- Ensure that you are tracking as much data as possible (HotJar, both product and brand reviews, listening to phone calls, interaction with sales people).
- Mine data from all sources available to learn what customers are saying is meaningful to them.
- Observe your competition. Not to just “be like them”, but better, what are they not doing?
- Put aside presuppositions and listen to all voices in your organization. It may be that they have advice that doesn’t make sense at the time, but ultimately can yield impressive savings.
On this episode, we are joined by Ethan Thompson, digital marketing manager at Simplified Safety Europe. Ethan manages eight websites—four are focused on B2C and four on B2B. As you will see, Ethan has the unique capability to zoom out on a given problem and see the big picture.
The place Ethan works, Simplified Safety, sells… (you guessed it) safety equipment. Simplified Safety specializes in products that help people get back home to their families. Businesses also need the help to ensure they are compliant with regulations thus reducing massive financial liability. It is this type of product that really does make a difference every day and could be the reason a mother or father comes home from work. Of course, there are others in this space, so Ethan has to employ every strategy to ensure that this brand does stand out in that particular field.
More leads, please!
B2B can be challenging—particularly because it often requires a hands-on approach with sales. Many B2C websites have products that work out of the box. Sure, you might need to pull instructions together or even video. Yet, B2B products are regularly custom and designed for a specific situation. How do we get through the “iron curtain” of the internet and begin an interaction to determine the fit and the right price for this installation?
What we normally do:
- Make sure the “Contact Us” page works.
- Put popups all over the website.
- Maybe a chat box too?
What worked for Ethan:
- Watch what people read on the page (HotJar). Many people read with their cursor, so you can “see” what they are reading.
- Put the information on the page that people are wanting to know. Ask the sales team to document questions they are asked.
- Highlight benefits (“this railing’s coating will keep you compliant longer”) rather than features (“this railing has a ABC123 certified coating”).
- Match your ad copy with highlights on the page.
- Resulted in a 50% increase in leads.
A lot of the products that Simplified Safety sells need guidance or consultation, so that can’t be just “sold online” like many B2C merchants. The problem is that getting a visitor to commit and enter their contact information. Often this is at least some level of a commitment because our inner nature thinks: “what are the risks?” OR “am I going to be spammed??” So, providing contact information can be a big ask.
This particular example is about their KeeGuard product. This is a railing that is placed on a rooftop to protect someone from falling off the roof. As you can expect, this is a highly custom product.
Simplified Safety had to provide enough information but not so much as to scare them off. They have been on an interesting journey to hone their message and figure out exactly what resonates with our customers in addition to giving them the confidence that they the right person to work with (that they aren’t some popup brand). Originally, Simplified Safety had a lot of information hidden behind buttons. You had to click a button to get to more information. A lot of the people who clicked those cards converted. They ended up requesting more information. But if someone did not click on one of the buttons, they were less likely to convert. Simplified Safety found that information that is provided in these is really important and it makes the difference.
Ethan shares that they began watching people who were on the website. They set up Hotjar (which has a free trial) and record people’s sessions. While time-consuming, this is a great way to get an idea of what people are looking for. A lot of people read with their cursor so you can see them read—when they stumble over a section and when they say, “Oh, that’s interesting,”. This is important data.
As a result of these findings, Ethan took the information and put it directly on the page. Because of this, they saw a small percent increase in conversions with that move. It was going in the right direction but wasn’t a needle mover.
The needle began to move with recommendations made by Oli Gardner in his video series called “The Landing Page Sessions”.
Oli focuses on the continuity between your advertising and your landing page. While this idea seems fairly straight-forward, it yielded massive results for Simplified Safety.
Ethan tested a large number of headlines and descriptions in their Google Ads campaigns, looking for specific benefits that people wanted to see. He matched that copy on the landing pages (focusing on making the content easy to read and highlighting the specific points that resonate with people)…
And they saw a 50% increase in conversions from their ad campaign.
