Cubs Do the Right Thing

I’m glad to say that the Chicago Cubs came through. If you’ll recall my previous post, there was definitely a customer service problem there. We just found out that our credit card has been credited with the price of the tickets which was the right thing to do.  It is too bad that we never heard from the Cubs though.  In any case, all’s well that ends well.


So Where’s the Payoff?


Website conversion, that somewhat illusive term that every site must accomplish, can have a number of meanings.  Generally, we marketers refer to it simply as what action we intend for the website visitor to take before leaving our site.  It may mean completing an online form to receive a technical white paper; it could also be requesting to be added to a mailing list to receive future newsletters or blog posts; or in its purest form, to complete a transaction where an exchange of a product for money takes place. The evaluation of website conversions is important whether your marketing efforts are directed towards the consumer (B to C) or whether directed towards another business (B to B).  Website conversions also take place regardless of industry, and this would include manufacturing, professional services, transportation and even not-for-profit.  The bottom line is, regardless of whether the intent behind the conversion is to generate leads, to sell a product, to take a survey or to gather market information, the conversion is the key measurement to success in Internet marketing.

I have had a number of clients ask me what kind of conversion rate they should expect as a result of their online search marketing initiatives.  As I’ve said in a number of previous posts, there are many factors that can impact your conversion rate, but you should also consider the sales cycle of your product or service.  If your product has a high price, your sales cycle is likely much longer and therefore a lower conversion rate is probably acceptable.  If on the other hand, you are trying to gather information on people who could potentially be a customer, then your conversion rate will depend on what value the visitor receives in exchange for the information they provide.

Internet visitors can come to your site from four very generalized sources:

  • Pay-per-click or Sponsored Search ads
  • Organic or Natural Search (a result of your SEO efforts)
  • Directly typing in your URL or having bookmarked your URL
  • Some other referring party

Even though traffic can come from an endless number of places, a study completed recently by Engine Ready looked at these categories and the traffic to 26 e-commerce sites over a 12 month period.  Although I will hit the highlights, the complete study is available at

You’re probably saying, David, we don’t do e-commerce on our website and that is a perfectly legitimate concern.  Although results can vary dramatically based upon what you have defined as a “conversion,” I just thought this study might be interesting in helping you evaluate whether you are getting the best value from your search strategies.

According to their findings, for these 26 “e-retailers” this was what they saw:

  • The conversion rate from sponsored search was 2.03% versus 1.26% for organic search.  This could be attributed to the fact that more design time is spent on the landing page of a sponsored search ad.
  • Not surprisingly, the best conversion rate, 7.38%, was from someone directly typing in the URL or clicking a bookmark.  The second best was the visitor who was referred by another website or who clicked on an email link, it was 6.58%.
  • The bounce rate, or visitors who immediately left after hitting the landing page was 43.9% overall, with organic search producing the worst bounce at 48.5% and direct access the lowest at 39.2%.  Many times either people don’t input quality search phrases or the search engines missed their mark.

So, where’s the payoff?  The clear answer is if they don’t know your domain name, then you definitely want to be referred by another website; it’s like word of mouth advertising.  But, I believe this shows that you simply have to have an overall strategic plan when it comes to Internet marketing and always measure, evaluate, adjust and then measure again.  Your thoughts?



Is This a “Teachable Moment” Chicago Cubs?


My wife grew up in a northern suburb of Chicago.  I guess since she came from the north side, she was obligated to be a Chicago Cubs fan.  Regardless of what she was obligated to do, over the years she became a huge fan and has told me many stories about going to Wrigley Field with her grandfather as a young girl and then later with friends from Northwestern University, stealing those hazy summer afternoons to go sip a beer and enjoy a hotdog under a glorious Chicago sun.

For the thirteen years we’ve been married, the experience of an afternoon game at Wrigley Field has only been in my imagination, as we never got a chance to go see a Cubs game until this last May.  Needing to travel to Chicago to attend the memorial service for her Father, my wife decided it was finally time for me to go to a game and it would be a nice break from the emotions of the visit.  In preparation, she went to the Cubs website, purchased very expensive box seats, and surprised me with the news one evening over dinner.

Having arrived in Chicago from Kansas City, we did a few errands and then jumped on the “EL” to head for Wrigleyville.  To our dismay, a light rain was falling but we were well prepared having brought the proper rain gear to stay nice and dry.  As we entered the ballpark, we stopped at the first available stand for the requisite ice cold beer and hotdog and then headed up the ramp to our box seats.  My first glimpse of Wrigley Field was held for at least three minutes, taking in the ivy on the outfield wall, the bleachers on all of the buildings across the street, the steel beams that meant some poor souls had marginal site lines and then to the large green scoreboard where we saw, “Today’s game has been postponed and will be played at a later date.”

