Winning more sales ultimately comes down to trust.
The prospective customer has to trust that your product or service is valuable and that you’re honorable enough to not sell them something they don’t need.
The way to win trust only comes in three forms:
- You’ve built trust by getting to know who you’re selling to and showing them that you’re invested in their success.
- Your brand has enough reputation in the market to warrant widespread trust.
- You get an extension of trust by getting your product or service recommended by someone they trust.
In this article, we’ll talk about the third option and show you five ways to deploy referral marketing strategies and ultimately close more deals:
What Is a Referral Marketing Strategy?
A referral marketing strategy is a marketing tactic that enhances your company’s ability to spread word of mouth about your products and services and receive more recommendations. It’s a competitive advantage that extends the reach of your marketing efforts beyond your own efforts.
Referrals are a great way to get the word out about your product or service, whether you’re a SaaS company or an e-commerce site. People tend to share what’s useful and makes them look good. They want to be seen as someone who has good taste, cares about their peers, and provides practical value. Referring to great products and services is one way to do that.
The hard part about marketing is getting people’s attention. It’s a noisy world full of too many great Netflix shows and products and services. We can’t buy everything and can’t watch all those shows. We have to find ways to filter out the noise. Getting recommendations is one way to do that, which is why referrals can be an integral part of your marketing strategy.
5 Referral Marketing Strategies That’ll Help You Win More Sales
There are a lot of referral marketing strategies out there that can extend your reach and ensure that you’re giving your company the best competitive advantage. Here are a few that’ll help you win more deals:
1. Host a Free Event for Customers
Doing something exciting for customers will always improve your retention rate. But how does it improve your referral rate?
When you provide that free perk, make it a “plus one” affair. That way, they’re encouraged to bring someone who isn’t a customer but could potentially be one. You get a chance to have a captive audience full of like-minded people ,and hopefully an opportunity to convert them to paying customers.
Digital events work just as well. You can host a seminar that’s paid but offer free invitations for current customers to give to friends, colleagues, or family.
2. Automate Your Ask
If you rely on your marketing or sales team to do it, you’ll see some decent results, but finding ways to automate asking for referrals is the secret sauce. It starts with doing a little research to figure out the prime time to ask for referrals.
From there, it’s as simple as sending out an automated email to each new customer asking them to forward this email to someone who might be interested.
The easier you make it for people to refer to you, the more likely it is that they’ll do it. Creating a simple referral link that they can copy and paste works wonders. Or take it another step further with a button that has a pre-written message typed up outlining the benefits of your service. Then they literally just have to decide who to send it to.
3. Maximize Your Incentives
Sometimes it’s enough to ask people for referrals, but why not boost your chances by offering an incentive? That could mean something as small as giving them a credit on their account for each referral that signs up.
It could also mean that they get a cut of the first deal or monthly subscription cost if you’re offering a service. As Content Mart rightfully stated,
The better your incentive, the more likely it is that customers will go out of their way to tell their friends, family, and colleagues about you.
4. Harness the Power of Reciprocity
The “law” of reciprocity essentially says that when you do something nice for someone, they’re more likely to develop an urge to return the favor and do something nice for you.
With referral marketing, you could evoke this urge by giving your customers or prospective customers a gift. It could be tickets to a concert or a sporting event. Perhaps something simple like a branded coffee mug or coupons to their favorite shopping store.
You close the deal, offer up a gift or kind gesture, and ask for a referral. If you find something that works well, then make it part of your sales plan and automate it. Build it right into the sales process and go even bigger for those that actually send a referral your way.
5. Take a Leap of Faith
Of the many popular sales closing techniques, none stands the test of time better than simply asking for the sale. That’s right. Sometimes the best strategy is asking your prospect if they’d like to make a purchase today. Or sometimes assuming the sale by asking, “how do you want to make your first payment?”
Turns out, that’s equally true for asking for referrals. Sometimes just asking is all it takes to get one. And if you do it consistently enough, the odds will stack in your favor. It could be an automated email like above, but sometimes a personal touch like a phone call or an in-person meeting works better.
What works especially well is being specific with your request. Swap “would you consider sending me a referral?” for “who else do you know that would benefit from our product?”
