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Chris Goward

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S: In this episode, number 113, we’re gonna be working on optimizing your website’s conversion rate. That means we’re  going to get more people to convert, to sign up for your email newsletter, to buy your products, to inquire, fill out contact forms, all that sort of stuff. Our guest today is Chris Goward. He is a world-renowned expert on conversion rate optimization, also known as CRO. Chris is the author of the best-selling book You Should Test That. He’s founder of WiderFunnel which has been around for over a decade and clients include Google, IBM, and Magento. Chris, it’s great to have you on the show. Chris, welcome to the show.

C: Thanks, Stephan. It’s great to be here.

S: It’s great to have you. We’ve known each other for a while now and I’ve been familiar with your framework and what you guys have been up to for a while. I’d love for you to share with our listeners your framework, the LIFT Model so that they know what you’re about.

C: Yeah, sure. The LIFT Model was something that I developed quite a few years ago, I’m trying to take a framework approach to understanding how to communicate to people and understand their barriers to taking an action in your marketing. It essentially shows the Six Conversion Factors that are influencing your conversion rate on your website, and then on all of your marketing materials, even in your in-store experience. The core of it is the value proposition, which every marketer has their own definition of value proposition. But I like to think of it as an equation that’s actually going on subconsciously in the mind between the perceived cost of taking action and the perceived benefits. If the benefits outweigh the costs, the person will have motivation to act. And then, you simply have to facilitate that transaction with the other five factors, which include the relevance of the presentation to what they’re expecting to their expectations and their needs, the clarity of the presentation which is clarity of the eye flow and the experience, and the call to action, and the copywriting, clarity of the communication of the value proposition essentially. And then, things that detract from the experience which is anxiety, which is anything that creates uncertainty in their mind or emotions about taking action. And then distraction, which is anything that redirects your attention from the primary message or the primary call to action. The last one is urgency, it’s why should they act now. We’ve actually been  using this for the last 10 years to analyze all kinds of customer experiences and identify using that framework the potential barriers, and then, run experiments to see if we can improve and remove those barriers and improve the value proposition presentation to increase conversions, or increase revenue, or increase whatever the important metric is for that business. That’s one of the frameworks. There’s actually multiple frameworks now that we’ve come up with in the subsequent years. They’re all designed to answer specific point questions in a more robust way than just looking for sort of tips and tricks solutions. That’s really what I’m trying to advocate in marketing, framework thinking and understanding how to answer questions in a more relevant way that really takes into account the context that a business is in.

S: In other words, be more strategic in your thinking rather than tactical.

C: Right, yeah. Rather than tactical, rather than reactive. Tactics are important but really, rather than trying to take the so called best practices that you may think exist, but really, a lot of the “best practices,” that a lot of marketers are out there preaching, really have only maybe been tested in one particular environment. And they don’t take into account the complexity and nuance that is involved with marketing in different categories, and different target audiences, and different seasonalities, and all of these things that change the customer experience.

S: Yeah. Great example of that is BOB, the Big Orange Button. That’s supposedly the correct color for a button that you want people to click on but that varies depending on the situation.

C: Exactly. I have been quoted as saying that BOB always works best. But anytime that I have said that has been very facetiously tongue and cheek, and I’ve been misquoted a little bit but you’re absolutely right. A lot of people ask me, I’ve spoken in almost 400 conferences now and the number one question is still what’s the best button color? A lot of people miss the point. Context matters much more than any tips and tricks like using that orange button, for example.

S: Right. What do you mean by context matters? Are you talking about the copy, are you talking about the understanding of the persona or the avatar who you’re reaching? What sort of context?

C: There’re context of all types. When you’re thinking simplistically about the Big Orange Button, the context of whether orange works better than green,  or blue, or any other color, is that it’s in the context, that button sits within a color scheme within the website. Thinking very tactically about the design and color schemes, whether orange works better depends on whether first of all, it fits within the color scheme in the brand, and whether it contrasts enough so that people can notice it. That’s the same thing with all the other aspects of context. When you think about the messaging that’s used on the button, or more importantly on headlines, and copy, authors, and the implicit codes that are embedded into shape, and design, and color. All of these things have a reference point. They all will vary in their effectiveness depending on the customer’s perception, the experience. That can include their previous experience with the brand, their brand perception and whether this experience aligns with the brand perception, or whether it’s surprising, experience with competitive brands, their particular needs and seasonality at the time, the offers that are in market right now, the offer that you might have versus competitors. All of these things are contributors to the context of this moment in time that will change the experience for that customer.

S: Yup. It makes a lot of sense. For example, just very simplistically, if you’re thinking Big Orange Button and you have an orange background, there’s not enough contrast there for the button to stand out and it’s not gonna get clicked on as often.

