Khalid Saleh has a wealth of experience in conversion optimization, and it’s not as complicated as you might think. In fact, strip out the jargon and talk to customers like real people and you’re halfway there.
But what is it that makes people convert from showing interest to finally buying?
It's the antidote to marketing bullshit.
Louis: Bonjour, bonjour, and welcome to another episode of Everyone Hates Marketers.com. The no-fluff, actionable marketing podcast for people sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I'm your host, Louis Grenier. In this episode, today's episode, you'll learn what motivates a person to take a decision and how it can increase conversions and even retention.
So my guest today worked for several consulting companies as a software engineer, a software architect, building increments websites. And he noticed something, that was quite interesting. You notice that most big companies, they didn't really care about what users were doing on their website. And, it was always an afterthought.
And something that I completely agree with, he says that it's only when a company invests millions, on the website without a single order for months thereafter, that they start looking into. what's wrong with it. So he's the founder of Invesp that he founded in 2006, which is one of the leading congressional rate optimization agencies in the world, working with massive clients like Target, 3m, eBay, name.com, et cetera.
So Khalid Saleh, very happy to have you on board.
Khalid: Thank you, Louis. Very happy to be with you as well.
Louis: So let's get down to, a very important topic. I believe looking at your website to start might have changed a bit, but you work primarily with e-commerce websites, right? Or is it changing?
Khalid: Yeah, I would say, about 70% of our clients are in the e-commerce space. the other 30%, 20% in SaaS, 10% in lead gen, at some point, and it's funny when it comes to marketing because you can have theories about marketing and then the theories tend to fly out the window or the door depends on when you actually start doing the work.
Everybody knows that the more niche you are and the more targeted you are, the better off you are. At some point when we started doing conversion optimization, we just walked into… we didn't really know what conversion optimization was. I think actually the first six months were not even called conversion optimization.
And then at some point, I'm like, let's we know e-commerce really well, let's focus on e-commerce. so we spent about eight years just saying we're an e-commerce conversion optimization, but then you have all these different companies knocking on your door and I'm like, money's nice. Why not accept everybody?
And now I'm stepping back and I'm like, you know what? I always tell my class. I tell them to focus. Maybe I should give that advice to myself. So what we're going through this debate, it's nice in theory, difficult in practice.
Louis: Yep. And I can give you a bit of insight into that. I was looking into this very topic recently.
I believe it comes from like the paradox of choice that people have is the fact that humans are incredible, it's incredibly difficult for humans to say no to opportunities. And we tend to keep all options open, just in case, It actually creates, anxiety and lack of control when we have too many options open.
And so it's the opposite. And what humans tend to forget usually is the opportunity cost of not doing something. So for you, for example, I will challenge you back and I know you have way more experience than I do, but I would say, what are you missing by not focusing on e-commerce only.
Khalid: No, that's a very good question.
So let me throw this back at you. And then I always find it very interesting. So yesterday, we're based in Chicago. So I was watching, listening to an episode, a really amazing company Basecamp. Jason Fried. They do amazing marketing. However, I was thinking to myself, the advice that they give and it goes back to what you say. Work sometimes really well when you're established and we have $120 million annual revenue, and you're a company of 55 when you are a company of 10 people and you're doing couple million dollars, or if you're doing even less than a million, the advice sometimes I'm like, Oh my God, it goes back to anxiety.
I'm like, Oh, am I going to say no to the clients? Now mind you, and it's very funny. I still remember one day this, xHamster reached out to us. Yeah. Porn company. you talk about money's there and they said, Hey guys, we need you to come and optimize the website. I had made the decision a long time ago.
No gambling, no sex, no porn, no religious company. So I'm looking at all that just going to get out of this because we have like multi-faceted companies. I don't want to put somebody in a position that they're uncomfortable with. I have amazing lady specialists who would, these are our senior guys.
I was like, I'm not going to ask them to optimize the sites. And I still remember, like another guy emailing me back. He's you just set your budgets, we will pay whatever. you want, now this was about three, four years into starting investment. And I can tell you, I'm looking at it.
There are times that I'm like, I'm looking at there. I'm like my God, you know how you can ask him probably like a $50,000 a month and they wouldn't even say no. and then like later on, I was talking to a friend who in the industry and I told him, I'm like, yeah, they reached out. And I said, no, and what stuff.
And he's really? It's like, how do you build your business without. Working with like porn companies. I'm like, really? I did not know that he's of course, like every company you see here, I'm like, I don't know if every company, but at least for us, that it was an easy decision at some point.
But at the same time, it was not very easy, correct. Like you just have to sit there and say, we'll walk away from this.
Louis: But I believe that the best. The best company, the ones that stand out that's radically stand out from the rest are in always an uncomfortable position where they have to say no more than to say yes.
And looking at what you might have gained from not doing it. It's interesting. It's maybe that when you start working with them, maybe some people would find out about it and wouldn't work with you anymore. Or maybe you start focusing on a very specific industry with different needs and therefore your employees have to learn about it.
And maybe some of them will leave. There are so many consequences of making a decision. So it's just very interesting because actually a few years ago I had a conversion rate optimization agency believe it or not. 1000 times less successful than yours. In fact, after two years I stopped it. I burnt out. and because I made all the mistakes in the book, selling for the wrong people, but we had the exact same discussion a porn company actually reach out to us.