The strategies you can deploy to maximize your chances of getting a referral are endless. The best advice we have to offer is to pick one and stick with it for a while. Testing your efforts will help you truly understand what works, what doesn’t, and will ultimately help direct your investment the best.
3 Real Life Examples of Successful Referral Marketing Campaigns
Lyft’s referral marketing strategy is a perfect example of what it takes to spread word of mouth from current customers. Lyft incentivizes current customers to refer their friends and family members by offering up free ride credits.
The company also markets itself through features such as the ability to share riders’ ETA with other non-customers, as well as locating lost or left-behind items. Lyft further incentivizes newly referred customers by offering up free rides when they sign up, regardless of whether or not they use a friend’s referral code.
Dropbox puts their referral marketing strategy into the hands of its customers by offering up plenty of incentives in the way of additional cloud storage space. Dropbox Basic accounts are awarded 500 MB per referral and can earn up to 16 GB of additional storage, while Dropbox Plus and Professional accounts can receive 1 GB per referral and can earn up to 32 GB of free storage.
Customers can even track the status of their own referrals that they’ve sent, which allows them to have the ability to follow up with anyone that they’ve sent an invitation to without Dropbox ever being directly involved.
Tesla’s overarching goal is to “build the best clean energy products”, and its referral program goes hand-in-hand with that objective. Current customers can share their referral link via the Tesla app, which – like Dropbox – allows them to track the status of their sent invitations as their Loot Box rewards.
Rewards include 1,000 miles of free Supercharging with the purchase of a new Tesla car for both the referrer and the new customer, a $100 reward for the activation of a new solar energy system or Solar Roof, as well as a $400 award for each solar referral. A Powerwall can be earned for the referral of 10 solar customers, which is more than a lucrative enough incentive to keep current customers referring potential new customers.
4 Tools Companies Can Use for Referral Marketing
Getting starting with a referral marketing program can seem like a daunting task – but it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of available tools that allow you to hit the ground running with your referral marketing strategy, all of which allow you to customize and configure your program as much or as little as you want. Here are a few solutions to check out:
- Website: https://referral-factory.com/
- Price: 15-day free trial, then from $95/month
Designed for small to medium-sized businesses, Referral Factory makes it “easy for any business to build their own referral program.” You’re able to choose from 1000+ referral program templates, or create your own with your company’s branded colors and logo. Just set up your rewards, and you’ll be set to track your referral campaigns in real-time. This is a great tool to start your own affiliate marketing program.
- Website: https://www.friendbuy.com/
- Price: 30-day free trial, then from $249/month
Friendbuy believes that “referrals are your best channel for dynamic business growth”, and puts its money where its mouth is with its refer-a-friend program. Automated rewards fulfillment and A/B testing are just some of the features that Friendbuy provides, with the ultimate goal being marketing your company through customer engagement and word of mouth.
- Website: https://www.getambassador.com/
- Price: Unavailable
Ambassador allows you to turn your best customers into brand ambassadors by segmenting them into categories such as “customers, affiliates, influencers, partners, employees, and other advocates.” These roles are incentivized and tracked in real-time, allowing you to make the most of your referral program while further understanding who your customers are and creating more opportunities for engagement.
- Website: https://www.mention-me.com/
- Price: Unavailable
Mention Me aims to drive referrals throughout the entire customer journey, incentivizing current customer referrals whether they are new happy customers, or long-time, repeat customers. With reporting and analytics tracking your customers’ purchasing behavior, you’ll have plenty of actionable insights to pull from.
Think back to the last time you referred someone to a product or service. What was it? How did you tell them? Share your findings in the comments below:
10 Advanced SEO Skills To Level Up Your Career
Many of us get to a stage in our careers as SEO professionals where we feel a little bit stagnant.
We’ve been optimizing sites for a while and feel pretty confident that we can do it well.. but there’s that nagging thought there’s more we could be doing.
That there is another layer of expertise that would make us more efficient, employable, and confident.
In this article, you’ll find 10 skills that can level up your SEO competency.
1. Intent Analysis
Intent analysis is the decoding of a user’s intention behind the keyword they enter into a search engine.
When someone types [pizza restaurant] into a search engine, what is the end result they are hoping for?
Do they want to know what pizza restaurants are nearby?
Are they in the market to open a pizza restaurant?
Are they looking for a job in a pizza restaurant?
