Here’s Why Your Opt-Ins are Unsubscribing (And How to Fix It)

Email marketing is a hugely valuable tool.

In fact, according to the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing brings in around $40 for every $1 you spend, making it one of the highest ROIs for any time of marketing out there.

It can be reasonably assumed that the whole point in capturing emails and having subscribers is to convert those emails into loyal customers who either buy your product or service or tell their friends to buy your product or service (or both).

list-segmentation-results

Even if you’re just running a blog or a content site, those emails are everything. So what happens if all of a sudden you’re not getting as many subscribers as you once did?

Or worse yet, what happens when people that have already subscribed start to opt-out of receiving your emails?

Here are a few of the most common reasons people are opting-out of your email lists, plus what you can do to stop that from happening.

Don’t forget to grab our list of 9 Ways to Grow Your Targeted Email Lists.

They’re Not In a List

The biggest problem when it comes to opt-ins is not having opt-ins (or opt-outs) because all of your emails go to all of your subscribers.

Not having any form of segmentation is a one-way ticket to unsubscribers, but if you’re running your email campaigns yourself, it can be tricky to manage all of those lists. That’s where third-party email marketing services can help.

Where to Send Your Form Submissions

If you’re using WordPress, you can use plugins like MailPoet or Newsletter to create real email system that allow you to create newsletters, automated emails, post notifications and more directly from WordPress while allowing you to segment your lists (to some degree, anyway).

If you really want to segment your lists, you can use a email service like MailChimp, Constant Contact, or AWeber (etc.) and integrate them with your CMS of choice using Zapier to create targeted emails to certain lists.

Whichever method you choose isn’t really as important as having some plan in place for your emails once they’ve been submitted on your site.
They’re In the Wrong List

Once you’ve warmed up to the idea of segmenting your lists, then comes the hard part. You have to figure out exactly which emails belong in which list.

The whole point of segmentation is to provide relevant content to the recipients, so if someone opted in to get your monthly newsletter but you send them promotional emails about events instead, your likelihood of unsubscribing is high.

So how do you segment your lists for better results?

How to Segment Your List

Welcome emails should, for example, go to your new subscribers or users. But you can also send a version of a welcome email – either a “we miss you” or “are you still there?” email – to those who haven’t been actively opening your emails.

Keeping track of those lists may be a little trickier, but if you’re using a third-party email marketing service like MailChimp (or similar), they often keep track of those lists for you.

But there are other ways to segment your lists that you may not have considered, including:

  • Demographics – Age, gender, company, position, etc.
  • Sending frequency – Some people want emails more frequently than others
  • Location – Knowing something as simple as a location can help you gauge send times and even personalize subject lines for better open-rates
  • Weather Patterns – Skymosity is a company that can track weather patterns and create automated email campaigns that are deployed by weather-based email triggers, which can be helpful for certain industries (fitness gear, outdoor living, etc.)
  • Email activity – Some people stop opening emails after a certain point, which can be helpful to know in order to send a “we miss you” email to reactivate their interest

brooks_weather_segmentation

Source: Skymosity

There are many different ways to segment a list, but the most important part of that segmentation is not just getting them into a list, but also getting them the right content for that list to keep them engaged.
They’re Getting the Wrong Content

The average email user sends and receives around 105 emails per day, with 81% of those emails containing valid content (as in, not spam). This means that while sending out emails is a great way to capture your audience’s attention, it’s also ground zero for competition.

One of the biggest factors when it comes to people unsubscribing from your lists is that they’re simply being overwhelmed with content that doesn’t relate to them. Thankfully, there are a few easy ways to fix that by targeting your content more dynamically.

Types of Content to Send to Each List

Newsletters often go out to anyone in your email list, but some do a good job of separating their newsletter lists from their general email lists, so only the people who want the newsletter actually get it. But you can take this a step further by actually creating targeted newsletters based on niche topics and segmenting your list further.

One way to implement this strategy is to include separate opt-in messages in your welcome email, also known as an opt-in bribe.

WelcomeEmailOptIns

Each link in your welcome email could lead to a different list so your subscribers are essentially telling you exactly what they want from your emails. Here are a few different types of content you can send to varying lists:

  • Welcome Email
  • Expectation Email
  • Tools and Resources Email
  • How-To Email
  • Getting to Know You Email
  • Unexpected Freebie Email
  • Exclusive Content Email
  • Basic Content Email
  • Archive Email
  • Curated Email
  • Newsletter
  • Buzz-Building Email
  • Testimonial Emails
  • Favorite Things Email

The truly important thing to remember is that the type of content you send out should reflect the list it’s being sent to. You wouldn’t send a welcome email to someone who’s been a subscriber for years.

Likewise, you shouldn’t send a newsletter to someone who just wants to know about events (unless your newsletter is all about your events).

Sometimes targeting certain content to different groups is a matter of trial and error, so it’s important to keep track of open-rates and watch your demographics (and other factors) closely to see what works and what doesn’t work.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to improving your conversion rates, there’s really no better tool than email marketing. But what you do with your content and your segmented lists makes all the difference between effective and ineffective marketing.

