Sometimes, fifteen seconds is all you have.
This is two minute marketing with Eytan Buchman, and if you were the average website reader, you’d be finished reading a webpage in the time it took me to say this. That 15 second constraint makes writing compelling homepage copy -particularly your homepage header and subheader – excruciating. So I went hunting for best practices…and Mixpanel stole my heart. So I reached out to the person who headed up the marketing poetry that is their homepage.
Hi. My name is Amelia Salyers, and I am Director of Corporate Marketing at Mixpanel. Corporate marketing is a very boring word for something that actually is really fun, which is basically saying that we are storytellers. Mixpanel, in case you don’t know, is a user analytics platform that helps digital products, apps, websites, internet of things things, help companies understand how their users are interacting with their apps products, and ultimately help them build better customer experiences with data.
Over the next five minutes, you’re going to hear the recipe for crafting the perfect homepage copy. One note – Amelia shared too much marketing gold for one episode, so like Bruce Almighty or Mean Girls, this podcast is going to have an epic sequel.
Amelia admits that the process is hard.
I found that nothing is quite as divisive or controversial as those first two lines on your home page. Getting to something that folks both inside and outside your company believe in is both an art and a science.
For Mixpanel, this translates into a great, value-driven header – UNDERSTAND EVERY USER’S JOURNEY – followed by a non-fluffy subheader, functional subheader – “Acquire, engage, and retain with actionable user analytics”. Here’s how they got there.
There’s a line from the Economist Style Guide, nerdy I know, that I really love and think about a lot. “Clarity of writing usually follows clarity of thought.” While I believe this is true for all writing, it is certainly true when it comes to copywriting. You know, even the best prose in the world won’t save you if you don’t know what you’re trying to say. It’s simple but true.
First, start with clear messaging that you believe in. Start with belief. And then validate it. In the case of our homepage, we actually recently changed our messaging on the homepage and it came from some adjustments in our overall positioning. the positioning came from lots of customer research but it was also our take on what customers were looking for and cared about, so we were really trying to synthesize.
In other words, behind the pithy phrases on our site are decks on decks of research, hours with customers, lots of discussion among lots of stakeholders, looking at all of our data to try to understand what people wanted. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s actually so worth it to land on a position that all teams believe in. Then you can have arguments about style instead of substance. Having been in a lot of conversations that I thought were arguments about style but actually about substance, I can tell you this is much better.
The next step? Testing the a message. Mixpanel started by validating with their field sales team but quickly morphed to digital testing.
Once you have a message you start testing and validating. We started doing this with our new positioning very quickly in the field with our sales team. We actually realized, you know what? We have a great opportunity to test this on our home page through a very traditional A/B test.
Here’s what the test looked like
We set up a simple test with three variants and one control, and we had two main goals. First, could any of our new positioning statements show better conversion than our old statement, and two, of the new ones, would one of those three variants lead to better conversions than the rest? Of the three variants, we had a hypothesis for each about which part of our new messaging would resonate. We even had a contest internally where people picked which one they thought would resonate. For the record, I lost spectacularly.
Basically, after nailing down the potential messages, the Mixpanel team created three variants, each emphasizing different messaging. Again, note that this isn’t cosmetic copy testing, it’s actually testing core ideas regarding which messages resonate. I also love how brief and to the point the message is. This was no accident.
The copy had really clear constraints. Constraints are good in writing and experimenting alike.
All three of our new variants all outperformed our control, so overall our new positioning was working. Then among the variants, there was one clear winner. To be clear, I think we got a little lucky since we got it right on the first try, but that almost never happens. It also speaks to having a really clear message from the start. Again, clarity of writing follows clarity of thought. We started with trying to get really clear in our thinking, and then we validated that and got to better writing through working through the data. It’s both an art and a science.
This is a great example about how marketing today is really about combining data and messaging; both build off of each other to evolve something great. As a matter of fact, when we ran a similar process at my company, we even used data to craft the initial messaging, building variants of messages from phrase frequencies in customer reviews.
One note upfront is that it’s okay to break form. You don’t need a header and a subheader; Duolingo is a great example of pure minimalism, and Amelia shot over General Electric and Thumbtacks’ homepage, both which use clean and minimalist messaging, combined with elegant use of a search bar.
In our next episode with Mixpanel, you’ll hear more about how quantitive and qualitative skills join forces for the perfect marketing storm. Until then, you may want to brush up on both statistics and Shakespeare. As always, you can follow this podcast on iTunes, Anchor or wherever you listen to podcasts.