Rey Skywalker. Bilbo Baggins. Harry Potter.
What do these cult-classic heroes all have in common? Kick-ass origin stories.
The same goes for marketers. It’s fascinating to learn how the marketing heroes of today became the pros we all know, love, and aspire to be.
Enter Daniel Parscale, marketing specialist and PPC extraordinaire. As the digital marketing strategist for CD Baby, he regularly sees double-digit conversion rates in his landing page campaigns. We’re talking about conversion rates upwards of 37%, lasting months at a time. In marketing terms, that conversion rate is a pretty epic feat.
What’s his secret? How can you bring a bit of Daniel into your efforts? First, let’s set the scene for our marketing hero’s journey.
Humble Beginnings: Meet CD Baby
First things first: CD Baby doesn’t sell CDs anymore. The company was founded in 1998 as an independent music distributor sharing the joy of music via—you guessed it—shiny plastic discs. Today, the company has shifted to digital distribution, joining the likes of Apple Music, Youtube, and Spotify.
After more than 20 years in the business, independence still matters for CD Baby. That means anyone can use their service—from Grammy-winning artists to newbies who recorded a song on their laptop.
Artists upload their music, send all the metadata required for proper tracking and payment, and the rest happens on the CD Baby portal.
That’s our “why.” To be independent ourselves, and then also to allow independent musicians to capitalize on their art the way that they want, and retain ownership of their music without the backing of a label.
In 2019, CD Baby was home to more than 650,000 artists and made nine million tracks available to over 100 digital services and platforms worldwide. Rock on! 🤘
The Call to Adventure: Rise of the Strategic Marketer
Daniel joined CD Baby about three years ago after working as a healthcare and retail marketer. In his current role as a digital marketing strategist, he’s in charge of SEO, SEM, and PPC. Key achievements in his tenure at CD Baby include an ambitious project to translate the website’s blog into three different languages: English, Spanish, and Brazillian Portuguese. Says Daniel: “We’re really focused on educating our clients, and that means making information free and accessible.”
As a result, CD Baby saw an increase in traffic upwards of 30%. The next step was to advance the paid search strategy, leading to an increase in the overall conversion rate by 40-50%.
Of course, as in any hero’s journey, there’s always a mentor involved.
I once had a teacher who would always instruct us to ‘answer the question I asked and not the one you wish I had asked.’ Marketers who properly segment their audiences know the value of this lesson: You’ll get the results you want if you give customers the experience they need and ask for.
Introducing a Trusty Ally
What makes CD Baby’s marketing team unique—and Daniel’s results so impressive—is that they speak to audiences in different geographic locations, in other languages, and at various stages of the buying process.
It’s very complicated, and I’ve already lost all my hair thinking about it. It’s unlike any company I’ve worked for or seen—you really have multiple different user intents for every time you want to sell the product. The retention (time) for any of our artists can sometimes be several years, and depending on what they’re releasing and how profitable it is, the lead time can be very different.
CD Baby’s marketing team consists of about 15 people, including a social media strategist, a creative team, and an international sub-team. “The main KPIs we’re looking at are traffic, lead generation, new accounts, and then ultimately revenue from ecommerce transactions.”
Landing pages have been a key ally in this challenging landscape. Daniel is constantly optimizing CD Baby’s pages to bring in big results.
Landing pages allow you to diversify and scale your messaging, so you can have custom conversations with specific audiences. There’s really no better way to segment your messaging for your ads, especially for lead generation or SaaS campaigns. Websites are fundamental, but it can be hard to formulate a perfect sales pitch that will appeal to every prospect.
Race for the Reward: Conquering Double-Digit Conversion Rates
As a search engine marketer, Daniel’s go-to question when putting together a campaign is always, “What’s the answer that will best satisfy the user’s query?”
Our best-performing landing pages have an extremely specific niche audience, with a specific service we’re offering. While that can make it extremely difficult to identify the right audience when targeting our ads, we get fabulous ROI when we match our message to the audience.
One of his most successful campaigns has been running for the past six months, with a stable conversion rate of 37.17%. Meanwhile, the median conversion rate for ecommerce and SaaS landing pages—CD Baby operates in both industries—are 3% and 5.2%, respectively.
