It’s easy to think that conversion is the end goal for most marketing teams, but any business that relies on customer loyalty needs to take a it a step farther. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains a few of the reasons that people we thought were new customers often decide to leave.
Howdy Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I’m talking about some conversion rate optimization mistakes that we’ve made. They’re pernicious and challenging to understand, because we’ve succeeded in one big important aspect of CRO, which is converting visitors into customers. That might sound like a great thing, but in fact sometimes being great at that can be a terrible thing. I’ll talk about exactly why and how.
I’ve seen this at Moz. We’ve had a little bit of a problem with it. I’ve seen this at many, many other companies. I want to try and use Moz as an empathetic example to everyone out there of how these problems happen.
Succeeding at converting visitors into customers is not the end goal for the vast, vast majority of companies, unless you have a product that you know you’re only ever going to sell once, and that will be the only brand interaction that you hope to have with that human being ever or that organization ever in your lives. Well, usually that’s not the case.
Usually, most companies have a relationship that they want to have with their customers. They’re trying to earn that customer’s brand loyalty, and they’re trying to earn future sales from that person. That means building a longer term relationship, which is how CRO can occasionally go very, very wrong.
I’ve got the three primary examples. These are the three types of things that I’ve seen happen in company after company. It’s not just true in software, but software makes a particularly good example of it because we have a retention type model. It’s not just about converting someone, but it’s also about keeping them part of your service and making your product consistently useful to them, etc.
Here’s our friendly Joe Searcher. Joe goes ahead and searches for SEO tools. Then, Joe gets to the free trial of Moz Pro, which you could conceivably get to if you search in Google for that. We often have AdWords ads running for things like that and maybe we rank too.
Then, Joe goes, “All right. Yeah, maybe I’ll give this a spin. It’s a 30 day free trial.” He sees all the stuff in there. He’s like, “All right. There’s the Moz Bar. Maybe I’ll try that, and I’ll set up my Moz Analytics campaign. I see I’m getting some crawl errors and keyword scores.”
Then, Joe is like, “Man, I don’t know. I don’t really feel totally invested in this tool. I’m not sure why I should trust the results. Maybe I don’t know quite enough about SEO to validate this. Or I know enough about SEO to know that there are some little things here and there that are wrong. Maybe they told me to do some keyword stuff that I don’t feel totally comfortable with. I don’t trust these guys. I’m out of here. I’m going to quit.”
Well, that kind of sucked, right? Joe had a bad experience with Moz. He probably won’t come back. He probably won’t recommend us to his friends.
Unfortunately, we also provided a customer with access to our stuff, ran a credit card, and accumulated some charges and some expenses in his first month of use, and lost him as a customer. So it’s a lose-lose. We were successful at converting, but it ended up being bad for both Joe and for Moz.
The problem is really here. Something fascinating that you may not know about Moz is that, on average, before someone takes a free trial of our software, they visit our website eight times before they take a free trial. Many, many visits are often correlated with high purchase prices.
But for a free trial, there are actually a lot of software companies who convert right on the first or the second visit. I think that might be a mistake. What we’ve observed in our data and one of the reasons that we’ve biased not to do this, to try and actually avoid converting someone on the first or second visit, is because Moz customers that convert on the first, or second, or third visit to our website tend to leave early and often. They tend to be not longstanding, loyal customers who have low churn rates and those kinds of things. They tend to have a very high churn and low retention.
Those who visit Moz ten times or more before converting turn out to be much more loyal. In fact, it keeps going. If they visit 14 times or more or 20 times or more, that loyalty keeps increasing. It’s very fascinating and strongly suggests that before you convert someone you actually want to have a brand relationship.
Joe needs to know that Moz is going to be helpful, that he can trust it, that he’s got the education and the knowledge and the information, and he’s interacted with community, and he’s consumed content. He’s been like, “Okay, I get what’s going on. When I see that F Keyword Score, I know that like, oh, right, there’s some stemming here. It might not be catching all the interpretations of this keyword that I’ve got in there. So I give Moz a little leeway in there because this other stuff works well for me, as opposed to quitting at the first sign of trouble.”
This happens in so, so many companies. If you’re not careful about it, it can happen to you too.
Another good example here is, let’s say, Mary. Mary is a heavy Twitter user. She has great social following and wants to do some analysis of her Twitter account, some competitive Twitter accounts. So she finds Followerwonk, which is great. It’s a wonderful tool for this.
She says, “Okay, I want to get access to some of the advanced reports. I need to become a Moz Pro member to do that. What does Moz have to do with Followerwonk? Okay, I get it. Moz owns Followerwonk, so I’m getting to the free trial page for Moz Pro. Weirdly, this trial page doesn’t even talk about Followerwonk in here. There’s one mention in the Research Tools section. That’s kind of confusing. Then, I’m going to get into the product. Now you’re trying to have me set up a Moz Analytics account. I don’t even own and control a website or do SEO. I’m trying to use Followerwonk. Why am I paying $ 99 a month if my free trial extends? Why would I do that to get all this other stuff if I just want Wonk? That doesn’t make any sense, so I’m out of here. I’m going to quit.”
