Why Content Is Not King in Content Marketing!

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“Content is king” is one of those meaningless statements that some marketers use to justify content marketing for content marketing’s sake. Content is not king because without a clear purpose and customers who want to read and respond to it with a desired action it is worthless. Just like advertising, you can guarantee that a majority of visitors will not even be interested in what your content has to say. Content has to contain a relevant message and a potential action as otherwise it has no value.

This is why if you don’t have a clear content marketing strategy you may be wasting your time. It might be better doing something different to get the results you are looking for.

What Is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”- Content Marketing Institute – What is content marketing?

How do you know if your content marketing is generating a profitable customer action? Like any strategy you need a plan. Otherwise you will be pissing in the wind as some people like to say. You will have no hope of succeeding as you will lack direction and agreement on how to implement your strategy.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine De Saint-Exuprey

However, research by the Content Marketing Institute suggests that less than half of B2C marketers (40%) and a similar proportion of B2B marketers (37%) have a content marketing strategy. Now, let’s think about that. Would you sign off a marketing budget without seeing a marketing strategy? No, of course not. If you want to ensure your content marketing delivers a profitable customer action it is essential that you have a plan with goals, strategies and metrics.

Documented Content Marketing Strategy:

Establishing a content marketing strategy ensures you agree appropriate goals and gets everyone to consider how they will meet these objectives. When people have a plan they review the progress at some point and think about how they measure success.

Once you have a measurement of success you can start tracking your conversion rate for leads, sales or whatever the profitable customer action is. This also helps people learn about what doesn’t/what does work. The next step is to start planning your content marketing strategy. This begins with defining an overall mission.

Here are six steps to create a documented content marketing strategy.

1.What is your overall content marketing mission?

Agreeing an overall purpose for your content marketing helps focus attention on what can make a difference to your business. It will help you avoid creating content for contents sake. Your mission should create value by resulting in a profitable customer action such as improving the quality of leads, increasing leads, sales, revenues or reducing costs. Remember content marketing needs to result in a profitable outcome, otherwise it’s a pointless exercise.

2.Write a business plan for content marketing:

A business plan does not have to be too detailed. Simply outline your organisation’s objectives and your business goals or targets. Once you know how your organisation plans to achieve these objectives. You can outline how content marketing will assist the business with achieving its goals.

Summarise qualitative deliverables from content marketing. This should include tasks such as raising awareness, simplify the customer on-boarding and promote new features or products. Next outline the success metrics that you will track to determine how successful your content marketing strategy. This will often involve using web analytics to measure engagement and other related metrics. Don’t forget to also review user experience tools. These can provide both qualitative and quantitative measures to monitor how visitors interact with content.

Defining Metrics

Defining metrics is especially important because if the target measure is not closely aligned with the action you may find undesirable behaviours due to the cobra effect. This is where people change behaviour to influence the metric rather than the desired outcome.

  1. Business objectives – e.g. Grow revenues for product A.
  2. Goals – e.g. Increase revenues from product A by 10%.
  3. Strategies for content marketing – E.g. Deliver persuasive product information.
  4. Quantitative metrics to measure success – E.g. Convert 3.5% of website visitors.

3.The Business Case:

Calculating a return on investment (ROI) for content marketing is difficult. It involves so many different areas and people in an organisation and it rarely works in insolation from other marketing activities. However, it should be possible to estimate the cost of content, how much it is used (or not) and track performance metrics.

Take a sample of content to estimate the average cost of content, including copywriting and design fees. Use the average content cost to estimate the total cost of all your content.

Once you know how much content gets produced you should also estimate the usage level. It’s not uncommon for around 50% content not to be used. Take a sample of content and find out what proportion was actually used. This will tell you if you have a significant problem with wastage.

Performance, Awareness and Lead Generation

For performance measures it is important to select meaningful metrics that relate to your business goals. For raising awareness, page views are largely meaningless. Instead you should seek to track engagement metrics such as average time on page, bounce rate and pages per session. These are much more relevant. For lead generation, measuring the conversion rate to understand the quality of leads is better than the volume of them.

By being specific about your goals for content marketing you can demonstrate how important it is that you succeed and how content marketing supports your business objectives. Now that you have an understanding of the cost, usage and achievements of your content marketing activities. You will be able to outline your business plan and begin measuring the return on investment.

4.Who are your customers?

Developing buyer personas is a crucial next step in your content marketing strategy. Personas allow you to segment your customer base according to the behaviour and attitudes of different user groups. Buyer personas allow you to build profiles of each important customer segment. It helps you better understand their needs, motivations, desires and preferences. They should inform your content marketing strategy and improve internal understanding of the needs and interests of your audience.

Buyer persona for content marketing

Buyer personas can also help improve your conversion rate because they bring context to discussions around all aspects of the user experience. The Buyer Legends approach developed by Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg is a great process to use to develop a narrative of the user journey based upon individual buyer personas. Personas form the foundation of discussion here to examine each step of the customer journey. This enables stakeholders to identify specific pain points and concerns that may be preventing users from converting.

To help you create your buyer persona profiles I’ve summarised the top free persona template tools. These persona creators can also assist you in sharing your personas as it’s important that they are explained to people in an organisation who have some responsibility for the digital experience.

5.Brand Story:

Every brand begins with a story of how the founders decided to set up a new business to meet a specific need or for a purpose that they were passionate about. Sometimes it’s because the founder was not happy with existing product or service on the market and felt they could do better. Other times it’s because the founder lost his or her job and had to try something different to pay their bills. Whatever the story behind the brand this can be motivational and inspiring for the people who know work for the organisation.

Innocent's brand story to help content marketing strategy

Image Source: Innocent Drinks

Your brand story is worth investigating because it can help differentiate your brand from the competition. People like stories because they are memorable and engaging. Research has also found that people are particularly attracted to products that are the result of a mistake. So, if your product or service was created due to some kind of mistake this may actually enhance your brand story.

6.Channel Strategy:

Now that you have a clear vision of what you are trying to achieve, who your target audience are and your brand story, you can now consider which channels are most appropriate for your content. This means setting out a rationale for each channel you decide to use and what kind of content you will publish on each platform.

Your channel plan will help you implement your content marketing strategy in the most effective way as you evaluate how relevant each channel is to your buyer personas, how it may influence their perception of the content and what format is best suited to each channel. You can then identify which metrics to measure performance so that you will have the ability to learn from your successes and failures.

Conversion rate optimisation can now help with the process by using data and experiments to inform decision making. This can be from as little as testing different headlines in content to testing different way to monetise content. Further, sometimes it is preferable to increase friction on a landing page to improve the quality of leads. This is best determined through A/B tests which provide for a scientific approach to decision making. If you don’t have the expertise to run A/B tests you can hire a conversion rate optimisation consultant to assist in this process.

Conclusion:

Content is definitely not king as unless it has a specific purpose and results in a profitable action it may be a colossal waste of money. Creating a documented content marketing strategy is an important first step in the process of ensuring that you focus on outcomes rather than inputs.

Once you have that clear direction and success metrics defined you will be in a much better position to develop your content creation process and to populate your content marketing calendar. If you don’t have a clear and documented strategy in place the danger is that content creation and your editorial calendar will drive activity rather than your strategy determining your content. This is a recipe for disaster as they should only create and publish content that fits in with your business objective and goals which are outlined in your content marketing plan.

65 Reasons Why MPs Should Stop Brexit

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Below is 65 reasons why MPs should stop Brexit. The impact of Brexit indicates that it will will harm the UK economically. The impact of new trade deals with other countries will be marginal. In addition, Brexit is likely to reduce the UK’s influence in Europe and the world as a whole. We are forced to rapidly negotiate trade deals with countries outside the EU. Leaving the EU will make the UK a mere follower. It will be obliged to follow the rules and regulations of the EU, USA and China.

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1. Johnson misled the Queen and illegally suspended parliament.

In September 2019, the Supreme Court, unanimously found that de Pfeffel Johnson acted illegally by suspending parliament. He may have even lied to the Queen. The decision was solely concerned with the lawfulness of Johnson’s decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue parliament. The court found that Johnson did not prorogue parliament to prepare for a Queen’s speech. Instead he did it specifically to stop parliament from doing its job of scrutinising government policy and holding it to account.

2. No-deal would be “high-jacking the referendum result” . 

During the referendum no-deal was dismissed as ‘Project Fear’ or the worst possible outcome. Indeed, official Vote Leave literature claimed that no legal process would begin to leave the EU until a new deal had been negotiated. People were clearly led to believe that a good deal with the EU would be achieved. PM de Pfeffle Johnson now claims the UK should leave the EU without a deal to prevent any further delay.

Vote Leave promise on a deal

Source: Official Vote Leave Campaign

The ex-chancellor Philip Hammond has argued that a no-deal Brexit would be a betrayal of the referendum result. In a speech at the annual dinner of the CBI he criticised proponents of a no-deal Brexit as “high-jacking the referendum result”. Putting their personal interests ahead of the national interest.

“Let me remind them: the 2016 leave campaign was clear that we would leave with a deal. So to advocate for no deal is to hijack the result of the referendum and, in doing so, knowingly to inflict damage on our economy and our living standards. – Philip Hammond, 21st May 2019.

3. Nigel Farage failed to declare £450,000 received from Arron Banks. 

Arron Banks has said that he funded Nigel Farage to the tune of £450,000 after the EU referendum. Farage failed to declare this money to the European Parliament register of interests. As an MEP Nigel Farage should have declared such gifts to prevent them from keeping conflicts of interest a secret.

Nigel Farage could be fined up to €10,000 if he breaks EU rules and could be suspended from parliament for up to 30 days.

4. Brexit Party funding could allow foreign interference in British democracy. 

The Brexit Party allows donations of less than £500 to be made via a PayPal account. Richard Tice, the Brexit Party’s chair and co-founder, acknowledged that he did not know if the PayPal account allowed the party to receive small donations in foreign currencies. Other parties collect personal information from donors. The Brexit Party is open to abuse by foreign donors who wish to influence UK elections.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has asked the Electoral Commission to open an investigation as he said;

“Now Mr Farage heads a new Brexit Party, which is making questionable claims about the true source of its funding. The Electoral Commission has warned of the dangers of multiple, small, anonymous donations being a cover for dirty money.”

5. Theresa May’s deal was defeated in Parliament by 230 votes.

On 15th January 2019, the government’s Brexit withdrawal deal was voted down by Parliament in the meaningful vote by 202 to 432 votes. This was the largest ever defeat of a government in the House of Commons. In normal times this would be the immediate resignation of the Prime Minster.

6. Theresa May knew Vote Leave broke the law before triggering Article 50.

Prime Minister Theresa May knew that Vote Leave had probably broken electoral law when she triggered Article 50 according to her legal council in the High Court on 7th December 2018. This was confirmed when the government tried to prevent the public and Parliament knowing that Article 50 could be revoked without the approval of other EU members.

This demonstrates how little respect Theresa May has for electoral law. She is more interested in dealing with internal Conservative Party divisions than looking after the best interests of the country. Any statesman would put their country first rather than covering up for their own party who cheated to win a referendum.

7. Putting a border in the Irish Sea: 

  • No one mentioned a “backstop” during the referendum campaign or putting a border in the Irish Sea. However, to remove the ‘backstop’ from the Withdrawal Agreement and to avoid hard border on the Island of Ireland, the UK and the EU have agreed to have customs checks between the UK and Northern Ireland.
  • This essentially means that there will be a border in the Irish Sea. This means companies wishing to export goods from Northern Ireland to the rest of the will have to complete a customs declaration.

8. Delaying the meaningful vote just ran the clock down by a month:

The historic ‘meaningful vote’ was originally due to take place on 11th December 2018. This was delayed by over a month because May expected she would lose the vote by a large margin. Theresa May promised she would return to Parliament with a deal after further negotiations with the EU. In reality the EU was only willing to give a written reassurance that the backstop was intended as a short-term measure.

As nothing about the deal changed, Theresa May still lost the vote when it returned to Parliament. This was deeply irresponsible. It achieved nothing apart from using up another month before the UK leaves the EU.

9. Over 100 Tory MPs voted against the implementation of the Welsh assembly referendum result.

In a speech in Stoke on the day before the meaningful vote Theresa May planned to say that “When the people of Wales voted by a margin of 0.3%, on a turnout of just over 50%, to endorse the creation of the Welsh Assembly. That result was accepted by both sides and the popular legitimacy of that institution has never seriously been questioned.”

However, she was accused of hypocrisy because in 1999 May was among 144 Tory MPs who voted for an amendment to the Government of Wales Bill. Which would have blocked the implementation of the 1997 Welsh referendum. The 2005 Conservative manifesto also proposed holding a second Welsh referendum with the option to abolish the Welsh Assembly.

May, David Davis, Iain Duncan Smith et al also voted against the Bill to set up the Scottish Parliament after a 74% vote. This completely undermines May’s claim that Parliament is obliged to implement the 2016 advisory referendum result. MPs have always respected other referendum results in the UK.

10. Less than 40% of the electorate voted in favour of leaving the EU. 

  • 52% of people who voted chose to leave the EU, but given a turnout of 72%. This means that only 37% of the total electorate actually voted in favour of leaving. This figure would be even lower if you allow for the fact that adults aged between 16 and 17 were not allowed to vote. Around a million ex-pats living in another member state for more than 15 years were also excluded from the vote. In addition EU citizens who mainly work and pay more than their fair share of taxes were also not given the opportunity to vote.
  • Only 26% of the UK population voted to leave the EU. To call this the “will of the people” is a complete fallacy. It is a dangerous use of a referendum result. Margaret Thatcher called referendum “a device of dictators and demagogues”. In 1859 the philosopher and civil servant John Stewart Mill argued that following the “will of the people” could be an “abuse power”. Stop Brexit as referendum are not appropriate for making such complex decisions.

Quote from John Stewart Mill about danger of following the will of the people

11. EU officials lost confidence in UK’s ability to negotiate:

EU officials privately considered some aspects of Theresa May’s negotiating approach to Brexit as “insane” and “pathetic” a BBC documentary has shown. The programme shows that EU officials have lost confidence in the UK’s ability to negotiate as they need someone “stable, available and reliable” to hold discussions with.

Mr Verhofstadt’s chief of staff Guillamume McLaughlin was shocked when he was told a Brexit deal was called off because Mrs May could not get the agreement of the DUP leader Arlene Foster.

Officials also agreed that the then Brexit secretary David Davis did not “really give a f**k” about the Irish border. Even though it has probably been the biggest barrier to getting May’s deal agreed by parliament.

12. Theresa May attempted to ignore Parliamentary sovereignty.

  • A British PM cannot trigger a General Election without the approval of 66% of all MPs. Why does Theresa May think she had the right to use a small majority in a referendum to force the UK to leave the EU? May tried to argue that she alone could trigger Article 50 despite the Conservative Government in 2010. Confirming that referendum cannot be binding due to the sovereignty of parliament.
  • What May attempted to do was unconstitutional and would have reduced the power of Parliament. Fortunately the Supreme Court confirmed the power of Parliament and May had to put a Brexit bill through Parliament. MP’s should be given the opportunity to stop Brexit if it’s not delivering the benefits it was sold on.
  • May has also refused to allow parliament a ‘meaningful vote’ on the final Brexit deal by arguing that her hands must not be tied by parliament.

