“I don’t know.” That’s not what you want to say when your boss asks how things are going with the company’s marketing metrics. Even so, it’s easy to clam up about when you feel put on the spot.
You spend all of your time in the details of marketing, but your boss wants you to share the big picture. Your boss is going to want a general vision of how things are going, rather than a detailed tale of everything you’ve done in the past month.
She’ll want to know what metrics are improving, how customer acquisition and retention are faring, and what you’ve been doing to make improvements. As a marketer, you should know a few marketing metrics– or at least how to retrieve them– so that you’re prepared when someone asks for the big picture.
Here are some marketing metrics worth sharing with your boss:
Overall engagement on site
Believe it or not, 55% of B2B marketers say they aren’t sure what content marketing success looks like, according to Content Marketing Institute. However, overall engagement on site is one of the best ways to figure out the ROI of your efforts.
When your boss walks up to your desk and asks how things are going, there are a few metrics you should always have on hand. According to HubSpot, 65% of companies are challenged to generate traffic and leads, so this is likely to be a concern for those up top.
Many marketers create custom dashboards in Google Analytics or Excel so that these metrics are always available.
Shareable metrics include:
Number of site visitors (daily, weekly, monthly)
Growth of site visitors
Overall conversion rate (how many people who visit the site convert?)
Time on site (this shows whether people are reading your content)
Number of pages visited
Most popular pages
How people get to the site
You’ll also want to have a good understanding of overall website conversion rate. According to SixteenVentures, the average conversion rate for SaaS is 3%. Are you performing better or worse than the average?
Conversion rates from particular campaigns and strategies
When you create a new campaign or initiative, you also have to be sure you have taken the steps to measure success. What will success look like? Is it the number of generated leads? Is it simply brand awareness?
It’s not only a question of your goals, but also how you will measure them. When someone downloads an eBook, are you able to track how they found the eBook, and what happened after they downloaded it?
You should know:
How many leads were generated from particular channels
How many social media shares a content marketing asset received
Conversions from organic search vs. other mediums
Be able to share conversion rates from particular campaigns and strategies. It can help to put things in context. For example, if your manager wants to know why a new blog post isn’t gaining views compared to an older one, you can explain that only 1 in 10 blog posts are compounding, meaning organic search increases their traffic over time, according to HubSpot.
Changes over time
It’s easy to look at your marketing efforts and say that things were going better than they were in the past, but you actually need to be able to document changes over time. Then, you can share them.
For example, if you were hired to run your company’s blog, and you’ve increased time on site by a full minute, that’s a metric worth sharing with your manager. Similarly, if there are changes in how people are interacting with your site– perhaps the percentage of visitors who come through mobile– you should be able to share them.
Cost-per-acquisition based on channel
One thing your manager definitely cares about is how much it costs to acquire a customer. You should have a handle on how much it costs to acquire a customer for each marketing and advertising channel, as well as the customer lifetime values for each channel.
Cost-per-acquisition – How much it costs to acquire a customer
Customer lifetime value – Average amount that a customer spends with your company
You may find that you get a lot of conversions from Facebook ads, which are inexpensive to run. However, if everyone that signs up from a Facebook ad only hangs around for a month, are you truly getting a return on your investment? Perhaps your money is better spent on organic search efforts, where it costs slightly more to gain a customer, but the customers stay around for longer.
Don’t get caught on the spot when someone asks what’s going on with your marketing efforts. Instead, be prepared. Be ready to share metrics around the overall engagement on your site, conversion rates, changes over time, as well as the relationship between your cost-per-acquisition and your customer lifetime value.
It is often said ‘content is king’ but we think for the modern B2B marketer, content is air. That makes it so much harder to decide: should B2B marketers look for content marketing services or keep the work in-house?
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies understand the value of content. Content marketing allows you to build brand awareness, generate leads, and get prospects down the funnel.
For SaaS companies that don’t have traditional sales teams, content marketing is an essential part of the marketing mix. By providing educational resources, you can…
Teach prospects about your services
Help them do their jobs better
Nurture leads down the marketing funnel
Become a go-to expert in your space
Most of us know the benefits of content marketing, but what does it look like in practice? Content marketing has changed a lot in the last decade due to the evolution of both audience and technology. See themarketing metrics that are working.
For a little inspiration, we’re sharing how five SaaS companies are reaping benefits from content marketing. Read on:
1. Groove HQ
When Alex Turnbull, Founder of Groove, a help desk for small businesses and startups, started digging into his marketing, he realized that the company blog needed some love. The existing blog was full of generic tips on how to be better at customer support. Turnbull knew it wasn’t super inspiring.
Key takeaway: Tell the truth with fairness, integrity and accountability.
CoSchedule offers an editorial calendar to content marketers. The software is great, but they’re competing in a cluttered space. After all, there is so much content out there about content marketing.
At first glance, it seems like there’s no room to succeed. But CoSchedule was able to differentiate themselves from the competition with content that was beyond valuable.
Not only do they provide insanely well-researched posts on how to write the perfect blog headline and how to improve content with “the skyscraper technique,” but they also provide a variety of templates that can be printed out and used by any content marketing manager.
Additionally, CoSchedule went all in with content, evident from the images in each post, which are well-designed and on-brand. The team doesn’t rely on silly GIFs or bizarre stock photos. Everything is branded and beautiful.
Key takeaway: Create detailed content give data and examples
Shopify provides an easy to use website builder for those selling goods online, and they’ve long boasted some of the best small business content on the internet.
