what questions are they hearing time and time again? Can you create a white paper that answers those questions? Or an interactive solution? Online tools like UberSuggest and Quora are also good places to find inspiration.
2. Focus landing pages on conversion, not aesthetics.
During his conversion optimization myth-busting session, Tim Ash of SiteTuners explained that it’s easy for designers to go overboard with visual embellishments. Fluid design and brand consistency are necessary for landing pages, but the primary focus should be conversion — not aesthetics. If you can’t answer the question “How is this visual embellishment going to assist with conversion?” then the element probably doesn’t belong on the page. Visual embellishments can become distractions that keep the user from getting to the end goal. We need to continuously go back to the foundations of conversion and user experience. Test the landing page as if you were the user, and ask yourself if it is straightforward and effective.
3. Avoid speed dating your prospects.
What’s the one piece of information every marketer wants to get from a form fill? The phone number, of course. But Casey Cheshire of Cheshire Impact advises us to put ourselves in the user’s shoes: If you ask for the phone number too fast, you risk scaring off your prospect.
This is not only true with phone numbers. Asking for too much information upfront is bad practice in general, and it increases the risk of bounces and bad data. Remove fields like country, state, and ZIP code completely, and rethink adding fields like last name, phone number and “How did you hear about us?” Consider doing three versions of a landing page, so that it changes each time the user visits. The first two versions should have limited fields, while the last version can include more detailed profile questions.
4. Choose interactive content over passive content.
White papers, fact-sheets and e-books seem to be the marketer’s content crux. And though these assets can be well-executed, the monotony can be boring. Instead of continuously feeding text-based content to your audience, consider creating assets that are more engaging. Short quizzes are a great way to inspire some interaction on a website. Evaluation tools that generate a customized quote or action plan is another creative way to engage prospects. Rather than leaning on white papers, try to come up with creative ways to introduce interactive content on your website.
5. Use everyday language and ditch the fancy talk.
In the hopes of sounding informative and professional, marketers often overlook simple, colloquial phrases in favor of flouncy, Latinate language. In doing this, we risk making our message unclear and inaccessible — and we may even alienate our audience and make them feel dumb. So, instead of using words like acquire, transmit, construct, resist, deposit, consider using simpler language: get, send, build, stop, put. Your prospects don’t talk that way in their day-to-day interactions, so why should you?
These tips are vital in the world of content creation and conversion. Rather than fixating on the latest industry trends, go back to your marketing roots – remember to think about your audience, how they interact in the world and what they want. Perhaps the best line of the conference was said by Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media: Don’t think of the market — think as the market.