February 13, 2020

The Low-Hanging Fruit: 11 specific examples of small marketing and communication changes that drove big results


There are a lot of BIG things you could do with your marketing — launch a major campaign, rebrand, implement and integrate MarTech stack, replatform, even run a Super Bowl ad.

And they can have a major impact.

However …

Sometimes the biggest bang for your buck is finding the low-hanging fruit.

To help your team find these golden opportunities, here are 11 specific examples of small marketing and communication changes that drove big results.

Read on to see the story behind a 30% increase in on-page conversions for a consumer services company, 43% increase in revenue for an enterprise consulting company, 52% increase in CTR for a media company, and much more.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

(As seen in the MarketingSherpa newsletter. Click to get a free email subscription to the latest from MarketingSherpa.)

Perhaps it’s human nature. Or maybe it’s just marketers’ nature.

When there is a goal or challenge, we go big.

And hey, I’m no different. I’m a creative from the birth of my career, so my mind always wants to go to the big, exciting, shiny ideas first.

In doing so, sometimes we overlook smaller solutions that can lead to a big enough impact. Here are 11 examples of relatively small efforts that got a good return. To get your creative juices flowing for similar opportunities with your organization or clients, read on …

Example #1: 52% increase in clickthrough for media company by changing three words on a button

A large global media company seeking to sell premium software to businesses conducted an experiment with the MECLABS conversion marketing services team to learn how to move more visitors to the next step in the funnel. (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa.)

Some of the experimentation focused on a call-to-action button on a landing page. The team tested five treatments of text for the button:

  • Start Free Trial
  • Try Now
  • Start Here
  • Get Started
  • Get Started Now

Before you scroll down and see the results, you might want to take a look at that text. Can you put it in order from best-performing to least-performing copy?

The CTA in this test was attempting to get visitors to try a collection of web and mobile-based apps for business.​

Here are the results, from the highest performer to the lowest performer …

  1. Get Started Now – 298% clickthrough rate, 52.1% higher than the worst performer
  2. Start Free Trial – 19.66% CTR, 36% higher
  3. Get Started – 18.22% clickthrough rate, 26.1% higher
  4. Start Here – 17.69% clickthrough rate, 22.4% higher
  5. Try Now – 14.45% clickthrough rate, the lowest performer

When I do an exact match search on Google for “Try Now,” I get 39,300,000 results. It is a commonly used phrase.

I’m not trying to imply that it never works. But we do know that, in this case, if the marketing team did not run an experiment but launched the landing page with “Try Now” instead of “Get Started Now,” they would have missed out on that 52% increase in clickthrough.

A small change, with a big result.

To learn why there was such a discrepancy in performance and how you can improve your own CTAs, you can watch Flint McGlaughlin, CEO and Managing Director, MECLABS Institute in 150 Experiments on the Call-to-Action: Six psychological conditions that hinder our results (video also embedded below).



Example #2: Using “big data” grew on-page conversion 30% for consumer services company

Don’t be intimidated by those words “big data.” Remember, we’re focused on easy changes here. And this next example shows how a small company found a simple way to use data to better tap into customer motivations.

GreenPal CEO Bryan Clayton describes his company as “Uber for Lawn Care.”

“I was getting my butt kicked in our Google AdWords account; I had tried almost everything I could think of until one simple change that I made proved to be the thing that would give me a leg up [on] my competition,” he said.

A typical GreenPal pay-per-click ad targeted the entire metro Nashville area and featured a headline like “Local Lawn Pros in Nashville are a click away.” This ad was getting a clickthrough rate of more than 1% and a conversion rate of more than 10% on the Nashville landing page.

To make the ads more contextual and relevant to the viewer, Clayton’s team researched publicly available Census data, looking at the average income and home values throughout the Nashville area.

When I hear the buzzword “big data,” right away I think of a complex and expensive offering from a marketing platform. But really, all it takes to use data from many U.S. government agencies is a web browser, a little time and a whole lot of curiosity about your customer.

If you’re not familiar with the United States Census Bureau, its mission is “to serve as the nation’s leading provider of quality data about its people and economy.” It is essentially a public good for every man, woman and child in America.

And marketer, the Census Bureau offers freely available big data — as do many other parts of the US government.

Clayton used the Census Bureau data to better understand his potential customers’ motivations.

“We found that East Nashville, an up-and-coming neighborhood, was populated with more working class, and a creative class demographic, and we hypothesized this customer segment would be price sensitive but still not want to cut their own lawns,” Clayton said.