C: Right. In that case, maybe a blue button will work better, or even a black button, who knows? But in some cases, if it’s just a white background, the complementary color scheme then orange sometimes can work best. We certainly tested all kinds of button colors. But there’s much more important things to test, they’re a lot more interesting too.

S: What would be some of those more important things to test?

C: Even just the nearest thing to the button color, which is the button copy. Button copy, the text that’s on the button, is your action point. It’s what the customer actually is intending to do. If the copy aligns with something that you want them to do, and if they think that that makes sense to know, people are more likely to click on it. Or if it adds level intrigue, for example, we tested a button that was really interesting, the original button had some standard message like, “Continue” or “Apply Now”, or something like that. It was actually an application for, this one was a divorce application actually. You go and you can apply for a divorce online. Just morbid perhaps, but a great business. Testing against one of those standard buttons, in one case we tested, find out if you qualify. That had just enough intrigue that it got many more people, not only to the first step of this multistep process, but more people completing it because they really were motivated to find out whether this was gonna provide the solution they needed. Once they have that sunk cost investment, they’re much more likely to become customers and have a greater customer value. These small cues, when they’re intentional and done with some understanding of why you’re testing those things, even small changes can have massive impacts. Whereas in some cases you have to make much more dramatic looking changes to have similar types of impact.

S: Yeah. That’s a great example. Add divorce to your cart versus see if you qualify. What? I may not even qualify for the divorce?

C: Yeah. Now I’m curious.

S: Yeah. Fascinating. In your framework, in the LIFT Model, you talk about minimizing distraction, anxiety, and uncertainty. What would be some of the things that you could do to eliminate or alleviate people’s anxiety?

C: Anxiety can be things that are on the page or things that are missing from the page. A common example is form fields. Forms cause a lot of anxiety, especially with long forms that people have to fill-out. In the case of that, the worst application, there is multiple steps, many, many fields for a person to fill-out. If that entire form was put onto a single page, it could create a lot of anxiety about the amount of time, and investment, and the type of information they’re asking for, and how invasive it is. All of those kind of things can create anxiety, which reduces a person’s motivation, in simplest terms. Form fields are a great way of testing these kinds of things. Sometimes they’re surprising. In one case, we found that there was a hypothesis that if we removed a zip code field from a certain form, because it’s personally identifiable information, perhaps that would help people in reducing their anxiety but in actual fact, it had an inverse effect. Adding a zip field back actually increased conversion rates. What we realized after the fact was that the zip field was adding a sense of relevance. The offer for that particular product was very geographically relevant. By giving them an inquiry form that had the zip code right on the first page, rather than moving it to the second or third page, actually made it seem like this code is actually being more relevant to something that’s geographic to me. That created anxiety where they were thinking, “Well, if there’s no zip field, I wonder if this is just gonna be a spammy thing. Obviously they need to know where I live, so if they’re not taking that into account, maybe it’s not serious.” That could create some anxiety.

S: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. If websites are going through the trouble of collecting addresses and they don’t care about the zip code, that seems a little off.

C: Right. In this case, we weren’t even asking for the address right up front. It was name, and the email, but then by adding in zip code, and just having those three fields, it actually worked better than just name and email. Because it was giving a sense of immediate relevance. Obviously, we understand that we have to know generally where you are.

S: Got it. That’s very cool. It just underlines the importance of testing that sometimes it’s counterintuitive to resolve, it might actually be opposite of what you were expecting.

C: Yeah. That’s why analysis is important, pretest and posttest. Planning and experiment properly can give much more insightful results if they’ve got hypothesis that are based on a lot of rationale and research. But then because there can be often surprising results at the back end, a lot of people when they run experiments, they just think, “Okay, great. We’ve got a winner. Let’s implement that and move on to the next test.” And skipping the part where once you’ve run an experiment, there’s a rich throb of data that your customers are giving you within the results. If you got a winner, great. If not, great. You can actually look into the data and find out insights about why they performed differently for different variations. Then create much more rich hypothesis for following experiments based on the behavior you’re actually seeing. You can dig into it by segment, or by region, or all kinds of things to find out what might be happening in a person’s mind.

S: Right. Rather than just connecting all the dots yourself and say I think we want to reduce anxiety for these users, I think that it will reduce anxiety to put safe site seals on the homepage so that shows that we’re secure and that this site is safe for them to supply their credit card number to. Therefore, I’m going to put it down and near the footer, these seals, you actually would have a hypothesis and then test that hypothesis before you take the action.

