Improving content marketing programs with agile methods

Thinking about improving content marketing? By starting with the desired outcome and then working backwards (and keeping an agile mindset), you can always fine tune and find ways to keep improving your content marketing programs.

The agile marketing concept is borrowed from the world of software development where it is based on iterative and incremental development ideas. In software development, you start with a simple workable idea, build a minimum viable product, get feedback from the market at large, figure out what needs improvement, and quickly make those improvements based on what customers are telling you. We discuss this approach in greater detail in our post about reducing PPC spend.

Improving content marketing takes the same approach. Instead of starting with a minimum viable product, you start with a minimum viable audience and iterate to find ways to grow your audience further and better understand what they want to buy.

Improving content marketing starts with four steps:

This approach works and helps you quickly identify the content that matters most to your audience. Here’s how…

MAKE A BEST GUESS: Start with a SWAG based on your best ideas for your target market, their pain points, how they evaluate products that fix the pain and anything else you think relevant to reaching your best customers.

PRODUCE FLAWED CONTENT: At some point, you need to pull the trigger and release content. Don’t worry if the content is flawed. Work quick to find ways to get that content shared or find ways to elicit meaningful feedback.

IMPROVE THE CONTENT BASED ON FEEDBACK: Become a content producer. Learn from your mistakes and pivot as needed to create content that is shared or that resonates with your target audience.

RINSE, WASH, REPEAT: The more you fine tune, the more feedback you’ll received. Look for ways to connect your content to the target audience, whether through social networks, newsletters, websites, guest posts and more. It is hard work to give your content the exposure it needs.

Unfortunately, most of the content you create won’t produce results. You can either work twice as hard, produce twice as much content and continue to see the same small results or you can ramp down your content marketing conveyor belt and produce less content with much higher quality.

Producing high quality content is a competitive process. With all your competitors producing high quality content and competing for the same search results, the research you do upfront on keywords, subject matter gaps in the industry and other factors can provide insight into creating useful content that the audience needs and wants. With that said, it is a tough process and won’t happen overnight so don’t be afraid to tweak. If you have done your research, you might find that tweaking a white paper headline for less popular keyword variations produces higher quality conversions. Tweaking your content to focus on these long tail keywords can help you own the conversation and produce greater results.

Finally, regardless of the effort it takes to produce content, if your content isn’t getting the attention it deserves, then it has no value. Take the time to quantify your content investment, measure your progress over time and find ways to drive improvement. Once you have a working combination, then optimize your landing pages and content to reflect your new learning.

Much of the challenge of improving content marketing programs is really about adopting a philosophy of agile and continuous improvement. When you think about ways to improve your content, build ways to measure the performance of your content and continually tweak your content for better performance, great things happen. If you are willing to make changes on the fly, improving content marketing programs is not insurmountable – and the performance gains you realize suddenly become worth the investment.

Before a redesign, try website landing page optimization

A website redesign is expensive and time consuming. Before you leap into a big project, give some thought to testing various ideas with landing page optimization– a series of small A/B tests that can drive more leads as well as inform and fuel your future brand redesign.  It can also help you dramatically reduce your PPC advertising costs by optimizing traffic and eliminating traffic that will never convert.

With A/B testing and landing page optimization, you test individual variables such as positioning, offer language and more to see which version provides better results. Simple A/B testing can tell you which calls to action, colors, images or headlines drive more leads.

When you think about your landing page optimization for your website, think about it as a collection of landing pages. People find different parts of your site in different ways – organically, through referring links, through paid advertising and more?.

Every page should perform and every page should contribute to conversion of visitors to inquiries. Don’t make the mistake of just optimizing your landing pages – optimize every page ?on your website ?to contribute to a conversion in some way.

After all, to manage something, you need to measure. The data you collect from simple A/B testing can dramatically improve your future redesign.

