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Unprepared Ep 41 - How to Convert Visitors Into Customers Using Data with Jon MacDonald

Timestamps:

  • [00:00] - Intro
  • [00:55] - What is conversion optimization
  • [02:45] - Difference between CRO and sales
  • [04:22] - Conversion optimization process
  • [06:05] - The wrong time to use CRO 
  • [08:54] - Where to find Jon
  • [09:06] - Sponsor: Rewind

Resources:

Key Points:

  • Jon MacDonald is the CEO and founder of The Good
  • The Good is a conversion rate optimization firm that helps brands convert more visitors into a customer from their existing website traffic using data science.
  • The Good has achieved results for the largest online brands including Adobe, Nike, Xerox, The Economist, and more.
  • The Good's goal is to remove all bad online experiences until only the good ones remain. 
  • Conversion rate optimization (CRO) or conversion optimization means converting your visitor into a buyer and helping them to accomplish their tasks or goals.
  • People visit your website because 1) they want to understand if you can solve their pain points and 2) if you can help them, they want to be converted as soon as possible. 
  • A good conversion rate is the one that's always improving, otherwise, you're just guessing. 
  • CRO helps people to know if a brand is a right fit for them. 
  • CRO is not one and done type of philosophy. It is not just a checklist that you’ll be provided.
  • CRO needs to be tested on your site with your consumers to ensure it's going to work. 
  • The process includes evaluating the site and helping people to understand the major challenges and roadblocks. 
  • The foundation of conversion optimization needs to be data. 
  • Data helps track every movement that is happening on your site. For example, heat maps, click maps, scroll maps, engagement data, deep-diving into analytics, where they are in the funnel, and more. 
  • Use the data to help form hypotheses on why the problems exist and how you can solve them. 
  • Look into some qualitative customers like user testing, interviewing customers, and more to understand your customers. 

Transcript:

Chase Clymer  

Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of Unprepared. Today I've got a very special guest. 

Coming back now for the second time, kind of, this isn't the podcast, but it kind of is. Who knows? Jon, welcome back. How are you doing today? 

Jon MacDonald  

Great. Thanks for having me again. I'm excited about this.

Chase Clymer  

And so for the people that are newer to the audience, you know, just quick rundown -- who you are and what do you do?

Jon MacDonald  

Yeah, so CEO and founder of The Good. We are a conversion rate optimization firm. What that means is we help brands to convert more of their existing website traffic from visitors into a customer. 

And we use data science to help make that a reality. We've been doing this for about a decade. We work for brands like Nike, Xerox, Adobe, The Economist and SwissGear, and many, many more.

Chase Clymer  

Cool. So right before this, we had a fun conversation and we threw out the outline and said we are just going to kind of talk about, if you are looking into hiring a CRO agency or someone to help you with optimizing your conversion rate. What does that actually mean? 

Because I feel like there's a disconnect between what the deliverables are and what you should be expecting? 

Jon MacDonald  

Yeah. 

Chase Clymer  

So you know, I guess, let's, without further ado.

Jon MacDonald  

It's kind of like branding. It's turned into this term, that means something different for everybody. And that's the big challenge that I encounter on a daily basis is how to explain to people what CRO is in a way that helps them get the most out of it. 

And the reality here is that the most simple definition of conversion optimization is again, converting your visitor into a buyer and helping them to accomplish their tasks. Now, I say that because our mission at The Good is to remove all of the bad online experiences until only the good ones remain. 

And if you come into it with that type of mentality, it's not about all of the so-called black hat where you're trying to trick people. 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah.

Jon MacDonald  

Right? What we're trying to do is help people accomplish the goals that they already have. People are only at your Ecommerce website for two reasons. They're there to research and understand if your product or service is going to help solve a pain or need that they have. And then if they determined that they can help them, they want to convert as quickly and easily as possible. 

And that's all conversion optimization is. It's helping people to understand if you're the right fit, and if they're the right fit for your product, and if they are to convert. And so it's just greasing those wheels is really the best way to describe it.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, so without going too tangential with, kind of where my head was at, because often people come in, and they say they want CRO. But what they actually want is more sales. 

And there probably are easier levers to pull. You know, if you've got a decent conversion rate, maybe it's time you focus on some other KPIs that are going to be probably more beneficial for your business in the long run. 

Jon MacDonald  

Well, look, if you just want to increase your sales, just run a massive discount and you'll increase your sales. I mean, discounting is not conversion optimization, it's margin drain. But it's an easy way to get some wins right away. 

I think you know, the thing that really should be considered here is that if you're looking for conversion optimization, or let's just say more sales, really the best way to think about this is incremental improvement, just 1% per day. And that's truly conversion optimization. 

