In a recent WISE Academy class, we had an opportunity to discuss the distinctions between knowledge and skill, and the importance of mastering both to truly excel in a specific profession. The point of the discussion was to identify the distinction between both, and talk about ways in which each of us can increase one or both to make us individually more successful in whatever our endeavor.
It got me thinking personally about my own efforts to achieve pure blissful perfection in my own daily life and profession. I quickly came to the conclusion that 1) I’ll never achieve pure blissful perfection, and 2) that there are actually two more critical elements necessary to bringing great success to our efforts. As my world tends to revolve around sales & marketing, I tested my newfound theory on a variety of direct marketing or otherwise endeavors and came to find that they still hold true.
So here it is. To be truly successful, there are 4 critical elements that must come together:
•Knowledge: OR information gained through education •Skill: OR adeptness gained through practice •Discipline: OR consistency and efficiency gained through process •Passion: OR motivation to pursue any or all of the above
Now I don’t believe that pure mastery of each must be accomplished if one is to be “successful”. Nor do I believe there needs to be a pure balance in weighting for each element. In fact, I actually think that different weightings may be applicable for different career paths, or different life stages; and that success can be had for those distinct stages without balanced weighting.
Some people are just insanely passionate about what they do. And that passion is entirely infectious – to the point that people begin to follow those people and a sense of fame or ‘success’ comes with that following.Take Gary V.
Or, some people have absolutely mastered a certain skill and while they clearly have passion behind their practice, the skill is what drives their success. Take Jashaun Agosto.
Or, some people simply own the world with their amazing depth of knowledge in specific or focused areas. Take Steven Hawking.
Now, none of the above examples demonstrate that any of the people mentioned lack the other 3 key elements identified. I simply mean to imply that there may be a different weighting of one element over another and they each – no doubt – worked hard in their endeavors to bring the other 3 elements into the fold.
Think about it in terms of your own position or career path, or life stage. Success – no matter how you define it for yourself – seems to be achieved most effectively with these 4 primary elements. If you want to achieve greater success – no matter what your definition – it’s worth looking at each of these and identifying how you might be able to elevate one, two or each of them...
Email is an effective means of communication with your customers, and one that – when managed appropriately – can help bring cost efficient and effective results. But there’s one element we don’t generally spend a lot of time on – and that’s the Subject Line.
The Subject Line is the introduction to your email that appears in the in-box of your email recipient, and – much like a billboard as you’re cruising down the highway – has about a 3 second chance of convincing the recipient to take action – specifically to Open the Email.
It’s worth paying attention to. Subject Lines represent one of those often-ignored marketing levers that can greatly influence ROI. We all do it: spend time, money and effort in the planning, designing, and manipulating of the body of an email marketing release, and then casually throw a Subject Line up during testing – the point when we’re reminded we need to add it.
In reality, your Subject Line can be as impactful as the body of the email. It’s important that you put some time and thought into the development of the Subject Line. Case in point:
Use specific spam-filter unfriendly words and your message won’t be delivered.
Use exclamation points and excessive capitalizations and your message will be ignored as spam, or even caught by spam-filters before it’s delivered.
Use a Subject Line that has nothing to do with the content of your email – and risk confusing your audience – or worse yet, leaving them feeling deceived.
Use a Subject Line that’s irrelevant or flat, and your message is ignored.
On the flip side, when used effectively, Subject Lines can have great impact on driving Open Rates up – your primary objective when setting a Subject Line. Some techniques to think about when setting yours:
Be Direct – Tell your recipient what you want them to act on.
Connect the Subject Line with the promotional messaging in the body of your email.
Avoid capital letters (no SCREAMING!).
Avoid excessive exclamations or punctuations.
Keep number of words limited: Let your recipient see the full Subject Line in their in-box.
It’s not mandatory that you include your brand name in the Subject Line. Consider and use appropriately.
Some examples that I’ve received recently which represent the above strategies:
Great for Giving: Monogrammed Gifts (William-Sonoma)
Last Chance – Only One Day Left to Save (Cellar 360)
Gift Ideas for Wine Lovers (In Wine Country)
15% Off Personalized Wine Gifts - 4 Days Only (Windsor Vineyards)
Just Arrived: Perfect Holiday White, 91 WS under 11 bucks (Wine Library)
Free Shipping. Brilliant Gifts. (Crate and Barrel)
Thoughtful Gifts for Everyone on Your List (Room & Board)
There are plenty of examples of what NOT to do. In the interest of protecting the innocent, I’ll leave it to you to scan your own in-box and see what catches your eye. In the end, Subject Line development isn’t an art. It’s an easy – and necessary – consideration point in your Email Marketing strategy.
The following was originally posted on the REThinkWine blog in Feb 2008. Thanks to IBG for the repost rights.
