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Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart and the site where I still carry a pen which every once in a while bangs into stuff and makes some noise. Let’s get right down to it. How do you optimize the growth of your user base? Jamie Quint is the founder that other entrepreneurs turn to for help getting new users. I know because past interviewees have told me that he’s the guy I should have on here. He formerly ran Secret San Francisco, a group that helped its members find cool things to do in the city. He sold that company to Mingle Net. He developed his funnel skills at Swipely, a loyalty program that gives you cash back at restaurants and shops. His latest startup is Lookcraft, which makes it easy for guys to buy clothes online. By the way, if you ever want to see just what he does with a sales funnel, go to Lookcraft.com right now, and as you’re signing up, you’ll get some of the ideas that Jamie and I will be talking about throughout this interview. Jamie, welcome. Thanks for doing this interview with me.
Jamie: Thanks, Andrew.
Andrew: You had a conversation back when you were working at Swipely with one of your consultants, and he helped you realize something that you weren’t aware of before. Can you tell the audience about that?
Jamie: At Swipely we were really focused on landing page conversion [??], particularly homepage conversion. We were trying a bunch of different things. We had conversion rates of a few percent, and we really thought we were doing a decent job.
Andrew: A few percent, meaning low single digit conversions on your homepage?
Jamie: Yes. We had low single digit conversions on our homepage to email, or to sign up. Then we thought we were doing a good job, and then we had someone come in and they were like, “This conversion sucks. It should be an order of magnitude higher than this.” That was a wake up moment for us. We were like, ‘Oh.’ Then we went back to work and eventually brought them up to the numbers that he was expecting, but it was valuable to have someone come in and be like, “This should be much better than what it is.”
Andrew: Fair to say that it was, I know you’re not going to give specific numbers because Swipely’s an ongoing company and out there day to day, and you can’t reveal specific numbers, but I want to still give the audience an understanding of the magnitude of improvement. You went from low single digits to, what can you say? Even if you can’t be specific about the number.
Jamie: It was an order of magnitude change, so we 10X’d our conversion.
Andrew: Ten X’d your conversion? Perfect. I want to give the audience a taste of what’s to come, of the kind of tactics that work. Can you give me an example of one simple thing that you guys did at Swipely that changed your conversions? Let’s stick with just that simple process.
Jamie: I think this is a general principle that as far as landing page conversions go, removing information is always a good idea.
Andrew: Like what? What did you remove that you might not have understood that you needed to get rid of?
Jamie: In the beginning, we had like, “I want to learn more,” a big “learn more” [?] with a bunch of extra data that had two extra sign-up forms on it. And we’re like, this is great. They’re going to be more convinced, and then they’re going to convert at a higher rate. It turns out that that’s just not the case, and it’s not the case with anything else I’ve tried either, with other companies or other projects or friends projects that I’ve seen. In almost every case, we’re moving things to improvement, and that can be anything from links to extra information. It’s like feature creep of your home page. So it’s like, we have to add testimonials, and now we have to add press, and then we have to add quotes. And then, all of the sudden your landing page is extremely long, and there’s too much stuff for people to read, and by the time they get to the bottom, they forget about what they were doing in the first place and never actually end up giving you their email.
Andrew: What I’ve noticed about your landing pages, and I’ve gone through a few in preparation for this interview, is there’s nothing there. There’s no ‘about.’ There’s no way to figure out what your companies about. I’m doing research on you. And if I’m going through a new browser window where I haven’t really fully gone through your registration process, I have to give you my email address again just to understand what you’re sites about.
Andrew: How do you feel about the person who doesn’t want to register yet, who’s not ready to commit, who’s just curious, and you’re turning them away, if they don’t want to register?
Jamie: Well, in generally, I think that if you’re optimizing for everybody, you’re probably making a mistake. So if you’re sacrificing the conversion for the people that actually want to use your site right now, for the people that are like, “Oh, I don’t really know,” just kind of want to check it out, you’re basically going to see lower conversion. And sometimes people are like, “Well, those people are going to learn more, and then when they do want my product, they’re going to come back and convert.” I know people who run tests where they, basically, cookie everybody, and then they track the stuff over time. In no case have they seem like, “Oh. OK. Well, we added more information and then the initial sign up was lower, but then a whole bunch of people came back later and signed up.” That just doesn’t really happen. That’s is basically why we do it like we do.
Andrew: All right. I have a ton of notes here from the pre-interview that you and I went through before we hit record on this interview. We’re going to talk about everything from that initial conversion rate to down the road, what you do with email, to being someone back who went through your conversion rate. We really want to understand this thing. It’s not just about landing page conversion. The interview is about a lot more than that. So let’s go back to where you learn this stuff. One of the things that you did, that I thought was interesting, was you went back and studied direct mail as a way of understanding how people think and how to convert them. Where did you study direct mail, and what did you learn from them?
Jamie: I think direct mail is really interesting; because it’s kind of like the original landing page converter, except they’re not trying to convert you with internet. They’re trying to convert you by sending something to your house. So although the formats a little different, I thought there were valuable lessons to learn there. The reason I got into it is I was working on another project, that we didn’t really pursue, where we were trying to see if targeting people with direct mail would work. I actually did a project where we were trying to convert with direct mail.
Andrew: Real pieces of paper sent through the mail?
Jamie: Real pieces of paper sent through the mail.
Andrew: Who do you use that for?
