Oli Gardner on the Science of Landing Pages

Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner has seen more landing pages than anyone on the planet. He’s obsessed with identifying and reversing bad marketing practices, and his disdain for marketers who send campaign traffic to their homepage is legendary, resulting in landing page rants that can peel paint off an unpainted wall.

A prolific international speaker, Oli is on a mission to rid the world of marketing mediocrity by using data-informed copywriting, design, interaction, and psychology to create a more delightful experience for marketers and customers alike.

 

Full Transcript of our Conversation with Oli Gardner

Transcript for Episode 193 with Oli Gardner

John:

Welcome to WP-Tonic. Episode 193. Today our guest is Oli Gardner from Unbounce. Oli, for those who don’t know you, give us just a quick synopsis of who you are and what you do.

 

Oli:

Sure. Thanks for having me on. I’m a Co-Founder of Unbounce. There are six of us, which is weird and awesome at the same time. Based in Vancouver, Canada. Unbounce is a conversion platform for landing pages, overlays, and we’ve got a whole suite of conversion tools coming out soon. Yeah, and I’m mainly a public speaker these days. I ran our marketing when we started the company and now I have the unfortunate job of traveling the world to awesome places and speaking to lots of marketers.

 

John:

Oh, it sounds dreadful.

 

Oli:

It’s just horrendous.

 

John:

I’d also like to introduce my co-host, Jonathan.

 

Jonathan:

Hello.

 

John:

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

 

Jonathan:

Yeah sure. Hi there, folks. I’m the founder of WP-Tonic. We’re a WordPress support maintenance company. We’re your trusted partner, aren’t we John?

 

John:

Absolutely, and I’m John Locke. My business is Lockedown Design. I provide custom WordPress development and SEO to businesses in Sacramento. So, jumping right in, Oli I want to ask, how did you first get into digital marketing?

 

Oli:

When we started the company – I mean I’ve done a million different roles, from developer, designer, creative director. Then when we started the company, we needed someone to do marketing. It’s like, “All right, I’ll do that.” It was a natural progression. Just prior to that, I’d been running a usability team, interaction design, that kind of thing. So, all the experiences that people have. So, it was a fairly natural transition. But I kind of learned on the job though, all the other things. So, like paid advertising, email marketing, all that kind of stuff but you know I build the website, all the right angle of design, all that kind of stuff.

 

John:

Excellent. Excellent. So, for people who don’t really know, what is the big difference between a landing page and just an ordinary page on your website? And why would you need a landing page?

 

Oli:

Yeah. It’s a very clear distinction. Your website is for organic traffic. It’s for exploratory experiences and you search something and that’s where you go. A landing page on the other hand, is for marketing campaigns. If you are doing any kind of marketing, so you do email marketing or PPC, anything like that, that should be directed to a dedicated experience specific to that ad. So that’s a very targeted, relevant experience.

 

 

If you send, let’s say a paid ad to your home page, there’s going to be either a mismatch between what’s going on there, or it’s maybe you have multiple products or services. If you have an ad specifically about one thing and it comes there and you’re making people choose their own venture, trying to find what you’re talking about. Maybe they can’t find it. Maybe they’re getting distracted because there’s too many things and they leave. It’s really about having that really targeted experience that delivers on the promise you’re making in your marketing.

 

John:

Well that leads right into my next question and that is about attention ratio. What exactly is attention ratio? And how does that relate to let’s say a home page versus a enter page versus a landing page?

 

Oli:

Yeah, attention ratio is the ratio of number of things you can do on a page. The number of things you should be doing and if you’re running a marketing campaign, you have one goal. There should only one choice that you can make. One call to action. The number of links on your page is how you can calculate that. On your home page, you may have 80 links. Lots of navigation. Different promos. Different features. Lots of stuff in the footer. All those things can take someone away from where you want them to go.

 

 

Then, on an internal page on your site, it may be a bit more focused about the product that you’re talking about, but again it has all these distractions that can take people somewhere else. A landing page should have no navigation and just one thing to do. Well actually there are certain distractions, like interactive links that are okay. If you have navigation on your landing page, which is internal anchor navigation, so it takes you further down the page … That’s great.

 

 

That’s actually a great experience because it can – it lets people go through the content on your page. It lets them know what there is and it’s still a contained experience. That’s good. When you have that, like a sticky navigation, or something that follows you down, it really increases the depth which people scroll. They’ll see more of your content and that’s sort of the experience. It’s all about not taking someone away from what you’re trying to get them to do.

 

John:

Definitely. Another thing that’s important is when you’re constructing a landing page is having clarity of message. What are some common mistakes that you see people make in their message?

