Resources for Buying and Selling Online Businesses

Taking Your Conversions to the Next Level with CRO Expert Justin Christianson

On today’s episode, we speak with Justin Christianson, the Co-Founder and President of Conversion Fanatics. Conversion Fanatics helps businesses find additional revenue through conversion optimization strategies.

Tune in to hear us discuss exactly what conversion optimization is and Justin’s specific approach to helping companies increase their revenue.

 

Topics:

  • Justin’s work history.
  • Explaining “conversion optimization”.
  • Justin’s favorite tools.
  • Why directing traffic back to your homepage can make a huge difference.
  • At what point the strategy goes beyond the customer’s website.
  • The importance of incremental adjustments.
  • Keeping it simple.
  • What is helping him through 2020.

 

Resources:

Conversion Fanatics

Justin’s Social Media

Quiet Light

[email protected]

Transcription:

Joe: Hey folks, Joe Valley here from Quiet Light Brokerage and the Quiet Light Podcast. As you know, we are online business brokers, a crew that has been there, done that. We help people sell their SaaS, content, FBA, e-commerce businesses and everybody’s got a crazy amount of experience. Everybody’s built, bought, and sold their own online business. Brad bootstrapped a company from 10 employees to 129 with three men ownership. He also acquired 26 companies or content sites in a six-year period and sold them to a private equity firm. Jason raised 10 million dollars in venture capital money and built a company. Amanda launched an affiliate business as a hobby, and it became the top four in affiliate in four months. Brian founded the world’s first internet-based due diligence firm. There’s a whole other crew; the rest of the team they’ve all got a ton of experience like that and now they’re all advisors, brokers here in the Quiet Light team. I’m probably the least impressive of the crew. However, in the last eight years, I’ve sold close to 100 million in e-commerce transactions, probably at an average of about 1.1, 1.2 million dollars at a time. And we help first, that’s the most important thing. We take that experience that we have and we help people around us, whether you are buyers that are listening or sellers. And we bring people on to the podcast like Justin Christianson so that he can help as well. Justin, from Conversion Fanatics and I’m stumbling on that a little bit. Justin, welcome to the Quiet Light Podcast.

Justin: Hey, thanks for having me.

Joe: One of the things that we don’t do is read scripts as you can tell by stuttering through that but we also don’t give fancy backgrounds on people. We love to hear it from them; what their story is and what their background is so could you introduce yourself to the audience here?

Justin: Yeah, absolutely. So I have been in the digital marketing online world; I think this is year 19 for me. I started in my early 20s. I kind of moved up the ranks through affiliate marketing and lead generation and then became partners on a company and we exploded that company. I was actually the number one affiliate for it. We exploded it and grew it like…

Joe: Just for the record, three ahead of Amanda. There’s no question. She was four you were number one. Okay, I’m busting on Amanda right now, even though she doesn’t listen to our own podcast. Continue.

Justin: Yeah, we grew it like 500% in one year. We grew it almost 150 the next year. I sold it back to my business partners about; I guess it’s been about 10 years, which is my time to leave. I started a private consultancy. I’m kind of teaching the implementation and optimization side of things. And then basically out of demand, I partnered up with my longtime friend Manish, who is my now business partner, and we founded what became Conversion Fanatics about six and a half years ago. Since then I’ve helped several hundred businesses. I think we calculated somewhere close to an additional hundred million in additional revenue for them through our conversion optimization strategies.

Joe: Incredible.

Justin: We just keep working every single day to be a little bit better and I’m fortunate enough to help some of the top companies in the world.

Joe: And I know a few of them. I know a few of the folks that you worked with through Blue Ribbon Mastermind, our friend Ezra Firestone, and they speak very highly of you. And you actually helped Mark here at Quiet Light with his business Catholic Singles. Why don’t you tell us though; I know the definition of it and I’m going to give a short story here afterwards but what is conversion optimization?

Justin: Conversion optimization is really the understanding; well, I’m going to back up because conversion optimization, when you first say that, people often say, well, it’s split testing. Well, split testing is just the vehicle that we use to prove or disprove whether we’re right or not. But conversion optimization in and of itself is understanding the behaviors of the visitor; understanding their wants, needs, likes, dislikes, and where the key friction points are in an online journey and then doing what we can to answer the question why certain things are happening in that journey and then we split test to make sure we’re right or not. So really, it just comes down to reading data and then executing on the ideas of why we think that data is telling us what it’s telling us.

