Unbounce Co-Founder Oli Gardner has seen more landing pages than anyone on the planet. His disdain for marketers who send campaign traffic to their homepage is legendary. A prolific webinar guest and writer, he speaks internationally about Conversion-Centered Design. Oli is on a mission to help marketers combine data and design to create high-converting and delightful marketing experiences. When not trying to rewire conversion methodology, Oli spends his time mulling over ideas like legally changing his name to “Landing Page” to garner extra SEO love from his guest post bio. He was recently named the “The 2015 Marketer to Watch,” in the under 43 category, by his mother.
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Oli Gardner – co-founder of Unbounce – Transcript
Oli Gardner is the co-founder of Unbounce. It’s been said that he has seen more landing pages than anyone on the planet.
The AMA with Oli was held on December 7th, 2015. This transcript has been edited for punctuation, grammar, etc.
Hi everyone! Great to be here for the AMA. You can ask me absolutely anything, and here are a few topics if you need a kicking off point: Landing pages, conversion optimization, content marketing, startups, SaaS, public speaking, writing, photography, and marketing in general.
Button colour – how important?
Not really all that important. It’s much more important to make sure the colour contrasts with the rest of the page, so it stands out. And also, to have strong affordance so it actually looks clickable.
Many colours can cause strain and distract people. If you can stick to a few main colours on your pages (white/black/2 brand colours/unique colour for CTA) you’ll be in a good spot.
I’m inspired by Unbounce’s content marketing efforts. I’m curious to learn how Unbounce kickstarted the process and achieved success over the chicken-and-egg problem of not having an audience to begin with. A company I work with has been a sales-first organization and it stands mostly on outbound today. I have a great strategy for educating leads – and a great process for creating the content – but I’m mostly concerned with publishing and hoping. What’s your take?
Really when we started, it was all about having the courage to go big. And to believe that it would all work out. It started in a couple of ways. I created our first ebook in 24 hours to do lead gen (2 hr brainstorm followed by all night writing session). I wrote 3 posts per week on the blog, and did epic guest posts on Moz.com to drive brand awareness, traffic, and start to build a community.
I also spent 6 hours per day building our Twitter following which helped with distribution. These days it’s harder than ever to stand out, so I’d focus on content re-use to help with distribution. Republish your blog posts on LinkedIn and Medium (making sure that you have links to your website/content in the posts to connect the dots and bring more traffic).
Great stuff. I’m in contact with Dax (who grew Chango.com as a CMO until it got acquired by Rubicon Project) and he also suggests guest posts. My problem is that my audience is your typical VP Marketing at a $5-$100M company. What’s your take on guest posting where the cameras are? Most of the larger publications like CMO.com, Internet Retailer, ClickZ, Marketing Land, etc. all have crazy editorial calendars — I don’t have 8-12 weeks to wait for a published item. Any tips for conquering this stage?
You just have to start. If there’s a delay, that’s okay, just make sure you’re queuing them up regularly, so a couple of months in they will start appearing regularly.
Fantastic. Was hoping I wasn’t alone in seeing the time investment needed.
What type of camera do you shoot with, Oli?
Not a Canon?
I used to be Canon but switched when that camera came out. In the future, there’s always the possibility I’ll switch again. Was a big Canon fan.
Are you familiar with the flog/farticle style pre-sell page that many affiliates use? What do you think would be another one or two variants that you might test against that for a better conversion rate?(here is an example: http://jayweintraub.typepad.com/.a/6a00d83451611f69e201156f65c2a6970b-popup)
I’m not big on/in the affiliate scene to be honest, but I have seen a lot of those article styles. Particularly from Facebook where they have ridiculous ads lying about all kinds of crap. Like Ronda Rousey kicked out of the UFC for taking drugs (not true) that then takes you to some bs article about getting jacked on the best new muscle drug. They’re really manipulative. They no doubt work, but I have zero respect for the approach.
What do you think of SRED program? Do you think it’s worth it for startups to even bother trying to get the money?
SRED is great! We’ve done that since year one (we’re six years old now). I think you get 40% of developers’ salaries back if you can position them as R&D. In Quebec, it’s even better – 70-80% I believe).
I’ve heard a lot of people getting denied SRED, have you ever heard many of the horror stories?
I haven’t. Do you have a good contact with a lawyer etc. for it? If not, I could pass some info your way (I’d have to ask someone in the company). So, email me firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like some more details, and I’ll see what I can do. Where are you?
OK awesome, yeah we’ve been talking to Boast capital about it… but I will def send you an e-mail as well. I would really value some insight. We used to be down on Richards, but we recently moved out to PoCo.We’re long term Unbounce users/fans.
What is the best phone number tracking platform, CallRail? Do you guys officially recommend anyone?
You’d have to ask the CS team for a reco. I’ve never used one, personally.
Any advice for other SAAS’s when they try to determine pricing? What features/abilities do you leave for enterprise/highest paying accounts? Any good tactics?
We just engaged Price Intelligently to help overhaul our pricing, so I’m super excited to see how that goes.
