Episodes

Chris Neumann

Chris Neumann

Chris is a conversion rate optimization expert who consults with various companies to help them improve their conversion rates within the product. Learn what his clients usually get wrong and what he does to serve them.

TOPIC CHRIS COVERS

  • His different roles at different companies doing marketing and growth related things
  • He’s an optimization expert who consults with various companies to help them improve their conversion rates within the product
  • His background in Synergy
  • What are SEO metrics about
  • How do CRO metrics systematize a sales process
  • His set of checklists for growth hacking
  • His best advice for any startup is to try to grow
  • And a whole lot more

LINKS & RESOURCES

WATCH THE INTERVIEW

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READ THE TRANSCRIPTION

Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV, Bronson Taylor. And today I have Chris Newman with us. Chris, thanks for coming on the program.

Chris: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. Now, Chris, you’re the founder and principal at Crow Metrics and tell me if I’m wrong. Crowe stands for conversion rate optimization.

Chris: Yeah. So I’ve been trying to I originally said Crowe, but I actually say Crowe metrics now because of that.

Bronson: All right. So you’re the founder and principal at Crowe Metrics, and we’ll talk about that company in a second because I think people are going to want to learn about what you do there, because it’s so relevant to everything the show is about. But first, let’s talk a little bit about your career. I noticed you’ve had quite a few different roles at different companies doing marketing and growth related things. So walk us through a little bit about you. It looks like you started Synergy back in the day and then kind of move forward and tell us up to Crowe metrics.

Chris: Sure. Yeah. So I’ve been a bike racer for a really long time, and Synergy was the first pre-built bike wheel company that made this really neat carbon fiber, aerodynamic wheels. And coming out of college, it was sort of the dream job. It’s like if you are in a basketball, being able to work at Nike and sell shoes to Michael Jordan. So it was a great job and worked there for four years and sort of set off the dotcom bubble and then, you know, learned a lot the basics of marketing and product management. This was early intro days and so we was a lot of off line things. So learn the basics there. They were also a venture funded company, so learned a little bit about how these things work. And then in 2000, my best friend from high school graduated from Harvard Business School and said, hey, I’m going to go to San Francisco and start a company because, of course, that’s we’re going to do in 2000. And so that took about 10 seconds for me to decide to go with him, because I was living in suburban Connecticut and came out here join a company that blew up after six months or so. And and the first crash then started my first company. What’s a friend of mine from college. And it was called Amigo and allows you to copy your file settings and email onto those USB drives that are just coming out. So I was a product guy, I guess I was everything except engineering. And so that was a success. You had a great column by Walt Mossberg and all this amazing press and ended up selling that company. And then the second company was sort of a second time entrepreneur mistake or we to try to take on the cable companies. And so we started around the same time YouTube did with different assumptions and YouTube one. But one of the big things that came out of that experience was building something that nobody wanted. So we spent two years building us really fancy, amazing interface with all kinds of great technology, but nobody wanted it. So then all of the startup stuff started getting popular, and after those two startups I started doing a little bit of consulting and I was focused on product management. But I realized that people who are outsourcing product management or either or set into one or two categories, either they were sort of broken companies that didn’t know what they were doing, or they just needed a little side projects, skunkworks type project. So then 2008 came along and got a job and then that company went sideways. And so I joined another company as a general manager and they were just really small and started growing them and using employing a lot of these kind of lean startup and growth hacker techniques that have come out. And it went really well. It grew by a factor of five in 18 months. We’re just 10% per month cranking out the growth. So at that point I looked at it and said I did okay starting companies, but this building companies has been really fun and I’ve enjoyed it a lot, so I’m gonna start doing more of that. And so I started doing SEO metrics in earnest over the past two years.

Bronson: So yeah, tell us a little bit about SEO metrics. Do you guys go into a company who is trying to grow and kind of guide them, teach them, or is it something different? What do you guys do with with companies there?

Chris: Yeah. So when I got started, I just sort of. I. I wasn’t even calling it zero matches at the time. I was just me doing consulting, but then got in touch with someone else, I don’t know, six months or so into it. And he had been doing this for a while prior to doing Colorado, our Country. And he gave me a bunch of tips that were awesome. The guy has saved me from killing myself in a huge way. So what I end up doing is working with multiple companies at the time, and I’ve generally focused on SaaS companies or subscription based companies and the majority that has been focused on business to business ones rather than consumer ones. Although I have done other work for big companies like Facebook just on a small project basis, but I tend to go in there and be pretty full service, so I don’t want to just leave behind a PowerPoint deck. I want to come in and set up a test and run them and help these people really execute on the entire process. Yeah. And I get brought in to help the team become more data driven and, you know, set things up so they can have the tools in place to continue to grow.