C: Exactly. And there have been cases, in that example, we’ve seen that adding security seals on ecommerce site in the wrong place and sometimes giving them too much promise can actually create anxiety and reduce sales. You don’t wanna just assume the gut feeling approach of oh, yeah, obviously we need to reduce anxiety so let’s put some seals and put them in front and the center as primarily as possible. It might be shooting yourself on the foot, if you don’t do it the right way.

S: Makes sense. Are there some seals that you would recommend based on the testing that you’ve done?

C: The ones that work are very different depending on a geography in context, and they’re changing all the time. I don’t have a checklist of the ones we definitely recommend off the top. There’s the standard ones that a lot of people are using. At this point, people are becoming more comfortable with ecommerce and with websites to begin with. Often, the browser security is even more important than the seals, in some cases.

S: Right. Having that padlock show up on the browser, that says that this is SSL encrypted to our communication with the website, it’s very important.

C: Right, exactly.

S: I know a group of seals, safesitecertified.org has these seals that you can add to your site. I know the guy behind that organization who told me some really fascinating statistics of the increase in time on site, and conversion rate, the likelihood of purchase and that sort of thing was much, much higher after putting these safe site seals on.

C: Yeah. There are many experiments showing the effectiveness. Some things that even just give the implicit message of the certifications can be almost as effective as the seals themselves or at least add in another similar type of boost. If you have the seals on there, sometimes you can just simply add a pale yellow background behind the credit card fields, which in itself doesn’t add any type of security but it gives an implied message to the user that, oh, this little area is highly secure, and so I can feel comfortable putting my secure information into that little yellow box, because it looks like it’s more secure.

S: That’s hilarious. Yes. There’s so much more security with yellow than white.

C: It’s amazing that it works.

S: That’s funny. We talked a little bit about anxiety and reducing that. What about distraction? How do we reduce people’s distractibility?

C: Distraction is interesting because often we find designers when they’re not trained in conversion can actually have a negative effect on communication. For example, if you have an offer, and you’re telling your designer, “You know what, I want you to bring a lot of attention to this offer, because it’s really important for us. We need to hit our quarterly goals. Make it as prominent as possible.” What they’ll do is they’ll add design embellishments to that offer. They’ll add images, and gradients, and colors, and maybe multiple colors, and God forbid, multiple fonts all over this thing. What they’re doing is actually creating cognitive load so that the visitor’s actually less likely to understand the content when there’s more embellishments within or around it, because they’re distracted. They’re distracted by the gradients, they’re distracted by the lack of contrast perhaps in the background, in the texts, and the imagery is distracting. It reduces the mental bandwidth, so to speak, that they have left to really understand the value proposition.

S: This is a similar sort of a concept to the paradox of choice where if you give too many options to a buyer, too many different flavors of jam for them to choose from, then it’s just too much cognitive load, too much decision fatigue, and they’re like, “I’m out.” They’ll taste test them all but then they won’t buy anything.

C: Right. That’s a famous test by Dan Ariely, and that’s another aspect of distraction, absolutely. Choice overload, too many options, or too many different types of calls to action, whether it’s buy now, add to wishlist, save for later, you may also like all of these other things that can distract them from the primary action that you want them to take.

S: Right. On a landing page for, let’s say, a paid search campaign, if you drive them to a page that has a lot of options for them, like reading blog posts, reading about the team, how the company was founded, its history, and all that sort of stuff, it will take their attention away from the action at hand which is to buy that thing, or to take advantage of the free offer, download the link magnet, or what have you.

C: Yeah. Absolutely, it can. I love content marketing as much as everyone, and we do a lot of content marketing. A lot of times, content marketers don’t understand that the content is there for a purpose, that the content is there to educate and provide useful information for potential shopper, potential customer, to move them along the purchase path. If the content is really not relevant to their understanding, or their stage of the buyer journey, then it’s likely falling on deaf ears or simply distracting from what you really want them to think about. That’s a good example, although content can do a great job of moving them along, if they’re at the right stage.

S: Right. Content may be a net positive or a net negative depending on where they are in the buyer’s journey. Also, navigation, too much or too little, can have a negative effect on that buyer’s journey as well. On a landing page, from a paid search campaign, you wanna limit the amount of navigation options, which I guess also limits the amount of content that’s available to them too, but you’re reducing distraction.

C: Yeah. It should be pinpointed intentional content you’re giving them. Not necessarily detract them into one thing, because if they’re not ready, then they could balance if you haven’t given them the supporting material that they need as well. There’s a balance there. Make them feel like they have the choice in what kind of content they’re looking at, but they get relevant content so it’s all leading them down one path to ultimately decide on making the purchase and answer the questions that they have before they’re ready to do that.