Have a look at the campaign in question:
Beautiful layout and design? ✔️
Clear messaging and conversion goal? ✔️
Eye-catching CTA? ✔️
Aside from covering all the landing page basics, what makes this campaign so successful? Is there maybe something more to it than meets the eye?
The Big Reveal: Dum-Dum-Duuuum!
What truly makes this specific campaign sing is that Daniel’s expert knowledge of targeting, segmenting, and message match is combined with a secret weapon: artificial intelligence.
Using Smart Traffic—an AI-enabled Unbounce tool that actively learns about visitors’ preferences—prospects are automagically sent to the landing page variant where they’re most likely to convert.
So within Daniel’s approach that already heavily targets audiences, he now also caters to their unique preferences. Talk about a segment within a segment within a segment!
Daniel explains this specific campaign was created for branded searches and designed for people who might know the name “CD Baby” but aren’t sure it’s the right match for them. “I figured some people want the first thing they see on the page to be how they’ll be monetized, while others would want to see social proof.”
Although super chuffed with the campaign—especially how he hasn’t needed to optimize it in months and its conversion rate is still soaring—Daniel had a moment of hesitation before turning on Smart Traffic. “At first, I was a bit afraid of letting go of the reins. But then I closed my eyes and accepted it. There’s really some stages of grief going on there.”
He realized AI was already an active element in many of the tools he uses, making his day-to-day role much easier. And at the end of the day, the results speak for themselves.
It’s really impossible not to see AI’s impact on marketing. Practically speaking, I see it less as the advent of new tools for marketers to master and more a revision of what it means to be a channel owner. Because of AI, we’re starting to trade our responsibility for mundane tasks for more strategic, directorial duties. In a way, it means we have to stop thinking of our tools as tools and start thinking of them as employees that we trust to do their jobs.
What Daniel’s describing actually has a name: conversion intelligence. It’s combining a marketer’s know-how with the power of machine learning. By allowing Smart Traffic to do the heavy lifting of sending the right visitor to the right variant, Daniel gets higher conversion rates, deeper insights into the needs of his audience, and more time to focus on other initiatives—win-win-win!
Bring Home the Prize: Secrets to Landing Page Optimization
Looking to optimize your landing page campaigns to see killer conversion rates too? Well then, step right up! Daniel’s optimization philosophy isn’t about tinkering as much as it is about asking questions to try to understand his audience continuously.
What does that look like in practice? Here’s his 4-step process for effective landing page optimization:
1. Start with a hypothesis: Figure out what you think could be influencing behavior in a meaningful way. This could be a value proposition, issues with the user experience, or even whether you’re asking customers to do too much at once. A good idea is to use scroll depth analysis or heat mapping to pinpoint where people are focusing on your landing page.
2. Determine measurement: Data doesn’t always talk the way people do. If you’re going to measure your hypothesis, you need to know precisely how you’re going to determine success. For instance, if you thought the length of a form is influencing conversions, you might test for a correlation between conversion rate and the number of form fields present. Set simple, clear metrics you can evaluate when the test is done.
3. Run the test and analyze results: You’ve got to let a test percolate and collect enough data—otherwise, your results can’t be trusted. When you’ve reached statistical significance, review your results with a colleague and see if you can both arrive at the same reasonable conclusion.
4. Understand that you might be wrong, and that’s OK: Not just during the test, but afterward, too. Not every hypothesis will turn out to be accurate and, eventually, even your best strategies may stop converting. Optimization isn’t just about making changes that improve results, but also about understanding new data so you don’t make the wrong changes.
Real thought leaders will validate their decisions, repeat the results when they’re positive, and learn from them when they’re unsuccessful. That’s the heart of a strategic mindset.
Looking to the Future (and a Possible Sequel?)
What makes Daniel’s feats so much fun to follow is that he’s a fearless marketer. Open to new tools and new ways of working by incorporating AI into his ecosystem, he’s not only bringing his campaigns into the future but also reaping incredible results.
We all know there are no silver bullets out there, and that marketing is too volatile a trade to stay in one position. There’s no guarantee that the techniques you’re comfortable with will survive the next wave of innovation.
But the real inspiration is that Daniel isn’t the only hero-marketer out there. If you’ve watched enough movies in the fantasy-adventure genre, you’d know the common message is: “Anyone can be a hero.”
All it takes is courage, curiosity, and a few trials to bring home the big prize.