Joe: And it’s not just split testing, written content, or split testing images or videos or emails. It’s a combination of all of the above, I would think.

Justin: Yeah, we focus primarily on-site or on the ad side, but we’re primarily; I would say 95% of our business is on-site, user experience, user interface kind of optimization. So, what happens on the website after they come from that ad and what can we do to make that experience better for those visitors and help those brands excel which will also lift up many other metrics in the business as well.

Joe: So it’s really perfect for the content, e-commerce owner, SaaS owner, and maybe the FBA owners that are trying to expand beyond Amazon and get some traction in their Shopify store or whatever store they might be using.

Justin: Yeah.

Joe: One of the things I have to say, I didn’t understand what split testing was back in the day. I sold my e-commerce site through Quiet Light back in 2010. Mark, actually, Jason here was my broker at the time. I knew everything. I understood exactly what my customer wanted more than they did and kept doing these campaigns and putting them out there and putting out there, putting it out there. Finally, my web developer said, Joe, don’t be an ass. Try split testing. I’m like, but this is right. And he’s like, let’s test it. Without a doubt every new campaign that I tested that I knew which one was going to win, I was dead wrong. And it would result in like 3% to 5% conversion rate differences and at a $200 or $300 transaction, that’s a tremendous difference, isn’t it?

Justin: Yeah, I mean, we’ll see; I’m looking at a test right now, it’s like a 15% swing.

Joe: Holy cow.

Justin: I’ve got one running right now that’s almost a triple-digit swing in terms of percentage gain.

Joe: When you look at a client that let’s say they’re selling a physical product, are you looking first at their website to try to help speed up the website and improve it? What approach do you take with new clients? And I know they’re all different, but give me an example of one.

Justin: Well, really, I take the same approach with all of them, because my philosophy on that is at the end of the day, we’re dealing with people. It doesn’t matter what we’re selling, they’ve all got wants, needs, buying habits, and decisions and pains and pleasure points and all of those things that go into that. So, I just try to understand and put myself in the shoes of that visitor. I look at the data and say okay, I’ll look at their analytics and say, well, they’re female aged 35 to 44, primarily they’re shopping on mobile, they’re falling off on this part of the website. And then I just put myself in the journey like what’s stopping; what are the 10 things on this page that could potentially stop a visitor from going through the next step? What isn’t clear? What can I add or remove to alleviate those friction points? And really what I’m trying to understand is what on that page holds the most weight in the eyes of the visitors? Because at the end of the day, you said you were proven wrong on a bunch of times. You were assuming something was going to happen. I’ve ran thousands of marketing split tests. I’ve strived for just pulling myself out of the equation in terms of my bias; my understanding, and I try to just really put myself in the head of the visitors. And once I do that, then it becomes much more apparent of what I need to test and where. And then as soon as I figure out what holds the most weight, I can then exploit that throughout the rest of the website. If they respond to social proof or they respond more to the benefits of the product or they need more trust aspect in the brand or they need to read more about the product or whatever, I try to figure that out. It could be copy-based. It could be image-based. It could be something as simple as moving a button off on a page. But I incrementally test those things to figure out what holds the most weight and once I figure that out then we just move throughout the site areas on the website and just keep going to try to continually evolve and scale and grow that business.

Joe: Going back to the beginning, you said, you see when they drop off in their journey at a certain point. If they’re looking at a product and reading an article and at some point, they drop off instead of actually placing an order, what tools or software do you utilize to see that path that the customer takes or potential customer takes to then drop off? It seems to me like that would be hard to access, that information.

Justin: No, actually is not. It’s one simple report in Google Analytics.

Joe: I’ve been using Google Analytics for; how long have I been self-employed? More than a decade or more like 15 years, I don’t know; something like that. Too long to the point where I still don’t know how to do stuff like that. Is that training that Google provides you inside of Analytics and workshops or things of that nature or you’ve just learned it over the years?

