Benefits or Features?

We usually focus on benefits in our marketing communication. I think that’s often the right approach. But I found the following insightful:

From time immemorial we’ve been told that marketing is about holes, not drill bits. Benefits not features.

Well, whoever said that didn’t know any carpenters. The one thing they don’t need to hear about is holes. They’re experts. You sell them drill bits by talking shank and metal and size and spiral. That’s what they want to hear.

You and I know lots of carpenters, don’t we? We call them technology buyers. They’re bored (and bombarded) with talk about benefits and ecosystems and lifecycles. These are experts. They want to read about what your technology does, and how it does it.

My own experience tells me there’s something to this. When I buy a new phone, I want to know primarily about its features: How fast is the processor? How much RAM does it have? What size is the screen? How many pixels does the screen pack in? I don’t want a bunch of marketing-speak about how it will change my life. I already know the benefits of a smart phone. Give me features.

But I don’t think we should scrap benefits. It doesn’t have to be either-or. Benefits and features are both important. I wonder, though, if we don’t sometimes get their priority reversed. For the newbie, the focus on benefits is warranted. They’re not yet sold on the category of product you’re trying to sell them. The features don’t yet mean much to them. But for the expert, the benefits are less important. They already know them. They want to know about all the new bells and whistles the newest version has that their version is missing. Benefits don’t drive upgrade sales; features do.

Before we decide to apply the benefits-over-features rule, we need to identify the audience.

Here’s my proposal:

  • Newbies: focus on benefits primarily and features secondarily.
  • Experts: focus on features primarily and benefits secondarily.

What do you think? Is this a useful distinction?

Radical A/B Testing

Optimizely argues that A/B testing should be used to test radically different designs and that multi-variant testing should be used to test the combinations of smaller variations.

The main problem with A/B testing only small changes is that you don’t know what you’re leaving on the table. Small incremental changes most likely yield small incremental returns. But radical changes can yield radical returns. Changing a button color may get you a 3% increase, but changing your entire page may get you a 100% increase.

This article summarizes it well:

Button color tests. Font size tests. Headline tests. Run them all you want. But remember that your website’s conversion rate is only as limited as the risks you take. Small tweaks = small wins. If you’re craving for big wins, you’ll have to make big changes.

Many people argue that you should start with radical and move to incremental.

Here’s another argument for radical A/B testing. Here’s one from Moz’s Rand Fishkin, in which he advises, “Start with the big ideas and big projects, nail down the grand plans worth testing, let your audience pick a winner and then try to tweak, tune and improve.”

A few other articles and tools with checking out:

What Our Marketing Is Missing

I’ve been pondering recently what’s missing in our marketing. There are many things we could do better, but the main thing I’ve been thinking about is this: no one knows who we are or what we stand for (and perhaps we don’t either).

When you think of successful companies that have devoted followers, you almost always think of companies that have a clear identity and take a clear stand for something. Apple and Google are both great example. Apple is a disruptor. Apple thinks different(ly) and believes products should be beautiful, intuitive, and just work. Google is a disruptor. Google believes in making things fast and free, while not being evil.

A company I’ve been intrigued by recently is Ting. They embody many of the same things. Ting is a disruptor. They believe the mobile phone industry is corrupt, and they believe people deserve a better alternative. As with Apple and Google, who Ting is and what Ting stands for are critical factors in Ting’s traction in a crowded market.

I had a great interview with a guy who’s applying to work for us, and our discussion landed on this subject. He pointed me to Simon Sinek’s TED talk on “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” Sinek articulates a lot of the things I’ve been thinking about, better than I could. I’d strongly encourage you to watch it. It’s well worth your 18 minutes.

I haven’t read it yet, but you may also want to check out Sinek’s book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.

Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? What do you think we’re missing?

10 Ways to Optimize Meetings

Meetings can be great tools for collaboration, but they can also be expensive (currently $33/hr. per person) and a huge time suck. Here are ten ways you can optimize your meetings:
  1. Make sure the meeting is necessary and that the issue can’t be solved more efficiently (through an email, IM, phone call, or quick visit).
  2. Let people know in advance what the meeting is about so they can be prepared and make an informed decision about whether to attend.
  3. Keep the meeting length as short as possible.
  4. Be well prepared, especially if you’re leading the meeting.
  5. Start on time. Take charge, set the agenda, get down to business, and keep things on track and moving quickly.
  6. Invite only the people that need to be there (but don’t invite too few so that the meeting is wasted time).
  7. Give people the opportunity and freedom to be excused if they don’t need to be there. Asked to be excused if you don’t need to be there. Feel free to accept meetings as tentative or decline them.
  8. End meetings on time. If you’ve covered everything you need to cover, end the meeting early.
  9. For recurring meetings, make sure you’re not having them too frequently.
  10. Regularly audit your calendar to make sure you’re not suffering from meeting creep.

What suggestions do you have for making the most of meetings?

Congratulations to Jani and Kent!

In a previous email about Ryan Rotz’s transition, I wrote this:

Kent is moving toward more content acquisition and product configuration. He’ll be working more closely with Publisher Relations, our publishing partners, and potential authors to help us get more awesome content. Jani is transitioning into the role of team lead of the Product Creation Team. We’ll soon have three distinct teams in the Product Group: Product Acquisition, Product Creation, and Product Promotion.

I’m pleased to announce that Jani Snell is now the official team lead of the new Product Creation Team. She’s done a fabulous job in her responsibilities as the assistant team lead of the Product Team, and it’s clear that she’s ready for more responsibility.

As the Product Group grows and expands, we’re splitting the former Product Team into three teams:

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Are you “dogfooding”?

DogfoodingDogfooding” (or “eating your own dogfood”) refers to a company’s use of its own products in order to discover usability problems, poor customer experiences, inelegance, etc.

Are you dogfooding? If not, you should be.

I’d argue that a marketing department should do more than just use its company’s products; it should also follow the company’s customer-facing communication, participate in its programs, etc.

Here are some ways you can (and should) be dogfooding:

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5 Excel Skills Every Marketer Should Have

I found parts of this article quite helpful (even though the title is poorly worded: you have skills; you don’t know them).

It covers these five areas:

  1. Table formatting
  2. Charting
  3. Pivot tables
  4. Functions
  5. Advanced filters

If you’re looking to improve your Excel skills (and you should be!), the article is worth your time.

The Ultimate Guide to Conversion-Centered Design

The Ultimate Guide to Conversion-Centered DesignGood design is effective design. If a page fails to accomplish its goal well, it’s worthless—no matter how beautiful or easy to use it is.

Unbounce has a great free resource that deals with this subject: “The Ultimate Guide to Conversion-Centered Design.”

Here’s what it covers:

  1. Conversion Centered Design vs. User Centered Design: Find out how design is evolving
  2. The Seven Principles of Conversion Centered Design: Build from a solid foundation
  3. CTA Design & Page Placement: Best practices for the strongest CTA’s
  4. Persuasive Copywriting: Work with your prospects, not against them
  5. A/B Testing Designs for Higher Conversions: Test your designs for optimal results
  6. Designing for Mobile Conversion: Embrace the platforms your customers use
  7. Conversion-Based Page Templates: Example landing pages designed for conversion

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