Here are some simple ideas for website landing page optimization and testing:

User tasks and goals – are users able to accomplish their tasks and goals in the most efficient way possible? To determine this, the first thing to do is to define core user tasks. From the home page, do people intuitively find information about your products? If no, test various methods for streamlining and reducing the time it takes to complete various tasks. Landing page optimization

Home page – this should be the most trafficked page on your entire website. It should also drive the most action and allow your visitors to quickly drill down to find what they are seeking. What happens when you place a call to action front and center? What happens when you use a new headline or a new offer?

Readability – if content is king, then readability is queen. Are the fonts big enough? Is your website comfortable to read? Are the words being used familiar to your target audience? Obviously, not being able to read or understand the content can hinder the usability of your site.

Landing pages – test images, offers, content, form fields – test anything and everything to wrestle as much performance out of your pages as possible.

Page elements – especially calls to action – can dramatically influence page conversion. How do different button shapes perform? What about the size or placement of buttons? What about button colors or even the page copy?

Overall navigation – if certain navigation options get more attention that other buttons, what happens when you rearrange the order of your navigation?

Of course, this is just a short list of ideas. Don’t let these ideas limit your imagination when seeking to improve landing page conversion. Before you leap into the expensive and time consuming task of a website redesign, take the time to learn as much as possible about landing page optimization so your next website is a lead generation machine!


Pay for performance landing page optimization agency guarantees success

CHICAGO, JANUARY 22, 2015 – Macon Raine, a Chicago-based marketing firm, announced the launch of the 10PercentAgency, a new division providing pay for performance landing page conversion optimization. Taking a unique approach to the marketing agency business model, the 10PercentAgency helps clients increase conversion on a single landing page by 10 percent or more. Clients don’t pay until the 10 percent conversion improvement is achieved.

“We’re fixing the one thing that matters most to advertisers – making it easier to acquire additional new customers,” said Ashley Poynter, managing director of the 10PercentAgency and director of operations of Macon Raine. “Success is really about consistent incremental improvements. That’s what we’re doing – putting skin in the game and helping companies iterate and improve landing page performance.”

According to Poynter, the best way to prove ROI for the unique business model is through an actual demonstration of capabilities. For this reason, the 10PercentAgency provides services at no cost until conversion is improved by 10 percent on a single landing page. “We’ll work on a page for as long as it takes to prove the value of our services,” said Poynter.

According to Vince Mazza, founder of Guard Street, developers of the privacy protection kit, “normally, with online advertising, if you target the right customer and double your budget, you get 2 times as many customers and your cost of acquisition stays the same. While this is predictable, it really is not an efficient way of improving our ROI. With the 10PercentAgency, our investment in landing page optimization allowed us to reduce our cost of acquisition and our total spend, which is a great thing!”


The 10PercentAgency, a division of Macon Raine, Inc., is a Chicago-based marketing firm that focuses on optimizing website page conversion rates. Offering a unique approach to the traditional marketing agency business model, the 10PercentAgency helps advertisers increase their landing page conversion rates by at least 10 percent. Clients do not pay until the 10 percent conversion rate improvement is achieved. To learn more, visit:


Pay for performance landing page optimization – coming soon!

We’ve been running an experiment for a few clients. Essentially, we’ve been providing pay for performance landing page optimization for a few select clients. Our deal with them is remarkably simple – we run one landing page optimization experiment per month – we provide hosting, concept, copywriting, design, coding and analysis.  We only get paid when conversion increases by 10% or more.

Check it out – we’re rolling out this service now to new clients. Website coming soon -

Growing your cloud business

CHICAGO, JANUARY 6, 2015 – Macon Raine announced today that Ben Bradley, managing director and Ashley Poynter, senior account director, will speak at the upcoming Cloud Saturday event on January 24, 2015 at the DeVry Campus in Addison, Ill.

Cloud Saturday is an independent volunteer organization of IT professionals dedicated to educating organizations about the Cloud and Cloud technologies. The Cloud Saturday event will give business owners, information workers, IT professionals, developers and engineers an overview of strategies to help them stay competitive.

