How to Design for the Motivation of Your Customers

Adam Saint, co-founder and VP of Design at Bench, talks with us about what design really means to him. It’s far beyond how something looks, and much more about the function of a system, and how that system works best for the intentions of the user. Fascinating discussion around JTBD, experience, and implementation.

Show Notes:

  • Adam Saint
  • Bench
  • JTBD - Jobs-to-be-Done Framework
  • Intro Song by Alex Koch of Digital Dust Studios
  • Outro Song Eli Eli (Maduk Remix)
  • The Persuasion Playbook for Email Marketers

    If you turn your Econ 101 textbook to the first page, you’ll find a definition of homo economicus: the economic man. It’s an old-school way to understand why people make the choices they do. This character is rational, self-interested, and thinks purely in terms of maximizing his utility. Nothing will persuade him except his own economic gain.

    And as any marketer knows, that’s a totally unrealistic model.

    Sure, we all value utility and economic gain, but we also chase rainbows, windmills, waterfalls, and that last cookie in the jar. Assuming that we’re 100% rational and self-interested is a myopic view of what actually motivates people. If your email marketing campaign is governed by this principle, you’re operating from an expired field guide.

    how to email real people

    You need to bring more to the table than a good product or a good deal. You need to persuade people to come and stay at your table in the first place.

    What follows is our collection of 5 motivational principles to help make you a powerful communicator, no matter what message you’re trying to get across. We’ll dive into why these principles are effective and explore lots of ways you can apply them in your emails.

    1. Use Social Validation to Nudge Consumer Behavior

    The “Tupperware party” entered the American vernacular in the 1950s. The idea was simple: instead of hiring strangers to sell kitchen goods, the company offered incentives encouraging housewives to become retailers. Women invited their friends and neighbors into their living rooms to drink tea, eat cake, and talk Tupperware.

    Sales skyrocketed.

    In 1990, researchers at the University of Chicago studied this technique and discovered what the Tupperware Corporation had put into practice so many decades ago: we’re hugely influenced by other people — especially people we know and trust. In fact, liking the hostess of the party influenced women’s decision to buy twice as much as their opinion of Tupperware’s product.

    This principle, of course, extends far beyond Tupperware. When we’re uncertain of what to do—whether it’s how to spend our money or how to act — we look to our friends’ and neighbors’ example. Their actions greatly affect our own, whether we assist a choking victim in a restaurant, whether we pay our taxes in full, whether teens shoplift, and whether we recycle.

    Making a decision can take a great deal of cognitive effort, so our brains are constantly looking for shortcuts. Social proof, or social validation, is your brain’s tried-and-true shortcut, one that’s increasingly handy now that the internet seems to offer infinite choice.

    Show that Friends Are Doing It

    Many companies successfully leverage social validation in their emails. This email from Foursquare brings customers back into their app by telling them what their friends have been up to. The subject line is “Save these 4 spots that Nikki, Alisha, and janelle recommended in New York.” We’re all on a first-name basis here.

    Foursquare social validation email

    And the social validation doesn’t stop there. The email has two sections: one listing restaurants that are trending this month generally, and one for places recommended by people you follow. Dividing the information this way provides a lot of value to customers. It lets them see what’s popular globally and what’s trending within their friend group, giving you two lenses to see what’s cool.

    What’s more, every review in the email is accompanied by someone’s name and picture, letting you know that these are real people, not computers. That small bit of social validation introduces a human element into restaurant ratings and reviews, and makes this email something worth clicking on.

    Foursquare reviews by real people

    Authority Gives Your Argument Gravitas

    Friends are powerful influencers because we trust them. Likewise, authority figures (whether it’s a celebrity, a politician, or a powerful organization) are strong influencers, because we’re more likely to trust them.

    Amazon might already sound like an authority. But even the behemoth online retailer needed to call in the entertainment industry’s big guns when marketing its latest foray: TV production. When Amazon first started making original series, people raised their eyebrows. Sure, they can sell stuff, but what makes them a credible creative force and television studio?

    Amazon had a lot to prove, even to their loyal customers. In this email, Amazon uses the authority of the Emmys to give credit to their TV studio’s show Transparent. The subject line doesn’t explicitly sell readers anything, it’s just an announcement: “‘Transparent’ Wins 5 Emmy® Awards.” The implication is that if the Television Academy likes the show, you should too — and that’s the tack Amazon ends up taking in the body (and preheader) of the email.

    Amazon's Emmy win announcement email

    2. Apply The Scarcity Heuristic to Boost Your Product’s Value

    Aristotle’s point that “What is rare is a greater good than what is plentiful” is something philosophers and psychologists agree upon. When a resource is scarce, we value it more — whether that resource is precious metal or even cookies.

    In one study, researchers examined how much people valued a crowd-pleasing dessert: chocolate chip cookies. When participants saw a jar of 10 cookies swapped out for a jar with 2 cookies, they rated them as more desirable to eat, more attractive, and would pay a higher sticker price at the supermarket … despite the fact that they were all from identical Nabisco packages.

    Note how the only difference was the consumer’s perception of how many cookies were available. This makes it an easy tool to integrate into your email marketing campaigns, as even hinting that something is scarce can be enough to motivate.

    Limited Batch Offers

    Let’s say your products really are scarce — you only have a 100 gourmet snack boxes in stock, or there’s a limited amount of tickets you can sell to a concert before violating fire codes. Use your emails to remind customers of this scarcity! The internet makes it seem like there’s an abundance of everything and an infinity of options.

    Often, this blinding amount of choice inhibits customers’ resolution to buy. Rather than settle for something they just think they’ll like, they want to make sure they’re getting the best possible deal or the best quality product.

