Today, in the age of Internet, the possibilities of starting an online business reside after every “e-corner” and can become a reality in a matter of days (literally).
However, at the same speed, everything can collapse and turn into dust in just a few seconds. Take some time off and discover valuable insights, exposed from David Crowther a specialist who can help you converting more customers and make more revenue, without increasing your advertising spend.
First, tell us how did you become passionate about web designing? I know that your education was in Sports Management. It’s a pretty interesting switch.
Yeah, it’s not the usual background for someone in the web industry. In fact I never imagined myself having anything to do with designing websites in the beginning. My older brother was into programming and he’d try and explain to me what a database was and what they were used for, but I just couldn’t grasp what it was all about.
In school I was far more interested in sports, so when I left school I studied Sports Management and worked as a personal trainer on the side to earn money.
It was during this time, around 1997, that the internet starting becoming popular and it fascinated me—I was drawn to it. I started designing personal websites and learning how to code HTML from reading books. I always preferred working for myself and I saw the Internet as an opportunity to start my own business.
You are an entrepreneur for over 12 years. What do you consider being the biggest advantage and the biggest disadvantage of entrepreneurship in 2015?
Biggest advantage: how easy it is to start a business.
Biggest disadvantage: how easy it is to start a business.
The opportunities and resources available today are amazing. But that’s also the problem, the shear volume of information can be overwhelming and often causes paralysis.
My wife is a perfect example. She ran her own successful business and when we had children she decided to close it to parent full time. Now that the children are older she’s eager to start a new business, and is considering many ideas that are Internet based. But she’s been doing this for months now and is no closer to starting than she was before.
It’s easy to get distracted by all the opportunities out there. It’s easy to worry about picking the right business to start. As there are so many resources out there telling you how to start and run your business it’s easy to be overwhelmed by your ever growing task list.
So what should you do? My advice, pick something, start quickly and adjust as you go along. The 7 Day Startup book is a great resource for this method.
You’ve built a team of copywriters, designers, developers and optimizers. How do you manage to make them work as a team?
Short answer: culture, processes and tools.
By culture I mean hire the right type of people. While I require my team members to have the skills required for their particular role, what’s more important to me is their attitude and communication skills. I want them hungry to learn new things and not afraid of change. I want them to tell me when they think I’m wrong or there’s a better way to do something.
Also, I don’t want to waste my time micro-managing. I should be able to set a task and due date and just let them get on with it. All this helps build a culture of trust, which is a must have I believe.
Second is processes. One of the best changes I ever made to my business was start writing down a process for everything. A process (sometimes called Standard Operating Procedures or SOP) can be as simple as a checklist, or you can go all out and include images and screencasts. Suddenly by writing down the step by step process to complete a task, I could easily outsource that task to another team member or contractor. And the act of splitting the task into steps and writing them down highlighted the steps I could change or remove to optimize the process.
And finally tools. A good online project management tool is essential. I prefer Trello but Basecamp and Asana are also popular. I’ve also started using Slack for internal communication and I’m loving it so far.
All the occupations above are creative ones. How do you balance your team’s creative flow with actually getting things done within a deadline?
To be honest, this is my biggest weakness as historically I’ve project managed everything. I wanted my clients to be treated a certain way which meant that I was the client’s sole contact for each project.
I’m now slowly relinquishing control and are experimenting with a part time project manager. I’ll let you know how it goes…
Clients and Business
You have collaborated with a lot of people over the years. How did you bound relationships with your customers?
Creating good client relationships comes with practice and experience.
One thing I would say is: be honest. If you’re not sure about something, be honest about it. If you think the client is wrong, tell them (politely of course) that you think they’re wrong. Trust me, saves a lot of hassle in the long run.
You worked both in New Zealand and in the UK. Can you describe us in a few words the differences between clients with different cultural backgrounds? Do they expect different things?