First, if you’re not segmenting your lists, get on it ASAP.

Second, once your lists are segmented, make sure that every email is where it’s suppose to be and every one who has opted in to your lists wants to be there.

Finally, make sure that the content you send to each list is relevant to the interests of those lists. If you’re not sure if it’s engaging enough, try targeting your email opt-in links in your welcome emails (or any email) to narrow down the field.

Don’t forget to check out our list of 9 Ways to Grow Your Targeted Email Lists.

Which CRM Works Best for Generating Leads?

CRM software is a marketer’s best friend.

Sure, email marketing is a great tool to generate new leads to bring in potential customers, but a CRM goes above and beyond, thanks in part to the R in its acronym – Relationships.

CRMs are designed to help you build relationships with potential (and current) customers, and do so by connecting someone from your team to each customer. When someone receives an email from your company, they’re slowly building rapport.

But not every piece of CRM software works the same way, and while they’re all designed to help you in your ultimate goal to understand and relate to your customers, each one will approach that goal differently. Some use certain methods for lead generation, which may be more effective for your company, while others may not actually help you all that much.

So how do you know which CRM is right for you? Well, first you have to identify the lead generation methods that will be the most effective for your company and your consumer base.

Don’t miss: Lead Generating CRMs Compared

Best Methods for Lead Generation

business-relationship

When you boil it down, lead generation is all about relationships, but relationships between customers and businesses don’t always happen naturally. Visitors need to be pointed to information (or team members) that can help turn them into customers.

But what exactly is the best way to do that? There are a few different approaches that may work, depending on your industry and customer base.

  1. Relationship building through regular emails. Email marketing is no doubt a highly effective tool, and many customers love (or at least tolerate) receiving emails from companies on a daily or weekly basis, whether it be links to articles and blogs or specific promotions or discounts.
  1. A hard sell via a member from a sales team. This can happen through emails, phone calls, chats, or really any method of communication, but the purpose is to connect each customer with a real live member of the team to answer their questions and help them move from visitor to customer.
  1. A tailored marketing experience through varied channels. This includes tracking the visitor or customer’s interactions while they’re on your site, gathering personal information about their interests and disinterests, and implementing marketing strategies to target their “wish list.” For example, Google Ads reads your browsers cookies, so they know what you’ve been searching for on sites like Amazon and Facebook and can target ads specifically to your searches.

So how do CRMs fit into this? Again, while each CRM will help you generate leads, each has a different function best designed for one or more of these approaches.

What to Look for in a CRM

Generally speaking, there are three types of CRMs: ones that work conversationally, ones that focus on leads and deals, and those that utilize contacts.

  1. A conversational CRM is centered on interactions between your customers and your business, and will group different interactions by categories so you can see exactly what your customers are doing, or where you need to follow up. It essentially helps you keep in contact with the customers that matter most to you.
  2. A leads and deals CRM – often the most common form – tracks potential customer leads and adds information as you work to convince those leads to become “deals.” These CRMS help you trace visitors from their first interactions until they become full-fledged customers. These CRMs are most utilized by sales teams.
  3. A contacts-based CRM is similar to a conversational CRM in that it helps you interact with customers, but this type focuses more on remembering important information about a customer – like birthdays, current company position, etc. – in order to help you send promotions that might relate to them. In some ways, it’s the best of the other types and can be used for both sales generation and building relationships. That is, as long as you have a process in place for targeted promotions.

The key to using a CRM is to make sure it’s genuinely productive for your team, and not a burden to those using it. When you’re looking to select a CRM, it’s best to know the method most likely to help visitors turn into customers, and also which CRM type fits best with that method.

CRM Top Picks for Leads

Once you’ve matched the method with the type, you’ll then need to choose a specific CRM software, which will be dependent on factors like overall cost and ease of use for your team. Let’s take a look at a couple of the top CRMs in each category. Keep in mind that some of these may cross categories, and that’s okay!

Conversational
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SalesforceIQ – Salesforce has a unique user interface, making it stand out a little from the crowd. Rather than including customized database fields, it focuses almost entirely on conversations. Your team adds your email accounts, selects the conversations you’d like to hear about, and then works on them collaboratively to help accomplish tasks. It will also pull conversations from all of your contacts, so you’ll have an overview of the whole company’s relationships. It’s priced at $69 per user per month.

Streak – This CRM uses your email along with a few powerful Gmail features to help share conversations with your colleagues. It organizes your messages into a pipeline, adds notes to conversations, and is fully customizable. There’s also a notification tool to remind you to send emails to customers, too. It’s free for up to five users, with each additional user priced at $19 per user per month.

Lead Generation

hubspotcrm

HubSpot CRM – HubSpot CRM is known for being an automation tool, and you can either use it alongside other marketing tools or on its own. It allows you to add contact’s names and emails, and it will search out any relevant information to include based on those data fields. One of the biggest benefits is its flexibility, as it allows you to drag and drop fields and rearrange lists as needed. The best news? It’s free (though Premium features through HubSpot marketing suite may cost a little extra).

