In this podcast episode, Matt Coffy interviews bestselling author and conversion genius Justin Christianson about his years of experience running thousands of split tests on hundreds of campaigns and tips you can implement to get more out of your marketing efforts.
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02:15 The type of companies Justin works with
05:00 Justin talks about wrong decisions in the market
06:10 On how Justin and Ryan Levesque got connected
07:47 Justin describes his book writing process
09:00 On how the success of his book affected his career
12:45 On leading with the product features vs the benefits to the consumer
16:25 Where to take advantage of inbound traffic
20:30 The biggest lesson Justin learned
24:00 Time management and scheduling
25:45 Matt gives his opinion on offshore workers
28:22 Justin’s parting words to entrepreneurs and solopreneurs
29:25 Where to find more information about Justin and his company
www.conversionfanatics.com – The company website
www.clyxo.com/justinchristianson – Justin’s social media website
Matt Coffy: Justin Christianson on the call today. Justin, say hello.
Justin Christianson: Hey, Matt. Thanks for having me.
Matt Coffy: Yes. I want to first say you’re the first professional bullrider I’ve had on this podcast.
Justin Christianson: I wasn’t quite a professional but I did bang it out around in the amateur ranks for sure.
Matt Coffy: What the hell do you do when you get up on top of a 800 lb animal and it doesn’t like you?
Justin Christianson: Hold on. You’re much safer on their back than you are anywhere else.
Matt Coffy: I just want to ask because I’ve never asked anybody. What compels someone to do that? Being from the northeast, this is something we don’t see.
Justin Christianson: I think a little bit is stupidity in that, but it’s nothing quite like the rush of doing it. But I just kind of grew up around it. So that’s what happens.
Matt Coffy: I suppose so if you’re just kind of used to it, you’re just kind of used to it and it’s just something that it happens. Of course we’re going to talk about some conversion strategy which you’re well entrenched in and I’m interested to talk to you about. I’m also interested in talking to you about mindset stuff. Give us just a two second, not history, but what you’re doing today and who you’re doing it for and then we’ll get into the questions.
Justin Christianson: Basically, we do conversion rate optimization. We do the split testing and the heavy lifting for companies to help them get more out of their advertising effort is essentially what we do.
Matt Coffy: For what size companies, that’s what I meant?
Justin Christianson: I guess probably the smallest we work with is probably in the 3 million range, but our sweet spot is kind of the 10-50 million range in revenue.
Matt Coffy: Gotcha. Is this your one environment that you work in or do you have multiple environments that you work in? Because a lot of guys like yourself will do coaching and I know you have a book out. There’s a lot of things that I want to talk to you about. But is that your one central sort of square now where you kind of hang your hat?
Justin Christianson: Yeah, yeah. I mean all of my focus is pretty much on conversion fanatics and building the company along with my business partner and team.
Matt Coffy: Gotcha, gotcha. It’s interesting because there’s so many different ways-I was thinking about this today-there’s so many different ways to run an internet marketing strategy and internet marketing business. With the commonalities between all the different platforms, once you get I’d say three or four years into this business, you have so much ammo. You could put your finger down anywhere and help anybody because there’s so much to do. I always thought the channels for us would be good. We run both wholesale and retail digital marketing for different environments with lots of different variations on a theme, and I always thought channels would be good. Then I was thinking guys like yourself are going after these very large environments where you’re basically taking what you’ve learned and grown it up into bigger accounts, at least that’s the way I kind of perceive it as.
Justin Christianson: Yeah, we definitely. I mean there’s a whole big world of business out there. We kind of stepped up the level of company that we work with and found that we can deliver much more value to those type of companies. So it’s just been a really good fit for our company in terms of growth.
Matt Coffy: What do you think from your perspective of seeing what you see in the market, where is the biggest hole right now where people haven’t made the right decisions yet?
Justin Christianson: I guess where I see it especially people kind of pushing that gap maybe trying to go from six figures to maybe their seven figure year is they’re really not focused. A lot of them have a lot of shiny objects syndrome. They think the next software is going to help them rather than just sticking with the basics and then being really, really consistent at doing that and then tweaking it to make it work in their favor in terms of numbers, put a dollar in, get $3 out. I think a lot of this is the stick-to-it-iveness with one particular method and not worrying about what the latest trend is with Snapchat or something like that instead of just focusing on where your customers are coming from and really expanding on what’s working. A lot of people don’t do that, the 80-20 rule and really narrow down to what’s proving out to be the most effective in their businesses.
