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The Power of 5 Second User Testing and how we've used it to de-risk a Brand Refresh

By John Woods  |  November 22, 2022
So, what is 5 Second User Testing?
It’s a user research technique where participants see an image for a short time period (typically, but not always, 5 seconds!) and are then asked some questions about their impressions.
 
OK, but what can it be used for?

It can be used to add value and reduce risk in a whole range of marketing projects by providing insight into the effectiveness of the visual design, headline copy and information architecture of a piece of content. 

Sounds good…so why do you like it so much?

These are the key advantages of 5 second user testing:

  • It’s flexible: you can test your own live content, or content that is still under development, or even a competitor’s content.
  • It’s cost effective: you can run a basic test for a few hundred pounds. (More complex tests cost more, but it’s still a very low-cost solution compared to most user research methodologies.)
  • It’s quick: it’s possible to complete a test within a day.
  • It works: even when testing complex B2B propositions, time and again we get great insights from 5 second testing that help to improve marketing performance.
  • It engages stakeholders: the results from the tests are easily digestible and thought-provoking even for non-specialist stakeholders.
Hmmm, 5 seconds doesn’t sound very long…

It’s plenty of time! We’re looking to test the immediate visual impact of the content. We are looking to find out whether it gives a strong and effective first impression, and to find out if there are any sources of confusion that need to be eliminated from the design.

The first impression isn’t the whole story about marketing effectiveness but it’s a crucial component. For example in search marketing, if your landing page doesn’t immediately create a positive impression for the visitor, they won’t hang around to read the detail – they’ll hit the back button and move on to a competitor’s listing.

OK, I’m interested, does it work for B2B?

Yes! Perhaps surprisingly well. We’ve used 5 second user testing with great success across a diverse range of B2B marketing projects. We’ve a detailed B2B case study example below.

But do you need to recruit a specialist panel?

Many forms of market research are difficult for B2B because of the need to work with specialist research participants – people who are expert in the subject matter under test. But for 5 second user testing the panel members don’t need to be experts in the subject matter.

We’re not concerned about how a person responds to the complex details of the content under test, just their first impressions – and these are usually much the same whether they have subject matter expertise or not.

There are often cultural elements to how people process visuals, so ideally we use a test panel that is broadly representative of the target audience in terms of geographic location, age and education level. But we don’t need to be more specific than that for most tests – which makes test setup and execution much faster and easier.

You mentioned an example?

Here goes!

We’re in the process of refreshing our branding at Sharp Ahead. We like our current branding but we don’t feel it quite represents the agency we are today, especially with our last couple of years of growth. So we’ve developed a refreshed brand concept which we all absolutely love, and we’re keen to roll it out.

But with any project like this it is easy to get too close to the work and too attached to a creative concept. We are not our own target audience! So we wanted to reduce the risk of our rebrand by testing the new branding against the old.

We chose to test one of our most important PPC landing pages – a page that allows a prospective new client to sign up for a free initial consultation with one of our directors.

Here’s the current version of the page with the original branding:

And here’s the new design – note that this is currently just a flat design, not a live web page. (One of the advantages of this test method is that we can test an early design like this.)

We tested the two versions with separate panels – this is important, we don’t want to “educate” a participant about the first version of a design and then have the same participant give a distorted impression of the second version.

The results gave us a lot of confidence in the new branding. For example the new branding scores 23% better on an index of “professionalism” – a big improvement that aligns with where we are looking to take the brand.

The change in the page design was also intended to simplify the visuals so that they were less distracting – allowing the reader to focus on the CTA and other key elements of the page. Our test gave us some confidence that we’ve achieved that. Here’s the word cloud showing what people recalled the most strongly about the original page:

Note how “funnel” and “book” and “image” stand out there, at the expense of “consultation”. This word cloud suggests that the visuals are distracting from the primary CTA, not enhancing it.

Here’s the corresponding word cloud for the new design:

This is a much better result! The panelists have seen and recalled the offer of a free consultation, and the fact that we’re a b2b marketing specialist. So we can have a lot of confidence that the new design has achieved its objectives.

So, there we have it, a perfect example to illustrate the benefits of running 5 second user testing to provide insight that can help your brand evolve positively. 

OK, I’m convinced! Can you help me put this technique to use?
We often use 5 second user tests as part of a larger project (e.g. website design or paid media campaign setup) in order to reduce risk and improve results. But we’re also happy to run standalone tests for clients. If you think 5 second user testing could help you, please get in touch.
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Image extensions on Google Ads – are they relevant for B2B?

