Careers: Interviews
Internationally Renowned Publishing, Marketing, Media Authority, and Founder of MarketingSherpa

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with Anne Holland, Publisher of MarketingSherpa Inc. (http://www.marketingsherpa.com/). Their most recent work, “Landing Page Handbook”, is a value-packed 190 page guide which provides the Eyetracking Study and case study data on improving (web) landing-page conversions by up to 40%.

Holland founded MarketingSherpa, a privately held media company, in January 2000 with the mission of helping marketers, advertisers and PR pros improve results, by publishing real-world marketing data and Case Studies.

MarketingSherpa, praised by The Economist, Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge Site, and Entrepreneur.com, serves its 173,000 weekly readers with 7 newsletters, 2 annual Summits, and 10 annual Metrics reports and Buyer's Guides.

A 19-year publishing industry veteran, Holland previously served as the Head of Marketing for Phillips Business Media, a $100 million publishing company. She helped launch one of the world's first profitable subscription sites in 1995, and the trade publications Interactive Marketing News in 1994 and MIN's New Media in 1995.

Holland has been an invited speaker at dozens of shows and events, including AD:TECH, NEPA's Newsletter Publishers conferences, DM Days, DMAW Annual Conventions, and training seminars for The Economist. She is also frequently quoted in the press, including The New York Times, Business 2.0, CBS Marketwatch, Target Marketing, ClickZ, eContent Magazine, and SoftwareCEO.

Discussion:

Q: Anne, you are a pioneer in all the major aspects of this business. Throughout your career, you must have encountered many surprising, amazing or humorous situations. Please share one with our audience.

A: Back in 1995, when I led the launch team for the publication”Interactive Marketing News”, I begged the president of the company I worked for at the time to let me call it "Internet Marketing News".  He said no because we needed to hedge our bets with a broader name ... no one was quite sure the Net would take off.  He had a long history of being right on the money, so I acquiesced.  Our first issue cover story was on advertising on CD ROMs because editorial couldn't find a Web advertising story to cover!  But then, that was when we also published a print weekly called Internet Weekly covering everything to do with the Internet and it was only 8 pages long. 

Q: Can you share with us three useful tactics from MarketingSherpa's Landing Page Handbook?

A: Tactic 1) Don't send marketing/ad campaign traffic to a page that has more than one purpose.  They should see copy/graphics matching the ad they are responding to, more info on the benefits of the specific offer, and a response device.  If you send them to your home page or any multi-purpose page, you're killing responses. 

Tactic 2) Out of 100 typical clicks/visitors to a Web page for an offer, only a tiny percent end up buying anything from you then or converting to registering.  Depending on your landing page, it can average well under 10%, even for free offers.  Ask for a Web analytics report to measure precisely how many visitors are bailing from your page without going further.  The results may shock you into testing design changes that could improve conversions. 

Tactic 3) Design and layout are far more important than previously believed.  Roughly 50-60% of your traffic leaves in under 8 seconds.  They don't bother to read your copy carefully and examine your offer.  They glance at the page, read maybe 10-20 words (not in a row, the eye skips about) decide it's too much work or doesn't match their needs, and bail.  After reviewing the results from our Eyetracking Study I worked with our own Web designer to tweak our landing pages slightly.  It took about 45 minutes.  No copy, pricing or product details were changed.  We just simplified the page a bit -- the designer complained it looked "more boring."  Sales went up 64% within 24 hours.  

Q: From your accumulated wisdom and experiences on best practices, what are your top five tips (the real gems) for marketing, advertising, and public relations?

A:  That's a tall order!  Here are a few off the top of my head that might help generalist executives who need to oversee the marketing function:

1) Hire based on experience and not on degrees.  My best marketers have always been people who were "born with it", and none of them had degrees in marketing per se.  They had great writing skills, instinctively understood how to appeal to the psychology of the prospect, truly enjoyed spreadsheeting/playing with numbers to track results, and were incredibly organized multi-taskers.  These are not things anyone teaches you in school.  (Note: Creativity is not on the list.)

2) Keep three books by your side –“ Ogilvy on Advertising” by David Ogilvy, “Tested Advertising Methods” by John Caples, and “Don't Make Me Think” by Steve Krug.  Most other advertising books are rewrites of these.  If you now treat these three as your bibles, you're safe from making any truly horrible marketing blunders.  In fact, your campaigns will probably beat the competition. 

3) Jettison corporate ego.  If your marketing materials have your name, product names, or the words "we" or "our" more often than the word "you", you are in trouble.  Your prospects don't care about you.  They care about their own particular pain point and you'd better be talking to them and positioned to help them.  I can always tell a company has lousy marketing when they immediately tell me "We're the leading...".  No one besides the Board cares that you are a market leader (if it's even true.)  What do you do for your customers?

4) Measure whatever campaigns you launch.  (Yes, you can measure PR these days via PRWeb and other online resources.)  Decide what you're going to measure and how you'll do it before you launch any campaign.  Most marketing departments are understaffed and they tend to rush campaigns out the door to keep up with "schedule", and worry about measuring later on.  Roughly 60% of marketing campaigns are not measured at all.  Metrics will go a long way to helping a marketing department gain deserved respect in the corporate boardroom.  But at the same time, the executive branch is also to blame for penny pinching when it comes to analytics systems.  Payback on analytics is generally six months from implementation and it can be quicker.  Most CEOs won't invest the money though... and then they fire their CMOs every 18 months due to poor marketing.  Dumb but true.

5) Pay for good search engine optimization for your Web sites and let it take effect (2-4 months on average) before you invest in paid search campaigns.  This year US companies will spend a grand total of under half a million on optimization and more than four billion on paid search.  It's insane.  Optimization is significantly less expensive plus results are proven to be outstanding.  Optimization should be your major push for search engine marketing ... only after you've optimized then invest in paid search ads to paper over any cracks and crevices that optimization couldn't fill.  90% of companies do the reverse while the 10% others are laughing all the way to the bank.    Why pay per click for traffic you could get pretty much for free from "organic" listings?  I'm dumbfounded.

Q: As a renowned expert, where do you go when you need information, tools, opinions, and so on. What are the top resources you would recommend?

A: Well, naturally I read our own publications here at MarketingSherpa and talk with our editorial staff.  When we need to pick vendors I go to the MarketingSherpa Buyer's Guides.  When I want to benchmark our results, I ask the folks in our Metrics Reports division.  If I want to know if a competitor's campaigns are working or not, I go to our online Case Study Library where hundreds of studies are listed by company/brand name.

As an executive leading a specialized information publishing company, I am a member of NEPA (www.newsletters.org) and attend lots of their events to learn and network with my peers.  I've been involved with NEPA since the mid-90s and they are incredibly helpful.  Trade associations are completely worth paying membership dues for!

Q: Anne, we appreciate the time you have taken in sharing your valued wisdom and unbounded talents with us. Thank you!

A: No problem.  Good luck with your marketing.

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