Conversion copywriter and podcast host Kira Hug talks about her journey to build her brand and why strategically-crafted visuals are so important for connecting with the right people.
“This might sound strange coming from a copywriter – who should, presumably, eat, sleep and poop words – but I love me some visuals.”
Kira Hug isn’t just any copywriter. She’s a conversion copywriter – which means her specialty is writing words that spur and inspire readers to take action. If you’re selling a product or service and want to talk your ideal customers into buying them, Kira is the person behind the scenes making that happen with landing pages, sales pages, and email campaigns.
This work requires her to get inside people’s minds, take on different brand voices, and play upon just the right mix of pains, fears and desires that cause people to act.
It also requires a strong grasp of how to use an entire brand experience to attract and connect with ideal customers – and much of that experience is created through visuals. Visuals are never to be underestimated.
But that’s an idea that runs contrary to the philosophy of many writers – we’re biased. Our art is the written word. However, Kira didn’t grow up as the ‘writer’ in the family. Her identity was ‘the artist.’
“My sister was the smarty pants. I embraced my artistic side and wore the ‘artist’ label very happily. That followed me into college. But I realized, I can’t be a fine artist and live the life I want, so I pursued graphic design.”
As Kira worked toward her B.F.A. in Fine Arts in Visual Communication, she found herself attracted to advertising classes, which led to an advertising design internship.
That’s where things really started to click for me. You get to be creative, and there’s strategy, words, and visuals and psychology behind it. I remember thinking that this is the best thing ever.
Of course, the challenge all new graduates face is finding a job in the ‘real world’ doing what you love. Which rarely, if ever, happens fresh off of campus. With no job prospects in sight, Kira took a leap of faith and moved to New York City, a lifelong goal.
“I didn’t plan well in terms of having a job before I moved there. I just did it. So I took the first job I could find at Enterprise Rent-a-Car’s management training program. I cringed at taking it. It was so different from the cool, art-design job I’d envisioned, and I was embarrassed by it.”
For nine months, Kira sold car insurance and rental cars, spending down time washing cars “in a parking garage that smelled like urine, in a pencil skirt.”
But at the same time she was learning how to tap into the selling power of words.
Over the next several years, Kira took many different jobs – glamorous jobs at places like Estee Lauder’s store design department, hard jobs in marketing for non-profits, even jobs in event planning. If she didn’t feel like she was growing, learning, and feeling challenged, she’d move onto the next thing.
After Kira had her first child, she needed a little more control over her work schedule. She began working for a fast-growing startup as CMO, which allowed her to build her reputation in the company as well as her own business on the side at the same time.
All with a newborn baby. Is Kira Hug secretly Wonder Woman?
Possibly. She does have more alter-egos than the average copywriter. But that’s all part of her brand strategy.
In this interview, Kira Hug tells us how she built her solo copywriting business and how her artistic background informs everything she does, from her own blog, to her copy, to her delightfully quirky business strategy.
I was ready to buy. My finger hovered over the “Add to Cart” button. But I still wasn’t sure.
While all the images on the site were professional and inspiring, not one of them was user-generated or showed an outfit on an average-sized human being. If I’m spending a couple hundred dollars on a dress, I want to know it will be flattering on my body (and I’m not a size zero — who is?). That conversion didn’t happen. I’m shopping elsewhere.
The wrong visual content can kill conversions as quickly as the right visual content can increase them.
But it’s not as simple as “Video = Conversions.” Videos only work this well when placed in the hottest areas of your product page, like next to product images or “Buy” buttons. When you give your videos prominent positions — above the fold, top and center — visitors stay longer, engage more, and buy more.
But what should these videos be about? Consider what your customers (don’t) want. They probably don’t want to read a lengthy product description — most web visitors only read 25% of text. Instead, show how the product works and how real people are using it. And remember, features are nice, but what they really need to know is how your product will improve their lives.
Make sure these videos are accurate and will lead to more realistic expectations. That way, it can help reduce product returns, since a video shows how products are used day-to-day. It’s worked for Zappos — and other brands, like ASOS, have estimated that a 1% fall in returnswould add $16 million in profit.