It’s not just that the content itself is informative and valuable– the Shopify has done significant work in organizing their content to make sure that visitors can find what they need. For example, Shopify has the following categories on the right of its blog:
This design allows visitors to navigate towards the topics that interest them, rather than forcing them to read the latest blog post.
Key takeaway: Make your words the hero of your design
Unlike most SaaS companies, Wistia does much of its content marketing using video, rather than words. Of course this makes a lot of sense for a company that sells video embedding software to businesses.
Wistia provides quirky, educational resources on how to create professional videos through an all-inclusive hub. A lot of their tips explain how to do more with less. Like CoSchedule, Wistia creates many custom images to complement blog posts and videos.
Bonus: Wistia publishes their videos using their own software, which makes it obvious how good the videos are when a prospect watches. They feel much like watching the best possible how-to video on YouTube.
Key takeaway: Use customer-centric point of view.
Grammarly is a best friend to any writer, marketer, or editor. After all, the software helps ensure there are no grammatical or spelling errors in a piece of writing.
When it comes to content marketing, Grammarly is extremely charming. They’ve developed a brand voice that feels like a cool, hip librarian who’s dishing all they know about the written word.
A lot of Grammarly’s posts are positively useful, but it’s clear the team has done a lot of work to consider SEO. For example, how many times have you googled something like “lay vs lie”?
Key takeaway: Your brand overall style must be consistent
Caring about content
All the Saas companies we’ve explored have different approaches to content marketing, but they have one thing in common. They all believe that content marketing is important, and have dedicated substantial resources to making sure that the assets they publish are up to snuff.
You know having a great-looking website is important, but what’s the point of the site if it doesn’t help you win more business? Yep– your website needs to sell. A sharp B2B website not only looks great, but also drives traffic and leads.
Whether you’re building a new site or want to optimize an existing one, there’s much you can do to create a winning site. You need inbound links, on-page SEO, and an emphasis on design that converts.
It isn’t always straightforward. That’s why we’ve put together 9 B2B website ‘must haves’ for driving traffic and leads. When you’re done with this guide, you’ll…
Understand the 9 ‘must haves’ for driving traffic & leads
Have a sense of what needs to be done to improve your site
At the start of the new year, you’re probably considering what you can do in the coming months to drive traffic, revenue, and more sales. But marketing is an ever-changing landscape. Will the tactics that worked last year continue to work in 2017? Are people still downloading eBooks? Has the social media sphere changed? Enter content marketing.
You need to be on top of the latest trends if you want to propel business forward. One thing is for sure– B2B businesses continue to see content marketing as an integral part of their customer acquisition and retention strategies.
Content marketing is here to stay, and B2B companies that want to generate more business need to pay attention. That’s why we’re sharing 5 B2B content marketing trends that you should focus on in 2017.
1. Email takes a front seat over social
In the past few years, the social media landscape has changed. It used to be that B2B companies could gain substantial organic traffic from sites like Facebook and Twitter by promoting their content. Today, it’s become much more pay-to-play, and many companies feel jerked around by ever-changing algorithms and ad prices.
Because of this, many companies are focusing their efforts on email marketing. Although email marketing is a more traditional tactic, B2B businesses are finding clever ways to use email to nurture leads and convert them to prospects. Enhanced features such as personalization, segmentation, and automation have made email one of the best channels for ROI.
Content marketing provides the fuel for every successful email marketing program. When you email your base, you need great content that inspires them to engage with your brand. According to a study by CMI and MarketingProfs, email was rated as as the top success metric for measuring content marketing.
2. Shifted focus on influencers
In 2016, we saw many B2B brands going after influencers for content marketing assets, with a flurry of blog posts with insights from the experts. Many brands created round-up posts featuring industry experts from around the web, in turn finding ways to get links and mentions.
This tactic proved successful, but it has become overplayed. Influencers are more careful about what the say, where they get quoted, and how they share the content. Influencer content was a hot trend of 2016, but we expect the focus on it to shift in 2017 as B2B brands get savvier about how to use influencers.
A McKinsey study found that influencer marketing earned, on average, $9.60 for every $1 spent in 2015, compared to 2014 where $6.85 was generated per $1 spent. If you want to see substantial ROI from influencer marketing in 2017, you need to be deliberate in your strategy and approach.
3. Higher quality content for niche audiences
As the content marketing space gets more competitive, it won’t be enough to just have content. In fact, B2B businesses are not only going all in with content marketing, but they’re getting much better at producing better content.
According to Content Marketing Institute, 72% of B2B marketers cited creating engaging content as a top priority in 2016. This coming year, we expect that companies will create even better content at a more efficient rate.
Additionally, brands will get better at narrowing their focus and speaking directly to their audiences. Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz, tweeted that marketers should “get more niche—serve smaller and smaller interest groups.”
4. Organizations get real about what it takes to do content
In the past, marketing leaders saw content marketing as something they could throw at an inexperienced intern, reasoning that writing blog posts wasn’t that time consuming or difficult. Many in-house content marketers complained that they didn’t have the budget or human resources to create the big, bold content that gets attention in the B2B space.
In 2016, that changed. According to CMI, 85% of B2B organizations are now investing in content. These organizations are realizing that in order to do content marketing well, they needed to hire experts in the field, people who have experience building and running content marketing strategies.
5. Rise of native advertising
Ads are everywhere. According to a study by HubSpot, 85% of people notice the ads in their Facebook NewsFeed. Because ads have taken over, people are beginning to opt out. This makes traditional digital advertising less effective.
Enter native advertising. B2B brands are increasingly turning to native advertising strategies as a way to promote content. This allows them to get the message out about their brand while providing value to the audience. It’s a win-win for B2B, and we expect to see more of it in 2017.
