Writing by James

Articles and opinions on technology, social media and innovation


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Product Review: Testimonial Monkey

Testimonial Monkey - Screenshot

It’s the start of 2013 and time to post in the new year with a product review of the slightly oddly named Testimonial Monkey.

I wanted to review Testimonial Monkey for two reasons:

  1. Those of you who follow my blog will be aware of the guest posts I write for Unbounce – the landing page specialists. One of the key elements of a when building trust with a user is the testimonial, and it’s something that I look for in a well designed landing page.
  2. My wife runs her own business, creating bespoke lampshades and teaching people how to make them (find out more over at Gilhoolie), so I understand the pressures of marketing a small business.
  3. Having worked in the real world for quite a few years now – on the agency and client side of the fence – I know that turning your consumers into advocates is no easy task.

Testimonial Monkey is a service designed to help organisations of all sizes gather and share testimonials easily, so it sounds like it might be the answer to our problems, but the $64,000 question is: does it work?

Getting Started

Testimonial Monkey uses basic gamification techniques to help you complete your profile.

Testimonial Monkey uses basic gamification techniques to help you complete your profile.

Setting up your account with Testimonial Monkey is a simple business. Creating a profile (of which you can have a few) is a simple matter of entering contact details and some basic preference information, and it can be completed in a few minutes. You’ve then got the option of further personalising the service through some additional options, such as uploading a logo, setting your testimonial requirements (do you want to collect job titles, do you want to show all testimonials or just positive ones, etc). It’s easy to use and you’re prompted to complete actions through some basic gamification techniques, such as an account completion progress bar and a list of ‘To Do’ items (see left). They’re a welcome addition,  but I couldn’t help but think that this approach could have been taken further, so that it was a more integral part of the set-up process, rather than an aside.

Once your profile has been set up, you’re ready to send your first request.

As you would expect, Testimonial Monkey provides a number of options for requests: you can send them manually on an individual basis, upload emails in bulk, or – as most will probably do – set up automatic requests.

The individual requests are simply a matter of entering a name and email into a pre-populated form. It’s easy, but for the majority of users will be a last resort, as sending individual requests will become time-consuming. I used it for my testing purposes only. The bulk option allow you to upload a series of email addresses to be used.

In both cases, you can select a questionnaire that will be appended to the email. These questionnaires can be created through the administration tools, and add depth to the data you can collect. Be aware though, the more information you ask a user to complete, the less likely it will be that they will comply. If you want to collect more structured data, it may be worth doing this separately.

Finally, the automatic requests can be configured through the use of a personalised email address created for your account.  This email address can be bcc’d on any email communication you have with your customer. Once the blind copy has been received the system will automatically send a request a number of days later. Like a lot of the integration features available on Testimonial Monkey, its easy to use and set up.

Although it does have the questionnaires, Testimonial Monkey doesn’t have features that some of the competitors do (including the ability to record audio and video testimonials), so you’ll have to make a call as to whether that’s important to you or not.

Sharing your success (or failure)

So you’re all set up and you’ve sent out your first request for a testimonial, even better, you’ve actually got a response; so how do you share it? This is where things can get onerous if it’s a manual process, but Testimonial Monkey covers the bases with a range if options that are flexible enough for most needs.

Testimonial Monkey's Facebook integration in action.

Testimonial Monkey’s Facebook integration in action.

You get a hosted reviews page as standard, but the flexibility comes with the integration options. Dependent on your package, there are standard connectors for Twitter and Facebook, two or three widgets – including badges – to allow you to display the latest testimonials directly on your website, and an RSS feed for general use.

Each of these can be set up to display testimonials with a minimum rating (so only 4 or 5 star ratings for example) and there are basic theme options available too.

Regardless of the options selected, the integration is seamless, with posts appearing a regular intervals once received. It’s easy to use and requires no further interaction – which is perfect.

Packages and features

As with most services, Testimonial Monkey comes with a range of packages, ranging from Lite to Enterprise.

There is some confusion on the site in respect to pricing, as the Plans and Prices page shows a different set of one-time costs to the ‘Free Trial’ page, which quotes costs on a per month basis. I’m sure this will be cleared up.

Regardless of this, the features don’t really start kicking until the Professional level. It’s here that the vast majority of functionality becomes available. The Enterprise level adds the ability to completely white-label the product, removing the Testimonial Monkey branding that is otherwise displayed throughout (including customer emails and review pages). I haven’t seen the Lite/Essential version working, but without the ability to share via the social networks, it won’t be as useful to the majority of businesses (as they bring social media marketing into their marketing mix).