    So what’s a marketer to do? Motivate customers to buy now because of the limited supply.

    This email from Student Universe does exactly that. It advertises a discount of $100 on flights to New Zealand, but only to the first 150 people to take the deal. It’s not a huge price slash, given that flights are upwards of $1,000 from the United States. But by indicating that the deal is scarce can get people to commit to purchasing sooner.

    Maybe they could find an even better deal if they kept looking, but a 10% discount looks pretty good when it’s scarce.

    Student Universe's scarcity principle email

    Artificial Scarcity

    It’s also possible to create artificial scarcity — making something seem scarce when it’s actually not. It’s the reason Starbuck’s pumpkin spice latte is such a hit. The company created buzz around an allegedly seasonal drink that in reality isn’t even seasonal. The pumpkin spice latte could be available year-round, but Starbucks knows that creating artificial scarcity will stir more excitement about the product.

    This email from KISSmetrics uses the same technique as Starbucks. They’re offering customers “seats” to a webinar, a scalable product that could theoretically go out to an unlimited number of people without costing them much. What’s more, the webinar is available as an online video on their website after it airs, which means people can access it any time they want. If you take a closer look, the product isn’t scarce at all.

    Kissmetrics artificial scarcity email

    But this email doesn’t mention any of that. Instead, it stresses that the product is limited. They use the language of a traditional venue — “seats” — making readers feel as though it’s a traditional, unscalable event, and the clear call-to-action tells customers they need to register now. Even though scarcity isn’t really there, the copy motivates people not just to act but also hurry if they want tickets.

    3. Trigger An Emotional Response By Using the Framing Effect

    We hate losing, and we love winning. But it turns out these powers don’t have equal pull. In fact, study after study reveals that our fear of losing overpowers our excitement at the prospect of gaining something.

    Understanding how to frame a decision in terms of losses instead of gains is an effective tool in any marketer’s belt and can easily be incorporated into email campaigns. That’s because, as psychologist Daniel Kahneman explains:

    Humans consider gains and losses psychologically rather than logically. A decision maker will select the option with the highest subjective value, whether or not that option provides the highest objective gain.

    We process differently when something is framed in terms of loss.

    Though the neurobiological mechanism isn’t understood, fMRIs of tests examining the “framing effect” reveal stimulation in the amygdala, the part of the brain associated with fear, emotion, and motivation. Stimulating the amygdala by triggering our fear of loss is an incredibly persuasive technique.

    Show Customers What They’re Missing Out On

    Swarm is an app that lets people share their locations with friends. It gamifies checking in, so that users gain points for places they go and things they do. Instead of focusing on all the winning users can do within their app, this email focuses on what you’re losing with the subject line: “You’re missing your friends’ check-ins.”

    Swarm provokes FOMO with this engagement email

    This email instigates FOMO (fear of missing out, which it even defines in the email) by showing what you’re missing by not using their app. Rather than inviting you to join in on the fun, Swarm applies the FOMO lens to play on that common fear that most people have experienced at one time or another: “Is everyone hanging out without me?”

    What’s more, the email gives concrete numbers of just how many people are using the app. 706 new check-ins from 20 of your friends! Look at all those smiling faces in the photo — you’re not one of them! Swarm understands that we consider losses psychologically rather than logically — and this tactic makes particular sense for the company, given their app’s value fundamentally relies on the power of social networks.

    Warn Customers Of Abandoned Shopping Carts

    Abandoned shopping carts emails are another example of this powerful principle of the fear of loss. According to Salescycle, open rates for such emails are “well above 50% and more importantly, conversion rates around 30% across the board (that’s over 3x the rate of traditional marketing emails!).” The cosmetics company VIE at Home got £250 in revenue for every £1 invested on abandoned shopping basket emails.

    Dot & Bo’s cart abandonment campaigns resulted in a whopping 400% increase in revenue. They send one email 2 hours afterward abandonment, and then if you still haven’t completed the purchase, a second email, a day later, sometimes with extra incentives like free shipping. The emails assume you feel some ownership already. Here’s one that says that this white owl lamp is practically mine and it’s just waiting for me. If I don’t take action, I’ll lose it.

    Dot & Bo - this lamp is already yours email

    4. Cement Your Relationship With the Commitment Principle

    When we make commitments to do something (rather than having them imposed upon us), we’re more likely to carry them out. Your copy, therefore, can be more persuasive if you emphasize that there’s a choice in the matter.

    Restaurant owners across the nation are plagued by a common problem: no-shows. By holding seats for customers who never turn up, they lose a great deal of revenue. Efforts attempting to staunch the loss, like demanding a credit card to put on file as a precaution, leave customers angry and even offended.

    But Gordon Sinclair, proprietor of Gordon’s restaurant in Chicago found a way to change his no-show rate from 30% to 10% without snubbing anyone. He instructed his receptionists to stop suggesting, “Please call us if you change your plans.” Instead they were to ask, “Will you call us if you change your plans?” — and then wait for a response.

    By asking for an answer — a firm, specific “yes” or “no” from the customer, the person making the reservation made a commitment. Researchers who looked at Sinclair’s policy shift concluded that by getting a committed response, customers felt a greater stake in the outcome.

    How do you apply this psychological principle to your email marketing?

    Emphasize the Customer’s Agency

    One way is to emphasize a customer’s agency. Remind the customer of the commitment they previously made, no matter how small it was. For example, in upsell or cross-sell emails, a simple “thank you for choosing us” is a simple prompt of the commitment they’d made in the past.