Essentially, we created a path where Mary can’t get what she actually wants and where she’s forced to use things that she might not necessarily want. Maybe she doesn’t want them at all. Maybe she has no idea what they do. Maybe she has no time to investigate whether they’re helpful to her or not.
We’re essentially devaluing our own work and products by bundling them all together and forcing Mary, who just wants Followerwonk, to have to get a Moz subscription. That kind of sucks too.
By the way, we validated this with data. On average, visitors who come through Followerwonk and sign up for a free trial perform terribly. They have very, very low stickiness until and unless they actually make it back to the Followerwonk tool immediately and start using that and use that exclusively. If they get wrapped up inside the Pro subscription and all the other tools, Open Site Explorer, Moz Analytics and Moz Bar, Keyword Difficulty, and Fresh Web Explorer, blah, they’re overwhelmed. They’re out of here. They didn’t get what they want.
The other thing that really sucks is we’ve seen a bunch of research. There’s been psychological research done that basically suggests that when you do this, when you bundle a whole bunch of things together, they are inherently cheapened and believe the value to be less, and they feel themselves cheated. If you buy all of this stuff and you only wanted Followerwonk, you feel like well, Followerwonk must only be worth like $ 20 a month.
That’s not actually the case. Inside the business we can see, oh, there are all these different cost structures associated with different products, and some people who are heavy users of this and not heavy users of that make up for it. Okay, but your customers don’t have that type of insight, so they’re not seeing it. Again, quick conversion has failed to create real value.
Number three, what is SEO? We’re going to have Fred here. Fred’s going to do a search for “what is SEO.” He’s going to get to the free trial of Moz Pro maybe because we were running an advertisement or that kind of thing. Then, Fred’s going to go, “All right. Yeah, that sounds good. I want to do SEO on my website. I know that’s important. Search traffic is important.”
Then, he starts getting into the product and goes through the experience. He has to enter his keywords, and he’s like, “Man, I don’t know what keywords they mean. What do they mean by keywords? I need to learn more about SEO. I’m out of here. I’m quitting this product. It doesn’t make sense to me.”
The problem here is an education gap. Essentially, before Fred is able to effectively use and understand the product, he needs education, and unfortunately what we’ve done is end around and put the conversion message ahead of the education process and thus cost Fred. This, again, happens all the time. Companies do this.
There are ways to solve these. There are three things you can do that will really solve these conversion issues. First, measure your customer journey, not just your conversion path. So many folks look at paths to conversion. You have your reports set up in Google Analytics, and you look at assisted conversions and path to conversions, but you don’t look at customer journey, which is what do people do after they convert.
If you’re an e-commerce or a retail store, you care about this too, even though it seems like a one-time purchase. Do they come back? Do they buy more stuff from you? Are they amplifying? Are they sharing the product? Do you have a good score with them when you ask people on Net Promoter Score like, “Hey, would you suggest or recommend using this service, using our ecommerce shop? Did you have a good experience?”
If you’re seeing low scores there, low return visits, low engagement with the product that you’re offering, chances are good that you’re doing something like this. You’re converting someone too early.
Second, you don’t want to cheapen, mislead, or bundle products without evidence that people will actually enjoy them, appreciate them, and that it matches your customer need, as we’ve done here by bundling all of these things with Followerwonk. It may be the case that this can go one way and not the other.
You might say, as we did, I was like, “Oh, I’m in SEO and I love Followerwonk. It’s so useful for all this stuff. But I wasn’t thinking about the 600 people a day who go into Followerwonk just for Twitter analytics and don’t really have a whole lot of need around other SEO tools.”
So optimizing the bundle one way and not the other was probably a mistake. I think it’s a mistake that Peter Bray and the team are working on fixing now, my mistake that they’re now working on fixing. I apologize for that.
This bundling can also be very misleading. You need to be careful in validating that customers actually want two products, two services, two goods together.
Finally, this is a huge part of how content marketing works. You want to educate before you convert. Educate before you convert and find ways to filter for not right customers.
Imagine if in Fred’s process here, he’d searched for “what is SEO,” and he got to the Beginner’s Guide. Then, he got to the free trial page, and we had identified, “Hey, Fred’s never been here before. He just got done with the Beginner’s Guide when he got to the keyword page here.”
We can nudge him maybe with some proactive suggestions here. But if he goes through and starts entering keywords and he can’t figure it out, maybe we need someone from our Customer Success Team to actually email him and say, “Hey, Fred, is there something I can help you with? Can we set up this process for you? Do you want to have a phone call,” these kinds of things. We need to provide some assistance.
Likely you’re doing one of these things as well. When you get aggressive about converting customers fast and early, yes, you can really juice your revenue. You can turn a low conversion rate into a high one. But you can also in the long run cost your company if you aren’t measuring and thinking about the right things.
Hopefully, you’ll do that and have a great customer journey experience throughout your conversion process. We will see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.
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