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Design and Marketing Insights

Creative Thirst is an interactive web design agency specializing in designing web sites that drive visitors to take action and increase your conversion rates. We report web analytics in a meaningful format, conduct user testing, and design web sites. Cr

Updated: 2017-01-12T07:01:20.434-05:00


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Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion


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Quite seriously the best book ever written on the science of persuasion. This book is essential for understanding the psychological foundations of marketing and selling both online and off.

I'd like to also share a great video that was posted on showing how LinkedIn leveraged several persuasive principal outlined in Robert Cialdini's book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion on the web.

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Is There a Hole In Your Marketing Bucket?


Imagine poring gallons and gallons of water into a bucket with a hole in it. No matter how much you pour in, water just seems to rush out the hole. Websites are a lot like that bucket, no matter how much that faucet is pumping into that bucket it just keep springing holes and pouring out until you realize you’re just throwing money in just out of habit.

In the above example substitute water for media spend, content, anything and the holes are your websites usability, the navigation, the persuasiveness of your sites design.

We’ve all been there and it’s easy to justify when we are being held accountable to increasing the numbers on a weekly or monthly basis. But when it comes to online marketing it’s best to take a two-pronged approach. First plug the holes in your bucket. Then bring in new visitors to your site, otherwise you’ll never really make a difference. Sometimes you’ve got to take a step back before you start to run forward or else you’ll start to trip over yourself.

The two-pronged approach to online marketing

First plug the holes in your bucket, meaning improve your website by making it more persuasive so visitors coming in wont fall out the holes before converting to customers. So often is this first step overlooked, with everyone rushing around and putting out business fires on a day to day basis the knee jerk reaction is to redesign your entire site. Now don’t get me wrong sometimes a site can have so many problems that it needs to be redesigned from the ground up either because what it will take to fix it is a complete overhaul of the backend or over the years it has become a victim of just adding fix on top of fix without thinking of the big picture or the users experience. Overtime your site becomes a huge mess with no thought behind it.

Almost every website has a few holes in it’s marketing bucket and it’s the job of persuasive design to plug these holes one by one over time. But how can you plug these holes if you’re not quite sure where or what they are? If you’re not implementing web analytics on your site you should start doing so immediately. Getting a grasp on the numbers of your site will lead you towards what’s working and what’s not.

For example the average page views per visit which can be calculated by dividing your total page views by the total visits is a great indicator of how compelling your site is and how easy it is to navigate.

But the numbers will only lead you half way, next you’ll need qualitative data gathered from user testing and or surveys to verify your findings and to test your solutions with real users.

Once most of the holes in your marketing bucket are plugged then it’s time to bring in new visitors to the site and keep tracking and making continuous improvements.

The Ads Will Become The Content


What is the future of online advertising?

Web Visitors hate online advertising and I don’t blame them. How can anyone welcome the constant interruptions of pop ups, banner ads and spam? If we didn’t hate them then we wouldn’t have things like pop up blockers or spam filters. Advertising has always been disruptive in every medium, and that is what’s holding back advertisings potential.

Consumers are more intelligent now than they ever have been before, over time they have become desensitized to ads and easily ignore them no matter what advertisers try to do. The more in your face an ad is the more annoyed today’s consumer becomes. So the Advertiser’s dilemma is, how to get the consumer to notice the ad?

To solve that conundrum we must first realize that the consumer is seeking content. Once advertisers understand that consumers are devouring content more than ads, the next logical step is for the ad to become the content. Some savvy advertisers have already realized this and have cleverly created content specific for consumers. This is why BMW has a specialty magazine for BMW owners.

In this instance the web is lagging behind print. But today Google may have changed that. Google’s new Gadget Ad format will distribute ads that look and act like mini-Web sites. These new ad formats can include videos, games, news, images, etc.

Does this mean web visitors will be able to have a deeper engagement with advertising without disrupting their experience on the site they were visiting? Maybe, maybe not.

What this does mean is that since Google is behind it the new content driven ads that are interactive will be relevant to the content the user is interested in based on the page they are browsing and that can only mean more successful advertising online.