Content marketing will take centerstage in 2017, as marketers focus on new ways to get audience attention. They’ll double down on email, get real about investing in content, and experiment with native advertising. Do you have any additional insights on B2B marketing trends for content creators? We’d love to hear them and continue the conversation!
As we enter the year 2017, we here at UpTrending are looking forward to embracing some of the latest and most effective trends in web design that are pushing new boundaries in the area of user experience.
While there are a few web design trends we have no problem turning our back on, there are so many more that represent everything that makes us excited to do what we do. The great thing about working in an industry such as this one is that there’s always someone pushing the envelope and something new to look forward to. 2017 is right around the corner and with a new year comes a new motivation to create, an optimism in what’s possible, and an excitement to be a part of it all.
Here are just a few of the emerging trends we are looking forward to seeing more of in the coming year. While they aren’t necessarily new, they are proving to be the future of web design.
Web design trend #1: Long scrolling single page design
Multi-page hierarchical website architecture makes a lot of sense to our organization-obsessed brains. Like an Ikea closet system, everything has its place, and as long as the hierarchy makes logical sense, the pages on sites designed this way are relatively easy to navigate. But this is a website people, not a book or newspaper. Why are we even talking about pages at all? This ain’t print!
The future of sales and persuasion is storytelling. As new platforms and devices emerge, new methods of presenting information emerge and methods like long scrolling single page sites open up new ways of telling visual stories on the web. When you’re presenting information in a sequential format, it is essential that your users make it to the end where the story they’ve been told comes together and they are compelled to act. Clicking from page to page can be tiresome and boring causing many users to drop off before they’ve gotten the full story, but long scrolling provides opportunities to encourage continued engagement with the story through subtle animations Look no further than The Boat for a devastatingly amazing use of single page storytelling, ripe with rich animation that will keep you scrolling just to see what happens next!
SEO nerds can put your hands down, we all recognize the inherent problems that single page design has with search rankings. Shame on you for assuming we haven’t thought of that and come across solutions and workarounds. We are professionals after all!
Some will even decry the user experience of a single-pager based on navigability. Again, puh-leese! Look no further than this beautifully designed page for a prime example of how to do something as simple as anchoring stops along the way to allow users to quickly access information anywhere on the site.
“But wait!” You cry. Remember this post where you denounced scroll jacking? Yes. However, the thoughtful and intentional structure of this site is worth calling out. While scroll jacking can be inherently annoying, this site’s workarounds are impressive. For example, clicking on any of the section titles in the top navigation renders an immediate response. The site also keeps the footer navigation at the bottom of every section, as opposed to just the bottom of the last section.
Granted, the single page approach doesn’t work in every instance but if nothing else, a long scrolling approach to storytelling can be implemented even into multi-page sites with great effect.
Web design trend #2: Animation-rich microinteractions
They say the devil is in the details. This idiom particularly holds true when it comes to user experience. Sure we put a lot of stock on driving that one, or those few, big interactions that lead to conversions, but lately a great deal of emphasis has been placed on microinteractions, the everyday ways that users engage with a site or app.
Actions like saving, syncing, liking, swiping or even just clicking a button qualify as microinteractions and they happen a lot. But let’s not forget that these experiences are taking place within a digital (read non-physical) world and as tactile creatures we require feedback from our environment. Interacting with digital elements without some visual or audible signal that our input has been received can be vexing and many cases, capable of ruining user experience.
Simple yet rich animations can go a long way in providing the necessary feedback that satisfies a user’s need for validation. It can even prevent problems. Think of payment processing situations in eCommerce over a slow or interrupted internet connection. Especially in situations where a monetary transaction is taking place, users want to feel secure that they’ve “done it right.” Clever or cute microinteractions can even delight users when they aren’t expecting it. Why concern yourself with delighting someone over something so trivial? Because it turns an otherwise boring activity into something exciting and perhaps fun, something they might consider doing again. That sounds like a win to us!
Web design trend #3: Card-based design
One of the more exciting trends we are seeing across the web is card-based design or card layouts. Humans have used cards to encapsulate and disseminate information for hundreds of years. From playing cards to business cards to baseball cards, these rectangular objects have appeared in every culture and time period from here to Ming Dynasty China. In short, cards are a recognizable and familiar concept and when it comes to web design, familiar means intuitive, and intuitive makes for a great user experience.
Cards are incredibly useful for content-heavy sites because they provide neat little containers to hold and display information just as they do a pitcher’s stats on the back of a baseball card. In fact, they actually work much in the same way as baseball cards do. On the front you have a great image with some context like a name or a title, and on the back, a lot of really granular information, statistics, maybe even a story. In this way, the card layout is more than just a neat-looking design element, it represents an entire framework for how digital products can (and should) be structured. In this way, they are ripe for aggregating content from basically anywhere and capable of displaying it in a consistent fashion.
Perhaps one of the most endearing qualities of cards is how well they lend themselves to responsiveness. Pick up your phone. Remind you of anything? Kinda has the same shape a card doesn’t it? Cards stack with ease and can be expanded to reveal more information. That’s the beauty of them! And while we’re on the topic of mobile applications, can we briefly talk about how brilliantly they work with gestures? Since they’re based on physical, real-world objects, they practically beg to be flipped, tapped, and swiped with little to no instruction required.
Web design trend #4: Authentic imagery and illustrations
“Cool stock photo bro!” Said nobody EVER. As concepts mature, so do their users and mature internet users are hip to lazy tactics like using stock photos to fill space. People gravitate towards stock photos because they are easy but since when did taking the easy route result in something extraordinary? The whole idea of a web page is to communicate value and it’s really hard to do that when you are designing around stock photos that don’t really say much of anything or represent your product or brand.
