How to Funnel Users Toward A Conversion

As digital marketers, we know that the best campaign is an intentional, integrated sum of all our design, content, and development efforts. However, when it comes to setting goals and evaluating performance, we can become laser-focused on the impact of a specific channel or new platform and expect stellar conversion results fresh out of the gate. It’s all too easy to lose sight of the reality that customer decision journeys are complex, cross-channel, and often non-linear.

Yet the fact that you can’t control a user pathway shouldn’t stop you from helping a potential customer find their way to your product. This requires being visible to your customers, positioning your brand in the right place at the right time throughout their decision-making journey, and optimizing their interaction with your brand in every stage of the marketing funnel.

What is the Difference Between Your Marketing Funnel and a Customer Journey?

A marketing funnel is a visualization of the stages of a customer’s engagement with your brand, from awareness through action. A customer journey is a map of all touchpoints with your brand a customer has, through searches, outbound, inbound, on-site, and off-site experiences. In many industries, the marketing funnel is used to make projections based on qualified leads, while the customer (or user) journey is most often employed to inform content and site design recommendations.

The example below of a Portent marketing funnel created in Google DataStudio aggregates data on the number of impressions (Awareness), unique visitors (Interest), form completions and calls (Desire), and leads and sales (Action). This dashboard helps the client understand not only their performance tied to funnel stages, but how paid channels are working together to drive awareness and ultimately, sales.

Digital Funnel Assessment in GDS that correlates levels of the funnel to performance metrics like impressions (awareness), visitors (interest), contact (desire), and leads/sales (action).

In the past ten years, some businesses have moved away from the marketing funnel—except as tied to their CRM or lead stages—to focus more on a customer lifecycle. However, both of these models should be used together to evaluate an omni-channel marketing strategy for your business and industry. We can help funnel and direct potential customers toward a decision, yet we cannot force them to read a specific blog post or read all of the comparison content on a landing page before completing a form or making a purchase. The key to a successful strategy is introducing your brand to your consumers and then continuing to stay top of mind until they are ready to make a purchase.

According to McKinsey, “For most marketers, the difficult part is focusing strategies and spending on the most influential touch points. In some cases, the marketing effort’s direction must change, perhaps from focusing brand advertising on the initial-consideration phase to developing Internet properties that help consumers gain a better understanding of the brand when they actively evaluate it.”

Add to this that customers now expect a more personalized, relevant user experience, and their brand loyalty is waning. This means you need to think carefully about where to invest time and money in your marketing channels and how to evaluate not only performance, but your customer engagement over time.

How to Assess Your Marketing Funnel

Although your potential customers most often start engaging with your business at the top of the funnel, it is often easiest to evaluate your funnel and customer lifecycle and the strategies that surround them from the bottom up.

Illustration of the marketing funnel with an arrow indicating an assessment from the bottom up: action, desire, interest, then awareness.

Start by asking questions about your primary conversion KPI or, more specifically, a campaign landing page:


  • What is the goal of my website/digital presence?
  • What conversion action do I want users to take (i.e., complete a form, make a purchase, demo a product, sign up for a newsletter)?
  • How consistently is this action communicated across my marketing channels in headlines and calls to action?


  • Is there comparison information I should provide about my brand versus my competitors?
  • How are verified reviews or testimonials included to help solidify the customer’s decision?
  • What award or other trust signal badges could I include?


  • Are the product descriptions clear?
  • Is my target audience(s) clear? For example, would the potential customer feel like this landing page is relevant to them?
  • What else does this user need to know about my brand to trust it?


  • Do I answer questions about my product or services?
  • Do I share information about related topics that are relevant to my audience and industry?
  • Is my owned, earned, and paid content reflective of my brand voice and values?

Supporting Middle of the Funnel Opportunities

One of the biggest gaps for many marketers is evaluating and developing strategies to support the middle of the funnel opportunities. The awareness and action phases are much clearer and can be more easily attributed to specific channels, yet the interest and desire phases require more targeted communication and nurturing.

We naturally think about getting customers in the door and closing the sale, but there are phases in the funnel and in the user journey where the customer is still deciding.

Even if a person is a qualified lead or has a product in their cart, they still have a decision to make that could be supported or influenced by on-site or off-site content. Identify those mid-points in the funnel and decision journey for your product and industry. Then, create content that responds to customer needs in that phase of their decision-making process and promote it. Here are a few examples:

Position Your Product for Buyer’s Guides

Many project management software companies create feature-focused content on their own websites. Yet, some also use digital PR to connect with bloggers, influencers, or journalists in their industry to help make their brand visible in the SERP and relevant listings and comparison guides.

Screenshot of PC Magazine's project management software comparison guide
Image courtesy

Create Non-Branded Comparison Content That Supports “How Do I Choose” Questions

In my search for a “trail running checklist,” I saw two featured snippets followed by two organic results: REI’s “Trail Running Gear Guide” and a listing for a specific gear brand, Salomon, linking to a blog post titled: What equipment do you need for trail running? This post is followed by links to a guide and posts on related content: how to choose your trail running shoes, how to choose a running backpack, and how to prepare your trail running backpack.

Screenshot of the title of a blog post on trail running by Salomon

Screenshot of the suggested related content on a blog post on trail running by Salomon
Images courtesy

Create Testimonials or Case Studies by Audience or Industry includes a testimonial quote above the fold on their case study page followed by sections for business to consumer, business to business, and agency case studies.

Screenshot of a testimonial quote on

Screenshot of a group of B2B case studies grouped together on
Images courtesy

What Tools Can You Use to Evaluate Your Marketing Funnel and Customer Journey?

When it comes to assessing your website content and user journey, there is no shortage of tools to help you understand how your marketing channels are working for you. At Portent, we’ve refined our list to focus on the following reports and research methodologies:

  • Google Analytics Reports
    • Conversions  – Assisted Conversions
    • Conversions – Multi-Channel Funnels – Top Conversion Paths
    • Behavior – Site Content – Exit Pages
    • Google Ads – Campaign Paths – Source/Medium
    • Behavior – Landing Pages – Source/Medium
  • Google Optimize for A/B testing on your top landing pages
  • SEMRush, Ahrefs, and GetSTAT for keyword research and identifying question queries associated with your top products and topics
  • User research through interviews, focus groups, card sorting or

What Channels Should You Consider When Performing Your Assessment?