After recovering from the huge disappointment and cursing our luck, we went to the customer services window to see what our options were.   We were told by a Cubs employee that they had no information now, but that we were to go to the website and see when the game would be scheduled.  We explained that we were only in Chicago for the weekend and weren’t sure when we would be returning and if we could refund our tickets.  With the emotionless face of a person required to answer the same question over and over, we were told that nothing could be done that day.

You’re probably wondering, “Where is this story going David?”  This is where we get into the marginal-at-best customer service experience we have had since that day in Chicago, with the hope that, aha, this is the opportunity to learn what not to do to a loyal fan (a.k.a. customer).

We spent the next four weeks monitoring the Chicago Cubs website, to see what process we needed to undertake to get a refund on our rather expensive tickets.   We then called the customer number provided with the tickets.  Since it had been over four weeks since the original date of the game, our bright customer service representative told us that the date by which a refund could be secured was that very day and since “the procedure” was that our request needed to be in the Cub’s office, there was nothing they could do.  Finding no help there, we called our credit card company to refuse the charges, which was overruled when the Cubs denied the request.

Now, my wife is not someone that takes kindly to this sort of treatment, even if she often wears her Cubs hat watching the games on WGN and drinking her beer with a Cubs koozie.   This was a matter of what was right and wrong.  As her mother had taught her, when you are not satisfied with the outcome of a situation, then write a letter, and that she did!

In her letter she made an impassioned plea for consideration of the circumstances, that we didn’t live in Chicago, and that she was a lifetime fan.  In this whole situation, the one right thing that the Cub’s organization did was to call us soon after they had received the letter.  But that was about all they did right.

The kind young man informed us that since the rescheduled game had just been played, there was nothing that could be done.  “You mean we could have gotten a refund when we called earlier but were told it was past the deadline?!?”  Why yes, they had extended the date of requests (unknown to us) however now, the policy was that nothing could be done.

You’re probably asking yourself, okay, here is a loyal customer, who has received incorrect information.  Good customer service says you do something about it, like maybe tickets to a future game.  That was not to be the case and in fact we raised that possibility only to be told that it was against some MLB/players’ union rules to give tickets away.  This I know to be false as I have received just that kind of offer from my hometown Royals team.  Policy prevails and we are without a reasonable solution.

The Cubs have a brand, which is a promise to their fans, that since they can’t seem to win a pennant, they will at least treat their fans better than anywhere else.  As business owners, we all strive for the kind of customer loyalty that is evident in my wife.  Quoting policy is not the way to reward that loyalty.

In conclusion, we have asked that this matter be escalated but as of the writing of this post, it is still unresolved.  I’m not sure my wife will ever make the effort to purchase tickets again, so I am left with only the imagination of going to a Cubs game.  I wonder, is this a “teachable moment?”  Let’s have a beer and talk about it.



Oh You Social Butterfly, You!


I guess maybe I’m showing my age when I use the term “social butterfly.”  I haven’t heard it used in a while.  We all know one, that person that shows up to a party or a networking event and spends the entire time flitting about, from person to person (or flower to flower), landing very lightly, then moving along without staying long.  Although beautiful to watch, it is hard to put into words the impression left by the butterfly, they are there for such a brief period of time. With the social butterfly we find it difficult to recall much about them, other than they were there.

We are all in the business of branding, whether we represent a company we work for or own, or whether we are branding ourselves.  As such, when using social media as a form of brand awareness and marketing, one can get into a lot of trouble if not paying close attention to online “social graces.”  As Kendal Allen puts it, “a lot of damage can be amassed to a brand over time; the idea of death by 1,000 cuts comes to mind.” See his entire article at:

And if you’re not using social media like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Digg or any one of a number of other social/community based sites, then you are missing out on major venues with which you can nurture and improve your brand.  There is a catch though.

I brought up the analogy of the butterfly to illustrate a personal observation I have made experiencing what some social marketers (and microbloggers) do with their comments.  I find that I have favorites that I always read; people whose blogs or comments are especially helpful or thought provoking, or who I even find humorous and therefore I bookmark them, share them, subscribe to them or request their RSS feeds.  Seth Godin is a good example.  It is these people who in my mind have established a brand awareness, an image that is positive and one that is easy for me to recall.  These are people I would purchase from.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who don’t really have much to say; all of their comments centering around what small event is taking place in their lives, or who is making them mad or just general bitching.  I’ve even read comments that made no sense at all.  Joel Comm in his book “Twitter Power” encourages the use of tweets that aren’t always about marketing yourself and your brand and are more an effort to show yourself a real and genuine person, a human being with concerns, wants and desires.  And I couldn’t agree more.