Developing your understanding of the psychology behind what searchers want is a critical skill for those wishing to go further in their SEO competency.
This will help you both satisfy a user’s need when they land on a page and also increase your page’s likelihood of being ranked in their search.
It can’t just stop there, however.
You must also understand what the search engines perceive users to want from the content they are searching for.
For instance, from my location in the U.K., if I search for [pizza restaurants] in Google from my desktop device, I get a mixture of results.
I get the option to click through to search on other websites:
This is followed by the Map Pack and then a mix of review and editorial sites and restaurants’ websites.
If I am trying to rank a website all about the history of pizza restaurants in my country, I might struggle.
Google has identified the user intent as being either navigation – wanting to go to a local restaurant – or comparative, as in wanting to compare options in the local area.
Resources To Learn More
Although SEO experts do not need to be fully-fledged developers, having an understanding of code can help you to identify issues with rendering, indexation, and crawlability.
There are times when knowing the basics of how code is created, or being able to read code that already exists, can help your SEO.
It can aid your communication with the developers who may need to change it.
It can assist you in pinpointing incremental improvements to your site’s performance.
Learning to code is not a prerequisite for SEO, but it is arguable that knowing the fundamentals of these three commonly used languages is going to set you up well for your career.
Understanding the syntax of code, how it is formed, and being able to see how elements relate to each other can also help you get better at writing and debugging schema.
Learning Python and SQL can also help you to streamline your SEO processes by enabling you to automate labor-intensive activities such as mapping URL redirects and keyword research.
Resources To Learn More
3. Understanding Server Management
No SEO professional should really be the one responsible for ensuring that a server can handle a load of visitors to a site.
However, understanding the basics of how servers can impact the crawlability, load speed and reliability of a website can propel your technical SEO understanding forwards.
The use of CDNs instead of static servers can aid in speeding up content loading, but without understanding the limitations of fixed location servers it will be difficult for you to argue the need for a CDN.
A better understanding of how web hosting can affect a user’s experience of your site and also Google’s ability to access it is necessary for strong technical SEO foundations.
You need to understand how aspects like uptime and location can impact your site’s performance in the search engines.
This is only the beginning of how knowledge of servers can aid your SEO efforts.
Better knowledge of server codes beyond the standard 404 and 301 can help you to communicate to those in charge of your servers where there are critical issues.
Know what a 502 error is?
Encountered a 504 status code before?
If not, this might be a quick and easy area for you to brush up your knowledge.
A 5XX status usually means there is something wrong with the server that is preventing the processing of a request from the client.
A simple way to find out what status codes mean is to look at httpstatuses.com.
From here, you can identify whether it is an issue with the client or the server and find a fix accordingly.
Resources To Learn More
4. Content Writing
Understanding the process of content writing is an important element of advanced SEO.
You may not be a great wordsmith yourself.
However, in order for you to better brief in copywriting for your colleagues who are, you need to understand what goes into a good piece of writing.
It isn’t enough to know that copy needs to be compelling and have sufficient relevancy to search terms used to discover it.
Get familiar with the process your copywriters go through in researching, writing, and editing their work.
This will help you to better ideate your own requests for copy.
Editing is another good skill to develop when working with content.
In many organizations, it is the job of the SEO specialist to take content created by others and optimize it further for the search engines.
In practice, this sadly can often result in well-written copy being butchered.
Adding keywords into the first couple of paragraphs to make them more keyword-rich might help you a bit with your rankings, but it could destroy your conversion and brand loyalty.
Learn how to take well-written copy and enhance it, not ruin it.
You may also benefit from having a conversation or two with your SEO copywriters and asking them for details of their process.
Better understanding how they go about copywriting could improve your abilities.
It could also streamline your processes when working together.
Resources To Learn More
Being able to expertly communicate your progress, results, and reasoning behind your SEO work is crucial to being successful in the industry.
As an SEO expert, you are always juggling the needs and expectations of stakeholders, whether you’re working in-house, agency-side or freelance.
You will find gaining buy-in and budgets considerably easier if you know how to demonstrate the impact of the work you do.
Reporting isn’t just a case of adding labels to a graph or even noting down the cause of increases and decreases.
Truly good SEO reports allow readers to understand the context of the results, draw conclusions and make business decisions from them.