However, a big challenge is knowing exactly what a visitor wants to see. This is unique to the internet as brick/mortar retailers can have a conversation with their customers to find out what is important or meaningful? How do you do this on the internet?
- By mining reviews from your website (and competitors). What do people say they appreciate about the product? How has this made a difference? Look for all applicable data sources, including your help desk system (FreshDesk or HelpScout).
- Talk to the sales and customer service teams. They interact daily with customers and they will have good insights. But, ask them (and stay on this) to keep a daily log of the questions they answer.
- Listen to phone call recordings. We hear on literally every phone call we make to a business: “this call is monitored for quality assurance purposes.” If your company accepts phone calls, and records them, listen to those phone calls! You will hear, first-hand, what people are saying and their concerns. Then build this into the copy on your website.
- Focus on benefits, not features.
This railing is compliant? Great, what does that mean for me?
This railing provides peace of mind knowing my people are protected by the right thing. My business is less likely to get fined by OSHA and therefore able to help more people with my product, because I’m not having to shut down my plant because of an OSHA violation.
Remember that anyone who does call your company represents nine others who don’t bother to call—and go to your competitors (this is my estimate). If you can improve the copy and presentation of your product, you will lower the calls where people are trying find information and increase the calls where people are engaged and want to begin the quoting process.
Ethan shares that it is a huge competitive advantage to actually listen to people. Many businesses out there, don’t listen, they just make assumptions. When you listen and respond to those questions or things that people are saying and then integrate that into ads and the website, you answer questions before people have to resort to calling.
Making it practical:
If you sell commercial kitchen equipment, and the team is getting regular questions. it would be important to work with the sales team to be disciplined in writing those questions down.
Ideally, use Google sheets or Excel to track questions. You can have a column for a category, a column for the question and a column for the number of times that question was asked.
You will also have to keep reminding the sales and customer service teams. The website is your responsibility and likely not theirs. The sales and customer service teams focus on the one thing they recently discussed and not the hundred other things that they talked to people about last week. Build rapport with your teammates in augmenting their work.
Listen to the recording. As time-consuming as it is, you can spend an hour a week listening to phone calls. You’ll gain a lot more information because it’s in a non-emotional state when you’re listening to it.
The most important thing is to begin documenting NOW. Even if you don’t use this information today, you will be glad you have it when you begin optimizing in a week/month/year. At that time, you will have a tremendous amount of usable data at your fingertips.
Optimizing Google Shopping Ads
Let’s shift to the B2C side of the discussion. The other side of the Simplified Safety brand is the Simplified Building brand. This is primarily B2C. On the surface, they sell pipes and fittings. Simplified Building’s value proposition is much deeper in that they help you create solutions to challenges—in an easily assemblable package.
One challenge with Google Shopping ads is that there is so little that can set your product apart. You are lumped with the rest of the products in a small space:
Ideas often start with just being aware and open to looking at competitors a lot of times. Ethan tries to put himself in the position of the customer. He starts with the search queries that he knows their customers use (Google Search Console, Google Analytics and Google Ads).
Look at your results in the major search engines: Google, Bing and Yahoo. If there’s ads at the top, open your eyes, look at those, and see what stands out. Generally speaking, there are very few elements that you can influence (picture, name, price and reviews).
What image do you use to depict your product? For Simplified Building’s industry, competition tries to move fast. They’re create prototypes and put the image up of either individual components or a rendering. In the case of Google shopping, pictures of the real thing in it’s real location causes someone to look and say, “Oh, that looks like mine.” Try to use something that people will be able to say, “Aha! That will work for me.”
This also allows the customer to see that this solution (in the case of Simplified Building, a railing) is attractive and will work in their situation. We want to make sure the photo portrays the environment the railing is in is attractive. And yes, there must be reasonable contract: maybe the color is black, but then it is set against a light yellow or white house.
Focus on imagery first for Google Shopping. Ethan shares that they have seen a 5% increase in just switching out a photo. That might take 30 minutes. The little things add up and go a long way.