S: Yeah, for sure. Another thing too, just to circle back on this idea of optimizing and testing the button copy. One thing that I think people don’t tend to think about is whether you’re formulating that button copy in first person or second person. Most people will use second person, or not at all, it’ll just say, “Apply” or “Add to Cart” or something. But in second person it might be, “Download Your Free Checklists.” In first person, it would be, “Download My Free Checklists.” My understanding is that first person will work better than second person because they’re kind of reading that quietly to themselves, in their head, and that is more relatable and relevant to them.

C: Yeah. There have been some tests that have shown that for sure, especially in certain circumstances, that has more of an impact from others. It seems to indicate, the tests that we’ve seen, first person tends to work better.

S: Yeah, pretty cool. Any other tips or tricks for buttons and/or calls to action?

C: They’re a very strong place to make an impact on the value proposition. The value proposition is really how the user perceives the benefit they’re gonna get from taking action. They’re a very strong places to test, but they need to be relevant to the rest of the content on the page too. This is like the last point of decision before they make the click. It does have a big impact, but it needs to be continuous for the rest of the headline. The headline and the button have to align with each other, should reinforce each other, often use the same type of words. It’s good to do. Reinforce content in subheads all the way through so that there’s really a consistent message throughout. At the end of the day, the call to action shouldn’t be a surprise, it should simply give them the natural feeling that, oh, this is what I’ve been reading about, this is where I need to click. Even better if you can create a little bit of curiosity behind what they’re gonna get in that button.

S: Right. Consistency’s really important. Let’s say you have a paid search ad, and it uses certain messaging, and that messaging does not appear on the landing page, or in the button copy, it’s a disconnect.

C: Yeah. That’s a massive relevance factor that we see still happening so often, that the ads are designed, and then the landing pages are designed seemingly completely in isolation, and they don’t really relate to each other. Even if they’re talking about the same message, but they use different words, it can lose someone because when people are in search mode, especially if they’re on search campaigns, they have a different mindset than if they’re in the social media mindset, on Facebook, or wherever else, Instagram. When they’re in a social mindset, they’re in an entertainment mindset. Your job as a marketer is to distract them and give them something entertaining and interesting. Whereas when they’re in the search mindset, your job is to match as closely as possible, the words and concepts that are in their mind because they’re in the search mindset, they’re in the hand matching mode. They’re not in the exploratory entertainment mode, which they’re in social. In a search mindset, they’re looking for a solution. That solution has a specific set of words that they think about in their mind. If your ad and your landing page match those words exactly, you’re gonna have a much higher likelihood of getting the click, and the interest, and the curiosity,  and the learning, and ultimately the purchase. That concept is called the scent trail. It’s like we’re animals forging in the woods and were following a scent trail towards our next kill, our next meal. If we lose that scent with some other distracting scent, then we’ll get people off track.

S: Yeah, for sure. We talked about anxiety and distraction. Curious about urgency. Can urgency actually work against you instead of to your benefit? I know that urgency and scarcity are things that are typically essential ingredients to an offer or to some sort of launch tech campaign.

C: Right. Scarcity is a very powerful tactic that can be used very well. In some cases, urgency can be overdone and it can backfire, as you’ve said, especially if it creates anxiety. Each of the factors has a counter wave. Urgency can create anxiety. For example, we ran a test in one case where we added a countdown timer in the header with the goal of creating urgency so that when they land on the page, they have a certain amount of time before the offer expires. It was a 24 hour wine of the day offer. What we found is that the target audience that was looking for this type of wine and then subscribe to this list was actually a sophisticated wine buyer. By adding in a countdown timer, it really was counterintuitive to the brand, and it wasn’t the experience they were looking for. It actually hurt their sales. Whereas on the other side, by creating more credibility and boosting that experience, by boosting the video of the sommelier, keeping their tasting notes higher up on the page, we’re able to lift their sales. In fact, the closer we tied the sommelier’s tasting notes video to the call to action area around the button, the higher their sales went. Because they associated that credibility of the sommelier with taking the action. That was much more likely to work than just adding some schlocky urgency countdown timer.

S: Right. Maybe you should have put the head shot of the sommelier on the button itself.

C: Yeah, maybe we’ll do that next.

S: You mentioned curiosity as a component that can be helpful. What would be an example where you’ve incorporated curiosity into a campaign or into a landing page or something that really had an impact?

C: Curiosity is sort of like that, finding out if you qualify button that we had on that divorce application for example, where you’ve created some sense of intrigue on why would I not qualify? Or am I a part of this elite club to allow you to get divorced here today? People love to know when there’s a little bit of mystery that they don’t know the ending to the story. People are intrigued by stories. If we can have a little bit of that that pulls them along a thread, then that can work very well. That is very context specific, it depends on the product and where we can get them to, or a story that we can create in their mind.