And we also decided not to work with us and not to work with them, for the same reason. So it's interesting as like a little deja vu for me anyway. I think we've established that you're all much smarter than me at this stage because you managed to run a company for the last 15 years, 14 years
Khalid: At the same time as sometimes like success, it's you have the process, you have the right people multiply that also by a success factor anywhere between one to 3000.
And, it's, it depends on where you are sometimes.
Louis: Yes, very true. Very true. But I think you have a lot to teach us. And the core problem that we're talking about is the, is what actually motivates people to do something. and why does it matter in the context of increasing progression rates?
Why don't you tell us, let's start actually from the beginning, which is, let's imagine that I am a new e-commerce client. Reaching out to you - the right size. And maybe you can describe, to us, like what is the typical client, the best to work with? We come to you and we say, we want to increase conversion rates.
Let's go through the process. You go through, starting with teaching us, teaching me. How do people make decisions and why it's important for my business?
Khalid: I like that. So one of the first things that, that I do, and I actually had to wake up very early in the morning because I emailed somebody and I was confused about the day.
So I thought I had a meeting tomorrow, turned out to be today. I'm like, Oh my God. they're waiting for me to jump on a call, but. I, one of the first things that we do is let's look at the numbers before we even talk about human motivations and whatnot, whether it makes sense to do conversion optimization or not.
Now there are two different types of conversion optimization. There's conversion optimization that's based on AB testing, which means I'm going to figure out what's broken on the website and I'm going to give you the fixes, but don't take my word for it. Let your visitors judge the quality of the work.
They might like it. They might not like it. And some people have been humbled way too many times where I look and I bet my money on a version of them, visitors looking at the site. Otherwise, I'm like really guys, this is so much better, visitors have a way of thinking. So that's.
That's your typical conversion optimization engagement, where you're coming up with fixes and you're deploying them as AB tests. Usually what I tell companies, if you're going to do any type of AB testing, where you start is you want to have at least 500 conversions a month. If you're an e-commerce, that's 500 orders, that's coming to your site, lead gen 500 people, so the filling out the contact form satisfy a hundred subscriptions.
Anything less than that, it's really tough to do conversion optimization. It's tough to do AB testing. I know every time I say that some people who are working with smaller clients get really annoyed with me and I've gone through too many discussions that I'm looking at it. I'm not going to battle this out with you.
You'll figure out that this is really tough because you have a company that comes to you and they have, let's say a hundred conversions a month while you give them a new design. Hey, listen, I know your e-commerce website is broken. Your cart pages aren't working. Here's a much better design. And then you'd go through the next step and you say, don't take my word for it.
Let's deploy it. An AB test. What would the hundred conversions your AB test might take? I don't know, two to three months, four months. And the client is sitting there twiddling their thumbs, and you're sitting there coming up with new designs and new tests, but the client can't run the new test because they're waiting for the first test to run.
So that's I would say, like in 500 conversions. most of our clients, I would say our logic clients get thousands of conversions per day, which is really nice. when you're working with a company that does 10,000, 10,000 conversions in a day, you reach, you're able to do so much more testing and you're able to achieve amazing results.
Where we start seeing that we're really, in fact, impactful is above a thousand. Conversions above a thousand conversions per month. We started seeing, that we know they're going to come in. We know at least we're going to do about 30, 40% increase in conversions, in a year's time. Now there's this the smaller guys that say, Hey, I'm just starting out and I really want to improve my site.
What is this? So I always tell them like, you'll do conversion optimization without AB testing, which means, guess what? You'll hear my opinion. I'll tell you this, his eyes better, and you just have to believe me, and just cross your fingers and pray. And I always hate when I say I'm like, some conversion optimizers, they have this amazing process, 15 steps, 16 steps.
So I'm likely to skip the most important step. And they're like, what is that? I'm like prayer because they're always praying, Oh God, please help me. Oh, God no, don't embarrass me. Now mind you, of course, we just signed up a client yesterday. They have about 50 conversions a month and I was very upfront with them and I told them, I'm like, listen, looking at 50 conversions, ain't no AB testing happening here.
A conversion is worth looking at. And I think for them it's about $22,000. is worth, really paying and they're like, Hey if we get two to three conversions more, we'll do well. And I tell them, yeah, but guess what? You can't really track, you get two, three conversions up or down in a month.
Anyway, you cannot track whether it's our work or not. They're like, “Oh, we believe in you” on the call. I worry sometimes. one company is telling us like, Oh, I love you. I want to work with you. And I'm like, Oh, it's so much better when you can see the numbers. And, for sure that’s the impact that I generate.
So that's in terms of the numbers, the next thing that I do, which is a bit different. and I've now done it for the last couple of years is to look at the site and say, listen, why do people buy? Yeah. And people make decisions for so many different reasons and looking, I think about the last thing.. What’s the last thing you bought.
Let's talk about that. That's more interesting. A new microphone. Nice. How much did you spend on it?
Louis: Around $500
Khalid: Ah, I love those by the way. Let's dig deeper as to why you bought a microphone, if you don't mind, this will be a lot more interesting. What was, when did you buy the microphone?
Louis: I think last month. 30 days ago.