Bradley and Poynter will present “Growing Your Cloud Business” during their session. The presentation will help attendees establish and grow their practices with advice about differentiation, marketing strategy and lead generation. In addition, there will be a particular emphasis on messaging, targeting and ROI. During the session, attendees will learn to:

“We’ve done our research and there is no event that offers free education across a wide variety of Cloud platforms so there was a significant interest in the community to attend such an event as we increasingly see companies adopting these platforms and technologies,” said Tony Hotko, organizer of the Cloud Saturday.

According to Hotko, eighty two percent of companies reportedly saved money by moving to the Cloud and eighty percent of Cloud adopters saw improvements within six months of moving to the Cloud. Additionally, eighty five percent of new software is being built for the Cloud. “We’ve lined up some great local expert speakers and topics that will help attendees get their “head in the Cloud.”

Ben Bradley is the managing director of Macon Raine, a Chicago-based B2B marketing agency. He is also founder, a lead scrubbing and key account research service.

Ashley Poynter is senior account director at Macon Raine and specializes in content strategy, marketing automation and corporate story-telling.

For more information about growing your cloud business or the Cloud Saturday event, visit:



Understanding the True Costs of Chargebacks

Informative webinar explores the hidden and direct costs associated with chargebacks and helps merchants understand how to successfully dispute and recover funds lost the chargeback process

Los Angles, CA – April 26, 2014 – Verifi, the full-service provider of global electronic payment and risk management solutions, will host a webinar titled: What Chargebacks are Really Costing You on May 7 at 1PM EST.

Historically, merchants of all sizes have struggled to prevent and aggressively recover chargebacks due to lack of resources and expertise, difficult integration requirements, changing processor rules, burdensome PCI data controls and procedures as well as new and evolving security threats.

Speaker Chris Marchand, Vice President of Business Development for Verifi, will explain how with proper management, the negative impacts of chargebacks can be significantly reduced. Marchand will show merchants how to take protective measures to prevent chargebacks before they happen, dispute chargebacks and recover funds lost to the chargeback process.

To Understand the True Costs of Chargebacks, please register:


Chris Marchand, Vice President of Business Development at Verifi, is a payments industry veteran. For the past 10 years, Mr. Marchand has advised merchants on a diverse array of payment improvement options, including payment operations, card brand payment regulations and overcoming PCI compliance challenges. He is a regular speaker at payment industry conferences and has educated thousands of merchants on payment fraud and risk mitigation, dispute and billing management and customer retention strategies.


Founded in 2005, Verifi is a full-service provider of global electronic payment and risk management solutions for card-not-present (CNP) merchants. Based on a multi-layered approach, Verifi’s risk management solutions empower Merchants to gain control and transparency into the entire payment process – from global payment acceptance and processing, order screening, and revenue recovery/maximization to fraud/risk management and payment security.


Understanding The Impact of Recent Credit Card Breaches On Subscription and Recurring Transactions

With the recent breach and theft of more than 100 million credit and debit card numbers from Target, Neiman Marcus and Michaels, merchants are experiencing an increase in unintentional churn from credit card declines by processors.

As credit card issuers respond to this historical and massive credit card breach, many consumers are receiving replacement credit cards. New replacement cards and additional scrutiny are increasing unintentional payment decline rates for merchants with recurring subscriptions services such as apps, cable television, software, cell phones and other industries.

For merchants with subscription services, churn not only happens when a customer comes up for renewal but it also happens much earlier in the customer lifecycle. Simple reasons (such as a incorrect credit card number or expiration date, insufficient funds, credit card rejecting an international charge, or other technical issues) are as much to blame for churn as a cancellation. One example is the “card declined by processor” error, in which case the card information is often correct but the bank won’t allow a merchant to charge the card.

