Chuck Longanecker is the founder of Digital Telepathy, a user experience design company. Together with his team, Chuck focuses on crafting meaningful experiences with an end goal of driving conversions. During the day, the team works on designs like these for fast-growing startups, but by night, they’re building innovative products (like HelloBar.com and Filament.io) designed to solve problems.
A Quick Preview of the Podcast:
- One major mistake that 99% of marketers make when looking at their funnel.
- How to test a hypothesis without ever rolling out anything new.
- How to solve pain points by removing a paywall and instantly get your users to clamor to sign up.
To See This Tactic In Action:
Tim: Welcome to ConversionCast, where our webinars are like our bellies after Thanksgiving dinner… FULL. My name is Tim Paige, I am the Conversion Educator at LeadPages and the host of this data driven marketing podcast. I absolutely love having conversations with the most brilliant marketers in the world, and today’s discussion is absolutely fantastic. There are some online tools that are used by the best of the best of the best, and we love to hear how the companies behind them were able to get them to that point. HelloBar is one of those tools, and today, I’m talking with Chuck Longanecker from Digital Telepathy. Chuck is one of the creators of HelloBar, and we discuss exactly how he got more people to actually implement it on their site by simply paying attention to his funnel. Want a how-to? This episode’s got it — and you can download a free, detailed guide to how it all works (including pictures and a transcript of the episode) by visiting ConversionCast.com/dtdownload (that’s d for digital, t for telepathy, download). By the way, Chuck and his team have a killer product called filament.io that makes it super easy to add your favorite web apps to your website… we’ll link to it in our show notes. Again, the guide to this case study can be found at ConversionCast.com/dtdownload, and here’s Chuck. Hey Chuck thanks so much for coming on the show. I’m really excited to have you here.
Chuck: It’s great to be here Tim. Thanks for asking me in.
Tim: Absolutely. So let’s talk a little bit about the results from the case study we’re going to talk about today. What were the results you ! were able to get?
Chuck: Well we were regularly converting people at about 5% on our homepage for Hello Bar and we were able to take that up six times to 30%.
Tim: Wow I love it. That’s fantastic. Alright. So tell us a little bit about your company now, what you’re doing and what your role is at the company.
Chuck: Yeah. Well I’m the founder of Digital Telepathy. We’re a user experience design company. We are kind of web nerds that happen to provide services and build products. So our goal is every day to craft meaningful experiences, digital experiences and you know, our day job is providing those services to clients — mostly fast growing startups. Then our night job is building products. That’s kind of how Hello Bar came about, solving a problem, and our new product Filament is what we’ve been putting a lot effort into the last year.
Tim: Awesome. I love it. Alright so let’s just kind of dig in. What was this tactic that you did — and we’re going to be talking about Hello Bar and something that you did with that company — so let’s talk about that.
Chuck: Yeah, Hello Bar was our attempt to create something so simple that we were hoping once we’ve built it people would be like ah man I wish you would have thought of that.
Chuck: I think we accomplished that. I hope we accomplish that and you know, the whole idea behind Hello Bar was it’s so hard to grab someone’s attention on a website nowadays and it’s hard to deal with the priorities of where the eye goes and how each site design is different. We wanted to create something that was standardized that everybody could see, could be unobtrusive and do what anybody wants to do if they have five seconds, deliver a message and a call to action. So that was the idea behind what we did and you know, as designers of websites for a living, we followed a relatively standardized process with the home page in place. We talked about the product. We showed the product and we talked about the benefits of the product for the users. We use social proof and all that kind of good stuff and converted pretty decently on that homepage. We’re able to grow. But you know it wasn’t until we started playing around and trying different things ! until we saw that great growth.
Tim: Yeah how did you get the idea to make the specific change you did because it was a pretty big change to the home page?
Chuck: Yeah. So what we did was we were using at the time I believe KISSMetrics and we were monitoring the funnel of when people would sign up and come in and how many people dropped off from being a visitor all the way to putting the Hello Bar live, which we would consider an activated user. So you know, what we ended up looking at is there’s a big drop off from visitor to signing up and then once you signed up, there’s a big drop off from creating your HelloBar to actually dropping your code and becoming an active visitor. An active visitor is crucial. I mean you might as well not even have a signup and if they’re not going to activate. Because you can do drip emails those people that haven’t activated but even those aren’t that highly effective on average.
Once someone activates whether or not they pay, they’re bringing in viral traffic because there’s a link back in the top Hello bar, and that’s where we actually saw even better signups in terms of an average of conversion rate. So yeah, as we looked through that, we started parsing out okay what can we start telling the user and so you notice I say telling the user. So we’re still saying different things on the site. You know, we did a customer development with the users and we learned about our best users — what they loved about the site — and we use their words to describe it. We were able to see a little jump. We might have went from 5% to 8% or so which is still a significant gain, 50% gain but we wanted to go for more.