 

Oli:

Not communicating in a way that’s kind of … People get too attached to what they do. What their product does. They think it’s easy to understand and they don’t communicate like your headline, subtitle, all that kind of stuff. The clarity is missing because you’re not communicating a way that’s accessible to your visitors. Which is why, we hear it all the time, voice of customer is important.

 

 

Someone told me a great … Carlos Del Rio, he used to work with us. He had a great idea saying, “Ask your customer to write your headline for you.” Which is brilliant. But what I seen most of all is, especially in software companies, is the mainline headline will be trying to be cute or clever, and if you take it in isolation, this is one of the key ways of testing it, to get in isolation, it doesn’t make any sense. Doesn’t explain what you do. Most people tend to put all of this, the clarity in the subhead. Kind of to make up for … That’s … That’s kind of wrong. You know, you need clarity in your main headline. I see it all the time and if you flip them, you know it can make things make a lot more sense. So really, it’s about having that clarity of communication. Someone can understand what you do in the first few seconds.

 

John:

So ideally the headline for a page should be able to stand alone and communicate the message without any additional text.

 

Oli:

Yeah. I mean you’re going to need the rest of it, to continue to sell someone on buying this. Yet, in isolation it should make sense and it should match your marketing. It should match the ad. It should match what you say in the email. So that people know they’re in the right place because the moment you confuse people and it doesn’t appear in the right place, then there’s a chance, more of a chance they’re going to leave.

 

 

So that’s quite simple. I mean, if you have an email about a certain topic and you have a call to action in your email that says something very specific. Just follow that through onto the headline of your landing page. That connection lets people, it confirms you’re in the right place and lets them just move through the rest of the page there.

 

 

It’s almost like, if you’re an airport. When you get through security, one of the first things you do is you look on the map. Where’s my gate? Once you know where it is, you’re like oh, I’m comfortable now. Now I can go shopping or I can go to the bar, do whatever because I know where I need to go. That’s kind of a calming, you know piece of information. It’s the same thing. If you get to the page and it communicates oh yeah, this is what you’re promising, you get into a more relaxed state if you feel like you’ve been a little bit successful. You’ve got somewhere that’s correct for what you’re doing. Then you’ll explore the page more knowing you’re in the right place.

 

 

I mean if you, some behavior changes because of technology, one way that people search these days is they’ll search for something and then they’ll … Because the browser technology, they’ll hold their finger on the command or control key and they’ll click a bunch of ads, opening pages in tabs. Then they might not even read them all. If the first one looks good, like okay du- du- du- du- da. Then they go into comparison shopping mode, where they look for each tab and that’s why that clarity is so important because if they go … Hmm. What is this? Oh, I don’t know. Close … And you’re done forever.

 

 

There’s a good chance you’ll never go back to that because it just wasn’t a good experience. If one of them is much faster than the rest at communicating it, that’s the one you’ll keep open. It’s about understanding behavior now from a technology standpoint as much as anything. How people are finding you or not finding you.

 

John:

Definitely. That’s the psychology of that of having the message, like optimizing a message. What role does design play in optimizing a landing page for conversion?

 

Oli:

That’s a great question. A lot of that comes down to a similar thing where you should be matching the visuals from your advertising onto the page. But most pages have a primary dominant image. The hero shot. The hero image. Same as the headline. If that can’t communicate what you do in isolation, then it’s not actually helping…right?

 

John:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Oli:

The right way of measuring this is doing a five second test. You can do that online or you can do with your laptop or piece of paper. You know you should someone for five seconds this thing, either just above the fold experience, or image, or headline. Hide it and ask, what does this product or service do?

 

 

If people can’t recall that, after that, then you have a problem and the visuals play a part in that because they may be distracting. You know people look at 90% of SaaS companies online will have a background in use that’s like an overhead shot of a desk with a cup of coffee and a laptop. That doesn’t tell you anything about what they do. It’s just a waste of time. You need something that adds to the experience and makes it clear what’s going on.

 

 

You know, there’s a … You can use tineye.com and put it in the URL of, let’s say you’re an agency, or a contractor, or a consultant and you’re working for a client and they have terrible stock photography as their main image and you try to communicate why that’s a bad thing. You can get the URL of the image, go to tineye.com, and it will search, and it will tell you how many other websites are using that image. That’s evidence. You can go to your client and go, “250 other websites are using this same photo. Do you really want to be that generic?”

 

 

A lot of time when people struggle with optimization or just trying to do better marketing, it’s because they run into these roadblocks with the client, or the boss that they’re resistant to making change because they love what they have. The more evidence you can bring, the easier your job’s going to be.

