On Episode 67, we continue our chat with Chris Dayley about converting social media traffic. We discuss split testing, understanding where people are in your funnel, and, of course, data—and lots more. He’s an engaging guy, and I think you’ll enjoy the chat.

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Mark: When you're doing testing like this what metrics are the most important ones? And which ones do you think people don't understand the most?

Chris: Yeah, that's a good question. It really depends on where in your funnel you are testing.

Mark: Yep.

Chris: So in general a best practice is your metric for a split test should be the immediate action you want someone to take. Right so if I am serving an ad-

Mark: Of course that also depends on where they are in the funnel, right? Because you can't expect-

Chris: Yes.

Mark: ... someone at the top of the funnel to buy something, right?

Chris: Right.

Mark: You've got to nurture them down the funnel so ... I interrupted you, but my point there is that it probably depends on where someone is in the sales cycle.

Chris: Right. And so that's what I was suggesting is if I'm doing a split test on my organic posts and the immediate thing I'm trying to get someone to do is comment on my post then that should be my success metric is comments. Right? If I am leading somebody to a blog post then my metric is just going to be clicks. How many people did I get to the page? And if this is a remarketing effort, I'm retargeting somebody that has already been to my site or maybe has already been to my site many times, then maybe at that point it's like okay I no longer just want them to come to my site, they've already been to my site. Now I care about them converting, right? Them filling out the form on my site. And so on that you might have your success metric as actual form conversions.

Chris: In terms of what people don't understand, so here's one of the things that I see the most often that people struggle with when they're doing an A/B test and they're looking at all their metrics, a lot of times people struggle knowing which one to value the most. And so people typically just default to the bottom of the funnel.

Mark: Yeah.

Chris: It's like well the only one that I can really attach an ROI to is purchases on the site. So that's my most important metric and I will sacrifice all other metrics for revenue.

Mark: Yeah.

Chris: Which on some campaigns, if it is a bottom of the funnel campaign, somebody that's already been exposed to your brand, they've already come to your site, they've already viewed products and now you're trying to get them to buy, that's fine if that is ... it's like revenue at all costs. But that is really dangerous if you are using that as your metric. In fact we did that at Disruptive for a long time. So we would show ads to people and we were trying to lead them to a blog post. But all we really cared about was form completions at the time. So we were driving people in at the top of the funnel and trying to get a bottom of the funnel conversion.

Chris: So what usually happens there is now you take your blog posts and you just turn them into a bunch of sales pitches, right? And now your blog posts suck so you're actually getting less conversions and people have less affinity with your brand. I mean your conversion rates suffer over time. Or if I'm like an eCommerce brand and I'm selling a product, what I end up doing is hey I'm doing an awareness campaign. I'm sending them to my homepage, but I really just care about getting them to my product page. So now I turn my homepage into a product page.

Mark: Right.

Chris: So now instead of presenting people with information and giving them options like I would on a homepage, now I am just pitching them and selling them, trying to get them to add to cart on my homepage. Again it totally matters on who your audience is and what stage of the funnel they're in because for some businesses that might work phenomenally well. But that's usually not why businesses do that. Usually they do that just because all they care about is bottom of the funnel. So you need to understand the value of each of your higher funnel metrics.

Chris: So one of the things that I will do with my clients is I will help them back into some of these numbers so that you can assign a value to a click, for example. And assign a value to any other metric in your marketing funnel that you're doing. So for example, again, what you want to do is you want to say, "Okay how many clicks does it take me to get a purchase on average?" Or even, you know, if I'm even backing in more, how many ... out of how many visitors to my site do I typically bring back through remarketing?

Mark: Yeah.

Chris: Right? And so if I bring back 10% ... People that come to our blog posts, I bring back 10% of them later, like a month later or something, and they come back to my site. And then 10% of those sign up or purchase something, then I can start to go okay an average conversion's worth this to me and so let's just start moving backwards in the funnel. What's 10% of this number? Okay, so each click is worth $10 to me. So each click is worth $10 and I have to ... and I get 10% of visitors to my site to come back, then that means that each visitor to my site is worth $1.