How do you know if your website is working?


If you’re not using web analytics to continuously learn and improve your website’s marketing results you’re marketing with a bag over your head. The problem with analytics in most companies is that they don’t know what to do with all the data they can pull from the plethora of robust web analytics vendors on the market. Where should online marketers start? Page views, unique visitors, leads, top exit pages, etc. it can all be overwhelming and daunting just to stay on top of and report much less use all of that information to improve your marketing results and be the superstar of the next Monday morning meeting. The data in and of itself is useless, unless you:Establish Key Performance Indicators that are aligned with your unique business bottom line goals.Have a plan to produce measurable results from your web analytics. Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) allow you to see at a glance the current state of your web site as it relates to your specific business. Each business is different and requires a unique set of KPI’s that are relevant to achieving the business objectives you’re accountable for. Your KPI’s are directly tied to a continuous improvement process. The measurement of your desired results against current conditions and changing the direction of ebbs and flows over time to increase your results is what the continuous improvement process is all about. Success in optimizing your web site is based on incremental and constant improvements. A website, unlike print collateral is never really finished. Web design is organic and flows back and forth constantly improving and learning from your unique visitors. The combination of web analytics and persuasive web design is where measurable results are formed. Persuasive web design guides users, influences human behavior and motivates your visitors to take action that is measurable through web analytics. Persuasive design is both visual and verbal. Visual persuasion successfully guides your visitors through your site by using persuasive principals to compel visitors to take more action more often. Some ways visual persuasion accomplishes this is by removing roadblocks, improving visual communication and enhancing the usability of your site resulting in a better user experience with your company brand and your website.Verbal persuasion provides the right content at the right time in the right way to effectively encourage visitors to take action on your site. Content on your site designed around a persuasive path touches on a visual mental image within the imagination of your prospects. Compelling verbs, attention-grabbing nouns and spell binding adjectives will pull your readers through a persuasive pathway, at each step bringing them closer to closing the action that meets your business goals.[...]

Are you using the most important page on your website?


What’s the most important page on any website?Most people think the home page of their site is the most important, and therefore it has to be the most persuasive to pull visitors in towards conversion, but most people would be wrong. Although the home page is where most internal stakeholders attention is and where most of the time will be spent on any average web design project, it is actually not the most important page of your site. Unfortunately more hours and debate, not to mention opinions will be wasted around this one single page since everyone from each department wants a piece of it. If only the internal stakeholders knew all their concerns were surrounding a page that doesn’t even rank in the top five of importance. The reason for this has to do with how sales works.Does your website have a sales formula?Any good sales person knows the “AIDA” formula, which stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. First get your prospects attention, peak their interest for your product, create a desire around their needs and finally get them to take action. The online equivalent of the AIDA formula puts the home page at the interest stage. Attention would be your promotions vehicle used to generate awareness and bring visitors to your site. At the interest stage of the sales funnel your prospect has more than likely arrived at your home page and are scanning the page to see if there is anything relevant to them. Once they find that nugget of relevance they click and poof they’re gone from the home page. Generally the home page has the least amount of time spent on the page and is the least engaging. Think of it like this, a website home page is the front door to your business it’s only purpose is to get prospects to enter to engage with the real content on the inside. It is no more than a hotel lobby, it sets the tone provides an impression and the helpful clerk behind the counter tells you how to get to your suite upstairs. Once upstairs you kick off your shoes fix a drink from the in room bar and relax in chair on the balcony before you unpack. This is where you want to be not the home page.But what about persuasion?Continuing the Attention, Interest, Desire, Action formula you can easily see how the interior pages of your site, like your product detail pages are where you create desire in your prospect, these pages are more important than your home page but still are not the most important or most persuasive pages on your site. It is in the desire stage where your prospects are thinking about buying.On the web your prospects need to explore, the job of your site is to provide them with the tools they need to do this with the least amount to resistance possible. Resistance in this case would be anything that gets in their way from completing their task. This can come in the form of poor usability practices, weak navigation, and pages that have not been designed around your specific prospect. Aligning your prospects needs with the needs of your business is what persuasive design is all about.The further your prospect gets in the sales funnel the more valuable they become because they are closer to converting into a customer. Therefore the more important pages on your website are the pages that are further into your site, where the customer has chosen to be. These interior pages are where persuasive design can be fully leveraged in order to get the most bang for your buck.The most important page on your websiteThe most valuable page on any website is the thank you page, the page that your customer see after completing a transaction. A transaction can include anything from completing a contact form, a registration page or an online purchase. The thank you page is also the most persuasive but often overlooked. At this point your customer is at the furthest point into the sales funnel, they have raised their hand and taken action. All to often this page says nothing more to the[...]