S: Speaking of context, I was just thinking of the divorce example. You had a countdown timer, they’ll probably really stress out the person, that would not be a good thing. In that context, the countdown timer would not work, in my opinion.

C: Yeah. It’s probably unlikely to work.

S: Yeah. Curiosity can be cognitive dissonance, it can be some sort of counter-intuitiveness to the offer, or to the headline. Something that is surprising in a counterintuitive way, it doesn’t add up. Like a great headline for an article, or for a TV segment might be Three New Years Resolutions You Should Never Make, because people would not be expecting that sort of thing. There’s an unexpectedness and it’s almost like you do a double take when you scan through headlines and you see that, like three New Year’s Resolutions You Should Never Make. Okay now I’m intrigued, because all the New Year’s resolution type headlines I have been seeing are things like why they fail, or what to do better, or best practices for making New Year’s resolutions that stick and so forth.

C: That’s one of the tactics that can be used. It’s actually thinking in terms of curiosity, it’s one of these cognitive biases that we’ve been researching. Their cognitive biases are such an amazing area to research because people as Dan Ariely said in his book, Predictably Irrational, we act in ways that are predictable and yet that often are counterintuitive, it don’t make sense when you actually think of it rationally. What we’re finding more and more is that the traditional economic model is flawed. The traditional economic model said that people are rational beings, and they make decisions based on the pros and cons, and the facts, and then they weigh all these things in a balance, then make the best decision. But in reality, that’s far from the truth. The whole field of behavioral economics and consumer psychology has really emerged in the last 5, 10, 15 years around this realization that people make decisions emotionally. People don’t make decisions rationally, they make decisions emotionally, and then they defend the purchase rationally.

S: Yup. That’s so true. Especially around the holiday season.

C: Yeah. Occasions like the holidays, that’s a good example. Or there are others that are even more irrational. I think of weddings, or vacation travel, or newborn babies, and baby care. There are all kinds of things, or pet care, that just cause people to spend exorbitant amount of money with marginal benefit in some cases.

S: Yeah. I know I have a cat tree that costs as much as some couches. So extravagant, it was the top of the line because we wanted the very best for our cat. And she enjoys it, to be fair, she enjoys it.

C: I know. You know what? I’ve got a puppy three years ago and I said, “Listen,” I told my kids, “I will only get a puppy if there’s a maximum on the amount I’m gonna spend if this puppy gets sick. Okay? So there’s a certain dollar amount, we’re not going above that. If the dog gets sick, I’m sorry. It’s a dog, it’s a good run but…”

S: You’re heartless.

C: You know, we got to set a line somewhere.

S: How do you? We need to set that line for you.

C: Yeah. The problem is that once I got him, now, of course, he sleeps beside my bed and I basically bought a house so that there’s room for the dog to enjoy his life. And I’m like, “What? What happened here?”

S: That’s funny. Yeah, Predicatively Irrational, fantastic book, really need to understand people’s cognitive biases. That’s why all this fake news and stuff, it baits people and they totally buy into it, it’s because they believe that thing already and you’re just reinforcing that, and even though it makes absolutely no sense, they’re like oh yeah, that’s so true. And then they click, they engage with that content and it’s complete nonsense.

C: Yeah, for sure. There’s a dark side to the cognitive biases, of course. They have to be used responsibly. For the benefit of the shopper to make the experience more of an enjoyable experience that they would expect to have and something that they appreciate, but the concepts are really interesting. Right now, we know of 188 cognitive biases that are available, that are changing people’s perception of facts by creating emotion.

S: What would be an example of a few of those?

C: When we think of things like, I’ll give you one example of the test. You actually mentioned cognitive dissonance, I think, earlier.

S: Yup.

C: You’re talking about cognitive dissonance earlier.

S: I did.

C: Cognitive dissonance is this idea that we like to stay consistent with how we behave. If we believe something about ourselves, or say something about ourselves, we’re more likely to act in that same way. For example, we ran an experiment for international rescue, I don’t know, this one is for Heifer International, actually, another nonprofit, a great organization, Heifer International. Through them, you can donate revenue producing items to people in need. You can give goats, cows, and things like that to impoverished people, and give them the ability to create their own income, like a teach them how to fish kind of thing. We ran the experiment, throughout the whole website experience, where a few seconds after they’ve been reading the content, we gave them this pop-up. And nobody likes pop ups. It hurts the experience. We created this pop up that said, “Help us understand you a little bit better.” It gave them three options to just select, I’m a regular donor,  I’m an occasional donor, or I’m a first time donor. And then, they click continue and they would go away, and they could continue their experience. It help us understand them. Notice we didn’t give them an option to say I’ve never donated, or I’m not a donor.