Zoho CRM – This CRM is fairly robust. You can capture leads from Facebook pages, automate workflows into a sales funnel, and integrate it with other marketing tools. It also allows you to merge mail documents from your contacts, start a video conference, and more. It’s free for up to three users, with each additional user priced at $12 per user per month.

Contacts

highrisecrm

Highrise – Similar to the project management app Basecamp, Highrise helps you gather as much information about your contacts as possible, allowing you to track deals in progress as well. The best part is that it’s relatively inexpensive, and dare we say free. You can include up to two users at no charge, and it only costs $4 for each additional user (after two) per month.

Insightly – This software uses a similar interface to Gmail, and also features excellent integration with Google apps. One of its primary features is to find your contact’s social network profiles and show it alongside additional information gathered from your team. There are also interfaces for task management and advanced reporting. It’s free for up to three users, with each additional user coming in at $9 per user per month.

Looking for more CRMs to specifically help generate leads? Check out our comparative list.

Final Thoughts

Choosing a CRM is about helping you build the right type of relationships with your customers. If they’re the sort who love social media interaction and want to connect with real people on your team if they have questions, a conversational or lead generating CRM like SalesforceIQ or Zoho will do the trick.

If they really just want to be able to contact you and have you contact them (with important birthday discounts, of course) then a contact CRM like Highrise will work well enough.

Just be sure that the CRM fits your team’s working style, as some have different layouts and workflows. You may want to try out a few of the free ones before committing to get a better idea of which one works best for you.

The Lazy Man’s Guide to Autoresponders

Businesses send emails to their users on a daily basis. It’s simply the way of life in the digital age. But most email marketers aren’t taking full advantage when it comes to using emails to generate leads.

Marketing expert Chris Hexton of Vero says, “About 75% of businesses are missing out on the email marketing sweet spot.” He notes that while newsletters have an open rate around 20%, transactional emails – or trigger-based welcome emails – have an open rate of around 50% and are over 100% more effective when it comes to open rates, click-through rates, and conversions.

So how do you take advantage of this sweet spot, exactly? You use autoresponders, of course.

Don’t miss: 6 Examples of Highly Effective Autoresponders

What Are They and What Can They Do?

An autoresponder is a sequence of trigger-based emails sent to subscribers at different predetermined intervals. There are typically a few different creative ways to use an autoresponder to generate leads or promote your products or services. These can include (but are not limited to):

  1. Mini-Course or Welcome Course – This is a series of emails that teach your subscribers about a certain aspect of your industry or more about your specific product or service.
  2. Paid Course – Similar to the mini-course, this is a more in-depth series that informs subscribers about a technical aspect of your industry, product or service.
  3. Content Promotion – This is a series of emails that introduce subscribers to important content you’ve already produced or are currently producing on your blog or media channels.
  4. Affiliate Promotions – This is a way to promote affiliate products and promotions, and can be helpful for cross-promoting and upselling your own content, product, or services as well.
  5. Demos and Social Proof – This is a series of emails that help your current subscribers see the benefits of your product or service on an ongoing basis.
  6. Newsletters – This is another source of automated content that can inform or educate your subscribers in addition to a blog or mini-course.

What’s nice about autoresponders is that you can take your audience through a sequence of emails without doing any work, since you’ve already written the emails beforehand. As you can tell, there are plenty of creative uses for autoresponders, depending on your audience and needs.

But which type (or types) of autoresponders will work best for your business? Well, that will depend on the benefits you want to get out of them.

How to Choose the Right Autoresponder Type

The main goal of an autoresponder is to move users deeper into your sales funnel. But before you create a single email, you have to understand your end goal.

If you simply want to sell products or services, you’ll probably have a different approach to autoresponders than someone who wants to create brand loyalty or be seen as experts.

Do you want to sell a product or a service? A welcome course, an affiliate course, or a series of demos and social proof may be your best option to help newcomers understand the benefits of using your business.

Do you want to establish a long-term relationship? Consider creating a content series for blog posts or establishing a great mini-course that helps subscribers stay connected to your business.

Do you want to be seen as an industry authority? Consider doing a paid course including valuable industry information to show off your expert status.

If you want to do all three, you certainly can. There’s really no limit to the ways you can use autoresponders. The only thing stopping you is, you know, actually creating them.

So how do you quickly and easily create your autoresponder series without spending too much time and energy? Well, here’s what you need to know.

Quickly Create Effective Autoresponders

There are plenty of email marketing companies out there that will more than happily help you create your autoresponders, such as MailChimp, AWeber, Active Campaign, and more. But even if you have a marketing company doing the actual sending, you’ll still need to actually create the autoresponder content and design.

Here are a few tips and tricks to creating effective autoresponders in no time.

Start With a Strong Editorial Calendar

Having an outline of your course and/or a well thought-out editorial calendar is the key to success. Start by planning how many autoresponder emails you want in your series (three to six emails is a good guideline) and then create an outline of each email including subject lines and descriptions.

editorial-calendar-template

AWeber provides several editorial calendar templates and outlines you can use to help you through the process, or if you really want most of the work done for you, check out Dusti Arab’s six-week autoresponder template.