The Online Marketing Game


Practice makes perfect
Any professional athlete spends more time practicing and training then actually playing on the game. That’s how they become so good at their sport and are able to compete at a professional level. What makes them pros is that they never settle for second best, they continue to develop themselves and strive for improvement. Why should online marketing be any different?

What does continuous improvement really mean?
The challenge to constantly improve oneself is what continuous improvement is all about. It’s more of an online marketing philosophy and a way of life than anything else. With a kindred spirit of an athlete strategies and design should be refined based on actual in-market observations of how online consumers respond on your website.

Online marketing discipline

It takes discipline, dedication and patience to implement a continuous improvement process. Online marketing does not end when a website is implemented. Improvement is organic and requires constant change. Dedication requires continuous measurement in order to benchmark improvements. Small incremental steps are key. Each business goal will go through the improvement cycle several times with increasing results each time. Online marketing is honed to gain peak performance with a bit of patience. The biggest mistake online marketing can make is trying to accomplish too much at once or rolling out with a complete redesign without knowing any metrics or benchmarks from the previous website. By jumping in all at once, you will never fully understand what factors were responsible for which result, wasting money and time. That’s not how athletes train and that’s not how online marketing should be done. Success in optimizing your marketing is based on incremental and constant improvements.

According to Shop.Org the average conversion rate of their members is about 1.8%. (State Of Online Retailing 3.0 - April 2000) A top athlete wouldn't settle for these stats, why should you?

The Conversation of Conversion


Conversations build trust
I was reading my copy of The Age Of Conversation last night and that got me thinking about how conversion is tied to conversation. Improving your websites conversation skills can dramatically increase the conversions of your online sales or lead generation.

What kind of dialogue is your site having with your prospective customers?

From the moment a web user enters a website they have essentially entered into a conversation with your company brand. To maximize this conversation your web presence needs to be designed for conversation in order to take advantage of conversion.

Conversion happens one step at a time, at each step an online prospect is actively making a choice to learn more through the links on your site. With each click a prospect is moving closer and closer through your conversion pathway and buying into what you’re selling or realizing that what you have to offer is not right for them, that is what’s driving them to convert weather that’s in one visit or multiple visits.

Is your Brand on Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, The Podcast Alley, Etc. Etc.

Along the way to conversion a conversation is taking place. Your brand is communicating with your prospect through design and the language used throughout your site. And if you’re leveraging blogs and other web 2.0 applications your prospects and customers are hopefully communicating back.

Your Brand needs to leverage all the touch points it possibly can with it’s online presence. Each touch point like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Podcasting, Blogging is an opportunity to further that communication and move your prospect one-step closer to conversion.

Is your brand communicating towards conversion as effectively as it could be?

