Category Archives: email

Marketing for start-ups on a shoestring

Today I had the pleasure to present at Launch48 about how to market your start-up on a tight budget (or no budget). If you couldn’t make it you can view my slides here: ‘Startup Marketing on a shoestring‘.

Some of the key points for start-ups to remember when they’re looking at marketing their business and their product are:

  • Marketing is about understanding your users and building a relationship and an emotional connection with them. Find out what interests your target audience, what they read, who influences them and what problems they have that you can help to solve.
  • Get the basics, including your branding, user journey and metrics, right before you start outreach.
  • Focus on your key differentiators and make your messaging clear and engaging. Tell a story with your messaging and people will be able to tell their friends and share your product easily.
  • Have real users review the user journey and see where the friction is and improve it to make it simpler.
  • Engage the influencers and ask for their input. If the influencer can feel ownership over your idea and your success then they’ll be more motivated to help you.
  • Create content that is interesting and useful to your target audience, e.g. video, RSS, blogs, podcasts. Don’t try to sell, focus on building a relationship and providing real value to your audience. Re-use this content everywhere you can – Twitter, Facebook, your Blog, newsletter to current user and so on.
  • Build viral into your product’s DNA from the beginning and make it simple for people to share.
  • Share your content and views on social media, including Twitter and Facebook, and if the content is useful and interesting you’ll benefit from the network effect and gain new fans, followers and ultimately users.
  • Email is a powerful channel so don’t ignore it. Think about not only regular promotional emails but also emails to guide users through key points in their journey with your product.
  • Build a community and give users a voice using tools like UserVoice and Zendesk. Listen to your customers wherever they may be, on forums, Twitter or in blog comments, and engage and respond to them.
  • Test, Learn and Iterate – Embrace AB Testing and don’t be afraid to try things with no budget or a small budget, if they work improve and invest in them and if they don’t find out early and stop wasting time and resource on it.
  • Be passionate about your brand – others will follow.

  • Do the right thing. Treat customers as you would like to be treated yourself and they will thank you for it.

Launch48 brings people together for a weekend to build a web app. Last year Vouchacha and ILikeUCoz came out of it and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of the event this year. Good Luck everyone and have fun!

A B Testing: Marketing as Science

Recently I’ve been asked about A/B testing for online marketing and it occurs to me that many marketers spend a vast majority of their time working on new campaigns to drive conversion, acquisition, retention or monetisation and not nearly enough time perfecting existing channels and communications with the more scientific approach of AB testing.

What is AB testing and why is it important?
AB testing, also known as split testing, brings some science to the practice of marketing. Essentially AB testing involves making small incremental changes, one at a time, so that you can see what impact these changes will have on conversion, click through rates, sales or other targets. In this way marketers can scientifically prove the impact of specific changes rather than making recommendations based on gut instinct.

Before you start with AB testing you need to consider a number of questions:

  • What do you want to test and in which medium or channel?
  • How will you track metrics and measure improvements?
  • What is your goal or objective?


What do you want to test and in which medium or channel?

AB testing can be used across almost any online marketing medium including emails, triggered messages, online advertising and web pages such as purchase flows or landing pages. In deciding where to start with AB testing you should consider what has the greatest impact on your business objective. If you can achieve a 1% improvement in people completing transactions when shopping with you, this is likely to have a greater and more immediate impact on the bottom line than a similar improvement to a landing page shown to new visitors.

How will you track metrics and measure improvements?
Tracking is essential for AB testing. What you’ll need to track will depend on the campaign, channel and objectives however you should think about tracking some of the following:

  • No. of emails sent / page views
  • Clicks
  • Click through rate
  • Sales
  • Conversion

A baseline also needs to be established by measuring the performance of the current version of the communication. The current version will act as a control and will be run against a number of test versions, and therefore the baseline will provide a marker against which to measure improvements.

What is your goal or objective?
Before beginning tests you should decide on the key performance indicators for the test. By being clear about the objective of a particular communication in advance of the test you’ll be able to choose a winner from your results easily and without bias.

Running your AB Test

The golden rule with AB testing is to make one change at a time so you can see the incremental improvements achieved by each individual change. This allows you to isolate the revenue, conversion or CTR impact of each change. Therefore the next thing to do is to create your test versions. In creating the tests you should look at changes to the following areas:

  • Headline
  • Call to action
  • Copy
  • Graphics
  • Colour
  • Configuration / Layout of elements
  • Headings

The temptation to make numerous changes is very hard to resist but remember in order to truly know which element has caused an improvement it’s very important to be patient and only make one change at a time.

Next you’ll need to decide on the proportional split for your traffic, e.g. 80/20, 50/50. Certain business issues may come into consideration, for example when testing on a page which drives the majority of your sales you’ll want to test among a small percentage of your audience to avoid negatively impacting conversion rates and therefore revenues. However in order to give you confidence in making decisions based on the AB test you’ll need to test with an adequate sample size. If your sample is small you have two options available: to test a smaller number of variants or run the test for a longer period.

Now you’re ready to start and a number of treatments (including your control) should be run concurrently. Essentially this means that you randomise which treatment is shown to each user and run them in parallel randomly splitting traffic between each treatment. If this isn’t possible you can split sequentially, by showing one version for a set amount of time followed by another version for the same amount of time, results will be less reliable but still useful.

The actual implementation of the AB tests can be done in a number of ways ranging from simple and cheap scripts to using sophisticated applications such as Offermatica, Inceptor, Optimost, Visual Sciences.

When the tests are complete you’ll need to look at the metrics for each. The winning test based on your established key performance indicators then becomes the hero. The hero should then become live and be shown to your main audience in place of your previous control.

But that’s not the end, now you should start again by making individual improvements to the hero. And so the cycle of AB testing continues.

And what if you don’t have the patience?

AB testing requires a great deal of patience, however there is an alternative approach for those of us with a little less than the required measure of patience. At the beginning of your testing you can instead create and test a number of radical re-designs against your current version or control. The design which gets the best results becomes the hero and control going forward and then you make incremental and individual changes to that in the normal way allowing for potentially faster improvements but in a less controlled and scientific manner to begin with. Although less scientific in nature this may allow for greater improvements in a shorter timeframe.

Facebook for the old and the young

There’s been lots of discussion about the aging of Facebook recently. This doesn’t feel like a new phenomenon to me as quite a few of my own Facebook friends are in fact my aunts and uncles having mastered email and even Skype and now joining Facebook to see what it’s all about, and maybe even see what their kids are up to!

What has struck me recently is that the younger generation have stopped using what we’d see as traditional online communications channels like email. By looking at traffic to Facebook versus email sites we can see the impact already. Younger users don’t have the same need for email now that they have Bebo, Facebook and the likes. My 18 year old cousin has been a big user of social networking for many years, spending an unnatural amount of time glued to Bebo. And her first foray into email just happened recently, out of necessity, as she started college and was given a student email account.

How she and the rest of her generation will use online channels for communications in future remains to be seen. However what we can be sure of is that marketeers will need to continue to adapt and allow customers to choose how and where they want to communicated with, be that on Facebook, Bebo, Twitter or on email.