The short answer is all channels. The longer answer is to begin with evaluating the channels where you’re investing the most time and money. Keep in mind that more and more of the user journey is happening on mobile devices. These days, having a site and campaign components that are mobile-friendly is not an option; it’s a requirement.

How to Optimize Your Marketing Funnel and Decision Journey

Once you’ve evaluated your strategy and identified gaps, you need to prioritize how you’ll improve your communication with potential customers across all channels.

Align your existing channels and strategies to stages in the funnel. Regardless of the sales cycle or user journey length, channels consistently align with specific stages. Yet, keep in mind that not every channel will be the most relevant fit for each business or industry.

For example, the funnel for a B2B company that wants to increase organic search visibility and brand awareness utilizing SEO, paid social and paid search, could look like this:

Illustration of the marketing funnel with examples of content at each stage to increase organic search and brand visibility. Awareness content includes news articles, blogs, videos, display banner, Facebook prospecting ads. Interest content includes non-branded search, product descriptions/features, industry applications. Desire content includes Facebook remarketing ads, branded search, reviews/testimonials, product comparisons and demos. Action content includes on-site contact form, trial signup, sales team chat.

Once you’ve identified the priority content and channels, you should build a roadmap that outlines how to connect these channels over time so they best align with a campaign and overall marketing strategy.

For example, SEO on-page optimizations or interlinking could take months to positively affect your organic search visibility. Yet those strategic content changes need to be implemented well before digital PR, PPC, and paid social campaigns are launched, for the channels to be adequately utilized in collaboration.

Once you have created your roadmap, implement it and evaluate your “marketing mix,” then A/B test and iterate on those tests. Keep an eye on specific channel ROI, yet look for signs that channels are working together.

Why Should You Keep The Marketing Funnel and Customer Journey Top of Mind?

Few customers will find your product all on their own: it has to be visible at multiple points during their journey. Even fewer people will find it and purchase it without distraction or further research. Competition is increasing, advertising platforms are becoming more crowded, and brand loyalty is waning.

Paying for traffic or investing in PR campaigns will only carry you so far if your website doesn’t build trust with your customers. Likewise, if your site content is thorough but the social media campaign and outbound communication it’s associated with is disjointed, you could lose loyal or potential customers.

To remain relevant and build trust with your audience, it’s essential to own and promote your brand and similarly create non-branded content on topics aligned with your brand and values.

The Wrap Up

Here are a few takeaways:

  1. Build your marketing funnel and customer journey as a framework from which to plan your campaign strategies. Know they both will evolve over time.
  2. Evaluate the performance of your marketing mix, not only individual channels, on a monthly and quarterly basis.
  3. Seek customer insights through A/B testing and feedback from your target audience and teams in communication with them. Apply what you learn to your content, budgets, and active channels.
  4. If you’re not sure where to start, ask for help:
    • Hire an agency to help with auditing your marketing channels, assessing your content strategy and building your marketing funnel and user journey
    • Work with internal teams who can provide qualitative or quantitative insight into customer engagement. Facilitate a brainstorm meeting with your product managers or ask your customer service team what is resonating in conversations with customers and where there are content gaps on your website.

As you plan and forecast your budget and assess your marketing strategy this year, remember to keep both your user’s journey and your marketing funnel in mind.

Invest time in building cross-channel content and a customer-centric approach for each marketing channel, and it will affect engagement with your brand and visibility on search engines.

The post How to Funnel Users Toward A Conversion appeared first on Portent.

How to Create Landing Page Variants & Optimize with AI

You’ve built the perfect landing page. Your headline is simultaneously descriptive and urgent. You’ve got a hero image of someone holding your product, weeping with joy. Your explainer video becomes a surprise hit at Cannes (though it’s controversially snubbed by the Academy). Your testimonials include Beyoncé and Tom Hanks, and you have to shrink the New York Times just to fit Disney into your “as seen in” logo spread.

Dream on, right? There’s no such thing as a perfect landing page because there’s no such thing as a page that converts every visitor. One person thinks your headline is condescending. Another doesn’t see themselves in your hero image. Everyone loves Beyoncé, but plenty think the live-action remake of The Lion King was a cash grab. Your page doesn’t speak to each person uniquely, so they bounce.

That’s why Unbounce created Smart Traffic™, an AI-powered conversion tool that automatically routes each visitor to the landing page where our robot algorithm says they’re most likely to convert. Unlike A/B testing (which is all about creating landing page variants and choosing the one that performs best), Smart Traffic lets you create as many variants as you need to appeal to each type of visitor.

Bottom line: Smart Traffic helps you capture more of those leads you’re missing out on.

Sounds great, right? (Biased opinion: It is.) The only catch is that Smart Traffic needs somewhere to send traffic to—ideally, you wanna start with between three to five landing page variants. Coming up with that many different versions of the same page can be tough. What the heck are you even supposed to… you know, variate?

We’ve always said that the most effective landing page structure includes five core elements. Below, we’ve got ideas for how you can use variants to optimize each one of them, plus examples of brands that are already doing it right:

“Do I really need Smart Traffic?” A/B testing often needs thousands of visitors to glean any useful information, but Smart Traffic starts optimizing in as few as 50 visits. Learn more about the benefits of AI-powered optimization.

Variant Idea #1: Try Changing Your Unique Selling Point (USP) in the Headline

If you’re new to landing page optimization, experimenting with your unique selling point (USP) might be the quickest way to get started. Changing the way you frame your offer can help you stand out from your competitors. Clearly describing the value people will get makes them more likely to convert. And with a tool like Smart Traffic, you can create landing page variants to highlight different selling points for each audience segment.

While your USP should inform your entire page, the headline (and subheadline, if you have one) is where you really state it outright. Along with your hero image, this is the first thing your visitors see above the fold.