SEO professionals need to get really good at helping stakeholders understand the priorities and limitations of the work they recommend (as well as mistakes to avoid when reporting).
They also need to help their interested parties recognize how the work will benefit them via data visualizations and their objectives in the long run.
All of this can be achieved through well-constructed, clear, and truthful reports.
Resources To Learn More
6. SEO Forecasting
Similar to the need to be good at explaining past results, experienced SEOs need to develop the ability to calculate likely outcomes.
SEO forecasting is a complicated science.
There are a lot of external factors that are hard to isolate and predict.
A change in competition, the market, or political situations could all cause well-thought-out estimations to go awry.
We should not be putting pressure on ourselves to accurately predict the exact volume of traffic, or visibility, our work might gain.
However, being able to put reasonable estimates and likely ranges into our recommendations can make the budget-holders a lot more reassured by the work we are proposing.
It isn’t enough to shrug our shoulders and cross our fingers when asked about outcomes.
We’re often requesting a lot of time, money and resources go into the activity were recommending.
SEO forecasting is a skill that will not only set you apart when looking for new roles or opportunities, it will also significantly improve the quality and reliability of your work.
Resources To Learn More
7. Log File Analysis
Log file analysis is the process of understanding the records of who or what has accessed your website.
They can tell you when people have visited a page as well as what device they were using to do so.
They can also tell you when bots access your website.
This is particularly helpful in understanding Googlebot and other search engine crawlers’ behavior on your site.
By analyzing log files you can better understand what pages search engine bots can or can’t access.
You can identify where there may be spider traps on your site or the frequency at which certain sections of your site are being crawled.
Log files can appear daunting if you have not spent much time around them.
Thankfully there are some great tools available that make analyzing them a lot simpler than just wading through the naked log files.
Understanding what to do with the information once you have it is the real skill. If you know that a certain area of your site is rarely crawled by Google that should inform your technical SEO next steps.
It should raise questions about your internal linking structure.
Getting familiar with log files is a great first step but to improve your skills make sure you are analyzing the files and drawing actionable conclusions from them.
Resources To Learn More
8. Website Migrations
Getting good at planning and executing website migrations is not easy. It really does take experience.
Many SEO professionals who have worked exclusively brand-side may find they simply have not had the opportunity to carry out that many website migrations.
If you face a particularly complicated one, such as multiple websites merging, it can be very daunting.
Chances are if you have spent any length of time in an SEO agency, you will have migrated a website or two.
It may have been a smooth process but more likely there were unforeseen complications that made the processing time and resource consuming.
There are not really just one or two skills involved in website migrations.
They are usually a complicated mix of stakeholder management, communication, planning, processes-driving, technical understanding, and knowing when to say no.
But the skills you develop during website migrations will help you enormously with the rest of your SEO career.
Participate in one if you get the chance.
It can give you a great (albeit high-pressured) opportunity to see multiple moving SEO parts in play at once.
Resources to learn more:
9. Optimizing For Other Search Engines
If you truly want to advance your SEO skills, you might want to look further afield than Google.
We can often fall into the trap of thinking only about the traditional search engines when discussing SEO skills.
If we limit our training and experience to just these then we could be missing out on a much larger opportunity.
Traditional International Websites
Many search engines work on similar principles, but with their own specific nuances.
Traditional search engines more prevalent outside of your home region may be unfamiliar to you.
There are some great resources available to get you started in understanding the differences between them and the search engines you’re more familiar with optimizing for.
Nothing beats practice, however.
If you want to refine your knowledge and understanding of unfamiliar search engines then you need to try to rank a site in them and see what works and what doesn’t.
For search engines like YouTube, the mechanics may be more familiar to you.
You will, however, still need to learn more about the algorithms in play to ensure you are carrying out the right activity to optimize your video content for the platform.
Other Non-traditional Search Engines
Don’t just stop at YouTube if you’re really wanting to advance your SEO skill set.
Take a look at some other search engines, like Pinterest and TripAdvisor.
These sites may not fit into your current remit as an SEO expert.
They are however still search engines that you can influence the success of your content in.
Resources to learn more:
10. International SEO
One of the most complicated projects an SEO might be involved in usually includes international elements.
It’s a complicated task because there are a lot of factors at play.
To optimize your website for international audiences you will need to employ technical SEO, digital PR, and on-page optimization skills.