If you want to stand out, you’ll need to use authentic imagery that speaks to your brand. Granted that does mean adding photography to your budget and good photographers certainly aren’t cheap but why would you spend money on great web design only to fill it with cheesy photos of suits pointing at charts or random college kids laughing about nothing?
When high quality photographs are out of the budget or simply not all that relevant, look to illustrations as an effective tool to get your point across. Even simple illustrations can make a world of difference in communicating more authentically when they are on-brand and part of a larger, unified system of related illustrations.
Web design trend #5: Vibrant colors
Color conveys so much more than we probably realize. There’s a whole psychology to it that is endlessly fascinating, all the more so because it works on such a primal, subconscious level. Computer screens are capable of displaying literally millions of different colors and as of late, designers have gotten pretty bold with their choices.
Perhaps as the designs themselves become more minimal, designers look to color palettes for expression. Compare a more recently built website to those from several years ago and observe soft blues and bright whites give way to vibrant, powerful colors that make bold statements. These fierce, impactful colors allow even the most minimal design to scream.
Designers talk a lot about whitespace but that space doesn’t have to actually be white, does it? Brightly colored backgrounds can have the same effect of drawing attention towards important elements like calls to action while also setting a tone or conveying emotion.
Vibrancy doesn’t have to be loud and abrasive though. In fact, if anything it requires even more restraint and thoughtfulness to really nail it. Spotify’s tendency towards the duotone effect is a prime example of how to use vibrant colors in a subtle and impactful way without being garish or flamboyant.
Oh and by the way, Pantone’s 2017 Color of the Year is Greenery which takes its cues from nature. It’s pretty vibrant.
Web design trend #6: Serif typography
Don’t call it a comeback! Despite years of a sans-serif dominated web, those quaint little tails are popping up more and more as some designers blend classic styles into their contemporary designs.
The earliest typefaces had serifs as they imitated brushstrokes and allowed those carving the characters into stone to neaten up the ends of letterforms. In the early days of print, they proved more readable in body copy having something to do with typesetting but they proved less so with the advent of the computer screen. Low resolution made it difficult to display the tinier details especially as the letters scale down, but as screen definition improves and technology and trend push web design further towards an image and animation-driven medium, serifs make for great contrast in titles and headlines that stand out from body copy. Sans-serif fonts may work great for comprehension but serifs have impact!
If nothing else, serifs speak to a retro aesthetic and a throwback to print. In that way, they certainly stand out as a relic or an artifact from a simpler time, nostalgic and not to be forgotten. Here are some pretty cool ones.
Again, these trends aren’t all new and they aren’t the standard… yet. They all however, represent the evolution of user-focused design to this point in time while being informed by popular trends and the movement towards mobile computing. Choosing one or some combination of these elements certainly won’t guarantee results; that requires strategy. That being said, we hope to see more of this in the coming year but at the end of the day, we’re just happy to make great websites for great clients.
Web design trends come and go. Flash, anyone? As technology improves, the web goes ever more mobile and user experience becomes the focus, these trends are evolving a heck of a lot faster these days. While we can all agree that page counters, scrolling marquees and pop-up windows are dead and done, there are quite a few modern web trends that have already outlived their usefulness.
You yourself may very well be attached to a dying trend. But as hard as it is to let them go, it’s time to say buh-bye to the following web design trends as we approach another new year.
Trend #1: Sliders & carousels
There are a host of reasons why auto-forwarding carousels or sliders are a bad, if not downright bloodless, design move, but chief among them within the realm of B2B web design are usability and conversion.
Auto-forwarding sliders are actually perhaps one of the worst elements you could possibly incorporate into a website from a user experience perspective.
Think about it…
If a user isn’t interested in what’s in front of them, they’re going to scroll away, not sit and wait to find out if the next slide is as droll and irrelevant as the first. Or what if they were interested and you just took it away like a playground bully. Did you expect them go look for it again? Why would you want to tease your users like that? Didn’t you put a lot of time and effort into building this site exclusively for them? Why are you being so mean?!
Then of course there’s that whole thing about the purpose of your site in the first place – driving conversions. Unless you’re some giant brand looking to create a unique digital experience to build brand equity, your site’s users are probably not interested in just hanging out and poking around. Chances are they have a problem and they want to solve it as quickly as possible because then they don’t have a problem anymore and can get on with more satisfying things like watching baby goat videos. In B2B, a conversion-focused approach should do very little beyond encouraging the specific action you want the user to take. Anything and everything on your site should be there for the sole purpose of convincing your user to take the action you want them to. Expecting them to voluntarily sit through a parade of marketing materials is just plain presumptuous. Just get to the point!
And if the theory doesn’t do it for you, how about some data? Guess how many people out there actually click on slider images? The answer is 1%. And 84% of that ridiculously small number ever get past the first one. Are you feeling me yet?
So what should you do instead? Well, that depends now doesn’t it? As sick as you no doubt are of hearing that answer, it’s the truth and you know it. There is no other way to determine what the best method of driving conversions on your site is besides testing and iteration.
Again, we could go on and on about how badly carousels need to go (and perhaps we will), but for now we’ll just say…
Trend #2: Flat design
Way back when in the early twenty-teens, flat design was welcomed with open arms, invited to sit at the table and given the biggest helping of mashed potatoes. “It’s so simple,” they said. “So beautiful. So… sophisticated!” But is it really?