The goal here is to clearly and succinctly describe your value proposition (while also ensuring the message matches the traffic source, whether that’s a search ad or email promo). It also better be engaging. You’ve only got a few seconds to capture visitors’ attention and assure them they’re in the right place.

Check out how Winc, a wine club subscription service, is optimizing their headline and hero image on this great-looking Unbounce-built landing page:

Smart Traffic Landing Page Example - Winc

In their original page, Winc uses the headline “Unbox, Uncork, Enjoy.” It’s catchy—the sort of thing that’d stick in someone’s head after they’ve left—but anyone unfamiliar with the company might not get it right away.

Smart Traffic Landing Page Variant - Winc
Images courtesy of Winc. (Click to see the whole thing.)

This Winc variant takes the subhead from the original page and deploys it as the primary headline. Paired with a new hero image that includes one of Winc’s delivery boxes, this variant more quickly and clearly communicates the company’s USP: “a world of wine [at] your doorstep.”

Sometimes, the headline and subhead that work best will surprise you (which makes them fun to experiment with). Here are some things to try as you set up your variants for Smart Traffic:

  • Try different selling points. Could you frame your USP in more than one way? If you’re running a car wash, maybe one headline is about having the shiniest wax, while another is about the speed of your service. Create variants for each value prop.
  • Appeal to various audiences. Your visitors are a motley bunch. They come from all over the world. They click through from different sources on different devices. How can you pitch your USP in your headline to resonate with those different groups?
  • Keep it simple. Try to describe your USP as quickly and explicitly as possible, then make it your headline. If someone read that and not any other part of your page, would they understand your offer?
  • Change the tone. Is your headline highlighting a problem (negative), or presenting a solution (positive)? Is it serious, or funny? Could it be reframed from a statement to a question? Test your language to see how that changes the way visitors react to your USP.
  • Introduce social proof. Sometimes other people sell your offer better than you can. We’ll get to social proof a little further on, but short quotes from customers can make for compelling headlines or subheads.

Variant Idea #2: Swap in a Different Hero Image or Rearrange Your Page Layout

Another great element to optimize is your hero image. This is your opportunity to show your offer in the context of use: a person happily pushing your new-age lawnmower, or someone really jazzed up by your webinar. (Hey, we can dream.) You’ve got a video of that lawnmower annihilating Elon Musk’s overgrown lawn? All the better.

As we saw in the Winc example above, experimenting with your hero image can help you find better ways to communicate your offer (or, if you’re using Smart Traffic, tailor each variant to highlight a different aspect of your offer). Winc’s original hero shot displayed a row of wine bottles. Just by putting a delivery box alongside that image, Winc adds a new layer of meaning. Visitors instantly understand the USP.

And it’s not just your hero image. Every design element on your landing page is up for negotiation. For example, see how popular meal delivery service Dinnerly created two variants of this price comparison landing page—one with navigation, one without.

Smart Traffic Landing Page Example - Dinnerly
Smart Traffic Landing Page Variant - Dinnerly
Images courtesy of Dinnerly. (Click to see the whole thing.)

Or check out this Unbounce landing page from the sleep experts at Helix. The original variant is great: it lays out Helix’s USP step-by-step, includes loads of (often hilarious) social proof, and keeps things light with casual copy and memery.

Smart Traffic Landing Page Example - Helix

Still, Helix felt like something was missing… a certain je ne sais quoi. So they decided to zhuzh it up.

Literally. (❤you, Helix—you guys crack us up.)

Smart Traffic Landing Page Variant - Helix
Images courtesy of Helix. (Click to see the whole thing.)

Just by adding a little color—a yellow squiggle here, a red block there—Helix makes the page pop. It’s fun. And you can zhuzh up your own landing page design by experimenting with some of these variants using Smart Traffic:

  • Swap out your hero image. If your hero shot is product-focused, try using one that’s more about people (and vice versa). Explore whether photography or illustration resonates better with your audience.
  • Introduce video. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Then what about blasting 60 pictures every second? There are some real benefits to using video on your landing pages, so if you’ve got the resources, give it a shot.
  • Scramble your layout. Try removing navigation from your landing page. Split your layout into two or three columns. Mix your sections around to see what works best.
  • Add some flair. Directional cues and movement can help you focus visitor attention on specific parts of the page. Adding a splash of color or quirky visual elements can help you cut through the noise.

Variant Idea #3: Optimize Copy Length & See Which Benefits Resonate Most with Different Audiences

Next up, we’ve got your benefits—all those words below the fold that describe your offer and explain the real value of it. In terms of content, you want to both inform visitors what your product or service is (the details and features) and why they should care (how those features make their lives better).

Where you can really optimize here is in the way you present that information. Some offers need to be explained at length. Others might not need more than a few sentences. You can also toy with line breaks and bullets to make your copy more digestible, or rearrange content so that visitors see certain benefits first.

Take a look at this landing page from Savile Row Company, an upscale clothing brand. The page (built with Blimpp) is super thorough. Savile Row highlights the different value props, the range of shirts available, the glowing reviews from customers.

Smart Traffic Landing Page Example - Savile Row Company

This page really hammers home the quality of the product, but how much of that stuff is essential to converting visitors? Savile wanted to find out, so they created a variant of the landing page that’s less than half the length of the original.

Smart Traffic Landing Page Variant - Savile Row Company
Images courtesy of Savile Row Company. (Click to see the whole thing.)

It’s got most of the same imagery, but lots of the copy—the value propositions, the descriptions of each kind of shirt—have been scrapped. As a result, this variant of Savile Row’s landing page is out-converting the original by a few percentage points. Less can be more.

Try creating variant landing pages for Smart Traffic with some of these changes to your benefits copy:

  • Make it about value. Yeah, tell visitors what your offer is or does, but also be sure to explain how it benefits them in a meaningful way. Shameless example-plug: At Unbounce, we like to talk about our drag-and-drop builder, but the value of that is marketers can create awesome landing pages fast, without a developer.
  • Check out reviews for new angles. Sometimes, one of your (seemingly) less significant value props can be the most important for a subsection of your audience. Sort through reviews of your offer and see if there’s a particular benefit that’s popular enough to have its own page variant.
  • Play with length and formatting. Long landing page? Try scrapping half of it. If you’ve got a short page, see what happens when you create a variant with extra sections. Shuffle up the order of your copy and try breaking things up with bullet points.