 

John:

I love as something that you said there is, you’re bringing evidence. You say, if somebody’s got like the generic stock photo. You know you have seen it 18 million times. You could bring evidence in. So that leads me into my next question and that’s about the importance of data in testing. What is a good sample size of testing? If a landing page is working, when do you decide to change elements of the page? And how do you measure that?

 

Oli:

That’s one of the … Excellent question because everybody who starts A/B testing, start optimization, you want to run a test because it’s exciting. Like ooh, I think I’ve got a better idea than this. You know, I can make this perform better. Everybody gets it wrong to begin with pretty much. Hopefully, we’re educating people over time not make these mistakes but I did it. Every optimizer I know did it at some point. Where you start a test and there’s always an immediate spike because the sample size is so low in the beginning, that you could’ve split 50/50 between A and B. If this gets a couple of conversions, even just 3 or 4. Boom, it’s suddenly, it’s winning by this dramatic amount but it’s not the truth. It just hasn’t run through enough times. A lot of people react like oh, it’s losing hardcore…, we’ll take it down. Or it’s winning, yes, success and push it live. It’s totally wrong. You need to be running it for … Well actually you can’t say in 2, 3, 4 weeks. The thing you need to do is use a sample size calculator.

 

 

Just search for that and that will tell you how long, how many visitors you need, how many conversions, how long you need to run it for, because if you have a low traffic site which is a great common problem, you probably can’t be A/B testing because if you put it in there, if you only get let’s say 700 unique visitors a month or something. Your test might take 18 years to finish. To be statistically significant in that case, you shouldn’t be doing it and you should be optimizing by other means.

 

 

Think of it like this, like every company is growing hopefully. You don’t have enough traffic in the beginning but in six months perhaps you will, if your you know, whatever trajectory you’re on for growth. During that time, you should be doing research so that when you do have enough traffic, you have formed a strong hypothesis. You see what people are doing wrong or you’ve run some test for clarity, like some five second test or you just, you’ve watched some user session recordings to see how people are behaving. You’ve done some, put some heat maps on there, use Hotjar or something like that. That’s gathering all this information, data, and evidence. So that when you can run a test, you are ready, so you’re not blindly just testing something based on conjecture or you think you have a better headline.

 

 

I remember when I started, we’d run a headline test or call to action test on our home page. We picked seven different things that we thought oh, this will be great. And we run seven of them the same time, that’s going to take forever. So, you know, we’d look at a low sample size and we’d think one is performing better. We tried switching it in and at the end of the day, we found for the longest time, we couldn’t beat our current headline or call to action. It didn’t matter what we put in there. Perhaps because we weren’t speaking to the actual benefit that we provided to people or because our value prop was kind of simple … Build, publish them, test landing pages, and IT. It’s simple, you don’t really need much more than that. You need to go deeper than that and have really speak to the primary benefits that someone gets from using your product or service.

 

 

Which and that comes down to defining and figuring out your ideal customer because when you can do that you can design an experience for them. We know that there’s a certain type of customer. There’s a certain type of software they use, makes them ideal for us. We can target our marketing, our messaging to the people who have those things because if we get them, they’re worth more to us than other people. The more you can focus on that, the less you’ve spend time, money, and marketing on those who aren’t going to stay with you, you know have the same lifetime values. So that’s a critical way of getting it.

 

 

Along the simple value prop thing … We did an explainer video because everybody needs an explainer video, right? I mean like every design trend that comes along, and this where design is dangerous and powerful when it comes to conversion. When you have a theme, WordPress is awesome. It’s the fastest way … I use it for all my personal stuff. We use it for our website and our blog. It’s great because it lets you get something also out there quickly. One of the dangers though is with the themes because theme designers are sales people. They need to get as many people buying as possible. But they bloat their theme with all these new design trends, which are unproven and can damage the experience and conversions.

 

 

I lost my train of thought, but that’s kind of … Oh yeah, so jumping on the bandwagon. We need an explainer video, I mean they can be great. I’m not dissing them as a concept. It’s just you shouldn’t have one, just for the sake of having one. We did one. It was a live action, with an actor, who at the end of the day we all hated. It was so horribly cheesy and we put it on the home page. We were thinking this is going to change everything. We’re going to convert way better. We’re having so much more money because of this excellent video … And it did nothing. Absolutely nothing.

 

 

In fact, it may have made it slightly worse. But then, you’ve spent so much time and money on this, that you want it there anyway. That’s where the design and data thing clashes and you must be willing to throw something away, that’s not actually helping. Even if it was something you thought was important. Yeah.