So his team segmented those ZIP codes and ran a specific ad to tap into those motivations with a headline of “The Cheapest Lawn Mowing in Nashville. Lawn mowing from $20.”

They also created a matching landing page. After running the ad for one month, it generated more than 200% increase in clickthrough rate and 30% jump in on-page conversion.

“Do the ads appeal to your target market or another market altogether? The data may also point to completely new areas of customer interest,” Clayton said.

Example #3: New messaging about a declining industry makes online marketing top source of new customers for tailor

There’s a small tailor shop near my house. The one time I went there to get a suit tailored, it was like stepping back in time. The feel of craftsmanship still lingers with me today.

But that’s just it; I only went once. Times change. We live in a casual culture now, I say, as I write this wearing a T-shirt and a pair of jeans.

If your business is in an old and declining industry, what do you do? Well, sometimes you have to change your messaging and approach to help your customers perceive the value in a new way.

“A client of mine did no online marketing before we worked together. My first challenge was finding the best keywords to use for a business that, in reality, was run by one man in a sunset industry,” freelance marketing consultant and small business blogger Steve James told me.

James’ client was Walter Jugovic, aka Walter the Tailor. As a teenager in Croatia, Walter walked daily to a nearby town to study to become a master tailor. Decades later, he is still a tailor, only now located in British Columbia.

As times change, so must the value proposition. You can’t just build a website using messaging that used to work. “If no one needs a tailor anymore, because of the overall casual work and social atmospheres, why promote the ‘made-to-measure, elite personal service’ upfront? People will always need alterations and repairs, and we came up with the term ‘re-styling’ to alter old suits that people had in their wardrobes into more up-to-date, correctly fitting items. These were the new keywords tagged with our city to find local shoppers,” he said.

Within a year, website visitors became the top source of new customers. Now, three years later, Walter the Tailor gets an average of 30 visits to the website per day, which generates an average of five phone calls per week.

Example #4: Change in lead form increases conversion rate from 3% to 11% for real estate company

Sometimes it’s not what you ask, it’s how you ask it.

Real Estate Bees had a lead page with a conversion rate of 3%. “We had a long strategy session contact form with multiple fields. We felt that if we could shorten it up or re-arrange it in some more convenient way, we could increase [the] amount of submissions,” said Founder and CMO Oleg Donets.

Creative Sample #1: Original, long lead form for real estate company

(Click on image to enlarge)

Instead of just asking for everything at once, the team decided to have more of a conversation with the visitor and create a form that broke down the information request into user-friendly, easy to digest steps. The multi-step form let users address each field one at a time.

Here is what the new form looks like …

Creative Sample #2: New, step-by-step lead form for real estate company

low-hanging-fruit 2

The conversion rate increased to 11% just from changing the form.

“The changes we did could easily be implemented by any company without needing a development team on staff. You could use various existing contact form plugins that provide this multi-step functionality,” Donets said.

Example #5: Much simpler lead magnet doubles email list for blog

Many companies in online lead generation offer some type of premium content to potential customers if they will fill out a form. While there is no monetary cost to the customer, they are essentially paying with their information.

Some companies think in order to get potential customers to fill out the form, they have to provide a very big lead magnet. Well, the opposite turned out to be true for Devin Carroll for his Social Security Intelligence blog.

Carroll’s YouTube channel was doing pretty well (119,000 subscribers), and he wanted to get those folks over to his blog, and ultimately, to subscribe to his email list.

 “I gave away all sorts of things to entice my prospective customers to give me their email address. It all changed when I had my aha moment. What my prospective customers needed was a quick win. They may download my free 29-page ebook, but it wouldn’t leave them with that instant feeling of ‘this was really helpful!’ that would keep them subscribed and opening future emails.”

So Carroll changed his lead magnet to a simple, one-page cheat sheet he positioned as “the most important parts of the 100,000-page Social Security website condensed down into one page.”

“After struggling for years to grow my list, I’ve now doubled it within four months by stripping down my lead magnet to something that can be quickly consumed and delivers high value,” he said.

Example #6: Seven press mentions plus an award for private equity firm that built relationship with reporter

This next example really hits home for me. Since I write articles for MarketingSherpa, I get endlessly pitched by public relations executives with press releases, story ideas, or to try to get their clients interviewed or quoted as a source in an article.

Much (but not all) of this pitching is pretty much spam, though. It’s not about me, the reporter. It’s not about what my audience would like. It’s “we have a story we want to tell about our product; let’s get it out on the wire service.”