Embracing the two-dimensional screens we view websites on for what they are, flat design finally stopped trying to imitate the real world the way Apple did with their skeuomorphic bevels and drop shadows. The minimalistic approach allowed us to minimize by stripping things down and focusing on usability rather than attempting to simulate familiar experiences we may be more accustomed to. Not to mention that websites with flat design look cool as hell and boy are they fast! However, cool as it may be, flat design isn’t without its own usability problems. Remember the Windows 8 Metro UI? Waaaaaaay too flat! It ignored the signals and context we need to interact intuitively with the web.
Then Google came along and figured out a way to put the third dimension and a little motion back onto the screen with Material Design, a framework complete with tools and guidelines that essentially requires its practitioners to drink the Google-Aid. An impressive albeit very Google-looking way of doing things, Material Design is certainly effective and naturally intuitive, but it’s also rigid and restrictive to silly little things like creativity and expression that we designers kind of pride ourselves in.
So what’s next? Well for now, hybridization seems to make sense as a natural starting point. There were things that worked in material design and flat design has certainly proven its effectiveness, so why not go with the best of both worlds? Flat Design 2.0 is here and it combines the user-friendly, mobile-centric, layered approach of Material Design with Flat Design’s super-speedy page load speeds and modern aesthetics. You can see it demonstrated beautifully in this seasonally appropriate example from none other than Google herself. It’s gorgeous and flat but layered and complex at the same time. What more could you ask for?
Trend #3: Complicated or distracting animations
Animation is hot right now and for good reason. It can be a powerful tool that reinforces design concepts and enhances the usability of a website in a number of significant and appropriate ways. If we’re calling this thoughtful and purposeful use of motion “functional animation,” it’s antithesis can only be referred to as dysfunctional animation and ohhhhhh, how it sucks.
New trends are abused, it happens. We were all kids once (some of us still are) and we’re all guilty of falling for the shiniest new toys. We may have grown up, but we’re still susceptible to losing our minds over the latest innovation and allowing our enthusiasm to take over until what once had potential loses all purpose. Animation has purpose though. Unfortunately we forget that sometimes, possibly because the word itself conjures images of our favorite childhood cartoons or the medium’s potential to be limitlessly expressive. But when we do forget this, it just gets in the way and instead of reinforcing design concepts, it distracts, it confuses, and it frustrates. And the last thing we want to do is frustrate our users. Right?
In the future, let’s all agree to validate any and all motion on our sites. You should be able to defend the function of every animation for its purpose in providing context or encouraging action. If you can’t, get rid of it. If you disagree, maybe you should be working for Pixar?
Trend #4: Scroll jacking
Remember the last time you found yourself in a situation you couldn’t control and thought to yourself, “Gee, this is great! I love the restrictive way I’m being forced to experience this!” Having some trouble? I thought so. That’s because you are a human being with free will and a brain capable of making inferences and decisions on your own, not a host on Westworld doomed to repeat the same behavioral loops over and over again. You don’t need anyone to tell you how to use something that should be intuitive in the first place.
Scroll jacking is like an overbearing mother or a micromanaging supervisor always over your shoulder. It’s annoying and honestly a little bit patronizing. You’ve probably been a victim of scroll jacking if you’ve ever done any research on a new Apple product and been forced to suffer through slide of explanation on why you need their latest device, OS or app. If you’re like me, you’ve at least experience that “Get me out of here!” moment of helplessness and frustration, but beyond the simple annoyance of it all, there are gigantic accessibility and usability issues that only prevent users from interacting with your site.
Websites and digital products should be intuitive. They should not require the guiding hand of “the Builder,” but rather be open to exploration by the user, capable of being experienced in the most appropriate way for that individual or persona. The most important information should be accessible but not force-fed. Visitors should have the freedom of choice to explore that which is relevant to them in the most logical way. Do the tiniest amount of user testing and you’ll find that different personas are likely to interact with the same product in completely different ways. Sometimes people need to be left alone to learn and discover things on their own in order to make a confident and informed decision. Scroll jacking flies in the face of this concept and is just plain arrogant in its assumption that there is a one-size-fits-all best way to experience a site.
Trend #5: Sidebars
This entry may be better suited for a similarly themed post with 2014 in the title. Enough already! It’s time to put purposeless sidebars to pasture.
This is the age of minimalism whether you like it or not. And not just in web design. Flat, Material, Flat 2.0… these are the design trends moving forward and they work because they’ve stripped out unnecessary and gratuitous conventions like the sidebar. You see them all the time on News sites which makes absolutely zero sense because their objective should be to get you to focus on the content, not bouncing from story to story like a caffeine-addled spider monkey. While it’s safe to say these sites likely have ulterior motives for emphasizing page views over time on page or driving a specific action, that should not be what informs the page design of a B2B site with a clear conversion strategy.
Let me ask you something. What do you need a sidebar for? Navigation? What’s wrong with your primary navigation? Well, fix it, don’t just make it redundant. Redundant or irrelevant sidebar content does nothing but distract attention from whatever it is you are supposed to be communicating to the user on that particular page.
When conversions are the name of the game, you should be taking every possible step to maximize them through testing different CTAs and their placement on the page. Convinced that the sidebar is the most appropriate place for that button or form? Doubt it. This company removed their cluttered sidebar, moved their CTAs in line with the content itself and saw a 71% increase in conversions. Remember, it’s all about experience. If a blog post is written with the intent of compelling a user to act, it makes for a far more natural experience after all when the CTA is presented at the exact point at which the user is compelled.
Sidebars are almost always nothing more than a distraction and in this age of minimalism, distractions should be the first things to go!