Jamie: I was doing another project that was about condo association management. We went and found the public data on who owns property. You can, basically, buy that data. So we bought the data, and then we put together a list of our target market. We put together a letter and sent it out to them. We were trying to see if we could convert people by that; because there was no better way of reaching those people. We already knew where they all lived because we were targeting specific sized condo associations. It was kind of a test to see what the size of the market looked like, but in the process, I read a lot about direct mail. I looked into what people did in the past to try to conversion, and I think the analogue on the line now is kind of like these long form sales pages you’ll see on some sites. I know 37 Signals does them sometimes, which is different than what I tend to do. I think that long form work has been proven to work for certain things, but it also is much harder to optimize.
Andrew: I see. So one of the things you learned through DirectMail, is that, long sales letters really do increase conversion. There’s a reason why those send out those letters, multiple pages typed on the back. It works online also. When you say it’s hard to optimize, and that’s why you don’t use it, what do you mean by that?
Jamie: I mean, by nature, there’s more variables. Your form is longer, you have a lot of copy, you have more questions to ask yourself. This isn’t working, is it because of paragraph two or paragraph seven? Whereas, with the simpler landing page, I find it easier to optimize because you’re like, “Well, is it because I have the button on the wrong side? Did I not have the right call to action or the right headline?” You know, it’s a much easier process to think about because there’s less variables.
Andrew: I see, okay, that makes sense. In fact, looking at your web pages, I can see that there are just a handful of options for changes: there’s the images in the back, there’s the description of what the product is, there’s a button, and I don’t know, a font, not that much more than that. What did you learn through DirectMail that you’ve brought back to online conversions and marketing?
Jamie: So I think it’s mainly more copy-focused, I guess. Like I said, I don’t do like long form stuff because it’s not my forte; not to say it doesn’t work for some people. It probably works better than having something that’s really simple. I think that may be the case if your product is more involved and less consumery. I think what I really came out with was to have a much deeper focus on the copy that converts. There are some good resources for that. There’s a site called copy hackers that sells a book, or a series of e-books that are excellent. So, if you’re interested in being (?), you should really check that out. I personally used it and it was great.
Andrew: OK, is there any specific that comes to mind right now that you learned from DirectMail that helped you shape your copy? Anything specific you use in your copy to get people’s attention, get them to keep reading, get them to convert?
Jamie: You know, it’s kind of nuance. It’s hard to say, “Oh, here’s one thing.” There’s a lot of different strategies and angles you could take to encourage people to read about them and try them out.
Andrew: All right, so you went back, you studied DirectMail and you started making some changes. And then you got into online pages. Let me see, what’s one thing that I thought we can talk about. One of the things you said that bothers you when you look at people’s conversion, is that their logo links back to something. What does it usually link back to?
Jamie: It will just link back some different landing page. Some people have multiple different types of landing pages for different types of things. You know, you’re on some sort of Landing page because you came from Facebook, and you click the logo and you go back to the normal homepage landing page. You don’t want to do that. Basically, it just goes along with the idea of you want to remove things for people to do on your landing page other than sign up. If they’re clicking on the link to get back your homepage, that’s not signing up. So you don’t want them to go through and find a different path that leads to them not signing up. Like, if you look at Amazon.com, for example, and you go through their checkout flow, there’s no Amazon link that links back to the amazon homepage at the top of the screen when you’re in the middle of the check out flow. You’ll find that with a bunch of other people who are really convergent-focused in the retail or e-commerce (?), because they know how this stuff works.
Andrew: You also break down your process one step at a time, I’ve noticed, with your onboarding funnel. Where first thing I see is one short sentence describing what the product is, a box for an email, and a submit button. I hit submit and the next thing I see is one option, in the case of (?), your current start up it’s “which of these shirts do you like?” I can’t do anything else. I have to tell you which shirt. So tell me why you break this all down, one step at a time, and how that helps.
Jamie: We find that giving people choices is generally bad. If I give you a choice, then if you don’t know which thing to do, you’re probably just going to drop out of the process. Whereas if I don’t give you a choice, all you have to decide is do I have to do this one thing that I’m being asked to do at this given point in time.
I think that incentives basically have to align. I’m driving you through this process, so you have to have a reason to want to do the next step. I can’t just be “OK. Do this step”, and have it be an arbitrary step, and you’re going to be, well, if it doesn’t make any sense then you’re going to drop out, right? If it’s very process driven, and the users basically knows what they need to do, you don’t want to give them choice, because it basically just leaves it to them to fall off.
And it’s not necessarily about choice either. It’s about getting them to commit to that first step, because once they commit to the first step, they’re much more likely to do the next step. In past tests, and I’ve actually seen this, where, and this was surprising to me, where you have an email and password on sign-up. With Lookcraft we actually collect the password and stuff after we do our quiz, so that’s a different story, but with a traditional sign-up process with email and password, I’ve seen it actually perform much better to ask for the email only, and then immediately ask for the password after that, but not have the two things on the same form. We’ve seen a 20% to 30% boost in conversion from doing that.
Andrew: Because what happens is that people find it easy to give their email address and once they’ve done that they feel, “All right. I’ve committed. All I need is to do is add a password. Fine. I’ll do that.” It’s not a whole new registration in their minds.
Jamie: Yeah. When they see email/password they’re, like, “I don’t know if I really want to do this. It’s just like a little bit of extra fiction.” Sometimes removing that little bit of extra friction goes a long way.
Andrew: It’s also superfast. You’re not loading a whole new page from what I remember. It quickly comes up, that next step, so there’s not time for me to escape.