 

John:

I love how you put that about sunk cost and sunk effort. One last question before we head to the break. It was something you said in that last segment. When you were talking about knowing your target customer and knowing your target audience. You’re crafting a message just for them and in your example, it was people that use a certain type of software. You knew you can target them.

 

Oli:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

John:

And a lot of people use like social proof. Whether it’s testimonials, or reviews, or some sort of referral, or endorsements, or whatever-

 

Oli:

Yeah.

 

John:

In landing pages. How far does that go in matching up, who you’re using for social proof in your pages, to match in the persona of the target customer, to where they’re going to be like, I recognize that person or I respect that person?

 

Oli:

Yeah, it’s got to be someone that you can relate to that’s relevant, that’s just like you. I mean we target agencies and in-house marketing teams. We want social proof that someone from an agency talking about how Unbounce software is making their life better for them and the success of their customers. Then you can relate and go well, I’m an agency, I want that same experience. The key to great social proof is demonstrating the transformational impact of using your product or service. It’s the whole before and after thing, that obvious thing with like health products but there’s a reason for that and you can communicate that in nicer ways. Using specificity is key. Having the numerical evidence in there. When we started using this, we are seeing a 3X return on our marketing spend, blah, blah, blah. That is the kind of information you need.

 

 

I have this little customer interview script, which I reversed engineered a great testimonial for all the important aspects and turned that into this survey. This interview script, when you interview your customers with these questions, it will give you everything you need to crack that great testimonial because it’s focused on extracting the right kinds of information from a transformational aspect. Hyperbole is a big problem in testimonials where it’s like, “Ah, it’s awesome. It’s so great. It’s changed my life.” Soon as people start reading that they’re like, “Nah, I’m calling BS on that.”

 

 

It’s a problem because if someone reacts that way, has immediately diminished their perception of you and it’s doing the opposite thing, to what you were hoping to do. So never have false testimonials. Never. If you have a great customer or something but don’t … That’s why you need a script to get the right information. If you just say, “Hey, can we get a testimonial?” They might write some things that’s super generic and not what you need. You must really try and extract the most important part of how it’s helping them. Why it makes them feel great. Why they remain a customer. That’s the kind of information that will help you sell through the words of someone else.

 

John:

Now ideally like a script should be like kind of a before like Unbounce and then you know, then I used it, and then after like here’s the transformation?

 

Oli:

Yeah. Definitely. You can also interview people who left you. If they’ll be willing to that because then you’ll get some insight as to maybe what you’re doing wrong or how they weren’t your ideal customer. Because if someone leaves and that’s affecting your churn, maybe you’d get upset about that. You know that’s a bad thing. Not if you figure out who they are and go, “Ha, they weren’t our target anyway.” That’s okay. Let’s continue to design the experience for the people who are and be okay with that type of person leaving because at the end of the day they were only going to stay a few months anyway and that just impacts your numbers in a negative way.

 

John:

No, I think you’re right. I think hearing some of the negative feedback is necessary to make improvements. With that we’re going to go to our break and then when we come back, we’re going to be talking more with Oli Gardner, Co-Founder of Unbounce. (pause for break)

 

 

We’re coming back from our break and I’m handing the mic to Jonathan Denwood.

 

Jonathan:

Oh, thanks John. We’re really looking forward to this Oli. You’re both our fanboy. What do you see like some of the other top people in their sector that we’ve been interviewing recently. To me, there seems to be a contradiction in marketing. In some ways, there seems to be a trend about optimization using bots to gather up, utilizing artificial intelligence. And then there seems to be a trend where you need to be more personal about your marketing, more authentic. There seems to be a contradiction. So how do you see that claim? And what are some of the trends that you see coming up in the next 18 months around landing pages and online marketing in general?

 

Oli:

I think what’s happening now is going to happen in the next few years is machine learning is going to be the differentiator in platforms. That’s what we’re working on right now. We have a predictive conversion algorithm, which can already can tell whether a page … Just without seeing any traffic or anything. Just looking at the words on the page, can tell whether it’s going to be a good or bad page, based on looking at tens of thousands of other pages that are similar. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s getting close. That’s just based on the words. We’re going to be doing visual studies as well, and then we’re analyzing traffic right now, to see how we can combine those to make it even better.

 

 

That will get down to personalization thing because analyzing the information traffic coming in, will help with that. We have a couple of, we have a university working with us … A bunch of people there doing the visual side of the study. It’s fascinating. I think that’s where it’s going to go because … And it’s not like the robots are coming, they’re going to take our jobs. You know there’s some legit fear. You know the Industrial Revolution; the robots came in and the automation people lost their jobs. Marketers are scared that’s going to happen now, but it’s not really the case. The machine learning artificial intelligence, it will just speed up how we get these insights. It can make decisions much more quickly than us and it can be constantly searching for signals and information, presenting that to you more quickly than you can find it yourself – and also surprising information.