Bring on 2017
You may very well notice some of these conventions on what are otherwise highly effective sites. In fact, we may have used some of them in our own work in the past. But the past is exactly where we intend to leave these and other tired conventions, replacing them with innovative new experiences that are backed by experimentation and testing. So don’t think of this as the Burn Book from Mean Girls so much as lighthearted constructive criticism intended to make your website better and the internet in general a tidier, less annoying place.
Suffice it to say that we are looking forward to a new year and the web design trends that follow, but no matter how shiny and hyped they may be, we’ll always rely on that which is backed by data and results. Check back soon to see what new web design trends we hope to see take the spotlight in 2017!
If you’ve ever read up on how today’s brands use social media, you’ll notice a pretty big trend. Most of the success stories comes from big companies who sell to consumers.
Yep, it’s easy to find inspiring stories about how McDonald’s, DiGiorno’s Pizza, and the NFL are using social.
But SaaS companies are benefiting from social media, too. These nimble software companies are boosting brand awareness, engaging with prospects and customers, and learning how to link social with email and other areas of marketing.
Social media isn’t something you can ignore. In fact, you need to be paying attention to your presence and working to improve it.
Today, we’re dishing what we know about the social media landscape and sharing 5 things you should know about using social media for SaaS companies.
Why social matters for SaaS
SaaS companies turn to social primarily to boost brand awareness. Social media can also be used to field support questions, convert leads, and educate customers.
Here’s why social matters for SaaS:
Everyone’s on social — Social has taken over. More than 1 billion people are active on Facebook. Not only do people use social media to connect with friends, family, and colleagues, but they also use it as a search engine. As an SaaS company, you want interested parties to be able to find you on social sites.
Emergence of new channels — You don’t have to stick to Facebook and Twitter. There are many different social media types and communities to join. Other options include Quora, LinkedIn, reddit, Instagram, StackOverflow, and Snapchat.
Opportunities for targeting & ads — Facebook has some of the best ad targeting on the internet, and SaaS companies routinely take advantage. You can even upload a list of email addresses to Facebook and target ads to a particular list.
5 tips for social media success
Want to be successful as an SaaS company on social? Here’s how:
1. Separate social from sales
When you start a new marketing activity, it’s easy to obsess over ROI. You want to know exactly how many sales you’ll get from a new marketing campaign. When it comes to social media, it’s actually best to step back from ROI and focus on relationship building and authenticity.
Yes, you can use social ads to increase sales, but you should start by using social as a way to connect with your audience. Think of it first as a relationship-builder and communication platform. Provide content that your audience wants. Offer support when they need it. Be authentic.
2. Choose your channels wisely
Many marketers think their brand needs to be on every social media platform available. They hear about Snapchat and rush to create a presence, or focus only on Instagram because that’s what an expert suggested.
Thing is, your SaaS company is unique. It’s best to go deep on one or two channels that make sense to your company’s strategy than spread yourself too thin. Get to know a social media network inside and out– then go all in.
3. Be ready to pay for reach
Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to reach an audience organically, especially on Facebook. Although this has caused frustration among marketers, it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to pay to play.
Set aside some funds for promoting on social media. Facebook offers the best targeting, as well as very low costs. LinkedIn is a great option for B2B companies, but the cost-per-click can be expensive.
4. Make life easy on your audience
An SaaS company shouldn’t be on social just to make sales. Your first goal should be to make life easy for your audience. There are many activities that can help you reach this goal. Some favorites are:
Offering live support & answering questions
Sharing educational content
Providing content at the right time (often through targeting)
You’ll need to fuel your social media efforts with content, and it’s best to create your own. You can share inspiring images, as well as educational blog posts. Here at UpTrending, we try to help our audience with their unique needs through educational content. We share our blog posts on social media, where we know our audience will find them.
5. Automate what you can
SaaS marketers are super busy, and running social media is a lot of work. That’s why you need to automate what you can. If you update social media manually, you’re going to waste a lot of time.
There are tons of software solutions that can help you schedule social media updates (UpTrending uses HubSpot). You can also hire a social media consultant or agency to help you create content and manage your social presence. In today’s marketing arena, automation is the name of the game.
Social media offers the opportunity to connect, and SaaS companies are taking advantage. At its root, social media is meant to be social. You can think of it as an online networking event. Be yourself, provide useful information, and engage with those who follow you. If you do, you’ll be well on your way to social media success.
Need more information about how to manage social media for your SaaS company? Our team can answer any questions – just reach out.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies are in a unique position. You probably sell your products in a subscription model, where customers pay each month to use your service.
SaaS companies with low monthly prices, like the ones listed below, need lots of customers in order to be successful. Instead of having 10 high-paying customers, you need thousands of customers paying low monthly rates.
These monthly price points are relatively low compared to large software companies that operate on licensing models. For example:
If you want to grow as a SaaS company, you need strategies for acquiring new customers as well as keeping the ones you’ve got.
Today, we’re sharing how you can use email marketing to lead SaaS prospects down the sales funnel.
Why email marketing is great for leads, sales, and loyalty
Email can help you nurture leads into customers that love you, and it works much better than other channels. According to research from Campaign Monitor, prospects are 6x more likely to click links in an email campaign than from a tweet.
Email is a direct channel to a prospective customer’s inbox. As long as you’re creating targeted messages that get at a prospect’s pain points, they’ll be willing to open your emails and see what you have to say. In this way, email becomes an automated sales-person, helping your prospective customer explore what you offer.
But how can you actually make this process work for your unique SaaS brand?
Here’s how to use email to lead SaaS prospects down the funnel:
Create assets & offers that subscribers need
Before you can even begin to send targeted sales emails, you need to get prospective customers to give you their email address. Buying a list won’t do you any good here. Instead, you need to create assets and offers that bring value to prospective customers.
