Conversion Sciences Managing Partner
Texas A&M University BS Computer Science and Management, Computer Science and Management
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How did you get to where you are today? What is your story? What incidents and experiences shaped your career path?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Mar 09 2020
I started off as a computer programmer by training, so in school, I went into computer programming. At one point, I was coping with IBM, and I saw one of those IBM sales guys go through the coat and red power tie and I was like, that's interesting. I was one of those programmers that had a few social skills so I was like, I think I'll do that. So, out of school, I actually went into sales instead of going into programming, rose to my highest level of incompetence in sales and then came back and started coding. In the nineties, I ran my own business because I knew I wanted to remain in software business so I started that with a partner and we got blown up in the dot-com burst of 2000 and then after that, I started again growing back into the employment, and I built the web digital websites, back ends for a number of technology companies for lead generation. In 2006, I went to the seminar. It was wizards of the web out of the Wizard Academy near Austin, which is an amazing, unusual business school and I was first introduced to conversion and this was the culmination of combining my programming skills, my marketing, my sales, the fact that I'm just not a very good employee side, my entrepreneurial side, there really was nothing else that I could do but become a conversion scientist and start applying data to marketing. In the digital world, we were starting to get amazing tools to help us understand how visitors are interacting, so it was a perfect time. I hung a shingle, put on a lab coat and found conversion sciences and I am doing that ever since.

Can you walk us through your first few weeks, especially challenges, when you started working as a consultant? How did things change over the next few months?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Mar 09 2020
When I first started as a consultant so the thing I am most certain for me was the impostor syndrome. You're new at this, especially in conversion optimization, it was a new set of disciplines and so you have to really fight against that voice in your head that says, "Oh, you don't know what you're doing." It sometimes could be a helpful voice because it makes sure you work hard, you double your work, whereas later in life experience will take you where you don't have to work quite that hard. So understanding expectations was the most important learning curve. For the clients, you begin to understand what's important to them and what's not important to them and there's a tendency for results to be really smart and to have all the right answers as you get more experienced, you'll temper that with what the client really needs, what really moves the client forward and sometimes you don't have to be quite as smart and clever as you think you do. Some very simple answers will help move them forward. So really that whole process of setting expectations with your clients, facilitating your meetings with the clients and getting comfortable in your own skin are really the things that I was challenged with when I first started.

What tools (software programs, frameworks, models, algorithms, languages) do you use at work? Do you prefer certain tools or services more than the others? Why?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Mar 09 2020
Our foundation for everything is web analytics. Most of our clients have Google analytics, it's a fantastic tool, especially for smart clients, it's free and provides all of the information and data that we need. Layered on top of that is what's called a Tag manager which helps you manage what sort of tools, data collection tools are going on to the website and also helps you manage what kind of data Google Analytics is collecting from your site. On top of that, we like to use tools like Hotjar. It's a collection of user intelligence, so it collects where people are clicking, how far are they scrolling on a page, where their mouse is moving so the kind of attention because oftentimes, their mouse is where we follow our eyes, we can do user surveys, we can track forms, we could build out funnels. Hotjar really is one tool that collects all of these user intelligence capabilities in one place and allows us to really understand on a page by page basis what people are understanding. It also records sessions, it's like we could record sessions of people visiting the site, and it's almost like looking over somebody's shoulders and then using the website and it's very helpful so that's the next layer. On top of that, we will generally have maybe testing tool for best ideas so all of this stuff is for us to collect ideas, and decide which of those is most likely a big issue and rather than just changing and putting on the side, we will subject it to an A/B test where we test the current side against the version of the page has our idea line so change the headline or move something around or make the form shorter or make the form longer, we could do almost anything with these tools. The first visitor sees the control, the second visitor sees the variation, and we repeat this until we get a statistical significance and then we could tell which one generated the most sales. That's a great way to test out your ideas. As long as we've been doing this, we still get things wrong, every audience is unique, every audience is different so it's an amazing tool. Those were probably the most important, that's kind of our stack that we have with most of our clients.

Can you describe a few significant projects you have worked on? What were the requirements, challenges, skills needed, projects' duration and clients' feedback?

Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
All the projects we work on are marketers dealing with the Web site, so the kinds of campaigns they're launching are some sort of advertising, so that could be advertising on Google, we call it page search, it is very powerful because it's what we call intent-driven, using keywords we can tell when people are interested in buying our product or interested in researching our service. So we bring those to the website, and that will be existing pages on the Web site or we can create very targeted pages called landing pages. Then there's a process of understanding where the visitor is in their process. They're high in the funnel, they are going to be more interested in content reports, things that help them decide what to buy. If they're lower in the process, they are looking to take action, so they want to get a quote or they want to buy a product so these pages need to be pretty good at that. If they are higher in this funnel, then we strive conversion and that is to get their contact information or get permission to send them a message if we need to text them on messenger that starts the conversation and we can send them additional helpful information to help make a decision of moving them through a purchase process. If they're at the bottom and they started to buy, for instance, on an e-commerce site, they might start to buy and then abandon something comes up and they didn't finish. We can contact them and invite them to come back and finish purchasing. For a lot of our clients, repetitive visits will be required for the visitor to complete the purchase. So we deal with companies from all kinds of different industries lead generation, e-commerce primarily and they all face this challenge of getting this advertising funnel to work all the way through with multiple visits to the website so I don't think it really makes sense to call anything specific on that.

Discuss weekly hours spent in a client's office, for work travel, and working from home? How do you handle working with clients from different time zones?

Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
So we are almost completely virtual in terms of working with our clients. We have an office, there are eight of us here so it's a small team. But 95% of our interactions are all done via conversations like this. It's very efficient from a travel standpoint. We have no clients here in our home city Austin, Texas, so they're all somewhere else. When we kick off with them, we go out, visit and see the person so that we have that experience and then we'll periodically go and visit them at their locations just to keep that personal touch but, for the most part, we are speaking to the client's weekly and we're using zoom videoconferencing and online documents like Google docs is our preference to provide information that they can share.

How has the demand for certain skills and technologies changed in your field? What kind of consultancy work or jobs would see big growth in the upcoming years?

Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
So the biggest change in my industry, obviously my industry being digital marketing is the availability and use of data and it's really kind of striking how slowly people are picking up data. We have this traditional way of designing for the Web, which is based on the old Mad Men-style of design, so we do a lot of research at the beginning that we had our research of personas, marketing surveys maybe we've run some focus groups and those after the design development team, and then they make thousands of decisions based on that research, and we don't know how good their decisions were until it launches at the end that's when analytics will kick in but with the tools that we have, so we do a lot of user testing. There are tools like Usability hub, Helio, UserTesting.com Validately, that will actually bring panels of people, we can put our creative in front of people these companies bring panels and pay people money to review our creative and answer some questions about so we can find out if our creative is communicating that we are a credible company that's doing the job, communicating what we sell our value propositions, that it is doing a good job of guiding visitors eyes to the action that they need to take to take the next step and that'll give us a good idea when we do that well and when we don't. These are the skills that you need to understand a little bit of analytics, statistics but being comfortable using behavioral science to make decisions in your design process. Those people who are coming out of school embracing that is going to be well paid and will be at the top of their game because this is how we beat our competitors. 

How do you get new clients and negotiate payment terms? What approaches do work for you and what don’t?

Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
We've always taken the approach of teaching. This was necessary back in 2007 when I started because conversion optimization or conversion rate optimization wasn't a thing, we had to create it. So I started a blog and I started writing articles, teaching people about why it's important, how you do it, what its practices are, answering questions that came up and I did that for three or four years finally started getting more readers as it's a very targeted area and today the blog is the source of all of our incoming leads and we use that very process so we're seeing as an authority. During the whole time I was speaking on stages, we got this thought leadership authority place in the market, and people come to visit we offer them content, educate them for if they are high in the funnel or lower in the funnel, we offer them a free consultation so it's those free consultation referrals from our existing customers and we do a little bit of advertising for people who are looking specifically for a business like ours that brings in some marketing. I love this approach to marketing because it's slow, it takes a while to grow but as you're doing, you're getting really good about thinking and about how you talk about what you do so it makes your consulting sessions with clients better and the research that you're doing makes you better at your job, so I really like this approach, it's a very holistic sort of way to go to market.

What other major challenges do you face working as a consultant and how do you handle them?

Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
I think the primary challenge is setting maintaining expectations with clients and teaching your employees to do that. So it's really easy for us to go to the market and say, "Yeah, we have these clients and had this test and we found a 42% increase in their sales so it's a magical test" those sorts of things are pretty rare. We are generally building on 5, 10, 15% increases. Most of our tests have been inconclusive so we're going to test it's like, No, that didn't work. So it's really important for us to be able to set expectations with our clients and provide value around the tests. We have a series of inconclusive tests, it's disappointing, it feels like they are spending money and are not getting anything in return, making sure that we're providing analysis, additional insides, teaching them things that visitors wouldn't otherwise know, just make sure we're always providing value. Our North Star metric, which for an organization the thing they talk the most is renewals obviously, it's good for us because when somebody renews, they're going to keep paying us, but also really aligns our goals with the clients. We got to give them a good reason to renew so that's what we are all about. Our motto is to always deliver remarkable results so we strive to do that. Getting your employees on board with that is really I think about just hiring people that are very conscientious, maybe even a little bit anxious about delivering good value to folks because it's consulting, it's very soft practice, it's very malleable so you can shape anything that you want for your customer, so you need employees that are intuitive about that sort of thing.

