TractionSF Conference: Tips on turning data into B2B customer insights

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One of the B2B startup world’s most entertaining presenters and intriguing thinkers, Peep Laja, CEO and founder of ConversionXL, delivered a fast-paced presentation—literally and figuratively—on how to turn customer data into insights and customers at the recent Traction Conference in San Francisco, where he and other experts presented concepts for more revenue and additional users.

Laja opened his session with the provocative statement that B2B professionals focus on process and amateurs focus on tactics. He poured more cold water on the audience, which constantly hooted and whooped, by proclaiming that conversion best practices are simply common practices, all the while strutting and posing on the stage.

CRO blind alleys

To illustrate his point that conversion rate optimization (CRO) tactics are for amateurs, Laja rolled out some startling statistics. If a B2B marketer had to A/B test every feature and widget on just an average web site, it would take seven-and-a-half years to go through the 100-plus CRO techniques that some listicles propound, where each A/B test lasts four weeks. “Listicles of CRO are bull…” Laja says.

Another blind alley that B2B marketers should avoid is the false assumption that if you take a fast follower strategy you can copy the methods of the category leader and expect similar results. For example, just because Amazon achieves a 75 percent conversion rate with its Prime service does not mean that you can do the same, according to Laja.

A worse strategy is to imitate your peers. “Don’t copy your competitors,” Laja says. “They don’t know what they’re doing either.”

Instead of utilizing a me-too angle with CRO, what B2B marketers need to do is take a systematic approach. “If you can’t describe what you’re doing as a process, then you don’t know what you’re doing,” Laja says, quoting William Deming, statistician and management consultant who distilled many principles of manufacturing to improve quality and decrease waste.

B2B marketers need to know what matters in CRO, and the process of discovery enables it. The rest of Laja’s talk went through the process of discovery ConversionXL uses in CRO projects for its clients.

Research

First, for successful conversions, research must be conducted to know what matters. There is already plenty of data available according to Laja. What B2B marketers need is better data. For example, if you were crossing the street, the only data you need to know is if a car is coming. You don’t need to know the air temperature, wind speed and so on, according to Laja. “It’s just noise,” he says.

In reality, data in and of itself doesn’t tell you anything. “You need to figure out what you need to know,” Laja says. “Ask the right questions and gather the right data.” But B2B marketers need to be careful with CRO research. “If you torture data long enough, it will tell you anything,” Laja says.

That brings to mind another old saying from Mark Twain—there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. To avoid believing your own CRO lies and statistics, Laja advises that you work in teams so others can call you on your data.

Testing

Now that you know what you need to know, B2B marketers have to set about testing their web sites. Marketers must test their websites in all popular browsers—including Internet Explorer—not just Firefox and Chrome. Laja cites a stat that conversions on Internet Explorer are half of those on Firefox and Chrome. That’s because some sites are unreadable on Internet Explorer. “The most persuasive copy doesn’t matter if I cannot see it in my browser,” Laja says.

B2B marketers have to walk through their sites and see if it meets customer expectations. Is it clear? Is it full of business jargon? Laja asks these questions because each page on a B2B site should have a specific goal. “We want to increase motivation to take an action,” he says.

After that, identify areas of customer interest, according to Laja. Then the B2B marketer will be prepared to gather qualitative and quantitative data.

TractionSF conference presenter Laja Peep
TractionSF conference presenter Laja Peep

Digital analytics

In this section, Laja reaches the sweet spot of his presentation: figuring out where your website is leaking money. “Fix the biggest leak,” Laja extolls. Measure all the pages, and then based on your research, increase the use of features that lead to higher conversion, he advises. “If you’re not measuring everything, you’re blind when you don’t need to be,” Laja says.

Mouse tracking

When it comes to sites, nothing is as important as mouse tracking. Scroll metrics are also important. For example, using video replays of users, Laja helped one client figure out why its online resume builder had such a high incompletion rate.

When the would-be job candidates got to a section that asked for three references as a mandatory requirement, many more people abandoned the page than finished it. When the video results were brought to the head of the client company, the decision was instantly made to do away with the mandatory references and the problem was solved.

Get into the minds of buyers

The ultimate goal of any marketer—B2B or otherwise—is to know what motivates buyers and make them act on that motivation. “If we don’t know what they’re thinking, we cannot figure out how to trigger them,” Laja says.

One successful technique Laja has employed in mining the mind of purchasers involves asking those who have just completed the buyer’s journey to tell him what almost kept them from converting. “Ask about friction with new buyers—what almost stopped (them),” Laja says.

User testing

With all of the above, a B2B marketer will be ready to test her website. At this point, Laja counsels to take a month to conduct a thorough web audit. “Identify 50 to 100 issues for web testing,” he says. “Identify things to fix and prioritize them.”

By now you will know what to test on your web site. The goal is to create a systematized, teachable, repeatable process, according to Laja. “Then tactics come in,” he says. That’s when you can experiment.

Iterative testing

Iterative testing is where it’s at, according to Laja. For example, if you want to know how many ways there are to increase security on your web page, the answer will be an infinite number.

“You need to test many iterations to identify that way,” Laja says.

Ultimately, you can iteratively test the color and placement of widgets on a site and the conversion rate may go up or down, and you’ll never really know why. But you keep on iterating because you never know what version will win, according to Laja.

“Testing is soul crushing work,” Laja laments. “It’s about discipline and hard work.” Paraphrasing famous bodybuilder and eight-time Mr. Olympia, Ronnie Coleman, Laja says, “Everybody wants a lift, but no one want to do the heavy…conversion research.”

Let’s do some heavy lifting.

For more TractionSF conference coverage, go here and here

Main photo via retentionscience.com 
In-article photo via Derek Handova

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Derek Handova

Derek Handova

Derek Handova is a veteran journalist writing on various B2B vertical beats. He started out as associate editor of Micro Publishing News, a pioneer in coverage of the desktop publishing space and more recently as a freelance writer for Digital Journal, Economy Lead (finance and IR beats) and Intelligent Utility (electrical transmission and distribution beats).