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The Fractal Planner Is Now Available

The Fractal Planner Is Now Available

If you’d like to:

  • increase your productivity
  • decrease your stress
  • restore your sense of flow any time you need to
  • work with the wind at your back (and sunshine on your shoulder)

in 2011 . . .

Get your Fractal Planner account today!

http://www.fractalplanner.com

Watch the video (it will teach you some important productivity principles not taught anywhere else), and then start with your own Fractal Planner account so you can start working with more productivity and less stress from this day forward.

Jim

February 1st, 2011

The Personal Productivity Tool You’ve Been Waiting For

Is This The Personal Productivity Tool You’ve Been Waiting For?

Happy New Year!

Let me tell you why I have good reason to expect that 2011 will INDEED be my most productive year ever.

As I shared in my last blog post, about 1 year ago I had several hundred things to do, and the tools I was using to manage my life at the time weren’t up to the task.

And the thing is . . .

I’m not a newcomer to
personal productivity systems and tools.

I’ve read a lot of books on this topic. And you probably have, too.

I follow a modified version of what David Allen teaches in “Getting Things done”, what Mark Joyner teaches in Simpleology 101, and what Eben Pagan taught in his Wake Up Productive course. And I’ve read many other books on the topic as well.

These systems are great. Unfortunately,

I hadn’t found any TOOLS that allowed me to utilize these systems easily.

For years I had relied on paper notebooks and folders, and that worked reasonably well up to a certain point of complexity. I tried managing things with an Excel spreadsheet, but that had limitations of its own. I’ve tried various project management software tools, and souped-up to-do list programs. And they all feel a little clunky to me.

Some of these tools are better than others. And they’re all better than nothing. But none allowed me to easily integrate what I was doing with the very most important parts of my personal productivity system.

My Fractal Epiphany . . .

About 6 months ago I re-read Brian Arthur’s book, The Nature of Technology, and I had some breakthrough insights about motivation, procrastination, framing and task management.

In August, shortly after my epiphany, I wrote the blog post “The Cure for Procrastination?”. That post was very well received, and is one of the top two most commented on posts on this little blog.

That post seems to have struck a chord with entrepreneurs trying to manage the ever-increasing complexity of their lives.

In that post I shared a little bit about how fractals are related to clarity in our work, and how that relates to procrastination.

Those insights also led me to give up on the existing productivity tools, on the premise that . . .

If you want something done right . . .

I started building a planning and productivity tool for my own use that would work the way my brain works, and match the way my brain works with the fractal nature of my plans (and my life).

So, since August, I’ve had this little tool I was gradually making better and better, and it was making me more and more productive, and allowing me to work with less and less stress.

Then, just a few weeks ago, . . .

I started showing the tool to some friends and business colleagues.

Everyone I showed it to loved it. In fact, they started pestering me to get a copy of the tool for themselves.

About mid-December . . .

I finally decided to offer it as a service for others.

And being that December is right before January, and people in our business would be making all those New Years resolutions, and planning for the new year, and such, it seemed like it would be a good idea to time an announcement with the beginning of the new year.

Unfortunately, when you decide to create a new service in mid-December, it’s difficult to get everything done by January 3, even if you are using an incredible personal productivity tool :-)

I knew I couldn’t have the service (and some minimal semblance of marketing) ready by January 3. But I could announce it and explain a little bit about it on January 3.

So here we are.

Before I show you a video explaining some of how the tool works, . . .

let me make 4 quick points:

  • We’re probably looking at a 2-3 week window for this tool to be ready for you to use.
  • As I will have hosting costs, and hope to make some profit, it will be a paid service, but very affordable.
  • I probably won’t post any more about it here until it’s ready. Time taken to write blog posts and create videos is better spent finishing the software, so I can allow you to get up and running with it as soon as possible.
  • It’s important to know what this tool is, and what it isn’t. It isn’t a scheduling tool (I use Google Calendar for that), and it isn’t a group project management tool — Pivotal Tracker or Basecamp are pretty good there.

As for what it IS, this video will explain much of that:

NOTE: this video is best with sound, but you should be able to get a feel for it, even if you have to have the sound down for some reason.

As always, respectful comments are welcome . . .

Jim

January 3rd, 2011

How Big Is Your To-Do List?

How Big Is Your To-Do List?


2011 is almost upon us, and I thought we’d play a friendly game of “how big is your to do list?” I think mine is pretty big, but I’ll bet some of you out there have bigger ones.

In this video (under 2 minutes) I show you my current “active” planning list (not including a bigger “maybe later” list), and hint at an insight I had this year that allows me to keep everything perfectly straight.