Andrew: What have you found about that? How important is it?
Jamie: Speed is very important, obviously. When you’re driving anyone through a sign-up flow. I mean, if you think of Amazon.com, the whole product is a sign-up flow, or a funnel, to get you to find something you want and then buy it. They’ve obviously found that, I think it was for every 100 milliseconds, or 10 milliseconds, or something, 1 millisecond of response time, they saw some increase in revenue because just the speed of the site went up. So I think speed in that aspect is important.
Andrew: Let me ask something. Are you nervous about doing this interview? How do you feel about doing this interview right now?
Jamie: Well, I don’t want to expose too much data about this stuff to people that want to compete against me.
Andrew: I see. You’re worried about revealing too much of your onboarding process and then having all these other guys, like, Trunk Club, and the others, copy you.
Jamie: I’m not actually too worried about that.
Andrew: You’re not?
Andrew: What’s the hesitation? Is it that because you’re on camera if you say something wrong, or say something that doesn’t sound right, it will be up there forever?
Jamie: There’s no hesitation, really.
Andrew: OK. How do you feel about the fact that you did so well increasing the conversions at Swipely, and they still struggled.
Jamie: I wouldn’t say that Swipely struggled. I would say that our initial product idea was something that no one wanted to do. But I think that we did a really good job of realizing that very quickly and pivoting to doing something else now that is working pretty well.
Andrew: The original idea was exposing everything that people buy on their credit cards automatically, on line, and sharing that with their friends.
Jamie: Exactly. Yeah. And people just don’t want to do that.
Andrew: Why didn’t they want to do that?
Jamie: I’m not entirely sure. It’s just like a change in human behavior. Before the internet, I didn’t go around broadcasting to everyone what I was buying to everyone, right? So that’s what we were basically trying to accomplish on line, and it didn’t really make sense. You saw that with Blippy, too, because they obviously went out of business because they didn’t change their business model.
Andrew: I read a Tech [??] article about it where, I forget who it was who wrote, said that it’s because it doesn’t solve a problem. No one had this problem that they needed all their friends to see their purchases in real time or automatically. Do you agree with that?
Jamie: I agree with that. Certain things, I wouldn’t say it was entirely clear because in the beginning it’s like, ‘What strong need do I have that Twitter solves in the beginning?’ Obviously, that’s a huge success. I don’t think that argument necessarily always makes sense, but in this case it does.
Andrew: Going back to increasing growth. What else works? What’s the one powerful thing that knocks people on their butts when you tell them?
Jamie: [??] discussed two things. One is removing choice, or being very process driven and giving people low amounts of things to do. That’s important. As far as landing pages go, removing information, that’s important. How I think about growth is trying to find the step where you have the most leverage throughout your whole funnel. Whatever you’re trying to drive, you want to figure out the step where you have the most leverage and work on improving that.
Andrew: What do you mean?
Jamie: What I mean by that, you have a funnel [??] have all these steps. Maybe this step converts at 90 percent. This converts at 80 percent. This converts at 50 percent and then you have another step. Most of the time these are not steps where you’re like, “I’m converting at ten percent, or I’m converting at two percent.” Focus on the one where you can get the biggest multiplier. For people that have a one to two percent home page conversion rate, you should focus on your home page, or conversion to email because you can see 5X to 10X growth on that, or more. If you’re already converting your home page at around 20 percent, you want to find the step in the funnel where you’re converting at, “The user clicks on this and then they don’t go to the next step.” Only ten percent of them do that. That’s the step you want to focus on because you can get that from ten percent to 50 percent you’ve 5X’d your conversion through the funnel. What I find a lot of people do is arbitrarily focus on things and they’re like, ‘This step seems like it’s converting poorly. We should put effort into that.’ Maybe that step’s converting at 50 percent. If you improve it from 50 to 60 percent, that’s a much worse improvement, it’s still an improvement, but it’s much worse than going to some other step where you can get a 2X return. That’s important.
Andrew: What do you do? Do you just put your conversions up on a spreadsheet, and you make adjustments and see which of those steps makes the most impact?
Jamie: We use [??] panel. I’m a big fan of [??] panel for doing all [??] of funnel analysis. I record a lot of data and build funnels in [??] panel and then look at the funnel holistically and say, “We need to focus on this step here.” Oftentimes, that’s how we prioritize broad changes because we have this step. We really need to improve it, and then we go back to the drawing board with the product and think about product changes that would drive improvement in that step.
Andrew: Can you give me an example of a time where you did that?
Jamie: With my current company, with Lookcraft, we’re trying to make the process easier, once you give us information about your style and fit to say, “Here’s stuff we want to send you,” and let you say you like or dislike things and curate [SP], a shipment. That process for us is not optimal. We noticed we had very strong engagement through conversion to email and the home page. Driving people through the [??] funnel and then they get on this page and we’re having low engagement and high drop off and basically we’re in the middle of doing a bunch of product iterations now around that.
Andrew: Like what?
Jamie: It’s a bunch of different things. We’re trying to improve the percentage of people that we’re able to send clothes to. Specifically, in this case, people don’t really like to engage. If the see a selection of product and they’re like, “Oh, I don’t like some of this stuff,” we have to make it easy for them to tell us that, which seems obvious, but we notice that there’s high friction in the process because that particular step was a little bit too difficult.