There will be a range of questions you’ll need to ask yourself when you are considering expanding a website to international audiences.
These will include questions around the structure of the site – separate sites, sub-folders, or sub-directories?
Do you want to translate or localize the content? Do you want to target geography at the site or page level?
There are a lot of strategies and technical knowledge required to get international SEO right.
You may also need specific language skills or local knowledge resources.
Google has helpfully created an introduction to managing a multi-region website. It is a good place to start to identify the sorts of questions you should be asking.
You can also use it as a jumping-off point for further training or research.
This can help deepen your knowledge of the subject and sharpen your skills.
Resources to learn more:
These are just a few of the skills you can develop to become a more pragmatic SEO professional.
Even if you don’t want to learn all of them, it helps to have an understanding of what they all are.
Even more so, how they can help round out your skill-set as an SEO expert.
Featured Image: Alexander Supertramp/Shutterstock
How to Get More Reach and Shares on Your Social Videos
Video marketing is thriving. Industry thought leaders predict video to take an even firmer stance in the years to come, as people don’t want to read that much and images aren’t nearly as dynamic. Companies and small businesses realize the power of video and plug into the video making trend.
In 2016, Mark Zuckerberg told Buzzfeed News, ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if you fast forward five years and most of the content that people see on Facebook and are sharing on a day-to-day basis is video’. Well, here we are – take a look at your newsfeed. Mostly video? We thought so.
At the same time, there’s been a lot of talk about the new Facebook reach algorithm that makes it close to impossible to make your content seen organically. Some experts predict organic reach to decline significantly on Instagram, too.
In this competitive environment, how do you get more eyes on your video content on social?
Here are 9 surefire ways to give your videos a competitive edge and make them spread like a wildfire.
While you make your video…
In order for your video to get more reach and shares, it has to be engaging in the first place. Which means: your video needs to evoke emotion, be educational, fun, or cute. Preferably all at the same time.
Make the first seconds count
The more viewers share your video content – the more reach it gets. The more reach it gets – the more new viewers might be able to see it. But before they share your video, the #1 task is to convince your viewer to watch it first. When scrolling through the feed, you only have fractions of a second to show your audience the video is worth seeing.
Add stickers and GIFs
Animated GIFs and stickers have been in the marketer’s arsenal for a while now. They have become a universal communication language, easily understandable by people all around the globe.
By adding GIFs or animated stickers to your videos, you make them more relatable and fun, showing the audience you speak their language. GIFs and stickers can also make your videos more comprehensible, giving them an additional sense.
To add GIFs and stickers to your videos, use tools like Wave.video or Camtasia. Another cool to create animated ads is called Creatopy. Using their “Animator” feature you can give life to any of your ad elements:
State what your video is going to be about
To warm up the viewer’s interest, tell them what your social video is going to be about. You don’t have to reveal all the details: this way, it won’t probably be as interesting to watch. A teasing headline will do just great.
Don’t forget the subtitles
Since 85% of videos are watched with the sound off on social, it does make sense to optimize your video for this behavior. One of the best ways to do it is by adding subtitles or short text on your video.
Platforms like Facebook and YouTube allow you to add captions automatically. If the video doesn’t have a voiceover, you can simply add a short text to every scene, like in this example coming from National Geographic:
Now, to create an engaging and fun video is only half the battle. The other half is to share it on social properly. Here are a few tips that might help you out.
Choose a catchy thumbnail
Just the other day, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I stumbled upon this video.
Even though I wasn’t inclined to watch a video of a girl shaving her hair off, I simply couldn’t resist. I immediately had to know what’s going to happen next. Is she really going bald? (Spoiler alert: she didn’t).
Would I have watched the video if it had had a different, less catchy thumbnail?
So, when uploading your videos to social, make sure to select a catchy thumbnail. By “catchy” I mean a thumbnail that builds anticipation and thirst to know more.
Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube allow you to upload a thumbnail for your video.
Unfortunately, Twitter doesn’t have this option. So, make sure the very first second of your video is meaningful, as it’s what’s going to show in the tweet.
Add a catchy description
While a social video itself is a powerful marketing instrument, a description that goes with it is just as important. All the social media platforms allow you to add a post accompanying the video.