Variant Idea #4: Find New Sources of Social Proof

One of the most powerful tools of persuasion at your disposal is social proof. It tells visitors you’re reliable—that your product or service works like you say it does. It also tells them they can trust you with precious data, like their email addresses, credit card information, and Netflix history.

Your main opportunity here is to optimize with different types of social proof, so we’ll jump right into applying them to your Smart Traffic variants:

  • Use (believable) testimonials. Find and include customer reviews from people online. (Double-check each website’s rules to be sure you can use them.) If you’ve already got some, make sure they sound like they came from a real person. Even legit reviews can come off as plants if they’re too robotic or kind.
  • Add a logo bar. Logos from other brands that have used your product or service (or media outlets that have featured your company) can act as a stamp of approval. You become more trustworthy just by association.
  • Include review scores. If you’re on Amazon, Yelp, or Capterra, you can repurpose your customer ratings on your landing page. Make sure it’s at least equivalent to 90% or above, though—anything lower doesn’t look great. (Tell that to my college GPA. C’s get degrees, y’all.)

Variant Idea #5: Rewrite Your Call to Action (CTA) & Incentivize Your Offer

Finally, we’ve got your call to action (CTA). The jewel in the crown. The thing that the rest of your landing page exists to support.

There are a few ways to experiment with your CTA. One is testing the CTA itself—the actual text and button on the page. The copy should be snappy and engaging, and tell visitors the benefit they’ll get with their click. It should also stand out from the rest of the page. Try making it bigger, changing the color, or adding directional cues to help draw attention.

Also consider how much work you’re asking visitors to do. Clicking a single button is much lower effort than filling out a lengthy form. The incentive matters, too. Free shipping, a trial period, or a small discount can help convert people who are on the fence.

Here’s a simple example from Codecademy, which has online courses in a ton of different programming languages. They created a variant of this landing page with just one teeny difference: the bit of copy in their CTA button.

Smart Traffic Landing Page Example - Codecademy
Smart Traffic Landing Page Variant - Codecademy
Images courtesy of Codecademy. (Click to see the whole thing.)

Who are these different CTAs for? “Get Pro Now” likely appeals to visitors who are already sold on the platform—they know Codecademy Pro is what they want, so hurry up and give it to them, damnit. But people who aren’t familiar with Codecademy might be hesitant. “Start My Free Trial” is a lower commitment and might better convert those who are undecided.

Here are some ideas for optimizing your call to action with Smart Traffic:

  • Change up your copy. Is your CTA compelling? Does it say what’s going to happen when a visitor clicks? Would you click it? The copy here is ripe for experimentation, so go wild.
  • Test out the button. Use a sharp color that stands out from the rest of the page. Make the text bolder, big. Think about how visitors scan your page (top to bottom, left to right). Could your CTA be in a more obvious spot?
  • Make it easy. Do you really need visitors’ email addresses, or do you just want them to buy your knockoff Lego? Where you can, replace forms with a clickthrough button. If you absolutely need a form, try cutting down on the number of fields, or hide the form on a second page behind a button CTA.
  • Incentivize action. Highlight any bonus value you’ve got—things like free shipping or 90-day returns. See how even a small discount impacts your conversion rates.

Automagically Optimize Your Landing Pages with Smart Traffic

It’s true that there’s no such thing as a perfect landing page for your whole audience. But there is a perfect landing page for each individual visitor.

Smart Traffic helps you get more sales and signups by automatically sending visitors to the landing page that best resonates with them. No more testing, no more champions—just more conversions.

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Optimizing ABM with Influencer Marketing at #B2BMX

Lee Odden Speaking at B2BMX 2020

Lee Odden Speaking at B2BMX 2020Account based marketing (ABM) is the hybrid sales/marketing/revenue discipline that is shaking up the status quo for marketers and sales pros alike. There are as many definitions of ABM as there are accounts to target, but I’m partial to this one from LinkedIn’s Megan Golden

“ABM is a strategy that directs marketing resources to engaging a specific set of target accounts. Instead of casting a wide net with their lead-generation efforts, marketers using ABM work closely with sales to identify key prospects and then tailor customized programs and messages to the buying team within target accounts.” Megan Golden, Group Manager, Global Content & Social Media Marketing, LinkedIn*

It’s all about earning the trust of — and ultimately influencing — members of specific buying committees. In other words, it’s the distillation of what all B2B marketers should be doing. Or as Sangram Vajre, CEO of Terminus, put it (embroidered on his sneakers, no less):

Sneakers that Read ABM Is B2BMarketers who practice ABM are seeing impressive results. A recent report from ITSMA and the ABM Leadership Alliance found that 73% of marketers plan to increase ABM budgets in the coming year, and 71% saw greater ROI compared to traditional marketing.

Yet as much success as marketers are seeing with ABM, most are missing a crucial part of the strategy: Building trust through external influence.

In his B2BMX presentation, Lee Odden observed that ABM marketers tend to focus on internal influence — which members of the buying committee have a say in the purchase decision. But…

Diagram Asking Who Influences the InfluencersHere’s what is possible when B2B marketers include influencer marketing in their ABM strategy.

Influence in ABM: It’s All About Trust

According to Lee, “Trust is one of the most paramount matters in marketing today.” If buyers don’t trust your brand, it’s hard to even get a message through, let alone close a sale. The problem is, buyers overall don’t trust brands. In the CSO Insights report from Marketing Charts, brands were near the bottom for trust:

Chart Showing Customers Trust Influencers More than BrandsAnd who is at the top of the list? Subject matter experts from the industry or third parties. These are the people your audience wants to hear from…which means they’re the voices you want to highlight in your content.

[bctt tweet=”“Trust is one of the most paramount matters in marketing today.” @LeeOdden” username=”toprank”]

Dell Outlet Builds Trust & Brand Awareness with B2B Influence

For his first example of the power of influence in B2B, Lee shared a success story from Dell Outlet*, a 2020 Killer Content Award Finalist.