13. The Government was found in contempt of Parliament:

  • Despite Brexit supposedly being about returning sovereignty to Parliament, Theresa May has done almost everything to avoid Parliament being allowed to demonstrate its sovereignty with regards to Brexit. On 4th December 2018 the government was found to be in contempt of Parliament by MP’s after ministers refused to publish the full legal advice. It had received from the Attorney General on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

14. The UK will become a rule taker rather than a rule maker: 

During the transition period the UK will have to continue to follow existing and new EU rules and regulations but it will no longer have any influence over such regulations. The UK will lose its EU commissioner, its MEPs and it’s seat at the table of EU members which currently allows it to initiate and shape EU legislation. This will reduce the sovereignty of Parliament rather than allow the UK to “take back control” as promised by Leave campaigners.

15. The Leave campaign deliberately overspent: 

Leave EU failed to report “at least” £77,380 it spent on the EU referendum and was fined £70,000 for breaches of election law by the Electoral Commission. It also referred Leave EU chief executive Liz Bilney to the police as a result of its investigation into what it called “serious offences”.

16. The individual Leave campaigns illegally coordinated their campaigns:

In evidence to the Electoral Commission, Mark Gettleson, a communications consultant, said that two of Theresa May’s political advisers were among the senior directors at Vote Leave who helped with the activities of the youth group, BeLeave. BeLeave was a separate organisation and yet Vote Leave donated £625,000 to BeLeave. The money was then spent on digital advertising in the last critical few days of the campaign.

Donations are only legal if campaigns are run separate. Gettleson has given the Electoral Commission emails to and from Parkinson and Watson. That indicates they helped create BeLeave’s campaign materials. The emails also indicate that BeLeave was directed by Vote Leave. BeLeave have previously claimed it was a separate independent organisation.

Gettleson’s evidence disputes this and claims BeLeave had no dedicated staff. In his statement he claimed Darren Grimes, who headed BeLeave, worked as a part-time volunteer under the supervision of Vote Leave staff.

“I was providing support with the overarching message of BeLeave and website creation. Darren was working within Vote Leave and continually asking me, Stephen, Cleo and the Vote Leave design team for support and assistance.” – Mark Gettleson

17. The Leave campaign used stolen personal data to win the referendum:

Investigations by journalists and parliamentary committees suggest that Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ (AIQ) may have misused personal data as part of their work for Vote Leave and other leave campaigns. According to a former employee of Cambridge Analytica (CA), Brittany Kaiser, misuse of data was “rife” among the businesses and campaigns of Leave EU chairman and ex-UKIP donor Arron Banks. Mr Banks asked CA for a joint strategy for Leave EU, UKIP and Eldon Insurance.

Image of quote on Brexit referendum by Christopher Wylie

Ex-CA employee Christopher Whylie told MEPs that members of the Leave campaign are working within Theresa May’s office. They wanted to “stall any public inquiry until they have secured Brexit”.

“I don’t believe Brexit would have happened were it not for the data targeting technology and network of actors set up by Cambridge Analytica. “I don’t believe the Brexit result was won fairly or legitimately.” – Chrisopher Whylie

18. Russia attempted to influence the referendum result: 

  • There is increasing evidence that Russia tried to influence the referendum campaign. Analysis by digital experts 89up.org estimated that Russian funded social media outlets. Twitter bots generated over 130 million impressions with a value of around £4.1m.
  • Emails seen by the Observer indicate that from November 2015. The Russian ambassador, Alexander Yakovenko, invited Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore to a number of events and meetings before the European referendum. The communications suggest that Banks and Wigmore were offered investments in lucrative gold mines for delivering Brexit. The documents indicate:
  • Multiple meetings of the leaders of Leave EU and Russian officials, from November 2015 to 2017. Two meetings took place in the week of the launch of the Leave EU campaign.
  • The Russian ambassador introduced Banks to a Russian businessman who offered Banks the opportunity to buy into Russian goldmines.
  • A visit to Moscow in February 2016 to meet businessmen and financiers behind a gold project, including a Russian bank.
  • Extensive communications with Russian contacts before the US election when Banks, and his associates supported Donald Trump’s candidacy.

Image of Donald Trump with members of Leave.EU

Investigations by journalists also show deep relationships between Trump’s backers (e.g. Robert Mercer), his campaign team and Cambridge Analytica/AIQ. In addition many people with financial or political connections to Russia were heavily involved with the Brexit campaign. This suggests Russia helped to finance the Brexit campaign and tried to persuade voters to vote Leave by distributing anti-EU stories and social media posts.

19. The referendum was not binding and so is not a mandate to proceed with Brexit:

  • The Government had the opportunity to make the referendum binding by requiring a super majority. 2:1 in favour and a 70% turnout, but instead asked Parliament for an advisory referendum. The Government rejected more than one attempt to introduce clauses that would have made the result binding.
  • An advisory referendum is supposed to be just that because it would be reckless to base a major constitutional change on a simple slim majority without Parliament first debating it and voting on such a change. MP’s should be able to stop Brexit if they feel Brexit is not in the best interests of the country.

Image of the EU Referendum Bill 2015-16

20. MP’s first duty is to do what is best for the country. 

  • Winston Churchill famously said the first duty of a MP is to do what he thinks is best for the country and secondly to represent his constituents. Theresa May appears to be ignoring this principle for internal party political reasons.

Image of what Winston Churchill said about the role of a MP

  • Before the referendum 74% of the UK’s 650 MPs were in favour of remaining in the European Union. MP’s should stand up for their principles and do what is best for the UK. Rather than protect their party or job.
  • Even Theresa May made the statement below about supporting the Remain campaign on the Andrew Marr show. Why is May now following a slim majority of people who voted to leave on the basis of many untruths and ignoring her own opinion that the UK would be better to remain in the EU?

Theresa May explaining why UK should remain in the EU on Andrew Marr show. Stop Brexit.

21. The Leave Campaign had no plan or costings for leaving the EU.

  • If someone proposes a major constitutional change the least you would expect is a carefully thought out implementation plan. Including estimates of the costs and benefits of the change. Any proposal with so little effort put into the planning and implementation stage of the process deserves no respect. It should not be taken forward until a credible plan is presented and put to Parliament. Parliament should stop Brexit because there is no credible plan to leave the EU and deliver the benefits that were presented to voters during the referendum.

22. David Davis misled parliament over the sectoral reports the Brexit department has conducted:

In June of 2017 David Davis told parliament: “We’ve already got 50, nearly 60 sector analyses already done,”. Suggesting that impact assessments had been completed into up to 58 sectors of the UK economy. In October 2017 he told parliament that impact assessment had been conducted in “excruciating” detail.

However, in early December 2017 David Davis told the Brexit committee that analysis of how leaving the EU could impact sectors do not exist at all. He claimed their “usefulness” for individual sectors was “near zero.”

39 Sectors

The Department for Exiting the EU then provided the Brexit committee with summaries of 39 sectors that will be impacted by Brexit. These reports have now been published by the Brexit committee but do not assess how Brexit may impact the key sectors of the UK economy. All the reports provide a summary of each sector and how it currently interacts with the EU. This contradicts what David Davis had previously told parliament and suggests he has misled parliament.

Labour MP Pat McFadden said: “The knots the Government has tied itself in over publication of these reports says more about the state of politics and the Government’s paranoid state of mind than it does about Brexit.

“There is little or nothing in them that couldn’t be learned from the annual reports of different trade bodies. Yet we were asked to believe that revealing how many cars were made in Britain every year was an act of national treachery.”

A comparison of the report with information on Wikipedia suggests some of the information was simply copy and pasted.

Example of how Brexit sectoral analysis is a copy and paste from Wikipedia

In January 2018 secret Brexit impact assessments were leaked to Buzzfeed. These showed all scenarios evaluated are expected to adversely affect the UK economy. This again calls into question whether David Davis has mislead parliament about what analysis has been undertaken to assess the impact of Brexit.

23. People can change their minds.

  • It is almost 3 years since the referendum. Yet there is still no clear plan on how the UK can smoothly leave the EU and avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. Recent polls suggest that 56% of people would now vote to remain in the EU and only 44% would vote to leave the EU.
  • Opinion polls are showing that an increasing proportion of people think the UK was wrong to vote to leave the EU. 73% of voters think Brexit negotiations are going more badly than expected.
Table of poll showing if public think Brexit negotiations are going as well as you thought

Source: YouGov

  • Another YouGov survey found that 54% of Leave voters are not prepared for their family finances to be affected by Theresa May prioritising immigration over the economy. Only 11% of people who supported Brexit said they would be prepared to be more than £100 a month worse off to get greater control over immigration.
  • Given the predicted impact of Brexit on the economy and people’s lives it is only reasonable to give the electorate an opportunity to vote on the full details of the plan when it has been finalised.

24. The electorate were lied to about many of the potential benefits of leaving the EU.

  • Although misinformation was a characteristic of both sides of the argument, the Leave campaign made a number of claims (e.g. Boris Johnson Brexit bus that £350m a week could go to the NHS instead of the EU and Turkey was about to join the EU) that have proved to be totally inaccurate and untrue.
  • The Office for Budget Responsibility now estimates that the UK will only save £250m a week by leaving the EU. Most of the cost savings will be wiped out for a number of years due to the high cost of leaving the EU. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, has calculated that each household in the UK is already £900 worse off because of the vote.
  • The UK has agreed to pay around £39bn to leave the EU to cover existing commitments. This does not even cover the cost of getting access to the single market. People cannot be expected to have an informed opinion on leaving the EU when much of the information about leaving the EU was false or unknown.

Leave campaign claim that Turkey was about to join the EU

25. The government has no mandate for leaving the single market or customs union. 

  • The referendum did not specify that the UK would leave either the Single Market or the Customs Union. The ballot paper simply asked if voters wanted to remain or leave the European Union. There was no indication about the nature of any withdrawal from the EU. This was further confirmed when May lost her overall majority after she called a snap election for June, 2017.
  • Lord Adonis summed up Theresa May’s lack of a mandate for her form of Brexit in his resignation letter as Chair of UK infrastructure commission. He points out that:

“Brexit is a populist and nationalist spasm worthy of Donald Trump. After the narrow referendum vote, a form of associate membership of the EU might have been attempted without rupturing Britain’s key trading and political alliances. Instead, by allying with Ukip and the Tory hard right to wrench Britain out of the key economic and political institutions of modern Europe. You are pursuing a course fraught with danger.

Even within Ireland, there are set to be barriers between people and trade. If Brexit happens, taking us back into Europe will become the mission of our children’s generation, who will marvel at your acts of destruction.” Andrew Adonis, 29th December 2017

26. Brexit could result in the break-up of the UK.

  • Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU and has land border with another EU country. To avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland the UK government has committed to back stop proposal of full alignment with EU rules on cross-border provisions if no trade deal is agreed with the EU. This agreement could make the unification of Ireland more likely as people in Northern Ireland are increasingly in favour of staying in the EU.
  • In a recent survey of people in Northern Ireland 69% said they would be in favour of Remain if there was another referendum compared to 56% in the 2016 referendum. Catholics are more likely to support a united Ireland if there is a ‘hard exit’ in which the UK leaves the customs union and single market.

Stop Brexit to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland

  • Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of SNP, has also indicated that the SNP plan to call for a second Scottish independence referendum once we know what the relationship with the EU will look like after Brexit. Scotland voted strongly in favour of remaining in the EU (62% to 38%). So the Scottish Government want to remain in the single market. Unless we stop Brexit the current structure of the UK is clearly under threat.

27. The UK lacks the capacity of EU ports:

  • If the UK leaves the EU it will no longer be able to rely on the capacity and infrastructure of EU ports to handle and process goods destined for the UK from outside the EU. Figures from the Office of National Statistics suggest as much as half of the Netherland’s annual €40bn goods exports to the UK originate from third countries. If the UK leaves the EU these goods will need to go directly to the UK, or go through two separate borders. Initially the EU and then the UK border.
  • The UK lacks a facility similar to Rotterdam because most trade between the UK and Rotterdam is via ferry rather than large cargo ships. This means that ferry ports such as Harwich lack border inspection posts and don’t have physical space for much expansion. They certainly can’t handle large container ships.
The UK lacks the capacity of the larger EU ports

Source: FT.com

28. The Leave campaign was financed by wealthy individuals who wish to benefit from Brexit financially:

  • It is no coincidence that many of the financial backers of Brexit appear in the leaked Paradise Papers. Brexit supporters like Arron Banks, Lord Magan and the Barclay brothers have off-shore interests to help them minimise or avoid tax. These same people also support the idea of a hard Brexit which would allow the UK rip up its current economics model and become a tax haven.
  • In addition a hard Brexit would also allow the UK to avoid implementing the EU Anti Tax Avoidance Directive which is due to come into force from 1st January 2019. This will force EU countries to share details of all cross border off-shore tax schemes every three months. They will be recorded in a central directory of avoidance schemes. This will affect UK based intermediaries that participate in off-shoring and tax avoidance. The UK is a global leader together with Hong Kong and the US.
  • David Cameron personally intervened in 2013 to request that off-shore trusts be excluded from the EU directive. He did not want trusts to be subject to the same transparency rules as companies. In 2016 David Cameron admitted that he had benefited from his father’s off-shore trust.

29. Brexit is damaging the UK’s ability to attract highly skilled workers from abroad:

30. Brexit is such a huge undertaking the Government lacks the bandwidth to anything else.

  • When Alan Milburn and the entire team running the Social Mobility Commission quit in December 2017. He accused the Government of lacking the “bandwidth” to make progress on social care. One of the reasons he gave for the mass resignation was the Government’s obsession with Brexit. This is not surprising as Brexit is taking up so much of the Government’s time and energy. Of the 27 bills in the 2017 Queen’s speech, eight related to Brexit and it’s impact on immigration and trade.
  • What this means is that there is little time or money left for dealing with other important issues such as the NHS, social care or improving the UK’s poor productivity performance. Brexit is a process, not an event. PWC estimate that it will take between 2 to 10 years to complete. Given the complexity of the process and that trade deals with the EU normally take around seven years to complete it is more likely to be closer to ten years than two years to complete Brexit.

31. Getting a trade deal before we leave the EU is not credible or logistically possible:

  • May’s original plan was to leave the single market and the customs union and negotiate a new “frictionless” trade agreement through “associate membership” of the customs union before the Brexit transition period ends on 31st December 2020. This appears increasingly unlikely given that the UK has still not found an alternative solution to the Northern Ireland back stop problem.
  • For free trade to happen counties must collaborate to ensure compatibility between national legal systems, standardising their rules and regulations to bring down trade barriers. The UK doesn’t want to abide by the rules of the customs union. The EU has indicated the UK can’t expect to receive the benefits of EU membership when it leaves.
  • It took the EU seven years to agree a trade agreement with Canada. Indeed, Michael Fuchs, a senior adviser to Germany’s Angela Merkel has told reporters that May’s Brexit plan is impossible as she does not appear to want to give up anything to achieve her aims.
  • Lord Adonis, the Chair of the UK infrastructure commission also pointed out the lack of a credible plan in his resignation letter on 29th December 2017.
Andrew Adonis, 17th December 2017

“The government is hurtling towards the EU’s emergency exit with no credible plan for the future of British trade and European cooperation. All the while ignoring – beyond soundbites and inadequate programmes. The crises of housing, education, the NHS and social and regional inequality which are undermining the fabric of our nation and feeding a populist surge.”