Bronson: Yeah. So what were some of the advice that Sean gave you that helped you so much? You know, we had Sean on the show a week or two ago, you know, and you come to him and say, hey, I want to do consulting, kind of like you do in terms of growth. Anything you remember from that conversation?

Chris: Yeah. Well, this is not going to be too relevant to the audience, but it’s the number one piece of advice that’s been hugely valuable was to read this book about how to be a good consultant.

Bronson: That it is what it is. Yeah.

Chris: So that’s the one piece of advice I’ve given to other consultants that’s been really helpful. But he’s giving me a bunch of other, I guess, smaller pieces of advice. And, you know, one of the things that it was helpful is he’s sort of the master of all this stuff. Talking with him a little bit, he gave me the confidence that I wasn’t screwing up. Right? When you’re by yourself, it’s often, you know, you can be sort of it’s easy to lose your self-confidence. But yeah, he’s been helpful as a guide and making sure that I’m doing the right thing. So there’s not any one piece of advice that I could give that says, Hey, this is the thing to do.

Bronson: Yeah. Well, let’s talk about some of the specific things you do for your clients. So, you know, CRM stands for conversion rate optimization. So how do you define that when you come in, you say, look, I’m going to help you with conversion rate optimization. What do you mean by that?

Chris: Sure. I mean, I think that most business is done on rates. Right. So, hey, we had 100 people sign up. How many people decided to pass? It’s a rave, but you really care about the rates. So the first thing is to make sure we’re measuring the right rates. So if I come in and there’s no measurement going on, I want to get some measurement going on in this thing. I actually the thing I like the most is just have a little daily email that comes out every day. And generally, it’s just a little script that runs in the background and looks at the database and says, Hey, here’s what happened yesterday. And you put in a bunch of metrics that are really actionable, and I send those out to the entire company. They look at them, and those are moving based on, you know, everyone in the company knows what’s being measured.

Bronson: Gotcha. Kind of telling them what the KPIs are just by virtue of what you including that email, right?

Chris: Absolutely. Yeah, it was funny. I have a funny story that one of the guys that I worked with, that a client, he worked in the casino industry and he was managing all the cocktail waitresses that give out drinks. So one day he just started putting up a list on the wall. You know, here’s the order list of the cocktail waitress and the number of drinks given out and then the number of drinks you didn’t say, can you get bonus on this or anything? The number of drinks just went through the roof. So I’ve seen that sort of influence happen quite a lot and I think it’s really important. Just everyone knows what’s going on now.

Bronson: It’s great what kind of rates. I mean, I know every company is different, but what are the rates where you you kind of know what you’re going to be putting these rates in that email? It goes out every day.

Chris: Yeah, sure. So how many people signed up? How many people actually use the product? Right. So I think of and I know Sean likes to talk about this stuff like the must have experience is critical, right? If you don’t if you sign up and don’t have a good experience at the beginning of the product and then you go away, you kind of lost them. So, you know, you want to look at the number of people that have kind of gone to whatever that kind of core that must have experiences. And then, you know, how many people signed up, you know how much revenue you got. There’s some kind of basic revenue things. And another thing I like to do is look at who your power users are. So I often will have like top 20 users, whatever it is. So like one of the companies I worked on was this company text marks that does as a mass marketing. So I have a list of like food sent out the most messages, top 20 people, some of the most messages the previous day. And then sometimes surprises will happen there. And I might uncover some little nugget that you could then follow a path down and open a growth opportunity.

Bronson: Yeah, yeah. Because then you can follow up with them, get a dialog going with them, or they might be somebody famous and you can tap into their audience. I mean, there’s all kinds of serendipitous things that can happen when you know what’s going on, right?

Chris: Absolutely. But if you don’t know what’s going on, you don’t know what’s going on. So ethylene oxide. Yeah, I think that also brings up a really interesting point, which is those metrics have to be actionable and actually be directly like success and drive the success of the company. Because I’ve seen metrics in these emails that are kind of the wrong ones and then all of a sudden the company is taking action to optimize basically the wrong thing.

Bronson: Yeah. So this example, like what might be a metric that, you know, it’s a shiny object, we all want that to go up into the right, but it just doesn’t really matter.

Chris: You know, the thing I want is page views and I’ve seen that like, oh, hey, the pageviews went up on this widget over here really fast. Great. Like, everyone was like, oh, actually, it just went up because there was an error in the server or something like that. So.

Bronson: Gotcha. All right. So you really want the metrics that drive your business, that drive the bottom line, that drive, you know, the rates that matter.