Khalid: Okay. Do you recall, was it's a, was it a weekday, weekend?
Louis: It was during the week.
Khalid: During the week. Do you remember what day? Monday, Tuesday?
Khalid: Now do you remember a day or night?
Louis: It was during the day
Khalid: Working day. where were you? Just send me back for this
Khalid: In your office. How was the weather that day?
Louis: I don't remember.
Khalid: You don't remember and you're sitting in your office, correct? By yourself. Okay. So what's happening? What made you pull the trigger at that the time to say.
Louis: So I can be a very bad interviewee or very good interviewee, so I can tell you the lies I can rationalize my decision to make you think, Oh, it's because the truth, the reason why, but it is a purely emotional job, a purely, a non-rational decision.
It's purely because I'm looking, I've been looking for years for a microphone that gives me a radio voice, a bit of a deeper voice. Not that I have a high voice, but I've been. I've been hearing a lot of folks, in the podcast world who will have this very amazing sounding voice, and I never would be able to achieve it.
And what tipped me, what made me fucking say, you know what? I'm going to buy it now. I actually can't recall exactly. Why did they say? I think I was probably listening to an episode of someone else and I was like, he sounds great. And you know what? Fuck it. I'm going to buy this.
Khalid: I love it. Okay. So we're going to stop here.
If I'm the marketer, who's doing the marketing for it. What kind of mic, by the way, It's, I'm going to say it's the SM seven. It must be. Yeah. Let's give sure some advice over here. Cause I've seen their marketing by the way. What do they do? it's just the typical feature sets, correct?
That's you go on eco, whether it's Amazon or BNH BD or whatever, like no site look at them, how they describe it. That's the functional aspect. Forget about the functional aspect. Does anyone want to compete on functionality for somebody like me? I also bought my mic I did not invest $400. I spend a little bit less like up to 150.
And when I look at these mics and you give me the functional specs, I really have no clue. I watched YouTube videos, but they're meaningless and I listened to audio even on YouTube, but I put my fancy headset on it. I cannot tell the difference. Most marketers when they do on and you can go pull up like in a shore, like in an SMB seven, look at how they're listed this.
Just the functions. What you have said is so powerful. It's about the radio voice, correct? It's time to take your podcast to that next level. It's time to have that radio voice. And if I'm like, I would change my copy completely based on that, because that would appeal to me. Correct.
That would appeal to you. And where am I going to be running? Looking at all my ads. Oh, typically they run their ads on PPC and whatnot. Guess what? For that kind of specific microphone, I will find the podcast with the, like the speakers who have an amazing radio voice. And I would drop my ads there because guess what?
People who are listening to it, that's what triggered you is Oh my God, it's time for me to make that decision. now what you've done amazing interviewee, is you actually took me from the functional aspects to the emotional and social aspects. I've been thinking about buying a car now, finally, I'm like, okay, you know what?
I'm sick and tired. I'm like, I share a car with my wife and look, we've been working from home and I'm like, I don't need a car. So I'm sitting there looking. And I'm like, Oh, we can buy a car. Okay. Maybe I'll put a budget. And my wife is you don't really need the car. Okay. So if you're going to buy a car, buy something for like the budgets of 20,000 great 20,000 per car, probably not going to be small.
It's going to take me from point a to point B functionality. my brother-in-law. Yeah. I just bought a BMW five series and here I am has nothing to do with the functional aspect. I can get like a Corolla, like 20,000 then we’re done and I'm thinking I'm like, Oh no. Oh no. If he bought a BMW, I gotta get me a BMW.
And I'm like, justifying it in my mind. Correct. So there's a social element to “oh my friends” and I sit with my wife. I'm like, “and if we go and visit a client's site, it will look really nicer.” And she calls it. “We've been doing this for 15 years. how many times have you visited clients?” I'm like twice in 15 years.
She's, “You're trying to justify it”. That's what humans do. Correct. We buy on emotion. We justify with logic. So when you look at a site copy and e-commerce website, copy. I look at the emotional aspects. at this point, most websites have the usability done correctly. We figured out like, Oh, the button needs to be here.
The image needs to be there. But what we've done with e-commerce by the way, which is embarrassing is we took the typical paper catalog that we get in the mail. We just programmed them online, the same exact thing, the same boring copy, the same experience. and then we wonder why we only convert at one or 2% if I can.
Okay. that's the reason, I think lots of times when people do conversion optimization, The company I was talking to in the morning, they're like, Oh, we need to test different hero images, different CTA colors. And I'm like, really? I'm like, that's not there. They had a 6% conversion rate, which is pretty good.
And they want to go to 20%. Then I'm like, okay, I'm like wrong expectations because that will take years. I told them maybe in the next 30 years we'll be able to achieve that. Who knows. but I'm like, it's not about the images and it's not about the CTA. I'm not saying I was telling you.
I'm like, listen, When you persuade somebody to buy from you they'll find a CTA. I'm not saying you should hide your CTA's, but they'll find you, correct. They'll contact you, your challenge is do not set the CTA. Sometimes we will also hide the, see I'm like, really? Where's this I'm ready to convert.
How can I do it? No, let's have the CTA's let's have the right images, but, persuasion. It's a lot harder, correct. Sitting with somebody almost they're coming to your website and breaking that amazing copy. That's convinced us. Somebody is like, Oh, not only do I want to buy this item, I must buy this item.