    This email from Spotify reminds users why they’re receiving this update: “You are receiving this message because you are following this playlist.” Because users elected to receive this email, they’re more likely to follow through on their commitment to engage. In Spotify’s case, users might be more likely to actually click through on the email and listen to the new song, instead of ignoring it or even reporting the message as spam and impacting your deliverability.

    Spotify notification email

    It’s why this type of explainer blurb is an email marketing best practice. Reminding users that this email isn’t spam but something they explicitly opted into helps them feel in control and build a sense of trust with you.

    5. Get Your Foot in the Door With the Rule of Reciprocity

    Reciprocity is a norm that exists across cultures and borders. What’s particularly interesting to marketers is that the rule of reciprocity stipulates that any unexpected gift — no matter how small — still registers with us. It’s why smiling waitresses get up to twice as many tips.

    One informative study looked at the payoff of a small gift in the form of a can of Coke. A vendor named Joe asked people to purchase raffle tickets. He gave some of them a soda, just as a favor. When Joe offered people a Coke, they bought twice as many raffle tickets. By creating a small sense of indebtedness, his gift paid dividends of 500%.

    Email marketers are perfectly poised to harness the reciprocity principle.

    Give A Little, Get A little

    We ask a lot from customers. We ask for their attention, for their business, for their “likes” on Facebook. But there’s one thing we ask for that’s notoriously hard to get: the customer survey response. Surveys provide the feedback necessary to give customers a better product or user experience. And they only take a minute. It’s a win-win, right? So why do so many of them go unanswered?

    Because the email requesting survey responses don’t motivate people. The video hosting platform Wistia turned the tables by giving a little gift along with their request.

    Wistia survey request email

    Their gift, fittingly, was a video — a video of the whole team doing the Hustle. It was goofy and fun to produce, sure, but it also got responses. 2,400 people played the video, and they got about 78% engagement. Pretty good stuff. What’s more: over 1,000 people filled out the survey. That’s almost 50% of the people that watched the video. It was enough to get their foot in the door. And it really worked.

    Giving customers something to smile about was enough to motivate them to fill out the survey.

    A Little Extra: How to Compete With Attention Spans

    Why do these little persuasive tricks work? What Wistia, Spotify, KISSmetrics, and other companies understand is that they’re emailing real people — people who didn’t necessarily want to take the time out of their day to fill out their survey, or check out their product, or spend time looking at their webinar. That’s a huge barrier.

    Chris Savage, Wistia’s CEO, understands that today’s marketers are facing a huge challenge: shrinking attention spans. He noted, “attention has become a scarce resource. So it’s on us to figure out how we get attention—and when we do get it, how do we keep it.”

    Chris’s answer: Get creative. But as a lot of brands have noticed, creative, out-of-the box thinking doesn’t feel scalable when you’re a big company. “It feels a lot harder to take creative risks when you’re bigger.”

    But it shouldn’t. The key to battling attention spans is not just to get creative, Chris argues, but to root your creativity in something real, like data or behavioral psychology. Wistia’s survey video worked because it was creative and it understood a fundamental principle about motivation. Your emails need to do the same.

    Hundreds of billions of emails are sent every day. While this may seem like a barrier for email marketers, it’s actually an opportunity.

    A chunk of all these emails are going to be lazy emails—the ones that see their customers as simply as a rational economic being and not a human. They’ll rely on their awesomesauce deal or cool features to demand customers’ attention, time, and money. Their campaigns won’t be creative, they won’t be persuasive, and they won’t be rooted in motivational principles. And they won’t get results.

    Set yourself apart by understanding the humans in front of their inbox.

    Have you used any persuasion principles in your emails? Share with us in the comments!

    image adapted from MoonSprocket via DeviantArt

    Should an early- stage B2B startup meet every customer face-to-face to receive feedback?

    Meet at least as many as you can.

    Some rough rules to think about:

    • Meet every local customer that you can Uber/drive to in the early days … if they’ll take a meeting (a lot won’t want to).
    • The more your product is a “solution” vs. just a tool — the more meetings you should take.  To learn how your solution is really being used.
    • Meet with ALL your top 10, or top 10% customers.  So if you have 50-70 today … if nothing else … meet in person with the Top 5 or so.
    • If nothing else, try to spend 20% of your time with your existing customers.  Everyone spends too much time on prospects, and not enough time with closed customers.

    More here:  SaaStr | Want Happy Customers?  Implement the 5-Visits-Plus-2-Badges Rule.  For Your Customer Success Team  — And You.

    See Questions On Quora

    View original question on quora

    5 Strategies to Personalize Your Upsells and Cross-Sells

    Would you like fries with that?

    Research shows that upsells and cross-sells count for more than 30% of eCommerce revenue.

    As shoppers, we are accustomed to the standard sales tactics. Companies have more products. And they want us to buy more.

    The problem arises when brands force us to buy services we don’t want, and quite frankly, don’t need.

    But SaaS companies face a set of unique challenges. Their profitability hinges on low churn rates and recurring revenue.

    However, that’s no excuse to take the nickel-and-dime approach. SaaS businesses can enhance customer value.

    How? Through upselling and cross-selling.

    And not by taking the traditional path. I’m talking about: personalized upgrades that will add to the customer’s experience.

    Let’s explore five techniques to customize your upsells and cross-sells.

    1. Focus on Timing & Limitations

    Especially in the SaaS market, you want customers coming back. It’s up to your team to not only provide value, but also to give value at the right time.

    Start with who you know. Marketing Metrics reports that it’s 50% easier to sell to existing customers than to new prospects.

    Consider it a natural next step in the customer lifecycle. Use data to identify what problems your current customers want solved.

    Then, demonstrate to consumers how your additional services can help them achieve greater success.

    Upselling to customers at the right time matters. For instance, don’t sell a blog management platform to a company who recently outsourced these duties.