Matt Coffy: It’s interesting that the foreword to your book was written by Ryan Levesque. That is a well-known name. How did you guys get started up? Is that from your speaking days?
Justin Christianson: Well, he actually just lives about 20 minutes north of me, and it was weird because we’ve kind have been in the same circles but we had never officially met until actually after he wrote the foreword to my book. He was the only person that I asked to write the foreword and he said he gets asked a lot but he truly believed in what I sent him in terms of the book and he agreed. I had respected for what he did for the book Ask and all of the things he had done and come to find out after reading Ask it was actually mentioned in the acknowledgments of the completion, and we have really never officially interacted or worked together. But apparently I impacted him in some way as well as he did me.
Matt Coffy: It’s amazing how those things do happen when you don’t realize how physically close you are to someone, and you’re like “Holy crap! Next town!”
Justin Christianson: Yeah for sure.
Matt Coffy: Moving to the book-and I’ve had another discussion about books because I’m in the process of establishing my first table of contents and a couple of first pages of getting through the iterations of what it should be. How did you end up going into the book writing process? Because I know it’s almost like giving birth at some point. It’s like a long duration, at least for me it seems now even though I’m in the very infantile business of it. Can you talk a little bit about what got you started in that?
Justin Christianson: Well, writing a book had always kind of been in my bucket list for basically my entire career or the latter part of the years I’ve been in the digital marketing world. But I’ve never really had the official outlet for what I wanted to write about. There are so many different digital marketing books out there, and when I started really specializing in optimization, that’s when I’d found the need as we were working with more and more clients on educating people on the importance of optimization and split testing. More so everybody shouts from the rooftops on how you need more traffic and the latest traffic techniques and strategies there, but nobody was really talking about the other piece of the puzzle and that was the optimization. So I found people needed to be a little bit more educated on the importance of it and that’s what prompted me to write on that specific topic.
Matt Coffy: What did you find when you wrote the book how it impacted your career?
Justin Christianson: Fortunately enough it was a best seller. But it became number one on several different categories on Amazon. But I think it brought a lot more credibility to me and the services we provide. I didn’t set out for this to be the way it turned out but it’s kind of turned into kind of the glorified business card and there’s more credibility in the best-selling author status than just saying, “Hey, I’m a conversion rate optimization specialist.” It’s really helped in terms of the size of audience that we’re going after to really bring that level of credibility.
Matt Coffy: I understand that. I was wondering because obviously that’s sort of what book writing today is about. Most people think of it as sort of a sales tool as opposed to just writing a book about something and have it to be a legacy type of thing. I was wondering when you wrote the book, did you have an avatar you were thinking about? Because that’s my biggest challenge right now. I’m picking your brain on purpose on this one.
Justin Christianson: No. It’s kind of weird. I didn’t really have a specific person in mind. All I wanted to do was write a book that wasn’t fluffy because I read a ton of books. I read over 50 books last year and majority of them are just fluffed up. Since I was self-publishing it, I can do pretty much whatever I wanted. It’s a relatively short book at only 150 pages but I wanted to pack it with information that was tangible and actionable rather than just a bunch of hyped-up theory. I backed it up with a lot of case studies and specific examples and things we’ve learned actually being in the trenches. I didn’t really have a specific avatar in mind when I wrote it other than I’ve heard great feedback from people that are just beginning in their digital marketing careers all the way up to extremely-seasoned professionals saying that this was the best book written on the topic period. I’ve seen it kind of mix. So it appeals to a couple of different audiences and basically anybody who’s in digital marketing has learned something from it, at least what I’ve seen from the feedback.