What were the responsibilities and decisions that you handled at work? What major challenges did you face in your job?

Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
So that was an interesting challenge. We were specializing in network graphics. We were broadcasting maps, satellite photography, even screens we were doing the screencast very much like we're taking for granted right here. This was back in the nineties, and the majority of the folks of the U.S were on the dial-up, so there was a dial-up modem. We had to get satellite photography, map data and screen images across that very small pipe. So the challenges there were really very technical and we always had to be deciding how much we're going to be investing in our infrastructure, things that were built on and how much we were going to be doing custom for our clients. So at that point, it was a technological challenge and I was fortunate to have a technological partner. I think that's a theme in all of my businesses, if you are going to go the entrepreneur route, and even if you're working as an employee, understanding your proclivities, your personality and instead of fighting it, finding the people that you could work with that compliment you. My first business, I had a technical guy who really helped with the technical side while I did marketing sales administration and conversion sciences, I was very fortunate in 2010 to meet a partner who was very operations-driven, very focused on the details while I continue to do the marketing, the writing, teaching and together we really started making money at that point so I would spend a good amount time to a Big Five personality quiz on yourself. There's this thing called a KOLBE report, these tests will tell you how you behave, where your weak spots are, where you need people to fill in for what you are not going to do.

How did the school prepare you for your career? Think about faculty, resources, alumni, exposure & networking. What were the best parts?

Based on experience at: BS Computer Science and Management, Computer Science and Management, Texas A&M University
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
When I went there it was very much an engineering school and since what we do is bringing science to marketing. So marketing is typically communications, more art-oriented, touching people's hearts and science is more about their minds and logic, I could have known at the time but I'm very grateful that I got the disciplines that allow me to find the data, apply the data, move my biases out of the way so I don't favor anything over another and really understand what's going to work for my client. It was a great engineering education, but beyond that, I think the real value was in opportunities to participate, show some leadership some of the organizations that I participated in and the people that I met. My son just started at Texas A&M, he wanted to go to UT Austin. He was disappointed that he couldn't make it, he was very competitive at high school, and I assured him that he would find his people at Texas A&M which is a more engineering, more conservative school and it's his second year and he is just doing amazing and is very glad that he went to A&M. I think you're going to find your people. I think that four years or in my case, five years to get my degree is really a chance to forge your leadership. I would certainly focus on that, do the coursework, get your grades done but look for opportunities to become a leader and spread your wings, I don't know if that's internships or on-campus organizations, those are the things that really paid off for me.

Would you like to share something that is not on your resume? This may include your passions, facing setbacks or adversities, a unique experience, or an unexpected help.

Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
My resume doesn't show that I'm actually kind of an arty guy as it turns out so I got the lab coat on, running a data science company in digital marketing but my passions are music and certainly writing. I play guitar every day and I love to draw, you actually could see a little bit of that on some of my posts, some doodles. So I think it's interesting that I end up in this place. I think ultimately, for an entrepreneur, the human skills, the connection at the heart is very valuable and you need that even if you're in a somewhat rational business.

Do you have any parting advice for aspiring freelancers? What 3 dos and 3 don'ts would you suggest?

Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
Number one is to be expensive. A lot of freelancers think that your value is that you're cheaper but I think what you'll find is that you can do better work if you charge more, it's a little scary and you'll lose some opportunities that way. A big part of how we assign value, especially towards things that we can't touch and feel like services are communicated by what you charge. So as soon as you quote the price, that's twice as high as you think you should have asked, you instantly have to go into a mode of justifying that and you begin to find those creative ways to justify your client so be expensive, realize that time is your limiting factor and so be jealous. You always want to be able to pursue the opportunity so I've always been very generous with my time to pursuing opportunities, often to a fault, guard your time. The third thing is, what I was talking about earlier is to understand your proclivities. If you are high introverts, you are probably not going to get out and do the networking, if you have a local freelance business, how do you leverage that? How do you change that? Maybe you should be doing more writing, understanding that is really important and if you can team up with direct partners or lose partners people that you hang out with at the co-working spaces, at the coffee shops have people around you that compliment you that are different from you. Don't be cheap, don't waste time and don't isolate yourself, if you are an introvert, you are going to tend to do that and that could be a killer.