Persuasive Online Forms


Distinguished Professor of Marketing and Regents’ Professor of Psychology Robert B, Cialdini, Ph.D. describes in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion the principal of human automatic action demonstrated in an experiment by Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer.Here’s a passage from the book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B, Cialdini, Ph.D.A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do. Langer demonstrated this unsurprising fact by asking a small favor of people waiting in line to use a library copying machine; Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush? The Effectiveness of this request-plus-reason was nearly total: 94% of those asked let her skip ahead of them in line. Compare this success rate to the results when she made the request only: Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine? Under those circumstances, only 60% of those asked complied.This example works well in the real world where we can interact with someone directly but can this translate to the online equivalent human automatic action?On a website the need for reassurance is even higher because of the lack of direct human interaction. The nature of the web puts the user in control and when that control is challenged users tend to bail out since there’s no guilt holding them back. They are not walking away from an actual person after all.The cutting in line experiment is the online equivalent of when a company form page or registration page asks for information that may be beyond what the user is comfortable with providing or information that has nothing to do with the expectations of the task. For example why ask for your mailing address if you’re just signing up for a free online membership? The user has no expectation to receive anything in the mail and therefore assumes they just want to send him or her junk mail or worse yet sell his address to several other people who want to ensure the mailman has plenty to stuff in his box.The lessons learned on persuasion in the experiment can be easily adapted to this online situation and as a result improve the conversion rate of all online forms. If in the real world conversion went up 34% we can at least expect an equivalent online.Below is an example of how the lesson of human automatic action can be leveraged by adding a simple reason why to a contact page.In the example rather than simply asking for information a bit of verbal persuasion is used to reassure and explain why the user should be filling in his valuable information.This simple act of explaining, “Entering a URL allows us to review your site so that we can begin thinking about improving it before we speak to you.” Not only provides a human level of comfort but also directly relates how entering this information will be beneficial to the user filling out the form. “…so that we can begin thinking about improving it before we speak to you.”[...]

The New Marketing Mix


We’re all familiar with the 4 P’s of marketing Product, Price, Place and Promotion but in today’s Internet age of Social media, Web 2.0 and ROI is the old marketing mix still cutting it?

Surely the 4Ps still have some place in the world of marketing if anything as the basis for marketing but long gone are the days of a marketplace where the store vendor knew everyone of his customers personally. Where interaction was on a one to one level with real human voice and physical connection, despite the promise of a one to one website application.

Today the customer is clearly in the drivers seat with both hands on the steering wheel, which is why marketers need to add a 5th P to the marketing mix, Persuasion.

The New P - Product, Price, Place, Promotion and Persuasion

  • What specifically helps a user make a choice?

  • What information tells your prospect why they should believe your product or service is the best solution for their problem?

This is where Persuasion comes in. But first let me make one thing clear. By persuasion I don’t mean some sort of trickery or manipulation. Persuasion focuses on your prospects experience with your product or service. It’s what makes a Browser into a Customer. Persuasion focuses on making a prospective buyer comfortable and increases his or her trust level with your brand. The greater the trust the greater the likeliness your browser will buy.

Persuasive Design
Visual persuasion removes roadblocks, improving visual communication. Verbal persuasion provides the right content, in the right way at the right time. The combination of verbal and visual is what makes up persuasive design and can greatly encourage your prospects to take action.

Everything Old is New Again
Persuasion is what takes the place of the vendor at the corner store who once knew everyone of his customers personally. That old marketplace vendor was the embodiment of trust and ease of use. Both visual, if he needed to conduct a product demo, and verbal, with his reassurance and commitment behind his product, all at once.

How are you using Persuasion in your marketing mix?

  • Is your website strategy integrated with your sales cycle?

  • Does your Web site reflect your offline brand?

  • Have you clearly defined what you want customers to do online?

  • Are customers accomplishing those tasks on your site?

  • Can customers find the information they need on your site?

  • Do your online marketing efforts have a major impact on your bottom line?

Debriefing – the U.S. military does it, why not design?


Debriefing as defined by Wikipedia is a one-time, semi-structured conversation with an individual who has just experienced a stressful or traumatic event. In most cases, the purpose of debriefing is to reduce any possibility of psychological harm by informing people about their experience or allowing them to talk about it.

What can Design and Marketing Learn from The Military?
OK. It’s obvious how that relates to the military but how can we as marketers use debriefing? Although most marketing campaigns and some work environments can certainly seem stressful and traumatic and after a long 9-5 workday, psychological harm is often reduced by telling our spouse about our rough day. Does debriefing really have a place anywhere else outside of the diner table?