So as we were going through our normal tactics, we were thinking like the great thing about Hello Bar is that it’s so easy to use. It’s you know, so simple and almost fun to create a Hello Bar. What we hadn’t done is shown people kind of what it looks like on their website. So when we had talked to our customers they actually loved that. It actually made their website look better which was kind of funny this bar at the top of their site, but we’re fine with that. So you know, we got the idea of what if we were able to give people an idea of what this would look like on the website and they could experience how easy it is? So that’s what we thought about creating a demo. You know, it’s funny as we created that demo first, without thinking about conversion just I mean not as the main call to action on the site. We did it as kind of a sub call to action.
As we dug into the analytics, we saw that people who had used the demo were exponentially more likely to sign up and not just sign up but actually activate as well. Because once they did the demo, they actually had a Hello Bar and all they had to do was drop code after that.
Tim: Oh that makes sense. Okay. So you ended up making it so that the ! first action people take is to create a Hello bar? Is that right?
Chuck: Yes. So the first thing that we did is you know, tried the demo out and a lot of the times the demo you know, we’ll either –you know, let’s just say it’s a WordPress product — they’ll throw you into an empty WordPress installation and you’re kind of fumbling around.
Chuck: Or there’ll be a tour you know, so it will be static images or it will be a video or something like that. We thought you know why don’t we take what’s the best part of this product is the experience and let’s let the visitor before they become a user experience the product. That’s what I would want as a visitor. So I want to get in and get my hands dirty and I probably feel more safe doing it without giving you my information first. So what we allowed them to do was go in and choose what website they wanted to do it for and so they could choose their website. They could choose something like CNN.com if they wanted to choose something that was not associated with them. Then they could actually build a Hello Bar within that context and we would give them you know, some pointers. Do you want to do this for lead conversion, do you want to do this to go deeper into content? So they could go through the process of the color and the text and the button and the link and all that kind of good stuff. Then we merged the two together and they could see that Hello Bar they just created on the website that they had chosen. So it kind of becomes a reality. You know, you actualize the potential of the Hello Bar on your site at that point and the next step from there was if you like it, you just sign up and we would throw it in your dashboard as an already made hello bar. Then the last part of that process is once ! you’ve signed up you drop the code on your site.
Tim: Awesome. So if you could kind of crystalize the first thing that people see when they get to the site or you know, what is it specifically that they first see — or at least in this case when you made the change?
Chuck: Yeah. So the first thing that we did is we actually set up an A/B test. So we said trial to demo and then we had our standard homepage on the site still. You know, the thing that we had going for us was the social proof and we had some really great people like Seth Godin and Gary Vaynerchuk and Tim Ferris and Erik Ries using the Hello bar so that was really, really great.
Chuck: What we noticed is those guys were created bringing traffic in but not necessarily converting it once it came to the site. So we did an AB test where you would either see the regular site with a link to the demo or the demo would come up right away. When the demo came up right away, it said you know, this is the Hello Bar, try a small – we call it hook and promise. I can’t remember exactly what it was – we have to go the way back machine to see. ! [Laughs]
Chuck: But you know prompting them to enter in their website to be able to see how it works on their site directly. You know, we beat out the AB test, beat out the original site design by six times.
Tim: So yeah. So the first thing was just to enter their website address?
Chuck: That’s correct. So enter their website address and then that took them into the builder. We built a custom builder so it could be outside the log-in wall so that they could use the functionality of the site itself. Bring their site into an Iframe so when they would be editing their Hello Bar, they would be editing their hello bar, they would see their site and the hello bar on top of it and you ! know, we’d be updating on the fly with Ajax.
Tim: Yeah that’s awesome. So how would somebody who like let’s say somebody’s who’s kind of got a business going and it’s just a solopreneur or something along those lines, how would they implement something like this?
Chuck: You know, I would first say how would they not. You know with an enterprise product quite often, you know, it looks kind of interesting. You don’t see screen shots of it and it says hey call us for details or call to schedule a demo. For most users if you’re doing a simple B2B or you’re doing a B2C product that’s like the worst thing that you can do. Because you’re making this huge divide between you and the product. You know you’re going to be added in a database as a lead. You know you’re going to talk to someone that’s a sales person as opposed to probably one of the builders of the product or someone who’s really passionate about the product itself. So I think that’s probably one of the ways to turn away your customers.
Now if you’re selling a product that is multiple thousands of dollars a month to use, that’s at the enterprise level then maybe that will work for you. But in our case, you know, we go by the mantra of show me, don’t tell me.