Justin: Well, it’s literally a default report that I go to. It’s under Conversions and you have to have e-commerce enabled. So it’s under Conversions and then E-commerce and then Shopping Behavior. Literally, it’s just a bar graph and it shows you the drop off points in that process and I just know how to read that and then you can dig in deeper and deeper and deeper from there. But generally, I’ll get the understanding of it. So, I’ll look at the landing page view and it’s basically two reports. I’ll look at the landing page behavioral report, so I’ll see which landing page; their first visit interaction, what that conversion rate is. The Home Page is almost in the top three, almost always, even if you’re driving traffic to a separate page or a landing page and the Home Page is generally underutilized by 90% of the businesses out there.

Joe: What does it mean underutilized?

Justin: They’re not focusing on it. They don’t care about it. They’re focused on landing pages and product pages and checkout flow but yet I’ve seen campaigns double their return on ad spend by just turning some traffic to their Home Page versus a specific product page. But I look at the top-performing landing pages and then I look at that shopping behavior report and then I’ll see okay, we’ve got this many people that are going on the Home Page, this many people have product views, this many people viewed the cart, this many people went to check out, this many people completed transactions. And usually, there’s an outlier in that report. So, if it’s on the product page like the product view one, I’ll see okay they’re in the product view and that means they’re viewing a product page, but they’re not adding to cart. And then I just go ask a few more questions of where you’re driving the majority of your traffic, are you driving traffic directly to that product page or are you driving it to your home page or collections or whatever and then that’ll give me a better understanding what those visitors are telling me.

Joe: Okay, I got it. And at what point do you go beyond the website itself? Well, actually, let me back up, first and foremost. I talked to thousands of entrepreneurs over the years. Everybody listening to this podcast has a website. Please install Google Analytics because you’re not going to be able to do any of this stuff that Justin’s talking about. And just to dispel a myth that’s out there, Justin, is Google stealing information from the people that are installing software on the website, or are they really just giving you the tools to help improve your business and make more money?

Justin: I guess that’s up for debate with who you ask but every single website…

Joe: I don’t want to debate that, by the way.

Justin: No, I definitely don’t want to go down that rabbit hole. Every website out there has it, I mean, has some form of Analytics involved.

Joe: Yeah, I just sold a number of them where people have said they straight up don’t use Google Analytics and they use some other unknown software or stat tracking data that doesn’t do what Google does. So, please everybody install that. When it comes to AB split testing. So, you’re figuring these things out. You get to the point where you decide you want to move a button-up or the order button up on a page. Do you just go ahead and do that based off of your experience or do you split test that always?

Justin: Always split test it. I am literally proven wrong almost daily.

Joe: Okay, it’s not just me then.

Justin: And we launch 50 plus new split tests a week for our clients.

Joe: 50 split tests a week. Okay, always split test regardless. Here’s a question for you. This might be tough to answer. When it comes to deciding the winner in a split test, my developer years ago gave me stats and he said, well, you’ve got to get to this number of total views and then statistically it’s got to get here in order to make it a valid split test when you determine a winner. Is that still the case or just kind of do you wing it?

Justin: Well, a little bit of both. I look at several different factors. I’ll look at statistical confidence, which is one. You have to be statistically valid. You have to have a big enough sample size. You have to have a big enough separation. But I also look at the trend in the data. I look at is it flip-flopping back and forth or is it staying pretty steady as an improvement or a loss? How big of a loss is it out of the gate? And then I look kind of anything north of 25 conversions per variation then I’ll start looking at the data. I always run it for at least a calendar week if it’s showing promise or sometimes longer. Sometimes a test will run for a month. But there are also the times where you can run a test for six months and run millions of visitors through it and it’ll never reach statistical confidence one way or another so you have to know when to cut it. Because if it’s null or if it’s flat or if it’s bouncing back and forth, it’s never going to reach confidence because there’s not an algorithm on the planet that can factor that fluctuation.

Joe: Confidence being the winner, one that’s going to produce the end result that you want.

Justin: Yes.