This insight is related to my post on August 28, 2010: “The Cure For Procrastination?”

Keep an eye on this blog on Jan 3, 2011 for more information about handling your to do list.

Your feedback is desired below

Do you have a big, hairy, overwhelming to-do list? What have you done to make it more manageable? Which planning systems do you find most useful? Which tools do you use?

Happy Holidays, and a very productive new year!

Sincerely

Jim

December 27th, 2010

Why It’s (almost) Always Easier To Optimize Someone Else’s Landing Pages

Why It’s (almost) Always Easier To Optimize Someone Else’s Landing Pages

Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to see what’s wrong with someone else’s landing page than it is to see what’s wrong with your own?

When the other site is well-designed, it sometimes takes a couple minutes to see the flaws, but eventually you start to see things that could be better.

And with your own website, while you might have a nagging feeling that your site could be better, it’s often difficult to put your finger on just exactly what’s wrong, or what could be improved.

We’ll call this Stone’s Law of Optimization.

Stone’s Law of Optimization: Provided it’s within your area of general competence, It’s easier to generate ideas for improving someone else’s project than it is to generate ideas for improving your own.

Stone’s Law tends to hold for landing pages. Why is that? Why is it easier to come up with improvement ideas for someone else’s site than for your own?

I can think of two big reasons. There might be other reasons, but these two reasons probably explain most of it.

  1. Self-Bias
  2. The “Bag-of-neat-tricks” effect (this is mostly the key).

Let’s look at each of these briefly, and then will discuss how to take advantage of Stone’s Law.

Stone’s Law and Self-Bias

Let’s face it. We want to think well of ourselves.  As evidence of this, notice how I just named a law after myself? :-)

We want to think we’re competent, and that we don’t make many mistakes. We want to think we’re doing things just as well as (or better than) others.

Because of this bias, we often have trouble seeing our weak points.

There are lots of reasons we don’t notice weaknesses in our plans.

For one, we seem to be equipped with filters in our brians that partially protect us from bad news about ourselves.  These filters are there to protect our self-concept, and to allow us to engage in wishful thinking.  Often the filters are useful, and sometimes they hide things from us that we could easily and profitably fix.

And sometimes we also fall prey to the Lake Wobegon Effect.

Lake Wobegon appears in Garrison Keillor’s radio series “A Prairie Home Companion”, where “all the children are above average”.

If you poll parents around the world, you’ll find that almost every child is “above average”, and most will probably consider their child “well above average”.

If you poll drivers around the world, almost all consider themselves “above average”, and, again, most will consider themselves “well above average”.

If you poll website owners around the world, most will consider their landing pages to be above average as well, and a disproportionate fraction will consider their pages to be “well above average”.

Yet it’s logically impossible for more than half of us to be in the top half of any category. Are half of those other people just deluded? (We’re surely in the non-deluded half, right?)

Different Measuring Sticks

One way the Lake Wobegon Effect happens is that the categories we consider are conveniently vague or ambiguous. There are a multitude of possible success metrics, and we choose to attach meaning to the ones we happen to be good at.

“Johnny isn’t a good student, but boy can he sing. So, yeah, he’s well above average.”

“Sure, I tend to get distracted when I drive and create a nuisance by talking on my cell phone, but I’m always polite and let people into the flow of traffic. So, yeah, I’m well above average.”

“Well, my website doesn’t make many sales, but my logo is terrific, and the page is very elegant. So, yeah, I think it’s probably well above average.”

See how we can all be above average in our own minds? We’re all using different measuring sticks.

How To Partially Cure Yourself of Self-Bias in Marketing

Now here’s the thing. I don’t have much hope that we’ll cure parents around the world of their delusions. Nor drivers. But with landing pages, fortunately, we can actually get a handle on this problem. And that’s because, at the end of the day, there’s usually one main metric that matters to almost everyone: profitability.

Sure, you might not be 100% sold out on the value of high profits — to the complete exclusion of reputation, enjoyment, and ethics. But, admit it . . . profitability is pretty high on the list, right?

OK, so a good way to cure yourself of self-bias is to be disciplined, and use some sort of profit metric as your main way of judging how you’re doing.

Then you track your conversions and see objectively how you’re doing.

And then you ask around to get a feel for how well others are doing on the same metric.

Then you’ll have a rough (and objective) guide to how well you’re actually doing on one of the metrics that matters most to almost everyone.

That will help you admit that your site needs help (if it does).