Set a Balanced Schedule

You’ll want to set a schedule for your autoresponders that is both effective (as in, there’s enough emails being sent to actually get a high click-through rate) without being overwhelming for your subscribers.

Mini-courses and welcome courses are often sent on consecutive days over the course of a week, or sometimes once a week for a certain period of time (usually no more than six weeks).

Other types of autoresponders can be tailored to the needs of your audience, but generally speaking, once or twice per week or once per month is probably enough for most people. Just be sure to track your open rates and unsubscribe numbers to ensure that your audience isn’t overloaded.

Choose the Right Subject Lines

The subject lines of your emails are extremely important when it comes to open rates, so you’ll want to start by coming up with some good ones. The folks over at Creative Live have some tips, including:

  1. Make a Promise: “You’ll Double Your Blog Readership with These 10 Tips.”
  2. Highlight a Benefit: “Learn to Write a Headline Your Twitter Followers Actually Click.”
  3. Appeal to Your Reader’s Emotions: “Why I Gave Up Thousands of Blog Readers and Started Over.”
  4. Appeal to Your Reader’s Curiosity: “The Reason No One Comments on Your Blog Posts.”

Develop Great Content

If you already have blog content, half of your work is done for you. But if you’re starting from scratch – and you’re not a writer (or nobody in your business is a writer) – consider hiring a professional copywriter to produce materials for you. Nothing says, “We don’t know what we’re doing” like poorly written copy, so make sure the words you put out there reflect the high standards of your business.

But if you do plan on doing it yourself, Nathalie Lussier over at Ambitionally has a helpful content walkthrough for creating an effective series.

Include Social Proof and Credibility

Your audience wants to know that the information they receive from you is coming from experts and not amateurs. The key to an effective autoresponder is to include some type of social proof, like a testimony or personal story in every email to keep your audience connected to your business on a personal level.

socialproof

Optinmonster has some suggestions for choosing the most effective social proof.

Make Your Designs “Pop”

While your content is the star of the show, you don’t want to have people ignore your fabulous content because the email itself is ugly and hard to read. Jason Amunwa over at Digital Telepathy has some suggestions for developing beautifully designed HTML emails, including how to deal with certain types of images, text, and calls to action. Litmus also has some great tips, including utilizing a mobile-friendly layout and more.

Segment Your Email Lists

Finally, you’ll want to make sure you’re not sending your autoresponders to everyone on your subscribers list. Your goal should be to break up your email lists to target audiences that would most benefit from your content. Why? Well, according to Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report, 39% of marketers who segmented their email lists experienced higher open rates, 28% experienced lower unsubscribe rates, and 24% experienced better deliverability and greater revenue.
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Having segmented email lists also means you can send out as many types of autoresponders as you want, essentially ensuring that your whole audience is moving down your sales funnel with minimal effort on your part. And if you’re looking to save as much time and energy as possible, minimal effort is a beautiful thing.

Don’t forget to check out our list of highly effective autoresponders!

How to Deal with Clients That Aren’t Designers (But Think They Are)

Look, you’ve spent years honing your craft, learning the tricks of the trade, and working hard to set yourself apart from the competition and make a name for yourself as a real expert in your field.

That’s why it can be particularly frustrating to encounter a client that doesn’t see you that way – or, at the very least, thinks they can do what you can do without half the training or talent.

Sure, they appreciate your portfolio and they know what you have to offer is probably better than what they can do. Yet whenever you send your designs for approval, they always have something to tweak. There are always one or two things they want done differently.

That’s when you politely remind them that there’s a reason for everything you’ve done, and changing it would significantly impact the work as a whole.

But what happens if they insist that you make changes, even though you know those changes will ruin your work?

Well, there’s good news and bad news…

Don’t Miss: Agency-Client Conflict Resolution Guide

The Good News: You’re the Expert

There’s a reason they hired you, and it’s because you know what you’re doing. The trick is convincing them that you see a perspective they might have missed.

Be Prepared

BoredPanda-Designer

Source: BoredPanda

Make sure that every time you present your work, you’re fully prepared. Common issues that come up with design work in particular include logo sizes, choice of fonts (anything but Comic Sans, please), and content location.

The best thing you can do is to have a solid explanation for why you chose the size/font/placement that you did, and include those reasons when you submit your work. Sending a file without context is simply begging for unwanted commentary.

Don’t forget that designs get passed around too, and clients may not always include your explanation when they share your proposals with others. Be ready to rehash your reasoning as many times as possible, if necessary. Yes, it’s annoying, but it may save you from having a major headache later on in the process.

Choose Your Battles

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Source: Smashing Magazine

Remember, when it comes to their business, your clients are just as protective of their creative vision as you are of yours. Your clients are not the enemy. They’re coming to you because you know what you’re doing, so you want to make sure you present yourself as an expert without belittling their approach.

If changes they suggest aren’t absolutely vital to your design aesthetics or aren’t time consuming to make, you can let your clients win. If, however, you find yourself fighting the urge to vomit when you think about tweaking your design, stick to your guns.

Act Like An Expert (But Not A Jerk)

Sometimes “sticking to your guns” will mean telling the client that their ideas are terrible, which may or may not go over so well depending on the client. But there are a few ways you can frame the conversation so that you both walk away winners.