Found an interesting chart today on marketingcharts.com defining the top online retailers by conversion rate. This chart shows the total percentage of visitors to a website who completed a transaction during their visit in the critical December timeperiod. All I can say is “Wow”. Check this out:
First, to refresh any memories, a website conversion rate is the percentage of visitors to a website who took a desired action – in this case, placed an order. So, from this info, it appears that nearly 30% of all visitors to thepopcornfactory.com placed an order in December! It should also be noted that retailers only qualified for evaluation in this list if they had a minimum of 500k page views in a month. That’s a lot of popcorn transacting across the web.
I’ve been in the direct, online business for many years now. I have certainly spent my share of time obsessing over my own conversion rates, and how to increase them. I’ve hired agencies to help. I’ve tested different variables to help encourage purchase. I’ve implemented multiple promotional strategies (Free Shipping! 50% off! Buy this NOW!). All paid off in different ways, and I’ve felt relatively successful with my efforts, but never to the tune of 30%!
I have a new personal goal.
So how do you improve your conversion rate? And what is it that’s driving such high numbers for these sites? I think it’s a number of factors – all of which must play together truly move the needle. Here are my 5 suggestions to start you along the path of improving your conversion rate:
1) Know where you come from. Do you know your own conversion rate? You better, if you want to improve it. Use Google Analytics or other analysis tools to define (and monitor) your conversion rate.
2) Grab a friend Grab a friend who may be unfamiliar with the nuances of your website and ask them to help you ‘experience’ your website. I suggest you ask them to do two exercises. And don’t forget to watch the entire process. Literally, stand over them – and DO NOT coach them along!
Ask them to visit your homepage and experience your site. Don’t tell them to shop. Don’t tell them to read. Just see what they do. We’ve talked a lot with our clients about the importance of having an easy and intuitive navigational path for our clients (see an earlier post by Ben Chinn, our Director of Web Design & Development: http://blog.inertiabev.com/index.php/2006/10/09/site-structure-and-navigation/), as well as the importance of asking for what you want with headlines and ‘Calls-to-Action’ on the part of the visitor. Both of these efforts can have the desired effect of leading your visitor through your website – ideally to YOUR desired end. Did your friend follow your desired path throughout your website? Did they ‘see’ and act on the things you intend your visitors to? Or did they miss key messages entirely?
Ask your friend to visit your website now with the goal of purchasing a specific product. Start them at your homepage, and watch the path to purchase. Did they get lost? Struggle to find the right page that the product would be on? Did they find the product and the ‘buy now’ button with the minimal number of clicks? Ask them what information they would want to see in order to make that purchase (price, label, tasting notes, reviews). Did they find what they needed? Did it take a few minutes or many minutes, and a lot of ‘back button’ usage?
3) Resolve to Test and Measure It’s ok to fail. Seriously. That’s what testing and optimizing is all about. Set a plan for what you want to achieve (in this case, higher conversion rates), list all of the potential tactics for reaching that goal, and get started. There are a number of things you can test: headlines, promotions, graphics/images, positioning of information on a webpage, the order of your navigational links, etc. For each tactic tested, watch “before and after” results. Did things improve or get worse? If they got worse, great! You learned what doesn’t resonate with your visitor. Another item off your list…
4) Take Baby Steps Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Just because your conversion rates may be lower than you like, and the shopping experience of your ‘friend’ was clunky, doesn’t mean your entire site needs to be overhauled. Commit to taking baby steps to learning about improvements in your conversion rates. Implement small changes at a time, and measure their impact. Learn what helps your visitor along to purchase and what doesn’t. And give yourself some time to learn. Commit to testing something over at least a week, if your visitor traffic is significant enough to give you ‘usable’ data. If it takes a month to get a real read on results, then give it a month.
5) Be Relevant and Meaningful Your visitor is going to engage with you, and continue to engage with you if you provide something relevant and meaningful to their needs. Think about your own online shopping experience. When you need something and a site has it, that’s relevance. But when you make that relevant product or information entirely MEANINGFUL to them, you’ve now started a relationship. How do you make things meaningful?
Watch how visitors move through your site. Which pages do they spend the most time on? This can give you an idea of the type of content your visitors are most interested in. Finding a lot of activity on your Recipe’s page? Put it up front! Make it easier to find your Recipe pages, add a link to this page from relevant product pages.
Watch what visitors are purchasing. Likely the bulk of your sales are on products you’re well known for, have greatest distribution on, and/or highlight the most on your website. But if a sleepy Zin that’s getting no play on your homepage is actually selling fairly well, it’s telling you to give it some presence. Try it out. Suggest to visitors that this is a “Customer Favorite”, and post any reviews that you can get from your customers on that product.
Don’t forget about your follow up marketing, as well: Email. Once you know what people are purchasing, and where they are going on your website, send emails that demonstrate this. I buy a lot of products on Amazon.com. And, at least once a month I receive an email suggesting other relevant products. This makes my experience with Amazon more meaningful to me. I buy. They suggest. I like that.
What are you doing to stimulate conversion rates? Have you ‘experienced’ your website? Are you bringing something meaningful and relevant to your customers? Think of it this way: if your website was achieving a 15% conversion rate, what kind of sales would that translate to? Do the math. It's inspiring!