Dell Outlet needed to build awareness as an entity distinct from their parent brand. With a focus on refurbished hardware and a commitment to a more sustainable, circular economy, Dell Outlet has a unique personality, purpose and value proposition. But they needed to both establish themselves as their own brand, and educate a small business audience on the value of refurbished equipment.

With targeted research and outreach, Dell Outlet was able to connect and co-create content with small business influencers that had relevance and resonance with the brand’s target audience. The full campaign, featuring videos, a landing page, and social promotion, achieved amazing results that were only possible with influencer marketing:

Results from Dell Influencer Marketing CampaignOf particular interest is that the campaign was 175% over goal for traffic to product pages. Even though this was primarily an awareness campaign, the influencer contributions actually drove conversions. That’s a powerful testament to how successfully the campaign built trust with its target audience.

Cherwell Employs Influence Across the Customer Lifecycle

For his next example, Lee shared a success story from software company Cherwell*. Their story highlights the importance of a diverse influencer mix to appeal to buyers across the lifecycle, from awareness to engagement to decision.

Cherwell needed to create awareness around their brand, build trust with IT executives, and ultimately drive leads and sales. This full-funnel approach required different types of influencers for each stage:

Chart Mapping Influencers to Funnel StageAt the top of the funnel, brandividuals with large networks and enthusiastic audiences help drive awareness. Further down, subject matter experts add even more substance to the conversation, contributing to meatier content. Finally, at the bottom of the funnel, brand advocates help with the final push to conversion.

This type of strategic co-creation, with influencers at every stage of the funnel, generated unbelievable results for Cherwell. The campaign achieved over 400% more social reach than any previous campaign, and influenced 22% of their sales pipeline for the year.

ALE Creates a New Industry Award

Lee’s final example shows just how powerful influencer marketing can be not only for awareness, engagement, and conversion, but also for creating goodwill among influencers, prospects, and customers.

Alcatel Lucent Enterprise (ALE)* wanted to raise awareness and add credibility with prospects to accelerate sales discussions. Their solution: With the help of influencers, create a new award to honor and uplift the IT professionals in their target audience.

The 2020 IT Vanguard Awards started by selecting judges, influencers in the IT space, as well as a subject matter expert from ALE. These judges shared their thoughts on what qualities defined the best IT leaders. Then ALE asked their target audience to nominate their co-workers and peers for the award.

Alcatel Lucent Enterprise Campaign ResultsThe resulting campaign saw unprecedented levels of engagement and influencer promotion for ALE, along with earned media reporting in industry publications. The resultant flood of goodwill from IT professionals firmly established ALE’s credibility and added deals worth millions of dollars to their pipeline. And for a finishing touch, the campaign won ALE an award of its own: A Killer Content Award (“Finny”) for 2020.

Optimizing ABM with Influencer Marketing

Looking to get some of those results for yourself? Lee offered a 5-step plan to integrating influencer marketing into your ABM strategy:

#1: Find Your Ideal Customer Topics. Use tools like SEMrush, Brandwatch and BuzzSumo to identify your customers’ burning questions — and how they search for answers. Seek out the topics that align with your brand’s expertise and your customers’ need to know.

#2: Find Your Ideal Customer Influencers. With the help of tools like Traackr, identify the people who are influential about your topics. You’re looking for those who care about these topics, whose audience cares about them too, and who are regularly publishing content.

#3: Identify, Qualify and Recruit. The three key considerations for an influencer are:

  • Popularity: How large of a following does the influencer have?
  • Resonance: How well does the influencer actually move their audience to take action?
  • Relevance: How closely aligned is the influencer’s output with your values, audience, and topics?

For top of funnel influencers, popularity is the #1 consideration. For middle of funnel, it’s relevance, then popularity. For the bottom of the funnel, resonance and relevance rule. And also look for the five key traits of the best B2B influencers: Proficiency, Popularity, Personality, Publishing and Promotion. 

#4: Create Content & Activate Influencers. Plan your content types, platforms and media —based on your audience research. Once you co-create content with your influencers, activate them to share the fruits of your collaboration.

#5: Practice Ongoing Engagement. Don’t make your influencer involvement a one-and-done. Keep following and engaging with your influencers, helping promote them and developing a community. Better yet, introduce influencers to each other! They’ll have your brand to thank for meaningful connections they make with their peers.

Lee Odden B2BMX 2020

Understanding Influence, Influencing Understanding

In closing, Lee urged account-based marketers to include influencer marketing in their ABM strategy. In addition to your brandividuals, advocates, and experts, he also recommended adding prospects into your influencer mix. Promote your most valued potential customers right alongside leaders in the industry, help them become influential, and you can begin a mutually profitable relationship.

Is influencer marketing part of your B2B marketing mix? Whether you’re running multiple campaigns, or just thinking about testing the waters, we want to hear from you. Take our quick B2B Influencer Marketing Survey to share your experience, and have a chance to win a $500 Amazon gift card!

* LinkedIn, Dell Outlet, Cherwell, and Alcatel Lucent Enterprise are TopRank Marketing clients.

The post Optimizing ABM with Influencer Marketing at #B2BMX appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Re-optimizing your content: The step-by-step guide

Improve keyword rankings. Boost website traffic. Get more leads. How do you achieve all this? Here’s one way: Re-optimize your content. Learn how with our step-by-step guide.

The B2B Marketer’s Journey To Experiential Content at #B2BMX

Ryan Brown Ceros

Ryan Brown CerosWhat makes an experience an…

B2B Marketing Experience?

Full disclosure: I am not on the design team at TopRank Marketing.

But you know what I mean. You’ve eaten dinner at dozens, if not hundreds of restaurants in your lifetime. But there are likely one or two that stick out in your memory. What makes them memorable?

That question drove an intriguing presentation at B2B Marketing Exchange, led by four expert marketers:

B2B Content Experience TeamShort answer: What makes experiences different and memorable is if they’re really good… or really bad. Anything in the middle tends to blur together in our recollection. Only the extremes stand out.