Videos & Landing Pages
When Dropbox first put a video on their homepage six years ago, conversions went up by 33%. That impact has only increased over time, especially since there have been a few improvements and innovations in video marketing that can improve those digits.
Now, we have access to user data, which marketers can use to personalize experiences at scale. Below, Lowe’s leverages user data to customize its video based on:
Whether the viewer had purchased from Lowe’s in the past.
Location of the nearest Lowe’s store to viewer.
On-sale items that were most relevant to the viewer based on their location and past purchases.
Weather conditions, and weekday vs. weekend timing.
Lowe’s ultimately had more than 180,000 variations on the video, each of which was personalized to the individual viewer.
On the lower-tech end of the spectrum, you can improve conversion rates by simply placing the video you use front and center, above the fold. We also recommend using a text call-to-action, like “click to play.”
2) Show people how to use your product or service.
Pre-Purchase Product Tours
There are a number of ways to show how a product works — even without video. Virtual product tours can serve the same function, but if done incorrectly, they can be clunky, boring, and overwhelming.
Most product tours become available after a product has been purchased, as part of the onboarding process. But pre-purchase product tours can act as powerful conversion enhancers, too. Take Visme’s product tour, for example. It’s cleverly designed for the early stages of the buyer’s journey, the visuals are large and simple, and the copy is concise. Not to mention, benefits are stated front and center, with “here’s how it works” displayed with an arrow below the top image, acting as a CTA to scroll down.
From there, you can see templates for infographics, presentations, and other visual content. With a couple of clicks, you can also see how to use Visme for social and web graphics. But what really makes it work is the “What others are creating” section, which shows the product in action.
3) Use Pinterest to your advantage.
It might not work for everybody, but if your target client is female, listen up — Pinterest is where they are.
“At that point, I’d already had my eye on [Pinterest] for quite some time,” he explained. “With warp-speed growth, a user base of 70% women, and an average user household income of over $100,000, Pinterest was shaping up to be an ecommerce marketer’s dream.”
Have a strategic look at the most popular category — in the U.S. and Canada, for example, that’s Food & Drink. So, if your product is, say, a grocery store list app, you have an amazing opportunity here to post something like a link to a recipe on your site. If the recipe has a call-to-action to download your app and add the ingredients to your grocery list — see how that works? — you have your conversion.
Yes, you have to think a little outside of the box with Pinterest, but you will be rewarded.
4) Integrate your social content with the rest of it.
The trick is to curate the tweets about your brand. Save the good ones, and make sure to include the entire body of it — otherwise, it won’t seem authentic. That can be done by clicking on the three dots below a tweet, clicking “copy link to tweet,” and bookmarking that URL. You can retweet them, or if they’re product-specific, embed them on your site next to product photos of the “buy” button.
Why does social proof work? Consumers are more likely to believe the reports of other consumers, like themselves, rather than marketers — hence that fancy statistic above about influencers. Seeing other people report favorably on a product removes fears and doubts, leading to more conversions.
All visual content should deliver real value for the user.
Fundamentally, people want information, and they want it as fast and fun as possible. One of the most effective ways to give them what they want is through visual marketing. And when you give the people what they want, they’re more likely to give it right back to you, with increased conversions and positive feedback.
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a complex business with many different ways to approach it. One aspect of CRO that hasn’t been discussed nearly enough is the potential for images to increase views, clicks, and conversions — in addition to customer success and net promoter scores (NPS).
But discussing what you can do with the right images isn’t helpful unless you know how to find or create these images quickly and economically.
A crash course in the power of pictures
To get to the root of how images improve conversion rates, we first have to look at the series of events that creates conversions.
Feel obligated to reciprocate – give them something, and they’ll want to give you something
Honor their commitments – if they say they’ll do something, they’ll likely do it, because they’ve established that goal as an integral part of their self-image
Believe the word of their peers (which is why user reviews are so powerful) and copy behaviors they see
Follow authority figures.
Buy from people they like
Act faster if they perceive scarcity (On Sale Now for a Limited Time!)
Our brains are hardwired to believe what we see over what we hear or read. Images have a way of driving straight to our emotional centers.