Does it work?

Yes, overall it does. The set-up is fairly easy to complete and the site does a pretty good job of keeping you on track. The site isn’t perfect, I think it could be slicker and more streamlined in taking you through the initial set up, and it would be nice to have more inline help available at times, but it’s a satisfactory experience.

It would be good to have some better advice on how to use the testimonials you collect. There’s functionality available that allows you to limit the amount of testimonials you publish through each of the channels (five Facebook posts or five Tweets for example) and this is more important than it seems. New users might be tempted to push all their positive testimonials out of the door and into the public limelight, but it is judicious use that is more effective. There’s space here for Testimonial Monkey to be our guide, not just our conduit. This approach is hinted at in the free eBook you receive when signing up and the appointment of a ‘Success Manager’ for Enterprise customers, but it could be more obvious.

Would I recommend it? Would I give them my testimonial?

In the spirit of testimonials, here’s one to finish.

Testimonial Monkey is effective at delivering and sharing testimonials with minimum effort and input. A little more polish on the administration side would help, but it doesn’t detract from what is a well-thought out and focused product. 4/5.

James Gardner, 8th January 2013

Have you used Testimonial Monkey or a similar product? How did it work for you? Have you seen an increase in conversions or responses? Let me know your experiences and thoughts in the comments.

Disclaimer: This is an independent review based on a professional account supplied to me for the purposes of reviewing the service. I have no business relationship with TestimonialMonkey. I have not received any direct monetary incentives or payments, but they have allowed me to keep the account if I so desire for no cost. I don’t need to write this bit, but I think it’s always good to be completely transparent.

The Top 10 Unbounce Blog Posts of 2012

On the 21st December, Unbounce published a list of their Top 10 Most Popular Posts of 2012. I’m really pleased to have two articles in the Top 10, at number 3 and number 7; it’s been a pleasure contributing to the blog over the last twelve months. Editor Oli Gardner (no relation, just coincidence) even gave me the unofficial title of MVP Guest Author!

The Top 10 article can be found above, but if you want to catch the two articles directly, you can access them at:

#3. 20 Landing Page Designs Get Picked Apart & Analyzed for Conversion

#7. 12 Surprising A/B Test Results to Stop You Making Assumptions

If you were one of the people who read them the first time around, thanks!


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Unbounce – Return of the Honey Badger!

Unbounce - LogoLike the Hulk, or to be precise, like Bruce Banner, I’ve been trying to keep my alter-ego under wraps for the last couple of months. Unfortunately the pressure was too great and after an internal struggle full of tension and pulling silly faces, he escaped.

THE HONEY BADGER HAS RETURNED!

You can catch up on the damage he did to other people’s landing pages over at Unbounce, but don’t say I didn’t warn you if you find it distressing. This time the landing pages are focussed on cloud services:

Cloud Services are seen as a way to introduce technology into an organization simply and easily, without the need to get bogged down with IT processes and procedures. That may be an over-simplification, but the audience for these services cannot be assumed to be technical, so the approach taken with landing pages has to reflect this. Jargon is out, features are in, and there should be a focus on simplicity. It’s also imperative to build confidence quickly, creating trust in the solution with the audience.

In this article we’ll look at cloud services offering everything from file sharing through to innovation, and see whether they make the right first impression with their landing pages.

Even for those familiar with landing page design it’s worth checking up on the latest trends in design, but just in case you don’t fancy the article, here’s Hulk doing what he does best in The Avengers (2012).

This Week in Small Business: Gangnam Style! – NYTimes.com

Okay, so it’s not the cover page of the main New York Times and it’s not that my article is a massive feature, but it is a featured link in a New York Times blog post. Seeing that name appear in the pingbacks for my latest Unbounce article (see here) was fantastic and reminded me of part of the reason I started blogging. The web is an amazing place where your content and your effort can end up on the other side of the world or put in front of an audience of tens of thousands. It’s brilliant and heady and exciting.

 James Gardner takes a look at the conversion rates of eight small-business landing pages.

So simple. Now to get that novel published!


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Unbounce – 8 Small Business Landing Pages Critiqued for Conversion

Unbounce - LogoMy latest article for Unbounce – 8 Small Business Landing Pages Critiqued for Conversion – is now online at the Unbounce blog.

As always, you can read the article at Unbounce, but here’s an extract:

In the United States small business accounts for 44% of GDP and employs 60 million people. In the United Kingdom, small businesses are responsible for 60% of private sector jobs.