Chris: Yeah. And I think one of the biggest things I’ve seen is connecting a marketing sign up to a paid customer. And this is particularly important, I feel like and B2B stuff and especially SAS where you have a long payback period or e-commerce, you buy something, you know, you know, the person came on board something well SAS, you generally sign up and use it in the payback periods over a long period of time. So that makes it really hard because if you’re acquiring people through AdWords, well, you know, did that AdWords ad turn into an actual paying user? Often those those two events are not connected in the database anywhere. And you have marketing be incentivized and the number of signups they get. Well, when that happens, you optimizing the number of signups or that may not be paying customers. Unfortunately I’ve seen tax differences and. Customer and conversion from sign up to pay between based on channels. So when you uncover this, it makes it you can make a really huge difference in the business because you shouldn’t be spending as much money on the one that’s converting 1/10 out of the other one.

Bronson: Yeah. So just to make sure everybody is clear because I think what you just said is super important, that different channels, they work differently. They, you know, you might have an ad word channel and it’s converting at a really low rate. So you’re spending a bunch of money getting a bunch of sign ups, but it’s not actually making you money on the back end. You may have some other channel that’s performing really well, but it looks the same in terms of sign ups. Only they stay around longer and actually become paying members. So if you don’t break down what’s going on by a channel, you’re not actually getting the metrics that matter, right?

Chris: Yeah. So maybe we could turn that into a story really quickly. Yeah, absolutely. Let’s say I put this interview on zero metrics dot com or growth hacker dot com, which is my blog right now. I go and look at where are my leads coming from for people who want to hire me as a consultant? Well, maybe the people that are reading, watching the TV show and maybe someone reaches out, maybe those are converting and turning into customers at a ten times better rate than those people who if I bought an outward, that’s a conversion rate optimization consultant or growth hacker. Mm hmm. AdWords, maybe that’s not doing as well. So being able to track that is really critical. Yeah, I think it used to happen offline in sort of a more casual way where a salesperson might talk to another part of their customer and say, Hey, where’d you hear about us? And then the feedback in that way. Well, now with these large scale systems where everything’s automated, that sort of doesn’t happen. And so you end up with these things being disconnected and you have a misalignment of incentives where marketing is just a matter of how many sign ups that you get.

Bronson: Mm hmm. Now, that’s great. I mean, actually, right now, on the back end of growth, hacker TV, every single person that becomes a member, we know what their first introduction to our site was. We know the first time they came to our site where they came from. We know if there was a campaign that was a part of it. We know what the referral URL was like. We have all this data so we can look at our membership and say, Look, buy on a percentage basis. 29% are coming from this channel and their lifetime value is X as opposed to 11% from this channel with the lifetime value of, you know, Y. And so we have the data to work with that’s so important for every business to know what channels are working, not just that something’s working.

Chris: Right? Yeah. I mean, you’re way ahead of the curve compared to almost all companies.

Bronson: And we thought that in house it wasn’t horror. That’s the thing to realize, too. Like, it wasn’t difficult what we did. Our engineer spent a couple of hours one day as we brainstormed. What metrics do we need for the channels? And it could still probably be better that we could still build it out more, but it wasn’t like it took us weeks of recreating some massive analytics platform. It was just a simple little thing on the back end that gives us so much insight into our own users and into their metrics. And I like what you said about the email, because we have some things emailed to us every day, but not quite what you said, and I’m gonna start implementing that. I wanna think through our what are the metrics that I want the team to have every day, and I want that email out every day. So that’s a great insight that I’m going to take away already from this interview. Now, you talked about on your website zero metrics, some of the things you do to really help the conversion rate optimization for people. And one of the things you mentioned on there is the user experience. So if you would kind of define user experience for us when you go in and you try to help somebody and what do you do to make the UX great? What are some of the things that zero metrics will really employ there?

Chris: Yeah, so this is sort of through comes out of my background is in product management so I am always tempted to dig further into the product than I probably should as a consultant. But I’ve got a heuristic that I’ve got now, which is the new user experience or you know, now they’re starting to become this little Silicon Valley term of knocks and UX for new experience, which is actually critical. I touched on it earlier where we said, okay, if a person comes in and doesn’t have a good experience, that’s not great. They’re unlikely to last, much less likely to buy. So focusing on the ninja experience is just absolutely, in my mind critical. And it goes back to building spending two years of building something nobody wanted. Right. If I had just spent one month building the end user experience, I could have found out that nobody wanted it. It didn’t matter. And if nothing else mattered after that. So I’ve been I’ve developed a process that actually can accelerate that really quickly and it looks a little bit like this. So there’s this software package called Azure HQ already, which allows you to make clickable mockups. And so I can literally just mock up something. It doesn’t have to be particularly fancy. I don’t need a designer. I can just do kind of crisp, crappy graphic design, cut and paste and build this kind of v one experience and then. It’s clickable enough. It looks real enough that people will perceive it as a real website. And then I can what I’d like to do is run it through user testing dot com so or there’s a couple of these are I think is oh no but I’ve I’ve used user testing for several years but the thing is you can run people through user testing dot com see how they react to it. It’s obvious there’s almost always some sort of polls and then you can watch out, watch the user testing dot com video, fix the problems you have, the user experience and then iterate. So at this point I can iterate twice a day if I want to, which is amazingly faster than you know, typically I see on the order of months. Yeah. But by optimizing to the loop really quickly, you get to a good user experience fast and there’s always the often weird things. Like I was working on a little side project once that was going to help people of women change their names after they get married and a lot of paperwork and annoying stuff that is involved in that. So step one was sort of give us your name and email. Step two is start giving us your personal information. But they went right from one to the next. So in step two, people started filling it out and they started freaking out when they saw Social Security number in there. So we’re like, Huh, how do we get over this? So what we did is we inserted interstitial page. It was sort of a little letter that was like, Hey, you can trust us, everything’s secure and scan our signatures and put it on there. And then people would happily type in their Social Security number into this like completely nonfunctional matter. So at that point, we knew for sure this was working and it was going to work out great and actually have incorporated this process into my new client patch. So when someone asks me, I’ll actually just run this user task with them and I’ll often go in and show them the video and say, Hey, here’s a couple of areas where I think we can improve.