Here are a few ways you can encourage visitors to subscribe to an email list:
Create an educational eBook to download
Encourage blog readers to sign up for your email newsletter
Offer demos in exchange for an email address
Offer a free trial or a “freemium” plan
Host a webinar with essential info
For example, Sumo Logic offers a 30 day free trial to prospective customers. Not only does this give prospects a chance to try out Sumo Logic’s software, but it also allows the company’s marketing team to send targeted emails to those who’ve signed up for the trial.
Automate an email series with the aim of conversion
Today’s SaaS companies depend on marketing automation to convert leads into customers. Once you’ve figured out how to get prospects on your list, it’s time to consider how you can nurture your audience. Rather than sending manual emails, you should create an automated series to lead prospects down the funnel.
In this model, you start by defining the problem your subscribers have by showing them that you understand where they are. Then, you send emails agitating this problem, reminding subscribers about the pain their problem causes. Finally, you offer your SaaS product as a solution.
Personalize based on subscriber information
Whenever possible, you should personalize your emails. After all, personalized email messages improve click-through rates by an average of 14% and conversions by 10%, according to Aberdeen.
So, what does it mean to personalize? It means that you take whatever information you have about your subscribers, and send unique messages to that group. You can personalize based on:
Job title (for example, a CMO might receive different messages than a CEO)
Size of company (for example, someone working at a startup might receive startup-oriented messages)
Geographic location (Someone living in San Francisco might receive location-specific messages)
Past behavior (for example, if a visitor has downloaded multiple assets, they receive particular messages)
Reason they subscribed (for example, if a subscriber downloads a certain eBook, they receive a particular flow of messages)
In order to personalize, you need information about your subscribers. Be sure to ask for this information when you encourage visitors to share their email addresses.
Test and measure to find out what works
Email marketing is an amazing channel for SaaS companies that want to convert leads into customers. However, what works for another brand might not work for you.
Thankfully, most email marketing software offers a variety of ways to test automated emails. Take advantage of what these tools have to offer, and work to find a flow that increases conversions.
It’s easy to get caught up in the little details in marketing. Email marketing, however, gives you the opportunity to make substantial gains in conversions and sales. Email can help SaaS companies’ prospects gain familiarity with the business, consider their options, and ultimately become customers.
Wondering how you can use email to convert prospects to sales? Our team can answer any questions – just reach out.
Influencing decision-making is all about persuasion and perhaps no one is better at the use of persuasive techniques than politicians. As we witness this election cycle’s presidential candidates frame their messaging on the campaign trail, perhaps we can learn something from them?
Strange as it may be to admit, running for political office and marketing a product or service are not that fundamentally different. They both require the use of persuasive techniques to convince a decision maker to choose between alternatives. In politics, the decision is between candidates based on their stance on important issues. On your website it may be a decision between competitors or simply to purchase at all. Borrowing a page from the politician’s playbook, creating effectively persuasive messaging that can also work within your website’s UX strategy all boils down to three things – context, framing and loss aversion.
Let’s break it down.
Every decision has context. Context provides the lens through which we interpret information and evaluate decision alternatives. Our values, anticipated consequences, potential benefits, preferences and personal experience influence our decisions in powerful, though sometimes unconscious ways. Political candidates must take into consideration a voter’s race, religion, political affiliation, socio-economic status and other factors as they develop their campaign, often tailoring the message to the specific audience they’re speaking to. In web design, we often capture these contextual clues through the use of personas, a tool that allows us to paint vivid and insightful pictures of a website’s users. They enable us to create user journeys that cater to their shared needs and wants. While this helps us better understand them, the problem for decision makers is that there’s just waaaaaay too much context to consider when it comes time to actually make a decision!
That’s where framing comes in. A form of cognitive bias, framing is a way of influencing a decision by presenting alternatives often in terms of potential gains or losses.
The framing effect was first explored by the psychologists, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in 1981. In the experiment, participants were presented with a life-or-death scenario and given the following identical alternatives framed in either positive or negative ways.
What they discovered was that when presented with the choice between a definite gain (saving 200 lives) and a probabilistic one, participants chose the sure bet but when faced with a certain loss (400 people will die) versus a probabilistic one, the riskier choice becomes more attractive.
The framing effect experiment demonstrates what economic theorists refer to as loss aversion which states that avoiding a loss is preferable to receiving an equivalent gain. Studies show that people actually experience a loss twice as much as a gain of the exact same amount! This, my friends, is extremely significant when it comes to how you choose to frame your message. And nobody understands this better than politicians.
The framing effect in politics
No one has more at stake when it comes to influencing decision makers than a candidate running for political office. For a perfect example of framing in the political realm, we need look no further than each candidate’s campaign slogans. Each one uses the technique, but their approach couldn’t be more different. Let’s take a look.
“Make America Great Again,” Trump’s borrowed slogan implies that we as a country have lost something with even more at stake if we don’t do something about it. In effect, he has been able to convince millions that the status quo is the same as a guaranteed loss. This kind of framing makes a risky option like Trump not only more palatable to those who buy the message, but a necessity in their eyes.
Meanwhile, Clinton’s primary strategy seems to focus more on what we have to gain. Her slogan, “Stronger Together,” is forward-looking and the tone of her messaging is more optimistic. By framing her campaign in a more positive way and drawing attention to the possibility of an even greater loss at the hands of a Trump presidency, she paints herself as the politically tested safe bet in this election.