So when I asked for examples of small changes that garnered big results, I was a little taken aback with what Elea Carey told me. “I suggested lunch.”

This was one of the more unique pitches I’d heard. Elea had my interest.

“I'm delighted to share one simple thing I urged a client to do that resulted in a near avalanche of marketing success. I suggested that my client, a venture capital firm with, at the time, nearly $70 million under management, set the goal of having lunch with a reporter,” said Carey, the owner of Elea Carey Communications.

As MECLABS CEO Flint McGlaughlin has said, “You need to create a trust relationship, and marketing and business are not like building a relationship. It’s not metaphorical. It is a relationship just like the one you have with a friend.” And I would imagine that sentiment is even more true for public relations.

This KPI of “lunch” meant setting aside data-driven marketing metrics and techniques and even hold off on getting a story published. Instead, Carey and her client focused on building a relationship by engaging with the Twitter content of a reporter who, they hoped, would cover the private equity firm’s stories.

After a few months of Twitter engagement, they emailed the reporter saying they had an expert on a narrow topic that he might be interested in covering and also had news his readers might like to know.

Again, notice the focus and not just an all-out email blast to every possible reporter in a database. They focused on a narrow topic they knew the reporter would be interested in, and while they had their own story they were pitching, it focused on what the reporter’s audience might like to know, not just on what the company wanted to say.

The email’s call-to-action:  Would he like to come to the office for lunch?

That reporter wrote an article about the firm closing on its third fund and promoting a new partner. The reporter was also an editor, and when one of his reporters was working on an article about crypto carveouts, he suggested Carey’s client as a source for the multi-source article.

All told, that relationship building resulted in four stories quoting one of the firm's principals, an award from the magazine as a “Rising Star in Venture Capital,” and three stories quoting the firm's founder.

“The outcome you want is a relationship; the rewards of that relationship are your marketing success,” Carey advised.

Example #7: Simple SEO work generates 30.000€ more in sales for quality management certification consultant

While researching and sourcing for this article, I received a lot of pitches about SEO work.

Search engine optimization can certainly get some big results.

But small changes? For many websites, the keywords they target have gotten so competitive, small changes on their own just won’t cut it.

For every rule, there is an exception. And it’s good to know that for some industries, it still doesn’t take much to get significant organic search results.

Peter Zipper, CEO, Convernatics, wrote to me from Austria to tell me the story of “a small company doing certification and preparation for ISO9001 certificates. He needed the low-hanging fruit. So I checked out the competition in this field and found that they aren’t really optimized for SEO anyways.”

Zipper optimized the pages for his client, Walter Kalcher Qualitätsmanagement, so the HTML was clean and gave the website better snippet text. “Nothing more, no text changes or building up backlinks whatsoever,” Zipper said.

It took a few months, but the company started to see results. All told, the company spent 500 euros and got around 30.000 euros more in sales that year.

“In niches, getting your basic tags right, being sure your snippets are properly provided to Google, and having a high CTR (clickthrough rate) really can get your business to grow. It is low-hanging fruit that [isn’t always] there nor will it be there for long. But if you are in a niche like this — this really helps you out. And after you’ve made more sales, I suggest investing a little more in SEO to keep the results coming,” Zipper advised.

Example #8: Localization increases lead generation 12% for cleaning company

As Tip O’Neill famously said, “All politics is local.”

Maybe the same is true for marketing?

One pet peeve I have for some local print ads is they don’t tell you where they are located. A little map in the ad showing the location of the company can make a big difference. I don’t have every street in my city memorized, and for the major streets, I don’t know where you are on the street just based on your address number.

OK, but beyond that, location-based marketing is pretty complex, right? All geofencing, beacon technology and augmented reality, right?

Here’s a pretty simple change. Rahul Vij, CEO, WebSpero Solutions, ran a campaign for a cleaning company that was located in multiple cities.

“We just added the name of the city in the landing page's call-to-action and header. Form fills increased by 12%,” Vij said.

Creative Sample #3: Previous form that wasn’t localized (anonymized)

low-hanging-fruit 3


Creative Sample #4: Localized form (anonymized)

low-hanging-fruit 4

The team ran targeted ads in different cities the company served, which sent prospects to a landing page that dynamically changed by simply updating it with the name of their city in the header and call-to-action form.

Example #9: More prominent site search improves conversion for online jewelry store

After reviewing website analytics, the team at Rogers & Hollands noticed that when people used the internal search function, there was a 75% increase in conversion rates.