#1. Reframe their concerns to solve a problem. Every client has an underlying reason they want a project done a certain way; maybe they have a specific audience or goal in mind. Assure them you really are acting in the best interests. Let them know that you were really listening during their proposal, you’ve done some research of your own, and according to that research, your approach may actually improve their desired results. If you really want to go the extra mile, have some studies on hand that back it up.

#2. Make sure to include them in the process. You’re an expert in your field, but they’re also experts in their respective fields. If they have certain colors they want to use or content they want to include, do your best to incorporate what they want it in ways that work for you too. Again, if something they suggest is just too far out there and you simply can’t make it work with the current project, suggest another project or solution and help them understand why it won’t work with the current design.

#3. Use the right language for the right situation. Telling your clients that they’re terrible people is a lot different than suggesting that a design strategy may not work as well as they’d hoped. But it’s incredibly easy for frustration to turn an innocent suggestion into an actual insult. Remember that words can start wars as easily as they can solve problems, so choose your words carefully. (Mike Michalowicz over at Amex’s OPEN Forum wrote a great article about using the right language with difficult clients.)

The Bad News: The Client Is “Always Right”

Of course, at the end of the day, what really matters is what the client wants. As much as you’re an expert and a highly valuable member of the team, they’re the ones writing the checks, so what they say, goes.

But what happens if you just can’t come to a feasible solution that works for both you and the client? Well, you may either have to do a little conflict resolution, or you may have to straight up dump them as a client.

Handle Conflict Like a Pro

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Source: Millo

The absolute best thing you can do is to remain as professional as possible. No matter what, keep your cool.

Let’s say the worst has happened and you’ve done hours of work only to have the client reject everything and ask you to start over. Maybe you’re even willing to do so, but when you tell them how much a new design will cost, they freak out. The last thing you want to do is add fuel to the fire by blaming others or being rude.

Listen to what they have to say, admit any faults from your end, offer any alternative solutions you see, use positive language, and if things get really heated, walk away.

Not only will keeping calm potentially save your relationship with the client (should you choose to continue working with them) but you’ll also save your reputation in the industry over the long haul.

Make Your “Dear John” Sweet But Swift

Of course, having a high level of professionalism on your end doesn’t mean that the client will respond with the same attitude.

Sometimes clients will come to you because you’re just another creative type who can get things done, and not because you specifically have skills they want. If you can’t do what they want, they might throw a fit or – worst case scenario, decide to withhold payment or otherwise make your working relationship a living nightmare.

If things just aren’t working out the way you’d like, you always have the option of walking away. Here’s what to keep in mind while doing so:

#1. Finish any work related to your written contract or verbal agreement. The last thing you want is to get sued by a vindictive client who paid you money to do a project you didn’t finish (at least finish from their perspective). Make sure that you’ve fulfilled any obligations that you signed up for, or that you have an escape clause in the contract that you signed before you start working with them (an ounce of prevention…).

#2. Set a firm “leave by” date and stick to it. Let your clients know that you’ll be moving on and that they can expect to receive any remaining files from you by a certain date.

#3. Try not to burn a bridge (if at all possible). If you can, include a few positive statements in your “Dear John” email about why you liked working with them and let them know that you’re available for other work in the future (if you’re open to that, obviously). Remember that referrals are a great source of business, so if you can salvage the relationship professionally, do so.

Need help dealing with difficult clients? Check out our Agency-Client Conflict Resolution Guide.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with clients can be tricky, especially when they feel like they can do your job as well as you can. But remember that you’re the expert and you know what you’re doing, and they’re coming to you for your design prowess.

If the time comes where you need to convince a client that your way is best, remember to backup any suggestions with resources, use positive language, offer alternative solutions, and try to incorporate their ideas as much as possible (without sacrificing your time and talent, of course).

If things just aren’t working out and you simply need to move on, be professional, be quick, and don’t burn a bridge unless absolutely necessary.

How to Build Efficient E-Commerce Checkout Forms

Forms come in many shapes and sizes, from the basic lead generation form that asks for a name and an email all the way to those pesky multi-step forms that will essentially require your entire life’s history to complete.

But somewhere in the middle is the e-commerce checkout form, which is a unique animal unto itself. But what makes it so special?

Don’t miss: 7 Examples of Truly Inspirational E-Commerce Forms

Checkout Forms vs. Standard Forms

Well, for starters, checkout forms carry a bit more weight than standard forms, mainly because they need to process payments and fees. A standard form, on the other hand, is typically there to gather information, usually in the form of a name and email and not much else.

This means that checkout forms come with their own set of challenges. Some of those challenges include:

Calculating Payments

Your checkout form will undoubtedly pull a price from somewhere, and usually it’s a shopping cart. Even if your form is a simple one for processing a single payment (like downloading an e-book or a single product), there’s still payment involved, which means that your form has some calculating to do above and beyond a traditional form.

Even after calculating the price of the shopping cart items, your form will also need to calculate shipping costs (which can fluctuate based on a variety of factors) as well as any applicable taxes associated with the products. And you’ll need to make sure that you’re processing all payments through a secure gateway, which is another thing that you never have to worry about with standard forms.