[bctt tweet=”“What makes experiences different and memorable is if they’re really good… or really bad. Anything in the middle tends to blur together in our recollection. Only the extremes stand out.” @NiteWrites” username=”toprank”]

Case in point: The vast majority of B2B content. It’s…fine! But maybe not so memorable. 

The Five Levels of Memorable Content

Ryan observed that, when a B2B business has customers or clients in the office, we offer amazing experiences: Everything from go-kart rides to monogrammed socks. 

So why do we offer blocks of black-and-white text in a PDF to our digital customers? Not only does our static content fail to be memorable, it isn’t measurable, either. Interactive, immersive content can provide a better experience and help marketers optimize at the same time. 

According to Ryan, there are five levels of “memorability” for great content:

  1. Narrative. This is text content at its most elemental: ad copy, blog posts, stories, scripts.


  1. Visual Elements. Images, graphics, photos and videos liven up the text, but are still static assets on the page.


  1. Integrated elements. Forms, maps, chat, embedded content. This level pulls in multiple different types of content from external sources, like a lead gen form or a Google map.


  1. Interactive Elements. This type of content solicits and rewards active engagement, versus passive consumption. It can include content you click, touch, or hover over to open content paths and customize the experience.


  1. Immersive Elements. This type of content comes alive as the audience moves through it, with animation, actions triggered on scroll and click, parallax effects to give depth, and multiple layers of content.

Most B2B marketers are proficient in the first two levels, and many are getting comfortable with the third. But truly interactive and immersive experiences aren’t as common.

Barriers to Immersive Content


According to Ryan, one reason we get stuck with same-old content is the workflow between teams. Typically, content teams create the copy and hand it off to design. The design team isn’t consulted in the planning or execution of the copy. 

Then, the design team takes the copy and goes through the design process in their silo. There’s no collaboration; it’s content + design. 

To fix that workflow, Bluecore’s Paige and Sharon recommend that content and design teams work together, from planning to execution to optimization, in order to:

  • Engage early
  • Partner on content development
  • Frequently sync on milestones

To illustrate how their process leads to more engaging experiences, Paige and Shannon showed off their Content Concierge, an interactive recommendation engine for their content library.

Versus their static content, Bluecore’s Content Concierge achieved a 93% higher interaction rate, and 80% more dwell time.


The other major roadblock for interactive experiences is the tools marketers use to create content. These tools tend to reinforce the divide between content and design, Ryan says. More complex multimedia experiences also require a third cook in the kitchen: A web development team or vendor partner.

The solution is to seek out tools that empower content and design to work together on interactive, immersive experiences.

Darius from Carbon Black shared how his team used Ceros to design different types of experiences for their customers. They created a choose-your-own-adventure style game for an immersive, long-form experience. But they also created a snackable March Madness-inspired tournament game that people could play in under a minute.

Memorable & Measurable Experiences

According to Ryan, downloadable assets — like a typical white paper — miss the opportunity to provide a memorable experience. What’s worse, they’re not measurable once downloaded. Did the downloader make it past the front page? Was there an infographic that really hit with your target audience? It’s impossible to tell. 

With the right type of interactive content, you can be a fly on the wall as people go through the experience. You can tell where people are clicking, how deep they’re scrolling, and when they’re likely to drop off. That means more opportunities to optimize and engage more deeply. 

Darius encouraged marketers to invest their time and energy in creating and optimizing these memorable experiences. “If we’re not putting the time in with our customers, we can’t expect them to give us their time back,” he said.

[bctt tweet=”“If we’re not putting the time in with our customers, we can’t expect them to give us their time back.” — Darius Eslami, Carbon Black” username=”toprank”]

Getting Started with Experiential Content

Creating memorable content experiences requires a shift in mindset and operations. Making the change can be tricky, Sharon and Paige warned. They offered a three-step approach to getting started:

  1. Create a business case to get buy-in
  2. Do a proof of concept — have a clear outline, objectives and measurable goals.
  3. Prioritize where you will get the most impact 

That last point is crucial, Sharon said. Without a clear set of priorities, you can get option paralysis with the possibilities. Or, as she put it, “It’s like going to the Cheesecake Factory hungry and trying to navigate that massive menu.”

Be the Architect of Your Brand

Ryan ended the session on an aspirational note. He reminds marketers that we are responsible for designing the ways that customers encounter and perceive our brands. “Take pride in the experiences you create,” he said. “Stop ‘writing at’ your customer, and start ‘creating for’ them.”

Dynamic, interactive, immersive content is more engaging for customers, gets better results for marketers, and can even lead to quicker sales and more revenue for the company. It’s well worth making your content experience into an…

Experience in glitter textSee how interactive content made for a memorable experience that smashed benchmarks for our client Prophix.

The post The B2B Marketer’s Journey To Experiential Content at #B2BMX appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Responsive Search Ads: What They Are, and How to Use Them

Google is always adding new options and beta features to Google Ads. From expanded text to custom intent audiences to the new lead form extensions, there are plenty of new things to try out and test in your account. One of the latest and most radical changes is the addition of responsive search ads.

Responsive search ads are one of the most significant additions to Google Ads to-date and have the potential to improve your cost per click, clickthrough rate, and conversions. In this blog post, I’ll outline what responsive search ads are, how to use them, and share some examples of best practices.

What Are Responsive Search Ads?

Responsive search ads (RSAs) are a new form of search ad that allows you to input as many as 15 headlines and four descriptions into the ad. Google then automatically tests different combinations of ad copy and slowly begins to favor the highest performing combinations. This is much more customizable than traditional expanded text ads, which limited headlines and descriptions to two and one, respectively.

Additionally, Google is even offering extra incentives for using them. By using RSAs, Google will show combinations of up to three headlines and two descriptions, compared to just two headlines and one description in traditional expanded text ads. That doesn’t mean it will always be showing all three headlines and both descriptions, because Google tests all different ad variations, including those with fewer headlines/descriptions.

How To Set Up Responsive Search Ads

Setting up RSAs is easy. To create RSAs in your account, navigate to the “Ads” tab. Click on the blue plus sign and find “Responsive Search Ads.”