And that might even help you come up with some ideas for improving your site. To start, you can find other sites that are more profitable, and “borrow” some of their ideas.

That will help. And you should do all that, if you’re not doing it already.

So self-bias goes some way toward explaining Stone’s Law. We’re better at seeing opportunities on other people’s landing pages, because we (at some level) don’t want to see problems with our own.

And we can actually overcome self-bias somewhat with objective testing and tracking.

But self-bias doesn’t explain Stone’s Law completely.

There’s also the Bag-of-neat-tricks Effect.

Stone’s Law and the Bag-of-neat-tricks Effect

You have a bag of tricks.

So do I.

Our bags contain tricks for getting more people to complete transactions on our landing pages.

One trick I know is that if you get someone’s email address, you can share your message with them multiple times, and most likely make more sales.

I have other tricks.

And so do you.

There are only so many tricks in each of our bags, though.

Let’s say a newbie acquires 10 website conversion tricks pretty quickly.

Let’s say a grizzled marketing veteran has 200 neat tricks in her bag.

And let’s say that the average online business owner or web master has 50 tricks at his or her disposal.

The thing is, everyone’s bag of tricks — even the grizzled veteran’s — contains only a small fraction all possible website conversion tricks.

And that means each and every one of us has a vast conversion optimization blind spot.

Now, couple that with the fact that we tend use the tricks we know, and that helps explain why it’s difficult to optimize our own landing pages.

It’s difficult to come up with improvement ideas, because, once we’ve spent a certain amount of time on a page, we’ve already used all our tricks!

So, when the question arises, “How can you improve your conversion rates?” often your reply is “I got nothin’”.

But that doesn’t mean your page can’t be improved.

It doesn’t mean that at all.

There are thousands of tricks yet to be tried, but they’re all in your blind spot, so you won’t be able to see them on your own.

Bringing it back around . .

So, why is it relatively EASY to come up with ideas for improving someone else’s landing page?

Basically, it’s because you and the other website owner have DIFFERENT BAGS OF TRICKS.

Let’s say you each have 50 tricks in your bag.

You’ve already used all your tricks on your site.

And he’s already used all his tricks on his site.

But let’s say, of the 50, you have 30 tricks in common, leaving you each with 20 tricks the other person doesn’t know.

That means, when you’re asked, about HIS PAGE, “how can we improve the conversion rate of this page?” your reply is “I think I got somethin’”.

And you do “got somethin’”. You have 20 neat tricks he’s never thought of.

And, guess what? He also has 20 neat tricks you’ve never thought of.

OK, so let’s turn this article in a more practical direction already.

How to exploit Stone’s Law for fun and profit

Are you starting to see how you and the other site owner could do better than to just brainstorm about how to improve your own sites individually?

If you can somehow get together with the other site owner, and help each other, by offering improvement ideas for each other’s pages, you can each gain a bunch of new testing ideas, and, probably, some of those will beat your control and increase your profits. (and the same goes for the other owner as well)

And here’s the cherry on top. If you can somehow arrange this little exchange of perspectives, you will not only get BETTER IDEAS, but you’ll also do it with LESS EFFORT.

You brainstorm on their page, which is easy for you. They brainstorm on your page, which is easy for them. And you each walk away with improvement ideas you would never have seen (even with a lot of effort) had you just focused on your own site.

And now, . . .

Let’s Expand This Idea Toward Its Natural Limit . . .

What if you had a way to get a whole bunch of people from diverse perspectives to brainstorm on your pages, and suggest some of their neat tricks for improving it? And what if all you had to do to get these breakthrough ideas was look at a few other people’s pages and suggest some of your neat tricks for their pages?

You exchange tricks you already know for tricks they already know, and everyone’s sites get better and better.

If you want a great way to get conversion rate improvement ideas for all your landing pages, you should consider Optimizers Club.

http://www.optimizersclub.com

First, let me say right up front that the basic membership is completely free.

Optimizers Club is composed of ordinary people. Some are more experienced than others, but each has a bag of neat tricks. And each also has a big blind spot.

Optimizers Club allows us to come together and pool our tricks into one giant bag of neat tricks, and end each contributing member has access to the power and expertise of the entire group’s huge bag of tricks.

You can think of it as a brainstorming co-op. You can think of it as a “neat trick exchange”. Or you can simply think of it as members helping members.

Optimizers Club provides a brainstorming tool that makes everything work very smoothly.