That's very powerful.
Louis: So let's unpack what you said because it's extremely powerful. And I think I made a mistake when I say it. It's an emotional job, as an emotional thing. Because it's, I would say it's more psychological, a story that you tell yourself, the status that you want to, that you're seeking.
And on a lot of that, the reason why I say that usually, it's a mistake when people say it's emotional it's because I'm not going to go very, I actually dug into that, looking through that recently, I'm going to explain just briefly why people make decisions. and what part of the brain? So it's the orbitofrontal cortex called the OFC, which is part of the brain that makes decisions.
And when we make a decision, the emotional system shuts down. and the OFC assigns a value, which is around reaching the goal of the real world to a 10 it's based on the goals that we have. And the behavior is driven by the expected value of the choice we're making, which is the discrepancy, the difference between the actual state and the desired state.
And so what's super interesting here is that's what the job to be done. The methodology is about. It's about understanding what actual state I am in which was. I had a good microphone, but I wasn't super happy about the voice and the desired state, which is, I wish I had the radio voice, what tricked me into actually taking the plunge.
The catalyst was hearing someone else's for the thousandth time and this time was like, fuck it. I'm going to bite. And what's interesting here is emotions are not necessarily related to it's more the psychological story and all of that. And most of the time, exactly, as you said, it's never about the function.
It's about the story about telling yourself the status we seek to make and all of that. And I'm glad you mentioned that, as the first thing. So before going to the next step together, let's talk about it. How do you find that out? And I know you have a webinar coming up where you talk about interviewing users and whatnot.
What is the number one method that you use with your clients? Find that out and to be sure this is why people make a decision and then we can transform that into copy and whatnot.
Khalid: Definitely. So one of the first things that we tell our clients is let's look at your customers who bought from you. And that's when I asked you, when did you buy, I like people who bought within the last three months and we segment those into different buckets.
And the idea is because, with each bucket, there are probably different motivations, different emotions that trigger that event. most of our customers are fairly established that they'll have two or three different buckets. And then we'll tell them, okay, we want to interview, one or two, recent customers from those buckets.
Send them an email. we want to talk to the decision-maker and we'll tell them, “Hey, we'll conduct a forty-five minutes interview with you 45 minutes to an hour. What we're going to be talking about is your journey of making the decision of purchasing this specific product”. Typically we get really nice response.
We would offer an Amazon gift certificate or gift certificates within the same, same store. Oh, you'll always end up with a couple of people who are coming to do the interviews, just because of the gift certificate. That's fine. It is what it is. I'll take that, but the majority of the people who are willing to sit there, and we typically start the interviews by saying thank you for agreeing to this, we're going to be doing a much larger research project about how people buy microphones. This is going to happen probably next year. But until then we wanted to talk to customers who bought the microphones recently. And we want to hear their story. we want to spend about 45 minutes here on really your story, about how you made the decision to buy the microphone.
Now, this is your story. There's no right or wrong and saying it. So as I'm going to be asking you questions, feel free to change your mind, change your opinion. That's the reason, by the way I asked you. when, what day was it? How was the weather? And I would have drilled a lot more. If we have the time, I will get you back to that mental state.
That's the idea, what was the podcast? What were the ideas to get them back to their mental state part of the intro to the interview? I tell them, think of it as a shooting, a documentary, it's a documentary style. I'm the director. At some point, if you watch the documentary. we stop the documentary, the camera zooms in on you and the director is asking you questions.
The cameraman is behind and we're zooming in. What was the day? How was the weather? Was it day or night? Did you get the phone call and... what's amazing, by the way, as you do those interviews, just like how you did just, I don't remember the day. I don't remember looking. I was like, it was a weekday, but maybe it was during the day as you drill a bit deeper, something happens, you will eventually ask a question and you bring the person back to that state.
And it's Oh no, I remember. Yeah. Oh, it was Tuesday. And it was just two o'clock and it was a little cloudy. I don't really care about those details, but I, the minute I see that light bulb go on, I know that I've got... that's a mental state. And typical marketing interviews we would ask people's “Oh, so how was the experience using our product”?
I'm not concerned about that. I do not ask that. that's something else. That's usability. I'm actually trying to capture the mental states of you made the decision, what triggered you? That's number one but then think about the mic. What I would have asked you is to say, so let's go back a little bit.
Further down, the memory lane, when was the first time you actually considered buying a SMB Seven? Do you remember you know why we started going back? Correct? Because there was like a time that's happened that you're like, you know what, maybe you are listening to a podcast, maybe you, and you're like, Oh, I got to do some research.
So people have initial trigger events. Then they go into some sort of passive looking or search like a little bit. Then they go to passive and then there's another trigger event, second trigger event. And that's when you go to active and I'm like, I've done the research. I am ready to convert when you uncover those, initial trigger events that can trigger events, the passive search, the active search.
And you just, all we're doing, by the way, is, was just typically those interviews again, 45 minutes to an hour, we transcribe them. But the words that come. Out of people and how they describe them. I'm like, Oh, this is such a gold mine. I always joke about this on LinkedIn. I also tell people like our clients think that I write amazing copy and I tell them, I don't, it's your own customers who write the copy.