Screenshot of the ads tab in Google Ads

You’ll be taken to the ad creation page, which looks like this:

Screenshot of ad creation page in Google Ads

In these fields, you can enter up to 15 headlines and four descriptions. If you already have expanded text ads created in the account, Google will auto-populate your existing headlines and descriptions into these fields.

As you’re creating the ads, you’ll see this preview field on the right side of the page:

Screenshot of the ad preview field in Google Ads

As you’re filling out the headlines and descriptions, the preview field will show you what you’re ad will look like in the SERP. It will also determine your ad strength and give you suggestions and best practices to improve your ads, which leads us to my next point.

Best Practices for Responsive Search Ads

Just like expanded text ads, RSAs perform the best when you follow certain best practices.

Fill Out All Fields

The main benefit of RSAs is the sheer amount of content you can have in one ad. That benefit is wasted if you’re not utilizing the full amount of headlines and descriptions that Google provides. Having at least ten headlines and three descriptions will allow the ads to work to their highest potential.

Use Unique Messaging in Each Field

Similarly, the potential of RSAs is wasted if you’re saying the same thing in slightly different ways. A rule of thumb is to have your messages be unique enough so that any of them can be displayed together, and the ad still makes sense. You wouldn’t want three headlines that are extremely similar used in the same ad, so be sure to differentiate between all of your headlines and descriptions.

Use CTAs (Calls to Action)

Now that you have more ad real estate to work with, it’s easier than ever to include a CTA in your ad without skimping on your brand messaging. Test out different CTAs (Subscribe, Call, Learn More, etc.) and see which ones perform the best.

Test One RSA in Every Ad Group

While RSAs seem like a groundbreaking addition to Google Ads that provide more variation and ease of testing than ever before, it’s not time to abandon traditional ads quite yet. Due to the nature of the machine-learning aspect of RSAs, their performance can be pretty variable compared to standard expanded text ads. Sometimes, non-optimal variations of ads will be initially created, leading to lower CTR and higher CPC. This will eventually correct itself, but it can lead to decreased performance early on. This is why we recommend testing one RSA in every ad group alongside your normal ads.

This gives you more variation in your campaigns and gives you a nice benchmark to compare your RSA performance against.

Responsive search ads are a potentially revolutionary addition to the world of pay-per-click advertising. The level of customization mixed with Google’s machine-learning gives this ad format the possibility of performing extremely well. By using the best practices mentioned above and not over-committing to the format (only one per ad group!), you can level up your Google Ads account with more targeted and customizable ads to help improve your KPIs.

The post Responsive Search Ads: What They Are, and How to Use Them appeared first on Portent.

[Watch] How Procurify Scored a Ton of SaaS Demos with ABM & Landing Pages

It’s the kind of mega-growth story anyone starting a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company dreams about.

You and a couple of friends have an idea for a product that fits a clear gap in the market. You pitch at a local startup event, which lands you in a growth accelerator, which also leads to your first seed funding. You spend that money hiring and building out the software. Before long, you’re closing your Series A, then your Series B. You’ve turned that original idea into a fast-growing SaaS platform serving hundreds of customers.

The co-founders of Vancouver-based Procurify—Aman Mann, Eugene Dong, and Kenneth Loi—made that dream a reality. As of 2019, the spend management company has raised over $30 million in funding, counts Mark Cuban and Ryan Holmes among its investors, and is one of the most exciting tech startups in the city.

But as with any SaaS investment, the influx of capital came with a catch. Procurify’s marketing team was under more pressure than ever to keep their growth going—even accelerate it. If they were going to hit their bold new revenue targets, they needed a way to kick customer acquisition into overdrive.

Meet Mark. Mark knows how to engage prospects and get ’em excited about SaaS. Be like Mark.

That’s where Mark Huvenaars and Jendi Logan come in. We had a chance to talk to Mark, the Demand Generation Manager at Procurify, during Unbounce’s 2019 Call to Action Conference. We also spoke with Jendi, Procurify’s Marketing Web Designer, over the phone.

Mark and Jendi told us how the marketing squad overhauled their strategy to become more purposeful in the way they pursued new customers. They did a bang-up job, too. Over several months, Procurify’s team:

  • Developed an innovative outbound marketing strategy that would help them connect directly with prospects in an engaging way.
  • Built 50 super-personalized landing pages with a 38% demo rate in a pilot account-based marketing (ABM) campaign.
  • Started pairing landing pages with video ads, which have a cost-per-conversion that’s just 1/4 what they were paying with search ads.

We were totally blown away by Procurify’s execution of account-based marketing campaigns using Unbounce—and by just how easy it’d be for other SaaS brands to try, too.

Here are some of the highlights from our chat with Mark (but read on for the deep-dive into Procurify’s story):

The Challenge: Increase Awareness & Schedule More Targeted Demos

Mark Huvenaars, Procurify

At Procurify, we’re in full-on growth mode. We’ve expanded our teams. We’re looking at new systems, new tools, new ways to maximize our growth. Our goals have really been elevated.

That’s the dynamic environment Mark steps into when he joined Procurify early in 2019. The company had surpassed 100 employees and was close to securing its Series B funding. It was that exciting, precarious stage for a startup trying to scale up, and there was big pressure on the revenue unit to find another gear.

The Procurify crew playing it surprisingly cool. (They’re poppin’ champagne bottles in their hearts.)

Procurify’s software helps companies streamline purchase requests and approvals. It’s an ideal solution for small and medium businesses, Procurify’s target market. The trouble was that lots of the people who could benefit from the software didn’t know it existed. In fact, most didn’t even recognize they had a problem that needed solving.

Mark Huvenaars, Procurify

At the time, we were really focused on inbound. Someone would conduct a Google search for purchasing software, they’d go into a landing page, and they’d book a demo.

That works when there’s a lot of search volume, but to scale up, we also needed to reach people who aren’t actively looking for purchasing software yet.

The biggest obstacle Procurify faced was awareness. The marketing team needed to develop an outbound marketing strategy that would get their product in front of the people who needed it most. They knew if they could demo the product, people typically started trials of the software at a high rate.

