My Biggest Advertising Mistake (and What I Learned)

My biggest advertising mistake and what I learned. Many people assume I’ve always been at the level I’m at now, and the level I’m at now isn’t the best. I can still get better and improve. But I’m a New York Times bestselling author. I’m a sought-after entrepreneur and marketer. I’m a thought leader in the digital marketing space. And that’s not to brag. Behind every success story are thousands of failures, and my biggest failure was one for the books. In fact, it ended up costing me over a million dollars. $1,250,391, to be exact. That’s a lot of money, and it was a mistake I’m still learning from all the time. Can you guess what it was? Do you think it was a social media misstep or betting big on an SEO strategy that didn’t pan out? It wasn’t either of those things.

Crazy Egg:
Hot Jar:

It was all about my website’s messaging, and that mistake was so big that one of my best-ever business ideas almost collapsed entirely. Here’s what happened.

I started a website called Kissmetrics in 2008, and it was an analytics business. It was an awesome website centered around helping users gain access to essential and actionable metrics surrounding user behavior. But the value prop was never clear. I spent years tinkering with that headline, but no success to show for it.

I started going shorter with my headlines, working harder to find a way to make my main value prop really stand out. I started using social proof and offering free trials to boost credibility. And guess what? I got almost an instantaneous 40% bump in conversions. And that means for three years I was losing out on 40% of my conversions.

What I learned, lesson number one, your value prop is everything. And if you’re not sure on how to create amazing value prop, what I recommend that you do is survey our audience. Use tools like SurveyMonkey or Crazy Egg or Hot Jar to figure out what issues people have. Use a lot of those keywords within your messaging and give them a solution to their problem. Because if you’re using the keywords that they’re using you’re much more likely to resonate with them and drive more conversions.

Lesson two, social proof is essential. If something has a thousand sales but only has two out of five stars are you going to buy it? Probably not. What you’re looking for is those products that have a four, four and a half, if not a five star rating on average. Five is a little bit hard. And then you’re looking at the reviews and see what people have to say that are both positive and negative to figure out if that purchase is right for you. So you really want to think about social proof and showing a lot of reviews out there.

Lesson three, offer free trials. Back in the day when I created a business, my first business, things were much more expensive to create versus now, right? With cloud computing and the way technology has shaped businesses, it’s a lot more affordable to just give people your product or service and let ’em try out a little sample before they have to buy. It’s a great way to build trust and boost conversions.

Lesson four, build trust with your audience. If someone doesn’t trust your brand, why would they buy from you? You’re more likely to purchase from a trustworthy brand because you know you’re not going to get ripped off and you’re going to get what you pay for. Remember, time is money. People don’t like making mistakes ’cause that costs them time.

Lesson five, understand that attention spans are short. I wanted my audience to get to know how great Kissmetrics was, but I didn’t understand that 80% of readers will never make it past the headline. Make your point and make it early. If you don’t, you’re going to end up losing a lot of people. And as I mentioned, your headline should solve people’s problems. If they can’t figure out what problem you’re solving through your headline, you’ve lost ’em. Even if they read further, chances are they’re not going to convert.

Now, if you need help with your marketing, check out my ad agency NP Digital where we help companies of all sizes grow.

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