You just take their words and you use it. I'll give you an example. We're working with an SEO company. So one of the largest SEO companies in the US they came to us, they said they want to hire you to help us increase conversion rates on our site. So I'm literally telling them about these jobs to be done.
A CEO is looking at me and he has this look on his face and he's just not convinced. I'm like, okay. So we'll go through this process. And I tried to explain to him, I'm like, it's really powerful. And he's no, I don't think so. I think it's just not good. Two weeks to convince him. Eventually we do the interviews and then I call him and I'm like, Hey, do you mind jumping on those interviews?
He's Hey, he's like Khalid, and he's like, how long have you been doing marketing? Thompson's 2005, 2006.I was doing marketing since 1990. What were you doing in 1990? I'm like, I'm still in high school. I said, okay. I was like all power to you. I'm just jumping on the call. So we do the interviews.
And after the third interview, jump back on a call with him. And I tell him, what do you think we're desiring with emotion, do you know what he's like,” I thought you were bullshitting me when you said, just I'll go. I'll pick you”. It was like, now he said, the value of this is tens of millions of dollars for us.
Now, if you go to their homepage, This is like a typical homepage, a CEO company since 1996, then your headline that's about to go as they thought. And this is, this actually came from one of their clients. They said they thought all SEO companies suck, but then they saw our work. That's literally what he said - Oh, that your company sucks.
But then when I saw the results and I'm like, oh, I'm like, this is a different headline. This is punchy. This is something that stands out. And it took me also, by the way, two more weeks to convince, to consult chemistry class on like shoes. It... he's no, this is too informal. I'm like, you're just a normal human, let's be informal.
Louis: okay. There's a lot to unpack there. That's absolutely brilliant answer, everything I was expecting and more. So you'd reach out to recent customers who purchased in the last three months and you would chat with them and tell them it's like shooting a documentary. I want to know about your mental state when you we're about to take this decision.
And exactly what I described from a neurological perspective described from like, when covering that in an interview, you want to know the actual state they were in and the desired state that they wanted to go. And what prevented them from going into these desired states. so there are two things I wanted back here.
Very importantly, cause we've talked about running interviews on this podcast a few times before, but you've mentioned two things that are incredibly impulsive. From your experience, what are the biggest reasons why folks inside the company don't want to talk to customers? Don't find it valuable.
So you already mentioned one. I think people keep thinking that they know best in their customers, because they have so many years of experience, so they know best. But what are the reasons like emotionally, psychologically speaking that really actually prevents them from interviewing the customer, using the copy.
Khalid: Yeah. I have a friend, Asear Rishi, we've done a webinar with him recently. And then we talk about interviews and I always tell him, I'm like, Rishi, you should do interviews for your clients. First off its amazing money, because it's like, the clients would love you whenever I get from my clients, just that our clients go through the interviews with us because it's just so powerful.
And clients resist because they're worried about clients resists. Usually, sometimes they're worried about what they're going to hear, about their product. And I'm like, first off, we're not going to be talking about your products and that's, by the way, the problem with marketers, we're always still, self-centered like, Oh, we don't want to hear about no.
We're not going to be asking about your product. We're actually going to be talking about the customer and the emotional journey of the customer has nothing to do with you. It's about them, saying. I'm going to fire the previous microphone and I'm going to get the short SMP seven and that has nothing to do with you, but we're still self-centered.
Although we talk about customer-centricity, all that goes to the window flies out the window whenever we stopped thinking about it. So we're worried. And then number two is, and I remember doing this. We don't know how to run interviews correctly and we've got to do them and that we don't get insights out of them.
I can tell you, a few years back and I record all the interviews, I went back and I listened to the first couple of interviews that are like, Oh my God, this is so embarrassing. No wonder there were no insights out of this. and the fact that a client at some point paid for it. And I actually tried to find them some insights and generate a report for the clients.
So being, self-centered not knowing, you know how to run the interviews. I think those are two of the main problems. And then we don't really appreciate the value, by the way, we've been here. I was working with a large retailer and we've done interviews with them. And we came back with recommendations and I still remember their VP of commerce.
And here he was like, “Oh, this is fucking stupid”. Whoa. like we don't really usually get such a response from our clients. And, I asked my partner. She was like called you gotta call him. Because he went ballistic on the findings that we came up with. I'm like, sure, I'll call him. And it usually when I'm jumping to talk to a client is usually when there's a problem.
And when we reach to like, “Is it all okay?” The client is really pissed. I get a call. I'm like, “Hey David, what's going on”? And he's “Oh, this was the worst thing I've ever seen. This is insulting to us. we've been in business since 1932”. And the guy, he's it just shows that you guys don't understand our markets.
It took based on the interview, we made some recommendations, took about a month. Maybe three weeks to convince them to run the testing and then back and forth and insults, we run the test and I still remember his call. He's, he calls me and he's like sorry. He's “I have to apologize”.
I'm like what? He's “I thought, you know what you guys… was just fucking stupid”. I'm like, yeah, he was like, “It turned out I was the fucking stupid guy”. And I'm like, “thank you, David. because lots of people wouldn't admit”. He's “I take my words back”.
I've learned something new. So I always tell people I'm like if you think, you know everything there is to know about your customers, you probably should not be in marketing. You should probably do something else with your life. It's not going to be very interesting as a marketer.
