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How Top B2B Companies Use Customer Insights to Succeed: Step 2—Conversion

Ayaz Nanji  |  December 10, 2014

Getting people to visit your digital offerings is hugely important, but it's not necessarily the key to increasing revenue. To truly boost the bottom line, you must find ways to entice those potential customers to do something---they need to click, to sign up, to buy, to convert.

So, what can you do to encourage visitors to take action?

In the first part of this series, we examined how some B2B companies we admire use customer insights to build an audience. Now we're going to look at how they use customer feedback, analytics, and user experience testing to increase conversions.

Five Key Tactics for Boosting Conversions

Some of the companies we talked to told us they use complex, in-depth methods to wring every last click out of their audiences. Others said they take a broader approach, relying on qualitative feedback and/or overarching philosophies to guide their efforts. The common thread is that all have found ways to incorporate customer insights into their conversion strategies.

Here are five of those very different UX, analytics, and CRO tactics companies are using to encourage more action-taking:

1. The Beauty of Benchmarks: Test With Clear Metrics and Goals in Mind

The problem

Want know if your site content could be converting better? A/B test your pages.

This may seem like the obvious approach, but getting it right isn't so simple. Just testing blindly won't do much for your conversions---you'll end up with a bunch of numbers, but no real context for what they mean. What you need are test results that help you understand what's happening. How can you get those?

The solution

Formstack, an online form building application, A/B tests with tenacity, constantly looking at various elements---from headline copy and images to entire landing pages---to see what can convert better.

The key is that this testing takes place with clear metrics in mind. The company has established its own benchmark numbers for landing pages, so it can easily see how successful new elements are (or are not).

Plus, there is a single conversion goal: A higher traffic-to-trial rate.

This combination of a specific desired outcome (more trials) and a way of judging improvements (performance above known benchmarks) is the foundation for the company's conversion success. Without those elements the user testing would be data, not insights.

formstack

Formstack A/B tests with purpose, not guesswork.

2. Spice Things Up: Make Big Conversion Gains With Experimentation

The problem

Okay, you've been making lots of little tweaks to your offerings, resulting in small conversion gains, but now you want to experiment with some broader changes. How can you easily test new messaging to clearly see what resonates with your audience?

The solution

BrightEdge, an SEO and content marketing management platform, tackles this problem in part by running a fairly large set of 5-10 digital ads at a time. This constant experimentation gives the company clear insights into the effectiveness of new language and offers.

This secret to success, again, is monitoring metrics. Each ad is tracked against the median group performance, and is eliminated if it falls below the base level. In essence, customer feedback is coming via clicks, and the messaging gets stronger and stronger over time as the weakest performers are eliminated.

This strategy, using ad performance to judge how messaging resonates, is effective because it gives BrightEdge a low-pressure environment to experiment in. If something sticks, it carries over into other ads, the website, social media messaging, and more. If it flops, that's okay, since the time and cost investment was minimal.

A key thing to note is that BrightEdge doesn't simply test the ads. It also tracks every point of entry, monitors navigation flow, and runs A/B tests to optimize pages for higher engagement. The reason for all this is that the conversion process is a set of steps, not a single element.

3. Mind Your "P"s: Personalize and Be Persistent

The problem

You're comfortable with your broad messaging but feel that you could be better connecting with specific visitors. How can you move past a one-size-fits-all approach and make conversion gains with audience segments?

The solution

Volusion, an e-commerce platform, starts by getting the core messaging right. Their proposition is simple ("try our product free for two weeks with no risk"), and the calls to action are consistent.

However, on top of this common experience are layered elements targeted to specific groups. The company serves dynamic site content based on which pages visitors engage with and then consistently tests this messaging.

Next comes the persistence. If a potential customer fails to convert, they are retargeted on an ad network, which allows for further messaging experimentation.

Ultimately, Volusion's conversion funnel relies both an effective shared experience and tailored elements for success. Plus, of course, plenty of follow-up.

4. Sweet Emotion: Understand Why People Engage

The problem

You've seen some trends with your conversions but aren't sure what to make of it all; certain content types are driving action and certain types are not. How can you figure out what's going on and capitalize on what's working?

The solution

Often, a steady stream of consumer insights will drive small improvements. However,  sometimes a single important learning is enough to shift direction entirely. That's what happened to BloomReach, a content discovery platform.

By monitoring what was driving engagement and what was not, the company came to a major realization: Its B2B audience was sick of long text content.

This led to shift in content creation, away from whitepapers and toward quizzes, ROI calculators, interactive content timelines, infographics, and more.

Basically, a single insight (our audience wants to have some fun) provided a unifying idea for developing sales funnel elements.

Of course, that particular idea isn't applicable to all companies---some audiences want to be informed rather than entertained, and some prefer text to visual content. What's important is that you're constantly thinking about your potential customers' motivations, and then testing those theories.

If you're not sure what those motivations are, you can always simply ask via a survey or a user test. You may be surprised at what your audience says!

5. Use the Force: Gather Feedback When You Can

The problem

Sometimes you just don't have the time to dig through your analytics to find conversion issues. Or perhaps you know something is wrong, but you don’t have the bandwidth or the budget to do any more testing at the moment. What can you do?

The solution

Two separate companies we talked to had the same suggestion: If you're not sure why people are reacting to your messaging in certain ways, use existing interactions to find out the answer.

Optimizely, an optimization platform, does this at in-person events and during webinars. Another B2B company we spoke with said they simply ask their sales force to gather feedback when talking with potential clients.

The process doesn't have to be formal; it can be a few casual questions at the end of an already-scheduled interaction. The key is that you take the time to do it.

As for what to ask, the best approach is usually to be direct. Some generic options are:

  • How did you first learn about us, and what inspired you to come to our event/reach out/join our mailing list/etc.?

  • What did you think of our offer? Would something else have been more enticing?

  • What would stop you from purchasing our product/signing up for the free trial/etc.?

  • What could we be doing better?

Don't Wait

The five methods described above are, of course, not mutually exclusive. Big conversion gains tend to come from a mix of different tactics, including monitoring, experimentation, and persistence.

What's important is to not hold off because you don't think you have the time or budget. You can make significant strides in engagement by simply asking a few questions and running a few tests. Don't wait.

Finally, don’t forget to read the last article in this series to see what we discovered about using customer insights to optimize your offerings after the conversion!

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About the author:

Ayaz Nanji is a digital consultant, contributing writer for UserTesting, and proud data nerd. He has worked as a content strategist and content creator for a whole bunch of places, including Google/YouTube, The Travel Channel, AOL, and The New York Times.