Andrew: Here’s what I see in the Lookcraft project right now, tell me if I’m missing anything and then we’ll talk about what you could do to improve.
Andrew: First page is a simple sentence explaining what Lookcraft is, it’s a little mysterious so that I have to put my email address to really fully understand, but it gives me enough of an understanding that I get a sense that it’s not a Groupon, for example. I get a sense of what it is.
Andrew: I put in my email address, I hit submit and the next thing you ask me, I think it was what shirt do you like of this collection or what shoes do you like from this collection.
Andrew: I pick the shoes that I like and then the next screen is something like shirt, then jacket, maybe pant fit or maybe type of pant. On each page I select the kind that I like and finally I get to a page where I get to give you more details like, do I like to have low-rider jeans, slim-cut jeans and all that stuff. I put that in and hit submit. Then you give me a collection of clothes that you will ship me for free and if I don’t like it, or any piece of it, I can ship it back to you for free; jacket, sweater, t-shirt – that kind of thing.
Andrew: What you’re saying is you now need to focus on the last step in the process – the step where I agree to take this order. Why do you want to focus there and not, say, increasing the number of people who give you their email address in the beginning or the number of people who are willing to select their shoes at the second step?
Jamie: It goes back to what I was saying before where it’s all about leverage. We’re very highly leveraged on the last step right now. We focused a lot on conversion in the past on the first two steps and we’re in a good spot there. I’m not in a position where I’m going to see a 2x or 3x return on improving any of the processes there in the middle or even on homepage sign up. There’s kind of this limiting barrier like with homepage sign-up, you’re never going to have 100% of people fill out your email address. Once you get somewhere in maybe the 20 – 30 percent range, it’s basically a waste of your time to keep focusing on that as long as the quality of people you’re driving through the process is still high. There’s certainly people who can have 30% homepage conversion, but it could be crap traffic or spam traffic. It used to happen sometimes in affiliate where, “Oh I get paid per email? I’m going to sign up people in Russia to just span their email address in your email box and then get paid.”
Jamie: So obviously, lead quality, you have to focus on that, assuming those two things are acceptable which they are for us, we don’t have very much leverage left there so we’re really focused on the last step.
Andrew: OK. Let’s talk a little bit about email. It doesn’t end once you collect their email address.
Andrew: You want to still stay in touch with them. What have you learned about doing that right?
Jamie: One of the big lessons that we kind of learned about email, and I learned this when I was at Swipely, was that email, it’s very time sensitive, so there’s a few things you want to do. First, you want your emails to be very focused so you should be asking the user to do one thing, like they sign up, and then you send them an email and you should be asking them to do one thing. What is that one thing for you? Is it invite friends? Is it something else? I think people need to figure out what that is for them. What I’m seeing not work is you have an email and it’s like, “Hey, you can invite friends or you can do this, or you can do this, or you can do this.” Basically, the click through rates and conversions on those emails are basically much worse than, “Hey, thanks for signing up. Now, do this.” You kind of have to lead people along in the process. It goes back to what we were talking about before. The other thing, like I was saying, it’s very time sensitive. You want to send an email when a user performs an action on your site. Obviously, that could be a sign-up or something else, but what you’ll see is when you send an email that’s linked to an action, the conversion will be much higher if it’s closer in time to when the user performed that action. It’s similar to how email open rates work. Email open rates, 95% of email open I think in the first 48 or 72 hours. After that, it kind of falls off in the inbox, but with events you want… ? But with events you want to send it immediately after the event.
Andrew: What kind of events would you follow up with an email?
Jamie: Obvious things like sign up and then there’s other things. The following up, so there’s sign up, and then there’s other things like retention emails. I used a bunch of systems before, and my favorite one is Performable [??] by Hub Spot and it triggered emails. I can say, “If you signed up for my product and you don’t come back within two days and do whatever the next step that I was incentivizing you to do was, or if you don’t come back and do XY or Z, send you an email to incentivize you to do XY or Z. If you don’t open that email, then send you another email. If you don’t open that email, wait seven days and send you another email.” Doing stuff like that is very valuable.
Andrew: As opposed to sending newsletters, which is what most of us do?
Jamie: Exactly. I think there’s some value to newsletters. Newsletters are important for certain types of products. For example, if your product is some service, and I haven’t fully learned about the service. Some part of it appeals to me so I want to sign up for it. It’s really valuable to send an onboarding engagement newsletter to say, ‘Here are the other things you can do with our product.’ As far as driving engagement, that’s more educational. As far as tracking engagement, doing triggered emails based off of events is really valuable, and a lot of people don’t send enough email, in general.
Andrew: What do you mean? What do they usually do, and what do you recommend that they do?
Jamie: It’s interesting if you look at the social services. They send email for everything. I probably get 100 emails a day from Pinterest. They’re all filtered, so I never see them. Pinterest, Facebook, Corel, all these sites send out massive amounts of email because they know it drives engagement. The first most important step is to make it easy for me to unsubscribe and manage my email settings. What people should not worry about is, “Am I going to drive this person away, and are they never going to come back to my site.” In reality they’re already not coming back to your site. If they’re not already coming back to your site, you should be sending them email to get them to come back to your site. If you send them the email and they unsubscribe and they [??] come back, they probably weren’t going to come back in the first place, so you haven’t really lost anything. People, especially from the developer perspective, I’m a software developer. I hate getting tons of email. On the other hand, I realize the power of email, but I think it’s like this, “I hate getting emails, so I don’t want to send email” perspective. In reality, you should probably be sending more email.