How can I find good places to re-distribute my blog (other than LinkedIn and Medium)? I’m targeting iOS developers.
Do you know the most popular blogs for that market? (I’m not familiar with that segment personally). And what do you write about?
What’s the biggest misconception people have about running a startup?
Biggest misconception. Hmm. That there are companies out there just waiting to buy you. You don’t sell a startup, you make it attractive to be bought. Which means picking a few metrics and really killing it on them. Metrics such as churn are critical in making your business look viable. Also, the SaaS Quick Ratio (http://www.insightsquared.com/2015/02/quick-ratio-saas-revenue-growth/). Close to 4 is a great measure to chase.
For local businesses, do you feel the best CTA is still a form? I see very little in terms of examples, themes, etc. that the main focus is driving a call.
Depends on the purpose of the page. But very often a click to call CTA is better than even showing a landing page (when it comes to mobile).
On a promotions page featuring, for example, a number of unique sales with their own respective pages, do you think quantity and wide variety of options win over a single, in-your-face CTA?
Really depends on the goal of your campaign. If it’s just an organic traffic page, then having more options might be the right way to go. But if you’re running a campaign, with one goal in mind, then all of those distractions will most likely cause a negative reaction. The stronger the specificity the page has to the promise you’re making in your ads/emails etc. the better.
I suppose the principle issue is that the traffic is only targeted insofar as they’ve opted in to receive emails about said promotions. But the offers being presented can vary in price from $50 to $5,000. I’m of the opinion that a single targeted destination will still lead to greater conversion rate, but others argue that shoppers should be presented with multiple options. And I think that applies even more so to emails than anything else.
Of course the best way to silence people in those situations is to run a test and see what happens. But if it’s about a wide spread of offers, it depends if the target is someone who likes “shopping” mode, where they love to scan a ton of offers/products.
We’re just starting out and trying to figure out the sales process with larger brands/enterprises. We’ve narrowed our customer to loyalty, life cycle, retention and/or customer success marketers at these companies, but are wondering which level (director, head, or vp) in the org to target. How did you all go about determining this early-on?Any tips on getting those recognizable, early adopter customers with an MVP?
Honestly, we didn’t even consider enterprise until very recently, as we didn’t have the features they were asking for, like SSL. In terms of who to target, you need to figure out the people (not just person) who are making purchasing decisions. We’ve started to create target group personas that include more than one person. Then it comes down to creating content such as one-pagers and pages on your website that target that group with the specific questions they have being answered. One example is our agency page (who we are pushing hard to acquire this year). http://unbounce.com/agencies/ And a lot of the way you speak to those decision makers comes from doing surveys (on site and email) to uncover the language they use. You need to start segmenting by role in your content marketing and then use those insights via survey to structure your marketing communications.
First off all, I must say I really enjoyed your presentations at #inbound16 and Gpec in Bucharest. Secondly, what’s your advice for B2C software companies on monetizing their content marketing efforts? For example, me, leading the mkt department for a security startup, I focused on education. Now, I have lots of traction and engagement on the blog, but very few sales.
Thanks! What are you trying to sell?
A security software app for Windows, priced 34 Euros/y.
What is your current method of selling to the people who read your content (as much context as possible would help)?
We have a drip campaign promoted on the blog that provides 20 free cyber security lessons where the paid product is strategically promoted. Also, a right side banner (where people don’t click at all = banner blindness). My initial strategy was to get as many people as people in that drip campaign and start from there. Didn’t work.
Well, I’d recommend you ditch the banner if nobody clicks it.Do you find there is a higher level of engagement with any particular portion of the course? It’s important to measure which micro pieces of the content are actually driving action, so you can amplify those portions.Do you have multiple categories on your blog?
How do you collect the answers? Just email response? You might want to try a simple landing page with a simple form to gather that data. Do you see trends in the responses? And do you use the questions to create more relevant content?
Just email responses. Good idea for the lp. I will setup one quickly (integrating typeform). Yes, we see trends. In fact, it’s a good source for new education material.
One thing we did early on (was related to banners – but was interesting), was to have the banner in each category lead to its own landing page. Over time we could determine that certain categories lead to more sales, so we doubled down on producing content for those categories.
Thanks for taking the time to do this! I actually was at the Unbounce Conversion Road Trip NYC back in June – it was fun! What advantages does Unbounce have over competitors like LeadPages/Optimizely?
First bit of clearing up.Optimizely and Unbounce aren’t competitors. Optimizely is a website optimization tool (for pages that already exist). Unbounce is for creating new pages for campaigns (and then testing them)… Regarding competitors like Lead Pages. They are a good product, but the main differences are that Unbounce isn’t rigid. Most competitors have templates than can’t be modified. In Unbounce you can recreate a pixel-perfect rendition of your design, which makes it much easier to stay on brand, which is crucial for any company that cares about brand.We also have certain features like Dynamic Text Replacement, which can be a massive driver of success/conversion for PPC campaigns, and helps scaling with large amounts of ads.
Super helpful. Thank you!