S: Right, smart.

C: What we’re actually doing was creating this sense of cognitive dissonance. It’s what Cialdini called The Self-Consistency Bias. Cialdini’s book Influence a few years ago. It really wasn’t a new concept, it was really the flip side of cognitive dissonance. What we found is that by giving that option, which actually hurt the user experience, but it allowed a certain percentage of people to self-identify as some level of donors. By doing that, we actually increase their revenue per visitor by over 5% across the whole website by hurting the experience and asking that question.

S: Oh, that was genius.

C: I love that experiment and we use those concepts a lot. That strategist had a big round of applause for that one.

S: I bet. Awesome. Any other concepts that you wanna make sure we cover before we move on to a completely different framework or model? We covered self consistency, and cognitive biases, curiosity, and so forth. Anything else you want to cover before we move on?

C: We have all kinds of cognitive biases, but we’ve got a lot to cover.

S: Okay. I know you have other frameworks. Let’s move from the LIFT Model to maybe The Infinity Optimization Process?

C: Sure. Infinity is something that I’ve come out with in the last couple of years, and really it’s been the evolution of the optimization process. That’s really what LIFT, like I said earlier, focused on. The WiderFunnel is really only worth with the types of companies that will allow us to create optimization programs and continue to tweak, and find out how to create the best results with the most efficient inputs as possible. The process of optimization is really why we’re fascinated. Infinity is what we call the latest version of this optimization process. What it does, we have a particular diagram that shows how it works. But essentially, the basics of it, we found there are two different mindsets that are necessary for getting the best results in marketing and in optimization. If you only do one of the two, you can really limit your potential. It’s actually very common. In a lot of, especially, enterprise companies, you’ll find that there’s a natural conflict between two accounts within marketing. Usually, one is the more creative side. It might be the brand managers, or brand nazis, you might call them. The creative geniuses, or maybe the content marketing group, or maybe even the search marketers. On the other side are perhaps the more analytical ones, the analysts, the paid searchers, the SEO marketers or the direct marketers versus the brand marketers. These two accounts conflict with each other and often are unproductive in their conflicts without realizing that they’re both actually representing two complementary sides of the marketing mindset. I call it The Zen Marketing Mindset, where one side is really intuitive, qualitative, inspired, sort of fuzzy and exploratory, and the other side is more quantitative, logical, and proven. The best marketers in the world, I believe, are the ones who embrace both sides, who can actually have both types of thoughts at once, and understand the tension between them is actually beneficial. The Infinity Optimization Process, what I’m trying to do is reflect that mindset within a process so that you don’t have to find those unique unicorns that think in a Zen marketing mindset, you can actually bring in experts and create a process that embodies that. It splits the process of marketing into two sides. One is explore, and the other side is validate. The explore side, it’s the expansive mindset of looking for opportunities in data, and in customer conversations, and in intuition, research, context, and all of these things. It’s a very messy process of looking for bits of information and combining them through a lens of customer understanding. A framework like the LIFT Model sits within that to really [inaudible 00:40:20] all of this information through one customer perspective. That can generate insights that are based on voice of customer interactions and based on real data. But those insights, if they’re not yet tested and proven, then they’re really just sort of floating up and you don’t really know if they work. That’s why you need the validate side too. The validate side, on the other hand, is a reductive mindset. Where you’re taking a whole bunch of ideas and ruthlessly killing the ones that don’t work. That is a step by step process of creating powerful experiments that answer important business questions, and it must be done in a structured way, in the right order to get the best results. Analyzing results to generate insights and validate what actually works in this context and then often generate new insights for further experimentation.

S: It’s a mix of right brain thinking and left brain thinking. More of right brain on explore and then left brain on the validate.

C: Right. That’s exactly what it is. By embedding it in those mindsets, those left and right brains, into a process, then we’re actually creating a consistent method for using both sides of our minds effectively.

S: Very cool. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Bill Donius before but I had him on my other show on The Optimized Geek. He’s an expert on right brain thinking. Fascinating, fascinating guy. His book Thought Revolution is definitely a must read. He’s got a process to stimulate your right brain thinking using non dominant hand writing. If you’re right handed, you switch to using your left hand, first you center and quiet the mind, and your verbal centers are over on the left brain. If you wanna use your right brain, then don’t listen to the voice in your head, because that will be your left brain. Just quiet your mind, squeeze the pen, and have this intention that you’re gonna let your right brain weigh in with its thoughts and ideas, and you can use this for coming up with to do lists, or brainstorming, branding, coming up with brand names, or all sorts of different things including, I would imagine, this explore process as part of your infinity process.