Louis: So that's super important then and something you've touched on before, I want you to know, about, because I've actually heard someone finding the podcast, asking for advice, saying this exact thing it's talking about. I'm afraid of not using jargon in my copy in the way I do stuff because I don't want to sound stupid.
My customers are smart, so I must use all of those buzzwords otherwise they're gonna think I'm stupid. What do you say to that? How did you convince someone that it's the opposite? The buzzwords you use, the most stupid you're going to sound,
Khalid: It's funny because I was speaking at a conference and this big strategy company comes up.
They want an evaluation of their landing page. Now I'm on a panel and I have a gentleman with me who's been doing [inaudible] for a little while and I, he ran it and he gave them some comments about looking at the hero image and testing this, and we need... and then when it was my turn and I told them, I'm like, can I be brutally honest?
They're like, oh, of course, do you have somebody like, with you over here. And he's yeah, I have an old lady who worked with us. So I'm like, okay, let me tell you, here's my feedback, but then I want you guys to do something. Based on this landing page. I want you to write me exactly what a client would expect to get as a result.
And I want the lady who's working with you to write the same thing, like the service that you're offering. Just write it on a piece of paper. And okay, this is very unusual. So I have them write this and I'm like, can you give me the two papers, but before I read them let me tell you something. And this was a bit too risky from my side. I told them, I understand every single word that you have on the page, but when I put them together, I have no clue what you guys offer. So he was not comfortable. He's really, he's what is this? You don't understand?
I'm like, but let me show you how, and then I start reading what he wrote about the service, and it was like a couple of lines of his and his coworkers and they were completely two different things. I told them. So if I didn't understand it, your clients are not gonna understand it, but even worse, you and your coworker did not even understand the same thing because you're using those like big words, like strategy this and innovation that. I know what strategy is, I know what's innovation is, but what I know and what you do are completely different.
Ultimately you're selling to a human and nowadays, we live in an age where people really like, the minute we feel we're being marketed to, we put our barriers up. I do it. You do it. Everybody does. I don't want to be sold to and, I'm super smart. You're super smart. Don't try and sell me. Let's just, let's have a conversation. It's a lot more, it's a lot more interesting now.
I tell you that guy, by the way, after he read this, Oh my God, his face was red. He was very annoyed with me. And I got some really bad reviews that I think it was, Hey, I tried to help, not everybody's ready to accept that.
Louis: All right. So another thing to consider that touches on what you said is the fact that the brain uses 20% of the sugar of the body even though the brain is a very tiny organ compared to others, and we want to use as much, as less energy as possible. And so when you give us words that we can understand individually, but then we don't understand, it takes energy to decipher what it means and what you actually say and whatnot.
And you're already lost when you use simple words, whereas that I would tell myself when you match the words that I'm telling myself, on the website, there's no energy spent you basically talk to me, and it's such an empowering feeling when you make peace with that and stop trying to sound smart and instead sound clear.
It’'s yeah, it's amazing. And I interviewed Joanna Wiebe who was a famous kind of commercial copywriter two years ago, I think, on the podcast. And she said something similar to you, which is, good copywriters, don't write copy, they just steal it from customers. and so I'm just going to repeat that over and over again until everyone understands that this is the way to go, right
Khalid: Yeah. Yeah. it's funny because having to make that transition to saying, you know what, I am willing to use the words that people tell themselves when they're sitting at home, it's tough and you can look at our homepage as a perfect example right now looking... actually for a while, the copy was world-class conversion rate optimization, by the way, that is a classic self-centered marketer, Oh, here I am. looking at my clients, it’s not really care. And we sat there and looked, clients really hire us to grow their business, to make more money. It really is about to make them more money, but I'm like, we can't use that. Copy on the homepage, make more money.
And I was having this conversation with my partner and she's no. She's like you think this VP of e-commerce that hired us, sends the company $300 million. She's thinking to herself, I want to make more money. I don't know, but I know something else. I know the CMO is they're part of an investment group.
They are about $3 billion investment group. I'm like, call me, call him. So I call him, we've been working together now for three, four years. I'm like, Jake, can I ask you a question? And he's yeah, sure. He's like, why did you guys hire us? It’s a very simple comment. We want to make more money.
It's like, why do you think we hired you... get out of ere. I[inaudible] all $3 billion and he's just deciphered it. He's very comfortable saying it. He didn't use big words and jargon. Okay. What changes in the copy on our homepage? We need to speak how normal people speak. And I think that will really help them now.
What's amazing is the minute we change our copy. Look, we get quite a bit of leads for our site, but I can tell you it's almost tripled, by just changing. Yes. it's been incredible and I'm slow down, he’s like, okay, here without an AB test? I'm like, I can tell you.
Louis: What I like about the way you describe stuff is that you're willing to be transparent and honest and say that the advice you give clients are difficult to take, is actually difficult to internalize yourself. It makes sense for others because it's not your baby, not your business. As soon as it touches you from an emotional psychological level, then you have the barriers that stand up. And that's amazing because it's a catch 22 in this sense.
But anyway, it's. it's nice sometimes to use buzzwords. What I mean by buzzwords is that it's important. Sometimes if in an industry everyone talks the same way and even their sales story, they use a specific word like CRO and conversion rate optimization. As soon as everyone in your market understands it, then it's okay not to simplify it or to remove it.
