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AO: What’s one unconventional growth tactic you’ve run or seen someone that has worked surprisingly well? 

Chris Yeh: Well, this is actually very much on my mind. It happened recently with one of my portfolio companies and I’ve been working with them on their growth tactics, because like everyone who’s got an online service so much is focused on building out the perfect funnel, creating the best ads, building the best landing page, looking through the onboarding flow, making sure you’re remove friction at every turn. And as a company, they spent so much time trying to optimize things and they got a lot of smart people and that’s all great.

But the unconventional lesson for today that has just been rammed home over the past week is sometimes you have to test the stupid Ideas too. So, when you have all these brilliant people, they’ve read all the blog posts, they’re tuning into the podcasts, they’re picking up different tactics and different ways to go about it. And they took all that knowledge and they used it to build out a set of different landing pages and they created different versions of the landing page. There were versions with animations, versions without animations, versions with different language, more aggressive, less aggressive, so on and so forth.

There are so many different versions they’ve been tuning in for a long time. And they’d gotten to the point where they were getting maybe just minor incremental improvements and even many of the experiments were failing, which is okay because experiments are meant to fail. They’re meant to determine, if you knew in advance it was going to work, you’d just do it. But the sense had arisen that really there wasn’t that much more optimization to be done. And it was at this point and I can’t claim credit for this. I’m not sure if I suggested this or someone else suggested it, but somebody said, you know, people really seem to like our homepage. Why don’t we just use a version of our homepage as the landing page? 

Now this seems like a pretty stupid idea because the homepage again, while it conveys what the company and the service is about, is  not optimized for conversion. It’s fair. It’s got this giant 90 second video on it. It doesn’t have aggressive language. It has  places for you to click above. So you can click away from the page that doesn’t focus everything just on one call to action. So for all these reasons, it seems like it would be a terrible landing page, but we said, Hey, you know what, why not test it?

It doesn’t take much time. We can just throw it into the rotation. Let’s see what happens. Well, we’ve been running this experiment for a couple of weeks now and we’ve kept running it because we couldn’t believe the results. But as of today, when we went through it and there are enough data points now to make the numbers statistically significant, that simple thing using the homepage, the non-optimized, never designed to be a landing page. Something that people thought was a dumb idea, was out performing the next best one by over 70%.

AO: Wow. 

Chris Yeh: Yeah. And again, these are really smart people, growth hacking going through the numbers, running the equations, doing all these different things. And sometimes just doing the dumbest thing works and we have these intuitions, but no matter how good our intuitions are, no matter how much they line up with the stories we’ve heard. The one thing that you gotta do is test, see what the numbers say. And if the numbers tell you, that dumb thing works better, sometimes it’s genius to be stupid too. 

JS: So, Chris what are some attributes that this page had that you think as you were testing it. I’m sure you were testing certain CTAs or areas of the page. Well, what do you think was so unique or drove all this engagement? 

Chris Yeh: So I think there’s something counterintuitive about trying to sell a new service that people aren’t familiar with. And I think the counterintuitive thing is we’ve all been taught, get people through to the next stage as quickly as possible, reduce the friction, reduced the friction, but what the homepage did because it wasn’t designed according to traditional landing page principles, was it actually had this embedded 90 second video, that went over at a very high level, what it was that the product did.

And it might be that when you’re explaining a new concept that people aren’t as familiar with going longer is actually the better way to generate valuable actions, because this worked throughout, it worked both in the sense of clicking through from the landing page to the start of the onboarding funnel. And it also worked in the sense that the percentage that got through the onboarding funnel was actually higher as well. So it may be that by making sure that they felt more fully educated by the time they began the onboarding process, that they were more dedicated, more motivated to actually make it all the way through.

AO: Wow. I mean, this is interesting. What is it telling us about the B2B buyer that we’re working on right now? Every time we think we figured it out, it’s something like this that wins.

Chris Yeh: It is always about the numbers. I mean, we have to have this experimental hypothesis driven approach, but you also have to understand that sometimes you’re testing around and you’re getting incremental improvements, there may be a local maximum that you’ve hit, but there may be a global maximum somewhere else. So I often tell people, Hey, if we’re going to try something different, let’s try something very different. And in this case, what we did was to try something we all thought was stupid.

AO: Amazing. So, I mean, Chris, can you give us some of the tactics on how you are testing? This is more familiar knowledge, but any efficiencies that you’ve been able to do, like the systems that you’re using step by step kind of stuff.

Chris Yeh: No, no, it’s pretty run of the mill stuff, but it’s classic using Google ad words as a source of traffic, making sure that we’re very careful around the negative ad words, because if there’s anything that Google wants to do is to give you more clicks and charge it for them, even if they’re no good. So I would say that part of what has made this successful is we have a search engine marketing manager who has been very diligent about surveying all the keywords, and constantly filtering out the negative keywords. So I think that that’s been a big part of keeping the traffic relatively high quality.