Here are a few things that can help you increase the chances of your audience sharing the video:
- Make the description intriguing. Use power words like “surprise”, “whopping”, or “scandalous” to heat up the viewers’ interest and make them crave for more.
- Include hashtags. Using hashtags in your social posts might help you significantly increase the reach of your videos. Use tools like Hashtagify to help you find the right hashtags for your posts.
- Tag people! It might sound obvious but you’ll be surprised to see how many businesses miss out on this opportunity. Mentioning people (or even brands, for that matter) in your social posts allows you to easily notify them that you’ve created something interesting and thought of them, too.
Upload your videos natively
The #1 goal for any social platform is to make people stay on the platform longer. Thus, all major social platforms (including LinkedIn) are heavily investing in video, adding new features like live videos and Stories.
To increase the reach of your videos, it does make sense to upload them natively. This means that instead of sharing a link to a YouTube video (or any other video hosting platform, for that matter), I’d recommend that you upload your video directly to a social media platform using their uploading features.
There are some great advantages to upload videos natively:
- They are auto-played if this function is not turned off in the settings
- Reach is higher than that of simple posts with links
- You can embed the video tweet on your blog or landing page and get more reach
Post at the right time
Even if you come up with the most fascinating video and a stunning description, only a few people will see it if you post it when all of your audience is asleep. For more reach and shares, make sure to post your video content at a time when your audience is most active.
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to recommending the best time to post. It depends on many factors: the social platform, your audience, type of content. Here are a few solid guides that can give you an idea:
Once you’ve shared your video on social media, make sure to go back to your scheduling tool and schedule another round of shares. Chances are, some people might have just missed your video when you shared it the first time. Make sure to give it another go.
You can slice and dice your video, and share different parts of video at different times, with various messages. You can also use video content in your newsletter.
You can also repurpose your videos. For instance, create an Instagram Story from a horizontal video by adding margins and captions to it.
We took a horizontal video and repurposed it into an Instagram Story
With Instagram in particular, you can also reshare your in-feed posts to Stories. Chances are, in 2019 there are going to be more people who watch Stories than those who check out in-feed videos. So make sure you serve both.
Monitor your traffic!
Don’t forget to set up your monitoring routine to keep an eye on how your video content is growing and what type of traffic it is referring. I love using Finteza for traffic analytics because it allows me to see exactly how your traffic is interacting with your conversion funnel:
When it comes to promoting your social videos and driving more reach/engagement, here’s a path to success: have a great video first, post at the right time, and follow the social platform’s guidelines for native uploads.
What are your favorite tips on getting more shares on your social videos? Share in the comments below!
6 Tips For Giving Your Reporting Dashboards A Makeover
In their new book ‘Making Numbers Count,’ co-authors Chip Heath and Karla Starr explain that our brains have not evolved to easily understand large numbers.
We really only have an instinct for small quantities – as in, five and fewer.
Beyond that, it’s just some vague notion of “lots.”
Data visualizations serve to transform and compare large amounts of data, but most reporting dashboards today are still like 1990s websites.
We put up with them, but they’re ugly and awful, and we wouldn’t trust them with our credit cards.
Non-strategic reports – dashboards that are too cluttered or too sparse to comprehend – make it harder for your clients and stakeholders to understand the data and take smart action.
Here’s how to turn those clunky dashboards into useful analysis.
1. Get Rid Of Charts That Have No Purpose
Not every chart in your dashboard deserves to be there.
Unnecessary charts distract and compete for attention with graphs that do matter.
They can also derail meetings, encouraging your client to focus on minutia and natural variance rather than the essential.
Not all data breakouts are useful. Some are just useless, and some are anti-useful.
Make each chart earn its place in the dashboard by removing everything that doesn’t:
- Tie back to objectives.
- Provide context.
- Aid comprehension.
2. Get Rid Of “Unnecessary Ink”
Statistician and dataviz pioneer Edward Tufte explains,
“…clutter and confusion are failures of design, not attributes of information.”
Tufte introduced the “data-ink ratio,” which tells us to strip all decorative or extra “ink” from charts until we’re left with only the essential.
Improve your data-ink ratio by minimizing or removing:
- Any bevel or 3D effects.
- Redundant chart legends.
- Chart borders and shadows.
- Background color fills.
Tables are inherently busy, showing a lot of data all at once.
To make your tables easier to read:
- Remove pagination and row numbers.