You will get improvement ideas:

  1. of high average quality.
  2. without any awkward social obligations (you earn ideas by first giving ideas, so there’s no feeling of having an “unpaid debt” when others help you)
  3. almost “on tap” (give some ideas, and expect ideas to come back to you with short turn around).
  4. is kind of addictive
  5. expands your own bag of tricks over time (just the process of looking at a random sampling of other landing pages will help you get ideas for your own pages — on top of the ideas other members will give you directly).

Come join us. It’s free. It’s fun. And we’ve got everything running smoothly.

http://www.optimizersclub.com

Also, if you’re already a member, log in and start trading ideas that come easy to you for ideas you would never think of on your own.

Take care.

Sincerely,

Jim

P.S. If you’d like me to personally use my own bag of tricks (and meta-tricks — tricks for getting even more tricks) on your landing pages, take a look at my new consulting offer.  You can download my free spec sheet.  Read it.  It will almost certainly provide you with some value all on its own, even if we don’t wind up working together.

http://www.splittestaccelerator.com/consulting/consult_with_jim.php

P.P.S.  I always enjoy hearing your respectful comments and questions.  Feel free to leave comments below:

December 1st, 2010

Fractal Technology and Entrepreneurial Manic-Depression

Fractal Technology and Entrepreneurial Manic-Depression

I just stumbled across this article over at Tim Ferriss’s blog, and I love it:  http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2008/10/03/harnessing-entrepreneurial-manic-depression-making-the-rollercoaster-work-for-you/

It’s an older article, so there’s a chance you may have seen it already.  However, I would encourage anyone reading this blog to read that article. 

At the very least, I think the lead chart graphic should resonate well.

Entrepreneurial M-D -- Tim Ferriss

It’s also very much related to the post on procrastination I posted here a couple months back:

http://splittestaccelerator.com/blog/2010/08/the-cure-for-procrastination/

I tried to leave a comment explaining the connection on Tim’s blog, but the comment form didn’t seem to work properly.

Here’s the gist of what I was going to say:

I think the roller coaster is partly influenced by individual personality, but largely happens largely due to the fractal nature of our projects.

As Brian Arthur points out in “The Nature of Technology” (one of the best books on the subject IMHO), we build things (like businesses, and technologies) by combining parts with other parts.

At the beginning of our project, the parts seem to fit well in the abstract, and we are free to dream about the potential for our eventual creation.

Then we start to get into the details, and we see that one part of our project has a point of conflict with another part.  And a sub-sub-sub-part has a point of conflict with a sub-sub-sub-sub part. And so on.

That’s when we start to realize our project is not as easy and straightforward as we thought, and we enter a phase of “informed pessimism”.

As we work on the details, they multiply with fractal tentacles often several nodes deep, each node another point of potential conflict with any of the other nodes.

And this eventually leads to one of 3 conditions:  A) we get overwhelmed and can’t see a clear way through, B) we get to the bottom and realize our project isn’t feasible, or C) we get to the bottom and see that it will work after all.

If it’s A or B, we “crash and burn”.  If it’s C, we start working our plan with “cautious optimism”, and we really know what we’re doing at this point.

Procrastination and depression both tend to hit us hardest on the down slope of the roller coaster depicted in the chart — that’s the region of least clarity, and the greatest density of set-backs.

Tim also has some recommendations for what to do (and what not to do) during each phase of a project.
Jim

October 20th, 2010

The Promise Of Untethered Split Tests

How Untethered Multivariate Tests Can Boost Your Landing Page Optimization Profits.

I. An essential tension for multivariate testing:

We test to improve our conversion rates. And higher conversion rates can make the difference between a business that works online, and one that doesn’t — or between one that struggles and one that thrives.

But how do we test most effectively? I have some new thinking on this topic, and I’ll bring you into my new way of thinking in this article. There are a lot of benefits to understanding the concepts I discuss here, so stay with me.

Consider some questions and their answers:

Q1: What are the marks of a good split test (whether single variable, or multi-variable)?

A1: We want our tests to have two features: 1) they find BIG improvements, and 2) they find them QUICKLY.

Q2: OK, so how do you find BIG improvements?

A2: 1) test influential factors, and 2) get a lot of variety in your options.

Q3: And how do you find FAST improvements?

A3: 1) use multi-variate testing, and 2) get a lot of variety in your options.

Now you may or may not have noticed it, but there is both a tension and a synergy between finding big improvements, and finding fast improvements.

First the synergy: notice how getting lots of variety in your options is both a way to get big improvements and a way to get fast improvements. When you get a lot of variety in your options, you get more volatility. And volatility makes for both bigger improvements and faster tests. Getting variety in your testing ideas is always a good idea. (for more on the power of volatility, see my 3-part video series 1,2, 3) .