Andrew: I mentioned at the top of this interview that you’re the guy that other founders turn to for advice on these processes. Justin Kan, formerly of Justin TV, I always like to give the URL, so I say Justin.TV, now of Exec, he came to you for advice. What advice did you give him on Exec, his new company?
Jamie: We were talking about some conversion stuff. I don’t want to get too much into the specifics of that, but I think Exec is really interesting, and I was trying to help him out with top of the funnel conversion.
Andrew: As an outside observer, what would you say Exec’s landing page should be? Exec is a site where people can go to get, how do you even explain Exec? To get small tasks done, like, ‘Get me a cup of coffee.’
Jamie: Get anything done for $25 an hour.
Andrew: Got to the grocery store for me for 25 bucks an hour. As an outside observer, if he didn’t come and ask you for advice, what would you say his landing page should look like?
Jamie: It’s similar to the stuff I was saying before. More [??], less links. Tight copy with hard hitting information, but not too much information. A form on the page that’s like, “Put in your email address,” as opposed to having a button to click to then put in your email address. That’s the stuff I would say.
Andrew: What’s their URL? Get Exec.com?
Andrew: IamExec. Can’t wait for him to just get Exec.com. Let me go over to their page and… do you have your browser running right now?
Jamie: Yeah, I can bring it up.
Andrew: Let’s look at mine, if you were to… this is the page that people see the first time they come to my site. Let’s see what you think of that. All right, but right now I’m on Exact.com and he has a description of what his site is, on the bottom you see examples of how to use it, at the very bottom it says request an invite, at the very top it also has a big button for request an invite. You’re saying too much information, get rid of all that text, just have one box.
Jamie: Well, the reality is that people basically just don’t read text. If you put a massive amount of text on the page, unless it’s basically in a very sales driven format, where the top piece of content is driving someone to the next piece of content which is driving someone to the next piece. Having unstructured content with large amounts of text, just…generally does not get read.
Andrew: So, what you might do is, tell me if I’m wrong. You’d say hey listen Justin, get rid of everything, the “Frequently Asked Questions link, the hiring link, the “In the News” link, the log in link, get rid of it all. Just to have one box at the center of the screen that says “We’ll do anything that you need right now” or something like that, don’t even say the price. Get their e-mail address, the next page you might say “What city are you in?”, next page after that “what kind of tasks do you want us to do?”, then the next page after that show them a link of tasks or something.
Jamie: I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily do it like that, there’s a bunch of things I would do differently….
Andrew: Tell me what would it be? Like if…
Jamie: I wouldn’t say… it’s not all about removing information per say, it’s about simplifying and making it tighter, so it’s not like you don’t want to say “Oh well it’s $25 an hour, right?
Jamie: It’s just, you want the copy to be tight, and it’s mostly (inaudible) page is pretty good. It’s mostly about just removing those extra stuff to do on the page which is like links, other things to click on like, for example if you look at Groupon, right? So, a lot of traditional pages, like even this page, you scroll down to the bottom it has like “About, Services, Legal, etc.,” right? You see a lot of companies that have this stuff on their homepage. If you look at like Groupon, for example, they, unless you go through… If you go to Groupon.com directly, at least I haven’t looked at that in a while, but in the past, you don’t even see any of that “About” link, anything. right? Something that’s actually interesting is, you realize if you search Groupon through Google. Like if you go to Google.com and type in Groupon, and then you click on the link, you actually get a different landing page that has that information on the bottom, because they basically can’t cloak their homepage to Google, so they have to show the links on that page because they want Google to index the links, so they can have those extra little sublinks when people search for them on Google.
Andrew: Oh, you know what? You’re right. I see it now, and it doesn’t look like it’s on the page, you have to scroll to the bottom to be able to see all those things like “What Groupon is”, Groupon is an easy way to get huge discounts, like the links to Help, Frequently Asked Questions, like the link to About the company, Jobs, Investor Relations… I see. All right..
Jamie: Yeah, so, I think because it’s really valuable to kind of look at what some of these companies that are extremely conversion focused do in order to try conversions, and I think people… you know it’s not for everyone, I mean a Groupon style landing page is not for everyone, but there are a lot of valuable link lessons that you can learn from studying what they do.
Andrew: Okay, and by the way now I’m looking at LookCraft.com on my screen and I can see, you did say more than I remembered. It says Lookcraft look your best, no shopping required and it says “Step one: Take a quiz and take a quick style and fit quiz, step two: get personalized recommendations, step three: buy clothes”, I guess I didn’t read any of it the first time. I just said I need to know what this is. I gave you my e-mail address, I banged down the get started button and…
Jamie: So, you’re possibly the example of not reading the copy right?
Andrew: Yeah, I think I just had a gist of what it was about and then I was ready to move on and really get a sense of it and really play with it. All right, take a look at mine Nicksurgery.com/high, that’s what we show people the first time they come to … if you can talk about just the site in detail, tell me what you think of that. (pause) By the way, we have an excellent connection, you’re working from home too, right?
Jamie: I’m actually moving to New York today.
Andrew: You are? And you still did this interview?
Andrew: Well, thank you.
Jamie: I think your page is good. I was actually thinking about this the other day because I went to the site and I saw your landing page. I was actually, like, ‘This is pretty good.’ I think you’re doing some tricks here that they kind of mention, and the copyrighting books that I was talking about actually. In general, I think it’s pretty awesome. I think it would be interesting to see what would happen if you removed an option to skip this step, or if you removed the testimonials on the page and see what would happen. But I think, in general, this would probably convert pretty well.