C: For sure, yeah. That would be an interesting technique to try to bring in to our LIFT Zones. We have weekly meetings with our team that we call the LIFT Zones where all of our strategists gather around and present their ideas, and as a group, brainstorm concepts that could work, or ideas that could work for each of our clients. We’re always looking for a new research on how to expand their minds and enable creativities. I’ll definitely check that out.

S: Yeah. It’s pretty fascinating. I’ve used it in the context of our coming up with my totem animal, which was fascinating, this was the way that Bill had conveyed the power of this, to unlock your right brain. Imagine you’re writing with your normal, let’s say, you’re right handed, writing with your normal hand, just what comes to mind as far as your totem animal or the animal you relate to the most. For me, I wrote zebra down and then did this process, quieted the mind, squeezed the pen in my left hand, and then wrote down whatever I ended up writing down. After I looked it I’m like, wow, that’s very different from a zebra. I’ve written down whale. Completely different. Actually when I thought about it, I’m like actually, I do relate more to a Whale than a zebra. zebras are cool and that, but it’s more the logical mind, what really speaks to my heart and my soul is the whale. That gave me additional insight into myself and access to part of my brain that doesn’t normally get to say much. Then, I started playing around with this more and like I said, I had them on on my other show, in The Optimized Geek, that’s a really great episode. It’s Episode 19 for you listeners who are intrigued by that and you too Chris, you should listen to that. I’ll put a link of that in the show notes, yeah.

C: I will check it out. Great.

S: You have this LIFT Zone, maybe. Are these kind of like standing meetings, or scrums, or whatever using the agile…

C: Yeah. We’ve got a particular format for the LIFT Zone meetings to maximize the value that we gathered of the insights for everyone. There’s a structure to it of course, like everything that we put together in the process. Essentially, the output is that we’ve got a weekly meeting where all of the strategy team is able to contribute ideas in a very egalitarian team based type of way that allows ideas to flow like sparks rather than in a hierarchical goal way.

S: Okay. You can popcorn out ideas and it doesn’t feel stifle because you’re a lower level staff person compared to other people on the meeting.

C: For sure, yeah. There’s a structure and order to the meetings too. Some of it is brainstorming, or it’s expansive, even within that, and some of it is critiquing and being able just to speak with authenticity about what you actually think about this thing. One of our values here is real, which is being able to say what we think. All of our meetings are structured around values.

S: I’m curious, what are your values? Real is one of them.

C: Real is one of them. Grit is another one, which is we don’t quit until we find an answer. Curiosity is another one, we talked about curiosity a while ago, which means we learn and improve always. Integrity, which means that we do what’s best for our clients and each other. Maverick is we dare to test new ideas.

S: I like it. That’s awesome. Did you come up with these values yourself, or did you do this collaboratively with your team?

C: No, it was created by the team. Actually, at one point, this was a few years ago, I felt like we have the best team we’d ever had, and I really wanted to bottle up this feeling that we had, it was such a high performance group. I took them, the whole team, up to top of one of the local mountains here in Vancouver at Grouse Mountain. We’ve brought on a facilitator and he said, “Listen, I want to create some guide posts for how we can make decisions as a team, so that we make sure that we always keep our eye on being the way we are.” We came up with a shared, combined vision, mission and values, and not just sort of things that are on the wall but they’re guide posts for how we make all of our decisions in everything, in hiring, in investment, in client acceptance, who we’ll actually bring on as a client. None of these things can compromise our values in any way.

S: Nice. For example, you might decide between one tool or another, depending in part on how it fits in with your values.

C: Absolutely, yeah.

S: Cool. Do you have an example of a tool that you’ve purchased or licensed in part because it aligns well with your values?

C: In all the partnerships that we have, we’re looking for values alignment. It goes with tools, with clients, and with team members, with everything. If there’s, for example, a tool, they might have features that we like, but if they’re not gonna treat our team members with the kind of value and respect that we need as part of integrity, we simply won’t go there, we won’t invest in that. Or if it won’t be innovative and allow us to test new ideas, if it’s really just too conservative then we won’t go there either because we want to always be on the cutting edge of what’s happening.

S: Makes sense. Since we’re talking about tools, let’s share some of your favorite tools with our listeners. The things that you use both with conversion optimization, but also with other stuff.