    To turn a single sale into multiple purchases, be well-acquainted with your consumers’ needs.

    Also, try limiting your product’s usage to create extra upsell opportunities.

    Gareth Goh at InsightSquared agrees, “People, by nature, want what they can’t have. If they have reached the limits in terms of how much they can use your product, their want and need for more of it will inevitably spike.”

    Placing customized limitations on your services gives consumers a taste of what you have to offer. Figure out how much (or how little) will entice each buyer.

    Once they notice the value your services provide, customers will ask for more. And that’s your chance to upsell.

    2. Add User-Generated Content

    Building customer trust is one of the main issues plaguing eCommerce businesses. A typical shopper’s mind generates skeptical questions, like: “Are their products really good?” or “Will they return my money back if I’m dissatisfied?”

    That’s why genuine customer reviews bring value to the purchasing process. People want to hear an impartial opinion, not an advertisement.

    User-generated content offers brands the opportunity to supply that social proof. Rather than spending big bucks on paid promotion, let your customer’s social media content encourage cross-sells.

    Yotpo’s data scientists “found that from reviews shared to social, the conversion rate is an average of 40% higher for Facebook, 8.4 times higher for Twitter and 5.3 times higher for LinkedIn.”


    Image Source

    UGC strengthens the trust factor. To shorten the sales cycle, provide customers with reviews of cross-sell items. A section labeled “What People Are Saying About Product X” will work well.

    To deepen the personalization, filter the reviews that will resonate with the customer’s interests. For example, if the customer’s past purchase behavior relied on product quality, offer them specific reviews highlighting this concern.

    Let the data determine your UGC selection and that will increase your likelihood of a cross-sell purchase.

    3. Offer Personal Product Recommendations

    Examine the historical and affinity data of your customers. Then, offer product recommendations based on these trends.

    Words matter. So, speak directly to the consumer. How your brand crafts the cross-sell message will dictate how the shopper responds.

    Customized messaging is powerful. As humans, we pay attention when someone says our name. That’s one reason why Starbucks’ baristas ask for our names with each order.

    At a minimum, your cross-sell language should communicate on an individual level. Use words like: you, your, and yours. This way the shopper can imagine themselves with the product.

    Here is an example from Buffer:


    To kick it up a notch, make it more personable. Identify the shopper by name. This is how does it:


    Image Source

    4. Consider Pricing Options

    Learn your customer’s price sensitivity. If a customer bought a $100 item, they may not be willing to purchase a $1,000 product right after.

    But don’t shy away from trying upsells with payment plans.

    Kissmetrics and CrazyEgg co-founder Neil Patel suggests, “offering your customers an additional product for six monthly payments of $47 instead of a one-time payment of $282.”

    Bundling is another cross-selling strategy. It’s the science of delivering à la carte items into a perfect package that will delight customers. To shoppers, it translates into a bargain.

    Even though bundling doesn’t require learning the theory of relativity, it does require a few best practices to follow.

    For example, products within the bundle should also be sold separately. If the customer can only get the item within the bundle, then it’s a single product, rather than a package deal. Meaning the consumer has no choice and receives no real perceived bargain.

    Recommend items that will fit your consumer’s current budget, not your lofty sales goals.

    5. Remember Customer Support Interactions

    Can your support team spot upsell opportunities?

    If so, they can meet the customer’s needs with product offers. However, don’t abuse this outreach strategy. Give honest product suggestions.

    Disclaimer: All customer support interactions don’t equal a sales opportunity.

    The purpose of a support team is to solve the customer’s problem. As your business grows and problems arise, team members may recognize patterns that can eventually be resolved through your company’s services.

    Groove’s Head of Marketing Len Markidan suggests two conditions to sell in a support situation:

    1. The customer is happy with your service. – Never sell a solution to an angry customer. It only makes them angrier, and your brand looks worse.
    2. The customer’s unmet need can be solved by you. – After solving the customer’s initial problem, did the interaction reveal that more value could be delivered?

    Before Groove ended its Live Chat app, they offered it as a solution to help their customers prevent a constant flow of emails. This typical upsell solved a problem and added value to the customer.


    Image Source

    In the example above, you can see how Mo related to the customer’s concerns. Her response was customized to fit this specific consumer’s needs. She stated the person’s name, created a sense of understanding, and offered to set up a free 14-day trial.

    Monitor your shopper’s needs. Your #1 priority is to assist them with their problems. Then, customize ways to insert upsells into conversations that will help everyone involved.

    Personalize to Sell More

    Upselling and cross-selling are timeless marketing approaches. If used correctly, they can boost revenue growth and increase customer lifetime value.

    To give your SaaS brand a sales reboot, incorporate personalization into your strategy. Amplify user-generated content and consider your pricing when bundling.

    Customize. Upsell. Sell more.

    About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter: @shaylaprice

    Don’t Have an “Exit Strategy”. But Do Have a “Competitive and Cooperative Landscape” Slide.

    A small but important tip and point that merits a little time.

    When you’re fundraising … people do need to know how the heck they are going to make money if they write you a check.

    And really, there are two types of investors.  Those looking to “make money” — traditional angels and the like.  And those that are Unicorn Hunting.

    One slide you can put in your investor deck that will just kill a discussion with Unicorn Hunters is an “Exit Strategy”.  Because almost no matter what you put on that slide will make you look like someone not going for it, not really.  Putting Box up, at a $2 billion market cap as a “potential acquiror”?  Well, Box is great.  But it’s hard to imagine today at least they are going to part with more than 5%, maybe 10% at most, of their market cap to buy anyone.  That sort of puts a present-value cap on your exit there at $100m-$200m, tops.  Tops.