32. Taking the UK out of the single market will seriously damage the economy.

  • The UK government’s own Brexit impact assessment shows that every scenario facing the UK for leaving the EU is predicted to have an adverse impact on the economy. The assessment shows the following falls in overall GDP over 15 years:
  • UK remains in the single market via the European Economic Area (EEA) GDP fall of 1.5%.
  • UK agrees a free trade deal GDP will fall by 5%
  • UK leaves EU without a deal and reverts to World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms GDP decline of 8%.
  • May wants to take the UK out of a market over 500 million people with no guarantee that we can obtain “frictionless” access to the single market after we leave the EU. The EU has already indicated this will mean the City of London lose its European passport. Allowing free trade in financial services throughout the single market.
  • Representatives of top EU companies told Teresa May on 30th May 2018 that they will not invest in the UK while the there is uncertainty over the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU. They indicated that anything less than the frictionless trade the UK currently benefits from being in the customs union will harm investment.

“The uninterrupted flow of goods is essential to both the EU and UK economies,” the lobby group said in a statement after the meeting. “This must be frictionless as with a customs union. We need clarity and certainty, because time is running out. Uncertainty causes less investment.” – Source FT.com

33. It is a myth that ‘No deal is better than a bad deal” with EU.

  • The government’s own Brexit assessment estimates that a “hard Brexit” would cost the UK economy around £80 billion over 15 years. The government would also need to borrow an extra £150bn over the next 15 years. The North East (-16%) and West Midlands (-13%) would be most badly effected economically by a hard Brexit. It would also mean an overall 21% rise in retail prices, with food and drink prices increasing by 17%.
  • The EU cannot legally be seen to offer the UK more favourable terms than it has given other countries it has signed trade agreements with. Giving the UK more favourable terms would put the EU at risk of legal action from the likes of Canada and Japan.

34. The EU already has many trade agreements with other nations which the UK would exclude itself from if it leaves the EU.

  • The EU has recently completed a free trade agreement with Canada and Japan. It has many multilateral and bilateral trade deals that the UK currently benefits from. These normally take many years to complete. As 44% of the UK’s exports go to the EU why would we want to risk jeopardising this trade? Stop Brexit before we have to renegotiate at least 759 treaties with 168 countries.

35. We risk losing sovereignty of Gibraltar and 30,000 loyal subjects.

  • As all 27 EU states have to agree to any new trade agreement with the EU it is highly likely that Spain will use this as an opportunity to push for joint sovereignty of Gibraltar. Spain only opened its border with Gibraltar because it wanted to join the EU. The UK government was able to ensure membership of the EU was subject to an open border. We have now put that power in Spain’s hands and Spain has the right to veto any trade agreement that it does not like with regard to Gibraltar. This could make life even more difficult for the people of Gibraltar if the UK leaves the EU.

Image of Gibraltar

36. London risks losing its status as Europe’s leading financial hub and a centre of creativity in the arts and sciences.

  • Many multinational banks have already announced they are planning on moving thousands of jobs from London to other European financial centres. Losing the European financial passport will be a major blow to London’s status as a financial hub.
  • London has successfully attracted many talented people from the rest of Europe and other countries due to its ethnic and cultural diversity. This has helped establish London as a centre of creative and high-tech science. Given the perception of Brexit from outside the UK and proposed new immigration controls. This status is in serious risk of being undermined. Unless we stop Brexit the City of London risks losing its dominance in financial services in Europe.

37. Leaving the EU is likely to undermine the UK’s world-leading position in science and innovation.

  • The UK was the largest receiver of funding from the EU Research and Innovation programme.
  • The EU as greatly assisted UK science and innovation as freedom of movement of expertise. EU science funding has supported important complex international research and development programmes. This has been beneficial for education, training, innovation and the economy overall. Leaving the EU will prevent collaboration, remove funding opportunities and hinder attracting talent from other EU countries.

38. Many UK industries are reliant on EU regulatory bodies to trade in both the UK and EU.

  • The UK does not have the resources or money to create numerous regulators to replace existing EU regulatory bodies within two years. EU pharmaceutical companies for instance have to submit results to the European Medical Agency (EMA), which is currently based in London. Otherwise companies cannot proceed with testing and production. The EMA is now moving to the Netherlands which will result in over 900 job losses and the loss of 30,000 hotel room bookings a year. However, the UK is already pushing to remain under EU regulation for medicines after Brexit despite the EU saying that the UK can’t cherry pick which sectors remain in the single market.
  • If the EU does not allow this we are left with having to replicate EU regulatory agencies which will add significantly to the cost of Brexit. Unless we stop Brexit we will have to pay more for regulating different sectors of the economy and have no influence over changes to regulations if we still want to trade with the EU.

39. UK citizens will lose the automatic right to work and live in other EU countries.

  • 1.2 million British born people currently live in another EU country and an estimated 800,000 are workers and their dependants. Currently people in the UK can work and live in any other EU country without having to apply for approval from the other member state.
  • This is likely to end if we leave the single market and customs union as the UK Government wants to prevent EU nationals coming to the UK without first being granted permission. Apart from the loss of a right that many of us have benefited from over the years this will increase red-tape and make it more difficult to recruit skilled staff from other EU countries. Why would such staff come to the UK when they can go to an EU member state without any need to complete paperwork?

40. Article 50 is reversible on a unilateral basis.

  • The government insisted that the Brexit process could not be stopped as Article 50 is not reversible. However, on 10th December 2018, the European Court of Justice ruled that the UK can cancel Brexit without seeking the permission of other EU member countries.
  • The government spent hundreds of thousands of pounds trying to stop the legal process involved because it did not want UK citizens or MPs to know that Parliament could simply instruct the government to stop the Brexit process. This is another example of how the government has tried to mislead people about Brexit.

41. UK citizens may lose the right to free medical care when travelling in the EU. 

  • Currently UK citizens have access to free or subsidised medical care when travelling in the EU via the EHIC card. However, this will now be part of the Brexit negotiations. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, admitted during evidence to a Commons committee he could give no guarantees that the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will survive withdrawal from the EU. Removing access to the EHIC card would have serious financial implications for UK citizens travelling in the EU. Especially if they don’t have travel insurance.

42. UK universities may lose tens of millions of pounds in fees from EU students deciding to study elsewhere. 

  • EU applications for UK universities have declined by 7% according to figures provided to a select committee of MPs. It is the first drop in applications from EU students to study in the UK for almost a decade and is likely to have been influenced by the Brexit decision. EU students have been an important source of growth for UK universities because the number of 18-year-olds in the UK are declining. Applications from EU students rose by 5.9% between 2015 and 2016 and 7.4% the year before.

43. Producing a White Paper after a bill has been passed is contrary to our normal constitutional process. 

  • A White Paper normally proceeds a bill to allow MPs to properly debate the full details of any proposals to be enshrined in law. Producing a White Paper after the Article 50 Bill was voted through Parliament prevented MPs from shaping the Article 50 legislation and diminishes the power of Parliament. Stop Brexit to protect our democracy.
  • As A.C. Grayling points out on Twitter:

“Producing a White Paper AFTER legislation: sheer trickery: MPs should absolutely not stand for it. Redouble MP lobbying efforts accordingly.” – A C Grayling

44. Allowing just 5 days for MPs to debate the Bill for triggering Article 50 shows “contempt” for Parliament. 

  • The Government’s Bill to trigger Article 50 was only 8 lines long, composed of 137 words. MPs were given just five days to debate it. This angered many Labour MPs in particular as they believe it showed a “contempt” for Parliament. This appears to contradict the leave campaign’s promise to bring back parliamentary sovereignty.

Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats called the Bill an “affront to parliamentary sovereignty and democracy”.

“Take back control was a mantra of the leave campaign. This government’s extreme reluctance to involve parliament in this process has instead been an affront to parliamentary sovereignty and democracy.” Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat leader.

  • In the explanatory notes it indicates that the Bill is not expected to have any financial implications. This is completely untrue as the Government themselves have estimated that the cost to the UK once we leave the EU will be around £120bn. Stop Brexit to protect democracy and our right to travel and work in 27 EU countries.

45. The NHS is heavily reliant on staff coming from other EU countries.

Statistics from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) show that there has been a 89% fall in the number of nurses and midwives coming to the UK from the EU since the Brexit referendum. There has also been a sharp fall in the number of qualified EU medics leaving the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) register. This rose from 2,435 in 2005-16 to 4,067 in 2017 – a rise of 67%.

The data also showed a 11% rise in the number of UK-trained nurses and midwives leaving the register. In 2015-16 the number who left was 26,653 compared to 29,019 last year. Stop Brexit to protect the NHS.

46. Jeremy Corbyn is ignoring what his own party members want:

  • A survey of over of 4,000 people by the Mile End Institute published on 4th January 2018 shows that more than three quarters of Labour members want a second referendum. Nine out of ten Labour members also backed continued membership of the single market. Corbyn has repeatedly said that he wants more power for members and supporters so that Labour has policies that have support throughout the whole party. Well, he is not doing this with Brexit as although he has now agreed to put any deal to the people in a referendum. He intends to keep Labour neutral until after he has won a general election.
Survey on Brexit by Mile End Institute

Source: FT.com

  • Corbyn has repeatedly said the UK cannot remain in the single market after Brexit. This is incorrect as Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein are all in the single market but not in the EU. This demonstrates how Corbyn is not putting jobs first. Leaving the single market will badly damage our competitiveness as Ford have warned with regard to their Bridgend factory. Stop Brexit to protect jobs.
  • In his 32 year career as an MP Jeremy Corbyn defied the party whip over 500 times. Even David Cameron never managed to vote against the Labour as many times as Corbyn has. Labour MPs should therefore not feel obliged to support their leader and should vote for what is best for the country.
  • On the day after the referendum Corbyn demanded that Article 50 be triggered immediately. This demonstrates that Corbyn was not in favour of remaining in the EU even though he claimed to be during the referendum campaign. Stop Brexit as most Labour supporters want a second referendum.

47. As part of Brexit the UK is to leave Euratom which is likely to delay the building of new nuclear power stations and reduce the competitiveness of the UK in this sector. 

  • The explanatory notes for the Brexit Bill revealed that the UK will also leave Euratom, which promotes research into nuclear power and uniform safety standards.
  • Referring to Hinkley and other nuclear projects, Dr Paul Dorfman of the Energy Institute at University College London said:

“The UK nuclear industry is critically dependent on European goods and services in the nuclear supply chain and their specialist nuclear skills. Leaving Euratom will inevitably increase nuclear costs and will mean further delays.

Source:

48. Brexit MPs don’t understand how the EU works or the complexity of leaving the EU.

  • A former Tory Treasury minister, Lord O’Neill of Gatley, who left the Government in September 2016, has referred to members of Theresa May’s Brexit negotiating team as “ludicrous” and “clueless” about the economy. He said it was “mad” for ministers to put so much effort into talking to New Zealand rather than China about trade deals.
  • After the referendum Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary, said that the UK would negotiate many new trade deals for when we leave the EU. However, EU regulations prohibit member countries from negotiating trade deals with other countries while the nation is still a member.
  • Theresa May also thinks that the UK can negotiate a free trade agreement with the the EU without having to comply with their regulations. Michael Fuchs, an adviser to Angela Merkel has said this is not possible as “you can’t eat a cake without paying for it”.
  • On the 27th January 2017, Mr Iain Duncan Smith issued a statement criticising the Supreme Court’s judgement on Brexit. A leading barrister analysed the statement and concluded it was inaccurate and inappropriate given the British constitution. This raises the question of how valid other statements Iain Duncan Smith has made during and since the Brexit campaign. To conduct their jobs competently MPs should have a good working knowledge on such matters. Stop Brexit because MP’s don’t understand the complexity of leaving the EU.

49. “The election of Trump has transformed Brexit from a risky decision into a straightforward disaster.”

  • Donald Trump is a destabilising influence on the world economic and political landscape. In an article for the Financial Times Gideon Rachman argues that Trump is a disaster for Brexit. The UK can no longer rely on the US for support because Trump’s vision and policies are at odds with Theresa May’s strategy and values.
  • Donald Trump is the most protectionist US president since the 1930s. Any trade deal would probably require major concessions on the NHS and agriculture. This is the opposite of May’s vision of . “global Britain” being a champion of free trade. May is also a firm supporter of NATO and the UN whilst Trump as twice referred to NATO as obsolete and wants to drastically cut funding for the UN. Trump would also like to see the break-up of the EU. Whilst May wants to see the EU prosper as it is our biggest trading partner.
  • Given our very different values and outlook on the world this is not the time to break free from the EU. We should be seeking stability within the EU rather than risking an uncertain future with a closer relationship with the US. Stop Brexit so that the UK doesn’t need to rely on the US for a trade deal when Trump has also agreed he wants to negotiate a trade deal with EU.

50. Hate crime has soared since the Brexit vote.

51. The UK does not have the expertise or capability to handle WTO trade disputes: 

  • The trade dispute between the US and Canadian aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Bombardier demonstrates the difficulties the UK will face when it no longer has the EU to handle such disputes to support UK industry.
  • To respond to trade disputes relating to WTO guidelines the UK plans to establish an impartial, proportional, efficient and transparent trade remedy regime. To achieve this the UK will need to recruit and train subject matter experts to monitor goods and services for each UK industry it intends to support. They need to anticipate impending cases or changes to the competitive environment that relate to UK industry. In addition we will need economists who are able to calculate and model subsidy and dumping margins that correspond to WTO standards which need to be retained.
  • This will also require lawyers who understand how to play offense and defense for an industry in bilateral and multilateral trade remedy negotiations. Civil servants will need to organise these efforts across government departments. We will need to establish a customs administration to police trade remedies at the border. All this will need to be in place on the day we leave the EU. This will cost a lot of money that could be spent elsewhere. We are also unlikely to have such a system and the expertise needed in place on day one of Brexit. Stop Brexit to protect the UK’s trade with countries outside of the EU.

52. The EU is probably more democratic than the UK:

  • Many Brexit supporters, including Nigel Farage, refer to the EU as being undemocratic. They claim the EU is full of unelected bureaucrats. This is often a reference to the European commission which is made up of 27 commissioners – one for each country. The commission drafts, enforces and monitors EU laws. However, it cannot pass laws.
  • EU laws are set by two institutions, the council of ministers, which comprises ministers from 27 EU governments and the European parliament. One of the complaints of Brexit supporters has been the extension of qualified-majority voting and the UK could be outvoted. However, analysis by the London School of Economics discovered that the UK was on the winning side 87% of the time between 2009 to 2015.
  • Further, as the Brexit process itself is demonstrating member states and elected MEPs have the final say on EU policy and laws. Indeed, some would argue that the UK is less democratic than the EU as the UK has an unelected head of state and a second chamber (The House of Lords) which is also unelected.
  • UK governments also use the whip system to ensure their own MPs support and push through legislation without amendments. This limits ability of parliament to change legislation. In the EU parliament laws are rarely allowed to proceed without being amended because MEPs are more likely to vote according to national interest than along party lines. Also if one third of national parliaments oppose a draft law, the commission must review it. The EU parliament also has the ability to dismiss the commission and approves the politicians who lead it. Stop Brexit as the EU is probably more democratic than the UK parliament.