 

 

We just put out a benchmark report which is on a study of 64,000 landing pages, 74 million interactions with those and in different industries. The main … The first part of it is the conversion rates per industry. You can look at that for yourself, for your clients and go, “Where do you stack up?” You know because a lot of people, a client or boss will say, “This is not good enough. Our conversion rates terrible.” You can look at this and go, “Actually, we’re in the 75th percentile. This is actually really good. Perhaps we shouldn’t be optimizing this page because it’s good and it’s going to be hard to make it better. Let’s focus on the ones that are low performing.”

 

 

Other stuff in there, was a study like I said, by all the words in your page. Sentiment in motion, word count, and reading ease, and the impact they have on conversion. Because reading ease like the readability on this, how easy it is to understand from different grade levels, say you know-

 

Jonathan:

Yeah.

 

Oli:

Some pages actually need a level of complexity to perform well. Some need extreme simplicity and the data we’re getting is helping us figure this stuff out more quickly. It’s really interesting. We talked about design earlier. One of the big problems … I’m doing a little research right now … One of the problems in marketing teams is how a designer, a marketer, and a copywriter work together. Designers are very frustrated. They’re always being asked, “Oh, can you just make this look good. Look pretty.” Or you know-

 

Jonathan:

Oh, could you make it pop?

 

Oli:

Yeah. Yeah. “Can you make it a little bigger?” Designers typically must wait for the copy to be written before they can do a good job. They’re sitting around kind of working on generic templating, or just putting something together based on the competition, or what was done before because they don’t have the information they need at hand. That’s a broken process. If we can bring data at the beginning of a project like that. A designer can start working like say, knowing the reading ease, knowing that the word count, maybe it’s going to be a short page, knowing that this should be the positive sentiment and high on joy, low on fear, or whatever it is because that’s the stuff we’re seeing in the data. Then they can start crafting a visual experience that communicates those emotions and things like that, while they’re waiting for the copy. They’re not sitting idly by and they’re crafting an experience based on actual data and you know available information, which is a much smarter way to work.

 

 

I think it’s going to help everybody not just the marketer, it’s you know, I mean for a copywriter knowing that you should be reading at the level of grade 4, or 5, or 6, or something. You can go to a site like readable.io and paste your text in there and it will tell you what level it is. It will do some sentiment analysis. You can see what you’re doing. There’s a … I forget … If you search for like BlueMix, IBM Watson or something. There’s an emotion thing you can speak to it and it will … Or you can type. It will interpret what you’re saying and it will show, it has five emotions, and it will show waves of where you’re going in terms of whether there’s lots of joy, or fear. I was speaking-

 

Jonathan:

You can’t be worrying though (laughs).

 

Oli:

I lost your audio. What is up with this?

 

John:

I just want to add to quickly … I know what you’re talking about. I’ve experimented with that very recently with the Alchemy API. Which is tied into Watson. There’s a WordPress plug-in called Watson Finds.

 

Oli:

Oh nice.

 

John:

Which you can use to analyze your pages and using that same technology so.

 

Jonathan:

That’s great.

 

Oli:

Yeah. That’s pretty cool.

 

Jonathan:

You were saying with John about swapping the headline with the sub-headline and sometimes the sub-headline … I totally agree with you. But I wondered if you can just give some tips to our audience about writing headlines because it, you know putting, cutting something down to its core and that it tends to explain what you’re trying to sell or promote is not easy is it?

 

Oli:

No. It’s not at all. It’s getting down to the benefit that someone else perceives, not what you think it is. We did some experimentation on that by doing just little surveys in the bottom corner using Hotjar and Qualaroo. Asking people what the reason they were coming to us was, or what was most important to them. Is it building pages fast? Is it the ability to do testing? Is it to get more conversions? Blah, blah, blah. We figured that out, getting more conversions are what people care about. And then we do more surveys to narrow down the language. So instead of just saying our headline from the past … Build, publish, and test landing page, by IT. Excuse me, because that speaks to one benefit, but it’s not the core one. So now, we’re talking about get more conversions using landing pages or things like that. If you can figure out what to really, really care about the true value they get, and you can use that type of language.

 

 

Doing those quick little surveys, is a great way of understanding what people are looking for and you can just write that into your headline. It’s just a better way of explaining yourself.

 

Jonathan:

All right. Thanks for that. What about video because obviously, you had to deal with these what you see a lot, these explainer videos, but all the online videos seem to be –  

 

Oli:

Sorry. I lost you again.