With ROI on the tip of everyone’s mind and accountability at an all time high, debriefing needs to become standard practice at work not just at the diner table the over lunch with coworkers.
A debriefing evaluation needs to be a part of the design process. Design and Marketing is not a pass-fail event, we need to learn from success and failure. The military has know this for years and it’s time agencies and design firms stepped up and followed the same system.

We've Got to Work Together for Improved Results
Debriefing is nothing more than evaluating and testing our creative and the results generated. The secret to any successful marketing effort is test, test, test. If we keep switching agencies and chief marketing officers we create an environment where everyone becomes afraid of making a mistake much less learning from our mistakes and improving. Creativity and success thrives in a culture where mistakes are not seen as a bad thing but as an opportunity to learn and grow.

In order for a debriefing environment to work agencies need to partner with clients and clients need to work cooperatively and creatively with their agencies. Both the client and the agency needs to accept responsibility for improvement and continuous learning.

The Media Revolution


Marketing, design and the way we interact, communicate and connect as human beings is changing. The world is changing through things like facebook, twitter, podcasting, secondlife and so much more. Never has there been a more interesting time to be alive than today. Marketers that refuse to keep up and completely redesign the way they communicate, and do things in the coming age will be left behind. Let this be a wakeup call to all marketers and designers everywhere.

Is Prometeus fiction or a look into what will come? I’ll let you decide.

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How Should Agency Pricing Structure Change?


There was an article recently in USA today about value based pricing structures for agencies. The article talks about several potential solutions, from flat fee pricing to performance based pricing. It reminded me of a discussion that was started in the Six Pixels of Separation Podcast by Mitch Joel a few months ago.

There is no question that the current pricing structure between client and agency is broken. A time based price structure and a 30 percent markup is a disservice to both agencies and clients. 30 percent markups make agencies no more than retail middlemen. Fees based on hours puts creative, both design and strategy on the same level as a mechanic. The current state of the industry pricing structure downplays creativity and ideas. Ideas are what clients are going to agencies for, why then do agencies give them away for free and charge based on markups and time? Is a an idea that took forty hours to come up with any more valuable than one that took only 10 hours?

I believe a performance based price structure that is based on value would be best for both client and agency. However, to accomplish this type of pricing a true partnership based on trust and common goals would need to be established. I’m not quite sure if clients or agencies are ready for that level of commitment and trust although I believe that is where the industry needs to go to elevate ideas and creative strategy to where they deserve to be. Giving away ideas for free and just charging based on time and markups devalues the big idea and the industry as a whole.

Are All Online Customers Created Equal?


Do all customers have the same value? Sure everyone’s money may be good inside of an ecommerce shopping cart but are some customers more equal than others?It would certainly seem every customer is equal on the web right? After all we’re all hiding behind a few mouse clicks. Just imagine what it would be like if marketers knew that some customers were more valuable than others. Now of course we all know that it takes less marketing dollars and less effort to increase sales for existing customers than it does to get new customers but what if the value of each customer was dynamic and it changed all the time.Well actually it does if you think of it in terms of a buying funnel.1. Need - the process by which a need is determined and identified.2. Awareness - determining what solution will satisfy the need.3. Research / Consideration - gathering of information to proceed with a purchase. Determining which solution will best meet the requirements and satisfy the need.4. Decision - finalizing the details, including pricing and solution support.5. Rationalization - qualifying the purchase after the fact. Was the correct choice made in the selection process?The further a customer goes down the funnel the more valuable they become because they are getting closer and closer to a purchase. The size of a market segment further down the funnel is much smaller however but the value is much greater. Media buyers have always based campaigns on the size of the segment, how many eyeballs see an ad, and online media has been guilty of this as well. There is been a marketing allure to 435,000 views but what does that really mean to marketers? If only 100 people walked through your door and all them bought, signed up, converted, etc. isn’t that better than 1000 people showing up and 999 of those people leaving after hearing your offer? If this is the case it’s just a matter of finding the right people or attracting them.Before a potential customer enters the funnel they are not interested or they don’t even know they need for your product. Marketing has handled this in a traditional approaching through mass media. At this stage the value of the customer to the retailer is at it’s weakest yet this is where most of the marketing effort is, i.e the 30 second spot, etc.An interested buyer at the research / consideration level, obviously has a greater value than someone at the top of the funnel. Just ask any car salesman who pounces on some poor schlep that just finished a test drive.Online it is possible to orchestrate a users pathway and optimize it for persuasion. Think of your website as the buying funnel. The further a user gets into the site the more valuable they become which means you have an opportunity to market to them differently the further along they are.A website provides the potential to focus on different messages to different segments of your market in many different ways, for example.Customer database email lists – different messages to different groups, one to one marketing approach.Product selector tools – lead a visitor down paths based on what is important to that individual visitor with a unique message at the end and along the way of that path which speaks directly to that segment. (being able to talk differently to people who are at different stages of the buying process.Customer segmentation based on type of customer.Persuasive design combines with performance metrics tracked across different customer segments allow for rapid adjustments and continuous improvements which maximize the value of each individual group, by increasing the value across each segment more value is brought to the consumer and also the business profit and brand, the costs of efficientl[...]