Joe: What do you do at that point? Do you just flip a coin and decide whoever; if I’m the owner of the website and I like the images on one better than the other and if it’s…

Justin: So, if I don’t know if it’s a winner not, I’ll generally call it a null result and I’ll stick with the original. Unless it’s not hurting anything and it’s actually making it a better experience for the visitors. Meaning it’s cleaning up a page or it’s adding a function that might be beneficial that I can use to build upon. Or maybe if it’s stripping down a page, then I can go in and then test adding some different types of elements back to the page and it just gives me some more online real estate to work with. So, it’s kind of just sort of a guess at that point but I usually have an end goal in mind and I never want to push something that I’m not validating that it’s an improvement. And I also don’t focus just solely on conversion rate either. I focus on the bigger picture on engagement revenue per visitor, average order value, views on check out; all of those other secondary metrics just to make sure we’re not; because you can improve conversion rate but make a lot less money or really dramatically decrease your revenue per visitor. So we just take a very holistic approach to the whole thing and I’m in it to win so I’m not going to push stuff just for the sake of pushing stuff.

Joe: Yeah, so number one people have to have Google Analytics installed, figure out how to run the reports, and then always do split testing regardless. What are some of the; I mean you’ve been doing this for a long time, what are some of the other than I think you said which was people are not paying enough attention to their homepage? What other low hanging fruit is there that folks can do when they look at their own website where you see most common issues, where they can take a look on their own and try to fix things up?

Justin: Well, there’s a bunch of them, but generally visitors, we kind of live in this speed and this trap, I call it, of growth hacking and a lot of people just go in and say, oh, I think this looks better, let’s go ahead and do it or let’s change this or I saw so-and-so had it on their website can we do it on my website? And I’ve never seen that really go well. And also, I think that people think bigger is better so they feel like they need to completely redesign a page or add these big changes to make a big impact and the opposite is actually true. You need to incrementally adjust things to better understand those behaviors. The majority of people that I see are trying to cram too much stuff into a very small area. They’re trying to over app their way to better conversions. I’ve seen stores with 70 plus applications and plugins and all of the stuff installed and they don’t necessarily do the right things; adding more urgency and more timers and more pop-ups and things to your website isn’t going to help you for a long term sustainable growth. But the glaring one that I see is people do not lead from a place of benefit to the visitors. They’re screaming how awesome they are as a company instead of listening to the visitors and what their product is actually going to do for them. And I’ve said this in my entire career, it’s kind of copywriting 101, it’s you lead with benefits. So, benefit bullet statements. I go back to that all the time and then I use the features of the product to support those benefits. I’ve said this many, many times is I’ve got 16 gigabytes of RAM in my computer, which is great. It’s a feature, but it’s not a benefit. What does that do for me by having 16 gigabytes of RAM; a faster processing speed, faster video rendering, all of those things because nobody wants the feature. They just want what it’s going to actually do for them. And a lot of companies just simply don’t do it. They don’t pay attention to it and I see it every single week on many, many occasions.

Joe: I used to write ad copy for radio direct response stuff and it was 60 seconds and 18 of those 60 seconds were the call to action, which was the phone number; the 800 number at four or five times. We used to be able to get the features and benefits in 42 seconds; simple, clean, quick, clear. It’s funny now we’ve got so much information and so many endless pages of websites that we feel like we do need to just jam more in and do more. Mike Jackness has been a regular guest on the show. He runs Ecom Crew and Ecom Crew Premium and he had a brand called Color It that we sold for him. And one of the things that Mike did very, very well is exactly what you’re talking about when he reached out to customers regarding Color It. He had one of the biggest Klaviyo campaigns. He talked about it a lot on the show and that was giving them some benefit with every email that went out; helping them, teaching them, giving them some benefit, not hitting them up with a sales promotion every time. It’s a help first mentality and that generally comes back to you. I think that’s great. It’s sometimes simple to do on a website, and I would think that sometimes it’s a little more complex. Are you finding getting a little more complex with video for instance? We had Judson Morgan from Butter.la on talking about the increase in conversions from a static image to a video. Are you finding similar findings or do you split test those types of things as well?