Based on Cialdini’s research, some of the ways images can be used for influence include:
Giving away a high-value infographic or set of high-quality stock photos that anyone can use (all they have to do is sign up for your newsletter)
Creating a series of motivational images that encourage viewers to keep the goals they’ve set for themselves (which your product can help them do)
Encouraging users to submit photos of themselves using, wearing, or enjoying your products (or, if you’re selling a service, including images of actual customers next to their reviews or testimonials)
Using professional photos and/or high-quality stock images on your website
Creating funny, personality-rich images, videos, or GIFs for your social media posts and emails
Thinking of creative ways to visually represent scarcity — maybe by making a GIF of a warehouse as it goes from full to empty, or by creating an image that expresses the disappointment someone will fill if they miss out on an opportunity
Companies are also using images to delight existing customers and help them become more successful (which improves net promoter scores and leads to increased upsell opportunities). A customer success team, for example, could create GIF screencasts in response to help tickets or even stock an FAQ page with visual demonstrations of how to solve the most common customer support issues.
As a Customer Service or Support manager, your performance is most likely based on a few key metrics, like:
First call resolution
Average call handling time
But you’re also on the front lines of improving metrics you don’t have total control over — retention and Net Promoter Scores — which are central to profitability and growth for your entire company. To say your job is important doesn’t begin to cover it. You’re a vital function. But with limited time and resources, there’s only so much you can do.
What if I said you could give these KPIs a vitamin shot (and I mean that in the Russian Olympic Team sense of the word). We’re talking seriousperformance enhancement.
Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe and completely legal.
And, your customers will love you for it.
It’s so simple.
Why GIFs, Screengrabs & Video are the Customer Support Tools of the Future
Live chats are good. Live chats with screenshots are better. But sending your customers custom-made GIFs, screengrabs or short videos to personally answer their questions?
They won’t see it coming, and they’ll be absolutely delighted.
Sending GIFs, images or videos in response to customer support tickets has an astounding effect on core support KPIs, like first call resolution, average call handling time, and, of course, customer satisfaction.
It’s not just the element of surprise, it’s that visual communication is so much easier to understand than written instructions. If someone has a functionality issue, walking them through each step so they can see exactly what they need to do is so much more helpful than verbal or written instructions alone.
But these visual methods aren’t just advantageous for the customer — they’re more efficient for your team, too. Screengrabs, GIFs and videos can be created in seconds or a few minutes, whereas composing an email could take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, and live chats could require even more time (depending on how ‘chatty’ the client is).
And, once you have a screen grab, GIF, or video, you can even use them to populate your FAQ page. Nobody wants to read an FAQ page — but watching it?
There’s a huge desire for that. Why do you think there are so many “How to” videos posted on Youtube?
Visual customer support methods also come with one more very important perk:
When you create a great experience via GIF, your customers just might want to share how amazing you are with their 1001 friends on Twitter, driving up referrals along with your customer support KPIs.
Fast, Easy, Integrated
CloudApp lets you capture GIFs, HD screen recordings and screenshots and convert to shareable links quickly. But did you know that CloudApp also integrates with customer communication apps like Zendeskand Slack?
Check out these use cases with Zendesk and SoundCloud for more ideas on how you can use the power of visual communication to give your KPIs a performance boost.
Whether you’re using Google sheets or Excel, spreadsheets are an incredible tool – versatile, robust and necessary for every business and every analyst. But today’s business landscape has shifted dramatically from when Excel was first designed. Even though there are added features, computations and capabilities that help close the gap, the tool still falls short of the needs of most business users.
Plus, it’s boring.
It’s Not Easy to Love a Spreadsheet
You know why spreadsheets don’t exactly excel in the user-friendly department as well as we do. But this has to be the worst: The Terror of the Blank Page (not just for writers anymore!).
With no template, no starting model, not even a hint of what you should (or could) do, the basic blank grid of a spreadsheet is intimidating. And even when you make it over that hurdle, you’re faced with an insurmountable obstacle: it’s nearly impossible to make an Excel spreadsheet look good. Sure, there are table, chart and dashboard functions, if you’ve been trained how to use them, but even then every spreadsheet looks the same.
It doesn’t reflect the nuances of your business.
But it’s not just the looks of the thing that make the program dated.