That’s a lot of money and a lot of jobs. It’s also a big market place. In this article we’ll be looking at landing pages that are focused on selling to small businesses and asking one thing: do they cut the mustard?

Despite their importance to the economies of the US and UK and their combined buying power, selling to small businesses requires a particular approach: one based around value, not scale, and focused on ease-of-use, not enterprise features. Lined up below are eight landing pages from big and small organizations; let’s see how they get on.

 


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Unbounce – 12 Surprising A/B Test Results to Stop You Making Assumptions

Unbounce - LogoThis week it’s A/B testing week over at Unbounce. My contribution to the series of articles is 12 Surprising A/B Test Results to Stop You Making Assumptions.

It’s easy to think that your landing page is going to work just because you’ve followed best practice examples – but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes it’s the unexpected combinations and designs that make the biggest impact. In this article I look at some examples that don’t follow convention, as well as some that do.

You can catch the rest of the articles from A/B testing week at http://unbounce.com/a-b-testing/.


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Unbounce – 15 Landing Pages That Couldn’t Sell Honey to a Honey Badger

Honey Badger Gets What Honey Badger Wants!Just a quick post to say that my latest article for Unbounce – 15 Landing Pages That Couldn’t Sell Honey to a Honey Badger – is now online at the Unbounce blog.

It seems I have a reputation for telling it as it is, hence the eponymous Honey Badger of the title and the Tweets that went out today to promote the article:

And the editor’s intro:

With that, I’ll hand you over to James Gardner (no relation), who’ll walk you through 15 pages, an overview of their customers and what’s good and bad about them, some might get a little bloody, but there’s gold in there too, he makes a lot of sense and has some great advice, so pay attention.

I’m really quite pleasant in person, but I guess you can be who you want to be on the internet! I guess #iamthehoneybadger isn’t a bad reputation to have. Thanks Oli!

Here’s an extract, you can read the rest at Unbounce.

If there’s one thing a business wants from its landing pages, it’s conversions.

In this article we’ll look at 15 landing pages and critique them for conversion; looking at the good, the bad, and the indifferent. The key to driving a high conversion rate lies in understanding your audience, which is why I’ll dig into the types of customers they’re serving. If you do that, then at least you’ve given yourself the best possible chance. So who’s up first? Oh look! Adobe…


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Landing Pages – the unforgiveable sin

This article was republished at Unbounce as a different version with a focus on QR codes (it was edited from the original). This article is included here only for the purposes of showing the editorial process – from first submission to published article. As stated in my previous post, I’ll leave it up to you to tell me whether you think the quiz structure works or not.

Image credit to fuzzysaurus on Flickr

There are many ways to get people to your landing page, but it’s not the channels that you use that ultimately drive conversions, it’s something else entirely. And that’s where many marketers go wrong. You see that guy in the picture above; you don’t want your users to feel like that do you, just because of something you did, or didn’t, do?

But all this negativity, it’s a bit heavy. Why don’t we lighten it up a bit by taking a little quiz? You know the type: just read the questions, decide on whether you would A, B or C, then total up the number of A, B and C’s. It’s just like reading Seventeen magazine again. Just promise me you won’t look down the page to see the answers…

Question 1

You’re sitting in your kitchen having breakfast. You’re reading the back of the cereal packet for the third time in the last five minutes, when you see a QR code tucked away next to the ingredients panel. By visiting the site you can find out exactly how many calories are in a single cheerio. Do you:

A.    Immediately start looking elsewhere on the box for a URL, spilling cereal on the table when you look on the bottom of the packet, then, when you find it, run upstairs to your desktop PC to find out more.

B.    Get your Android phone out of your pocket. Scan the code. Go to the Website.

C.    Do nothing. What is this QR code business anyway?

Question 2

You’re at the store. You’ve got a new box of cereal to replace the one you dropped on the floor during breakfast. Standing in the queue you notice a sign on the counter offering discounts for regular customers, with double-discounts at your local store. All you have to do is check in on their Website. Do you:

A.    Steal the sign surreptitiously when the cashier isn’t looking and run home to check in from the comfort of your home. Then realize you left your cereal at the store.

B.    Take out your iPhone. Go to the URL. Check-in. Get a discount.

C.    Do nothing. Who wants to check-in? Check-ins are for airports.

Question 3

You’re home from the store–and slightly out of breath from the run–so you turn on the TV. An advert for a new, even bigger TV catches your eye, and they’ve got deals for their Twitter followers. The links to their offer pages are right there in their Twitter stream. Do you:

A.    Scribble the Twitter name down on a piece of paper, then hunker down in your home office to follow them on your 32″ widescreen monitor.  Yeah baby!