53. UK manufactured vehicles won’t qualify for free trade deals after Brexit:

  • For UK manufactured vehicles to qualify for a free trade deal the “rules of origin” regulations typically require around 55%-60% to be “local content”. The UK government has claimed this is currently around 45%, but the UK car industry has told the government this is vastly overstated because it includes foreign parts purchased by UK suppliers.
  • This means that unless the UK obtains a special content deal, the majority of UK assembled cars would not qualify for tariff-free trade under most free trade deals. This would make the UK a less competitive place to manufacture motor vehicles and could lead to companies like Nissan and Toyota relocating their manufacturing to other EU countries.
Brexit threat to UK car firms if UK leaves single market and customs union

Source: Daily Mail May 27 2018

54. The EU has banned companies bringing in temporary staff to undercut the wages of UK workers. 

During the referendum the Leave campaign argued that temporary EU migrant workers were being used to undercut the wages of UK workers. In May 2018 the EU Parliament passed a new law to prevent this happening. All EU workers posted temporarily to another EU member state will have to get equal pay for the same work in the same place. EU countries have been given two years to implement the new regulations and so the UK is likely to have to legislate for this even if it still leaves the EU in December 2020.

55. UK companies may be excluded from bidding for work for EU flagship projects:

UK companies are to be excluded for bidding for work on the EU’s €10bn Galileo satellite navigation system and the government will also be prevented from accessing secure aspects of the project. In 2011 the UK agreed to rules blocking non-EU countries from accessing secure parts of the project.

UK companies may also be excluded from participating in the new EU €500m defence fund after Brexit according to the Telegraph. UK companies are likely to miss out on participating in EU flagship projects if the UK leaves the EU.

56. EU businesses avoid UK components to prevent falling below local content rules. 

European governments are advising businesses to avoid sourcing components from British firms for products they export because they could lose free trade access because of ‘rules of origin’ and ‘local content’ regulations. To qualify for EU free trade deals around 55% of a product’s parts need to be sourced from the EU.

The Dutch government says UK parts “no longer count towards EU origin” in its official “Brexit impact scan” advice to Dutch businesses. This advice could be a “catastrophe” for the British car parts industry.

57. Potential brain drain among young people due to Brexit.

Brexit risks causing a brain drain among young people in the UK. A survey conducted by Opinium of more than 2,000 people found that 25 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds are considering moving abroad because they believe there are more career opportunities abroad.

58. The EU is not a protectionist racket: 

Leave supporters regularly claim that the EU is highly protectionist and especially relating to African countries. A comparison of EU tariffs by the BBC suggests that “EU tariffs are relatively low“.

In respect to Africa, most African countries benefit from an EU arrangement known as Everything but Arms. This provides for almost completely tariff and quota free access for their goods to the EU single market. This applies to all nations that are classified as least developed. The EU has been unable to progress with a free trade deal with India mainly because of the UK’s unwillingness to agree to a more liberal visa policy sought by the Indian government.

59. Brexit could put the public at risk if security cooperation with the EU is weakened.

Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick has warned about the potential security risks of Brexit. The UK would need to replace instruments we currently have and in the case of a no-deal Brexit that would be very difficult to do in the short-term and it would be more costly and slower than what we have at present.

The current plan to leave the EU would weaken UK participation in the European Arrest Warrant, making it more difficult to deal with cross-border crime and offers no long-term guarantees for continued access to important security databases.

60. Brexit will add an extra £113.50 to the cost of winter holidays.

New research indicates that the cost of winter holidays after Brexit will rise by an average of £113.50. Brexit will make going on holiday to the EU more expensive and more bureaucratic. The increase in the cost of holidays is due to the loss of single market membership, a decline in the value of the pound, loss of free health cover across the EU and the cost of roaming charges for mobile phone use in the EU as these will be reimposed as the UK leaves the EU.

61. The EU is not the cause of inequality in the UK. 

Research shows that six of out of the world’s ten most equal societies are in the EU and two of the remaining four are in the Single Market (EFTA). The EU is not creating inequality but rather it is the policies of the UK government that have failed to address wealth inequality in the UK.

62. EU citizens have to register to live in their homes.

The Home Office has confirmed that EU citizens must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme in order to remain in the UK after 31 December 2020. This contradicts what was promised during the referendum when Vote Leave promised “no change in EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK”.

Vote Leave promise of no change in EU the status of EU citizens

Why should EU citizens who came to the UK legally under freedom of movement and have made their home here, often married UK citizens and brought children up in the UK, now be expected to apply to live in their own homes?

As one partner of a EU citizen pointed out in the Independent:

“It’s an insult to her and the millions of other EU nationals who have contributed to the UK economy.” – Johnny Taylor

63. Fake footage of migrants crossing channel to stoke up anti-migrant feelings.

During the 2016 referendum campaign Nigel Farage’s Leave.EU paid for fake footage of migrants entering the UK by crossing the Channel. The video went viral, helping to raise concerns about immigration during the referendum campaign. Channel 4 only uncovered this deception in 2019.

64. Suspending parliament dragged the Queen into politics. 

During the referendum campaign much was made by Brexiteers of ‘taking back control’ and returning sovereignty to Parliament. However, during the Tory Party leadership campaign of June 2019 at least three contenders (Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab and Andrea Leadsom) suggested they would consider proroguing Parliament to allow a no-deal Brexit to prevent the UK not leaving the EU on 31st October 2019.

Geoffrey Cox, the attorney-general, suggested that suspending Parliament to allow a ‘no-deal’ Brexit would not be illegal. When Johnson did try to suspend parliament he had to ask the Queen to approve the decision. Then had to apologise to the Queen when it was deemed to be illegal by the Supreme Court.

65. Thousands of voters were disenfranchised in the 2019 EU elections. 

The 2019 EU elections were an important test for the popularity of Brexit. However, during the run up to the election thousands of EU and UK nationals claimed they were unable to vote due to administrative problems. Indeed, an investigation by the Guardian newspaper discovered three local councils admitted they ran out of time to print and send postal ballots to some overseas voters.

Local councils complained that voting arrangements were adversely affected by an extremely compressed schedule. In addition, many EU nationals were unable to vote on 23rd May. Their names were crossed off the register due to clerical errors by local councils. Voters felt they were “silenced” because it was the only national election they had a right to take part in. Anneli Howard, a specialist EU lawyer, said the government was at risk of being sued.

“If EU citizens are filling out additional forms that UK nationals are not, that’s discrimination,”. – Anneli Howard, Barrister on EU law.

Finally:

Brexit is making the UK poorer, smaller, more inward looking, is reducing diversity, less tolerant and will create unnecessary barriers to both trade and travel. It is also making our Government more selfish, our opposition irrelevant and lowering our status in the world.

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Related posts:

Brexit myths – Myths about leaving the EU.

Referendum – Are referendum a device of dictators and demagogues? 

Brexit – The psychology of Brexit – why emotions won over logic?

Marketing – 7 marketing lessons from the Brexit campaigns.

How To Create A High Performing Landing Page Design

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Are you struggling with a conversion rate of less than 6% with your landing page design? Are over 30% of your visitors bouncing and are your engagement metrics poor? Well, if that is the case there is a strong likelihood that your page is suffering from one or more of the 8 deadly sins of landing page design.

A landing page of course is any page where a visitor first lands on a site and so for many visitors this is the homepage. Landing pages can have a massive impact on your conversion rate because they are near the beginning of the funnel. If you want to make an impact on your conversion rate it is better to start here than almost anywhere else because you will have the largest number of visitors to influence.

What is a high landing page conversion rate?

A benchmarking study by Unbounce of landing page conversion rates shows how conversion rates vary significantly according to the industry sector. But there are also huge differences within each sector when we break down landing page conversion rates into quartiles.

Real estate suffers with one of the lowest average landing page conversion rates (7.4%). Whilst catering and restaurants have the highest (18.2%). However, what is most shocking is the massive difference between the average and the median conversion rate for landing pages. The lowest median conversion rate is just 2.4% compared to the highest of 18.2%.

Think about that for a second. That’s a difference of over 7 times for the highest average converting landing page. That could be the difference between success and failure of a business. This study just confirms how important landing page design is. It can make such a huge difference to your conversion rate and your bottom line. So, what causes some landing page designs to perform so poorly?

The 8 deadly sins of landing page design:

Tim Ash, CEO of Sitetuners, outlines seven deadly sins of landing page design in his awesome book Landing Page Optimization. I couldn’t beat this superb list and so I’ve outlined below how each of these deadly sins can be resolved and added an eighth sin of my own.

1. Unclear call-to-actions!

Unclear or ambiguous calls-to-actions create confusion and frustration among users. It should be clear where to click with little need for any consideration. The aim of the page should be clear from a prominent headline at the top of the page. The CTA should be clearly visible in a well-defined block that is visually prominent. The remainder of the page should be plain and visually un-cluttered.

Choose your call-to-action design carefully for your landing page so that it stands out easily for visitors to click on

A clear CTA should describe what occurs next and what the user can expect when they arrive on the next page. The text on the CTA should complete the sentence “I want to..” and so you should avoid generic copy such as “Submit” or “Continue”. Never use a hyperlink for a primary CTA as links are less visible and users expect the main CTA to be a button.

2. Give visitors too much choice!

Hick’s Law indicates that the more choices you offer a user, the longer it will take them to come to a decision. This also means that your conversion rate is likely to decline as you increase the number of call-to-actions you display. The aim should be to assist customers in deciding what best meets their needs by directing visitors towards a relevant CTA or desired content.

Image showing Hick's Law relationship between amount of choice and time to make a decision

To assist in this process ensure you avoid clutter on the page, keep detail to a minimum, group related choices into a smaller number of categories and use visual cues to minimise the need to read copy.

This homepage from Comms-Express lacks a clear CTA and offers visitors far too many choices. The page displays ads, social media icons, an auto-slider with a CTA and other conflicting CTAs which distract users. The star rating also partly obscures the primary navigation and the page lacks a clear structure. It is difficult to know where to look first on the page.

3. Visual distractions!

Keep your landing page simple and ensure there is a clear visual separation between page content and the page shell (header, navigation and background). Complex backgrounds, animation and auto-play videos automatically draw they eye and can annoy users at a crucial point in the user journey.

Maintain the user’s focus by directing them towards the “happy path” which takes the user to the preferred conversion action.

Other visual effects to avoid include;
  • Dark and dramatic colour themes of black or saturated bright colours that create a dark and mysterious atmosphere with a limited appeal.
  • Garish text which employs large fonts in high contrast colours and is emphasized by the use of edging effects. Like drop shadows and fades.
  • Visual embellishments & flourishes such as containers using drop shadows and other design effects. Page sides that are filled with complex patterns or images distract from the main body of the page where the call-to-action is located. These type of elements break-up eye flow and distract users.
  • Banner ads or elements that look like banners can take attention away from your conversion action. It gives the impression that you are more interested in advertising revenues than meeting customer needs.
  • Entry pop-ups can be an unwelcome surprise. They can also prevent users from viewing the content that they are looking for.

This A/B test shows the benefit of removing clutter and distractions from a landing page

In this A/B test on Cheeky Bingo a dedicated landing page with a very prominent primary “Join For Free” CTA massively outperformed the existing home page. The homepage had been the main landing page for most new visitors, but it suffered from multiple CTAs, distracting banners and general clutter.

The landing page recorded a 133 percent uplift in clicks on the primary CTA and this resulted in a 27 percent uplift in registrations and a 9 percent uplift in first time deposits.

4. Not keeping promises!

It is essential that the landing page design matches people’s expectations and intent in relation to what they have previously read about your proposition. For example if you mention an offer in your PPC ad or in your organic search entry it is important that it is clearly and consistently displayed on the landing page. Otherwise visitors may feel anxious, confused and frustrated.

The goal gradient effect suggests that people are more motivated by how close they are to their goal rather than how much progress they have made so far. This means you should indicate how close visitors are to achieving their goal (e.g. sign up in less than 60 seconds) to boost their motivation.

5. Visitors don’t read, they scan web pages.

People scan websites and rapidly get lost if there is no clear visual hierarchy or organisational flow to guide them. It is difficult to scan large blocks of text and so dense SEO type copy can harm your landing page design and lead to a low conversion rate.

To assist visitors with scanning your page ensure your landing page design:
  • Uses short bullet points rather than sentences.
  • Has clear page headings and sub-headings.
  • Uses the inverted pyramid style, with the most important copy first & last.
  • Be ruthless with editing to keep content to a minimum.
  • Place supporting text such as offer terms and conditions on a supporting page or information popovers.

The Spotify homepage below uses bullet points to clearly communicate the benefits of signing up to the music download service. It uses loss aversion to highlight the features customers lose if they don’t sign up for Premium. The design also explodes the myth that a landing page has to be short. For many users subscribing to the service is a major commitment. It is important to allow visitors to explore the nature of the free and subscription services. The design also ensures there is only a single prominent CTA on any individual screen to assist conversion.

Creating a high converting landing page can make a massive difference to the bottom line as it is near the top of the conversion funnel

Source: Spotify.com

This long-form page also sets expectations about Spotify’s free service. Users are less likely to be disappointed if they sign up for the limited free service. This encourages users to consider the benefits of the subscription service rather than getting users to automatically signing up for the free service.

6. Asking for too much information

Social norms apply just as much to online interactions as they do to offline conversations. It is important that we respect a user’s privacy. To benefit from reciprocity we offer as much as we can and ask for as little as possible in return.

When we do request information on a landing page ensure you follow these guidelines (also see post on form design best practice guidelines):
  • Have a clear headline that explains the benefit to the user.
  • Use concise descriptive labels and tool tips if necessary.
  • Organise input fields into logical labelled subgroups.
  • Only ask for information that is absolutely necessary to take the visitor to the next step of the user journey.
  • Remove all optional fields and collect additional data later on in the process.
  • Eliminate repeated data entry by automatically refreshing your CRM or personalisation engine with data from your forms.

When a visitor is on a mobile phone there is even greater pressure to keep information requests to a minimum. Here Skyscanner, the flight ticket comparison site, manages to keep all the input fields and the CTA visible on the screen without the user having to scroll.

Skyscanner runs thousands of A/B tests a year and so it is interesting how the page flow focuses on popular destinations immediately below the form (social influence). However, further down the page we see short paragraphs on the benefits of the service and evidence about its reputation. The landing page design combines a long-form design with effective use of white space and simple illustrations to avoid information overload.

7. Lack of trust and credibility:

For people to be comfortable with any transaction it is necessary for both parties to establish a level of trust that allows them to interact without the suspicion that the other’s actions are solely selfish or might be to the disadvantage of one party. We have to extend some trust to completely unknown people to enable small and large transactions to take place.

First impressions count as research indicates that visitors form an impression of a website within 50 milliseconds. This means that a landing page must look professionally designed and clearly communicate key messages to establish trust within a few seconds.