C: Yeah. We use a lot of tools here. Our strategists are always exploring new ones. They’re probably exploring some new ones now that I haven’t even seen the last month. Our day to day work is really about ideation and experimentation. We do a lot of A/B testing digital experiences. Optimizely for example is a common tool that we partner very closely with, to enable optimization personalization. Another visual website optimizer is a similar type of tool, we use Adobe quite a bit for that as well, especially on the testing site. There’s a variety of tools in the qualitative side, more on the explorer side, where we’re looking for the voice of customer information. Hotjar is a tool that can be really useful and flexible for gathering feedback from customers. We have remote testing tools, I’m not even sure which one we’re using now, but we’ve actually developed the new service or an expansion of the Infinity service, which is really fascinating, it’s called Motivation Lab. We’re doing remote user testing that goes beyond user testing, but actually has a licensed process or proprietary process that drills into the motivation of their users as well as the usability. There’s a lot of remote testing tools that we’ve been experimenting with. I can actually find out what we’re using and add them to the show notes because I think we’ve gone through a bunch of them.

S: Perfect. That’d be great. Motivation Lab is something that would be available as a paid tool or service beyond just your core clientele, somebody could sign up for Motivation Lab without being a consulting client?

C: It is. Motivation Lab is a service that we offer at WiderFunnel. We’re using it within Infinity Optimization but also sometimes outside of Infinity. Just as a stand alone service where we’re drilling into the emotions, and the brand perceptions, and how they’re really from that core emotional level, how they’re resonating the target audience.

S: Awesome. One last thing before we close out the interview, and also we’ll share your contact details with our listeners. I just think it would be helpful for our listeners to understand the difference between AB Testing and Multivariate Testing because Optimizely, which you mentioned and visual website, Optimizely which you also mentioned allow you to do both types of testing. Some of our listeners, I’m sure, are not familiar with the difference between Multivariate and AB Testing.

C: Multivariate Testing was very popular about almost 10 years ago. People got really excited about the potential. But for most companies, it’s usually not the best approach, and they don’t even need to worry about it. Basically what it’s doing is it’s splitting the page or experience up into multiple components, and testing each component with multiple variations at the same time, so varying them all, and then looking for the different combinations between all of the variations, all of the sections. What it does in practice is it creates many, many, many actual variations that are all of the combinations of all the sub variations. It gets very complicated, first of all. But also the problem with it is that you need a ton of traffic to be able to do it effectively.

S: Not just traffic, but a lot of conversions.

C: Right.

S: Because if you don’t get the conversions, even though you get the traffic, there’s none of data for statistical significance.

C: Yeah. What I mean by a lot is generally you wouldn’t even want to think about that until you have at least a million monthly visitors. AB Testing can achieve its very similar results, or even better results, because you can get results faster, and you can actually look for the same interactions by designing the experiments in intelligent ways. That is a part that we haven’t really gotten into, and it’s very complicated but the design of experiments, or DOE, is really where we focus a lot of our energy. How you structure experiments can actually achieve almost a multivariate level of result by doing things like design of experiments called fractional factorial design, which essentially estimates the potential interactions by designing experiments and combinations in certain ways using AB Testing. AB Testing, in contrast to Multivariate, is simply testing one, two, three, four, or five variations against the original based on hypothesis about what changes are gonna have an impact on the revenue.

S: Wow. I think we might’ve lost a few of our listeners on this one but I guess the bottom line here is that you have a very sophisticated approach to designing experiments and this is a critical area. To design the experiments correctly will give you a much better result than just to doing a half hearted attempt to an experiment design. You can achieve the same level of sophistication with an AB split test that’s designed well as a Multivariate Test in terms of getting actionable insights out of that.

C: Yeah, you’re right. It’s a technical answer and it is a technical question. There are these technicalities behind it, but at the end of the day, what we get is very easy to understand, the result is a conversation rate and revenue lift. At our true understanding of the customer, and what motivates them to buy and to become a customer, what are their emotional drivers and really understanding their mind and their mentality through a series of experiments. That’s essentially what we’re doing.

S: Awesome. I’m sure that many of our listeners are very intrigued and curious to talk with you further and learn how you could help their organizations with improving their conversion rates. Where would we want our listeners to go? I’m guessing widerfunnel.com, but I’ll let you confirm that.

C: Yeah. All the information about what we’re doing is at widerfunnel.com, and if they really just want to learn more and read more content about this topic, they can go to widerfunnel.com/blog and we’re regularly posting sort of the latest insights. We just posted a topic just recently about Artificial Intelligence, that was the most recent one, and how it applies to marketers, and there’s a lot of buzz in this area like machine learning, AI, so we try to boil down to what does it really mean for marketers? There are bunch of case studies, white papers, and ebooks as well at WiderFunnel.

S: Awesome. Thank you so much, Chris, thank you listeners. We’ll catch you on the next episode of Marketing Speak, this is your host, Stephan Spencer, signing off.