‘Normal’ churn from “card declined by processor” is estimated to be responsible for 2-5% of all potential sales.[1]

“In subscription-based businesses such as cable television, cell phones, software and similar businesses, it is not uncommon for between 5% and 30% of recurring credit card transactions to fail each month,” said Matthew Katz, CEO of Verifi, Inc. – a provider of decline salvage services for card-not-present merchants. “We are already seeing increased declines as processors and credit card issuers apply additional scrutiny to each transaction or reissue cards altogether. Losing customers to buyer’s remorse or cancellation is bad enough, but losing customers who want to keep your product or service is painful.”

Verifi, through it’s merchant and issuing bank relationships, processes more than 150 million transaction queries per day and has unique insight into credit card patterns and customer behavior.

With Verifi’s Decline Salvage service, Verifi has achieved billing recovery rates of up to 20%. For merchants trying to salvage legitimate consumer relationships, not only does this provide immediate, bottom line income in the form of upfront, salvaged dollars, but the retained customers continue to increase the lifetime value for each customer that merchants require for profitability. “Our results show that merchants can see as much as a 150% additional uptick in post salvage revenue in the first year alone.”

“Decline Salvage improves overall conversion rates. Although every business is unique, the Decline Salvage service model is pay for performance and delivers a significant positive ROI benefit to a merchant’s bottom line,” said Katz.

A few thoughts about mom

My mother passed away in 2004. I miss her very much and I think about her every day.

Mom was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer near Thanksgiving in 2003. In April she went into a wheelchair, then into a hospice bed, then died on May 3. She was 63 years old.

Mom fought hard. I don’t know if the radiation and chemotherapy did any good or if it helped her make it to spring. But I do know she had a chance to sit in the sun and watch the love-struck grackles try to mate.

She was famous for her kitchen. Fried okra. Dim Sum. Gumbo. Smoked turkey on the grill. Peanut butter and honey sandwiches.

She loved to linger at the table after each meal, sip coffee and talk and catch up with all of us.  With three slightly high-maintenance children, she kept track of everything and she did more than her share of worrying. But she taught us to be self-sufficient. She taught us all to cook and to do our own laundry. She told us it was okay to cry. She lived in a way that taught my brother and I to honor women. She made us eat our vegetables. She made sure we had good shoes.

Mom encouraged our creativity. We all tried to play an instrument even though none of us could carry a note. Through it all, she encouraged us and listened to our practice as if the angels themselves were singing. She taught us a lullabye that we sang to our children and I’m sure they will sing it to their children.

Mom taught us patience (especially on the forced marches to Civil War battlegrounds my father called vacations).

When all the kids were in high-school, she went back to work – we suspect she worked simply so she could spoil us on birthdays and Christmas. Before her passing, her biggest worry was “who will do the Christmas shopping?”

The beautiful thing was — mom was mom – she didn’t change. Despite this horrible illness, her true colors shone even brighter.  She wasn’t thinking about her pain, she was thinking about her family. Her illness made her family stronger.

Mom, the teacher, taught us creativity, and empathy, she let us swear when it was appropriate (which was pretty neat). When we were young, our friends always said “your mom is so cool.” When times were tough, she didn’t complain when Bryan and I ate an entire loaf of bread (with peanut butter) and drank a gallon of milk in one sitting.

Most of all, in those last 5 months of her life, I watched my mother live. In the week after her diagnosis, while we were still in shock, she told us not to mourn. She said “this rots,” and that was it…nothing negative ever crossed her lips again. Even with this terrible diagnosis, we never saw self-pity, we never saw fear, we never saw anger. While cancer ravaged her body, we have never seen Mom more alive. Even after the chemo stole her gorgeous red curls, she had style.

With the holidays and a long winter creeping up on us, I’ll be glad to see spring because I know the flowers will bloom and bring color back to the yard. The grackles will mate. Peanut butter, honey, and milk will always be plentiful. Robert the Rose Horse will keep sneezing. Grandchildren will learn the right way to fry okra. And for these lovely gifts, I give thanks to my friends, family and for the many blessings we have received.