B.    Pick up your brand new Samsung Galaxy. Fire up the Twitter app. Search for the account. Follow it. Click through to their deals landing page right there on your phone.

C.    Twitter? Why would I want to know what the world is having for lunch?

Okay, that’s it. It’s time to tot up those answers.

How did I do?

If you got mostly A’s:

Okay, those who answered mostly As are online, but missing a big piece of the picture. The good news: of anyone out there, marketers have the most to gain from this audience as it moves from desktop-bound activities to mobile converts.

The way people access the Internet is changing. They’re moving away from a reliance on the desktop browser and moving toward the mobile device. And that change in browsing habits is having a knock-on effect in our offline behavior. We’re much more likely to use mobile devices to inform our purchasing choices, either in-store or in our downtime.

The three scenarios outlined above show just a few of the ways in which smart retailers are using these changes in customer behavior to their advantage. The use of QR codes to connect offline printed media with an online presence is rising and they can be an efficient way to drive traffic to your landing page. There’s no fiddly typing of URLs on a tiny keyboard, you simply scan the code and are taken directly to the website. It’s also possible to brand QR codes with a logo for maximum brand impact.

Using advertising at Point of Sale is also a great way to appeal to a captive audience. By catching shoppers at the point of purchase, you have the opportunity to influence the decision-making process. If a customer is already with you, you want to make sure they come back again. The ability to geo-locate customers through their mobile devices can be used effectively to serve local offers and generate customer loyalty. Adidas successfully used geolocation to support six popup stores in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.

And finally, there’s good old social media. Social networks, especially Facebook and Twitter, are becoming an integrated part of many companies marketing strategies, with the importance of these channels increasing year over year. It’s also true that the a growing percentage of activity on both these platforms is from mobile devices (55% on Twitter, 33% on Facebook). Chances are that, if you’re driving people to your social media presence, there is a good chance they are doing it on a mobile device.

If you got mostly B’s:

Well, you may be preaching to the converted here. These customers are true mobile surfers. They may be part of a growing demographic that accesses the Internet primarily through a mobile device, but for marketers this doesn’t always translate into best practice for campaigns unless their landing pages are optimized for mobile browsing. Take a look at your company’s web presence, whether it’s a campaign landing page or the main company website. Would they work in the scenarios outlined in the quiz?

If you got mostly C’s:

Well. Those who scored mostly C’s are in need of a digital refresher course. But don’t worry, more and more become converted online shoppers and eventual mobile users everyday. Keep trying to engage them.

But what has all of this got to do with landing pages?

There’s a change taking place. The way that people access the internet is changing, and with it, the way that they are accessing your Web pages. Mobile devices are becoming more and more prevalent and we can no longer predict how and where users interact with our brand, so we must be prepared to support every potential channel and engage prospects wherever they choose to engage with our products.

The unforgivable sin for a landing page is a poor user experience. If you’ve done the hard work and directed people to your page but the user experience is a poor one, you’re simply throwing away time, money and effort. Creating a strong user experience, regardless of how the user accesses your page, is paramount. By making sure your landing pages are mobile-optimized, you’re giving yourself a head-start on the road to conversions and revenue. By making it easy for you users to read and navigate the content on your landing page you will increase conversion rates. Leave them trying to read tiny type on a tiny screen and you’re fighting a losing battle.

Don’t be left out. Engage the customers who choose B.


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Unbounce – [Quiz] The Cosmo Guide to Landing Pages & QR Codes – with Infographic

Unbounce - LogoAlthough the name on the post might not be mine, Unbounce published a second article on the 9th March – “The Cosmo Guide to Landing Pages and QR codes – with Infographic”. The article, which was originally written with less of a focus on QR codes and more on multi-channel landing page traffic drivers, was originally titled “Landing Pages: the unforgivable sin” and as an interesting example of the editorial process I’ll publish the original article here shortly.

The idea behind the article was to highlight the different ways in which a landing page could be reached, given that an increasing percentage of web traffic is through mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. The gimmick to get the reader engaged was to use a magazine-style quiz (did you get mainly A’s, B’s or C’s). I’ll leave it to you to decide whether it works or not.


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Unbounce – 20 Landing Page Designs Get Picked Apart & Analyzed for Conversion

Unbounce - LogoJust a quick post to say that my latest article for Unbounce – 20 Landing Page Designs Get Picked Apart & Analyzed for Conversion – is now online at the Unbounce blog.

The Unbounce blog has a great selection of articles about online marketing and is well worth checking out. They also have a Twitter feed at @unbounce.