Matt Coffy: Most of our customers are in the smaller range. Obviously you’ve got some pretty large customers. But it doesn’t matter really. At the end of the day, it’s all the same stuff to a degree. There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit. There’s a lot of like basic stuff. Even today when a customer came in and sat down at my office and was questioning, “What are you guys doing” blah, blah, blah. I’m like “Well, if you gave us your Ad Words account, we’d actually get you some sales. They ended up doing that and I said, “Look, no one even has a compelling headline. Like all your competitors are just like ‘Here’s our product. Buy it.’” I’m like there’s very limited, and this still stymies me. That we think because we’re in the space that everybody know this stuff. Really it’s like maybe 2 percent of the people actually know about what to do. And then of that 2 percent only a third of them are actually doing it correctly. I think this is just a monstrous market, and you’re right, no matter where you are if you put your finger down in small business, medium business, there’s so much ground to cover because there’s an act of copywriting, there’s poorly-placed lines. There’s so much to do. When you go see your client, what do you see as the easiest low-hanging fruit that you can easily pick out of the basket to say, “Here, look at this.”
Justin Christianson: Most of the time, I would say the number one thing that people miss the mark on is they lead with the features of their product instead of the benefits to the actual end consumer, the end user. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling. Whether you’re selling computers, whether you’re selling coaching, it doesn’t matter. Beauty products, fitness, it doesn’t matter. All they care about at the end of the say is what’s in it for me as the consumer. Most people just lead and shout how great their product is and all of these cool features that they have instead of tying it back to a specific benefit on what the end user is going to get out of that feature.
Matt Coffy: Totally understand that, and especially in video, man, if people actually did the right copy in their video, they’d convert so much better. I see it all the time when immediately they start talking about how many hours they have spent, how much time they’ve done. I’m like “Really? Come on. You got to get to the ‘What does it do for me’ part immediately right up front.”
Justin Christianson: I see people missing the mark on their headlines with that too. They are always the leader in something. It’s like “Well, I don’t care that you’re the leader. I care about you’re going to do for me.” That’s what it comes down to. It’s just leading with those benefits. It doesn’t matter if it’s an ecommerce store or software as a service or an info product publisher, selling a book, it doesn’t matter. It all comes down to what’s in it for the end consumer.
Matt Coffy: That starts right from the ad copy all the way through to the offer page to the video landing page or whatever it might be that they get on to. Sea congruency has been a big problem in the message. You consider that one of the big challenges especially when dealing with people who have a lot. You sit in front of four, five people in an audience who are like everybody’s got a different opinion. You’re like “Guys, you got to have one message here. Come on.”
Justin Christianson: Yeah. I see it all the time. I mean for instance we were just getting some embroidery done not too long ago and I was shopping around for different companies. I of course started seeing a bunch of ads for them because of retargeting. One of the ads said, “50 percent off your first order.” So I clicked it and it said nothing about 50 percent off my first order. It actually said something about 35 percent off and it didn’t get me any way to claim that discount. It didn’t tell me how to do anything. They were just basically wasting a ton of money on ads.
Matt Coffy: Let’s talk about inbound traffic. I had this discussion the other day with someone who was a HubSpot fanatic and it was impressing because that hadn’t been brought up in a conversation for a long time, that platform. I said the whole gig with inbound marketing which they luckily somehow created by accident. When you look at traffic coming into a site, we look at inbound from organic. We can go down to the page level. We can see what’s actually driving either conversion or, at least from a statistical side, time on site, which I think is another piece that people don’t realize. Where do you look at where you can take advantage of traffic on the inbound side even from a page level? What do you see and typically see where you can make a huge advantage? I’ve got some ideas I want to run by and see what you thought.
Justin Christianson: From there is we try to break it out by channel. I mean, really to see where the traffic is coming from and where it’s going and then where the visitors are falling off because you’re going to have a certain level of balance rate. You’re going to have a certain level of abandon cart or certain level of things. We just try to find those gaps but we treat each channel as its own separate basically entity as if it was its own business because it is. Facebook traffic is going to convert different than organic and organic is going to convert different than Ad Words and things like that. So you have to really treat them as if they’re separate, not just dumping them all and sending them to your home page.
Matt Coffy: You’re talking about 97 percent of the customers right now.