    What does that say to a Unicorn Hunter?

    And really … anyone in their right, rational mind will sell once they go from having not even two cents in the back to millions.  So almost any “exit strategy” at all tells Unicorn Hunter VCs you’ll never build something big enough to make them really money.  More on that here.

    So “Exit Strategy” is a death slide.

    But …

    You still sort of want to do this. Just more subtly.

    Because unless you have a very experienced investor in your vertical, in your space — and sometimes, yes you will — they may need help. To see it all.

    • They’ll need help to see why this can be a Unicorn.
    • They’ll need help to see why you are really changing the world.
    • They’ll need help to see why your crappy little buggy software that barely does anything will be trusted by the Fortune 100.
    • They’ll need help seeing how you can ever get to $50m, $100m, $300m ARR. More on this here: SaaStr | Is $300m ARR the New $100m?

    and really …

    • They’ll need help seeing if their investment will ever be worth anything outside of an IPO.

    So don’t have an “exit strategy” slide. That’s an F.  You’ll building a Decacorn, after all.

    But have a “competitive and cooperative landscape” slide that includes everyone with a valuation > $1.5 billion or so that could buy you.  Do more than just put your 2 little competitors today. Include the big guys and non-obvious candidates that could acquire you for big bucks — especially non-obvious big guys that only make sense once you understand the space.

    That will help.  It will help all us investors dream with you, and see any number of great futures.  Both a Decacorn one.  And a back-up plan where you are “only” worth $100m or $200m or so :)

    SaaStr on This Week in Start-Ups: “The Godfather of SaaS”

    Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 1.36.06 PM

    Ok I don’t know who coined that term.  But, in any event, it was a pretty great session with Jason Calacanis on where SaaS is and is going; why Slack will beat Hipchat no matter what you and I think; and how to spot the very best SaaS start-ups:

    “Jason sits down with the “Godfather of Saas,” Jason Lemkin, to discuss everything from the SaaS (software as a service) industry to angel investing criteria, from Lemkin’s current venture Saastr, to what the field has in store. We learn about the history of SaaS, why we owe a huge debt to Salesforce, and why so few enterprise customers “try before they buy.” The two Jasons further discuss Microsoft’s foray into SaaS, why “lockin” is a myth, the successes of — and differences — between Slack and HipChat, Lemkin’s SaaS investments (including Talkdesk, Algolia), why founders don’t make great VCs, Lemkin’s criteria for an investment (hint: the founder has to be better than him) and Lemkin’s advice on lifetime value to budding SaaS startups. Finally, the Jasons posit what would happen if Google or Microsoft came out with a free Slack competitor (protip: do not get arrogant about your engineers), the hurdles in monetizing a free product, why an acquisition might cost nothing for a big tech company, the mistake many companies made in 2008 and 2009, why choosing the celebrity investor isn’t always the best idea, the sheer volume of startups today — and much more.”

    It went pretty long — we had a lot of fun, and they’ll going to break it up into chunks, but if you want to see the full discussion, it’s below.

    Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 9.49.38 AM

    You can catch it on Product Hunt here, including the podcast if you want that … and the YouTube is embedded below.



    The $100,000 Challenge: October Update

    search traffic

    The seventh month of the $100,000 challenge has wrapped up. In October, overall traffic on Nutrition Secrets was 42,822 visitors, down from 66,743 in the previous month.

    The traffic drop was mainly due to social media. The blog posts didn’t do very well on Facebook in October compared to September. But the overall search traffic is continually rising. For example, October’s search traffic of 25,086 surpassed September’s number of 19,595.

    The interesting aspect of October’s activities is that we finally started to monetize our product in hopes to bring in revenue.

    Here’s how things are looking…


    As you already know, social media traffic is a bit unpredictable compared to search traffic. Although traffic from Facebook is down overall, the number of search engine visitors keeps increasing month over month.


    Because Mike adds content each day. As long as he blogs once a day, there is more content, which increases our likelihood of being found in the search results.

    The issue with the content he is writing is that a lot of it is basic. For example, he is writing posts such as “The health benefits of bananas.” Well, everyone already knows bananas are good for you, so posts like that (which are the majority) aren’t generating much traffic.

    On the flip side, posts like “What happens to your body when you quit eating sugar” are unique, and those are the ones that are generating the majority of the search and social traffic.

    I’ve been trying to teach Mike to blog only on unique topics instead of those that are beaten to death, but he is still struggling with it. Over time, he should get better at it, and I am sure our results a year from now will be great.


    We finally started to make money with Nutrition Secrets. We are now selling fish oil on Amazon (I’m not linking to the product as I am trying to avoiding cheating: I don’t want Quick Sprout readers to buy the product to help reach the revenue goal).

    fish oil

    The key to generating sales on Amazon is reviews. The more you get, the better off you are. We are only at three reviews, and we need over 1,000 to see a real impact.

    The tricky part is you can’t pay for reviews as that breaks Amazon’s terms of service. Nor do we have the financial ability to pay for reviews as we are trying to do this whole project on a budget.

    So, what we are doing is giving away the bottles at cost. Mike is handing out coupons to anyone who is interested in fish oil supplements. They get a good price, and we potentially get a review (you can’t force people to write a review).

    We were also given 28 bottles free when we did the white-labeling deal—selling someone else’s product under our label. So, Mike is also giving away 28 coupons for a free bottle…but that won’t last long.

    We don’t know what percentage of the people who purchase a bottle at cost will leave a review, but we will know more in the next 30 days or so.

    Once we get to 500-1,000 reviews, Mike and I will sit down and focus on adjusting the pitch (copy) on the fish oil supplement page to make it more attractive. If you look at most Amazon product pages, they aren’t written to be persuasive. We think that is a good competitive edge for us, and it should help drive sales in the long run.