 

Jonathan:

All right. There we go.

 

Oli:

I’m going to fire someone.

 

Jonathan:

(laughs).

 

John:

So, you’re back.

 

Jonathan:

I’m back. I’m back. Thanks. You had a slight go at these home page videos, these explainer videos.

 

Oli:

Yeah.

 

Jonathan:

But on the other hand, video seems to just to be getting more and more traction. YouTube visitors, Facebook Live, just in general, video marketing just seems to be getting bigger and bigger. Would you agree with that? And how you going to use it in your own marketing and your own platform?

 

Oli:

Yeah, obviously, video is inevitable. But that kind of thing is not something you should just do because everyone else is doing it. You need to do it in the right way. We’ve used video for shows like page fights we used to do. We were critiquing landing pages. That was great. It was a lot of fun. But it didn’t show our product. It was entertaining but so when we canceled that and we did landing page sessions, which is our most powerful kind of things, most successful we’ve ever done. It’s because it was a critique, so it was useful. But it also, I jumped into the app to make the changes I was talking about. People got to see the benefit of our product in use. That’s a powerful use of video because it’s showing why you should use the product instead of you know … You need to use video for the right reasons and put the right stuff in there. Otherwise it might just not be very helpful.

 

 

Also, recognizing not everyone’s going to watch your videos. It’s great to look at the analytics because if only 10 or 20 or 30 percent of the people are actually clicking play, you need to try to encourage more people to do that, or you need to make sure your page communicates sufficiently without them seeing that.

 

 

You can’t just like put it there and think, “Ah, everyone’s going to look at this because everyone wants to see a video.” But then you need to look at the data as well, from places like Wistia showing the type of thumbnail image you use is important for how many people click it. They did a test recently where they had a video image, I think it was in an email but the click rate was like 1.7%. Then they just put a play button on top of it, and it went up by 40% because it was a semantic design. It was designed the way … For what it is. Now it looks like a video because it’s got a play button. Without that, it’s just an image. So those subtle little things you can do, can really have an impact on making sure people … More people will watch your videos.

 

Jonathan:

Now, I’m getting a trend in this interview that one of the key things I think you’re saying to the audience is don’t presume anything when it comes to online marketing, because you’re going to be probably totally wrong. You really got to have a real open mind and test and look at things on a regular basis. Would you say that’s one of the things that people tend to fail? You know they build it and they just leave it?

 

Oli:

Yeah. Research is the single most important part of optimization and making business optimization everything. I like to live my life through an optimization lens. MacGyver-ing is like the most fun thing I can ever do. You know you go to solve a problem, you don’t have a thing that you can use to solve it. Okay, I’m going to build the thing that I can use to solve this problem. You know, I just built a digital photography studio in our basement. And we moved into this house and there was a guy who’d been there for like 70 years. He’s dead now, unfortunately, but he left so much stuff around. These two big workbenches. There’s little bits of wood everywhere.

 

 

So, whenever I have a problem, I’ll be like, ah, okay I can carve something out of that to make this thing work. If you think about optimization that way, in your everyday, you’ll become a better marketer. You’ll be able to just do things in a better way. Yeah, that is one of the most important things is that you’re constantly exploring, trying to get more evidence.

 

Jonathan:

So, Oli, what are some of the people recently that you’ve been watching that’s been influencing some of your views and how the market’s going. What are some of the influences that you’ve been looking at? That you think our audience should also be watching or reading online?

 

Oli:

Hmm. That’s a good question. I’m on the road so much speaking that I don’t pay as much attention to that kind of thing as I should. I get to see some amazing people speak, so that’s where I get a lot of –

 

Jonathan:

Yeah, well what’s some of them … The speakers that you have seen recently that have impressed you? That you think that people could get some value from?

 

Oli:

Yeah. I remember at our conference, Call To Action Conference, which is coming up in a few weeks in June in Vancouver. Matt Sweezey from Salesforce last year, he spoke our conference. He had … What I love, when you watch speakers is they’ll just have these little gems that come in once and awhile. He was talking about authentic marketing. He had a video customer journey and people need different content or experiences as they go through there. He had this great example where on a lead generation landing page, instead of on the confirmation you give them the thing they ask for, this piece of content, whatever. He would give them … Because he was talking about how people become more successful if they get to self … If they get to kind of do it themselves instead of you said, “You should read this or do this.” If they can find their own way, it’s better.

 

 

So instead of the one thing on the confirmation page, you give them three things. Two of that were in line with what they were looking for at the level there, and the third one was the next level of progression towards becoming a customer. They can self, they go, “ooh, that’s also interesting,” and do that. They think they chose it themselves. They naturally get on that path. I thought it was a great little technique.