Chuck: You know, it is an experience, and experience is so important as part of what your product does and you want to let your potential user experience your product if it’s good. If your product isn’t good and you’re trying to find a way to convert better, I recommend you go make your product good as opposed to using you know, more tactics to mislead the user.
So I would say kind of the first thing is whatever is great at your product, let the user experience it as soon as possible. That can manifest itself in many different ways. You know, in our case it was allowing them to actually use the product. In other cases, it may be simple of walking them through how it works. It could be a video. I mean there are a lot of simple ways you can get it going. But when you do that, you always want to focus on what it does for the user. You don’t want to talk about all the features that the product has. You don’t want to talk about all the time you’ve put into it or how complex it is. You want to talk about how it impacts the user and what it does for them and how it makes their life easy.
If you can show it or if you can just pick one problem to solve for the user. Let’s say your product is very robust and does ten things very well then pick the one thing that almost everybody has this pain and solve that for the user right away. You can do that with or without a log-in wall just so that they can experience how your product works and how it may fix a problem for them. You’ll have believers after that.
Tim: And have you tested this as compared to using a log-in wall?
Chuck: Yeah. We’ve done both. You know, it all depends because there’s individuality based on every product and every user. So there’s a sweet spot. There is not just one best practice that works. That’s the beauty of what we do and also the pain of what we do right?
Tim: That’s right.
Chuck: So every single product that we build or that we help someone else build, it’s always different. The users are even you know, micro differences make huge differences and how you advertise the product to present it. So you know, we always like to start off as kind of neutral as possible and then we get a few users in. We don’t worry about conversion rates at that point and we learn as much as we can from them. Why did you sign up? What’s the most powerful part of this program for you, what are you solving with this. Because you know we start with assumptions. We start with things that we think that we’re solving as the mean value propositions of the product but it always turn into something we ! never ever thought of.
Chuck: So as you start to gather that data you start to choose the copy on your site. You start to change the hierarchy of the benefits and how you talk about the product. Then you can start to dig into allowing the customer to use the product. You know, we’ve tested it both ways. We’ve tested it where they kind of play with it for a little bit and then they can sign up what they want. If it has enough sex appeal to it, I think you can actually put that signup upfront and a nice way to be able to put that signup upfront is if you’re gathering social data. So if you can use Twitter, Facebook or Google account data to make your product better it’s really nice.
So like for instance you know like with buffer, you’re not going to want to sign up for the buffer app with your email address. You want to sign up with a social app because it’s a social a social sharing tool. So you know, if you log in with Twitter they now have your contact information. They cannot make an account for you but you can now use it immediately as well. So you can give it a try and it’s free.
Tim: Yeah and so I mean I guess do only other question that I have is because I want to make this as easy as possible or as simple as possible for somebody to implement. So if somebody wanted to go and make this a reality. Let’s say somebody has got some kind of a software product what would they need to do, is this something where you just hire a developer to have this set up or are there a set of tools that you used to make this possible?
Chuck: So I think there’s a couple of different strategies. I think one strategy would be if let’s say you’re again back to the idea of the robust product and solving one pain point for a user.
Chuck: Let’s just say it’s an SEO product. You could do lots of different things but one of the things it does is it audits your current site. It tells you kind of all the different things you could fix and what stand out and where you’re doing well. Well don’t make them sign up for that first right? Just have them put in their URL and run the test for them. You know that doesn’t cost you anything but processing time. Then you can spit out a report and you could show all the different aspects of that website that can be fixed and then you can pare your tools with those you know, the aspects of the audit that you failed and give that call to action to sign up for free or give it a trial or anything like that to be able to solve those problems.
The nice thing with that is that you’re giving value away to a user. You’re peaking curiosity. You’re showing a problem. You’re showing a solution for it as well. It’s a pretty hands off approach and you’re empowering the user to do something about it with your product. You’re giving them options that don’t require them to pull out their pocketbook first so you’re making it so easy kind of a why not approach. What’s what we’ve found is the least amount of friction to convert people the best.
Tim: Yeah, yeah it makes sense and it kind of reminds me. We had security on the show and they do the same thing. They do website protection so you know, from being blacklisted and getting malware installed on the websites. The first thing you do when you go there is you enter your URL and they scan to see if you’re blacklisted, if you have any kind of malware and then if you’re not, they show you like the thing that you could do to continue to be protected. So I think that makes a lot of sense and it would be – I’m just wondering like if it’s something that you know, the average kind of person running a software company if it would be difficult to implement. I mean literally like to build it and so that it would be something quick. Is it something that you would need to like – like you would actually have to have development time to do or do you think – I mean are there a set of tools that could make it possible?