Functionalities we’ve come to expect in other programs, like collaboration and commenting features, just aren’t there.
You have to explain every little thing. Intuitive it is not.
And, we’ve all been at that meeting where the presenter is referencing numbers from one Excel doc (or a previous version of an Excel doc), while everyone else is looking at numbers from a completely different document. Confusing much?
Hey, Excel isn’t the enemy. And neither is Google sheets. But they’re not exactly our friends either. Collecting, storing and displaying data are vital functions…but there has to be a better way.
I could watch Patrick Stewart facepalm all day. Through the wonder of GIFs, I’ve actually done just that, going into giggle-fits on every rotation.
Looped hilarity aside, GIFs are quickly spreading beyond Reddit and Tumblr and into mainstream marketing, and for good reason. They’re highly effective at achieving the KPIs every marketer wants: Better open rates, more views, and higher conversions. Also, people love ’em.
Email marketers can especially benefit from adding GIFs to their campaigns. In this post, we’ll cover exactly what you need to know about using GIFs to make your email marketing more convincing — and more fun — than ever before.
Slack-based Customer Success Ideas to Amaze & Delight Your Customers
Slack customer service has been making headlines in tech communities. Some say it’s a crowd-pleaser and a time-saver, others say the opposite. In short: A few forward-thinking companies are using the Slack not just for internal team communication, but also for customer communications.
If you’ve ever gotten into an argument with a significant other via text message, you know that you can’t express everything with words alone.
Words are awkward.
They can be misleading and confusing or imply the wrong sentiment all together. Use too few words, and the reader thinks you’re callous and uncaring. Use too many and they’ll just think you’re weird. Without the benefit of visual aids, vocal inflections and physical gestures, communication, especially between strangers, is tough.
When it comes to customer service and customer success, clear communication is vital. But clarity isn’t the only goal. That communication also has to be fun and engaging. It has to tell the customer “I care about you, your experience, and your success.” And, each communication should make the client stop and think “Wow, I need to tell my friends about this company.”
That’s a tall order to place on faulty words, so some companies are beginning to bring in visual communication tools to use with Slack, like CloudApp.
There’s a boring definition of conversion, but I prefer to simplify it down to monkeys.
Monkey see. Monkey do.
The “do” is the conversion. But the magic is in the “see.” What does a monkey — or person — see that spurs them into doing? And what gets in the way between the “see” and the “do” that makes “doing” less likely?
Using images to improve conversion rates requires answering those two questions. Essentially, you need an image that creates a desire to take action and reduces any friction.
Any old picture might be worth a thousand words. But your target niche doesn’t need or want a thousand words. Your ideal audience needs the right words, paired with the right images, to tell a story that uniquely appeals to their deepest desires.
Studies show that people understand images faster than words, remember them longer, and if there’s a discrepancy between what we see and what we hear, our brains will choose to believe what they see. Our brains prioritize visual information over any other kind, which makes images the fast-track to connection all marketers are looking for.
So don’t just slap some text on a stock photo and call it good. You can do better. Much better. And I’ll show you how.
Gone are the days when a simple infographic would cut the mustard. Today’s content marketers have to be agile, ready to take on everything from photo editing, to video editing, to creating memes guaranteed to go viral. Considering that many content marketers aren’t designers (or even former film majors) – that’s a considerable challenge. I’ve compiled my favorite tools that make visual content marketing easy for everyone, in nearly every medium. No expertise required.
But wait – there’s more. Creating visual content is only half the battle for marketers – I get that! So at the end of this post is a list of 10 Places to Share Your Designs That Will Bring You Way More Traffic Than Twitter or Facebook.
10 Visual Marketing Design Tools for Non-Designers
1. PicMonkey (for collages & basic photo editing)
Picmonkey is a free, web-based photo editor and graphic design tool with a surprising number of ever-changing fonts, trendy color schemes and fun designs to choose from.
2. Placeit (for product mockups)
Placeit makes it easy to generate product mockups without Photoshop, and costs far less (one download costs $8, and monthly plans start from $12).
3. Visage (for data visualization)
Visage makes it easy to bring great design to data by making it simple to create charts and graphs, and visually design them with colors, fonts, clipart and high-res image backgrounds. You can also use it to super-impose words on background images (many of which are included in the freemium version), or to create infographics.