Bronson: So that’s a great insight. I’ve never heard of mock ups being used as the user test because now your cycle for iteration just got shortened dramatically because you’re not actually writing code and building websites, you’re moving things around in a mockup that a zero is taking care of. And so that sounds like an incredible way to really shorten the time frame to get to a new user experience. Is that the main thing to shorten that time frame.

Chris: Is, you know, you can’t always do it. Or if it involves some sort of thing that hasn’t really happened, you can’t it doesn’t always work, but it can work even for an established product. You could just come up with a completely different flow that’s a mockup, one of two user testing, and it’s only just some individual people. So even if it’s horrible, you’ll find out really fast, right? Versus and this comes back to a lot of the area of providers just. Getting out of the management. And in business, if you’re sitting in a meeting, you know, it always goes back to the hippo, right?

Bronson: Yeah.

Chris: I’m happy to take anyone’s opinion. Let’s just run it through and test it. I’ve done this. Either you have always people in meetings are allowed and want to say, Oh, we should do it this way. You guys have it all wrong. I’ve literally gone and taken three or four different people’s opinions. And one in particular I’m thinking about was an insider engineer, right? And I pushed her really hard to give me what she wanted, what she thought we should do. And I was like, I don’t care. I just on the back of a napkin. I did. She did. And I did it and it was great. So I guess I’m kind of going back around is I look for ideas everywhere. Yeah. Because a lot of people have good ones and this allows you to test many different ideas and one of them can work.

Bronson: So it’s not so much of just shortening the time frame because it does that. It’s also to kind of level out the political playing field that happens in meetings, because now if you can do something that quick and that easy, everyone can have their shot at user testing and see what the results actually show us. And we don’t have to just go with the person who’s the loudest or has the most seniority or whatever the case may be. We can really let the data speak where it should.

Chris: That’s right. And, you know, I always like to try to test everyone’s stuff because the guy who’s a lot of us are the highest or whatever. You know, when they see the results that aren’t good, they learn, right? And it’s kind of humbling. So then all of a sudden it reorients things around. Okay, well, now we have this data. Let’s start going after it. And it’s pretty interesting because the people who I found are the highest performers tend to or the highest performing CEOs tend to take that humble pie really well and be excited about it versus being like, Oh, I don’t want this thing that’s going to conflict with my opinion, so get out of here. Yeah, right.

Bronson: I’m sure you run into all kinds of fun stuff being a consultant. My hat’s off to you. I don’t know if I could do it.

Chris: I actually think it’s really fun. I’ve been learning a time and, you know, there are the challenges, but it’s it’s been really, really fun. So, yeah, I want to keep going for a while.

Bronson: No, it sounds great. It seems like you have a good thing going with your own metrics. Talk to me a little bit about AB testing, because on your website, again, that’s kind of one of the tools that you guys have in the tool bag there. What kinds of things do you recommend? Abby testing or what kinds of things do you just find yourself? Abby Testing on almost every job that you take on.

