Font and center here is a CEO of ion interactive and leader of experience design team Justin and his insights into the world of conversion rate optimization and what ion is doing to make the lives of marketers a lot easier and more fun.
Justin has a impressive resume and his experience working with some gladiator companies like Yahoo!, Samsung and Office Depot just to name a few tells me that Justin has successfully been able to live his passion. Justin writes, speaks at conferences and universities and breathes marketing.
I am impressed with Justin’s passion, his down to earth approachable nature and the fact he and I believe usability is core. Justin was kind enough to answer my long winded questions which I am delighted to share with you. Connect with Justin and learn more about ion interactive, and Liveball!
Connect with Justin!
I started my first company in 1992 a couple of years out of the advertising program at the University of Florida. In 1994 we developed our first large-scale website for Samsung and I was quickly transformed into a user advocate. By 1996 we were exclusively focused on web marketing and technology with user-centered sites under our belt for Fujitsu, Office Depot and others. I became fixated on the idea that what’s best for the user is best for business and brand as well. In 1998 we merged with Scott Brinker’s software company and began blending marketing and technology in new ways. We developed a content management system that we deployed to enterprise clients through 2004. At that time we saw a common need among our clients to improve their online marketing ROI. In 2005 we dropped everything else to focus on what we termed post-click marketing — the pages and experiences that come next after a participant clicks on a campaign link. We launched our LiveBall platform in 2007 with the intention of empowering marketers to take control of their campaign results. My odd background of marketing, design and technology helps me focus on making LiveBall a powerful, but marketer-friendly optimization tool.
ion interactive Focus & Passion
It’s all about the user. I mean that on two levels: The ultimate participant online must truly be the center of where and how resources are allocated. But making that happen gets us to my core passion which is empowering marketing people to run campaigns as agile as the markets they’re chasing. There are two users — end users and the marketers who put good stuff in front of them. I believe in pushing technical clutter out of the way of message and brand.
Importance of Conversion Rate Optimization
When I was in college, print advertising was moving from the domain of a few technical experts into the domain of many more empowered creatives. Technology made this move possible. Today, the web is moving from the domain of a few technical experts in IT to the domain of many more empowered marketers and creatives. For me, this is the heart of CRO. Optimizing conversion rates is all about getting the best-fit user experience in front of each participant. In order for that to happen, the focus must be on what is being created instead of how it’s created or deployed. Many try to execute CRO beneath a burden of ineffective layers of clutter. It’s nearly impossible to be successful in that mode. Once marketers are in direct touch with their participants, they can cater to their needs and make them happy. That’s CRO for me. I’ve seen it deliver the ROI again and again. Of course you still need to execute… test, test, test… and assume nothing.
I live it everyday. I personally run our paid search from click to revenue expressly to stay in direct touch with the state of the market. I also supervise our full-service clients’ creative work. I don’t actually get to do much of that anymore, but it all runs through me, so I stay in close touch with a pretty advanced group of online marketers. We limit full-service to about ten clients at a time, but the roster includes great brands like Anthem, emusic and others. They all demand absolute excellence in terms of CRO performance and branding. It’s exhilarating to see their successes. They inform everything we do on the platform.
We actually have both clients and customers. We have hundreds of customers from startups to Fortune 100s. Our customers license the LiveBall platform and run it themselves (with our support). Then we have about ten clients that use us as a full-service solution. That essentially means that we run LiveBall on their behalf. We handle their post-click marketing from strategy through conversion. We have account teams and creative teams that run that business and we keep it limited to about ten at any one time.
Working with CRO Hesitation
Everything we do is tested, so they’re not here unless they’re on board with that. We do a lot of A/B/n testing to sort diamonds from coal and we refine those results with in-page multivariate tests to polish the diamonds. We provide a lot of pre-sales and client education and we have the ROI credibility to back up our position on this stuff. We can launch tests in minutes, but depending on traffic and the scope of differences between alternatives, it make take quite some time to come to a conclusion. We educate clients about the sometimes painful waiting and about the dangers of jumping to a conclusion based on a trend instead of a statistically significant result. I think our customers are surprised at how easy and fast testing is with LiveBall. It’s naturally a less resource-intensive proposition and so they are more willing to experiment.
Liveball Makes CRO Easier
To run LiveBall you need one thing from IT — a subdomain. Once you get them to invest that 30-minute nugget of time, you’re IT-free. You create your landing experiences — landing pages, conversion paths, microsites or whatever you want to call them — with LiveBall’s WYSIWYG content management interface. To test one against another (A/B) you check boxes to indicate which ones you want to test for each source of traffic. You can test as many as you like, so A/B is a misnomer. Then you can test content within pages as well (MVT). I just recorded a sneak peek to prove just how effortless it is to vary text, images and forms within LiveBall. You have to try it. We spent nine months of R&D on this MVT feature to make sure it was truly effortless. You can launch multivariate tests in literally less than five minutes. And you can run A/B + MVT, MVT on multiple pages, MVT within Flash for dynamic text and images… the list goes on and on, but it’s all IT- and code-free. Really.
Importance of Usability in Conversion
It’s everything. When a user turns into a participant by taking that first click in your landing experience, they cross a huge psychological chasm. If your UX then breaks the promise it made to earn that click, you’re cooked and your brand is damaged. If your UX keeps its promises, you’ll get a high percentage to the finish line. People convert when they’re happy, comfortable and when you’ve earned their trust. These emotions come from your messaging and usability.
Working at ion interactive
I think we provide a great environment. It’s super fast-paced. There’s never a dull moment, that’s for sure. We’ve been (at least) doubling our revenue each year and that makes for an exciting day-to-day. In addition to our own pace, we operate in an ever-changing nascent market. So we’re moving fast in a fast-moving market. Neat combination. Our team is passionate and committed. When you put a bunch of like-minded people like that together, there’s a palpable symbiosis. We have a soundtrack, we have foosball, team lunches and a billboard-size ‘THINK BIG’ in bright orange across one wall. Maybe that helps paint a picture.
Two Common Mistakes
Serial testing and jumping to conclusions. Both are testing problems, but they truly are ubiquitous. It’s hard for marketers to understand that serial test results cannot be compared. Controls must be run in parallel to take environmental differences out of the equation. Likewise, jumping to conclusions is tough to stay away from, but you have to. A trend is not a result until it’s reached whatever statistical confidence level you deem adequate for your situation. I’ve seen hundreds of tests trend one way and end up another. Making decisions based on a trend is super-expensive guessing. You paid to test, but then guessed anyway. Bad all around. I’m gonna add a third common mistake… doing nothing in the name of doing everything perfect. Marketers must get started and begin to see results. Everything doesn’t need to be done at once, and everything will never be perfect. So start testing already.
Improve CRO Knowledge
Well I’m biased toward #CROchat. Aside from that, there are some great conferences and blogs out there. Most importantly, they need to get started. It’s not rocket science. It’s about finding out who your participants are and giving them what they want. It’s amazing how fast you get the hang of CRO once you get started. @MeganLeap posted a great list of CRO resources on our blog at inoninteractive.com/post-click-marketing-blog.
Justin Talerico Offline
I’m a dad with two kids (boy 11, girl 7) and a great wife (@AnnaTalerico). I play a lot of tennis. I’m a foodie who collects and drinks a lot of wine. I love boating & watersports.
I serve on the board of advisors of my kids’ school (@PCS_panthers). And I coach baseball. I’m passionate about modern design and fanatical about details & quality.
A big thank you to Justin for his time and I hope that like me you are impressed and inspired about CRO, marketing and learning more about ion.
Connect with Justin!
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