4. Free Stock Photos (for all of your royalty-free photo needs)
Free stock photo sites:
Unsplash – Adds 10 new royalty-free photos every 10 days, best for breathtaking landscapes, cityscapes and still-lives.
Picjumbo – High-res photos, no attribution required for almost all images, best for food pictures.
NewOldStock – A random assortment of vintage photos ranging from the Sphinx to the Rolling Stones, and everything in between.
5. Awesome Screenshot (for annotated screenshots)
Awesome Screenshot, available on Mozilla, Chrome and Safari, allows you to take screenshots of whole pages or parts of pages and annotate them with shapes – exceptionally useful for critiquing pages and images.
6. Social Image Resizer Tool (easy resizing for those who don’t think in pixels)
Social Image Resizer Tool makes it extremely easy to resize your images according to where you want to use them. Just upload your image and choose where it’s going – no need to know the pixel count.
7. Dissolve (a resource for video stock footage for commercial use)
Dissolve has HD quality, royalty-free stock footage available for commercial use, making it easy to create a jaw-dropping video. Footage isn’t free, so expect to pay a few hundred for a 10-20 second clip.
8. Stencil (basic words on image generator for social media)
Stencil is a Chrome extension that lets you quickly put words on images that are pre-sized for social sharing. $9/month.
9. Imgflip (for making memes)
ImgFlip is a meme-creating tool that lets you customize font and text, and make GIFs from images or videos.
10. Qzzr (for creating quizzes)
Qzzr is an app for creating interactive quizzes for free (with basic customization) or $299/year for Pro-level options.
10 Places to Share Your Designs That Will Bring You Way More Traffic Than Twitter or Facebook
As a content marketer, you likely spend as much or more time promoting your content than creating it (or you should be). But with so many content marketers flooding the main arteries of social media, it’s getting harder to get your content noticed, which is why many of us have found much better results from sharing our visual content via these networks.
Pinterest – Some bloggers have cultivated followings of thousands just by using Pinterest, or a combo of Pinterest and Instagram (see The Dabblist). Sharing is free, but there is a science to which kinds of posts do best. They’re image-heavy, informative, and list-centric.
Instagram – Instagram is a powerful tool for visual content marketers, especially for sharing customer-centric photos (pictures about your customers), employee-centric photos (pictures about your employees or CEO) and contest photos.
com/oggl/ – If you use Hipstamatic’s photo effects to stylize your photos, you can share them on Hipstamatic’s community via their app. No one is as likely to appreciate your creative efforts as other creatives, and you might just up your game by getting ideas from your peers.
com – Describing itself for “show and tell for designers,” Dribbble is where you come to really strut your stuff, or get ideas from the best. Top designs get thousands of page views and hundreds of likes.
net – Another showcase site for creative work, Behance also allows you to get peer kudos in the form of thousands of views and hundreds of likes. You can submit your work to several categories, including Branding, Graphic Design, UI/UX and Web Design.
Tumblr – Incredibly sticky with a hip, young audience, Tumblr can be a great resource for marketing to millennials, especially if you’re marketing to a tight niche and have an amusing image.
org – If your design skills are ready to turn pro (and freelance), you might want to check out Designers Couch. It’s like a collection of portfolios for designers, illustrators, web designers, and other visual creatives.
Slideshare – For B2B marketing, Slideshare is a happening place for sharing slides, infographics, and other informative visual materials. Don’t use it for blatant ads, but do use it for publishing exceptional original high-value content.
Vine – With channels like “DIY” and “Gaming,” and a young, tech-savvy demographic, Vine is practically made to foster viral videos. If you’re trying to reach younger millennials, this is where they are. Prepare to entertain them within 6 seconds.
Sub-Reddits & Reddit-Infographics – Finding the best Sub-Reddit for your niche is the hard part (there are so many). Uploading your infographic, meme, GIF or image is the easy part. But watch out for Mod rules like “no more self-promotion.”
Each social media outlet has its own style and its own user demographic, but that just makes them better tools for finding and attracting your target market. But one characteristic rings true for all of them: These are users who love good humor, great visuals, and truly innovative creativity.