Justin Christianson: There’s a lot. There are times when you can send them to your home page. I mean organics are good example of that. Your home page is probably going to rank different than where you can send your PPC traffic, but we see a ton of companies driving all their PPC traffic to their home page and spending $50,000 plus a month instead of being consistent with the message. We just try to treat it completely separate and making sure that it’s leading with one specific call to action in congruency with the ad. So if you tell them something in the ad, they have to see that on the landing page and not get distracted by a bunch of other things. If you have a free trial and you have an opt-in for a white paper or a free eBook or watch this video and you have a webinar they’d sign up for, don’t give them all those options. Give them one and dial that in from your specific traffic source.
Matt Coffy: I agree 100 percent. Another thing is if you know your time of bounce, meaning that if you got an average time and you can now capture them before they bounce, there are certainly things you can do to protect the leaver from hitting the proverbial back button and giving them that secondary or the first offer in front of it or something to recapture them. A lot of low-hanging fruit that just it’s easy plug-ins for WordPress just to drop these things in and it keeps a percentage of the customers. I know you know more about conversion and more about the funnel strategy and I think that you can probably have a seminar on this at some level. I wanted to talk about mindset as well since we kind of went down the bath originally of saying part of what you do has been mindset strategy. You’ve gone through a couple of iterations and you’ve been down the path or down a couple of different paths. Can you tell me a little bit about some of the things that you’ve done where you’ve been engaged in more of the mindset discussions in some of the places you might have ventured or where you think there’s some value the audience might be interested in or the person who’s listening today on how to help get through, and we talked about this before we started the podcast, about how to get through sort of the proverbial sort of bumps, bruises and knockout punches on the way past or through seven figures as a business? I really do think that maybe it’s a physical barrier that I see but there literally is this thing I keep bouncing off which is they try and push into this seven figure land where we’re bouncing all around there. We’re almost there. But it seems like there are so many pieces that when you get to a certain amount of revenue, there’s a juggernaut of things that need to be accomplished from procedures, SOPs, people, places, things. Give us a little bit of that.
Justin Christianson: I’ve been up and I’ve been down. What I really learned is don’t always focus on the big, big picture. You’re going to have those goals and it’s good to set those big goals. But what I have found to be the most effective is and it’s our philosophy at our company is continuous improvement daily. That’s it. All we try to do is beat and be better than we were yesterday. One of the big mindset shifts to me was instead of saying, “I’m just going to do a million dollars” how do I turn $500,000 into $600,000 or how do I turn that $10,000 a day or $2000 a day into $2500 a day? Just trying to beat that small little score. And then on the other side of it is everybody out there in business, I mean with the social world that we have around us now, everybody shouts how great they are and talks about all these great things but nobody really talks about the bad stuff that comes with business. Every single business person out there faces hardships, faces troubles. There’s been times like how am I going to meet payroll this month as you grow in scale and it’s looking for the positive in even the worst situation and how can I learn from that to make myself better tomorrow instead of stressing and worrying about it. It’s really trying to focus on your positive outcomes and what you can learn from it to make yourself better tomorrow.
Matt Coffy: Do you think this living in the moment stuff is really what the issue is with a lot of people? I’ve talked about this a lot in my podcasts about not really enjoying the day and enjoying the fact like it seems like my head just gets punched back and forth with all these things that need to be done. But you know what? How lucky are we to be in a society where we don’t have to wake up and worry about anything other than just go and take the emotional challenges of the day and produce more and produce better.
Justin Christianson: That’s the thing. A lot of people aren’t grateful. They always think that it can be better, which it can. Things can always be better or bigger. You can always make more money. Even when you have a huge level of success, you can always make more. It never ends. So just living in the moment I think is a big thing and it’s one thing that I’ve really kind of struggled with. My entire career is just worrying about what I can control each day instead of worrying about what’s going to happen tomorrow.
Matt Coffy: It’s easy to say, harder to extrapolate what that means from a who’s emergency is more emergency. We kind of get to the point where priority has become priorities which doesn’t even make sense. What, if any, thinking time do we have during the day where we actually have the ability to think “Oh let me put some time towards this” and make sure that we can actually put an effort to really thinking through the process as opposed to “Oh, scrambled eggs thoughts. Let’s get it done, get it out, and put a new plate on the table.”
