Experiments Produce Better Results Faster – Run These Experiments And Generate More Leads
I’ve been wanting to write this article for months now. What’s been holding me back is the list of three experiments that I felt comfortable sharing — experiments that I was sure would produce positive results for our readers.
But here we are, and the experiments in this article have proven to deliver results not just for Square 2 but also for the clients that have deployed program upgrades based on the results of our work.
Before we get into it, I’ll say that results will vary. Not every client is going to see the same results. Just like human beings, each company is unique. Every client’s prospects respond in a slightly different way.
Just like a medical doctor would adjust your recommended treatment plan, I suggest that you might have to adjust this plan.
Here are three experiments you can run inside your revenue generation programs to produce more leads, more sales opportunities and more new revenue.
Experiment 1: Chat-Gated Content
To gate your content or not to gate your content, that is the question. But in reality, you don’t have to give up lead generation to ungate your content. For the past few months, we’ve been experimenting with what we called casual gated content. Our partner Drift calls it conversational gating.
What we learned is you can ungate your content, marry that content with chat and still generate marketing-qualified leads (MQLs), sales-qualified leads (SQLs) and sales opportunities from ungated content.
Here’s the essence of our experiment. Could we post a PDF ungated and use a chat experience to stay close to our readers while they digest our content? Along the way, we would ask them questions, engaging them in a conversation and ultimately working to qualify them for sales.
The experiment was successful. Our Mega Guide To Revenue Growth In 2020 was a PDF that now loads as a webpage with chat integrated right into the material. Viewers can still get a PDF if they want, but they can also consume the guide online.
Along the way we ask them questions to help them and to qualify them.
The PDF in its original gated format generated over 2,500 views, over 1,400 submissions and over 500 new contacts. Perhaps more importantly, it influenced seven new deals, and two clients worth over $100,000 were attributed to this specific content.
Those stats are respectable, but the experiment was to see if we could outperform the control group above.
While this test has been running for far less time than the gated content option from above, the data shows this ungated version has been viewed 481 times. We’ve had 231 conversations with people viewing the document, and this is our top-performing bot engagement offer. We’ve generated 15 net new MQLs, even though this was not the primary objective of this offer, and we’ve had one meeting to date.
It’s a bit like comparing an orange to an apple right now when you look at our gated option vs. the new ungated option. The timing is not aligned. If we projected out a similar time period, this new ungated option would far outperform the gated option for both views and MQLs.
But remember, all those conversations would not have even been an option in the gated scenario, and the ability to schedule a meeting directly from a content-related conversation was not an option in the old gated configuration.
All in all, this experiment was a success and we’re ready to launch version two of this, with a pillar page and conversational chat aligned to the pillar page experience. Look for that in just a few days.
Experiment 2: Pillar Pages
Speaking of pillar pages, we have three pillar pages on the Square 2 site that we use for testing purposes: the Cyclonic Buyer Journey™ page, the A Beginner’s Guide To Inbound Marketing page and the newest page called The Complete Guide To Lead Generation During Volatile Business Conditions.
There are a lot of ways to try and describe what a pillar page is, but none of the ones I Googled are particularly good at explaining it, so let me try.
A pillar page is a page on your website that goes deep on one specific topic. The page is also designed as a hub in a spoke system of related topics. A pillar page might (and should) link out to all the related content across your site that is relevant to the pillar page’s topic.
Here’s an example. Our pillar page on the Cyclonic Buyer Journey goes deep into this topic and also links out to all the blog articles I wrote on each of the eight stages of the Cyclonic Buyer Journey. Get it?
This page is one of the most-viewed on our website, getting almost 3,000 views this year alone.
Pillar pages have specific goals. One is to organize your content so it’s easy for visitors to get what they’re looking for. The other and perhaps more significant goal is to rank these pages on Google and drive organic visitors to your site.
Pillar pages help you rank because Google prefers a clean website experience where the hyperlinks make sense and explain exactly what each piece of content is about. Think about it this way: A major reason Google ranks one website or piece of content over another is that it can determine exactly what it’s about.
If Google isn’t sure what your content or website is about, then it won’t rank you well.
When every article you write about email marketing links back to a pillar page that discusses email marketing, Google immediately knows what those pieces of content are about. As a result, it will rank you better.
On top of that, the more you cover a single topic on your website, the better Google will rank you for that topic in general.
While I like leads to be generated from any and all pages on our website, you should be aware that most pillar pages aren’t designed or intended to generate leads. Rather, their role is to rank.