So, the Procurify crew decided to try something new: account-based marketing (ABM). An increasingly popular approach for selling SaaS products, an ABM campaign focuses just on companies matching your ideal customer profile. In practice, Procurify would reach out directly to prospects that were a great fit for the solution based on indicators like business size and industry.

Mark Huvenaars, Procurify

We created an outbound team whose focus is building personalized campaigns and experiences that pull people through the funnel—helping them recognize their spend management problem and letting them know about Procurify as a solution.

Procurify had lots of ideas for ABM campaigns that could get the attention of decision-makers at target companies. After, they’d point these prospects to custom-made landing pages that described the benefits of the platform and encouraged them to schedule a demo. But this newly-formed outbound team didn’t have the technical skills to build pages on their own—and with just one designer, it was going to be a challenge to pull off.

The Solution: Account-Based Marketing (ABM) with Personalized Landing Pages

That’s when Procurify found Unbounce.

Jendi explained how the landing page platform has been key to enabling the company’s more nimble marketing strategy:

It’s my job to make sure we’re consistent in the way that we visualize Procurify’s brand story. But as the only designer on a growing team, I also don’t want to be a roadblock to execution.

With Unbounce, I can create branded templates so the team can actually do things themselves. They can modify it to match their campaign and have the confidence to go conquer the world themselves.

For Mark, the value of Procurify’s new library of landing page templates can’t be overstated.

Mark Huvenaars, Procurify

It’s great when we’re running a campaign and we need something up tomorrow, or today, or even in an hour.

I know that I can hop into Unbounce, I can use one of Jendi’s templates, and it’ll be an experience for a prospect that’s far better than what I’d be able to build with any other tool.

SaaS Landing Page Example - Procurify (Webinar)
Procurify collects leads through Unbounce-built signup pages for educational webinars. (Click to see the whole thing.)

Procurify’s marketing team can now get on-brand, campaign-specific landing pages up and running in no time. That’s given them the independence they need to execute on outbound marketing initiatives like ABM.

Here’s an example of a pilot ABM campaign the Procurify team set up that combined direct mail and Unbounce landing pages to connect with target accounts. First, the team identified 50 companies that fit Procurify’s ideal customer profile. Then they sent custom swag boxes outfitted with a video screen.

If you got one of these in the mail, you’d *at least* check out the landing page, right?
Mark Huvenaars, Procurify

When people received these video boxes, they flipped it open, it would auto-play a video that’d say, “Hey, you at company.” It was highly personalized. And at the end of the video, it directed them to a dedicated Unbounce landing page.

Each page was tailored to address the prospect directly, including their name and company logo. At the bottom, it encouraged them to connect with a specific member of the Procurify sales team.

The upshot? A whopping 38% of prospects scheduled a Procurify demo from the ABM campaign landing pages:

SaaS Landing Page Example - Procurify (ABM)
This landing page is built to address *one person* at Procurify’s target prospect. Talk about personalization. (Click to see the whole thing.)

Beyond ABM landing pages like this, Mark, Jendi, and the team have been exploring other ways to get in front of prospects and tell the Procurify story, like with video ads on YouTube.

Mark Huvenaars, Procurify

Video ads help us tell the Procurify story before people even know that they need a procurement solution. We can send them through to an educational landing page [from the CTA] and seed that intent.

Additionally, these ads really help us build our remarketing lists. So, not only do we capture someone’s attention from the onset—after they click through to one of our customized Unbounce landing pages, we can serve them up remarketing ads that speak to the video campaign itself.

SaaS Landing Page Example - Procurify (Video Ad)
An example of the sort of landing page Procurify might use in their video advertising. (Click to see the whole thing.)

The Results: 38% ABM Demo Rate & Way Lower CPC on Paid Traffic

Given the impressive results from their pilot campaign, Procurify is already planning new opportunities to put ABM into action. And because the marketing team can build personalized landing pages in a jiffy, they can now test and optimize their ideas a whole lot faster.

Here’s Mark’s big takeaway from that first ABM experience:

Mark Huvenaars, Procurify

In addition to connecting with more than a third of target companies, we continue to see the viral impacts of people sharing these video boxes on social media. It was an exciting, unique way to kind of cut through the B2B clutter.

Here’s one of the responses Procurify got on Twitter. Clearly, they’ve made an impression.

Procurify’s increased focus on video advertising (paired with landing pages) has also been paying dividends. Not only is it a more compelling way to tell the brand story than with search ads, but it’s also significantly reduced Procurify’s cost-per-conversion (CPC) on paid traffic.

Mark Huvenaars, Procurify

The clicks are relatively inexpensive, so we get a lot of traffic to our landing pages. While the conversion rate is only around 0.02%, it’s significant when you consider the volume.

Mark estimates that the CPC for a YouTube ad campaign is roughly 1/4 of what it’d be with search advertising. That’s a meaningful difference.

Get Your SaaS Startup Noticed with Landing Pages

As marketers at a fast-growing SaaS startup, Mark, Jendi, and the others faced more pressure to bring in customers than ever before. So, they got creative. They totally revamped their acquisition strategy and started talking more directly to their target prospects. Based on early results that showed a 38% demo rate for their ABM campaign, it looks like a slam dunk.

Mark credits at least some of that success to adding Unbounce to Procurify’s toolkit:

Mark Huvenaars, Procurify

If I were to recommend Unbounce to another SaaS company, I would say it can grow with your growth. It’s highly scalable. It saves time, and it integrates with the marketing tech stack that you likely currently use.

What have we learned? In marketing, independence is key. It would’ve been really tough for Mark and the Procurify team to pull this off if landing page development and design had been a bottleneck. But armed with a bevy of on-brand templates (thanks, Jendi!), the marketing team is free to launch campaigns as fast as they can dream ’em up.

Wanna give ABM a whirl at your SaaS company? First, figure out how you’re going to get your product in front of decision-makers at your target accounts. Then drag-and-drop together a super personalized landing page that’s sure to get you noticed.

7 blueprints for email copywriting that works + examples

Supercharge your email marketing campaigns with these email copywriting tips.