Chris: Well, so the headlines copy is just always the easiest, lowest hanging fruit. And you know, I have a reasonably close relationship with Optimize and I told those guys they should just have their first user, you know, first user experience be like, hey, test the headline. Right. Detect the H1 tag on the page and just try to have people test the headline. So I always like to test copy. And so I think it may be testing though, just kind of going to the main part of the question is, I think of a B testing as a hypothesis validation machine. Mm hmm. So there’s been a bunch of articles out there where it makes it sound like, Oh, yeah, I just throw a bunch of darts, a dart dartboard, and one of them will stick. I just. I don’t like that much more as a here we have this hypothesis or a series of hypotheses. Let’s test them to validate them. Because not just, like better or worse, it’s also a manager, right? Mm hmm. We we tested it. It was 5% better. Well, that’s not that great. Unless you’re Google. Mm hmm. And or we tested it, and it’s 30% better. That’s amazing. So 50% better. 100% better. Mm hmm. So then, you know, the next question is usually, you know, how do you come up with a hypothesis, which I find one of the most challenging things? People generally don’t know what to test. I don’t think of it as like what it has, you know, round buttons or green versus red buttons. That stuff will get you a small amount of lift. Mm hmm. But it’s the deep customer insights and understanding what they really must have experiences. Circling back to someone else’s work. Really deeply understanding that is critically important. So I’ve been a huge fan of Wallaroo since it was a side project inside of KISSmetrics. Mm hmm. And, you know, one of my favorite little hacks is to just put, hey, what’s the primary benefit you get from whatever the site is on the logged in page of the page users? Mm hmm. So then you can look at that data and say, oh, they said, you know, collaboration. Right. And then if they say collaboration amount of times and you go back and your website doesn’t make collaboration anywhere like just my word, which is right. So seeing that back end is really important. Then you can actually take it to the next level, which is, you know, sort of one that’s shown us Facebook things, which is ask actually a series of questions. Right. First question is, how disappointed would you be if you could no longer use it? Mm hmm. And then what’s the primary benefit? And then why? So then you can look at the people who said they’d be very disappointed because you said people are really adding value, too. Mm hmm. And then what’s the primary benefit and why? Because without really deep inside as to what what is the core value you’re providing? Yeah, I want to do that. You can reorient all your messaging a site around those people where you’re delivering a lot of value. Yeah. So I’ve actually got some, you know, I’ve seen there’s a bunch of time, so just a hypothetical client I had, you know, feature a feature be a feature a was used by a lot of people but money them so that it wasn’t particularly valuable for people who said. You know, not disappointed or somewhat disappointed. We’re primarily using teacher, but there was a small minority, ten or 20% that were using feature. B that’s I’m very disappointed. Well, those are the guys you go after because they’re the ones who don’t have a substitute. Mm hmm. So Teacher B can be found elsewhere. A feature B can be a feature and can be found by many other solutions. So really focusing on doing a great job for feature B and growing that part of the business. I think that’s how you get to a bunch of products.

Bronson: Yeah, I really like those insights into a B testing. Tell me if I’m wrong here as I kind of summarize some of your thoughts. You know, you can throw it like darts or dartboard and you’ll get some incremental increases. Yes. A performance better than B, let’s go with, you know, whatever. But what you’re saying is, if there’s some kind of deep intuition, if there’s some kind of insight, if there’s something more that you’re bringing as a hypothesis into that a B test, then you’re going to move much more rapidly because you’re tapping into something deeper. So if you’re seeing them use the word collaboration, then use that word as a hypothesis that it might perform a lot better as a headline. And now you’re not just throwing a bunch of random words into your headline, you’re using their input to have a deep intuition into what? To a B test, which can move you much further along the path more rapidly. Do you think that’s fair to say?

Chris: That’s right. And I would even go so far as to say that you could even go next and the next level would be to do some direct customer interviews. Right. The whole Steve Blank out of the building thing. Yeah. You go and talk to people, you’ll find out some things that are always you know, you just kind of understand what their workflow is like or what pain they’re feeling. Mm hmm. And when I’m doing this, I’ll do the user testing as well. But I go, Well, what’s your current solution? I’ll often listen to sort of the better conversation that’s happening. So, like, not in the words they’re using, but also sort of how they’re feeling. Listen to what sort of tone of voice. Mm hmm. Or, you know, for instance, with a heuristic I have is when I’m watching a user test, if I notice that there’s a period of silence with the person clicking the mouse a bunch of times, that’s about as confused as they can be. So they’re saying they’re just like and clicking the mouse, you know, that you’ve got a huge problem right there, given that they’re not actually telling you, Hey, I don’t get this. I don’t understand what this is. They know they’re being watched and they’re nervous. Yeah. So, you know, listening for people being passionate about something is an area where you can understand that there’s an opportunity.

Bronson: Yeah. So this is so good because so often when we think about AB test, the conversation doesn’t then go to Steve Blank customer development. Like that’s a separate thing in people’s minds. Like, oh, there’s a B testing over here and there’s Sean Ellis. Ask him how disappointing they’d be over here and I say, blank customer development over here, you know what I mean? It’s not the same conversation, but when I ask it to you, you go there because those insights are what’s informing your AB test, which is allowing you to move so much more efficiently. And I think that’s the last time I’ve seen them come together so clearly is right now is me and you talk. So it’s helping me kind of understand this stuff a little bit.

Chris: Well, that’s crazy because you talk to all the growth hackers. So actually kind of surprised to hear that.