The metrics we look at in our experiments around pillar pages include views, views from organic search and ranking improvements on the keywords, phrases and/or questions associated with each pillar page.
When it comes to rankings, these pages are top performers. We are in position 0 for “Cyclonic Buyer Journey,” including the answer box. For the keyword “buyer journey,” we are on page one in the seventh position.
For the inbound marketing page, we’re currently second page on Google, ranking 13th for the term “inbound marketing guide.” That isn’t bad considering the number of companies and agencies trying to rank for inbound-marketing-related topics. We’re ranking on the first page in position four for “beginner inbound marketing“ and “beginner’s inbound marketing.“
To us, this looks like mission accomplished. But let’s look at some more data. The Cyclonic Buyer Journey page has generated over 6,500 views. Roughly one-third of those views are from organic searches, and that percentage has been steadily rising since it first launched. This page has been seeing an increase in views monthly, currently trending at around 400 views a month for October. That would be the top-performing month so far this year.
A Beginner’s Guide To Inbound Marketing has been around longer and has generated roughly the same number of views with a declining number of organic-search-related visitors. However, this page has generated many more MQLs than the Cyclonic Buyer Journey page.
Again, let’s consider the data in context. Inbound marketing is a much less popular phrase today than it was when we launched this page. Our own story around inbound marketing has changed dramatically over that same time period, so it’s not surprising to see these results.
Our goal for this new page is to outperform the Cyclonic Buyer Journey page in views, rankings for keywords, links to other pages on our site and, this time around, leads. Yes, we are going to attempt to create a pillar page that also generates leads, and since our ultimate goal is to casually gate this page, we’ll be looking for leads and meetings too as measures of success. Stay tuned.
Experiment 3: Video In The Sales Process
The last experiment we’re going to talk about is video in the sales process. How do we accelerate the sales process, or reduce the number of days it takes us to close new business? How do we increase our close rate at the same time? These are the two measures in this experiment.
Prior to aggressively using video in the sales process, our average sales cycle was 47 days from the creation of the deal to the signed paperwork. Our close rate hovered around 55%, meaning we won the business about half the time, not considering deals that stalled or companies that opted to not hire anyone and bring the work in-house.
This performance was average at best. In my work with agencies, they typically win about 30% of the business they compete on, so we were better but not good enough. On the days it takes to close a deal, my research from conversations with other agency owners is that they typically need around 60 days to close a deal. Again, we’re doing better than most but not good enough.
The experiments here were designed to shorten the sales cycle and increase our close rates. Here’s what we did.
First, we updated our old and outdated reference reel. This is a set of client testimonials we use proactively to eliminate the need for traditional references. We actually have a professionally shot reel in production, but we used Zoom video references to take this to market faster. We now have a collection of Zoom reference videos from most of our active clients.
Eric Keiles, who handles sales for us at Square 2, also started adding video vignettes into his emails at the back end of the sales process. These videos help explain complex concepts and they help tell a story that goes along with presentation decks or content we’re sharing with the prospect.
We also started recording our recommendations sessions with prospects and providing them those recordings. This helps them share and socialize our recommendations across their organization without us having to worry about anything getting lost in translation.
We’ve been working with these new additions for around six months and the results are very positive. The sales cycle in days is down from 47 to 39 and the close rate is up from 55% to 70%. This alone is worth every penny of the time and energy associated with this experiment.
In fact, any work that can be done on improving the close rate almost always pays off 10X in the value associated with new business.
More anecdotal data: Requests for references are down. We don’t track this, but we’ve seen a decrease in needing to ask our clients to do references. The reference reel and client videos are working as designed. This one single change has helped shorten the sales cycle.
Once we have the more produced client reference reel in use, we’ll get additional data on the difference between that asset and the more homegrown reference videos we’ve been using, although I expect those to continue to be useful in certain industry- or work-specific situations.
These experiments represent just some of the work going on in the Square 2 lab.
We regularly test new technology offerings, campaign tactics and upgrades to older tactics, and then we report our findings back to the company. The most successful tests end up getting operationalized and rolled out to clients as part of our standard operating procedure.
This ensures our clients are always getting the best and the brightest in terms of recommendations to continually improve the performance of their programs. It’s something we invest in regularly and it’s a big part of our core value Always Learning, Always Teaching. It also aligns with our core value Every Client A Raving Fan. If we can bring new ideas that we know will produce results, we know we’ll have long and successful client relationships.
Square 2 — Building The Agency You’ll LOVE!