Justin: Yeah, we always split test it. I’ve seen the video go 50% improvement to a 50% decrease and everywhere in between. It just depends on the brand. I’ve got an auto detailing client that has all the gear for auto detailing and they’re very video-focused so moving a video into the main spot on a product page in the carousel would prove really effective for them whereas other companies showcasing a shirt, for example, isn’t necessarily as effective as a product that needs to be demonstrated so it’s really a case by case basis. And if there’s a video available, we’ll try to leverage it as much as possible but I have literally seen swings go both ways.

Joe: Have you been in a situation where you have been testing video and you’re testing that less is more where it’s maybe user-generated content versus high-end production and one outperforms the other consistently; probably not consistently, yeah?

Justin: Not consistently. But I would say I do this with imagery too, is I kind of lean towards more of the user-generated real type side of things; the shaky camera, the ums and ahs because I think more people are relatable to that or they can relate to that a little bit easier. I’ve got a client right now that’s got a product and all of their imagery looks like straight out of an Instagram model’s website. Even their user-generated content is Instagram filtered and perfect and looks like they used a super high-end camera and I’m like, do you have anything real? Like some real, hey, this is awesome look at this. He’s like, yeah, I’ve got all sorts of that. I’m like, well, let’s test that because your visitors are literally saying we don’t know if these are actually as good; the pictures are great, but we don’t know if they’re actually as good so we’ve got to build that trust that the product is great. And this is a site that sells 2,000 plus orders a day so they’re doing volume, but their visitors are still screaming we don’t know if we can trust this even though they’ve got 500,000 plus customers. So we’re just trying to leverage that as much as we possibly can to showcase in different ways like, hey, this is real and it’s not…

Joe: Have you had the chance to split test that yet?

Justin: We’re in the process of gathering all the images. I’m literally going through this this week.

Joe: And is that your role within the company or do you have other folks that help you?

Justin: Well, I’ve got a team.

Joe: Well getting down to the point where you’re picking out those images, or do you let the company owner or your client pick out the images that you’d be choosing?

Justin: A little of both, we’re very collaborative. But I’ve got a big team of smart people; designers and developers and strategists and analysts and all of that stuff. But I’m very much involved and my business partner and I are in the overarching strategy. Some clients I’m more in the weeds with than others. This one I just happened to be going back and forth with because he was trying to push for one thing and I’m like, well, your visitors aren’t saying they want that so I kind of had to interject and say, here’s what we’re seeing from that standpoint.

Joe: And they’re literally saying and you’re; and I’m saying you and I know it’s your team, but I’m saying it’s so that the audience can go and do this themselves as well. You are literally going on to the reviews, to the Instagram comments and things of that nature, and seeing what the visitors are actually saying, or are these e-mails into the company that tips you?

Justin: No, survey. This one is actually like just a type form survey saying here’s the; we took the top three questions, like what questions do you have that we didn’t answer? I do this with exit polling a lot too so almost all of our clients we’ve set up an exit poll. So catch the people that are leaving and just ask them what problem did we solve for you today or what question weren’t we able to answer and give them that open-ended kind of outlet to tell us where we’re falling short. And you’ll see a trend very quickly of what that data is telling you. In this case…

Joe: So somebody when somebody leaves the site without placing an order, if that’s the objective, you’ve got the ability to have them fill out an exit poll form?

Justin: Essentially, yes, just a one question kind of survey.

Joe: Okay, that’s fascinating. Imagine that, asking them why they didn’t order and having them tell you and having you be able to fix that problem. What you’re doing is not actually that complicated it’s just hard work.

Justin: Right.

Joe: I guess you got to take the time in the detail to get to it, and it’s funny, I find a lot of things in this e-commerce or online world that we live in not very complicated. It’s common sense. Sometimes we just have to be told what we already know.

Justin: Yeah, common sense is kind of lacking in a lot of cases these days it seems like. I mean, even in my career of almost 20 years, nothing’s changed. Just the mediums have changed. So that’s really it.

Joe: True.

Justin: People come to me and they’re like, oh, hey, what’s your framework and what fancy tools are you using and I’m like, I’m simple. I want to go down to the bare bones minimum possible to get the job done. I don’t want to over-automate and over-analyze. I just want the visitors to tell me what it is and optimization in that. I mean, there’s a science to it, obviously, but an understanding and an experience definitely helps but it isn’t rocket science. I mean it’s ask the right questions and my question just happens to be why. Why are they clicking on the button or why are they leaving that page or why are they watching the video or aren’t they watching the video, why are they dropping off at that point in the video? It’s just questioning everything and then looking for all the ways we can possibly test to improve that.