Now for the tension: one of the essential tensions in landing page optimization occurs between the other elements that produce big and fast improvements.

In order to find big improvements, you should test influential factors.

In order to get fast improvements, you should use multivariate testing.

Do you see the tension yet?

There is a tension between multivariate testing and testing BIG, influential factors.

If you’ve done a good bit of multivariate testing, this should ring a bell.

If not, it might not. So let me explain.

Some of the “biggest” factors on a sales page are things like the overall design, the offer, the angle of the copy, and the mode of delivering the content. I’m calling these factors ‘big’ primarily because they have more chance of delivering big gains than most other factors.

But factors that are big in that sense are often big in another sense. They have many tentacles that make it difficult to test them at the same time you are testing other factors. For instance, the copy angle is a hugely important thing to test, but each copy angle you want to test can affect almost everything else on the page (the headline, the images you use, the way the offer is stated, your P.S. statement, etc). So you pretty much cannot test the copy angle at the same time you test those other things, because their content depends on the content of the copy angle.

And it’s not just semantic interaction that’s a problem. There’s also syntactic conflict. Often the way the html, css, javascript and php is arranged to create the current version of the page makes it difficult to isolate and test these big multi-tentacled factors with other factors at the same time — especially with the substitution-based testing tools in broad use today (including STA and almost every other tool more complicated than a spreadsheet and hand-crafted pages.)

So, if you want to test big ideas (the ones most likely to bring big benefits), you’re often reduced to using a simple (single variable) test design, due to the potential for semantic interaction and the logistics of page design. But we also know that multivariate testing mows through factors much more quickly than single variable tests.

And there it is. Now the tension is laid bare. Often you have to choose between testing the most promising factors, and mowing through factors quickly.

What should we do about this?

One solution is to do single variable tests for the big things, and use multivariate testing for fine-tuning the page once you get the big items in place.

That’s how many of us have approached things thus far. But I think we can do better.

An alternative solution, the one I’ll be discussing in the rest of this article, is to start with a 4 factor “UNTETHERED” multivariate test for testing the biggest factors we can find that can be made to work together. And then do a large (maybe even up to 20 factors) fine-tuning Taguchi test once a good combination of the big factors falls into place..

Now, in order to explain this proposal more completely, I’m going to have to define some things.

II. Definitions.

The key definition you’re probably waiting for is the definition of “untethered test”. I’ll get to that, but let me define a few other terms first just to make sure we’re on the same page for the remainder of the discussion.

First, let me clearly state how I’m using the terms ‘split test’, ‘multivariate test’ and ‘simple split test’.

When we test, we can test one variable at a time (say, just your headline), or we can test multiple variables at a time (say, a headline, the offer, the header image, and the order button).

Either way, I call it ‘split testing’. I often view a multivariate test as a stack of single variable split tests. So, in a sense, we’re split testing many variables at once. Now it’s technically not quite that simple, as there are interactions to deal with, but, in practice, this way of speaking has proven to be mostly more useful than not.

So I use ‘split testing’ to refer to pretty much any kind of organized testing you might want to do on your landing pages. When I want to get more specific, I will use the term ‘simple split test’ to indicate that I’m talking about a single variable test. And I’ll use the term ‘multivariate test’ (or ‘multiple-variable’ test or ‘multi-variable test’, etc) to single out tests involving more than one factor.

Similarly, I use the term ‘multivariate test’ to refer to any multiple variable test — whether Taguchi, full factorial, independent random factors, or nonparametric.

If I want to get more specific I will use one of the more specific labels. And when I use the term ‘4×3 test’, that means a mutivariate test that has 4 factors with three options each.

OK, so now let me explain the distinction between “tethered” tests and “untethered” tests.

“Tethered” here simply means “tied to the original”.

In a tethered simple split test, you use your existing landing page as a control, and you test it against another page (or so). It’s the most sensible way to do a single variable split test, and there’s really no point in doing an untethered single variable test.

When testing multiple variables, however, things become more interesting. In a tethered multivariate test every factor being tested is “tethered” to the original landing page. And the first variation for each factor comes directly from the existing page, and alternatives are rotated in with the original variation.

For instance, suppose you’re testing 4 factors (headline, offer, order button, and header graphic) with three options each. Here’s how you fill out your test options:

“Tethered” Test Design for a 4×3 multivariate test

headline:
option 1: original headline
option 2: new headline
option 3: another new headline

offer:
option 1: original offer
option 2: new offer
option 3: another new offer

order button:
option 1: original order button
option 2: new order button
option 3: another new order button

header graphic:
option 1: original header graphic
option 2: new header graphic
option 3: another new header graphic

So that’s a tethered test design. Your factors are all tethered to the current page. The idea is that you’re trying to gradually ratchet your way up from the original.