Justin Christianson: There’s a mix of that I think, but one thing I found extremely beneficial is schedule it. It sounds really simple, but my entire day is scheduled out exactly what I need to do each and every day. There’s time in there to work on different strategies and work on different elements as well as do my normal day-to-day stuff and keeping my priority in check. The second level of that is when one thing I’ve struggled to is letting go and allowing other people who are smarter than me in certain areas do what they do best and finding and hiring and delegating those things instead of thinking “If it’s going to be done, it’s going to be done by me.” I think specifically in that mid to upper six figure range, that’s going to be a harder thing for people to overcome as you expand and grow and being able to rely on other people to basically back up your name and your company.
Matt Coffy: Finding those people. That’s a whole other topic that has become beyond our frameworks of this call, but to me that has become the bane of my existence to live in the ferocity of a US-based society. And I’m not putting blame on any system or whatever. But we seem to get the best candidates to work for us offshore because there’s a different work ethic and it drives me up the wall. Come work for me. You’re 17 Red Bulls deep. You’ve figured out how to do one thing. Where I could go offshore and you got in five minutes the guy has figured the stuff out and it’s done. I’m just stymied because I think it’s the small business affordability issue here in the US where there’s so much infrastructure that you have to pay for where other people don’t have that back-end infrastructure.
Justin Christianson: Yeah. It all comes down to a cost benefit analysis. Another book that has been very helpful to us in that regard is Top Grading where we kind of pick people. It basically ranks people on a scale of ABCD in terms of their performance and their skills in certain areas. When we have C players in certain roles, it’s a big, big, big jump to an A, and when we get an A person in that role, everything gets 10 times easier and it doesn’t really matter the cost at that point because it produces so much more in terms of results when you have the right people. We try to hire everybody here in the US just because we get people in the right roles and everything gets easier and our clients are taken care of much better and it just produces way better results and more revenue all around.
Matt Coffy: I agree with you 100 percent. I think it depends on where the stage of your business is. To me, a lot of people are bootstrapping. A lot of people listening to this are entrepreneurs, solopreneurs. Hiring beyond the first couple of people to me has become boy, you live or die by the sword on that decision. I can’t wait to read the Top Grading book because I’m fascinated with this. But from a mindset perspective, what’s something you can impart with the people who have been on this journey with us for the last 25, 30 minutes on something you would recommend for them to do? And then we’ll wrap it up with things you’re going to be up to and maybe besides the site maybe some event or anything that you’re going to be speaking at.
Justin Christianson: The biggest thing I can say is you’re not alone. There’s everybody else. I mean, find some smart people around you whether it be just people to bounce ideas off of to help support you in your vision, people that are maybe have been there, kind of mentorship in a sense. And then just stick to it. That’s the biggest thing. When it gets the rockiest is when you’re the closest. We’ve seen it time and time again as I’ve grown a couple of different companies is when it’s most painful is when you’re the closest. Just stick it out, push through, and it will be worth the reward in the end.
Matt Coffy: Awesome. Great, great strategy. I totally agree. It is just when you’re starting to feel like you’re having the hardest challenge is that you’re actually close to a breakthrough. I think that’s very true. Tell us just about the site and anything that you want to talk about for your appearances/shows. Where are you gigging next?
Justin Christianson: You can find out more information about our company by going to conversionfanatics.com. That’s plural. You can find information about my book and everything there which links you over to Amazon. And then if you want to connect with me directly on social or anything like that, you can go to clyxo.com/justinchristianson and it will have all the links to everything there.
Matt Coffy: Fantastic, man. Fantastic. I really enjoyed the podcast and I can’t wait to catch up as we move down the road here and see where we are in six to 12 months. It’s been a fascinating discussion. I want to continue this discussion at some point because I do want to have further a little bit deeper on the unspecifics in the conversional strategy, but I really like to keep these to 30 minutes so our second version will be a deep dive into what I consider the analytical approach to solving conversion optimization which involves a lot to do with looking at what you just said which are channels and how you treat each channel and where we need to go on those channels.
Justin Christianson: For sure. I’d be happy to help in any way.
Matt Coffy: Awesome, man. Alright, we’ll talk to you soon.
Justin Christianson: Thanks, Matt. Appreciate it.