I get asked every day, what is a good conversion rate? And the reality is it's one that's always improving, right? That's the only solid answer I can give somebody and 

Chase Clymer  

Oh, yeah.

Jon MacDonald  

Otherwise, you're just guessing. Nobody. I mean, let's be honest, how many people, when you ask what your conversion rate is, are really just gonna be honest with you, especially competitors? Probably no one. 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. 

Jon MacDonald  

Or if they are, does it make sense to compare yourself to them? I don't know. Because, you know, who knows what their margins are? Who knows how they run their business? 

Chase Clymer  

Yep. 

Jon MacDonald  

There's a lot of challenges there that aren't going to be a one to one comparison, even if they are your next competitor.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, so do you guys. So when you're starting a conversion rate optimization, project or retainer, there are a few ways that people like to look at it? What's that process kind of look like?

Jon MacDonald  

Well, the first thing that people should consider is that it's not a one and done type of philosophy. Conversion optimization isn't just a checklist that you can be provided. And yeah, there are some best practices out there. But you still need to test those on your site with your consumers. And that's the only way to make sure that's going to work. 

Really the process needs to be that you should evaluate the site, help people to understand what are the major challenges, what are the roadblocks, and there are ways to do that. It all starts with data. 

Chase Clymer  

Mhmm.

Jon MacDonald  

Helping track every click and movement that's happening on your site. Heat maps, click maps, scroll maps, right? Engagement data. How people are engaging with the website and the content is what's going to be really important here. 

Then deep diving into, of course, things like analytics. Looking for where those exit points that people are making [and] where are they dropping off in the funnel. Use all of that data to help form hypotheses around why those are happening, right? 

Beyond all of that, really just analytics data, that quantitative data, you really want to take a look at some more of the qualitative data as well. So interviewing customers, doing things like user testing, where you're sending people to the site to ask them to complete some tasks while you record their screen and their audio and understanding where they drop off. 

So, but all, the foundation of all of this and conversion optimization needs to be data. And that way, you're taking more of a scientific approach. Using that data to form hypotheses around why those problems exist, and how you think they can be resolved. 

And then you're doing AB or multivariate testing on your site to prove out those hypotheses. In a nutshell, that's really what the process is going to look like.

Chase Clymer  

Now, I guess, going back to what you said earlier, there’s not many quick wins, per se. You still need to test all the low hanging fruit is how some people describe it. 

There are some obvious glaring things that can probably, like if your website's broken, you should fix that and don't even test it. 

Jon MacDonald  

Right.

Chase Clymer  

But you know, once you get a good foundation there, you have a good conversion rate. It's definitely a long term play and some people don't understand that. 

Jon MacDonald  

Exactly, I think that a lot of folks come to us and they are in a do or die situation. I'm going to lose my job if I don't get this selling more. Or you know, my business is going to go under if we don't increase our convergence in our sales. 

That's the wrong time to be approaching conversion optimization because they're looking for a quick win. And again, there are systematic, other problems with their company or their brand or their product. And you need to solve those, you know, things like product-market fit, what's the right pricing? 

Chase Clymer  

Yep.

Jon MacDonald  

All of those types of concerns need to be approached first, before you even figure out okay, I need to increase conversions. If you don't have that baseline, then don't even worry about doing conversion optimization.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. I mean, you hit the nail on the head there, it's definitely, it's for a more mature brand. Sometimes I'd like to, you know, say a startup would be that zero to 1 million, probably not something I used to worry about during that point. 

And, you know, after that, in that scaling phase, that probably makes a lot more sense. You should carve out some of your budget to get someone that knows what they're doing and own that.

Jon MacDonald  

Yeah, that's fair. I think the way I like to look at this is they need to have a certain amount of traffic to be able to do testing in order to show a return on investment. Because the last thing I want to do is have someone come to work with us. And I can't prove a test out in a reasonable timeframe, right? 

And a lot of people want us to just run 100 tests in a month. And that's just not possible with the amount of traffic that most brands have. I mean, I would say a successful optimization program, you know, you need to have at least 40,000 unique sessions per month. 

And then, you know, generally over a million dollars in revenue in order to be able to prove out a return on investment. But even then, we're only going to run two, three, maybe four tests per month. 

And those are going to significantly move the needle, if it's, if you have professionals doing this and you have them form the right hypotheses based on the right data, then you can certainly move the needle every month on a small number of tests.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I mean, now if someone just heard that and they think that, you know what, I think we're there. And you know, it sounds like that they have a budget to be able to afford someone like you. How do they get ahold of you?

Jon MacDonald  

Well, just shoot me an email: jon@thegood.com. Or just check us out at thegood.com.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome, thank you so much. 

Jon MacDonald  

Thank you. 

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