I think both you and some other sites in this space, like Noah Kagan’s site, both do a really good job of converting users on first sign up. And I noticed you have those videos that are tweet-to-view. Those are super annoying but I think that with conversion there, you’re doing a good job.
Andrew: Yeah. Let me see if I can get you the conversion rate right now on the home page. Let’s see, running test, no. All ready, where is that? OK. Hang on. Let’s see if I can get that for you. Well, you know what? We did one with no skip. Can I see that? We get, interesting. When we tested no skip versus skip, not giving people the option to skip gave us a 22.7% conversion rate. With the option to skip, we were down to 13.13% conversion rate.
Andrew: I’m not sure what our current conversion rate is. Let me see if I’ve got that here somewhere. I don’t think I’ve got that right now. I thought we were doing roughly 20% though, 20% conversion. Those pages do really well.
All right. Give me something else. What else is someone who’s, let’s say, visualize a Y-Combinator company. They just went through the process. They’re going to be the next hotshots, but they don’t understand this flow. What’s the one piece of advice that you know that they’re absolutely going to need?
Jamie: The thing with this stuff is that there’s no silver bullet. It’s hard to say, “Here’s the one thing you should do.” It’s very company specific. For example, if you want stuff to convert really well, often times you shouldn’t put a video on your page. For example, if you look at Dropbox, they’ve obviously tested the hell out of their home page and they have all the traffic to do so. They have a video, the primary call to action is, like, “Here’s a video and down load Dropbox.”
I think that’s different, because they’re getting you to download this product, and then you’re going to be using it on your computer. I haven’t gone through their onboarding process in a while, so I don’t know what it’s like, but I think it illustrates that depending on what you’re doing, there’s different strategies and different approaches you should take. What I would say is that you should be very focused, very early, on data, and acquiring data and using it to advise your product decisions, basically.
Andrew: What kind of data?
Jamie: Conversion data. You need to figure out what provides you value as a company and how do you optimize that. For a lot of people that could be things like, “I need this product to be viral.” Right? It’s like with Lookcraft, we’d like it to be more viral, but in reality, I’m selling real products and have real margin and I can buy users if I have to. Right? So maybe at some point I optimize the price I pay to buy users.
For other startups, maybe it’s like Your Path, or something like that, and you’re trying to optimize how do I get one user to invite another user to invite another user. I think you obviously saw with Path, they go from completely private, and not shared anywhere else, to now you see Path stuff on Facebook and now it’s more open. And I think a real driving reason behind that is that they basically figured out that they weren’t going to grow if they didn’t do that. So it’s very company specific.
Andrew: What about where you get traffic?
Jamie: I think there’s a lot of different ways. There’s paid. There’s newer stuff like retargeting, even Facebook announced two weeks ago they’re going to open up [??], what they call FBX, which is you’re going to be able to buy retargeted ads into Facebook. The retargeting’s less about buying new traffic than recapturing traffic that’s already hit your site and not converted. That’s really interesting. The other places to get traffic, there’s so many. You could use the banner ad. You can use ad networks. You can use ad exchanges. You can do Google. You can do StumbleUpon. You can do Reddit. It’s very dependent on your audience and the type of people you’re trying to reach.
Andrew: Is there one of these that you think we should look at? Is retargeting the most effective?
Jamie: Retargeting is really interesting. I’ve seen startups leverage it a lot less than e-commerce companies, and I think it’s something that people should probably be paying attention to more. Not even at a very basic level, but you can get fairly sophisticated where it’s like, “I just want to retarget people who have actually done something in this process and then not completed this next step.” So I want to incentivize them to complete the next step. I don’t think it makes sense, once you have the customer’s email because then you should just be emailing them instead of retargeting them, but there’s a lot of scenarios where it’s like, “The user went to this page, and then they went to this page, and then we should be retargeting them.” There’s other stuff that I haven’t personally tried, but I think it was interesting like search retargeting where people collect cookie data on who’s been searching for what. You can buy into that in the ad exchanges. You basically buy the data. You say, “I want data.” I imagine someone [??] Toyota does this. Like, “I want data on everyone who searched for ‘Buying a new car.'” Then they buy that data and then they retarget the people across [??] ad exchanges. In general, in the startup world, with smaller startups there’s less of an understanding of how this stuff works because I think the whole industry is centered around big budgets and big agencies, but I think there’s opportunities to play around with ideas in the ad exchange banner type space that people tend to ignore historically.
Andrew: Of course, retargeting is someone comes to your site or certain area of your site. Then they go out to another website and they start to see your ad bringing them back to your site or the page that you want them to come back to. What else has worked well for you? What about this? Do you change your landing pages based on where the traffic came from?
Jamie: [??] we did. We had [??] specific landing pages. It’s similar to how Groupon does it, or Living Social. They detect where you are. They auto- populate the selection box for your city with the city they think you’re in. We did that and it does have an effect. It obviously only makes sense if your product is specifically local. For Lookcraft we would never do that because it’s not an easier way to buy clothes online in Chicago, or Texas. It wouldn’t really make sense.
Andrew: But if the hit comes from somebody who is more of an entrepreneur, you might make it, “Clothes for the Ambitious” versus someone who’s a little more casual and you might target them by saying, “Clothes for Fun.”