A good test is to ask someone who doesn’t work for your company to look at this product. Especially target potential users of this product: your parents, friends, relatives, etc. “Can you look at this and tell me what stands out to you and what doesn’t stand out to you?”
Maybe just looking at your product: everything seems great, the prices are reasonable, but the photos aren’t real (or maybe they are poor quality). They are renderings of that one product. That makes a real photo tend to stand out dramatically because, “Oh, that’s relatable.” And again it’s taking those ideas and putting them in an image, the benefit is it looks nice.
Depending on the products you sell, you might even consider using a photography service (Square Up offers super cheap, but high-quality product photos).
Takeaway: Go review your Google shopping and compare it with your competitors.
But what about at scale when you might have thousands of products? It’s a daunting task to try to do this for all products! Don’t. Start small, but with your most valuable products. Get traction there and then roll these updates out to the rest of our catalog.
Recognize the opportunities, be the first one to take advantage of it. Don’t wait for your competitors to do that. You’ve got to go out and do it yourself first.
Supply chain improvements
The final topic of today’s episode is not as much increasing sales as improving efficiencies. This has the same net result of more profit.
One of the problems that Simplified Building had was that too much time and too much effort was taken on getting an order out the door. They custom cut the pipe, put it in a box and ship. Their logistics team wanted to see how efficiencies can be had particularly in the custom-cutting side of this.
Simplified Building’s original value propositions was custom: custom solutions and custom sizes. How could they drop such an important aspect of their value propsition? As such, the initial reaction was, “No way! That’s one of our unique selling points: we’ll cut it down to the inch for you.”
Fulfillment comes back and says, “Can you back it up with information?” Ethan says, “Sure we can!” (you know how this works). In looking at the data, Ethan saw that about 70% of the customers choose full-foot lengths! Ethan’s comment was, “huh, that’s interesting.”
We have this emotion tied to our value propsition (getting whatever size they want) but it didn’t seem like a practical or compelling benefit to 70% of the people that were buying our product. Maybe it’s time to rethink this value proposition?
Simplified Bulding picked a range of preset sizes, to just as a test. They didn’t pre-cut pipe yet, but this was just a test on the website. That only took a couple of minutes, thanks to the flexibility of Magento, and they didn’t see any decrease in product sales.
As a result, Simplified Building saved a ton of time and effort, and that didn’t result in less money.
Their value proposition didn’t go away, it changed. Rather than taking 2 to 3 days for their products to be shipped, it’s usually a 24-hour process. That’s because we have pre-cut sizes just sitting in the warehouse ready to be picked and packed. Everybody loves it! Our customers love it because it’s cheaper, it’s more efficient, it’s more practical, it’s less confusing.
Oh, and this reduced option paralysis. For most situations, it doesn’t matter if a railing is 7′ 4″ or 7′. Presenting the inches input made customers think they have to make a more informed decision about the length (which wasn’t necessary). That took longer to make the decision and raised the risk that a purchase wouldn’t be made.
This resulted in savings, but also fewer questions. Purchasing a railing is more straightforward.
How to start
“The Toyota Way” (a great book if you’re want to know more about efficiencies in manufacturing) is to start with a manual fix first. Ethan’s team started with changing the option on the website. They didn’t do anything with logistics. This represented zero costs, except for the time to implement. The result was amazing insights and amazing productivity from it ever since.
Oh, and if you want to offer customization to your customer, there’s nothing prohibiting a “call in for custom sizing” on your website.
The interesting thing is if you asked customers “do you want the pipe size to be exact”, they would say “YES!” But, in the grand scheme of things, you may find that such value propositions have less value than originally thought.
If you ask your fulfillment team, they will tell you a million things that they think can be better. So, ask them! Be open to their ideas. At first they might seem repulsive (“what do they care about sales?!”). But when you take a step back, think about it, look at the data in front of you, the story may be pretty clear. Be willing to hear what you don’t want to hear, and be open to creative ideas or creative solutions.