Web Design’s Impact on Marketing


Recently I went on a trip to Memphis Tennessee, the largest city in the state of TN right on the muddy waters of the Mississippi river home of Elvis and The Peabody Hotel, a masterpiece of elegance combined with historical richness. At the time I was at the hotel there were 5 special guests staying there with a rooftop palace all to themselves. I didn’t have the pleasure of staying at The Peabody but I did get to visit the roof top palace of those 5 special guests, oh did I forget to mention those 5 special guests were Ducks? Not just any ducks mind you they are The Peabody Ducks. These ducks draw a crowd of amazed and delighted guests twice a day in a time-honored tradition dating back to the 1930s. What makes these Ducks special is that they march to the tune of John Philip Sousa's “King Cotton March” from the elevators to a fountain in the grand lobby down a red carpet which was rolled out by the duckmaster himself who also provided a small set of steps for the ducks to waddle up and jump in the fountain for a swim. The scene that was created for the crowd of spectators was akin to a paparazzi event with velvet ropes to keep the crowd at bay, that is the crowd that was by the elevators, not to mention the in the lobby itself surrounding the fountain and even the crowd looking down from above, in the balcony. These feathered friends as well as the experience itself all played a part in making the brand come alive as the duckmaster performed what was essentially a show both visually and verbally he explained that in1932 the Peabody general manager, a passionate sportsman returned empty-handed from a weekend hunting trip. The general manager and a hunting buddy had a bit too much Tennessee sippin' whiskey, and decided to play a prank and put their duck decoys in the fountain of the hotel's Grand Lobby. The reaction from the guests and the owner was one of delight and from that this ritual was born. It is the duckmasters responsibility to train and care for the ducks. Each duck team lives in the hotel for only three months before being retired from their Peabody duties and returned to a farm to live out the remainder of their days as wild ducks. How’s that for a likeable brand, animal lovers feel good about the kind heartedness of the hotel and if management treats their ducks with such respect and care imagine how it treats human guest and employees. That’s the kind of brand extension that pays big dividends. By designing an experience around this tradition the hotels brand accomplishes a few key things that make it stand out among a sea of other ordinary hotels. Here are 5 ways design can be used to create an experience?1. Create Rituals The Peabody has created a unique ritual of the marching ducks that it shares with its guests. By surrounding that ritual with the drama of theater and props like the red carpet, the fountain, velvet ropes and the small set of duck steps it becomes larger than life and draws more importance. There’s a lesson here that all brands can learn from, don’t take things for granted, there are rituals surrounding your brand right now, which ones can you turn into a theater to create an experience for your customers?2. Storytelling Your story should be authentic much like the Peabody story that was born out of a silly prank but it’s true and intuitively we collectively tap into that truth. In a world of cluttered advertising messages people are starved for authenticity. 3. MerchandisingBy tying in the Ducks with the brand image the next logical step is to monazite that experience and extend it into other channels like memorabilia. Several duck related items lined the shelves of the Peabody gift shop. From [...]