Jamie: The general problem is that the data there doesn’t really exist in high quality. From what I understand, even the data around, “Are you male or female? or What is your demographic?”, isn’t very reliable. Doing stuff like that’s really interesting.
Andrew: Let me say this. As a follow up to this, if you’re a Mixergy Premium member, you got to check out Dan from Optimizely’s course on MixergyPremium.com. Do you know Dan, by the way?
Jamie: I don’t know the Optimizely guys that well. I think I’ve met him before though.
Andrew: You’ve gone through Y Combinator, right?
Jamie: I did Y Combinator in 2008.
Andrew: And they went through Y Combinator, too. I guess it was just different years. So he’s got the number one site for AB testing and conversion optimization, and he actually even has more users. He’s more popular than Google’s website optimizer. I’ve known him for a long time. He agreed to come to Mixergy Premium and teach conversion optimization, and if you’re a Mixergy Premium member, as I follow-up to this interview, I urge you to check out that course. If you’re not a member, come on man, join up already. Go to Mixergypremium.com and sign up. I guarantee that you’re going to love it. Alright, we talked about a lot of things. Let’s finish off with two questions. First, tools, what tools should we be looking at that will help us with our funnel?
Jamie: Sure, I actually keep a list of all the tools available in the space.
Jamie: I think that Mixed Panel is hugely valuable. I think that, as a company, they’ve been doing a really good job of pushing out new features and developing their product very quickly.
Jamie: I think they do a really awesome job. I basically live in Mixed Panel on a day to day basis. There’s obviously other options there. I think some people may like Kiss Metrics. Some people use some other stuff. I tend to think mixed panel’s the best.
Andrew: Why do you prefer Mixed Panel to KISSmetrics?
Jamie: I haven’t used KISSmetrics in probably 18 months or something like that. I feel like it would be getting into too much detail to say the specific of why I didn’t like one versus the other because they were very specific to the project I was working on at the time. I think the product iteration, or the product speed, at which Mixed Panel is developing their product, is generally faster. And I feel like they’re expanding kind of into all these adjacent spaces. So as a company, I feel like they give me a lot more value because I can do more with the product.
Andrew: What other tools?
Jamie: From an email perspective, I know I mentioned I think the email automation stuff is hard. I think there’s a number of companies that are good, but the problem is they’re mostly targeted towards the enterprise. So there’s Hub Spot. There’s Markedo[SP]. There’s Pardot, but a lot of these are something like $700, a $1000 a month, on a 6 month contract, to sign up. There’s some new players, in the space, doing interesting things. I think the Customer.io guys are doing interesting things.
Andrew: What are they doing? The first collection of software that you suggested, like Hubspot. They will all do this automated email system, where if someone doesn’t take a certain action you can trigger an email. If they do take an action, you can trigger a different email. Right?
Jamie: Well, Hubspot does a lot more than that, but they have, basically, this product from within Hubspot that allows you to do that, that’s really powerful. Same thing with these other companies too. They’re under the banner of marketing animation, or whatever you want to call it, and they provide a wild bunch of other services, but that’s the service that is really valuable. Customerio[SP] is, basically, is trying to build that as a more mainstream software as a service model, where it’s priced more reasonably and targeted towards smaller developers.
Jamie: And I think what they’re doing is interesting. I think you want to have good data on the email back end. You, basically, want to be able to use something where you’re able to easily track your opens and bounces and all this stuff, which is almost all the providers. So from there, I don’t think there’s too much to say. There’s, basically, a lot of other stuff out there. I know you already mentioned Optimizely[SP], which I think is great. It just depends on what you’re trying to do at the given time. I think Optimizely is awesome when you’re trying to optimize your home page for AB testing. I think Mixed Panel is better for understanding your full funnel of what you’re trying to do. I’d almost say, I want to get the email data out and into Mixed Panel, so I can continue analyzing that data and [??]. There’s other services. I don’t think any of them are too critical. There’s obviously stuff that’s interesting like heat map stuff. Like crazy [??], there’s kiss insights if you want to get more information about what your customers are thinking when they’re on a particular page.
Andrew: I notice you have live chat on that very sparse website of yours, on the homepage. That’s the one thing you do have is live chat. What are you getting out of that? What are you learning?
Jamie: It’s important [??] especially early on, at least it’s important for us early on to learn the motivations behind what our customers are thinking. I actively try and do that, whether or not people type things into the little box, that will actually [??] the email people that sign up to the site and be like, ‘I want to know what you were thinking when you went through this process.’ In order to optimize your funnel, you can’t be entirely quantitative. You have to understand the motivations behind what the person is trying to do in order to achieve the higher conversion. People are robots, so if I want to improve conversion from 20 percent to 60 percent, I need to understand the motivations behind why someone’s not converting on the page, and the easiest way to do that is to talk to them in person.
Andrew: Is there one thing that you learned through that, that you wouldn’t have learned otherwise?
Jamie: I don’t think it’s about what you wouldn’t have learned otherwise. I think generally as a startup founder, as someone who’s really immersed in your business, you’re like, “There’s this page, and there’s lots of stuff to do. Are people not converting because of this reason, or this reason?” The easiest way of resolving which of the reasons that are causing people to not convert is asking them. Not necessarily asking them directly, but asking them about what they were thinking or what their motivations were and trying to light into it, which of the things you need to change.
Andrew: Why wouldn’t [??] ask them directly?