With an “Untethered” test, on the other hand, you forget all about your current landing page. You will come back later and do a simple split test between the original and the winner of the untethered test, but it is not a part of the untethered test.

Here’s how the test design looks for an untethered multivariate test:

“Untethered” Test Design for a 4×3 Multivariate Test

headline:
option 1: new headline
option 2: another new headline
option 3: yet another new headline

offer:
option 1: new offer
option 2: another new offer
option 3: yet another new offer

order button:
option 1: new order button
option 2: another new order button
option 3: yet another new order button

header graphic:
option 1: new header graphic
option 2: another new header graphic
option 3: yet another new header graphic

That’s right. You just construct entirely new options for every factor, and you don’t worry about the old page at all.

Now, an untethered test sounds a little funny in this context. When testing things like headlines and order buttons, there’s really not a lot of point to running an untethered test, except that it allows you to test more new alternatives. But given that you’re going to have to run a whole new testing round against the original, the gains from testing more options in the first round get wiped out anyway.

Where untethered testing comes into its own is with the big, many-tentacled factors like copy angle, page layout, and content delivery mode.

And that’s because running an untethered test allows you to design an entirely new page from scratch, and you have a much better chance of making the multi-tentacled factors play nice together, without the additional constraint of making sure they’re tethered to the original page as well.

Let’s look now at some of the pros and cons of running an untethered multivariate test, and then I’ll outline a testing program for implementing these ideas.

III. 8 reasons to run a 4×3 untethered test:

Here are 8 reasons to start with a 4×3 untethered test.

1. The factors that promise the biggest gain (content delivery mode, copy angle, offer, layout, e.g.) are often the most difficult to tether to the original.

2. By untethering the test you can completely redesign the page without worrying about the original.

3. If you’re clever and persistent, given the freedom you have to redesign the page, you can often get 3 or 4 of the big factors to work together in a test. When you’re not locked into the existing architecture of the page, it gives you more freedom to make it work.

4. If you test 4 big factors in a test, it will be much faster (roughly 4 times faster) than doing 4 sequential split tests testing each of the big factors separately.

5. Untethered testing also allows you to brainstorm better. You ask different questions and have more freedom.

For example, with a tethered test, you ask something like this question:

  • “How can I improve this page?”

With untethered testing, that question doesn’t make as much sense. You’re no longer trying to “improve the old page”. Now you’re trying to find any alternatives in the whole wide world that will produce the most sales, not just ones that are easy extensions or substitutions of current content.

These questions should be asked instead, without regard to the actual current implementation:

  • “What main hook or copy angle would produce the most sales? What story would compel the most action?”
  • “What main layout scheme would focus the visitor’s attention in the most profitable direction?”
  • “What offer would be most profitable?”
  • “What content delivery mode would work best?”

And allow me to re-iterate that, when you don’t have to worry about the original at all, you are free to pull from all the good ideas in the whole wide world.

6. If your untethered winner beats your control in a follow-up test, you often wind up with a page that’s better designed for testing — more modular in all the ways that matter for easy testing.

7. Once you settle on your 4 biggest factors, you’ll begin to develop a template for new tests that you can use with much more ease than the first time.

8. Once you get the big factors in place, your 10 to 20 factor Taguchi test will put a nice cherry on top. And you’ll be applying your tweaks knowing the big picture is solidly in place.

Now, there are some drawbacks.

IV. Drawbacks of starting with a 4×3 untethered test.

Here are three drawbacks of starting with a 4×3 untethered test:

  • Untethered tests take more time to set up.
  • Testing big factors means the options often take more time to create.
  • You have to run a confirmation test with the original, so this approach involves an extra testing round.

So it can take a bit more effort to start with a 4×3 untethered test. But compared to the alternatives it can often be the best choice.

One alternative is to simply not test the big factors. But you will almost certainly sacrifice performance this way.

Another alternative is to run single variable tests for the big factors. But that will take more testing time and traffic than starting with a 4×3 design.

Now, before laying out a testing program, let’s consider the best factors to use in your initial 4×3 untethered test.

V. Which factors are good to test in a 4×3 big untethered test?

The key is to pick the 4 most promising factors you can that you can make work together, both in terms of content, and in terms of the code on the page.