Shopping Cart Abandonment

One other big factor when it comes to checkout forms is follow-through. Because most people who subscribe using standard forms are only asked for basic information, the follow-through rate is usually pretty high. But this isn’t always the case for e-commerce checkout forms. In fact, the average shopping cart abandonment rate – or the rate at which people don’t finish their purchase – is at a staggering 68%. That means 1 in 4 people will not finish using your checkout form.

The reason why people aren’t finishing their purchases is surprising: it’s about transparency. Customers often complain that they have little to no information about the purchase during the checkout process, including shipping fees and estimated delivery dates. Also on the list? Usability.

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Basically, if a form isn’t upfront about the costs associated with the purchase, or the form itself is confusing and hard to use, people won’t bother filling it out. It’s those extra things that make a checkout form that much more harrowing for a designer or storeowner than a standard form could ever be.

So what’s the best way to overcome these challenges and create an efficient checkout form that customers will actually follow through on using?

Checkout Form Best Practices

To make sure that your users actually fill out your checkout forms, you’ll need to follow some best practices when designing them. Here’s a general rundown of things to include to make sure your forms are as efficient as possible.

Be Transparent

Like we said before, the number one reason people won’t use your form is a lack of transparency when it comes to prices. People want to see what’s in their cart, what their total cost will be (including shipping and handling), and when they can expect their product to arrive. Even if they’re ordering a digital download, you should still be upfront about when they can expect their download to be available.

Take a page from SodaStream’s book and include as much information as possible on your form’s landing page, even if you have to use multiple steps to do it (be sure to show the summary at the final step).

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Don’t Force Registration

One surprising reason why people may skip filling out your checkout form altogether is being forced to register for an account in order to purchase something. When it comes to usability, forced registration is actually a top complaint.

While accounts are a benefit to anyone ordering – they make tracking packages and reordering easier, for one – they can turn people off if they’re mandatory. The best way to handle accounts it is to give your customers the option to setup an account (or save the information they’ve already inputted) after the checkout process is complete.

Make Your Form Fields Clear

While it may seem like common sense that people would know what to input into any given field, you would be surprised how often the wrong information ends up in the wrong place. To improve usability, try to make your form fields as clear as possible by including microcopy – little pieces of text that give instruction – above or below your form fields to eliminate any doubt.

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Include Fewer Fields Where Possible

The age-old adage “less is more” holds true here. Because checkout forms already ask for so much sensitive information, it’s important that you only ask for the things you absolutely need. Of course, this information will be more than a standard form because you’ll need things like shipping and billing address, but make sure that you’re only asking for information that helps verify a purchase so that users can get through it quickly.

Use Visual Cues

Because checkout forms are typically longer than lead generating forms, they will probably come in multiple steps, which can be confusing for many users, especially if your customer base skews toward the older generation. The more visual cues you can give – big, bold, colorful buttons, arrows, bullet points, or even small images – will go a long way to helping customers get through the process with minimal effort.

Use Progress Indicators for Long Forms

Speaking of multiple steps, the best thing you can possibly do for your long checkout forms is to include a progress indicator showing exactly which step the user is at in any given moment. If you’re able, you should also include a “save” feature so that customers can come back at any point in the process. Not only is this great for usability, but being able to come back to a purchase without having to do extra work is a great incentive for fulfilling purchases (and counteracting that pesky abandoned cart).

Include Trust Symbols

Finally, one of the most important things you absolutely must include in your checkout form is a symbol (or symbols) of trust. Trust symbols show that the user’s information is safe from hackers and that they can rest easy knowing that you’re not spreading their credit card information to spammers. If you skip anything else on this list, don’t let it be this!

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Final Thoughts

Checkout forms may be a bit more complicated than standard lead generation forms, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be just as user friendly.

When designing or including these forms on your site, make sure to focus on elements like transparency and usability to eliminate the chance of abandoned carts.

Be sure to include only what’s necessary, and use visual elements like progress indicators, arrows, or images to guide your users through long forms.

And whatever you do, include trust symbols that show the user that their financial safety is your first priority.

Need a little inspiration? Check out our 7 Examples of Truly Inspirational E-Commerce Forms

9 Client Communication Tools for Designers and Developers

Working as a designer or developer is great when it’s something you’re passionate about, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy job.

One of the biggest challenges is dealing with clients, especially if you’re working as a freelancer. But even if you’re part of an agency or larger organization, you still have to communicate with clients often.

If you have a relatively painless client, that might mean once a week, but if you have a more challenging client, that could easily be once a day (or more, if they’re micromanagers).

It’s easy for designers/developers to become overwhelmed by the level of communication going back and forth. How do you manage to keep your clients in the loop while retaining the majority of your sanity?

Well, we’re looking at a few helpful tips – and more importantly, tools – that are readily available to help out with all of your communication needs. Let’s dive in…

Skip to the chase by checking out our guide: Which Communication Tool Works Best for My Needs?