So the team made the search box more visible. They changed the search box on mobile from just showing a little magnifying glass to having it open and be large throughout the mobile experience. With desktop, it was already visible, so they increased the size and made it stand out more.

Creative Sample #5: More prominent site search for online jewelry store

low-hanging-fruit 5

“It was a huge deal. Almost overnight our conversion rates increased. It was a fairly simple change that made a big difference,” said Celeste Huffman of Rogers & Hollands marketing team.

 Jennifer Rosser is the senior director of marketing for Rogers & Hollands’ parent company, Rogers Enterprises, Inc. “The developers implemented the change and the results were immediate. Through Google Analytics, we were able to prove that more people on desktop and mobile used the internal search, resulting in higher conversion rates across the board. Because of these positive results, we have kept the changes and have no plans of removing it or making it less visible,” Rosser stated.

“I would suggest other marketers and website owners take a look at their internal search function usage. It's easily found in Google Analytics,” Huffman advised.

Example #10: Facebook testing “sandbox” helps direct-to-consumer brand decrease cost per acquisition by 12%

“As Facebook has increased the level of automation and machine learning across its advertising platform, the amount of levers marketers have to pull has been limited significantly. Quality ad creative has become the biggest competitive differentiator in many competitive industries,” said Peter Czepiga, Growth Marketing Senior Analyst, Bespoke Post.

The direct-to-consumer themed box subscription company found itself struggling to become more efficient in its creative implementation process.

“Adding another layer of difficulty was the fact that publishing too many new test ads to our account caused our customer acquisition costs to spike or fluctuate drastically,” Czepiga said.

The brand implemented a creative “sandbox” into its account structure, essentially a separate campaign with a smaller budget where they could test a much higher volume of creative and shorten the feedback loop significantly. A smaller overall campaign budget in the test campaign, as well as more restrictive bids, ensured that any performance fluctuations from creative performance would be smaller in overall impact.

“We saw the positive benefits of this new test-and-learn approach immediately — our customer acquisition costs decreased, and we were able to spend more month-over-month,” Czepiga said.

Since implementing the creative test account in June of 2019, average cost per acquisition (CPA) decreased by 12%. During the same period, average monthly spend increased 66%. “With a seven-figure acquisition budget, we were not expecting such drastic results from such a simple change to our account structure,” he said.

“My advice would be to test it incrementally. Start with a small test budget and see what your CPAs look like week-over-week before scaling that budget. There’s no need to take a plunge into the deep end immediately!” he said.

Example #11: 43% increase in revenue for enterprise consulting company from better internal communication

As marketers, sometimes we focus so much on external communication that we give short shrift to internal communication.

For example, an Italian consulting organization that offers services to enterprises needed to increase sales. Instead of focusing on generating more traffic or other external factors, Cristiano Faenza, CEO of change management business consultant CRIFA, focused on internal communications.

“What we did was simply listen to management and employees as people, not workers,” Faenza said.

Here are some of the changes they made:

  • Monthly meeting with top management – met with the five managers to verify progress and implement corrective actions.
  • Meetings open to all – organized three meetings, approximately on a bi-monthly basis, during which Faenza and the team, together with top management, simply listened to every single employee. At first, there were mostly complaints. With time, gradually, employees began to appreciate the initiative. Eventually, they began receiving several proposals and suggestions (which were then implemented) on how to improve business processes and sales. Another point that was greatly appreciated was the sharing of data regarding business performance.
  • Establishment of a personal business coaching service for those who requested it ­– eight people took advantage of it for their own individual professional needs. The common objective was to be able to improve aspects of their working style, either as individuals or in a team.

There were three guiding principles to their activities:

  1. Never get into the technical aspects of the job
  2. Every proposed activity is elective
  3. No additional investments required

In six months, revenue went from 743.000 euros to 1.062.490 euros. That was a 43% increase in revenue.

“No matter what job you do, no matter what your field is, invest in people. Specifically, invest in internal communication. As George Bernard Shaw said, ‘the great illusion of communication is that it took place,’” Faenza said.

One of the company’s leaders summed it up like this, “You can try and tweak a process in the best way, you can introduce the most advanced technologies in the world, but if someone refuses to collaborate, you are never going to get anything from them.”

Related Resources

CRO for CTAs: There is no perfect call-to-action, but these 6 checklists will help get your CTA pretty close

What Eyebrows and Websites Have in Common

Email Capture Optimized: How one small change led to a 364% increase in leads

Nonprofit Testing: How one small change led to 190% increase in clickthrough


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