Mark: Right.

Chris: You know or whatever. And so you can start to back into some of these metrics. And what that does is that starts to help you gauge some business value off of some of these metrics that don't immediately generate revenue for your business.

Mark: I think what you're doing a really good job of is helping people navigate through the mounds of data that we are all inundated with. And just assigning a dollar value to a click is probably a revelation to some of your clients, isn't it?

Chris: It is. And what it also does is it gives you some things to weigh, right? Because what I might do is I might run an A/B test on an ad and it's like well this one got more clicks, but this one got more conversions, right? A got more clicks, B got more conversions. Most businesses will just default to well I only care about conversions so shut off the one that's taking all the clicks and just give me the one that has all the conversions. But if you have an idea of what all those clicks are worth to you, you can say, "Yeah these didn't generate revenue right now, but guess what? We know that each click is worth $1 to us or $100 or whatever, and so in the big picture this ad actually performed better." Or maybe you'll weigh them and still the one that converted ... that had more bottom of the funnel conversions, maybe that one still performed better. But at least you know what your trade off is at that point. You know what you're sacrificing in order to get those conversions. It's like we could get a lot more people to our site and we're choosing not to so that we can focus on getting the right people to our site. Or vice versa.

Mark: How do you ... That takes some patience, right? How do you get a client on board and say you've got to give us a little bit of time so that we can see some overall trends and assign a dollar value to each click? How do you do that?

Chris: That's probably one of the big struggles as a marketer in general, whether you're in house or whether you're an agency. I'll say this because I've worked on both sides of things. As an in house employee it is so easy to start drinking the like KPI Kool-Aid.

Mark: Or just start drinking in general.

Chris: Yeah. It's usually both. And what I mean by that is you jump into a meeting with the CEO and the CEO goes, "Tell me about our marketing efforts," and you start saying, "Hey we got all these clicks. We got all these ... " You know like you start giving him your spiel and he goes, "Well we need more revenue this month so we need to go figure out what we've got to do this month."

Mark: Right.

Chris: "So go and just get me more sales this month. That's all I care about." And so what you do as a marketer is, even though deep down what you would really like to do is be methodical and data driven, you go, "Okay well I'll be methodical and data driven later. But right now I just have to generate some sales." And so you go and you start focusing on generating sales. And then one of two things will happen. Either you crush it and you generate more sales. And then what people usually do is they go, "Well that was awesome. I'm going to do more of that." And then they leave just like the whole idea of being methodical and data driven in the rear view.

Chris: Or things continue to spiral because you're not doing a great job as a marketer, you're not being strategic and data driven and so you try to generate more revenue and it totally fails. And then the CEO comes back and he goes, "Okay, we've got to completely pivot our strategy. Let's do something entirely different. Let's redesign our site. Let's delete our accounts and just start fresh. We're going to start completely over." I mean, you know, and it's usually not like that fast those types of things happen, but those are the decisions that I'm seeing businesses making.

Chris: And so the benefit that I have kind of as an outsider is I can come in and say, "Yes, I know that you guys need sales right now. And the way that you're going to get sales is by being methodical." And so what we'll do is we'll do a little bit of both. So in order to generate some revenue this month we will do some low funnel hack and slash methods to generate sales. But we're only going to do that with half of the budget. The other half of the budget has to be focused on learning and developing our idea of who the customer is and improving that overall marketing. Because if you don't do that now then three months from now you're going to be either canceling or going out of business or you're going to be focusing on the same thing. Crap, we're in another situation where we just need a bunch of revenue. It's going to be this spiraling cycle. So in order to do marketing well you have to be invested in the long term success. You have to be invested in learning, in gathering data, in optimizing.