- Use compacted numbers (12M instead of 12,000,000).
- Remove truncation (“…”) by expanding the column width or wrapping text.
- Remove decimals (when numbers are >1).
When you introduce white space and eliminate chartjunk, your reports tell a clearer story.
3. Fix Misleading Axes
Sometimes charts are so intentionally misleading that they end up making headlines.
More often, though, charts that mislead do so unintentionally.
Here’s how to find and fix common data visualization mistakes.
One common mistake is using a “truncated graph,” where the y-axis doesn’t start at 0.
Truncated graphs are so common that Google Data Studio uses them by default in some of its chart options.
The fix for this is easy.
Just set any “axis minimums” from auto to zero.
While less common, charts can sometimes have an inappropriate maximum.
This can happen when you’ve hardcoded the max axis based on a previous data set, and you forget to update it when it’s using a different data range.
Also a very easy fix.
Another issue is using a “logarithmic scale” for your charts.
When you’ve tried to get a chart to look a certain way and nothing else worked, you may have switched over to log scale for better visualization.
Unless you’re truly working with logarithmic data though, that’s not okay.
Change it back to linear.
4. Fix Poor Chart Selection
Chart selection is not as easy as just changing an axis. But it’s arguably more important, and easier to get wrong.
Have you ever tried to use a chart selection guide, only to be asked whether your data is nominal or categorical?
If you’re not fluent in data visualization, then it can feel easier to just stick with trial and error until you land on something that looks okay.
Marketer’s Crash Course In Chart Selection
This is not a complete guide, but it covers a lot of dashboard mistakes:
- Use scorecards for your big KPIs, even if the same data is in tables and other graphs in the report. It emphasizes what’s most important.
- Use line charts to show trends over time. If your x-axis is anything other than a time series (continuous data), don’t use a line chart.
- Only use pie/donut charts to show the composition of a whole, ideally with five or fewer categories. Need to compare pie charts to each other to show a change in composition? You probably need a different chart type. A stacked bar chart could be a good choice.
- Map charts are a good way to visualize data across regions, and clients seem to like them. Be sure that you’re not just mapping population data though, which is generally not helpful in making business decisions.
- Bar charts work well to compare category performance for a single metric. Think sales driven by (campaign, landing page, etc).
5. Add Contrast
Removing “unnecessary ink” from your charts puts you on the right track.
This next step is to layer on “necessary ink” that focuses your reader’s attention and makes your chart even easier to interpret.
These three charts all use an identical data set:
Chart A has no focus and feels “noisy.”
Charts B and C vary line thickness and color to draw your attention to a single line.
Even though you don’t know the actual metrics or dimensions in Charts B and C, you immediately know where to focus.
This is an example of using “pre-attentive attributes,” which our brains process instantly on a subconscious level.
When you want to emphasize a key point, you can increase contrast with preattentive attributes like:
Don’t leave your audience asking “what am I looking at?”
Help them out with contrast and preattentive attributes.
6. Add Context
Context is another type of “necessary ink” that clarifies the meaning of your visualizations.
As a marketer and subject matter expert, you know what your charts are about.
You can survey all your dashboards and quickly identify trends and outliers.
For your clients and stakeholders, that’s probably not the case.
The people on the receiving end of your reports are likely not intimately familiar with the acronyms and shorthand that’s obvious to you.
They need more context in the form of:
- Chart titles and descriptions.
- Acronyms that are spelled out and defined.
- Annotations and microcopy.
Your audience also needs a better understanding of the factors driving the trends and data changes in the report.
The metric is the “effect,” but what is the “cause”?
Look beyond the metrics themselves to find the narrative.
- What are the internal and external forces that contribute to performance?
- What backstory might they be missing (historical, seasonality, competition, buyer preference)?
- Given current and projected trends, what needs to happen next?
Finally, don’t assume that your audience knows the targets, even if they were the ones who set them.
Help them out by comparing performance to goals and not just previous time periods.
‘Presentation Zen’ author Garr Reynolds said,
“…you can achieve simplicity in the design of effective charts, graphs and tables by remembering three fundamental principles: restrain, reduce, emphasize.”
Remove what is unnecessary, fix remaining problems, and add context and meaning to make your charts and dashboards as powerful as possible.
Featured Image: Saklakova/Shutterstock
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