    Here is our game plan for the Amazon fish oil product:

    1. Analyze the competition to figure out what the ideal price point for this product should be. It’s currently too high.
    2. Focus on acquiring more positive reviews while following Amazon’s terms of service.
    3. Adjust the copy on the product page in order to maximize sales.
    4. Once the product generates more sales, focus on creating a more attractive label design.


    Over the next 30 days, you’ll see us maintaining the current content levels and handing out more coupons to generate more Amazon sales.

    Now, every time we hand out a coupon, we don’t make any money as we are just breaking even…so, of course, we still have a long way to go to hit the $100,000 a month income goal.

    After a few months of doing this and fine-tuning the Amazon product listing page, we should start seeing natural sales, which will help with the $100,000 monthly goal.

    The goal by the end of November is to generate 30 reviews. By the end of December, we want to have 300 reviews. And by the end of January, we want to have 600 reviews for our product on our Amazon page. If we can hit those numbers, there should be enough traction for the product to generate close to $100,000 in monthly sales.

    So, what do you think of the progress so far?

    How To Use On-Site Surveys to Increase Conversions

    Show a landing page to a panel of experts and ask them what’s wrong with it – everyone will have an answer. Oh yes, everyone will have an answer.

    But how cohesive are these answers? How accurate? How actionable?

    Turns out, even if the panel consists of experts, opinions still aren’t worth the weight of solid research.

    And on-page surveys can be crucial to deriving insights for conversion optimization.

    On-Site Surveys Defined

    I wrote an article awhile back about customer surveys, and while both types of surveys fall under the broad category of ‘qualitative research,’ on-page surveys are different in their goals and execution.

    While customer surveys ask questions from people who bought something from your site (your current or past customers), on-page web surveys ask questions from people while they’re on your site (could be a variety of different segments).

    In conversion research, the big goal is still the same with the two types. You’re trying to identify sources of friction. On-page surveys provide an interesting look at this, because, as opposed to asking about past experiences, you’re getting their feedback as they’re experiencing your site.

    Web & exit surveys are kind of pop-up boxes that appear to the visitor based on certain rules – like time spent on site, number of pages visited, activity (e.g. moves the mouse cursor next to the browser window closing X). This is what they look like:


    What Can You Learn With On-Site Surveys?

    We can learn a lot with on-site surveys. For instance, we can:

    • Uncover UX issues
    • Locate process bottlenecks
    • Understand root causes of abandonment
    • Distinguish visitor segments whose different motivations for similar on-site activity are undetected by analytics
    • Identify demand for new products or improvements to existing products
    • Figure out who the customer is, feeding into accurate customer personas.
    • Decipher what their intent is. What are they trying to achieve? How can we help them do that?
    • Find out how they shop (comparison to competitors, which benefits they seek, what words they use, etc)

    Most of all, however, we’re seeking to learn where the friction occurs in the purchasing process. What fears do they have about handing over their credit card number? What doubts do they still have about your product? What’s stopping them from buying – emotionally, functionally or otherwise?

    Note: there are other things you can learn from on-site surveys, of course, like NPS. There are tons of good articles on those other purposes, so we’ll just focus on the conversion research side of things.

    Using On-Site Surveys To Remove Friction, Increase Conversions

    On-site surveys are critical for conversion research. [Tweet it!] Here’s how Dustin Drees, optimization consultant, put it:

    “dustinDustin Drees:

    “On-page surveys are great for in-the-moment feedback, which means they’re well suited for pages in your conversion path that underperform. What are the key pages on your site with a high exit percentage? What questions do you need to ask to understand why visitors are dropping off on these pages? You can use these insights to inform your test hypotheses later.”

    Take, for example, this case study that Optimizely wrote up on Teespring. Teespring collected qualitative feedback in a variety of ways, including customer surveys, live chat and on-site surveys. Through their research, they discovered that credibility was an issue. Especially because Teespring has an unconventional commerce model (they only ship the shirts once the minimum order size is hit), they needed to bake in extra trust.

    Image Source
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    When conducting user surveys and collecting feedback, they heard anecdotes like: “Not sure if I should give my credit card information,” and, “Not sure if I’ll get my shirt.”

    With this in mind, the team set up a test betweentwo CTAs. The original:

    Image Source
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    And the variation:

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    The subtle change in the variation microcopy ended up increasing conversions by an impressive 12.7%.

    Voice of Customer Research Using On-Site Surveys

    Another inspiring example comes from our own blog – a case study by Jen Havice and Dustin Drees. In doing conversion research for LearnVisualStudio.NET, they discovered that a vast amount (almost 2/3) of respondents considered themselves beginners, and 69.74% of respondents said they were “most interested in finding their first developer job.”

    They tooks these insights to form a basic copy experiment. Here’s the original:

    lvs-first-original-568x327 (1)

    The variation:


    By simply telling visitors who the lessons are designed for (and where the lessons will get them), conversions increased on the Courses (+9.2%), Plans and Pricing (+24%), and Curriculum (+23.9%).

    They then dug deeper into the survey responses and made a few more changes (below the fold copy, CTA, headline, etc), and their variation ended up outperforming the original on the main call to action button above the fold by 66.3%. All primarily fueled by VOC insights from on-site surveys.

    Before Anything Else, Define Your Objectives

    The effectiveness of your on-site survey strategy hinges on clearly defined business objectives. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time.

    So begin with the end in mind. What goals do you want to achieve? Be specific. As KISSMetrics put it:

    “An open-ended statement like “to find out what my customers want” isn’t a concrete goal, because the answers could be all over the map. Questions without a clear objective also make it impossible to create a prioritized list for your team or developers to focus on.”