Bronson: And you know what? I learn so much every interview because there’s so many piece of this puzzle that there’ll be parts of. There are clear parts of it that are unclear. And I mean, that’s something for me. As I say, the people listening to this right now is no one knows everything. I mean, no one no one has all this stuff together. No one’s like the pinnacle. They’ve got all figured out. Everyone has a little bit of insight based on the experiences they’ve had, and they need to be humble and learn about the rest of it. But that’s a big growth world out there that we’re trying to get a handle on. So I’m glad to learn from, you know, all these different interviews that come on here. Let me ask you about this. You mentioned copywriting a little bit already, but at the end of the day to you, is copywriting just a little bit of icing on the cake or is copywriting a really big part of conversion rate optimization? How do you see it shake out?

Chris: Well, so the copywriting is and there’s no I don’t want to have a clear supercritical Sarah out on it is it’s going back to the hypothesis validation thing. Right. So you said teacher and teacher be in that story earlier. Well, let’s say you decide the future B is the thing. You’re going to orient your headline around. Now you have to come up with a headline line. So I’m. I’m okay. I copy. Not great but. There are people out there that are great at copy, so I think it’s worthwhile to hire them. Right. So I have on my team sort of available to me a professional copywriter who’s a professional blogger, and I use my money to come up with an idea like that. Mm hmm. So I think that good, clear, concise copy is very, very difficult, and it’s worthwhile spending real time on. So.

Bronson: No, absolutely. I mean, I agree. I think it can be huge. But again, AB tests will tell us, you know, how huge it is for the specific project. On your website, you also mention that you all systematize the sales process. And I want to ask you about this because I’m not told is sure what you mean there. How does CRO metrics systematize a sales process? What do you mean by that?

Chris: Sure. So, you know, a lot of my practice is focuses focus is on business, the business companies. Mm hmm. And the sales process varies. And a lot of these companies I’ve seen everything from super sales team having to no sales team at all. So it’s a matter of figuring out what the sales process actually is and how are you going to optimize it? Mm hmm. And we’ve seen that growth. You know, Marketo just had their IPO. So the kind of enterprise stock these days is Marketo, Salesforce, and those two don’t play that well together. And we’ve got all these data problems and trying to get everything working right. So getting this just like, I guess what I go back to there is which leads go to sales which leads just get. Nurtured internally. What does the sales process even look like? Probably ten years ago it was much more about marketing and getting needs for sales and then goes on the road and closing them. As we move forward, I feel like the product has to speak a lot more for itself, but a lot of the sales process just happens in the product. We all have to use it and they’re not as much into talking to the salesperson and find out more about what it is based on a brochure, but rather just, hey, let me try it out and see how it works, and then they’ll be willing to pay. Mm hmm. So putting some metrics around what the sales process looks like and helping the internal team. So sometimes that whole thing is an area that I like to focus on.

Bronson: Yeah, it makes me think a lot about the conversation I had with Mike Volpe. You know, he’s the CMO of HubSpot, and he kind of define it as like a machine, you know, a customer acquisition machine where you understand the pipeline. And so that’s how what you’re getting at is like really understanding the flow from point A to point B to point C, how they go from an unknown, you know, person on the Internet all the way through to a user who loves your product and, you know, recommends it and really systematizing that and not letting it be an accident, right?

Chris: Absolutely. Yep. That’s exactly it. HubSpot is just amazing at this. Yeah. So I looked up and I admire all the work that they’ve been doing and making this tool available to people. I think it’s great of it.

Bronson: Yeah. So let me ask you this. You know, besides kind of what we’ve talked about already, we talked about the user experience, we talked about AB testing, copywriting, systematizing the sales process. Those are some of the things you do for clients. What are some things we’ve left out maybe, or have we? Are there any other things? We’re like, Well, we do this a lot of times to for people and we do this a lot of times for people. Is there anything else in that mix of like fundamental tools that you bring to the table with your consulting?

Chris: I think we mostly cover it, really. You first triaging what’s going on, what data is being collected and working to understand the customer’s needs deeply, and then building hypotheses. And basically things kind of go one or two ways. One is either the company is not doing well and there’s a lot of reasons for that. But when things go well, what happens is you just keep getting your name back and you know, maybe your AdWords gets split into multiple tests on each individual AdWords. I’ve talked to companies where they knew exactly what position, why and what position to cross, and they had multiple MBAs working, running, optimizing tests just to get from position 2 to 3 and etcetera on one keyword. So we can get really, really done with something small as you can continue to grow and grow and grow. Mm hmm. But, you know, at the end of the day, I always say, like, this is all about figuring out what works and doing more of that. Yeah. I mean, figuring out what works is hard, though.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. It goes back to all the stuff you talked about already. Now, you know, as you look at your clients kind of in general in aggregate here, what are the mistakes you see them make the most? You know, I’ve everything we’ve talked about. Is there something you can be like? Yes. Almost every time I go into a new client, they’re probably making this mistake. It’s just almost universally anything like that.

