SplitBase’s Raphael Paulin-Daigle talks about convincing clients to invest resources towards optimization

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Hi Raphael, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us! How have you been?

I’ve been good! While the COVID situation here in Montreal is making things a bit boring, business has been stronger than ever, and we work with super fun clients, so can’t complain about that side of things – it’s exciting!

Let’s start off with a bit about yourself. Could you please share with our audience what is it that you do and a bit about your career journey up to this point?

I’m the founder of SplitBase, a conversion optimization and landing page agency for fast-growth ecommerce brands. I got into CRO around 2013 when I tried launching my first company, which was essentially a website where business owners could pay to get their website reviewed by a panel of marketing experts. It was my first online business, so I had no idea what I was doing, and while that company never took off mostly because of the lack of traffic, I was obsessed with improving the website and figuring out what to change to increase conversions.

This naturally led me to conversion optimization, and that’s when I tried to learn as much as possible about testing, analytics, design, and psychology, but I have to admit it was a bit challenging back then considering there were very few resources available for those trying to learn. There were a few blogs, and Brian Eisenberg had a course on CRO back then that I bought, but that was pretty much it.

I then freelanced as a digital marketing consultant for a few years, tried to launch a few startups related to ecommerce, even had a short stint in the bitcoin world, and ultimately I think around 2015/2016 I decided to launch SplitBase as I needed a build a team to do CRO at the level I wanted to.

Could you tell us more about SplitBase and a bit about your Testing Trifecta Methodology?

Sure! SplitBase does mostly 2 things: 1 – test & optimize websites, and 2 – design, test and optimize landing pages for ecommerce brands. We work mostly with fast-growing, direct-to-consumer, $10M-$100M brands, and we ultimately aim to make their paid acquisition efforts more profitable.

The Testing Trifecta is really how we do optimization. Our not-secret-at-all secret sauce. In short, the process is about:

  1. Going through analytics to find where are the missed opportunities, the problem areas, and the behaviors we should try to replicate.
  2. Analytics tells you where to focus, and what to prioritize, but customers buying from you aren’t numbers that can be described by Google Analytics. Customers have emotions, concerns, questions – things that may be the root cause of the issues we’ve seen through analytics. So this next step is what we call “Human research”, which is really tons of qualitative research such as customer interviews, surveys, usability testing, etc. It helps us understand the “Why” behind problems.
  3. And finally, the next step is to take the learnings from the two first steps and build a hypothesis that’s supported by qual & quant data, which we’ll then prioritize and test.

And then we learn, rinse & repeat!

For some, this process is a no-brainer, but many brands and even CRO agencies don’t take the Human research step seriously enough. They prefer to save the time to test faster, but I think that’s enormously counterproductive. You’re leaving on the table insights that could help optimize the entire business, and make your tests and entire CRO program so much stronger!

“For a CRO program to be successful, the client needs to participate, and respect the process.” – Raphael Paulin-Daigle

How do you convince clients to invest resources towards optimization?

I must admit our clients don’t require tons of convincing when it comes to investing in CRO. They typically come to us after a few years of significant growth, knowing they haven’t been focusing enough on optimization, especially based on the amounts they’re spending on advertising. Most of our new clients come from referrals as well, so many have already heard about the results we’ve been able to create for other brands and they know they’ll get a solid ROI.

Brands that need tons of convincing that optimization is worth it likely won’t be ready to invest the sum we require either, so those brands are just a good fit for us, and that’s OK. 

That being said, even if our clients know the value of optimizing and sees the ROI, I still think it’s our job as optimizers to educate brands and help cultivate a culture of experimentation inside their own companies. I don’t want them to think that all that’s required is to launch a test and boom, they make more money.

If that’s the case, as soon as you have a few losing tests in a row, even if you made them tons of money in the past, they’ll lose interest and think they’re done with optimization. No good!

For a CRO program to be successful, the client needs to participate, and respect the process. They must understand why research is needed prior to a test, why we can’t launch a test every day or stop an ongoing test only after a few days, and why a losing test can be a good thing.

Ultimately, they need to see that getting results through CRO is not simply a matter of signing up for a testing tool and launching some tests. When the client understands that, and sort-of becomes an expert on the process themselves, that’s when they see value in not just the results, but in the entire initiative. 

I notice that you host a podcast! Could you tell us a bit about it and how has the reception been thus far?

Yes! The reception has been great. My favorite part is getting messages on Twitter and emails from listeners – complete strangers – telling me how much they love the podcast. Such a great feeling to know people are getting value from something you’ve created.

I created the Minds of Ecommerce podcast because while I love listening to podcasts, I find it incredibly frustrating that like 90% of the podcasts out there start with a 20min intro where the host shares random anecdotes with the guest, talks about the weather, and so on. So many podcasts are 1h long when they only need to be 15 minutes.

And when it comes to ecommerce podcasts, there are tons of them that interview consultants and experts, but few that interview founders, CEOs, and CMOs of $1M+ ecommerce brands. 

So anyway, I try to make my interviews as actionable as possible, diving deep into one or two marketing strategies with actual operators of highly successful ecommerce businesses, in 15 to 30mins.

I had to pause it last year to focus on SplitBase as we had (and still have) a waitlist of clients and needed to grow the team, but it’s coming back in full force in Q2 of 2021!

Finally, it’s time for the Lightning Round!

Bayesian or Frequentist

Will the Habs win another cup in our lifetime?
Ha! I don’t watch much hockey, but for the sake of my city’s pride,  I sure hope so!

If you couldn’t work in Experimentation, what would you do?
I’d be running my own ecommerce store, but if I’d have to stay away from ecommerce too, or marketing in general, I think I’d be in interior design. I have a passion for design and architecture, and I love creating environments, feelings – so I think that’d be fun.

Describe Raphael in 5 words or less.
Creative, energetic, and passionate problem solver

Thanks so much for chatting with me today!

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