    Dustin Drees factually considers a lack of clear focus as the largest mistake you can make with on-page surveys. Starting with no clear goal compounds the inefficiency of the surveys:

    “dustinDustin Drees:

    “This is the biggest mistake I see people making with on-page surveys is not having a clear focus on what knowledge they’re seeking with their research. This is a problem because it will create the more common mistakes; asking questions that are too broad in their scope to lead to actionable insights, presenting questions at the wrong time, over-surveying by asking the same question on every page, or asking the wrong questions completely.

    Have a clear focus on the reasons for running your survey, so you can identify the right visitors to ask, in the right spots and at the right time.”

    When to Pop the Question?

    Since you can target when and to whom you’re showing the on-site survey, keep in mind two things when deciding:

    1. Qualifying the visitor (is this a random visitor or someone actually considering purchasing?)
    2. Asking the right question at the right time (e.g. if you ask someone why they didn’t buy right when they land at the site, there will be lots of friction and confusion, and zero insight gained).

    Look at your average time on site and page views per person metrics: ask question from people who have above average engagement (for qualification reasons). One heuristic to follow is to target people just above the average engagement.  That way, you’re getting users at least in consideration of a purchase.

    Ask the right question on the right page. Don’t ask anything about buying on the home page. Rather, ask that during the checkout funnel. Don’t ask, “why are you here today?” during the checkout. You get the picture.

    Which Questions to Ask?

    Avinash Kaushik once wrote about the “three greatest survey questions ever.” The story is that, when asked which analytics tool he’d recommend to a VP on a short time frame, he answered that she should not install an analytics tool. Instead, install an on-site survey and ask these three questions:

    • What is the purpose of your visit to our website today?
    • Were you able to complete your task today?
    • If you were not able to complete your task today, why not?

    He then explained more about web survey strategy in another article, explaining that the greatest wisdom is to be gained from open-ended questions:

    AvinashAvinash Kaushik

    “Any good survey consists of most questions that respondents rate on a scale and sometimes a question or two that is open ended. This leads to a proportional amount of attention to be paid during analysis on computing Averages and Medians and Totals. The greatest nuggets of insights are in open ended questions because it is Voice of the Customer speaking directly to you (not cookies and shopper_ids but customers).

    Questions such as: What task were you not able to complete today on our website? If you came to purchase but did not, why not?

    Use the quantitative analysis to find pockets of “customer discontent”, but read the open ended responses to add color to the numbers. Remember your Director’s and VP’s can argue with numbers and brush them aside, but few can ignore the actual words of our customers. Deploy this weapon.”


    That said, depending on your strategy, there are many more questions that can bring insight than those three. Think about trying to answer two categories of questions, in general:

    1. Why did they come to the site? Does our site match their needs? If not, are we attracting the wrong traffic? Or is there an opportunity here we aren’t capitalizing upon?
    2. What are the sources of friction? This is more specific that “why they didn’t buy” (understanding that is our main objective, but we have many goals to understand the big picture).

    Examples of Questions to Ask

    Here are some example questions you could ask (feel free to changing wording as necessary):

    • What’s the purpose of your visit today? (establishes user intent)
    • Why are you here today? (also established user intent)
    • Were you able to find the information you were looking for? (can identify missnoing information on the site – best asked on product pages)
    • What made you not complete the purchase today? (identifies friction – only ask this as exit survey on checkout pages, and beware that some people are still considering the purchase.)
    • Is there anything holding you back from completing a purchase? Y/N (and then ask for explanation – again, this identifies sources of friction)
    • Do you have any questions you haven’t been able to find answers to? Y/N <– (identifies sources of friction, missing information on the site)
    • Were you able to complete your tasks on this website today? Y/N, and when No is select, ask “Why not” (identifies friction and missing info)

    There are so many different questions you could ask and get actionable insights; it all depends on your strategic goals.

    How to get more people to respond

    There’s not a magic question that resonates with every audience, so you’ll have to experiment a bit.

    Typically, though, there are two ways you can go about setting up your on-site survey:

    1. Ask a single open-ended question.
    2. Ask a simple yes/no question, and ask for an explanation once they’ve answered it.

    The second often almost always works the best for us. As for why that is, it’s probably because of a psychological principle known as “commitment/consistency” (remember Cialdini?). Once the user starts on the path by answering the easier Y/N question, they are compelled to continue by following up with an explanation.

    Here’s an example. Here we asked 2 questions that got almost the same amount of views, but one got significantly more responses:


    What was the difference?

    • Winning question (517) responses: Do you have any questions you haven’t been able to find answers to? Y/N
    • “Losing” question (182) responses: Is there anything holding you back from making a booking? Y/N

    You can’t really extrapolate any universal lessons from the wording here other than this: You need to experiment with different wordings. Some work better than others with specific audiences.

    Here’s another example. We asked the following three questions:

    1. Why didn’t you complete a purchase today?
    2. Is there anything holding you back from making a purchase today?
    3. Do you have any questions you haven’t been able to find answers to?

    Can you guess which question yielded which result? The results are below (pay attention to views/responses ratio):


    The first question performed overwhelmingly better than others. Which questions lined up with which results?

    • The first question (winner) was “Is there anything holding you back from making a purchase today?”
    • Second question was “Do you have any questions you haven’t been able to find answers to?” (worst performer).
    • Last one: “Why didn’t you complete a purchase today?”

    So the takeaway? There are no universal questions that will resonate with all audiences. Our previous winning question performed worst on this audience. Keep experimenting.