I have a friend who is working for five years on a product related to big data processing and archiving. Even though he is putting his all into it, he still has no success with sales and distribution (trying to help him for the past month with some success). I admire his will and tenacity, but in your opinion: When do you think it’s time to throw in the towel and move on to something else? (So lame I have no better question for you)
That’s a really, tough one. Making that decision to stop or pivot must be incredibly hard. Fortunately, I’ve never been in that position. It’s definitely worth thinking about how a pivot might work – as opposed to ditching it all. Perhaps there is some technology that’s important. I’d suggest working backwards and doing some definitive validation of the pain he’s trying to solve. If ppl don’t have the pain, he’s wasting his time. Running ads in whatever network the target customer lives in is an easy way. Push ads that speak to the pain and solving it. Then just have a landing page saying that it’s a discovery stage of the product and thanks for expressing interest. Lean startup style.
His problem, as far as I see it, and which I am trying to solve, is that the product is extremely hard to describe in a few sentenceswithout crystallizing the USP and putting them to show it will hardly get any traction, and this is what I’m working on.
Thank you for taking the time for this AMA; I honestly lack any smart questions for you.
Yeah, that’s tough as hell. I’ve been fortunate in that the Unbounce value prop is about as simple as it comes. Ha, thanks for asking questions. Sorry I couldn’t be more specific.
No problem, the pivoting course and targeted ads was my proposal as well. We embedded the product with a Dutch company for a business card storage service, which is about to launch soon. Which is pretty nice, if you consider that for five years there was nothing.
Do you know of any “directory” or “show room” of different landing pages? I always struggle when looking for examples for blog posts. If you don’t know of any, would you help me make one? j/k
The best resource (shamefully better than our library) is http://www.ispionage.com/landing-page-gallery – it’s epic.
Damn, that one is awesome – bookmarking it.
Do you see a future for landing apps?
What do you mean exactly by a landing “app?”
Can you show us the best performing Unbounce page?
Like one of our own that we use for our marketing?
Even a client.
I don’t have access to customer data like that directly, so it would be one of ours. The trouble is they are so specific to us, it’s not very transferable knowledge. Something that I would say that’s interesting is the latest PPC landing page Michael Aagaard (we just hired him) created – it’s kicking our old one’s ass. It was very based on solid research. Lemme dig it out…Here’s the page. It’s awesome. Note that there is no CTA until right near the bottom. http://use.unbounce.com/free-trial-unbounce/f.html The sticky nav works really well.
And when looking at scroll maps, our homepage is 6800px long and nobody goes beyond 990px. Because the USP is so simple and the CTA is right there. So there is a ton of content people aren’t reading. Contrast that to this page (8000px) – tons of people get all the way to the bottom.
Which business metrics do you think Unbounce performs best at?
Hmm. We’re making great progress at reducing churn (we have a task force focused specifically on that this year). But for the last few years acquisition (NTS – New Trial Starts) was definitely our strength. Our NPS score for people who have any contact with our customer success team is incredible (85), so that’s definitely something we try to leverage as much as possible. There are many challenges we have right now. Product changes to help people scale, and improving usability to prevent churn.
Two questions: 1) I taught the Unbounce and Optimizely team (you included) some fantastic drinking games at MozCon a few years back. Have you taught the vegetable game to anyone else? and 2) I have been sending clients your way as a great landing page solution, both large and small. Do you have an ideal client? I know some other A/B testing platforms have shifted their aim towards the bigger fish in the market, but you’ve kept your platform extremely powerful for any size company – is that your continued mission?
Ha, you’ll have to jog my memory on the vegetable game! We’re constantly trying to find that ideal customer. Right now it’s professional marketers with a budget. Drilling in further, it’s marketing teams in mid-sized businesses (team of 10-30 in a 500 person company), and marketing agencies.
Haha the chanting game where you can’t show your teeth! It was a late night after the Garage… I think…
What is one thing that you did that looking back was a bad investment in time and effort, but at the time you thought it was awesome?
Hmm. Nothing major, but the most recent email-only e-course I released (7-Day Lead Gen Landing Page Course) was a flop. It’s decent content, and we tried to monetize it by including 7 landing page templates on day 7 that can only be used in Unbounce. It underperformed horribly. That and an agency project we did last year that was just stupidly confusing.
Any concerns about AdBlockers becoming more general blockers and messing up analytics + AB Testing ?
Not really. And the move towards social advertising (FB and Twitter) gets around the problem, because they are in the stream/app and the blockers typically can’t remove them.
When did you hire your first person at Unbounce? What was his role?
Our first hire was a lady called Sheldi who actually came on for free at about 12-16 months in. She did QA for us and also some support. We then started paying her part time, but eventually I think she got burned out by the dual roles. Our first full time hire came at about the 18-month mark and was a software developer.
Thanks so much for the AMA -really great questions/answers!
Thanks for having me! And for anyone here – you can always hit me up on Twitter for more chats.
Wu Tang Clan or NWA?
I like some of their stuff… Lately I’m diggin’ Dutch Symphonic Metal like Within Temptation.