Follow these key rules for your landing page design:
  • Be ruthless with clutter to keep content to a minimum in your landing page design.
  • Have a clear organisational structure to your page to minimise cognitive load.
  • Display risk reducers (e.g. free postage, easy or free returns and money back guarantee) to lower visitor anxiety.
  • For visitors who may not have heard of your brand use third party validation (e.g. by displaying partner logos or reviews) as this transfers some of the goodwill from other people or organisations to yours.
  • Third party validation communicates that knowledgeable experts or reviewers consider you have a quality product or service. It provides a short-cut to decision-making.

Themathsfactor.com landing page design uses a combination of a celebrity endorsement and strong customer testimonials to establish trust and credibility. The design also caters for visitors at different stages of the buying process by offering multiple CTA. However, it ensures the primary CTA – ‘Get started today’ is the most prominent.

8. Not understanding your markets decision style:

Before you begin thinking about constructing your landing page design it is important to consider the predominant choice style in your market. What is a decision style you say? Well, decision styles is about extensive analysis and research (Bentley, Earls & O’Brien – 2011) to understand the relationships, similarities and differences between different behavioural styles of decision making.

The patterns in the data suggest that in many markets buyer behaviour is strongly influenced by what other people are doing or what we think they are doing. This is characterised by people following experts or trends (e.g. what’s most popular). At the other end of the spectrum there are occasions when we use a more considered rational style of decision making. These two different styles of decision making form the horizontal axis.

The horizontal axis reflects the number of similar options we have to choose from. At the top of the axis people are faced with relatively few similar options and so they can make a judgement call if they possess the knowledge to do so.

But at the other end of the spectrum people are faced with so many choices that it is practically impossible to identify an ideal product or service to meet their needs. Here people have to make an uninformed choice based on either guesswork or popularity (i.e. social proof).

How do you identify which quadrant your market falls into?

You need to study the characteristic of your sector. For instance, if your market follows the 80:20 rule (i.e. long-tail distribution), where a few large brands account for the lion’s share of the sales, this tends reflect strong social influence. When people are more rational and evaluate brands independently you would expect to see many more brands of a similar size.

Once you have identified the quadrant where your market is predominately positioned you can create strategies that are most likely to be effective with your audience.

North West:

If your customers are in the North-West quadrant you need to communicate about real or perceived superiority of your product or service. Dyson’s household appliances and Audi cars are examples of this strategy.

South West:

The South-West quadrant is more about making your product stand out from the crowd as there are so many similar competitors. This could for example involve using celebrity endorsements or loyalty schemes. Insurance and insurance comparison sites fit into this quadrant as most people don’t have the time or knowledge to understand the differences between the many different features and choices available.

The south west quadrant decision style is prone to cognitive biases

Our choices in this quadrant are largely guesswork. As a result cognitive biases and short-cuts such as confirmation bias and loss aversion can be especially influential in these markets.

North East:

If your customers are mainly in the North-East quadrant then they tend to follow the advice of experts or authorities. Endorsements or awards from recognised professional users or bodies can therefore be powerful motivators for visitors as they establish your credibility.

In the 1990’s when IBM still made PCs there was a saying that nobody got fired for buying an IBM. This reflects the importance social influence as a risk reducer and the desire in business not to be seen to make a bad decision. For this reason some SaaS solutions such as A/B testing software fall into this quadrant.

South East:

Being situated in the South-Eastern quadrant is all about popularity and so social proof is king. Strategies here include being seen as the popular choice (e.g. show how many thousands or millions of customers you have), displaying lots of ‘Likes’ and shares or showing positive media mentions from a well-known publication or website. Popular music, fashion and the latest fads (e.g. fidget spinners) fall into this quadrant. Popularity is of course fickle and so these markets are characterised by extreme volatility.

Predominant style:

These quadrants are of course generalisations, and so you might find some of the strategies from other quadrants also work in your market. Indeed, sometimes your market could fall in-between two quadrants. However, the point of the decision style map is to get you to consider the main ways people make decisions and focus on developing marketing strategies that are relevant to the majority of customers.

Conclusion:

Landing page design is crucial to your conversion rate and so make sure you design them with care. Begin with identifying the predominant decision style in your market as this will help you develop appropriate marketing strategies for your proposition.

If you can, send your new visitors to a dedicated landing page that has been designed specifically with conversion in mind. This allows you to eliminate content that is solely for existing customers that is often not at all relevant to new prospects. It also enables you to keep navigation to a minimum and reduces your number of stakeholders to just those responsible for acquisition.

  • Ensure you have a clear and compelling call-to-action that stands out from the page.
  • Limit the number of choices you offer visitors to make choices simple.
  • Keep visual distractions to a minimum by having a minimal visual aesthetic design
  • Show how close visitors are to achieving their goal and ensure you match upstream expectations.
  • Use bullet points and visual cues to make your page easy to scan.
  • Keep requests for information to an absolute minimum and make sure visitors feel they are getting the better deal.
  • Finally, ensure your design and content instantly establishes your credibility and professionalism.

If you follow these eight rules of landing page design you will improve engagement and conversion at a crucial step in the user journey. Most brands spend significant sums on driving visitors to their site and so it is crucial that your landing page is fit for purpose and maximises conversion rates.

7 Neuromarketing Hacks To Skyrocket Your Blogging Success

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This post will talk about 7 Neuromarketing hacks to skyrocket your success and how to apply this knowledge to your own blog. Would you believe me if I said that deep inside we are still those savages who lived in caves and walked around in leather thousands of years ago?

Of course, modern human beings are advanced and sophisticated creatures. We have iPhones and Tesla cars; we live in fancy houses and wear nice clothes (even though leather seems to never go out of style). But our natural instincts haven’t changed much since ancient times, and our brain still follows the same thinking patterns.

In fact, humans are so predictable, that there are even psychological explanations for why we buy. Neuromarketing is a relatively new science on the verge between psychology and marketing that studies consumer behaviour, and it turns out there are a lot of buttons in our brain that can be pushed to make us take this or that action.

Wouldn’t you like to know about them?

1. Confirmation Bias.

How often do we buy certain products simply because the ad somehow repeats our own thoughts and feelings? “Oh yes, I know everything about not sleeping well. Don’t tell me about those dark circles under my eyes and tons of coffee in the morning! What is it you’re saying? Your mattress can help? Hmm, can I pay with a credit card?”

Fortunately or not, it’s no magic. It’s simply neuromarketing concept called “confirmation bias” being used by smart marketers.

“Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities” (Wikipedia).

Simply put, people are more susceptible to notions that confirm or restate those that already exist in their minds, and are less likely to react positively to something new or strange.

How you can use it: Give your readers what they want and don’t try hard to change their mind. For example, create a poll on your blog and ask your readers what interests them the most. What topics would they like you to cover? Which questions do they have? It is a brilliant way to get into the heads of your readers in order to later create content that would resonate with their moods.

Another great hack is to use confirmation bias when creating various banners for your website. Start the copy with “Have you ever” or “Don’t you want” to show you know exactly what your readers are thinking. Get inspired by this amazing Porsche ad:

Porsche using the confirmation bias neuromarketing technique

Source: Porsche

2. Mimicry Effect (Commonly Known as “Mirroring”).

Mimicry is an old psychological concept and rapport building trick suggested by every smart networking book. In layman’s terms, mimicry is a conscious or subconscious imitation of someone’s behaviour, gestures, facial expressions, etc. Such act supposedly creates an invisible bond between two people and makes a person you imitate immediately like you (since we tend to be more attracted to people who remind us of ourselves).

According to this theory, if you want to make a good impression on someone, you have to “mirror” the behaviour of this person. If he/she rubs his/her nose or smiles – do the same. You can even try to copy the accent or fashion style of this person.

How you can use it: Since copying your reader’s gestures and intonations is impossible when you have no idea how they look like (ok, ok, maybe sometimes you see Gravatars, but that’s not really helpful), the only thing that’s left is words. Study your comment section and analyse the language they speak. Talk like they talk, use exact words and phrases that they use when shooting emails or commenting on your posts. Use colloquialisms and buzzwords if that’s what your audience needs, and stick to very formal tone when jargon is not appropriate.

3. Law of Reciprocity

“If you want to be loved, love,” Seneca said. Why? Because there’s a neuroscientific law that states that people feel obliged to return favours.

In as much as we feel lucky when someone offers us a freebie, a quiet voice in us wakes up urging to give something in return. This is why various giveaways are so popular: people are thankful and feel the need to express their gratitude, so they tip more, buy more, or recommend you to friends.

How you can use it: Give’em some love first; don’t wait for a special moment. Reward your readers for visiting your blog with a free trial, e-book, or a cheat sheet. Let them know you appreciate their trust, and you’ll see how much more repeat visits, comments, and shares such approach generates. This is, for example, how Ducttapemarketing does it:

Image of www.ducttapemarketing.com use of neuromarketing reciprocity tecnique

Source: Ducttapemarketing.com

4. Power of Emotions

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion (Dale Carnegie).” Boy, was he right! How often do we turn a blind eye to logical reasoning and get obsessed by something completely useless simply because it’s cute? Or stop at the supermarket to get some milk and end up carrying 2 bags full of products?

In fact, we are more human than we think. Ads that appeal to emotions are proven to be more effective than rational ones, but only if those emotions are positive, not negative. People are more willing to buy when they subconsciously associate the brand with feelings of comfort, safety, pleasure, or joy. This is why many marketers bend over backwards to create sentimental commercials and funny billboards. Needless to say, it works.

How you can use it: Obviously, emotions you put in your writing influence how your readers treat your blog. If you want to get positive and thankful readers, you should first feel that happiness yourself (law of reciprocity). If there’s no inspiration in you, chances are high that your writing will not touch or motivate your readers.

Apart from approaching your writing with the positive mindset, you can also use various neuro-linguistic tricks to pull the right emotional levers. Here are some of them:

5. Hot-hand effect

Nobody wants to hang out with losers, let alone buy from them. Therefore, it is absolutely crucial to establish yourself as a successful and prosperous brand, and the hot-hand fallacy tells us that it is enough to win once to make the world think you’re a champion.

According to Jeremy Smith, “the “hot-hand fallacy” (also known as the “hot hand phenomenon” or “hot hand”) is the fallacious belief that a person who has experienced success has a greater chance of further success in additional attempts.

If you achieved something once, many people would presume that you are sure to win next time as well. And, of course, everyone wishes to go with the winners. This is how you get more customers and Facebook followers.

How you can use it: A good way to establish credibility is to add logos, trust badges, awards, and stuff like that to your blog. Such things look really impressive and help to build a reputation of a winner, since your readers associate your brand with other successful companies, and a part of their good reputation automatically gets assigned to you.

Another thing that helps to join the big leagues is guest posting and influencer marketing. This one sort of goes hand in hand with logos, certificates, and trust badges, since if your partner with the big fish, displaying that on your blog will have a HUGE impact on your reputation. This is an example of how you can do it:

Image of logos of well known brands using the neuromarketing hot hand technique

6. Ambiguity Effect.

As Simplicable states, “The ambiguity effect is a tendency to avoid choices that involve uncertainty.” In simple words, people like knowing exactly what will happen if they make this or that decision. What they don’t like is risks, unpredictability, and complications.

The more customers know about certain products, the higher are the chances that they will buy, even if there are cheaper or better alternatives, but certain information (e.g. country of origin) is yet to be found. Most people won’t Google. They will simply buy what they already know.

How you can use it: Remember all those readability rules that teach us to write 25 word sentences and 3 sentence long paragraphs? Well, it’s definitely time to remember them. Do not confuse your readers with long, complex sentences and bulky paragraphs, use plenty of whitespace, avoid jargon, explain complicated concepts with the help of metaphors. In other words, make your content as clear and understandable as possible.

Apart from that, offer one clear call to action and don’t give your readers too many options to choose from. Instead of helping to make a choice, it will cause “decision paralysis” and make them completely unable to decide. The problem is that choosing among more than 2 different options makes readers work hard and think, and working hard is the last thing they want to do when reading blogs.

7. Processing Difficulty Effect.

This one sort of contradicts the ambiguity effect, but, on the other hand, it even complements it. This theory (or rather a scientific fact) states that the harder it is for us to process the information, the better we remember it.

It happens because we spend more time thinking about this particular piece of content, and thus it sticks in my mind for a longer time. The more effort we put, the more precious the information becomes.

How to use it: This doesn’t mean, however, that you should ignore all the readability rules mentioned above and write complicated articles that no one can understand. Instead, write longer, more informative, and actionable posts that would stun your readers and give them some food for thought. Aim at no less than 2000 words and cover your topic in as much detail as you possibly can.

Final words

If you own a blog, you definitely want it to become a number one resource in the industry. And, you probably spend your days (and nights) writing in-depth posts, checking if you’re already on the front page of Google, and writing outreach emails.

Featured image by Sean Batty on Pixabay

Why Are Most A/B Test Results A Lie?

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In a report on A/B testing Martin Goodson at Qubit suggests that “most A/B winning test results are illusory”. Andre Morys at Web Arts goes even further and argues that “90% of test results are a lie.” If their estimates are correct then a lot of decisions are being made based upon invalid A/B test results. Does this explain why many non-CRO managers are sceptical about the sustainability of A/B test results? Why are some A/B test results invalid and what can we do about it?

1. Confirmation Bias:

Andre Morys suggests that confirmation bias results in many false positives. This is because optimisers naturally base most of their test hypothesis and designs on their own attitudes and opinions. They ignore information that contradicts their ideas. As a result they become too emotionally attached to their design and stop experiments as soon as the testing software indicates they have a winner.

Stopping a test as soon as statistical confidence is achieved can be highly misleading. It does not allow for the length of the business cycle. It is important to also consider source of traffic and current marketing campaigns. You should run tests for a minimum of two business cycles. Make allowances for day-to-day fluctuations and changing behaviour at weekends. Tests should run for at least 2 to 4 weeks depending upon your test design and business cycle.

2. Survivorship Bias:

This refers to our propensity to focus on people who survive a journey (e.g. returning visitors or VIP customers). But ignore the fact that the process they have been through influences their characteristics and behaviour. Even returning visitors have survived in the sense that they weren’t put off by any negative aspects of the user experience. VIP customers may be your most profitable users but they are not a fixed pool of visitors. Their level of intent will often be much higher than your normal user.

Survivorship bias is a logical error that means people focus too much on survivors and forget about those who did not go the distance

The danger is that by including returning users in an A/B test for a landing page experiment they will behave very differently from new users who have never seen the site before. For tests relating to existing users the process of excluding outliers can reduce problems with VIP customer influencing test results. Consider excluding VIP customers completely from your A/B tests as they do not reflect normal users.

For more on survivorship bias see my post: Don’t let this bias destroy your optimisation strategy!

3. Statistical Power:

Statistical power refers to the probability of identifying a genuine difference between two experiences in an experiment. To achieve a high level of statistical power, we have to build up a sufficiently large sample size and generate a reasonable uplift. However, when working in a commercial organisation there is often a lot of pressure to achieve quick results and move on to the next idea. Unfortunately this can sometimes undermine the testing process.