 

 

I love watching Wil Reynolds from Seer Interactive. He’s just a great kind of human gut-check. When you think you’re doing your marketing right, you listen to someone like that … Like oh, okay, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve got to get back to doing this the right way. I really enjoy watching him speak.

 

 

It’s interesting we were searching for speakers this year, it’s so hard to find people that maybe haven’t been exposed very much, they have a new voice. One of the things I did, I was speaking in Phoenix. It was my first gig of the year, back in February. I’m very competitive. I always ask the speaker [ratings afterwards. I’m very often, like 76% last year, I’m top graded. It was my first gig of the year. It was so good. I had such a great time. I knew I nailed it. I came in number two. It was like ah, who beat me? Damn it. I forgot his name – Tyler Farnsworth. He’s speaking at our conference this year. I didn’t see him speak but I knew I was so good that day that if he beat me, I don’t need to see a video of him. Is he anything worth getting him at our conference regardless?

 

 

So that kind of thing is … That was really cool. So, I’m really looking forward to seeing him. I’m going to, as we’re writing this, speaking I’m going to see … I’m going to apologize to him for not remembering his name. I was going to speak to him-

 

Jonathan:

So, you have the conference … It’s a lot of work running a conference. How do you see the conference really benefit the company? And how does the conference really fit in to what the business is trying to achieve? It’s a lot of work, isn’t it?

 

Oli:

It is huge amount of work but it’s of massive importance. Last year our conference was so good, it was one of my proudest moments of my career. You know our first few great. But this one was really exceptional. It’s really important for building your brand. I mean for us in Vancouver, it’s kind of this shining light of events in Vancouver. It’s important for the city. It’s important for the tech community in the city. You know we’ll have like an even split of half of them will be customers and half will be people who are not customers. You might think, oh, we want all 100% not customers because that’s you know a better chance of getting more customers. That’s not the case. You want that mix of customers because they’re going to sell it for you.

 

 

They’re going to talk about your product with these people and why they love it. Why it’s successful. That’s a much more powerful, organic experience for people to become customers. I don’t know, it makes everybody feel great you know, seeing this massive crowd and these banners outside the theater. We do it at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, which is a stunning, massive old theater. It just makes everybody feel great in the company. It’s something to feel proud of and I don’t know it’s really exciting. I love getting around to this time of year, except I haven’t finished my talk yet.

 

Jonathan:

Don’t worry, we’re not going to take up much more of your time. I think also, you know it’s the same in the WordPress area, you know WordCamps, WordCamp USA. It’s a while your building and it’s an overused cliché now but it’s still … You still can use it with some truth. I think in the WordPress community the WordCamps, WordCamp USA does build community. It does one of the major factors with the growth of WordPress worldwide. So, I can clearly see why you run your own conference because I think it just kind of really builds bonds with your user base –

 

Oli:

Yeah.

 

Jonathan:

Your developers and everybody. Another thing is, now obviously, it’s been a great journey starting a company. It’s not easy. It’s probably one of the hardest things you can do. I’m on my third company now. What would be some of the things that you would say to you, when you were starting this journey that would’ve helped the process, if you had known them at the beginning?

 

Oli:

Sorry. Could you please repeat. I missed the start because it’s cutting out again.

 

Jonathan:

Oh, well you’re lucky. I’m sorry. You know obviously, it’s a long journey.

 

Oli:

Yeah.

 

Jonathan:

If you could go back to the beginning with the experience you have now, would there be a couple tips or insights you could tell yourself that would’ve helped with some of the problems in the journey?

 

Oli:

I used to say that I wouldn’t change anything you know. That I’d go back in time and kiss myself on the mouth and just like … But yeah, I think as a modern marketer, you need a mix of a couple of things to be successful. I think you need to learn how to write. Many people are scared of writing, but you should start from day one because that helps you communicate and that’s going to be better for your whole journey.

 

 

Speaking … I didn’t do it for years. I was terrified but now I do it. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. It makes you a better person. It makes you a better communicator. It’s great for your brand. Know a little bit of coding. Just some simple, even if it’s hacking a WordPress to site to make it a bit more relevant and better for the experience you want to do.

 

 

Those are great skills to have because the more you can do in that way, the better, and of course being data … Data driven is the buzzword, but data informed is more important I think. You know we can’t let go of our creativity. So, we should use data to inform our decisions. Having that mindset early on is important. Obviously, we did, because of the product we’re building. So, we were always very data-centric but not everybody is and I think it’s important.