But most of the time, from my small experience, I struggle to find examples where people don't talk about what they want to achieve in simple terms when no one else is hearing it, obviously it's not the same as talking in front of an audience, but when they don't want to sound smart and when we just want to get stuff done, describe so simply they usually use simple words.
Is that your experience?
Khalid: I completely agree. Even, by the way, I think it's mixing the two. Correct? So there is like a little bit of [inaudible] because sometimes people can relate to them, but I avoid jargon as much as I can. and the rule is I'm like, if I can explain it to my mom, and she would understand I would've done well, because sometimes you you think about conversion optimization, what does it mean? It means one thing for me, it means something else for somebody else, And it means something completely different, however, business growth sales through the practice of AB testing, people understand that nowadays most people understand that.
So I'd rather use that. finding that sweet spot is as difficult, but it's also very powerful. If you can have a really powerful impact on the people who are coming to visit your site, I was going to say on the, on your target markets, they're not target market they're people, and then being able to say that, people come and they're not visitors.
They are people. And Oh yeah, they are people.
Louis: There are a few steps in between, and we don't have a huge amount of time in front of us. So let's try to keep it may be to the next step or two, once we understand. Roughly why they bought from a psychological perspective, the real reason why they bought from us, what do you do with this information?
Khalid: Sure. So there's several things that you do and I'm going to summarize them quickly.
First. What we typically do is we'll run what we call an expert review. Now, I already know the motivation is correct, and the emotional side of things, then we'll run an expert to the, and there are two different types of expert reviews. One is usability focused, making sure I click on a button.
What's happens? What's supposed to happen, happens then we'll do a conversion review. So that's persuasion. Are we using the emotional messaging? Are we using the social, messaging on the sites, or the layouts, and then for that, can we evaluate the page layout, the visitor flow throughout the website?
So that's an expert review and that's done typically for some mobile. Second on desktop for most websites, lots of people, lots of times. I see people evaluate the desktop because we're used to it, but really most visitors are coming on mobile. So let's start with mobile. Sometimes we even skipped a step altogether.
It's just not worth it. after you do the expert review, then we look at analytics and I like to call it data analysis. Let's look at the numbers. the numbers will tell us what's going on the website. They don't tell us why things are happening, but where are people dropping off? Just a side note.
I think most analytics analysis is just too rudimentary is embarrassing. I've actually, I've been involved like, in the Google analytics community, since what, 2007 and there are processes that are out there. I had my daughter who was an eighth-grade intern with us a couple of summers ago.
I showed her. How to do a Google analytics analysis. And I'm like, Oh my God, if I'm teaching and an eighth-grader, how to do what most consultants do, there's a problem and it's, that's a whole other episode of that podcast. We'll do the analytics analysis then, we'll take the insights that we got from the jobs to be done interviews. And then we'll launch lots of polling on the website. that's when you know, you see those small pop-ups, we're asking people, what brought you to the website? What's stopping you from converting. Now here's the thing. Polls are interesting because they give you a couple of data points because you're typically asking cold questions from a lot of people so you need to know what questions you can ask. That's when you take those insights that you took from a few customers and you validate them. You're throwing the questions out to lots of people to validate. Okay, what trends are we seeing? We might do competitive analysis. I'm a bit wary sometimes.
Cause some of the clients just copy other competitors constantly. So I'm very wary of doing something like that.
Louis: Generally, the herd mentality is strong with people, right? They can't help it. They can’t help but copy without knowing…
Khalid: Exactly predictable. We just love to copy.
Louis: Let's just dive into, so we're not going to talk about, the usability, a congressional review, no. Are we going to talk about that in analytics? But let's just talk about polling, little calls, mini-surveys on your websites. one thing that I like to do with this is to, to ask questions to folks who nearly didn't convert and because the opinions of everyone and the website doesn't really matter, you can have students like going onto your website, just researching our competitors, looking at you, not everyone is equal on the website, but I'd like to do is looking at asking the questions specifically to people in the area who didn’t convert, spent a lot of time on your site, and then asking you a question, why aren't you buying for example, anyway, from your perspective, what is the number one question? The number one place would you like to place a poll on?
Khalid: Sometimes I like, so we'll ask people different types of questions, motivators. What brought you to the website? I really want to know by the way, because I know I can look at where you're coming from, like using analytics, but really what brought you to our website is very important for me. But, barriers, what is stopping you from converting? Especially if somebody is returning and they have items in the cart and you know how to program the poll to pull that. Those are the people.
Cause they might be doing some research. What kind of flicking information, what kind of nudging? We need to give them to tell them oh, it's time to convert. One of the worst things that happened with lots of e-commerce websites is people come do the research on your website, and then they go and convert on a competing website.
That's how Amazon makes a good chunk of its money, by the way. I was buying an expensive coffee machine. Seattle coffee gear has the most amazing videos explaining the coffee machines. but they have them on their blog and they have them on their YouTube channel, but they don't link them to their actual eCommerce product pages.
I've must've spent a month doing the research and I was going to convert on Amazon. And just before I convert, I'm like, you know what? No, those guys deserve my $350. They've done so much. They did not target me. They did not ask me. They did not ask him. No, what's stopping you from converting.