Actually my clients are from all over the world and there are some subtle differences when dealing with clients from different cultures. That said, I’ve found everyone approaches business differently, and it’s my job to get to know the client and work out the best way to communicate with them.
Nowadays everybody seems to be a CRO expert, but doing CRO is a complex job that requires constantly improving your know-how. What is different about CRO in 2015 compared with the time you started doing CRO?
Today, CRO seems to be a lot about data analysis. Everyone wants their marketing and optimizing to be data driven, so if you’re good with number and statistical analysis, that certainly helps.
Personally I think that information architecture, usability testing and even human psychology are just as important. One of the highest skills I rate in my profession today is copywriting. It’s not enough just to know the numbers and what they mean—you have to translate that information into a new idea to test.
17 years ago you created a dating website. It was the first and the largest, at that time, New Zealand’s dating website. What did you learn from this experience?
All businesses take far more work to run than you realise!
It was a real learning experience for me building a new business from the ground up. It was early days on the Internet back then and I had to overcome problems with taking payments online. The banks had no clue. They hadn’t heard of a business that was just ‘online’. I ended up having people who registered on my website send me checks in the mail and having to process each payment manually.
As time went on I managed to automate more of this process, but it was just one of the many problems I faced.
You have over 12 years of experience at NerveCentral, which is a company specialized in Conversion Rate Optimization. Which are the main errors that your clients do before they consult your company and how can you help them get on the right path?
Nowadays I only work with clients who already know they need to optimize their site for better conversions, and know they need help doing it. I think the main misconception that new clients have are their expectations for quick wins.
There’s hundreds of blog posts about successful A/B tests and how much they increased conversion rates for such and such website. The reality is that most of your tests fail. The process is more of a ‘fail’ your way to success and this can take time. It can be up to six months before you start seeing positive results and a return on your investment.
You can read about a great example of this at Quick Sprout.
Some people decide to spend money on online advertising like there is no tomorrow. I read on your site that you’re disagreeing with investing in advertising before you’re optimizing the website, which is a pretty logical concept. But still, how do you manage to convince some skeptical people that this is the only long-term option and what should they really understand?
Normally just showing them the numbers is enough. By increasing a client’s return on advertising spend (ROAS) they quickly see the opportunities that lie before them. Your sales funnel starts with your ad and goes all the way through to the lifetime value (LTV) of your customer.
Often my clients have been optimising the first stages of this sales funnel, the advertising, but have neglected the following stages and that is where I come in.
We recently finished publishing a series of articles on the topic “Igniting Your Startup”. Can you give an advice for startup entrepreneurs who decide to run an online business and want to attract clients in a short period of time?
When you’re starting out, my advice to you is to forget about optimizing.
I know I know, here I am a Conversion Rate Optimization consultant telling you not to optimize. The truth is you need to have a viable business before you can benefit from improving it.
As a startup, there are a million tasks on your plate already. Don’t add to this with unnecessary work. To successfully test and optimize you need a lot of traffic and data, both of which you don’t have in the early stages.
So instead, focus on getting those first customers anyway possible. Do things that don’t scale. Talk to everyone of your early customers and learn about their needs and wants.
Optimization will come later.
How much time does it take, on average, until a client can see a clear return on investment after implementing a complex online marketing strategy?
How long is a piece of string?
There’s no average you can compare your business to—every business is unique in what their goals are, what they offer, what marketing channels they’re focusing on and who their target audience is.
What would you recommend to a client within a low budget to use in order to grow its online sales?
There you have it folks!
We found the words of David being full of wisdom and in case you want to know more don’t hesitate to browse the Internet for CRO, ROAS and LTV. If you don’t want to bother yourself with this indecipherable terms, just ping David.
David Crowther built his first website back in 1997 (yes, the internet did exist then) and has looked back many times since and thought how ugly it was. Fortunately he’s improved a lot since then and now works full time telling other people how ugly their websites look. You can hire David to convert more of your website visitors into customers.
Just remember our Get.Smarter saying: Think. Improve. Work.