Chris: I mean the companies that are the most successful with marketing are the ones that have a more patient approach. And so, again, smaller businesses typically need both and that's where it's just important to have somebody that can very strongly lay down the law of yes we do need both, so we're going to make sure that we focus on both and we're not just going to focus only on immediate benefit.

Mark: So I want to get a little philosophical here. There's a bit of a backlash underway against certain platforms. How do you think that'll play out? How does that play out for consumers? How does it play out for brands and for the platforms themselves?

Chris: Well it's funny because I was just reading an article about Instagram entrepreneurs.

Mark: Yeah. That's a thing. Influencers, right?

Chris: Well so there's influencers and then there's Instagram entrepreneurs, or in other words businesses that exist solely because of Instagram. So they sell a product and the product that they sell, all of their sales revenue or like 90% of it comes from Instagram. Right?

Mark: Yep.

Chris: And so you know the good and bad about that. The good is that seems to be working really well right now.

Mark: Right.

Chris: The challenge with that is we saw this happen with Facebook years ago where people were starting businesses based just on a Facebook following and then Facebook changed their algorithm and suddenly those businesses disappeared.

Mark: Yeah.

Chris: Right? And so the challenge is staying relevant and staying aloof enough or being diversified enough as a business to ... or as an influencer, to not have your entire world crumble based on one change that one platform could make. Because like you said, you know a platform might come out and make some changes and everybody might freak out and leave the platform. And-

Mark: It's like when Google Plus came out five, six, seven years ago.

Chris: Right.

Mark: I remember reading social media posts from supposed influencers, big marketing names out there that you pay big dollars to go to conferences and hear who said, "I am moving all of my social media efforts to Google Plus because of this, this, this, and this."

Chris: Yep. Exactly.

Mark: And how's that working out?

Chris: Right, exactly. That's exactly right. And so one of the most important things, again, this goes back to kind of what we were talking about with split testing. The most important thing to understand is to understand your audience and make sure that you are constantly doing everything you can to understand your audience better. Better than your competition.

Mark: Right.

Chris: Better than you knew them last month. Because this is a big challenge that I see with businesses today. I'll go in and I will ask businesses, "So tell me about your customer. Who's your customer? And what things do they care about?" Well most businesses have a pretty good idea of who they think their customer is. Right, it's like, "Oh we did all this research and we did these focus groups. And hey we've got Sally Saves A lot over here and she does this and this and this." And they have these different customer personas. But the challenge is they're using the same persona today that they did a year and a half ago.

Mark: Yeah.

Chris: And they're using the same information. Or maybe it's new information that they've gathered by talking to their customers on the phone or something. You know or it's like, "Hey, our customer service team tells me what my customers say and so I know what things they care about because I'm talking to my customer service team like every week." But again the challenge with that is you're not really being proactive, you're not really understanding what your audience wants. When you're talking to customer service you're usually understanding what they don't want.

Mark: Yep.

Chris: When you are talking to your active customers, they have a completely different perspective now than they did when they were shopping around. Right and so you're getting a really, really ... a really biased view of what's important to them. You could go and ask your customers, "Why did you sign up with us?" And they'll tell you, but again their frame of reference is now that they're already working with you.

Mark: Yeah.

Chris: Back when they were in the decision making phase they were in a completely different mindset. And so again my point is you have to constantly be developing these customer personas. And you can develop them with a lot of different things. Split testing is one of the best ways because you're not asking someone to tell you what you should be doing, you're trying it and then seeing whether or not they respond to it.

Mark: Right. Yep, yep.

Chris: But you can also do other things like exit intent surveys on your website are a great way to keep developing your customer personas. But again all this comes back to your question which is should people be afraid about these changes on social media? I would say if you are not constantly developing your understanding of your audience and doing a better and better job at speaking to them, at messaging to them, at engaging with them and building relationships, then yeah you should be worried. But if you're doing those things, I mean I've seen hundreds of brands that have weathered the storm on every platform. Like when SEO was falling apart when Google introduced all of their algorithm updates. I remember these like Panda and Penguin updates back in, you know, whatever it was, five, 10 years ago. And people were freaking the crap out.

