“Screw it, lets do it” is how Sir Richard Branson describes his approach to business at the ExactTarget Connections conference last week.
Branson, the adventuring entrepreneur and chairman of the Virgin group of companies, is a rare individual. He started Virgin Records in 1970, and now 40 years later, the Virgin group of companies has eight businesses generating more than $1bn per year. According to Forbes 2009 list, he is the 261st richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of US$3.9billion.
What’s different about Virgin is that it isn’t one company, or one idea, but a global brand with a distinct personality which spans retail, music, airlines, telecoms, media, drinks, energy and even space tourism. Branson describes the Virgin companies as a keiretsu – a family of companies that form a tight-knit alliance to work toward each other’s mutual success. What unites them is Branson’s vision, drive, personality and the Virgin brand values shared by all members of the group.
There’s much to learn from Branson’s business strategy and his willingness to break new ground in just about everything he does. Here are a few insights that I picked up on during his keynote at the ExactTarget Connections conference:
1. You don’t have to be a category leader to have a successful business
“We’ve had a lot of fun taking on fat cat complacent business. What we’ve done is be the small guy Yap Yapping at the big guys taking a small percentage of their market.”
Small percentages add up.
“Virgin has gotten big by being small. I don’t think that any Virgin business has ever been the biggest in its sector. Being small has its advantages – the Virgin Record label was able to attract the Rolling Stones because they know that they wouldn’t be lost on a long list of bigger bands”
On July 27, SeeWhy conducted an online poll among 221 eMarketers. The results reveal some potential shifts in focus over the next 12 months: shopping cart recovery, reducing landing page clutter, link building, and transactional email all emerge as top priorities.
The poll also looked in detail at four key areas of conversion to determine their priorities. The four areas examined were as follows:
• Landing page optimization
• Email marketing
• Web conversion/shopping cart recovery techniques
Each respondent was allowed to pick only one response in each category, forcing them to choose their top priority.
Marketers plan to focus on link building as their top priority in the next 12 months, with 42 percent stating that it is their top SEO focus. Changes to website pages to ensure they are more SEO friendly were the highest priority for 22 percent, while 21 percent plan to focus on social media integration. Site-based optimization (such as sitemaps and navigation) was the main focus for only 15 percent. There are two notable conclusions that you draw about these findings:
1) Marketers have taken on board the changes made over recent months by Google to prioritize quality and diversity of links in search results over the content itself.
2) Social media integration is unexpectedly high. While social media is hot for marketers, in SEO terms this is really cutting edge stuff, and it signals that marketers have recognized the importance of social media in driving traffic. In particular, Facebook’s social plugins, including the easy to implement ‘Like’ button, are beginning to be viewed as a simple ‘social SEO toolkit.’
Website and Landing Page Optimization
Marketers are taking the ‘less is more’ philosophy to heart when it comes to landing page optimization. Just over half (51 percent) stated that reducing clutter was their top priority, recognizing that landing pages have been added to gradually over time at the expense of simplicity and simple, strong calls to action. (…)
When it comes to website conversion and landing page optimization, Tim Ash advocates that less is more. The president and CEO of SiteTuners.com, Tim has worked with American Express, Sony Music, Verizon Wireless, 1-800-Flowers, and others; so he knows how to improve website conversion rates by doing less. At the recent Conversion Leaders Summit, Tim provided three key pieces of advice to follow when looking at your website:
• Less clutter
• Less text
• Less information
Less clutter. Visual clutter kills conversion. In many cases, graphic designers, the people actually constructing your pages, can be your worst enemies because they try to do too much with the page. As a result, website visitors have no idea what to look at, or what to interact with, on the page.
If the call to action on your landing page is not obvious, you should radically strip down the page to increase online conversion rates. If there are a lot of bright but unnecessary visual elements competing for the visitor’s attention, you are advised to refocus on the page’s objective and declutter. What do you want the user to do? What’s the next step in the conversion process? Make it obvious to the user, because if it’s not obvious, you are losing money.
Less text. Too much text limits conversion. Landing pages frequently include a lot of text, especially if they are also being used for SEO purposes. Do you really expect people to read all of that information? Of course not. Putting an overbearing amount of information on a landing page basically guarantees that people will not read it. They won’t even begin.
The alternative—less text—can look pretty stark in comparison. Less text, however, makes the call to action much clearer. If you need text for SEO, you can still put it on the landing page; just put it at the bottom where it won’t interfere with a good user experience. (…)
We’re used to getting transaction confirmation emails like those sent by Amazon. Recently, Loren McDonald advised attendees of a Conversion Academy webinar to extend beyond the purchase to include pre-purchase, post-purchase and relationship touch points. The result? More opportunities to engage prospects and customers, something Loren’s seen firsthand as the vice president of Industry Relations at Silverpop, a leading email service provider. Here are some of the key pointers he gave in his presentation and a checklist of what to do in order to extend the transactional email activity you currently carry out.
Transactional emails are automated and trigger-based, driven directly by user behavior, profile or demographics. Depending on how aggressively you adopt it, the extended scope might include transactional emails related to:
For example, a post-purchase email could notify customers of stock shortages, reminding a customer who bought an item in the past that you’re about to sell out of it. This kind of transactional email not only generates revenue but actually enhances the relationship with, and adds value for, that customer.
Another post-purchase email might 1) thank the customer for posting a product review and/or 2) include product recommendations based on previous purchases. While this level of sophistication might seem difficult to achieve, most ecommerce sites are already using the web analytics, reviews and recommendation engines needed to do these transactional emails. The sites simply need to leverage their existing technologies, using established APIs and dynamic content, to generate the new emails.
Purchase review emails can actually lead to significant incremental revenue. (…)
At the recent Conversion Leaders Summit on improving website performance, Danny Dover cut though the SEO hype to provide some fresh insight into search engine optimization. Danny is an SEO specialist with SEOmoz.org, one of the thought leaders in the space, so I’m sharing the highlights of his presentation and his six-point SEO checklist here.
Why do SEO? Because SEO drives traffic to your website—for free. The traffic-driving alternative is to buy pay-per-click ads. It turns out that organic SEO links—the actual search results generated by Google, Yahoo!, et al.—get about 90 percent of the clicks while the PPC ads on those pages get 10 percent. So, SEO is important because you can get a lot of free traffic if you do it right.
Everyone knows the higher your rank in a search engine’s results, the more traffic you’ll get, but how much more? The number one position gets 42 percent of the clicks. Number two falls to 11 percent; number three gets 8 percent; and finally, number 10 drops to 3 percent. Clearly, you want to be in the top five because people don’t look much beyond that fifth result.
How to do SEO? Two primary consideration factors in SEO—popularity and relevancy.
Popularity in SEO means links. SEO experts suspect that links account for 75 percent of the overall Google algorithm, making them extremely important. Google emphasizes link profiles—where they come from, what the anchor text says, etc.—and you can optimize your link profiles by studying them, as well as those your competitors are using. Tools such as Yahoo! Site Explorer or SEOmoz Open Site Explorer will help you with this.
Relevancy translates to on-page optimization, which includes such things as keyword choice and where it’s located on the page. On-page optimization makes up 25 percent of the Google algorithm. (…)