Image of confidence interval at 95% level

Before you begin a test you should estimate the sample size required to achieve a high level of statistical power (see confidence level), normally around 90%. This means that you should identify 9 out of 10 genuine test differences. Due to taking a sample of observations and the natural random variation this causes, we know that tests will also generate a false positive. By convention this is normally set at 5%.

According to an analysis of 1700 A/B tests by convert.com, only around 10% of tests achieve a statistically significant uplift. This means that if we run 100 tests we might expect 10 of those tests to generate a genuine uplift. However, given current traffic levels for each site we estimate that we would need to run each test for 2 months to achieve 80% power. This means we should in theory identify 90% of uplifts or 9 tests. Using the p-value cut off of 5% we would also anticipate 5 false positives. Thus our tests generate 9 + 5 = 14 winning tests.

The Problem:

The danger here is that people are too impatient to allow a test showing an uplift to run for a full two months and so they decide to stop the test after just two weeks. The problem with this is that the much smaller sample size decreases the power of the test from 90% to perhaps as low as 30%. Under this scenario we would now expect to achieve 3 genuine uplifts and still get 5 false positives. This means that 63% of your winning tests are not genuine uplifts.

Before running a test always use a sample size calculator and estimate the length of time needed achieve your required statistical power. This allows you to consider the implications on the power of the test if you do decide to cut it short. Assume a much greater risk of a false positive if you do stop tests early.

4. Simpson’s Paradox:

Once you begin a test avoid altering the settings, the designs of the variant or the control and don’t change the traffic allocated to the variants during the experiment. Adjusting the traffic split for a variant during a test will potentially undermine the test result because of a phenomenon known as Simpson’s Paradox. This occurs when a trend in different groups of data vanishes when data from both groups is combined.

Experimenters at Microsoft experienced this issue when they allocated just 1% of traffic to a test variant on Friday, but increased this to 50% on Saturday. The site received one million daily visitors. Although the variant had a higher conversion rate than the Control on both days, when the data was aggregated the variant appeared to have a lower overall conversion rate.

Image of A/B test from Microsoft which suffers from Simpson's Paradox

Image Source: Microsoft

This occurs because we are dealing with weighted averages. Saturday had a much lower conversion rate. As the variant had 50 times more traffic that day than it did on Friday it had a much greater impact on the overall result.

All About The Tests

Simpson’s Paradox occurs when sampling is not uniform and so avoid making decisions on sub-groups (e.g. different sources of traffic or type of device) using aggregate data. This demonstrates the benefit of targeted tests for example where you are only looking at a single traffic source or type of device.

When you do run tests for multiple sources of traffic or user segments it is best to avoid using aggregate data. Instead treat each source/page as a separate test variant. You can then arrange to run the test for each variant until you achieve the desired statistically significant result.

Altering traffic allocation during a test will also bias your results because it changes the sampling of your returning visitors. Because traffic allocation only affects new users. A change in the share of traffic won’t adjust for any difference in returning visitor numbers that the initial traffic split generated.

5. Don’t validate your A/B testing software:

Sometimes companies begin using A/B testing software without proper validation that it is accurately measuring all key metrics for all user journeys. It is not uncommon for A/B test software not to be universally integrated. Different teams are often responsible for platform, registration and check-out.

During the process of integration be careful to check that all different user journeys have been included. People have a tendency to prioritise what they perceive to be the most important paths. However, users rarely, if ever, follow the preferred “happy path”.

Once integration is complete it is then necessary to validate this through either running A/A tests or using web analytics to confirm metrics are being measured correctly. It is also advisable to check that both testing software and web analytics align with your data warehouse. If there is any discrepancy it is better to know before you run a test rather than when you present results to senior management.

6. Regression To The Mean:

There is a real danger of looking at test results in the first few days that you see a large uplift (or fall) and you mention it to your boss or other members of the team. Everyone then gets excited and there is pressure on you to end the test early to benefit from the uplift or to limit the damage. Often though, this large difference in performance gradually evaporates over a number of days or weeks.

Image of A/B test showing signs of regression to the mean

Never fall into this trap as what you are seeing here is regression to the mean. This is a phenomenon that if a metric is extreme the first time it is measured it will tend to move towards the mean on subsequent observations. Small sample sizes of course tend to generate extreme results. Be careful not to read anything into your conversion rate when a test first starts to generate numbers.

7. The Fallacy Of Session Based Metrics:

Most A/B testing software uses standard statistical tests to determine whether the performance of a variant is likely to be significantly different from the Control. This is based upon the assumption that each observation is independent.

However, if you use session level metrics such as conversion per session you have a problem. A/B testing software allocates users into either group A or B to prevent the same visitor seeing both variants and to ensure a consistent user experience. Sessions are therefore not independent as a user can have multiple sessions.

Analysis by Skyscanner has shown that a visitor is more likely to have converted if they have had multiple sessions. On the other hand an individual session is less likely to have converted if made by a user with many sessions.

This lack of independence is a concern as Skyscanner simulated how this affects their conversion rate estimates. They discovered that when they randomly selected users rather than sessions, as occurs in an A/B test, the variance is greater than assumed in significance calculations.

Image of estimated variance for session randomised and user randomised demonstrates the fallacy of session based metrics

Source Image: Skyscanner

Skyscanner

Skyscanner found that the effect is greater with longer experiments due to the average number of sessions being higher. What this means is that month-long tests based on session conversion rate (i.e. users randomised) would have three times as many false positives as normally expected. However, when the test was based on users (i.e. randomised sessions irrespective of user) the variance conformed to that predicted by significance calculations.

Furthermore, this problem also occurs whenever you use a rate metric that is not defined by what you randomised on. So per-page view, per-click or click-through rate metrics will also be subject to the same problem if you are randomising on users. The team at Skyscanner suggest three ways of avoiding being misled by this statistical phenomenon.

  1. Keep to user-level metrics when randomising on users and you will normally avoid an increased rate of false positives.
  2. When it is necessary use a metric that will be subject to the increased propensity of false positives. There are methods of estimating the true variance and calculating accurate p-values. Check this paper from the Microsoft team and also this one.
  3. True variance and accurate p-values can be computationally complex and time consuming. You can just accept a higher false positive rate. Use AA tests to estimate how much the metric variance is inflated by the statistical phenomenon.

Conclusion:

When trying to avoid these pitfalls of A/B testing the key is to have a strong process for developing and running your experiments. A good framework for testing ensures that hypotheses are on evidence rather than intuition and that you agree the test parameters upfront. Make sure you calculate the sample size and how long your test will need to run to achieve the statistical power you want to reach.

There is an opportunity cost to running tests to their full length. Sometimes you may want to end tests early. This can be fine if you allow for the lower level of statistical confidence and the increased risk of a false positive. There is evidence to suggest that you are continuously running tests. This can largely compensate for any increase in the rate of false positives.

How To Undertake a Heuristic Evaluation of a Website

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A heuristic evaluation is an expert based analysis that applies experience-based techniques to identify and discover solutions to problems with a user experience. It is a structured approach to assessing an existing user design and though it offers no guarantees about being right, it is an important initial step in a systematic approach to conversion rate optimisation.

A heuristic evaluation is best undertaken as a group of 3 or more experts and if possible some customers to allow for an open discussion and detailed analysis. The more experience you have with online experiments the better as they provide real evidence to support your heuristic evaluation. As optimisation is a data-informed process it is important to always look for evidence to support and refute any hypothesis generated by a heuristic evaluation.

Why should you use heuristic evaluation?

As we become more familiar with our websites or apps we become more comfortable with the user experience and often can’t see even obvious problems with aspects of the design. We also tend to become defensive when we receive criticism and less innovative.

A heuristic evaluation allows you to challenge this status quo with a structured framework and experts who have a fresh perspective of the user experience.

Recruiting customers for the evaluation team ensures user feedback is also included in the review process.

A framework for heuristic evaluation:

At Conversion Uplift we base our analysis on the Widerfunnel Lift Model because this provides an excellent framework to review a digital user experience. The model highlights the importance of the value proposition which reminds us that you are going to be handicapped if you have a weak or inferior product/service.

So, if your product/service is deficient in some way make sure you fix that first before trying to optimise your user experience. Sometimes people think that they can use persuasive techniques to convince visitors to purchase a poor product or service. That’s not a sustainable strategy in the long-run as you won’t build up a loyal customer base.

Also define your target audience before you begin the process. It is important you have a good understanding of the goals and possible use cases of your customers or prospects. If you have developed buyer personas these are useful when considering such factors as relevancy, anxiety and segmentation.

1. Value proposition:

Begin by taking a look at what your site tells the visitor about your value proposition. Assume your visitors don’t know anything about your brand, what does your homepage or landing page communicate about your proposition? You should also ask:

  • Why should users come to your site rather than a competitor’s?
  • What’s unique about your brand?
  • What tangible features does your brand communicate?
  • What incentives and offers are there to attract new customers?

Psychological goals:

As an addition to the model we have added psychological goals. These are those implicit motivations, such as belonging, power and self-development that drive our attention and behaviour.

We use the Beyond Reason implicit goal model which is based upon the latest research from the fields of psychology and neuroscience. Try and identify important psychological motivations by listening to how users feel about your product or service or by conducting market research (see implicit association test).

Intangible benefits:

Next consider what evidence you have on your site to demonstrate intangible benefits such as credibility (e.g. professional reviews & awards) and social proof (e.g. testimonials and customer ratings). These can be powerful drivers of behaviour, especially if your user’s decision style is characterised by copying experts or their peers (see Decision Styles).

Image of testimonials from winkbingo.com and Google Analytics

You should also review how your tangible costs are communicated and consider how you use packages as anchors (e.g. whether you show the most expensive first). Do you use exclusive pricing, are delivery costs clearly visible and could you use the power of ‘free’ to improve how costs are communicated?

2. Relevance:

Understanding who your visitors are and where they come from is key to relevance. Check source relevance, the relevance to ads they may have seen, keywords that they may have used and search mode patterns are easily recognisable. Relevance can be improved through:

  • Targeting – Direct ads to most relevant landing page.
  • Dynamic customisation – Insert dynamic headlines or text snippets to improve the scent trail.
  • Standardization – Aggregate target segments into larger, similar groups to allow testing the overall value proposition.
  • Target audience relevance – Does the message meet prospects needs and expectations and does it appeal to them?
  • Segmentation – Are you using customer value or behavioural targeting?
  • Call-to-action relevance – Are visitors ready to buy/register – what allowance is there if they are not – is relevant information available?
  • Tone relevance – Users respond differently to words, images and design according to their demographic characteristics.
  • Navigation relevance – Is it intuitive and can visitors find what they are looking for?
  • Competitor relevance – How does competitor’s value proposition and messages influence your conversion rate?

Image of Mathsfactor.com homepage with different CTAs for separate user goals

Source: Mathsfactor.com

3. Clarity:

Clarity helps minimise mental processing by reducing the cognitive load for visitors. Begin with evaluating how clear your value proposition is communicated and the prominence of your call-to-actions. When evaluating clarity consider the following elements:

  • Information hierarchy – How well is content organised on the page and via navigation?
  • Page-level hierarchy – Does eye-flow and content hierarchy aid decision making? Are all key messages above the fold?
  • Design clarity – Does it reinforce the value proposition, facilitate communication, promote content, legibility and readability?
  • Eye-flow clarity – Does it guide visitor’s eye or block its flow?
  • Image and colour clarity – What do they communicate?
  • Visual consistency – Are you following major web conventions?
  • Call-to-action clarity – Do you lose early and often?
  • Copy writing clarity – Have you tested headlines and support claims with evidence? A lack of evidence can lead to friction in the user journey.

4. Anxiety:

Unless you try to deal with anxiety your site will suffer from friction as anxiety can undermine trust and lead to visitors delaying decisions. To minimise anxiety it is necessary to consider the following points:

  • Privacy – Do you keep information requests to a minimum, justify the information you request and reassure visitors of your trustworthiness?
  • Forms – Have you moved optional fields to a thank you page?
  • Policy – Summarised privacy policy using plain English?
  • Usability – Allow for user mistakes & errors?
  • Error handling – Serve error messages adjacent to field & provide prompt feedback?
  • CAPTCHA – Use software to prevent bots rather than CAPTCHA?
  • Browser compatibility – Test on all major browsers & operating systems?
  • Technical problems – Check & solve technical glitches as these lead to a loss of credibility?
  • Page not found – Minimise 404 errors and display user friendly 404?
  • Effort anxiety – Are offers easy to redeem/use?
  • Fulfilment anxiety – Do your messages reassure users?
  • Security – Do you display familiar security seals when appropriate?
  • Fine print – Legal asterisk losses credibility & small print can ring alarm bells.
  • Brand reputation – Do you display third-party credibility indicators to reduce anxiety?
  • Delivery promise – Do you set clear expectations & clear fulfilment promise?
  • Guarantees & returns – Do you offer guarantees (e.g. money back) to reduce fulfilment anxiety?

5. Distraction:

A busy design with little white space and unnecessary content can be very distracting for users. It’s important that you communicate a compelling idea or key message to get your user’s attention. First impressions count and this is why the visual layout above the fold is a primary determinant of new visitor perceptions of your site. When considering distractions look at:

  • Find the most common user screen size – Do you design pages based upon user’s monitor size and not your designer’s screen?
  • Background – Do you use background textures, asymmetrical designs and complex graphics in backgrounds?
  • Where now – Is the starting point of the user’s journey obvious?
  • CTAs – Does the design create a focused eye flow towards a single, prominent CTA?
  • Messages – Does your design focus on a single, clear message to minimise mental processing?
  • Irrelevant content – Do you have ads or existing customer content that is irrelevant to some users?
  • Navigation bars – Have you removed unnecessary navigation on landing pages or is your navigation sticky?

6. Urgency:

This is about considering if there is anything that will help motivate users to make an immediate decision. There are two types of urgency, internal and external urgency.

Internal urgency is dependent upon how the user feels and their needs or situation. This is more difficult to influence, but we should make allowance for it if we can. Amazon for example uses the “Buy Now” CTA to allow users who are impatient to shorten the user journey and accept the default settings (e.g. one day delivery and related charges).

Image of Amazon.co.uk product page with Buy Now CTA

Source: Amazon.co.uk

External urgency refers to how marketing can influence or persuade users to make a decision now rather than later. This could be the use of a limited offer period for a promotion to create scarcity and use loss aversion to motivate visitors to take action now. Points to consider include:

  • Create internal urgency – Use an emotional appeal using descriptive copy and evocative imagery or create an aspirational story that resonates with visitor’s desires.
  • Scarcity – An explicit offer period creates an urgency to act, limited access offers or special editions also create scarcity. The fear of loss is also important motivator.
  • Respond with urgency – Treat customer enquires as time sensitive. Research indicates that contacting a lead within 5 minutes has 100 times greater success rate compared to if they are contacted after 30 minutes.

Ryanair uses scarcity with a flash sale to create urgency. The email clearly states that the sale ends on a specific date to encourage users to act now.

Image of flash sale from Ryanair.com

Source: Ryanair.com

What next?

Once you have completed your heuristic evaluation you should list out all the areas of interest (AOI) you identified for each page in a spreadsheet. There is a good chance that you will have more AOI’s than you can deal with at once. Whether this is the case or not you should go through each page and priorities the AOI’s so that you can focus on the most important aspects to improve your conversion rate.