Chris: Well, I don’t know if there’s selection bias. Right? I think that there’s probably some selection bias where they call me because they they generally don’t start an engagement until they know they have a problem. Mm hmm. So, of course, you know, the stuff we talked about is the areas where they need help. Yeah.

Bronson: Well, maybe even within the stuff we talked about because we talked about analytics, we talk about AB testing, we talk about, you know, systematizing the sales process of those is are one that really stands out as something they fill out often.

Chris: Well, so I think this goes back to I probably should have told you in the last question, which is the new user experience and making sure your product market fit. So there’s probably more of my mistake where I’ll take some clients that maybe aren’t in product market fit or aren’t quite there yet. And so all that kind of growth hacking in the world doesn’t really matter, because if you don’t have something that you don’t want to use. There’s not really, you know, multiple zero is still zero. Yeah.

Bronson: No, that’s great. Let me ask you this. In terms of conversion rate optimization, as you look at your work, what’s most surprising to you in terms of what actually moves the needle, in terms of what actually works? Is there anything that you’re just kind of like, you know, usually surprised by that? It actually works. Often.

Chris: Yes. I go back to copy, right? Like you can do all these fancy tests and stuff. And and I feel like often they don’t work. So just keeping the pace up and and try and copy and trying stuff is a critical success factor. Mm hmm. The thing the thing that has been consistently most surprising is my inability to predict what’s going to work. Really? You know, I think when the Obama campaign released some of the stuff they’ve been trying during the 2012 election. They talked about how the email marketing team was trying all sorts of subject lines and they started betting on them internally. And then I think the one that worked best was something really funny, like, Hey, what’s up? So I’m like that. That was like the number one converting subject line. Yeah. So, you know, you just can’t know. There’s no way in any meeting that people say, what’s up is going to be the winner. Like, it’s just not going to happen.

Bronson: For a presidential campaign trying to raise money through email. What’s up? Is the winner? Yeah. You wouldn’t know that. No one.

Chris: Would. No way. No way they would do that any other way than just testing crazy stuff. Right. And so that’s one of the biggest drags I find is that, you know, getting someone to a client to accept what’s up as a subject line is actually hard, right? It’s like, hey, this is terrible. We don’t want to have our brand say, what’s up? And so, you know, that’s one of the key challenges is making sure testing is moving forward. And, you know, you’re moving through the kind of negative political capital around, you know, we don’t want to test a subject line and says, what’s up? Mm hmm. Or similar test like crazy lengths. Yeah. You have to sort of test and decide where where are you going to move on your brand versus.

Bronson: Mm hmm.

Chris: You know, make some gains.

Bronson: Yeah. And that’s a good point to bring up. There’s kind of this reflexive equilibrium where, you know, sometimes you’re not willing to budge on the brand, even if a test says you should, and sometimes you’re willing to budge on the brand when the test says you should. And so you really have to think through those because they’re not a right or wrong answer. You just have to decide as a company, where are you willing to budge and how much are you going to be data driven versus data informed versus we know some data, but we’re not going to let it influence us. And you have to kind of decide on that continuum, where are you going to land as a company? Because to some people, brand is everything in the data. You know, if if it works in our favor, so be it, you know?

Chris: Right. I think the main thing, though, is to just keep it going. Right. Keep the pace up. And actually, I found that that’s when one of the biggest surprises for me personally is like just the challenge of continuing to keep the pace of testing up all the time. I’ve had to evolve all sorts of systems to keep the pace up and so that there’s a good flow and a checklist and everything’s done right.

Bronson: Yeah, we’ve had people on the show that they went to the extreme even of every morning they would have kind of a stand up roundtable discussion about what they were going to test that day. And by the end of the day, they talked about how well it went and they were literally iterating every day. Is that how rapid you try to make things when you can? Or is that even too extreme for you?

Chris: I generally don’t have that sort of traffic available to me, so it’s usually on the order of a week is each test running. But you know, that whole notion of having a stand up meeting is sort of like the beginning of a checklist. I like to I think about things in terms of checklists instead of meeting a sort of like a review, pre checklist meeting, preflight briefing sort of thing. And yeah, we do that, right. I have a weekly call with a guy I work with and we actually hire an assistant whose only job is to make sure that nothing falls between the products and keep meeting.

Bronson: Yeah, you’ve used the word checklist a few times. Have you read the book checklist?