I believe that it is variety that adds spice to life.  Social commentary should reflect this variety by containing a rich mixture of personal anecdotes, observations, references and valuable information.  I believe that by providing value, be it new information, a provocative thought, quotes from bright people or even a good recipe, you can go a long way towards building a brand that people will remember.  Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, not only promotes his company but also builds a personal brand through the tweets he sends.  It is possible to have your own personal style and solid marketing principals at the same time.

Brands try to increase awareness and considerations to purchase, hopefully resulting in a sale.  But the social butterfly, whose impression with us is barely memorable, cannot possibly build much awareness.  They are here and then gone.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.



It’s Just Touch and Go

What, another landing page blog!?

Please indulge me for just one more post about how best to convert visitors on your website. I have had a number of my readers comment that they appreciated the subject so much that they wanted more. It isn’t really surprising. Thousands of dollars are wasted each day in email and Adword campaigns that drive lots of traffic but no conversions. Regardless of how you define a conversion, or what you want someone to do when they come to your website, it is the conversion that ultimately rings the cash register, right? Are you concerned that your visitors are doing the old “touch and go?”

I enjoyed attending a webinar the other day by Tim Ash of SiteTuners titled “The 7 Deadly Sins of Website Design and What to Do About Them.” He did such a great job of illuminating some very common design mistakes that I will do my best to sum up what his hour and a half webinar covered.

Sin #1
An Unclear Call-To-Action

Since the call-to-action is the actual conversion, it has to be extremely clear, even stupidly clear. The key here is “please don’t make me have to think too much.” If it takes too long for the visitor to figure out what to do, they will get frustrated or confused and hit the “back” button. Also, there are times where competing visual elements demand so much attention that the call-to-action is lost. Be sure that the call-to-action is obvious and it’s best if it’s above the fold.

Sin #2
Too Many Choices

Tim provided a great example of a Home page that had 146 clickable links! What exactly is the visitor supposed to do? For the sake of simplicity it is best to reduce the amount of detail so early in the process. The visitor doesn’t know you, therefore give them only what they need to know then provide sub-pages that they can go to for more detail if they choose. This grouping of choices into higher level categories will reduce confusion.

Sin #3
Asking for Too Much Information

This is especially true when someone is completing a form to be contacted or to receive a whitepaper, or sometimes even as the part of a shopping cart. If you ask for a lot of extraneous information (many times just for the purpose of gathering marketing information) it becomes too personal or it is not appropriate. If the process is too imposing or takes too much time, you’ll also lose them. Ask only for information that is absolutely necessary. If you don’t need a zip code, don’t ask for one. Reduce the number of fields in the form to the bare minimum which will also simplify. You can always get more details later, once you have established a level of trust.

Sin #4
Too Much Text

“Do I really have to read all of this?” How many times has that happened to you? We humans have very short attention spans especially online. In this case, less is definitely more. Unless you want your visitors to suffer some serious information overload, create very clear headlines and sub-headings in bulleted format. Use imagery if you can (only please, no overused stock photos). Most of all, put the important stuff, what you want them to know, first.

Sin #5
Not Keeping Your Promises

Every visitor to your website is there with a clear intent and in a particular frame of mind. They arrived because your email or pay-per-click ad gave them the expectation that they would find what they were looking for. The worst thing you can do is go back on that promise. Many times, because of a disconnect upstream, expectations are not met, and the “back” button is hit, only with vigor. Be sure you are representing what your ad talked about by repeating ad text or keywords. Provide clear access to information. Remember, your brand is a promise, keep it.

Sin #6
Too Many Visual Distractions

This used to be a huge problem back when Flash animation was all the rage. You would go to a website and be inundated with so much color and movement you’d thought you were having an epilepsy attack. Be clear about where on the page you want your visitor to look. Gratuitous graphics is like a visual assault, it interrupts the whole experience. I’ve seen websites where I can’t even separate content from navigation from branding. It’s just a hodge-podge. Studies have indicated that actually boring can convert better because there is no competition with the call-to-action. If your web designer is frustrated with boring, let them cut off their ear and be an artist!

Sin #7
Lack of Credibility and Trust

When a visitor comes to your website their first question is, “why should I trust you and buy from you?” Be prepared to answer that question and calm their concerns. You can do this with clearly displayed endorsements, trust symbols or social proof. In some cases, companies have featured the trust mark so prominently that is carries a heavier weight than the brand. Now that makes a statement: you are more concerned about your customer than you are about blowing your own horn. Whenever you can, use client logos and make sure you are providing generous money-back policies and guarantees.

My thanks again to Tim Ash and the folks at SiteTuners.

If you follow these guidelines and avoid these sins, your website visitors will not do the “touch and go” but will do the “touch and stay for a while and maybe even spend some money.”

As always, I welcome your comments.



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