You can use the prioritisation process that I outline here to determine how you treat each AOI. The important thing here is that you present your findings and recommendations to key stakeholders to get their buy–in and agreement on your priorities.

Conclusion:

Conducting a heuristic evaluation is a valuable step in the optimisation process. It should be used to bring in experts from outside web team and if possible include customers or prospects.

Using the Widerfunnel Lift Model provides a great framework and gives everyone permission to be as critical as they can be of the existing user experience. This can help challenge some of the sacred cows, such as brand guidelines, that can prevent the business moving forward.

A heuristic evaluation can be especially useful when your website does not have sufficient traffic to run A/B and multivariate tests. But don’t use it in isolation. Always follow a systematic approach to optimisation as I outlined in my post on the 8 steps of conversion rate optimisation.

Does The Entourage Effect Impact Loyalty Schemes?

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Many organisations offer their best customers exclusive rewards to acknowledge their value and to reduce churn amongst their most valuable customer segment. The entourage effect suggests this exclusivity can sometimes harm the effectiveness of a scheme where a VIP customer has a strong entourage.

For example, in online gaming VIP players are usually managed by a team of customer service staff who monitor their behaviour. They will speak to them on a regular basis. These VIP schemes offer special promotions, free gifts (e.g. iPads), cash-back for large losses and they are invited to exclusive VIP parties and events.

Image of Gala Bingo VIP scheme page

Source: Gala Bingo

The exclusivity of VIP events and promotions enhances the customer’s personal feelings of status. This is based upon the principle of scarcity. It suggests that by restricting the availability of a reward it increases its value.

However, research published in the Journal of Consumer Research (2013) suggests the existence of an entourage effect. This means VIPs may feel higher levels of status when they are able to share their experience with their followers.

What is the entourage effect?

The entourage effect results in a heightened sense of status when a VIP shares other-wise exclusive benefits with a wider group of connected individuals. The effect appears to be driven by an increase in feelings of connection with their guests.

What causes the entourage effect?

Humans are “super social apes” (Herd, 2009). This means people are often heavily influenced by the behaviour and opinions of others. Furthermore, possessing status is a strong human motivation (Fiske and Taylor 2008; Taylor and Brown 1988). As a result people frequently undertake behaviours for the purpose of signalling information about their actual or desired status. This is partly why people buy premium brands, large houses and expensive cars.

Why do brands treat VIPs differently?

Studies have indicated that rewarding customers does increase their perceived status (Dre’ze and Nunes 2009) and results in stronger brand loyalty and customer satisfaction. As the majority of an organisation’s revenues are often generated by a small proportion of customers (see the Pareto principle), it is important to reward and retain VIP type customers.

However, many VIP schemes allow customers to share these exclusive benefits by inviting a guest along. But the danger here is that this could reduce the exclusivity of the experience and thus the overall attractiveness of the benefits. This is based upon the scarcity principle. This suggests that the more exclusive an experience is, the greater its perceived value and the higher is its potential for signalling one’s status (Bourdieu 1986).

The entourage effect challenges this theory when it comes to VIP style reward schemes. The research suggests this is not because VIPs don’t want to feel lonely. They desire public visibility of their status or want to make people feel indebted to them. No, the research suggests that the entourage effect is due to our desire for a heightened feeling of social connection.

Implications for reward schemes:

  1. Avoid making loyalty schemes too exclusive that it prevents VIPs from sharing experiences with their entourage.
  2. Allow VIP customers to add guests to events to elevate their perceived status. The research suggests this provides companies with an opportunity to increase loyalty and sales from their most valuable customers.
  3. The entourage effect does not apply to the notion of a “trophy wife”. It’s the individual’s duty to support the trophy wife (Baumeister and Vohs, 2004). Whilst it is the brand’s responsibility to develop and maintain the relationship with the entourage.
  4. See VIPs as groups rather than individuals. As people are social creatures it is important to treat VIPs as a group rather than a set of unconnected individuals. Taking this approach is more likely to generate long-term benefits in respect of improved retention and increased customer life-time value.

Conclusion:

The entourage effect demonstrates the importance and power of our social connections in potentially elevating our status within our in-group. Even when this reduces the exclusivity of an experience our social nature offsets any loss in scarcity by increasing our feeling of social connection.

However, the research does indicate that the entourage effect is significantly reduced when there is a large physical distance between the VIP and their entourage, if the treatment is not preferential or if the guest also has a legitimate right to attend the VIP event themselves.

Overall though, the entourage effect indicates that it is beneficial for VIP loyalty schemes to allow members to invite guests to events. Loyalty schemes should make allowance for the entourage effect by encouraging VIP customers to pre-register close friends or relatives for events and promotions to enable them to fully benefit from the entourage effect.

Featured image from the film ‘Entourage’.

Copying – Are There Many Original Ideas?

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Have you noticed the obsession with originality and the desire to be first to market? Yet most of the innovations that have shaped our world today are ideas or technology that were nothing new at the time.

For instance, Apple didn’t invent the touch-screen smart phone. IBM created the first smart phone (known as the Simon Personal Communicator). Fifteen years before Apple launched the iPhone and the touch-screen was invented as far back as 1965. Apple took existing technology and made it their own through exceptional design. A determination to provide a great user experience.

Neither was McDonald’s the first fast-food chain. It copied the idea from the White Castle restaurant in Wichita, Kansas. Facebook wasn’t the first social network and Henry Ford didn’t invent the car. So, innovation does not have to be about invention, it’s more likely to be about copying.

Why copy?

In his book Copy,Copy,Copy, Mark Earls suggests that copying (but not replicating) of ideas and experiences is something we naturally do. It is the most efficient method of innovation. Copying is easy and is a great hack for making fast progress and not looking at problems in isolation. You get to benefit from the mistakes and the success of others that you have never even met. This may explain why being first to market with a new innovation is rarely an advantage.

What is poor copying?

Simply replicating an idea or product and the practice of benchmarking reduces value. It creates increasingly homogenised offers and there is no allowance for context or thought about fixing what’s broken. Indeed, benchmarking damages profitability because of increased price-point competition and less differentiation.

‘Looser copying’ or from afar (e.g. from a different sector or culture) can add value. It creates variation through the changes or mistakes we make. This is essentially the concept of fixing what’s broken and keeping what works.

Why don’t we copy more?

In Western cultures we are often led to believe that each problem or challenge is unique and so requires a unique solution. This is almost always misguided because very few problems are new and it gives the impression that it will be extremely difficult to solve. This often results in the rejection of many good ideas simply because of their similarity to solutions used elsewhere.

This is partly because of the individualistic culture we have in the West which values originality and discourages copying. This is not the case in China and other parts of Asia where copying is perceived in a much more positive light. The danger is that this attitude towards copying puts Western companies at a disadvantage. Why reinvent the wheel or if it’s not broken, why fix it?

Mark Earls, Copy,Copy,Copy

“The truth is that most things are like other things – they certainly seem that way: the human mind’s ability to see similarities and connections between things is unbounded.”

Are most innovations the product of a single individual? Nope, it’s a myth that innovations are the creation of a single person. In most cases many people are involved in innovation and they copy from different sources to create something new and exciting. What this suggests is that when done in the right way copying can produce novel and highly effective solutions.

Copying is what we do naturally:

Mark points out that because of our brain’s limited processing power we are forced to rely heavily on default heuristics – what did we do last time or what is everyone else doing? We copy ideas and behaviours all the time but often are not even aware of it. Copying allows us to outsource many aspects of cognitive thinking and provides us with a knowledge bank that further reduces the cognitive effort we may need to solve a problem.

Marketers needs to understand copying:

When we see brand shares following the Pareto 80/20 rule diffusion science tells us that people are not acting independently. Copying makes the most popular brands even more popular than they would be if everyone acted independently.

This produces a long-tail distribution of popularity (see right-hand curve) which is a strong indication of social influence and copying. Otherwise you are likely to be looking at independent choice (as shown by the short-tail distribution).

The data shows that buyer choices in many markets and services is mainly driven by either directed copying (e.g. following experts or authority figures) or undirected copying (following the most popular variant). Just look at the power of social proof and we can see how important what other people are doing is in influencing sales.

Mark Earls – I’ll Have What She’s Having

“The paradox of conformity, of course, is that we are all conformists in some way, and yet we do not all do the same thing – far from it. In fact, we find the greatest diversity of behaviours in places where people are most densely packed together, such as New York, London, or Istanbul.”

In some markets we are now faced with so many choices that it is practically impossible to identify an ideal product or service to meet your needs. Just imagine trying to evaluate every TV or smart phone. In such instances we can either make an educated guess or follow the behaviour of others.

By bringing these insights together Mark Earls and his co-authors in I’ll Have What She’s Having created a map of four decision making styles for marketers to use. In his latest book Mark Earls has used this map to create a pattern book of over 50 marketing strategies to encourage marketers to innovate using approaches that have been successful in other sectors. This is a valuable resource as it allows you to focus on execution rather than creating strategies from scratch.

Implications for website optimisation:

  • Stop replicating ideas and designs from your competitors:

Far too many sites are obsessed with what their competitors’ are doing and copy exactly what they see them doing. This results in websites looking almost identical and reduces differentiation. Instead look outside your sector to see what is new and innovative. Copy loosely and then test to see if it adds value before rolling it out on your whole site.

  • Think about design trends:

Have you noticed how many websites blindly follow certain design trends? Whether it’s over-sized hero images, auto-play video backgrounds, auto-sliders, flat design, parallax scrolling or the hamburger button on mobile designs. Online experiments have shown all of these trends can damage conversion and sometimes frustrate and annoy visitors.

Instead of simply replicating new trends, why not consider what prompted the trend and the truths it embodies. You can then copy the elements or ideas that appear to be most beneficial and test them on your site to measure what impact they have on visitor behaviour. This way you can maintain your site’s unique character and still benefit from new developments or trends.

  • Be agile:

I recently participated in a 5 day Google design sprint to develop a new online brand’s proposition and website. We spent a lot of time looking outside the sector of interest to get inspiration. We copied the elements of the market that we thought worked, but wanted to fix what was broken. This was achieved by taking ideas from many different fields and rapid iteration of designs.

Within the 5 days we created and tested a prototype design and helped give the project the momentum it needed. The whole agile process is based upon copying as otherwise it would require too much time and effort to make progress.

  • Identify your market’s decision style:

Assess which quadrant of the decision style map your market is most likely to sit in. You can then focus on the marketing strategies that are most likely to align with this decision style. As part of this process it also useful to identify other markets that have the same decision style to your own. This will allow you investigate how they apply appropriate marketing strategies and you may find novel ideas that you can incorporate in your own strategies.

It is possible that your market could fall between two quadrants and if this is the case it is worth to considering strategies from more than one quadrant. For example a decision about the preferred method of delivery of a service (e.g. offline or online) might be in the North West quadrant (i.e. considered choice), but the brand choice may be in the North East quadrant (i.e. copy experts).

Conclusion:

Originality is overrated as most things are similar to something that already exists. This means copying allows us to benefit from other peoples’ mistakes and create novel solutions to difficult problems. However, just replicating what we see elsewhere can reduce value and lead to a lack of differentiation.

For marketers copying is often an important market dynamic that can heavily influence a customer’s decision style. Understanding the most common decision style in your market helps us identify appropriate marketing strategies to apply. Copying relevant marketing strategies from other sectors or cultures allows us to concentrate on the execution and learn from how others to create novel solutions.

For more details about how to copy effectively and how to use the decision styles map to execute relevant marketing strategies please get Copy,Copy,Copy by Mark Earls.

Copy, Copy, Copy

7 Strategies For B2B Marketing Personalisation

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Personalisation and marketing automation are now proven strategies in digital B2C marketing for increasing conversion rates and revenues. For example eConsultancy estimate that the suggest feature on Amazon.com generates an additional 10 to 30 per cent in revenues. Given the huge sales on Amazon this generates many millions of dollars for the company.

Amazon’s “Customers who bought this item also bought”

B2B websites have been significantly slower to adopt personalisation. However, according to research by Forrester. B2B buyers are increasing their use of digital channels to research and complete transactions. Whilst still using more conventional channels during the customer journey.

Furthermore, their experiences with B2C online sites has raised expectations of B2B sites. Buyers now demand much higher levels of service and personalisation during the user entire journey.

How do B2B sites up their game and begin to deliver on personalisation? In this post I will cover the following seven topics.

B2B Personalisation:

  • Personalisation vs customization – How are they different?
  • Enable B2B users with personalisation – Why it’s not all about selling in B2B?
  • Getting data for B2B personalisation – What and how to get it?
  • Choose a personalisation platform – What are your options?
  • Segmenting your B2B customers – What strategies should you use?
  • Implementing personalisation – Strategies for creating a personalised experience!
  • When personalisation goes wrong – Why does personalisation sometimes go wrong?

1. Personalisation or customisation?

Customisation

These two terms are often confused with each other. Customisation refers to where prospects are offered a distinct choice, perhaps to indicate their sector or occupation. This allows the website to respond to this selection by making the experience more relevant to the user’s needs.

Customisation allows users to remain in control and select exactly what they want. The downside is that visitors don’t always know what they need or how a solution could improve the efficiency of their business. But customisation definitely has a place for many B2B websites. Especially for first time visitors where you don’t know anything about their needs or the nature of their organisation.

B2B E-commerce site using pop-up to enable customisation

Personalisation

Personalisation on the other hand refers to automatically serving content that is relevant to the individual visitor based upon data captured on the user. The advantage of personalisation is that it does need any additional effort from the user because your automation platform does the hard work.

However, this does mean you are reliant on the data and analytics of your marketing platform to identify or infer each user’s needs. In some cases this can feel a bit creepy as visitors find that the website is too good at anticipating their preferences. We’ll deal with this issue later after we examine how to personalise the B2B customer experience.

2. A complex user journey:

B2B marketers have to target high-level decision-makers or a group of individuals and face a significantly longer business cycle than most B2C marketers. The B2B user journey is often has many more touch points and a complexity that appears to make personalisation more difficult to achieve.

Strategies for B2B Personalisation
B2B personalisation has the potential to significantly increase website revenues

The solution to this challenge is to create a user experience that enables visitors rather than sells to them. The B2B buyer will normally have to consult colleagues and is often heavily influenced by peers outside their organisation. To facilitate this process it’s important to create a user experience that automatically adapts to the behaviour and interests of the visitor rather than trying to push them towards a purchase.

3. Getting data for B2B personalisation:

Before you spend time and money on your data you should first identify what will be genuinely valued by your customer and what you need to know to achieve that. Start with the end in mind rather than the other way around.

The difficulty faced by B2B marketers is combining data about an individual visitor with information held about their organization in a meaningful and actionable way. Furthermore, it’s important to combine all types of data (e.g. quantitative or qualitative) and channels (e.g. offline and online) to capture information on all touch points to build a picture of the prospect’s behaviour and interests.

Once you have the data you need you can begin to systematically generate inferences from your visitor and customer database to identify insights and create opportunities to personalise the customer experience.