Chris: But there were some people that weren't freaking the crap out and that was the people that were focused on delivering great stuff that their audience cared about.

Mark: Right.

Chris: Those people were not worried about it. It was the people that were trying to game the system that were worried about it. You know and I've seen people that have weathered the storm through multiple platforms, like you mentioned, Google Plus comes out and people jump on it and then it disappears. And the people that are freaking out is the people that are trying to capitalize on exploiting this new platform and exploiting the algorithm. The people who are not super worried about it are the people that, again, have developed some significant value adds for their audience. Some messaging, some content, some ... You know they just understand the value that their audience cares about because their audience can go and find them somewhere else. You know? They can find them on Google. They can find them through the ads. Find them through a new social media platform. Wherever ... If you're providing value then people will find you. But if you're just trying to exploit something then yeah you can churn and burn pretty quick with that.

Mark: I think it's ... For a company it's kind of understanding what your purpose is and why you exist and then trying to connect with the customers that make the most sense. And that's kind of your mission, understanding why you're kind of in this world. To present your messages to customers who don't want them is kind of a waste, right?

Chris: Yeah. And one thing that I will add to that, because I completely agree with you. One thing I will add to that is it's important to not get lost in your mission. So I have met companies on both ends of the spectrum. One is just the sales at all costs mentality. The other is we're out to change the world and we're doing something that really matters.

Mark: Sure.

Chris: And which it's great to understand that. But don't deceive yourself that that is all that matters. That's where I've seen a lot of entrepreneurs that had really great purposes, like a really great mission for being out there in the world and they had something that was really providing value. But because they were so just focused on their vision, they lost sight of the customer again.

Mark: Sure. And it reminds me of experiences that I've had over my lengthy career of watching user testing.

Chris: Yeah.

Mark: And seeing something that appears to be obvious to us that the user just doesn't even see. So you know a big button that says click here that they just don't see. And that's because a small group of people developing a website, writing content, coming up with messaging doesn't really translate to the user who just comes in over the transom, types in your URL, and is on your site trying to do something very specific that maybe you haven't even thought of.

Chris: Yes. And so the way that I see this playing out for most businesses on their website in particular is we ... You know somebody comes to our homepage and we're selling lipstick and they come to our homepage and it's like, and our message is like, "Changing the world one lip at a time," or whatever, "One mouth at a time." And then the next like three paragraphs of content are, "At Chris' lipstick company, we believe in making the world a better place for everyone and that's why we do this and this and this and this." You know and suddenly like the messaging is not really about the user anymore, it's about we're just so great because we have this great mission and this great purpose and we really are changing the world. And you know maybe some people in my audience really care about that and that really resonates.

Chris: But most likely, and this is what I've seen for most businesses that I work with, most likely it is a ... it's an afterthought. It's something that they would rather see later on in your funnel, like either right when they're about to purchase or right after they've purchased to go, "Oh cool. I really liked this product and there also happens to be a great message associated with this so I like the company." But usually, again, we start making the messaging all about us and what our vision is and what our mission is, when the user wants to see like, "Here's what we've done. This is a revolutionary product and here's why it's revolutionary. And there's a great message associated with it if you're interested."

Mark: Yeah. Well this has been great again, Chris. I can't wait to have you back again when we can discuss even more of this fun stuff. Thanks for joining me, I really appreciate it.

Chris: Thanks for having me on again. I always enjoy our conversations.

Mark: All right, next time Ricardo Osti will be in to chat about the role marketing plays in the customer experience. This episode of Confessions of a Marketer was written, produced, and edited by yours truly. T. Jordan of A-Class Productions wrote the theme music. Confessions of a Marketer is a trademark of Reed-Edwards Global, Inc and this episode is copyright 2019. I'm Mark Reed-Edwards. See you next time.