Get Out of Your Inbox

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One of the primary ways most creative types communicate with clients is email, which is an okay system if you hate being stuck in phone meetings. But the trouble with email is that sometimes wires get crossed: emails get stuck in spam folders or outboxes; people forget to hit “reply all” … The list of problems with email is unfortunately long, and it’s easy to miss something important in the chaos.

This is why one of the best things you can do is stop relying on your email inbox and use more collaborative software to help get your message across. This not only applies to simple things like asking a question or suggesting an idea, but using tools to share project proposals and previews of your work.

Here are a few great tools that can help you move outside of your email inbox:

ConceptShare

ConceptShare is a communication tool especially designed for creative types. It helps you streamline the review and approval process for any project, and it allows for online proofing with workflow automation, which means you can work with clients from one place without having to send a hundred emails back and forth.

InVision

InVision is web-based (and mobile) app that lets designers/developers turn their work into active prototypes with animations. Clients can provide feedback and comments directly on the site and track progress in real-time by looking at your to-do list.

Slack

Slack is a popular communication tool, and for good reason. It takes the best of email and live-chat features and combines them into one app that you can use on your desktop or mobile device. Aside from private messages you can also create collaborative boards around different projects or topics, which is helpful if you’re working with a larger team of people or on multiple projects with a single client at once.

Turn “Clients” into “Teammates”

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One of the most frustrating things about working with clients is dealing with someone who doesn’t understand exactly what it is you do. You might spend countless hours trying to explain to them why you can’t do what they want, or why it’s taking you so long to implement a certain solution.

While it’s easy to freak out about how much you need to communicate with your clients (time that could be better spent, you know, working on their projects), you can actually avoid much of that struggle by switching your mindset from communicating with a “client” to communicating with a “teammate.”

Clients are annoying bosses, but teammates are there to help and support you while you help and support them. If you’re feeling bogged down by a client’s level of interest in your methods, instead of pushing them away (or dropping them altogether), consider bringing them in as part of your “team” – even if it’s just for vanity’s sake.

Here are a few tools that can help you collaborate with clients:

Basecamp

Basecamp is a very popular web-based project management tool that helps multiple groups rally around a single project. Because the project is the focus, you can create a system where both you and the client are on the same page about various stages of the project.

Trello

Trello is another popular project management application system designed to break down projects into manageable “cards” that you can assign to different people. If you’re looking to create a collaborative team environment without worrying about being micromanaged (or needing to micromanage), Trello is the perfect solution. It also has the bonus of adding a visual element to otherwise technical projects.

Asana

Asana is a free project management tool designed to help teams track projects from start to finish. One of its best features is that it lets you see the overall progress of your project step by step, so your clients know exactly how long something will take without having to bug you about it.

Keep Track of Everything

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The best case scenario for a developer or designer is to have a client that gives you a generous deadline and then trusts you to complete your project on time – meaning that they don’t hassle you at any point during the development project. But not all clients are easy.

If you’re working with a client that checks in with you constantly, whether about hours or project specs, it’s to your advantage to be one step ahead of them. The best way to keep micromanagers at bay is to make sure you’re already keeping track of everything before they ask about it. The more organized you are from the get-go, the better you’ll be able to squash any fears or concerns your clients have along the way.

Here are three tools that can help you stay organized:

Funnel

Funnel is a simple CRM tool that helps you keep track of all of your client information as well as project specs and more. You essentially create a pipeline that monitors all your activity with your client, which is especially helpful if you’ve been working with a client for a long time and want a detailed history of your projects. If clients are constantly asking about projects you worked on months or even years ago, Funnel can help.

Timely

Timely is a scheduling and time tracking app that helps you keep track of how much time you’re spending on a certain client or project. This is particularly handy if you have micromanaging clients, you bill by the hour, or you have someone on retainer for a certain amount of billable time each month.

Wunderlist

Wunderlist is a to-do list tool that helps you plan your individual tasks, set notifications and reminders, and collaborate with clients so they can see exactly what you’re up to and when you’re working. The best part is that it’s available on both desktop and mobile so you can update it on the go. If you have clients who want to see the project laid out in detail, this will help.

Still not sure which tool is right for the job? Download our free guide.

Final Thoughts

Working as a designer or developer isn’t easy, especially when it comes to communication. But you can lighten that load using tools specifically designed to help you communicate better.

Remember that email isn’t your only option when it comes to communication. In fact, you may be significantly better off staying out of your inbox altogether and creating a workflow that provides more visual and team-based communication for your clients, especially if they’re prone to avoiding your emails.

If you deal with needy clients, you don’t always have to push them away; sometimes the problem can be solved by bringing them closer to the project and making them feel like a part of the team.  Try using tools that let clients follow along with your project workload on their own so they don’t have to waste your time checking in.

Finally, stay on top of micromanagers by creating an organized system so you always know how to respond to pesky questions and requests. The more work you do on your end to keep everything running smoothly, the less likely they’ll be to light up your inbox or phone with messages.

How to Tell If Your Marketing Campaign Needs a Microsite

If you have something to promote, be it a product or campaign, chances are you’re already in the process of putting together a marketing strategy. There’s even a chance you’ve come across a very scary word during the course of your planning: microsite.