 

Jonathan:

One final question and then I’ll throw over to John and see if he’s got one. Is that you know, we have a very broad audience of business owners, designers, consultants, developers … All in the digital world with a focus on WordPress. As it’s slightly outside to the WordPress community, what are some of the strengths and weaknesses that you’ve probably observed about WordPress?

 

Oli:

I think the strength is that anyone can get something set up quickly. Which is amazing for a start-up or something. You can have a website up in a day. The danger is, like I was mentioning about some of the themes is that you can have … You can create a bad experience accidentally, or without even knowing it because you might not be an expert in interaction design and behavior. So, I think that’s definitely one  of the problems with it. People get, you know fall in love with having all these flashy things.

 

 

One of the worst examples is scroll jacking, where someone thought it was a great idea to try and take over the scrolling of your page. Which is just, it’s just absolutely the worst … That’s something that’s been you know, was figured out 20 years ago, when the browsers were invented. Don’t try and change that. It’s like when you try and scroll, it does it for you and it’s moving and you’re like ugh, and you can’t get to where you want to go and it’s so infuriating. When I see any page or site like that, I leave immediately. I’m just like you’re doing it wrong. I can’t stand this. Or I record a video and I put it in a talk. Which is more often than not.

 

Jonathan:

Great answer. John, you got any final question? Before we start wrapping it up John?

 

John:

One final question, I know that you pride yourself on being an exceptional speaker and presenter. At every event you try and outshine everyone else. What are some tips that you would give to people going out and speaking and just learning how to do that?

 

Oli:

I would read, How To Deliver A TED Talk, by Jeremy Donovan. There are many out there, that’s the best. It’s a fantastic … He analyzed and kind of reverse engineered a little bit I guess a lot of TED Talks, why they’re successful. I get some great structural stuff in there. That’s what I … I read that when I started doing this. And then I also, I watch a TED Talk every day on my commute to work. Which just happen to be 18 minutes on the bus and most TED Talks run for 18 minutes. So, by the time I got to work, I was like I’m going to change the world!

 

 

I was learning and this one Australian guy about hand gestures and how the way you use your hands can communicate differently to audience. Search for that one because it’s incredible. By having palms up, is a friendlier approach on people who will be more receptive for you. As oppose to, if you have it palms down, or you’re pointing and things like that. It’s just a fact. These little things are you know … There’s another, ugh, I don’t know just watching that kind of thing can really help inspire you to do the right thing and practice a lot. You should care about the craft about trying to get better. You know that’s an important aspect.

 

John:

Nah, I love that. I love the dialogue about the hands and stuff. That’s very much like how the Roman orators taught the emperors how to speak and stuff like that. So, with that we’ll let everybody know how they can find you. Oli, how do we find you online? And anything that you would like us to check out?

 

Oli:

Oli Gardner on Twitter. It’s the best and fastest way usually. I’m very responsive on there. So, I would just say that’s the best way to reach out. I think, yeah … When’s this going live? Is it going to be soon?

 

John:

It’ll be like, what is it like?

 

Jonathan:

Saturday.

 

John:

Saturday.

 

Oli:

Okay, that’s cool.

 

John:

We turn these around like (snap).

 

Oli:

That’s awesome. June 25th – 27th in Vancouver our Call To Action Conference. It’s going to be amazing this year. Tyler Farnsworth was the name of the guy.

 

Jonathan:

Oh.

 

John:

Okay. We’ll link all this stuff up in show notes as well.

 

Oli:

Yeah, and search for our Conversion Benchmark Report. The data in that is fascinating. It can really help and it’s new marketing.

 

John:

Excellent. Jonathan, how do we get a hold of you? Anything you want us to check out?

 

Jonathan:

Oh no, I’m easy to find folks. If you do Jonathan Denwood in search, I’m all over there. I’m on Twitter @JonathanDenwood. On Facebook. Or you could use the email, [email protected] If you send me a personal message, you’ll get a personal reply. We love feedback. Give us a review on iTunes but we love feedback from the audience about if you enjoyed this interview. I hoped you enjoyed it. What some of the things you would like us to speakers and what would you like us to discuss that would help you? Wouldn’t we John?

 

John:

Definitely, and you can find me at lockedowndesign.com. You can find me on Twitter, I’m Lockedown_ Just follow my Facebook page, that’s Lockdown Design. Don’t forget in Episode 194, we’ve got coming up, we’re going to have a discussion on useful WordPress plug-ins. Episode 195, we’re going to be talking to Bill Gadless from emagine. And Episode 197, we’re going to be talking with Amy Porterfield. So those are some episodes to check out for the WP-Tonic we’re saying, peace out and get your dose.

 

Transcript for Episode 193 with Oli Gardner was last modified: by

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