Chuck: Yeah unfortunately at least in our experience there’s always a required development time and it wasn’t necessarily quick. So ! that’s why we wanted to really validate —
Chuck: –everything ahead of time. So you know, we always – it’s a big decision. If you’re going to take a week or two and whatever that costs whether it’s your own developers, you’re hiring it out to delve into something like a demo where you’re not even building ! on your product anymore. It’s a big decision.
Chuck: So I wouldn’t just say this will work for everybody.
Chuck: I would say validate it based on the customer development interviews and data first. But yeah every one of our cases did. You know, if there is a tool or a program out there it’s a good question. You know, I guess some of the tools that one simple thing you can do is if you do have a pay well up, if you have a requested demo, take that down, give them a trial. Let them try it to for free, do something guided as long as your product isn’t incredibly complex. You can try that and if it doesn’t work you could turn it off. You know that the nice thing about love. But other than that it’s a good question. It might be kind of a cool ! product for us to build. [Laughs]
Tim: Yeah there you go.
Chuck: Uh-huh. For someone to be able to experience that. I mean the other things are is like you know give people screenshots of the product or give them – use social signup. We’ve noticed. It’s funny you know, we had a social signup to our site and our good friend Neil Patel suggested this to us is that we had a Google Account signup to our site and we saw a 10% lift in signups from that as well.
Chuck: So it’s so much easier. You feel pretty secure because it is Google. You know you can unsubscribe. You can block someone if you want to block someone but you’re in the product immediately that way. So sometimes that’s the best demo. What I would say is if you let someone directly into the product, you need to have onboarding. So there’s two types of onboarding you could do.
You can pop like a slider demo or I’m sorry a tour when you get in so you kind of block it on a site. You can bring up a slider or a multiple step tour in a modal or on its own screen. You can walk them through step 1, step 2, step 3. And even better way to do it is to actually cookie them and when they first get to your website, you’ll know it’s their first visit and then you’ll actually walk them through the interface. So if they say create new, you give them some feedback on that of what to create, what to expect and when they go to the next step you help them with the editing whatever that is. You go to the next step, you help them with the publishing.
That again will take a little bit of time and I think there are some third party tools out there that allow you to do that that will walk you through depending on what platform you’re on. But yeah I think that those two approaches are kind of nice to get started so that you don’t have to actually build a whole new product outside the pay wall.
Tim: Yeah. Your bought up another question in me that I just had to ask. When you were saying that you did a lot of testing to make sure that this was the right thing to do, how did you test without having it developed?
Chuck: You know, the funnel analysis that we did with Kiss metrics was really useful. So we could actually see people using the products or we could assume that you know, once they’ve logged in what’s this flow. We could see where there was a lack of bottlenecks but they’d flow through the site really well and that was from create a new Hello Bar all the way to the code drop. So we took a bit of a leap faith that once they did that create a new Hello bar whether or not it was inside or outside the pay wall, that they would actually flow through that as well.
You know, that was an educated guess. We were fortunately right. I can’t say that we’re always right and say we’re right about 20% of the time. It’s the opposite of the parental rule I guess. But maybe that affects for 80% of our success. But yeah it was a risk that we took to do that and – but you know, it’s also a risk doing nothing.
Chuck: So if you just sit there at 5% or 10% when you could be at 25% or 30% it’s worth it. It’s worth it to do to, to take a couple, to fail a couple of times until something works right.
Tim: Yeah. So you could rather than just having it developed, you could take a look at the data and look at your funnel and see you know, what seems to be the bottlenecks or what seems to be stopping people from moving forward and where people really seem to kind of get active and use that as maybe your first step or an early step. I think that would make a lot of sense.
Chuck: Yeah that’s exactly right. It’s basically as you look at your funnel and you look at those spots that are –you know, if you’re visualizing a funnel where it’s nice and fat.
Chuck: So it’s like 80%, 90% of people are flowing through those areas. If you can super impose that on your marketing side as a way to experience the product and then convert afterward, I think that’s great. You’ll actually see this if you go to Hello Bar now Crazy 8 the company that bought it from us basically adopted this and they maybe testing this as well so you might have to refresh a few times. But they take you through a very robust form of signing up for the product and actually converting at the end of that. They don’t even show a Hello bar anymore at the top of the site and ! they’ve been able to increase the conversion rate even greater.
Tim: Yeah that’s super interesting and of course, if someone wants to see examples of this, including visuals of the signup funnel and get a transcript of this episode, they can download all of that for free by visiting ConversionCast.com/dtdownload. Well Chuck, thank you so much for being on the show. Thanks for bringing an amazing discussion to ConversionCast.
Chuck: It’s my pleasure Tim.
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