Joe: It’s a lot of whys in there and none of that becauses come from the founder of the company or the CMO or something like that. They come from the customer, which is smart. It’s the mistake I made years ago when I thought I knew everything. I was dead wrong. It sounds like you are too most of the time when you’re doing your split testing all week. So, listen to the customer, obviously, but you’ve got to get that information to the customer and ask them.

Justin: Yeah, and I think as business owners, and it’s why I hire coaches. It’s why I hire people to get an outside, unbiased perspective because I see so many business owners often look at their business or even marketing executives for large, large corporations, they’re in there every single day looking at the data, looking at the website, looking at the marketing message that they just get numb to it and blind to it. And sometimes the smallest little change and the smallest interaction or they’re overlooking just some small lever they need to pull that’s going to dramatically improve their marketing performance. And I fortunately and unfortunately see it all the time.

Joe: I’m going to go on a short tangent here. You said you hire coaches. You’ve been self-employed for two decades in the online space. What kind of coach would somebody with your experience be utilized? What kind of coaches do you hire for yourself?

Justin: So I started out; I’m a direct response marketer. I’m a B2C guy that for some reason started an agency. I have no idea how to run an agency. I never did when we started it so I’ve hired several; I’ve hired sales coaches, I’ve hired other business development coaches, I’ve hired lead generation coaches, I’m in a Mastermind right now for agency owners; all very top level just because there’s a lot of stuff that I don’t know from the inner workings of the process. I’m a forever student and I think I can learn how to do something and I live kind of by the motto that every day I need to be a little bit better than I was yesterday even if it’s just one small incremental improvement. I’m a split test guy so I have to strive for that improvement all the time. And sometimes I have the wrong questions or I have the questions or I’m not asking the right questions on my own business and it’s even helped me even through all of the stuff that’s going on this year. There was a time where we had a lot of unknowns, even back in March and if we don’t change this stuff we’re going to be in freak out mode if we don’t fix some stuff. So, I needed to lean on my coach and my crew and my circle of influence on the agency side to kind of help us navigate.

Joe: Yeah, I think that’s fantastic. And I ask the question because you obviously have done some things right over the last couple of decades and some of the audience members might just be leaving the corporate world and coming into this online world that we live in and one on one coaching is the equivalent of one on one therapy for people that need help but it’s for you and your business. In many ways, it improves you as an individual as well as a business person and as an individual. We have David Wood on the podcast; he’s a business coach, just talking about the benefits of asking certain types of questions and trying to make incremental growth as you’ve talked about here. And then the Mastermind groups like Blue Ribbon Mastermind, like Ecom Crew premium, like eCommerceFuel, like Rhodium Weekend, those are all group therapy, but it’s group enhancement. Everybody shares their secrets with the other members of the team so everybody can grow and learn together. So I think it’s brilliant, very, very smart things to do.

Justin: There is a lot of; if you get in a room with people that are on that level or even above you and I don’t always join into our monthly or biweekly phone calls on our Mastermind and all of the stuff and I don’t always need help. I don’t always have something to share but when I do, they’re there. And I think there’s a lot to be said about that, too. It’s just having kind of that fallback and kind of a sounding board when you do have an idea or you’re falling short in certain areas.

Joe: I couldn’t agree more. Justin, I appreciate it. Where do people go to learn about your business Conversion Fanatics; is it just simply www.ConversionFanatics.com?

Justin: Yeah, www.ConversionFanatics.com. You can find all information about us. I’ve got a best-selling book that’s also available on Amazon. If you go over there, find it. It has the same name, Conversion Fanatic.

Joe: Awesome.

Justin: And I’m all over social media so you can find me at www.onespotsocial.com/JustinChristianson and you can find links there; basically everything.

Joe: Fantastic. Justin, I appreciate your time. Thanks for being on the podcast.

Justin: Thanks for having me.

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