By John Woods  |  November 3, 2022
Say hello to a new feature on the Google Ads platform: image extensions.

It won’t surprise you to learn that an image extension enables a search ad to contain an image.

This is the latest in a long line of features from Google that allow “extensions” (or as they are now called “assets”) to be used to expand a search ad beyond the basic headline and description. But it’s the first time Google has allowed graphics in search ads. So, it creates an exciting opportunity for search marketers to expand their creativity.

Here’s an example from Google’s own documentation:

The benefits of the image are clear in this case: the ad stands out more on the page, and the picture of attractive-looking food conveys a huge amount of information in a way that the ad copy itself cannot.

It’s obvious how an image is helpful when selling a tangible product to a consumer. But are image extensions relevant for the B2B marketer?

We’ve looked at a two examples of search ads for B2B services to illustrate how B2B advertisers are currently using image extensions. (Disclaimer: neither of these examples is connected with Sharp Ahead.)

First up some CRM ads:

 

Mixed results here with two results showing an image extension and two without. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the other advertisers are not using image extensions – Google makes a dynamic decision whether or not to show the extension based on predicted performance. But it shows that at least some of the main advertisers are using images.

The Pipedrive image is a winner for me here. It has visual simplicity that supports the idea of a simple, user-friendly system. And it also means the image doesn’t distract too much from the rest of the ad.

I’m less of a fan of the image that Salesforce uses. It’s cute, but for me it distracts more, and communicates less, than the Pipedrive one.

This example SERP shows one of the trade-offs about image extensions – they take up space which is no longer available for text. See how the Salesforce ad in particular has been cut right down to make space for the image. In contrast, the Hubspot and Arriga ads have a lot more copy. A sophisticated searcher might find the extra copy a lot more helpful than the images when deciding which product to choose.

Now some accountancy ads:

 

Again, a 50:50 split of ads with and without image extensions.

The Chapman Worth image extension is great – it conveys a lot about the team and their office environment. From the image alone I get the idea that this is an approachable, modern, professional firm. The ad copy ties in with the image. Nice job.

The Strata image is, for me, an example of what NOT to do with an image extension. Showing a single individual in an uncertain context doesn’t really communicate anything of value and distracts from the rest of the ad.

These examples show that B2B advertisers are certainly starting to make use of image extensions. And we can begin to see how some are better than others.

Here are a couple of examples from our own work at Sharp Ahead to illustrate some best practices:

The Catalyst is a large, impressive modern building in the heart of Newcastle. So, we’ve chosen an image extension with an exterior shot communicates that sense of scale, quality, and prestige. Prospective users of the building can use the image to make a better judgement about whether it is suitable for their needs.

We’ve followed a different route with the Witney BIC:

Here the image conveys the high quality of the interior of the building, the light and airy nature of the office space and gives a hint of the view over green fields in the background. A prospective user of the building can use the image to get a sense of what it would be like to work from one of these offices. Importantly, this is a professional-looking image but obviously NOT a stock photo, so it conveys a sense of authenticity.

If you do decide to trial image extensions, it’s vital to choose the right images. Ask yourself these questions before choosing images for image extensions in your B2B campaign:

  • Does the image really communicate something about your product or service? If the image isn’t relevant, then it is just visual clutter that will detract from the rest of the ad.
  • Is the image of a high quality and consistent with your brand?
  • Is the image authentic and distinctive? If your image screams “just another stock photo” you won’t add value to your message.

If you are lucky, you might have suitable image assets already available. But if not you may need to commission new photography or illustration work – a big cost compared to the normal day-to-day costs of keeping text ads up to date.

So, should you be using image extensions for your B2B campaigns on Google Ads?

I think that’s currently a nuanced decision. Image extensions certainly add value for some products and services, and in some very competitive search auctions they may become essential. But in other cases the benefits are still questionable.

Remember that your primary goal as a B2B search advertiser is to persuade the right target customers to click on your ads rather than the rival links on the SERP. A good image extension will improve your chances of that happening. A bad image extension risks drawing the wrong clicks, with the waste of budget that implies, while sending the right clicks to your competitors.

If you’d like to learn more about image extensions or get some help with any other aspect of your B2B digital marketing activity, then please head over to our services page on our website to find out how we can help you. 
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Leeds Digital Festival 2022

By Jennifer Esty  |  August 25, 2022

Discover How To Decarb Your Digital Marketing

Sharp Ahead are proud to be returning to Leeds Digital Festival and hosting an event at 9:30 on 29th September.

The Leeds Digital Festival, known as “The Tech Event for Everyone”, is an open & collaborative celebration of digital culture in all its forms. It’s perfect for those interested in coding, fintech, social media, AI, healthtech, data, start-ups, digital music, cyber security or AR/VR.