There is a reason you are getting paid late

I’ve been knee deep in a project for Transverse ( Transverse offers a product called TRACT which does accounts receivable automation and SaaS billing.

When we talk about all the ways that Transverse can improve the overall financial performance of an organization by increasing the velocity of accounts receivable, we sometimes forget to talk about the simple impact of making it easier for customers to pay their bills on time.

When you take the billing process out of human hands you can decrease the rate of human error. These conclusions were validated once more with a 2013 study conducted by TermSync as quoted in CFO Magazine:

Among the 100 CFOs, controllers and other accounting executives surveyed by TermSync in the U.S. during the first half of 2013, 49 percent cited invalid or missing purchase order information on invoices as a reason that their customers did not pay their bills. TermSync performed an analysis of 10,000 invoices more than 30 days past due from companies that have revenues between $30 million and $200 million.

Here’s the link:

Non-billing related problems, such as a broken or defective product, made up 13 percent of the reasons for nonpayment. Interestingly, in 11 percent of the cases, the customer did not actually receive the invoice at all.

Want to get paid faster? Start with error reduction. When simple billing mistakes are eliminated, that is one less excuse for customers to miss payments.

Eliminate bad discounts with win-win SaaS pricing

Using marketing to create meaningful product differentiation separates you from competitors and allows you to command price premiums. For SaaS and MSPs, one differentiation strategy should be the elimination of bad discounts. Discounts should never lead to a loss of margin. Instead, discounts should reward customers for activities that improve their value as a customer – either by reducing your costs or improving demand.

As a first step, evaluate and build systems that reward customers based on desired behaviors.

With win win discounts in hand, sales is then equipped to suggest discounts from a menu. The customer can then select the discounts that are in their best interest.  It is important to properly understand how discounts incentivize certain behaviors and how those discounts are enforced. For example, should volume discounts be granted before certain sales volumes are achieved or are they paid back as credits once the customer hits the appropriate milestones? Enforcing performance milestones can be a technical challenge without the proper billing system.

The challenges of win win pricing

Any activity that is measureable is also monetizeable. Win win pricing requires a complex array of interrelated processes that must be managed: everything from the initial contact with a customer, to the placement of an order, to the provisioning and activation of a service, to the billing and payment, and then beyond to the capabilities that keep the customers hooked over time with new activities.

Managing the recurring customer relationship includes two critical subscription processes not normally available in off-the-shelf ERP, CRM or GL applications: the Order-To-Cash process where the relationship with the customer is established; and the Activity-To-Cash™ process where the relationship is expanded according to the consumer’s behaviors and preferences over time.

Nurturing the relationship requires that multiple pre-billing processes and complex functions such as Event Handling and Rating be in place for controlling usage and activities. That control comes through the assignment and enforcement of entitlements, which help to authorize and authenticate whether a person is who he says, and whether he should have access to the services he’s requesting.

That means the billing platform must know what a customer has purchased and where he is in the consumption of his subscribed services, and whether actions should be taken, such as advice-of-charge, balance checks, updates of allowances or reversal of events, suspension of accounts, and application of late payment fees and penalties.

For organizations that want to capitalize on the natural evolution of consumption, win-win pricing should include a mechanism for accommodating, and even evolving the subscription relationship.
Activity-based subscriptions can create sustainable relationships and prevent the loss of customers that might otherwise not be able to, or want to, make one-time purchases. The goal of activity-based pricing is to stimulate more consumption with price levers that accommodate changes in circumstances, usage and preferences.

The ability to add and manage consumption – or activity-based price levers to a product  mix – gives a company a powerful tool for growing its customer base (recurring revenue) and maximizing lifetime value of the customer (reducing churn).

The win win

When you adopt win-win pricing, you map your prices to what the customer is willing to pay. At the same time, your customer benefit from discounts that are aligned with their needs – which improves win-win behavior. Last, you only pay out discounts that reduce your cost or improve customer performance.