In my initial thinking, these 4 seem to strike a good balance:

  • The page layout (look for various layouts used around the web, and try to test the ones that seem to best focus the visitor’s attention where it needs to be)
  • The copy angle (Are you framing the price as important? Is this a brand new revolutionary way to do things? Do you want to tell a “tale of two” people — one who used your product, and one who didn’t? Etc.)
  • The content delivery mode (video, short copy, long copy, multi-page copy, interactive copy, etc)
  • The offer (what they get, how they get it, price, payment methods, upsells, downsells, etc)

Now, these 4 factors COULD potentially conflict. The copy angle could affect the layout or the offer. But the key will be to restrain the options just a bit so they can be tested together.

And with that caveat in mind, I think these 4 factors have a fair shot of being 4 hugely influential factors that CAN be made to work independently enough to put in a single untethered 4×3 test.

And I’ll be testing this way myself for a while to refine the process.

OK, so, let’s say you wanted to try this, too. How do you go about it?

VI. A Procedure For Starting with a 4×3 Untethered Test

Here’s the order of the steps you should take.

  1. Determine your biggest factors. I have decided to focus on 4 particular factors exclusively for a while, and you should feel free to either follow my lead, or try different combinations.
  2. Brainstorm alternatives for the factors you want to test. Take your time here and get some really good ideas. These factors are big deals. This kind of test could easily lead to a doubling of your conversion rate if you take time to get a lot of variety in your options here. Hold a brainstorming group. Or use Optimizers Club. Or do both.
  3. Create the alternative creatives. You might have to fiddle a little here to make sure you can get all the combinations of options for the 4 factors to work smoothly together.
  4. Then design the page so it works for all the combinations. You’ll probably want to build it so you can switch layouts with .css, so the content can all just be dropped in whole, and so on.
  5. Then run the 4×3 test.
  6. Then run the winner of your 4×3 test against the original. This will give you a chance to see if you got an improvement. And it will show you how big the improvement is.
  7. If the original wins (unlikely), you can just learn from the untethered test, and then run a Taguchi test on the original.
  8. If the untethered winner wins, then use that as your landing page, and run a tweaking Taguchi test — up to 20 factors. (test things like your headline, images, order buttons, etc. and keep the test running to drop in ideas over time as they occur to you.)

Yes, this is more work than simply picking a few easy-to-test factors and dropping them into a Taguchi test. But the expected payoff should be much greater too.

VII. Conclusion:

I said the expected payoff should be much greater when you start with a 4×3 untethered test. I hope to generate evidence for this claim over the coming weeks and months. For now, let me just keep it theoretical and ask a hypothetical question:

Under what conditions would a tethered test outperform an untethered test?

Given all the work you do to set up an untethered test, this is an important question. It seems that your untethered test would lose to the original primarily if either the original is really, really good OR the options generated for the untethered test aren’t very good. That’s why it’s really important to take your time with step 2 above.

So, if you’re up for a challenge that could have potentially great rewards, give it a try.

And consider whether you might want some help with this. I’ll be developing a consulting offer, and will post here when I get that together.

For now, feel free to leave any comments or questions you have in the comments section below.

Take care.

Sincerely,

Jim

October 4th, 2010

Are audio books the best value on the planet?

Are audio books the best value on the planet?

I was at a meeting for one of my social groups, and some of the younger members were talking about pirating various media.

And yes, it’s true, just as Chris Anderson, Clay Shirky, and many other commentators on internet and culture say, these kids consider it their birthright to get almost anything digital for free.

I’m usually pretty open-minded about a lot of things, but they really got me going when they mentioned pirating an exceptionally well produced audio book that sold for 14.95 through official channels. So I got on my soap box for a minute with them.

Look, I know how things are trending, but I happen to still think that $14.95 (or any price close to that) for a really good audiobook is the best value available in the world today.

Now I must admit I didn’t work very hard to come up with alternatives for that honor, so I’ll let you chime in in the comments section if you can think of something that presents an even better value proposition in 2010. But let me make my case for the immense value of a well-produced audio book.