But what it is? What does it do? And more importantly, do you need one?

For those of you still doing research, microsites are small websites that concentrate on a certain topic and often feature content developed by a sponsoring brand (they can look and feel different from the sponsored brand’s site, however).

They’re great for a number of reasons. One, they have the flexibility to integrate content and design in such a way that creates a focused, yet often visually appealing alternative to simply adding another page to your already bloated main website. They’re also great for targeting certain audiences or creating buzz around a certain product or promotion.

But if they’re so great, why doesn’t everyone use them all the time? Well, because while microsites are great, they’re not necessarily the right choice for every campaign or product.

So how do you know if you need one? Let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages to help you decide.

OR take our quick and easy quiz! Does My Campaign Need a Microsite?

Advantages of a Microsite

Microsites can be a great choice for certain campaigns and products. If your product is new and needs a lot of explanation or audience testing, for example, a microsite is a great choice. There are many advantages to having a microsite as part of your marketing strategy.

Increased Interest

Microsites let you take something specific and put it out in front of your target market in a focused and detailed way to gauge interest levels. Not only are you saying, “Look at me!” but you’re also able to tell if your customers really want what you’re offering (hint: if they’re not coming to your microsite, they might not be interested). Campaigns or products that rely on market testing may be a great fit for a microsite.

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Creative Branding

If what you’re promoting is something unique, you may want to consider branching out from your sponsored brand and taking creative measures to market it. That can be hard to do with a traditional site, especially if your current site is heavy in CSS that you don’t want to fiddle with. Microsites, on the other hand, come with their own rules, meaning that you can design it to fit any branding guidelines. You could make it dramatically different than your regular site to draw a new audience, or you could keep it simple and sleek to highlight the specific product or campaign as needed. Either way, the possibilities are endless.

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Faster Development

If you have a product or campaign that’s seasonal or temporary, you might consider using a microsite, especially if you still want all the bells and whistles of a full site but don’t want to spend too many hours throwing one together. Microsites are fairly quick to build, they can be adjusted and tweaked with relative ease, and they can be taken down (or put back up) as needed.

Detail-Friendly

The great thing about microsites is that they allow you to include as much information as you need without weighing down your main site, which means that if your product or campaign is detail-rich, you’ll do well with having a small, compact site.

Cost Effective

If your product or campaign needs to be big but you’re not ready to shill out the money for expensive marketing tactics, a microsite is a temporary, cost-effective solution that can be reused when needed. They’re also particularly handy if you want something that looks professional but don’t mind a smaller, more focused approach.

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Disadvantages of a Microsite

Of course, you might not need or want all of those things. Maybe you’re required to stick within branding guidelines, or your product is fairly self-explanatory and having a whole site dedicated to it might overwhelm potential customers. There are plenty of reasons not to use microsites in certain circumstances.

Mixed Messages

One issue many marketers face with microsites is that they force users to leave a current site and jump onto a new one. While this can be advantageous in certain circumstances (as in, you really want your product to stand out), it can also be confusing for customers if not implemented properly. They may think your microsite is a pop-up advertisement or they don’t recognize it as a part of your site. A few ways around this would be to make sure that your branding is recognizable (even if your campaign is differently branded) and that they have access (links) to your main site.

Long-Term Costs

While microsites are fairly cheap to setup, they’re not always cheap to maintain. If your product or campaign is temporary, it’s not usually a big deal. But if you’re looking to keep up your microsite over the long term, it may actually backfire. As technology and SEO grows and adapts, your site – like any website – will need to be updated to keep pace with new tech. While you’re already spending time and money optimizing your main website, you’ll also need to spend resources maintaining all of your microsites too. Those expenses can add up if you’re not prepared.

Not Enough Information

Depending on how you setup your microsite, you may actually turn away customers if there’s not enough detail to include on your site. If you’re trying to market something where all the details can fit onto a regular landing page, creating a whole separate site to promote it may be a bad option. Because microsites lead customers away from your normal page, if you don’t have enough information there to keep people’s attention, you could be hurting your chances of them navigating back to your original page. If your details are sparse, stay away from microsites.

Don’t miss our quiz: Does My Campaign Need a Microsite?

Do You Need a Microsite?

Microsites can be really great if you have the right product or campaign to promote, but they’re certainly not for everyone. Consider the needs of your marketing campaign. If your marketing campaign is short term (or seasonal), or it offers something unique that can handle plenty of attention without distracting customers from your main website, then microsites are a great choice.

You should also consider the flexibility of your current site. If your main site feels overloaded or doesn’t have a lot of flexibility when it comes to adding more than a few pages, you might want to consider creating a microsite.

If your current site has plenty of room to grow, however, and your campaign will be a long-term fixture of your company, you may want to consider keeping it a part of your current site and scraping the microsite idea all together. If you think an extra site will confuse your customers, or you don’t really feel the need to create a whole new set of branding for a single promotion, you might also steer clear of microsites.

But ultimately the choice is yours. If you don’t mind taking a risk, microsites are a quick and easy option to test something out, and if you (or your customers) end up hating it, no one is really worse for the wear.