Data

Sometimes expertise is underrated and companies recruit junior people with little experience. Saving money on personnel is counterproductive. A good data analyst or data scientist understands the capabilities of analytical and marketing automation tools. They know how to get the most value from your data solutions and can identify and develop new opportunities for personalisation without having to be given specific directions from marketing management.

However, obtaining data for personalization is often simpler than you think. Most web analytics software for instance captures a wealth of data on the characteristics and behaviour of your visitors. Google Analytics for example can provide you with data to personalize as follows:

New vs returning visitors

  • Someone who has visited your site more than once in the last 24 hours is likely to different motivations and concerns than someone who visits your site for the first time. Even a simple welcome back message can acknowledge that you recognize their high level of interest in your product or service.

Landing page type

  • Use your knowledge of the type of page a visitor lands on when they arrive on your site to personalize their experience by ensuring consistent messaging and content is displayed throughout the user journey. Don’t waste money on building dedicated landing pages if you are not going to use that knowledge to personalize subsequent screens with relevant content.

Day of week / Time of day

  • Does a visitor who browses your site on a Friday afternoon have different intentions and motivations than someone who is browsing your site on Monday morning? What about weekend traffic – some businesses don’t close on a Friday afternoon – shouldn’t your content reflect this demand at the weekend?

Conversion funnels

  • Where do visitors drop out of your funnel most often? Why not examine how you can personalize these stages in the process to improve engagement and reduce drop-out rates.

Page load time

  • Why not acknowledge when your site is taking longer than normal to load by personalizing messaging or content to win visitors back. People like it when companies say sorry.

IP address

  • Most medium to large companies have a unique IP address and so you should be able to identify key organisations to target from their IP address.

4. Choosing a personalisation platform:

According to a study by Gleanster for Act-On. 83 per cent of B2B marketers believe fragmented marketing platforms and systems prevent the implementation of marketing automation. This suggests that many B2B marketers either don’t have personalisation software or have not been able to fully integrate it with existing systems.

Begin By Deciding What Your Goal Is

  • Increase the conversion rate of lead generation efforts?
  • Improve cross-sales?
  • Encourage repeat purchases or reduce cart abandonment?

You can then set KPIs to monitor progress and begin considering personalization techniques. Start to look at what software is needed. There are generally two types of software available, A/B & multivariate testing solutions that offer personalisation as a feature and dedicated marketing automation software. They include: Adobe Marketing Cloud, Google Optimize 360, Optimizely, Oracle and Quibit. If you already have an A/B or multivariate testing tool check out its capabilities for personalisation as you may find this can meet some of your needs.

Top Personalisation Software Companies:

  • Act-On
  • Acquia
  • Baynote
  • BevyUp
  • Boomtown
  • Certona
  • Dynamic Yield
  • Edgeverve
  • Evergage
  • Flytxt
  • IgnitionOne
  • Magnetic
  • nectarOM
  • Peerius
  • Real-Time
  • Syntasa
  • Strands

A key consideration here is finding a platform that integrates with your legacy systems and CRM solution in particular. Personalisation requires real-time access to data across all customer touch points. It may be necessary to establish a network of technology partners who have the experience and knowledge to plug gaps where they exist in your internal capabilities.

5. Segmenting your B2B customers:

A popular strategy for creating a customer experience is the buyer persona. This involves building a profile of important user segments: demographic and firmographic data. Such as job title, function, management level, budgetary responsibility, and industry sector.

Buyer persona template online tools
Source: Buyer persona template

Creating a buyer persona for each key customer segment using data and research allows organizations to improve their understanding of customers and prospects. It enables them to construct a more personalized and targeted customer experience.

Other Strategies:

  1. Segment specific – Use industry vertical or customer segment criteria.
  2. Stage specific – Apply personalization according to stage in the buying process.
  3. Account specific – Use details of the prospect organization to tailor the experience.
  4. Lead specific – Tailor according to details of the individual lead.

Personalize the User Experience:

  • IP address for large organisations to target individual companies.
  • Geographical data such as city, region, country or seasonal factors.
  • Behaviour on device (desktop, mobile and tablet).
  • Demographics such as gender, age or cultural background.
  • First party data – information that you have captured yourself and your customers are aware you hold.
  • Third party data – information from CRM or social media and other third-party sources that users may not be aware you hold about them.

The important point to consider here is to use experimentation to identify what works and what doesn’t for your prospects. Best practice is only a guide and should not be taken as gospel.

6. Implementing B2B personalisation:

Now that you have your detailed buyer personas you can identify key characteristics or behaviours that allow you to allocate a visitor to a specific persona. Use these criteria to segment your email list into, smaller, more targeted lists. This will allow you to deliver personalised email campaigns based upon important drivers of behaviour: job title and management level.

Image of personalised email from 47 Links
Source: personalised email from 47 Links

Using your buyer personas to classify web visitors should also allow you to deliver a highly personalised web customer experience to replace generic and static web content. As Karl Wirth, CEO of Evergage, points out there are four core principles of user experience which marketers need to consider. These are remember me, understand me, help me and surprise/delight me.

Remember

  • Retaining and utilising information about the user’s behaviour or profile to deliver a personalised customer experience. This means acknowledging returning visitors and ensuring the user experience reflects past behaviour and previously captured on the prospect.

Understand

  • Recognising returning visitors and applying the knowledge the organisation holds on customers to deliver content based upon their known interests and needs.

Help

  • Making it easy and enjoyable for visitors to achieve their goals. This involves monitoring user browsing behaviour and purchasing history to provide relevant recommendations and directing customers to useful information or recently viewed items. Don’t make it difficult for users to find what they are looking for.

Surprise and Delight

  • Going that little extra mile to acknowledge good customers and inform visitors of relevant and available offers can go a long way to make users feel valued.

Buyer personas also make it easier for you to identify potential prospects in the social sphere. Listening to conversations people have on social media and having one-to-one dialogue with prospects can allow you to better understand their problems and needs so that you can tailor content accordingly.

Engaging with prospects on social media demonstrates to your audience that you value their input and help create the ultimate user experience.

7. When personalisation goes wrong:

Predicting behaviours is never easy and so it is inevitable that sometimes you will get it wrong. Poor personalisation leads to a poor user experience. You can minimize this by doing extensive qualitative and quantitative research. Understand your audience and ensure your buyer personas are based upon real customer segments.

Personalisation should only be used when it’s helpful and has a clear benefit for the user. It should be intuitive, useful and create a natural user experience. It should not feel “creepy” or like Big Brother is watching you.

It’s important to be open and transparent with customers about using data to personalise the user experience to manage expectations and reduce the chance that it becomes “creepy”. Personalisation can become problematic when organisations rely too heavily on inferred or purchased data that has not been freely given by users. When customers voluntarily give information or confirm the accuracy of data this reduces the likelihood that it will be perceived as “creepy” when it’s used to predict customer needs.

Example

This example below of personalisation from Evergage allows the visitor to see why content has been recommended to them. This level of transparency helps to avoid personalisation becoming “creepy”.

Image of personalisation on Evergage.com
Source: evergage.com

There also needs to be a value exchange for all concerned and so it is important to set out what personalisation means for different buyer personas or segments to fully understand the benefits for all parties. Holding user data is a privilege and so it is essential to set high standards for how it is stored and used.

The rise of big data has led to a culture of hoarding data that companies don’t use and visitors don’t know they have. Like any asset data deteriorates over time and so it is important to regularly review and cleanse data to ensure it still usable. To avoid storing up problems for the future you should ask two questions every time you capture a new item of data:

  1. What will the customer’s attitude be towards us holding this data?
  2. What do we want the customer to do?

Unless you can clearly answer these questions it is best not to use the information. In addition, ensure your data base architecture enables you to identify which data was given freely and which was bought from third-parties.

Don’t forget to build in self-service alternatives by designing your information architecture to enable users to easily locate what they are looking for without having to rely on personalized content. This helps to prevent problems occurring when your personalization goes wrong.

Conclusion:

Personalisation should begin and end with what’s best for the customer. Set clear goals for what you want to achieve and invest in both qualitative and quantitative research to get a much deep understanding of what motivates your prospects. Create strong buyer personas based upon evidence to help guide your strategy.

Avoid hoarding data for the sake of it. Always have a clear view of your objective and seek out data that allows you to achieve that goal. Give priority to data that has been given freely by visitors and don’t be over-reliant on making inferences from third-party data.

The challenges of B2B personalization reinforce the need to have the right tools for the job. Even the best research and insight is of little value unless you have a platform that is capable of extremely fast delivery of content and is scalable.

There will always be instances when personalisation doesn’t work and so build in self-service options to enable visitors to find what they are looking for. Avoid over-reliance on third-party data and be open with your visitors about how data is used.

However, when used effectively B2B personalisation can be a powerful strategy for improving the customer experience and for increasing conversions. Just because the B2B decision making process is more complex this should not be a barrier to using personalisation to generate more revenues from your digital user experience.

5 Free Digital Tools That Every Start-Up Should Have

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When you establish a digital start-up budgets are very tight and free digital tools can help save your business. It’s essential to have visibility of how your business is performing. When I advise start-ups on how to optimise their website the first thing I do is set them up with five free digital tools to begin this process. You can’t expect to understand how to improve something unless you have feedback and you can measure it.

1. Google Analytics:

This is one of the most essential free digital tools you should get as soon as your website is ready to go live. Web analytics solutions allow you to understand more about who your visitors are (e.g. demographics and device) and also what content is most popular on your site. If you have a blog this is essential as otherwise how will you know which posts are generating most interest from your visitors.

Some of the key metrics you should be checking on GA include:

  • Mix of new to returning visitors – is your content attracting users back to your site,
  • Bounce rate – are they viewing more than one page,
  • Average time on page – how engaged are they with your content,
  • Source of traffic – how well is your SEO, social media and paid marketing working,
  • Device – what proportion of visitors use a mobile, tablet and desktop device,
  • Demographics – age, gender and interests of visitors
Demographic data from Google Analytics

Source: Google Analytics

Even if start-ups do have GA I often find they haven’t configured it properly and are getting false readings. Free digital tools may not cost you anything, but you won’t get value from them unless you invest in their set up and maintenance. Make sure you set up filters to exclude internal traffic by using your IPs and set a filter for language spam. You can also link the account to your Adwords and Adsense accounts. For more details see this post – I’ve installed Google Analytics – Now what?

There are many web analytics packages on the market, but Google Analytics is one of a few that offers free permanent access to such a comprehensive and robust analytics platform. See my article on web analytics solutions for more details of how to use GA.

2. Google Search Console 

Previously called Webmaster Tools, the Search Console is one of those free digital tools which will provide data many SEO companies will offer to sell you. Search Console a comprehensive SEO tool for understanding how your site is performing in Google Search, but also what might be holding you back in getting more organic traffic.

Image of Google Search Console Dashboard

Source: Google Search Console Dashboard

The Search Console includes a really useful dashboard (see above) which shows a graph of how many clicks your site has received from Google in the last 28 days, plus the number of site errors, including page not founds (404s) and the number of pages that have been submitted and ranked by Google.

The console has five primary navigation elements that you should be checking on a regular basis.

1. Search Appearance:

  • This is mainly more technical SEO data including structured data, rich snippets, HTML improvements and AMPs (Accelerated Mobile Pages).

2. Search Traffic:

  • This provides data on search results, including clicks, impressions, CTR and average position. In addition it also shows number of external links to your site and what they link to, internal links, security issues and mobile usability issues.

3. Google Index:

  • This shows the number of pages on your site that have been indexed, blocked resources and remove URLs.

4. Crawl:

  • This section provides data on errors detected by Googlebots and the fetch as Google function allows you to submit a URL for indexing. The sitemap tab allows you to submit a new sitemap for your site to Google.

5. Security:

  • Finally, the security tab tells you if have Google has identified any potential security problems with your site.

For more in-depth instructions see my post; How to use Google’s Search Console to improve conversions. 

3. Optimize:

In 2017 Google’s introduced Optimize its free version of its testing and personalisation solution Google Optimize 360. Optimize enables you to run up to 3 A/B tests (or multivariate tests) at a time and provides a includes a visual editor to set up simple experiments in a matter of minutes. It also allows you to run redirect experiments where you test a totally new page against the existing experience. As you would expect it integrates fully with Google Analytics.

Image of types of experiments in Google Optimize

Source: Google Optimize

This is a simple but effective testing tool for companies not intending to conduct more than five simultaneous experiments or personalisation campaigns. It’s easy to use and as free digital tools go it is ideal for start-ups that wish to use a data driven approach to website optimisation.

Read my post, How to set up and run experiments with Google Optimize for more details of this free solution.

4. Hotjar :

Hotjar is a brilliant tool as it combines behavioural analytics, such as session recordings, with easy to use visitor feedback tools. Provided you have less than 2,000 page views per day you can sign up for their free basic plan. For sites up to 10,000 page views a day the start-up plan costs only €29 a month.

Image of Hotjar dashboard

Source: Hotjar Dashboard

The session recording and replay feature is something I love because it’s like watching an un-directed usability test and they can provide some great insights into the behaviour of users on your site. However, the free plan also allows you to create up to three click, scroll and movement heat maps, a six step conversion funnel and form analytics.

Image of Hotjar movement heat map

Source: Hotjar heat map

That’s not to mention online polls, surveys to be sent to users, an incoming feedback tab and a recruiter feature for getting people to participate in user testing. This is an amazing free tool that no start-up should be without. Please read my review of Hotjar for more details.

I prefer Hotjar to Microsoft’s Clarity because it offers polls and surveys, which is something that Clarity doesn’t offer. It’s really important to get user feedback and so Hotjar gives you that option for free. Hotjar should be one of your free digital tools because it does so much more than simply offer heatmaps and session recordings.

5. MailChimp:

It’s important to remain in regular contact with your customers and prospects. Otherwise they can easily forget you even exist. Email marketing is one of the most effective and productive means of doing this. MailChimp provides a free professional email marketing service which allows you to send up to 12,000 emails a month to less than 2,000 accounts.

Image of MailChimp dashboard overview

Source: MailChimp Dashboard Overview

MailChimp has a very easy to use and informative user interface which allows you to quickly create professional looking emails. To design emails it offers 20 basic layouts and over 300 templates using drag and drop technology.

There is also an email editor for HTML and plain text alternatives to design your own template. It’s easy to import your contact list from a CSV or TXT file, copy and paste from Excel or import from an email marketing platform.

MailChimp also offers comprehensive campaign performance metrics so that you can see how many recipients received, opened and clicked on your emails. It also advises you on how many email bounced and unsubscribed. Because it easily integrates with Google Analytics you can track how well your campaigns drive traffic to your website.

MailChimp has now added autoresponders or what they refer to as automation to free accounts. These are automated emails triggered by an event such as registration, purchase or abandoned basket. This is a really useful feature that often you have to pay for to get access to. So, don’t delay, sign up to MailChimp today.

Conclusion:

These five free tools are a must for every start-up. Don’t be reliant on SEO or marketing agencies to provide these resources, you will learn much more if you use them yourself. If you do need help in setting these tools up I can offer assistance as part of my marketing consultancy service, Otherwise, don’t delay and sign up now to these invaluable tools to assist you in growing your online business.

Featured image by Fancycrave on Unsplash