First, here are some of the audiobooks I’ve listened to over the last couple years (no particular order, just some random good ones):

  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma – Michael Pollan
  • Dune – Frank Herbert
  • On Intelligence – Jeff Hawkins
  • Mistakes Were Made – But not by me: Carol Tavaris
  • Crowdsourcing – Jeff Howe
  • The body has a mind of its own — Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee
  • Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman –Richard P. Feynman
  • Several Lee Child Novels – Gotta love Jack Reacher.
  • Nudge –Thaler and Sunstein
  • Beggars in Spain – Nancy Kress
  • Viral Loop – Adam Penenberg
  • Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
  • Free – The future of a radical price: Chris Anderson
  • Glimmer – Warren Berger
  • Rendezvous With Rama – Arthur C. Clarke
  • The Ultimate Sales Machine – Chet Holmes
  • The Physics of the Impossible – Michio Kaku

OK, so you get the idea. There are a lot of lay science, psychology/cognitive science, science fiction, and marketing books sitting in my Audible.com library. And I’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg.

In fact, I had 164 books listed in my Audible.com account. I’ve had my account for just under 3 years now, so I guess I listen to about a book a week on average. And I actually listened to most of them all the way through. There were only a handful of clunkers I abandoned midway through.

I listen in my car. I listen at night while “de-briefing” , drinking a glass of Cab, and playing Civ IV on my computer. And I listen when I go on long walks.

I paid probably an average of $14.95 per book, and, even considering that there were a few clunkers along the way, I consider it the best money I’ve ever spent.

Here’s why:

  1. Most of the books were written by very talented people who usually had spent years of their lives researching their topics.
  2. Then they spent months trying to figure out the best way to communicate those ideas to someone like me.
  3. They usually bothered to get an editor to make it even better for me.
    And, perhaps most importantly . . .

  4. A man or woman with an incredible voice was hired to walk around with me and, whenever it was convenient for me, read the book to me.


All for 14 friggin 95
— please excuse my language, I’m quite excited :-)

Seriously, imagine explaining this deal to Benjamin Franklin. It would sound like a good deal even before you correct for inflation.

OK, so now it’s your turn.

Do you agree with me? Then tell me some of the best books you’ve listened to.

If not, then tell me what you think is the best deal on the planet today.

Cheers.

Jim

September 22nd, 2010

Fast Landing Page Optimization 3 — The Ultimate Way to get optimization ideas

Fast Landing Page Optimization 3 — The Ultimate Way to get optimization ideas

Hey all.

Here’s the third video in the series, and the link to sign up for the free Optimizers Club brainstorming co-op service is below the video.

The Sign Up Link:

Sign Up Today And Test New Ideas Tomorrow!

You can feel free to leave comments and questions here. Or, better yet, sign up, use the brainstorming co-op, and then leave questions and comments at the beta support forum.

See you on the inside!

Jim

September 14th, 2010

Fast Landing Page Optimization (2): How to run a productive brainstorming session.

Hello again.

In this video I want to show you (and for some of you review with you) how to run an effective brainstorming session. These sessions can give you the volatile kinds of ideas that can produce 50% or 100% improvements instead of 10% or 20% improvements from your simple split tests and multivariate tests.

The key is to get a wide variety of ideas in your test, and getting multiple perspectives is a major key to that.

However, I’ll also discuss some drawbacks to running brainstorming sessions, and hint at a new free service that should solve all those problems.

Once you watch the video, feel free to make more guesses about what the new service will be. We should be sending our initial invitations out by the middle of this upcoming week.

Make your guesses below. I’ll ship a copy of “Breakthrough Business Results with MVT” to the person with the closest guess (by 12am Pacific Daylight Time Monday, September 7), or the first to nail it dead center.

http://www.amazon.com/Breakthrough-Business-Results-MVT-Cost-Free/dp/0471697710

If you already made a guess on the last post, make another here. Some earlier guesses were close, but probably not close enough.

Have a great Friday and Labor Day weekend!

Jim

P.S., if you think someone else has got it, show some support and say so. Or slightly modify their idea. It will be interesting to see what everyone thinks.

September 3rd, 2010

Fast Landing Page Optimization: How Volatile Are Your Ideas?

Fast Landing Page Optimization: How Volatile Are Your Ideas?

My partner Mark Widawer and I are going to be launching a new free service that is designed to help you run much more successful split tests.

It will probably be a week or so before we send our our initial invitations.

To prepare for that event, if you haven’t split tested for a while, do yourself a favor and dust off your split testing tool of choice and at least do a headline or something while you’re waiting.

In the meantime, here’s a video meant to help introduce the new service. There will be three parts to the video. I have part one done here, and will show you the second when I get it done. The first half of this video will probably be review for most viewers, but it will help to frame the service if you go ahead and watch it. The second half will be new to most, but old hat to many. Still, take a look, and see if you can figure out what we’re doing.

Once you watch the video, let’s play a guessing game. I like guessing games :-)

What do you think the new service will do? (guess in the comments below)

Jim

August 30th, 2010