I've been thinking those answers, doing some analysis, looking at Willis poll, like in a hundred answers, 500 answers, and see what's out of the trends that we're seeing. How can we actually... what's missing from our websites? We might have lots of times people have the right content, but it's in the wrong places nowadays.
You have all the information, but it’s split. Splattered all over the place. bring it all together and in the right place, present it to people and help them make that decision because that's what they need.
Louis: I love that all around. And I think it's, it connects with what I was saying at the start, which is you want to ask folks who are nearly congregating almost didn't because you know that they are showing some sort of intent and interest.
I think that's the one mistake. I see a lot of people doing. When they look at their website, they treat all their visitors to be equal. But it's not, it's never the case. You're never going to try to convince everyone to buy from you. So you would set up a little poll either on the checkout.
Khalid: Yeah. So either on the checkout process, people will have added items to the cart but did not start the checkout. That's something else, So there are different ways. Visitors that show intent. Are very valuable segments, but did not convert, correct? New York converters are amazing.
We love them, but we can also ask them other questions, but the near converters almost there, but not quite so how can I what's missing? What do I need to do to nudge you? Those are a lot easier to convert, by the way, then somebody who just went to the homepage category that never added an item to the cart.
To me, going to the product pages is an indicator. They're interested, you can click on the add to cart to second and indicator. Oh, they're even more interested in starting the checkout. Oh, we have something here, but then they never converted like, Hey, what happened? Come back. Let's have a conversation.
Louis: Just browsing and researching about what to buy and whatnot. And you can almost all the time, 80, 90% of people say, I don't want to buy right now at all. I'm just looking whatever and you can see then how much work it is to convince people to buy from you because that's not part of their, they are not set out to buy from you.
My wife spends an hour and a half, two hours sometimes a day browsing an e-commerce website, looking at the latest clothes. If you're trying to convince her to buy from you, you're going to have a very tough time. So once you understand they're intent, things get easier, right? You can't just try to convince everyone to buy from you
Khalid: I'll tell you something that was really crushing to me. And I was like, we generate leads through our website and I'm like, Oh man, we’ve got to increase… we’re a conversion optimization company we must increase our own conversion rates. I was very excited and we start, that's the first poll it's, Oh, so what are you trying to do?
Why are you visiting our website today? Learn about conversion optimization, learn about digital marketing, hire a CRO company. Yeah. I forgot to look him up. I'm like, let's see, 2% tof he people that are coming in.. and we've done a survey looking at almost like a thousand or even more people, only 2% wanted to hire a CRO company, but I'm like really? not 15%, 80% wanted to learn about CRO sound like, okay, Our visitors want that.
I guess we need to figure out a way to bring some of our block content, categorize it, then help them really learn about CRO. I was hoping it would be a lot, a lot more I'll mention something else, which is an interesting thing. Lots of people go on Instagram. I'm not an Instagrammer.
I cannot figure out Instagram by the way. so funny, but looking, especially ladies and they see all these amazing artists because they follow influencers and then they go on e-commerce websites and they see the products, but it's not the same thing that they're seeing. And then there's this gap.
Correct? Now if you can bridge the gap, that's just amazing, but it's like until now e-commerce lives in one world, social lives in another world. And we talk about looking at how we're trying to merge the two, but it's still not there. Imagine if somebody does that to your wife. Oh my God. That's going to screw up your budget by the way.
Louis: And what I think the happiest with your answers is that you repeat stuff that we've said before over and over again. And you add a lot of depth to it as well. A lot of things, I hadn't heard before the show, so thank you. Before I let you go, I want to ask you two last questions. the first one being, what do you think marketers should learn today that will help them in the next five years, 10 years or 50 years,
So I'm like those two skills talk to customers and copywriting. Oh my God. That can change your life as a marketer.
Louis: Amen. Absolutely. Thank you so much. and last question, what are the top three best resources you'd like to share with listeners today, could be anything from blogs to podcasts, to books.
Khalid: Oh man. So by the way, one of the books that I keep on recommending in every podcast interview I do, The Road Less Stupid. Very powerful. I wish I read it 10 years ago. Probably would've saved me a few hundred thousand dollars. I highly recommend it. If you run your own business, if you're a marketer, it's such an easy read, but it is very powerful because it makes you stop and rethink and recalibrate.
Like how we make so many stupid decisions, so that's one book that's I highly recommend, When it comes to podcasts, I'm like all over, I'm all over the place. I try and keep clicking on multiple podcasts. what I've started to do lately is to move away from business-related podcasts, because that's what I always do.
Read business books and listen to business podcasts. so it's just something working on something completely. Something can be reading non-fiction fiction, even books. That's something like, and I've ordered now, I think 20 books yesterday. I'm like, Oh, this will be a nice break.
Finally, I have to be a little selfish over here. Self-serving so if somebody is interested because we're changing, we're investing a lot in the blog and we're changing the style of the blog where we're relying a lot on looking at tactical examples because it turns out that what people like, we'd love to have people visit our blog, invespCRO.com/blog.
Louis: Awesome. And thanks for mentioning Everyone Hates Marketers on the blog recently. Thank you. Thank you.
Khalid: Thank you for having me. I enjoyed it tremendously.