    Sometimes small changes to phrases can have a big difference on response rate. For instance, Groove changed their question from “why did you cancel?” to “what made you cancel?” and got nearly double the responses.

    theNo one can know for sure why the increase occurred, but they posit it was because the former was accusatory and put the customer on the defensive. Either way, small changes can be big increases sometimes.

    Mind Your Cognitive Biases

    Just as customer surveys are susceptible to cognitive biases, on-page surveys are as well. Actually cognitive bias can strike easily on both parts of the on-page survey process: creating the survey and analyzing the results.

    For example, confirmation bias causes you to overtly focus on responses that back up what you already think (and you ignore all those that say otherwise). Dustin Drees points out how to avoid some of the common blind spots:

    “dustinDustin Drees:
    Confirmation bias is always a present risk, as early as deciding what survey you want to run, as well as how and what you ask your site visitors. It is hard to avoid preconceptions of what you expect to be wrong with a page, which can skew your questions and lead you to miss signals in the responses. Before running your survey, have someone not invested in the outcome review your questions.

    When analyzing the results, remember that the visitors who participated also inevitably had to choose to participate, which means they don’t represent your entire audience, but only a segment of your audience. This is called voluntary response bias. It is nearly impossible to avoid this bias, but you can minimize the effect of it by being sure you’re asking questions of visitors in only certain moments; asking questions of repeat visitors for instance can be more reliable than asking questions to every site visitor, or presenting your survey at key bottlenecks in your conversion path.”

    Using On-Page Surveys to Fuel a Radical Redesign: A Case Study

    If you’re going to do a radical redesign, at least gather some data first.

    That’s what Crazy Egg did a few years ago. They had an outdated website with inadequate product information, and they wanted to design a better experience for users.

    Before any redesign took place, they used customer surveys and frequent testing to gather insight. First, they used email surveys to ask current users their thoughts on the product. Then they implemented on-page surveys.

    The on-page surveys appeared on multiple pages on their site, and they specifically asked questions catered to the page on which they occurred.

    For instance, if a visitor was going to leave the pricing page, a survey would ask what caused them to ultimately not purchase the service. The hiring page asked applicants which other tools they have tried, which helped Crazy Egg benchmark the competition.

    All of the insights, along with those from tests and heat maps, factored into their redesign. The changes increased their conversions by 21.6% and decreased their bounce rate 13%.

    For reference, here’s their original pricing page:

    Image Source

    The updated version:

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    MarketingSherpa gave the surveys credit for the following insights:

    • Objections people had before signing up for the product
    • How the most valuable customers described the product
    • Features customers were interested in
    • Whether or not customers knew about certain product features
    • Net promoter scores to find the most satisfied customers
    • Differences between satisfied and unsatisfied customers

    As we’ve written about before, if you’re going to do a radical redesign, conduct full conversion research beforehand. On-site surveys are an important part of that.

    On-Site Survey Tools

    The tool should be a secondary consideration to your strategy. Still, there are some options when it comes to tools (or read our huge conversion optimization tools guide, all reviewed by experts)


    On-site surveys are a critical piece in the conversion research puzzle. They help you identify and remove friction from the purchasing process, and increase conversion rate in the process.

    Because you’re polling traffic, and because of advanced targeting and segmenting capabilities of polling tools, you can do a lot of different things with on-site surveys. In this article, we focused on conversion research, primariy on gathering insights to inform experiments. But you can also use on-site surveys for onther things like NPS.

    But, make no mistake: just throwing up a HotJar exit survey with a random question does you no good at all. You must have a very clear goal in mind with your qualitative research, a goal that will inform your execution of the surveys. In addition, keep these ideas in mind:

    • Ask the right question at the right time (important!)
    • Experiment to maximize response rate
    • Mitigate cognitive biases
    • Make sure your on-site surveys fit into and inform the rest of your conversion research efforts.

    The post How To Use On-Site Surveys to Increase Conversions appeared first on ConversionXL.

    I am 13 and aspire to be a venture capitalist. Could somebody give me advice on the best route to take to become one?

    My best advice is actually very similar to what I give folks that think they want to be lawyers.

    It’s — understand what doing the actual job and profession really means.  For real.

    One way to be a VC is to “stumble” into it after being a successful founder, or VP at a hot tech co., etc. etc.  Or to start as an angel with your own money and grow it from there.  That’s not you.

    Another it to start in the industry from Day 1-ish, i.e., fresh out of Harvard or Stanford.  That’s what you are asking.

    Then I’d say:

    • Are you willing to start as an analyst, do cold calls and emails all day, get ignored by founders, and have 0.001% chance of making partner?
    • Are you willing to get promoted to Principal after working your arse off, sourcing a few amazing deals, and getting 0% carry (i.e, profit) in them even when the partners make millions from them … and then leave when you aren’t made GP?
    • Are you willing to defy the odds in a profession without, usually, a real career path?
    • Are you willing to wait about 20 years, really (from age 21 as an analyst) to make “real” money almost no matter how well you perform?  That’s 10 years to get to junior partner at 30 (if you crush it) … and then another 10 to get your first material carry check at 40?  Think about that.

    Don’t think about doing VC because you “like start-ups”.  Join a start-up because you like start-ups.

    Think about doing VC because you want to be a professional investor, and you want to try to specialize in a very nichey-type of investing that has a very long pay back period … and you are OK with that because you think it aligns with your skill set.  Because you can make more money, time adjusted, at a hedge fund or PE shop.  So you should do that instead if your skill set is broader / less focused.

    If this and the above 4 bullet points don’t scare you … then you do understand the industry well enough to think through how to achieve your unlikely but not impossible goal.

    But if this now sounds less appealing than before … don’t start your career in VC.

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