Chris: Yeah. You know, I just got done with the checklist manifesto book and my pilot’s license, and a lot of that stuff came out of checklists. And I just think I just started in corporate and in my personal life, and there’s just it’s I think the thing is that people. You like above them, like, oh, I don’t eat chocolates. I can get through this. But I know from flying that, you know, yeah, you want to make sure that the landing gear is down and everything so properly. Mm hmm. So, yeah, I’m kind of an increasingly big believer in checklists.

Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. I mean, I would love to see kind of a set of checklist for growth hacking. Like, all right, here’s a set of checklists for this procedure and a set of checklists for that procedure. And they’d be great, you know, for someone to create those or, you know, maybe we can as a part of our product, who knows? Because I’m a big fan of checklists as well. And just moving through these things that may seem basic, but making yourself check them off allow you to avoid really stupid, costly mistakes.

Chris: Yes, I’ve got a checklist for running an AB test now, but it’s been developed iteratively by making some mistakes. That made me look really bad and I didn’t want to do that again.

Bronson: Yeah.

Chris: We’ve done some mistakes. Yeah.

Bronson: And like in that checklist, a one of them might be make sure you have X amount of traffic so that it’s a valid statistical test. You know, it’s like because, you know, we always want to rush, but if there’s something in there making you stop, be like, all right, I do need a week. A day of traffic won’t work. Then it forces you to wait out the week to get enough traffic. I mean, just any little thing like that can be super helpful and a checklist. Now, when there’s been this movement, it seems like to really put the processes of your company in checklist and put the operating procedures in documents for how you’re going to do things. But a checklist is almost like the most succinct essence of that. And to have that just for growth itself could be, I think, really valuable.

Chris: Yeah, I’ve thought pretty hard about it and I’m moving towards systematizing this enough that, you know, maybe other people would want to use it. But yeah, for now I’ve got to make it systematized for myself. But I think the main thing that checklist does, and we see this in the aviation industry, you know, think about it, flight crews don’t fly around together as a team. So it’s, you know, the captain and the copilot, they may have never flown together. So here they show off in a plane. They’ve got to decide how to fly this super complicated aircraft and who does what at what time. And it’s really important that each guy does his role properly. And so, you know, that’s the ultimate expression of this. But I think that from a just general company systems standpoint, the thing that standard operating procedures and checklists allow you to do is move the skills so needed to accomplish the task down so that more people are able to do it with fewer hours.

Bronson: Yeah, you know, I think well, you know, as a bad example maybe, but McDonald’s like, you know, they can create this, you know, crazy, complicated machinery that feeds how many people every day through people that are in high school, you know, or you know, that kind of thing, because there’s procedures in place, there’s checklists in place. This is how you make a Big Mac. You don’t have to be a cook or a chef and understand the mechanics of a burger. You understand the mechanics of a checklist, and you can follow those rules and, you know, regulations. And so checklists just allow us to really unlock potential that’s latent in humanity. I think.

Chris: That’s right. And the book, The Checklist Manifesto book talks about it. Application to surgery. Yeah. Right now talk about something complicated.

Bronson: Yeah, right. The McDonald’s. And yet it still flies.

Chris: Yeah. No, it really does is the checklist has made a big difference in the outcomes because they just make sure that the person’s got the, you know, antibacterial pill and one hour before the surgery and like, oh, they go, oh, wait a minute, don’t get the pill. We better get this going. Right. And that makes a difference.

Bronson: Absolutely.

Chris: Yeah.

Bronson: Well, Chris, this has been a great interview. I have one last question for you here is you kind of think about our audience, you know, people that are trying to start companies and grow companies. What’s the best advice that you have for any startup is trying to grow? Right now?

Chris: I have sort of three things. The number one for a new an early stage startup, I guess for anybody really is like reduce the time to develop, measure, learn cycle, right. So that makes a bunch of assumptions, right? You’re actually using a build measure learns like, all right, a lot of companies don’t want to measure and don’t want to learn. They just want to build. So usable measure, learn cycle, then reduce the time to it. Right. We talk about how we use that as your end user testing to optimize the first time user experience. So that’s number one. Number two is systematize your processes. We have standard operating procedures and things go through that. And then the third one, this applies to the non engineers out there. Just go down some basic ask you out. That has been by far the biggest competitive advantage I’ve gotten over other marketing types in the last two or three years. Just you have to be a steel wizard, just know how to get the basic information out of databases. And that’s really help because there’ll be a bunch of internal emails going back and forth and I’ll just settle with a 32nd query like, Well, this applies to 1% of people, so let’s not even bother with that, right? So now we’ve stopped a bunch of email channels. So just knowing that really basic skill has been super, super helpful. And I would recommend that too. I mean, marketing, lots of stuff.

Bronson: Well, this has been an awesome interview and I think that’s great advice to end on right there, Chris. Thank you so much for coming on. Growth accuracy.

Chris: Sure thing. Thanks. Thanks for taking the time.

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