And then beyond that, it really boils down to just being willing to put in the work, to try all the different variations, right? Having that A/B testing infrastructure so that you don’t hesitate to try something different. And now it’s very tempting sometimes to go hog wild in testing. So we try not to draw conclusions for at least a week or two. We want to have a decent amount of data to draw those conclusions. We want to make sure it’s not just something where it happened to be for a couple of days something went wrong. And let me tell you we were recording this while this Coronavirus crisis is going on. And I’ve been warning people, Hey, by the way, people’s behavior may be different right now, if your behavior is different, other people’s behavior may be different. So let’s be extra cautious.

AO: That’s a great point. I was talking to Gillum, also known as G. He was one of the hands of the head of growth at Drift and Segment, and all that. I was talking to him yesterday, and he was just saying right now, during the coronavirus, we have no intent data in terms of IP lookup.

Chris Yeh: No, absolutely true. Everything is up in the air right now. The good news is we haven’t seen significant drops in traffic or anything like that. Again, we’re not a restaurant app or anything like that. So it seems like people are still obviously using the internet quite a bit. In some ways they may be using it even more than they did before. So as long as you’re not in the direct line of fire, this is still a decent time to stay out there. But you’ve just got to recognize the behavior patterns may change again when hopefully we exit this crisis. 

AO: Yeah. That makes it a lot of sense. So, Chris tell us about the way that you ideate, in terms of these landing pages? Is it just someone on the team does it, and they present, Hey, your, here’s the three things we are doing, can you kind of bring us into that room? 

Chris Yeh: Absolutely. So when it comes to brainstorming and again, I’m not the one doing most of this, other people are. I’m just participating. I would say that what I recommend is to split up the brainstorming into two pieces. So, people are often very familiar with brainstorming and they think everyone gets in a room and throws out ideas and we withhold judgment. And that’s how we get more ideas than we filter through the Ideas and find the ones that we want to try. So that’s pretty standard, but there is a twist that I think really helps, which is before you begin that process, I ask everyone to individually, come up with a set of ideas and it doesn’t have to take long, can even just be two or three minutes, but having people come up with ideas individually allows you to get so many more ideas.

The reason is that in a normal brainstorming circumstance, you have these people sitting around a table or maybe they’re on a zoom call now, because obviously we can’t sit around the table these days. And what happens is whoever is the first off the mark to speak or who speaks the loudest and most authoritatively tends to dominate the discussion and we end up doing whatever the CEO wants to do, or the VP of marketing wants to do. In contrast, when you have everyone write down their own Ideas first, and then get all of them out on the table, before you begin mixing the Ideas and iterating on them together, you get a broader range of Ideas and it’s not dominated by the same people every time.

AO: All right. Very good. Well, I mean, this is good. We always try to be efficient with our podcast. So keep that in mind. The last question that I have is just any roadblocks in that ideation process that someone is going to have? Because I think what we’ve really hinted on here is that things are changing. People are different. And sometimes someones stupid idea is what works. So any other roadblocks that you can think of in terms of being able to be okay with trying these new crazy ideas?

Chris Yeh: And so I think a big part of it is having that testing infrastructure and the willingness to put out variations as quickly as possible. And that also involves having a large enough supply of traffic, whether it’s organic or paid in order to actually get some results. So I’ll give you an example, in this most recent company, the CEO was of the opinion, you know what these landing pages, our messaging just isn’t aggressive enough. We need to be much more aggressive, much more in your face about the benefits that we have. And you could have this long debate as people say, well, I heard here at work and I heard here, it didn’t work and go back and forth.

Debating is if that were the dead sea scrolls or something. But my message then was just, okay, let’s try it out. Let’s create a landing page. Let’s create the message. Let’s run the numbers for a week or two and see what happens. And the first couple of days, the numbers didn’t look good. And we said, okay, all right, let’s, let’s keep running it. We ran it a few more days. The numbers look worse. And in the end, there was a situation where the CEO’s preferred messaging was in fact about 30 to 40% worse than everything that had come before it.

Now, if you’re a CEO, somebody argues you into not trying your idea in the back of your mind, you’re always going to be like, but I have that idea, what if it was going to work. You know what, make sure there isn’t that doubt, test the ideas, especially test the ideas of a CEO or whoever is in charge and make sure that they understand that numbers don’t lie. Our intuitions lie, but numbers don’t lie. 

AO: Chris this has been amazing.

JS: Chris, awesome. Thank you.

Chris Yeh: My pleasure.

AO: Boom. That’s it. Another great episode of The One Growth Show , the official podcast of growth marketing conference to learn more about upcoming events, visit www.growthmarketingconf.com and subscribe to the newsletter. If you enjoy this episode, let us know. We’d really appreciate it if you’d give us a five star rating, super easy, just click the last star on iTunes, and also share this episode on social media. After all you want your network to know you’re the person they can always turn to for the best growth and marketing content, don’t you?

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