Jamie: Because a lot of times people don’t know why they’re not converting. They’ll give you some secondary reason, so it’ll be like, “The process felt too complicated.” Then you have to ask different questions to figure out why it was too complicated as opposed to say, ‘Should I put this button over here or over here?’ Instead you should ask, ‘What were you trying to do?’ Then you understand what the user’s trying to accomplish, and you can optimize for that action as opposed to saying, “Should I be moving this button around?,” which doesn’t really give you as valuable of data.
Andrew: I’ve done that. When I did the first course on Mixergy, I emailed a portion of my audience a link to that page and then, since I use Wistia I can tell who watched the video that happens to be on that landing page all the way to the end. I get their email addresses. I pulled up the email addresses of all the people who watched the video all the way to the end but didn’t buy, and I emailed them and I asked them, “Why didn’t you buy?” I thought I got some useful information from it. It was things that I could then change about the copy and that helped, but you’re making me think that I was asking the wrong question. That there was a better line of questioning that would have gotten me more useful information and helped me increase conversions further. What should I have asked? If I knew who was interested enough to click and watch the video all the way to the end, what should I have asked to know how to improve the conversion on that page?
Jamie: In your particular case, you’re having people watch a video and you wanted to figure out the motivations behind why they watched it all the way to the end?
Andrew: Why’d they watch a video all the way to the end that sells a course on how to do interviews, and then they didn’t buy that course.
Jamie: I would be asking about their motivations. “What interested you about the video?” In that case, maybe it is appropriate to say, “Why didn’t you buy?” That’s more direct. It’s like a landing page, like a sales page. “Here’s the thing. [??]. Now you watched the video. Why didn’t you buy it?” What I’m talking about is more in depth product stuff where it’s not like I’m trying to convert that last step. I’m trying to figure out why people are playing around with my product. What are they thinking about when they’re on this page? What do they care about? In your case, it’s like, “I already know what they’re thinking about.” They’re thinking about the video they just watched. They obviously care about it because they just watched it. It might be kind of effective to say, “Were you not ready to buy?” Or you could ask reasons like: were you not ready to buy, or almost do a survey in that case. It’s a little different on kid’s face.
Andrew: How about one other tool and I’ll get to that final question?
Jamie: Okay, so, just looking through my list of tools here. There’s obvious stuff you should always be using (?), and some other stuff like that. I think we kind of covered most of it because we covered the testing, we covered (?). You know, we covered some of the email stuff. That’s mostly what I’d be focused on.
Andrew: Okay, I’ll put in a pug for Wistia. They’re a sponsor of mine, so I hate to insert them in because they don’t want people to think that I’m shilling for them, but it’s incredibly effective to know who’s watching your video all the way through to contact them afterwards.
Jamie: I haven’t actually used this product, so I don’t want to promote it too much, but we were talking about how performance affects conversion. There’s a site called Torbit that helps you measure performance as far as page load speeds.
Andrew: Oh, I see. Torbit?
Jamie: Yeah, and so, it’s worth checking out I think.
Andrew: All right, final question, what’s one thing that someone who listened to this video all the way to do the end can do right now to increase their growth?
Jamie: I think the first thing anyone can do is sit down and look at their goals in their funnel. I think the most valuable thing you can do is figure out where to spend your effort. So, you know, you should sit down and think about, “What is our funnel like? What are we trying to get the user to do? We have a beginning step and an end step,” and look at the steps along the process and figure out where you should be spending your effort. You have a limited amount of time in the day. You want to do a small amount of work and get a large amount of benefit out of it. The best way to do that is to understand where in your funnel can you do a small amount of work with a large amount of benefit. And so, it’s about finding where you have the best leverage, and creating the list of things you would have to do to improve on the points of high leverage, and then figuring out which of those things is the easiest to do and going and doing it.
Andrew: All right. Well, thank you for doing this interview. Of course, as I’ve been saying throughout this interview, the new site is Lookcraft for people like me who hate shopping. They don’t have to pay for the shipping of the stuff you pick out for them, either way right?
Jamie: Free shipping both ways.
Andrew: They go through a questionnaire, they pick out the style of clothes that they want, they then get a collection of clothes that you’re going to ship to them. They hit submit. They get the box of stuff delivered. They ship back anything they’re not happy with.
Andrew: All right, perfect. What I care about, more than getting them dressed well, is to get them to see your sales process. As an entrepreneur who I interviewed in the past, who didn’t say this in the interview, but I know this because I’ve been friends with him for a long time, what he does is he takes screenshots of every step of people’s registration process so he can learn how they’re adjusting so that he can kind of learn from their learnings. And is it wrong for me to say that they should do that with Lookcraft, because you know how to increase conversion, you know how to get people.
Jamie: It’s a good idea. I do that with (?) and some of these other sites too, to watch how their check out process works (?) bigger sites too, like someone like Amazon, who doesn’t make as many changes, but it’s interesting to see how they structured their check out process, because I can tell you that thing’s optimized to hell.
Andrew: How open are you to having private conversations with people who would like you take a look at their site the way you looked at mine today?
Jamie: I’m very open to chatting with people. So, I encourage people to shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew: Of course, my suggestion is, if you got anything valuable out of this interview shoot Jamie and email and say, “Thank you,” or see him at a conference or one of the events in New York and say what I’m about to say right now which is, Jamie, thank you for doing this interview and thank you for teaching all of us.
Jamie: Yeah, thanks a lot for having me, Andrew.
Andrew: Cool. Thank you all for watching. Bye.