The framing effect in design
This technique is something to consider as you develop your own persuasive website UX strategy. Whether a purchaser is considering a new pair of shoes or integrating an enterprise software solution, no transaction decision is made without context. By controlling the framing of the message, UX designers can better lead site visitors towards desired actions and conversions.
Designers are able to create frames using carefully chosen images, graphics and copy that set the stage for the purchase decision. Focusing on what the customer stands to gain or lose from the decision can be a powerful persuasive tool in driving conversion.
How about an example (or two)?
Check out the homepage for Trifacta, a software company that develops productivity platforms for data analysis, management and manipulation and one of our clients here at UpTrending.
First off, doesn’t data wrangling sound like an arduous, complicated process? Don’t you just picture tired, weathered cowboys herding spreadsheets on horseback? If you ask me, it sounds like something I’d rather let a software service do. That idea is reinforced by the accompanying image and headline copy as well – Is Data Wrangling Taking Too Much Time? Excess time and resources spent on extraneous work equals a loss in the form of real money spent on labor. The loss averse user in this case should be quite compelled to avoid it if there’s a better, more cost-effective solution, right?
Or how about another client of ours, ShipHawk, whose SaaS shipping platform gives online retailers real-time quotes, tracking and logistics in one unified system. You can see below how a subtle change in the framing of a message can alter the way you think and ultimately act within the decision opportunity.
You’ve certainly spotted the subtle change in copy between the two homepages but can you see how framing is used to differentiate them? The first message treats the service as an add-on that creates a better experience – a gain; while the second version does the opposite, pointing out the loss in revenue you will experience without it. With these two alternatives employing both positive and negative framing, ShipHawk is able to test which version drives the most actions and make even better decisions in the future based on the results.
Now it’s your turn
Take a look at your website and see if you can find some examples of persuasive language. Evaluate the way you’ve framed your message and play around with different ways of wording it that focus on the potential gains and losses your users might experience. Then, test it. Analyze how people respond to the variations in message and if possible, see if you can identify any common characteristics among those that behave in similar ways. The truth is there may not be one approach that compels every user towards your desired action but with this technique in your toolbox, you can begin to better drive the conversions you are after.
Can you think of something better than more sales? Neither can we.
And yet, one of the most important conversion points for Software-as-a-Service companies, your pricing page, might not be getting the attention it deserves.
It can be tempting to model a page after another company’s without thinking through how the design will work for your unique product. However, if you take the time to design a custom page, you’ll better position yourself to receive the sales your product deserves.
A well-designed SaaS pricing page is not only nice to look at, but it also results in more conversions. Here’s how to design a pricing page that converts.
Great design + product marketing
A successful pricing strategy is part product marketing and part design. The most well-designed pricing page can’t save a poorly thought-our pricing strategy. Here are some of the unique factors that SaaS pricing includes.
Monthly subscription models. Unlike an eCommerce shop that charges for each physical product, SaaS companies offer subscription models. Most companies offer monthly subscriptions, with the option to get a yearly subscription for a discounted price.
Ability to endlessly A/B test. You don’t have hundreds or thousands of product pages to account for if you want to test a new layout or presentation, just one conversion point. SaaS companies can endlessly A/B test pricing pages in order to optimize conversion rate much faster than other business models.
Present for customer value. Especially when it comes to multiple tiers, prices need to represent how much customers value the product. This is why it’s essential for SaaS companies to design websites that showcase the product’s benefits.
When designing a pricing page, you’ll need to make sure your marketing, product managers, and company leaders are on the same page. It’s not only a question of the design of the page, but also the pricing structure itself.
Showcase benefits & features
If you want conversions, your pricing page should show how much value your services add. Benefits and features should be showcased, so that website visitors are compelled to spend money on more expensive packages.
For example, Help Scout offers three packages, listing the features on the pricing page. When comparing their options, visitors understand exactly what they’ll receive when they sign up.
Prospects can compare the Free plan to the Standard one, which gives them an understanding of how much they’ll gain by upgrading to the Standard plan.
In order to show off benefits and features, you can:
Show options side-by-side in two or three tiers and mention that the plan includes “everything the [previous tier] has PLUS…”
This isn’t just an idea– it’s actually been proven by psychology. In a study conducted at the University of Missouri, researchers found that when people were given real estate pamphlets with artificially inflated prices, they were more likely to overestimate values of homes.
But how does this work in practice as you design a pricing page? When you design your page, you can place a “most popular” package– the one you want customers to go for– alongside a much more expensive package. When visitors see these packages together, the “most popular” package will seem like a much better deal.
In order to guide the eye to a particular pricing package, you can:
Every company is different, and there isn’t a perfect formula that will work for every SaaS pricing page. Some companies find that three tiers is the magic number, while others find that offering four works much better. Others offer prices on a sliding scale, charging per user.
The only way to know what will work for your company is through split testing. A/B testing tools allow you to test different elements of your pricing page to see what will increase conversions.
Here are some of the most common elements that SaaS companies split test:
Number of pricing packages
Copy of call-to-action
General pricing page copy
Effect of showing a “most popular” or “recommended” price
Effects of raising prices
Many of your marketing efforts – such as creating promotional emails, educational content, and a paid advertising plan – bring people to your pricing page.
But what happens when they arrive? They land on your pricing page, of course.
If you work in marketing at a SaaS company, there’s nothing that’s better than more leads and sales. In order to get the results you desire, you should devote some attention to increasing the conversion rate of your pricing page.
Remember, every company is different, offering a unique value proposition to customers. Your pricing page shouldn’t be a duplicate of a competitor’s. At the end of the day, you need to build a page that works for your unique SaaS company.
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.