Now returning for its 7th year, the Leeds Digital Festival is hosting a jam-packed three days of cutting-edge tech events, including our very own session on decarbing your digital marketing.

In our 45 minute session, hosted at Avenue HQ and online, we’ll be discussing the carbon cost of your digital marketing activities and how you can work towards your ESG goals, whilst improving the performance of your digital marketing channels.

Interested in decarbing your digital footprint, whilst improving your marketing performance and overall ROI? Reserve your place now.

Sharp Ahead + Measure Camp London Logos
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Why is Sharp Ahead sponsoring MeasureCamp?

By John Woods  |  May 12, 2022

The MeasureCamp unconference

Sharp Ahead is proudly sponsoring the MeasureCamp unconference in London on 15th May 2022 https://london.measurecamp.org/.

MeasureCamp is an “unconference” – free to attend and self-organising – for the digital analytics community.

It’s an amazing event with around 300 digital analytics practitioners expected to attend, many travelling from overseas. The presentations will range from deeply technical (such as how to manage the upcoming switch from Universal Analytics to GA4), to quirky (like my own, on the relevance of WW2 photographic reconnaissance to the management of digital analytics!).

But why is a B2B digital marketing agency like Sharp Ahead sponsoring a digital analytics event?

It’s personal…

Many of you will know me as a pioneer from the early days of digital analytics industry. And in fact the digital analytics company I founded, Site Intelligence/iJento, was a sponsor of the very first MeasureCamp, in London in September 2012. Here’s a terrible 2012-era phone photo to prove it:

Measure Camp Event

So it’s a nice symmetry for me to be a sponsor again in the tenth anniversary year. And I’ve benefitted so much from MeasureCamp over the years – making new contacts and friends, honing my technical skills around digital analytics and conversion optimisation, sparking new ideas – that it is great to give something back to the MeasureCamp community.

…but it is also business

It is true that I have two decades’ experience in digital analytics, and I still work in part as an analytics practitioner, but my work these days is much more broadly-based. When I co-founded Sharp Ahead in 2014 I had a vision that analytics skills and techniques could be put to use in an agile way, in combination with a more general commercial and marketing skillset, to design and optimise digital activities for specialist B2B companies.

That vision came true, I guess! Today, Sharp Ahead actively uses digital analytics every day as one of many techniques to design and improve digital marketing campaigns. I’m one of the team’s analytics experts but several of my colleagues are pretty handy with analytics technology as well. We also work with PPC, SEO, content marketing, marketing automation and CRO, amongst others, to help our clients achieve cost-effective results. Our team also includes designers, copywriters and website builders.

Sharp Ahead looks to work with smart generalists who enjoy using a range of skills to find the best ways to grow our clients’ businesses. I’m pleased that digital analytics still plays a big part in our work, but just as excited about the other elements of expertise that we are able to blend together in our clients’ projects.

We’re growing and looking for new clients, new team members and new partnerships. And we know that the MeasureCamp event and the community around it will be a great place to find them.

Check back on our blog soon for a report from the event. And whether you are attending MeasureCamp or not: if you know of B2B companies who might benefit from our skills, if you know of smart digital marketers looking to work in a great B2B agency, or if you have other ideas how we might work together I’d love to hear from you. Or we can just chat about WW2 photographic reconnaissance!

You can find me on LinkedIn linked.com/in/jwoods or fill in our contact form.

Sharp Ahead + Measure Camp London Logos
Should you be using LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms Thumbnail?
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Lead Gen Forms: A B2B marketer's guide on when to use them

By Jennifer Esty  |  March 17, 2022

LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms have been around for years now. They are great way to capture leads from within the LinkedIn platform. They negate the need for a landing page, and they de-risk user drop off when switching from LinkedIn to another tab.

But we get asked all the time, when should you use a Lead Gen Form vs Sponsored Content (or another ad format)?

To help with that decision, we’ve developed a handy decision tree. It’s deceptively simple and, although a little tongue-in-cheek, the principles are genuine.

Sharp Ahead LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms Decision Tree

Ready to start your campaign?

A couple of more things to keep in mind:

Lead Gen Forms are prepopulated with the users details (yay!)

But many LinkedIn users have their personal email addresses as their primary email address and don’t always have up to date information (boo!).

And if you don’t spend time on creating properly targeted audiences and useful content, there isn’t a decision tree in the world that will make those campaigns successful.

Need help from an expert? Get in touch for a free 30-minute consultation.