Will Laurenson: From Startups to CRO Mastery

AI-Generated Summary

Will Laurenson shares his journey from startup to becoming a CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) expert. Will discusses the significance of usability, anxiety, and motivation in CRO, drawing from his extensive experience in running tests and optimizing various businesses. Will’s approach to CRO involves deep insights into user behavior and a focus on aligning products with customer needs, challenging the common pitfalls of assuming product-market fit based solely on initial traction or advertising success.



AI-Generated Transcript

Will Laurenson 0:00
After running, God knows how many tests several 100 tests probably by now.

It kind of felt like everything was falling into three categories. Which then yeah, to be fair have subcategories. There’s there’s various different ways of dealing with things. But everything kind of falls into three areas, which is usability, anxiety and motivation.

Khalil Guliwala 0:22
All right.

Hi, I’m your host Khalil Guliwala. Welcome to another episode of experiment nation podcast, a podcast devoted to conversion rate optimization and experimentation, essentially, have you do more with what you have? In today’s episode, we have Bill laurenson, CEO and lead consultant of customers look like? Well, please go ahead. Introduce yourself.

Will Laurenson 0:46
Hi, thanks for having me. Yeah, as you mentioned, and will based in London, UK. I run customer cyclic, we’ve were a CRO agency for econ brands, been going back for years now? Yeah, just coming up to four years. Although, I’d say the first two, two and a half was was more of a me being a consultant. And, yeah, probably the last 18 months, we decided, well, I decided to change that and go and go full service. So

Khalil Guliwala 1:16
okay, so Well, I think, you know, what, in terms of CRO roles, you just know, how does someone get into CRO? Can you talk a little bit about that journey? Yeah,

Will Laurenson 1:25
sure. So I think I kind of just fell into it by accident, I suppose. I, I worked at a few startups early on in my career. First business, I was at startup, a very small team of about, I think, at most there was about eight of us. And that was in the voucher affiliate space, we were working with a mobile app that was aimed at retail, sorry, brick and mortar. So you’d be able to download a voucher onto your phone based on your location, and walk into that store, show that voucher in and get a discount. And it was a it was a mobile startup within a bigger brand called Macromedia, which owned a VAT brand MyVoucherCodes, which was one of the biggest in the UK. So they had the online side. Right, that was that was well established. So in theory, part of what we were part of what we should have been doing or could have been doing was just phoning up these brands and saying, You working with us online? Let’s do something with your stores as well. Yeah, it’s a bit of a different model, because obviously online is just tracked with with cookies and things. Whereas in store, we were kind of relying on them either tracking the code in their tills, and then providing us a report, which I know for a fact works very, very badly.

Khalil Guliwala 2:44
I’ve ever asked you that. Yeah, this

Will Laurenson 2:46
one example comes to mind where we did, I think we did about 20 times the revenue for the for this, this brand, then all the other competitors combined. And the reason we’re pretty sure, pretty confident on this was the staff were given our code and told we’re doing this promotion, this is the code to enter it into it. And so the vast majority were just default using our code. And the ones that got attributed to the other brands were that when when the customer actually showed the code on their phone, and the person looked at it and actually noted that down. And then I think the reason we know this is because the next campaign with that brand, we saw the different thing happen. We saw one of our competitors did a massive amount of revenue. And the rest of us did very little. So it was kind of like, okay, I think I know what’s going on here.

Khalil Guliwala 3:45
You shouldn’t attribution attribution. Yeah.

Will Laurenson 3:50
So yeah, I started working. It was a weird one there. I actually left the voucher side kind of started working on this on a new app for the business, which was combining various other bits of tech we had. The general idea behind this app was you’d be able to leave work. Let’s say you’ve worked a bit late, you could leave work. And you could just open up your phone and see which restaurants are nearby that have a table available. Is there any theater on? Are there any cinema viewings coming up? Like what? Almost like what can I do in the next 15 minutes instead of just going home? What’s what’s around me right now? We’ve started working on that designing that. There was an app, we took something from which was this idea is I know it’s a 62nd thing, but for some reason I’ve got polar bears in my head. Yeah, I don’t know what that’s about. But the basic idea was that someone should be able to complete their journey within the app within 60 seconds. Right. So in this example, opening up, scan through food through theater, cinema, whatever else, make a decision, click book done. Okay, right as quickly as we can, most of it’s really easy because it was through API’s. Obviously, if we’ve saved someone’s data, we can just pass it through the API, the vouchers, were just click to reveal. So it’s all it’s all pretty simple. Yeah. I left there and moved to another startup, where I became head of head of marketing, at the age of like, 2324, I think. So it’s probably a little bit early for me. But it was a very, very small business in the storage space. So this was like Airbnb for storage. Okay, so I could I can rent the spare room in someone’s house, or an area of their garage, or their their loft, and store my stuff in it. It’s quite good idea. Some competitors came along and basically optimized, the actual storage space model into like, bigger, I don’t know, if you have the brand, but big yellow storage, that sort of thing was a massive warehouse. And you you hire up part of it, what they were doing was they were hiring out larger pieces of the warehouse, and then storing everyone’s stuff in it, right to optimize the space. Anyway, back to this brand. I very, very quickly picked up on some key issues. For example, one of the big issues being the monetization was an honesty system. So you could message someone through the app through the website, get in touch with them agreed to store your stuff. And then it was basically voluntary, to pay a 20 pound fee to have that transaction go through. So regardless of how much I’m gonna pay you to store my stuff with you. You just pay the website 20 quid to confirm that that booking. And that’s kind of like, this is 20. What 2014? Okay, so I’m like, we’ve got Airbnb doing this. We’ve got these websites doing this. And you’re taking a 20 pound payment on an honesty system. If someone’s made a booking. This is this is not right. Yeah. So I kicked off the website rebuild for them. And we just to be honest, we heavily based on on Airbnb, at the time. In terms of you could see a map where all the listings were or you could or you could view a list. In fact, there were side by side on the desktop, and even the payment system, we kind of took some inspiration from Airbnb, and we said, we’re going to charge a fee from both sides. Okay, right. So the fee wasn’t I don’t think it was visible to the person booking the space. They just saw their price. But the way we’ve done it was, if you wanted 100 pounds a week, then the person would be charged 110. And you would you would receive 90, essentially, those weren’t the percentages. But yeah, we would essentially add on a price. And then and then take a question, which worked quite well. So I then left there moves on to another startup. This one was a Netflix for magazines, sort of thing. So one subscription, you get access to every magazine that we’ve gotten the platform. Really cool idea. This is where I first encountered, I think I think the problem that got me into CRO properly, which was the marketing team was given the budget told to spend the budget and acquire customers and grow the company, all the responsibility for growth lay with the marketing team. But the marketing teams only lever on that growth ability was advertising. Okay, so driving the traffic. And fortunately, and I think, you know, maybe I lucked out here a bit, but obviously it being a digital platform, I could see everything every user was doing. Right. So I could see exactly how are people using this tool, or this platform? How many magazines do they read? How many different categories? Do they read? How many devices? Do they log in on all this sort of stuff? And when we were able to from that to map out what does an ideal user look like? What are the actions they take? And then we started, started to do some research, right? Get some run some surveys, I did some interviews with the people and ask them what you want from this thing. Right? How do you how do you like to read magazines? How do you like to discover new magazines? If you do at all? What is your main reason for subscribing to a magazine platform instead of just buying your daily, your your weekly or monthly magazine. And I took this feedback back to the product team and said, Here’s all the stuff we need to be doing to actually properly acquire customers and then retain them in the long term. And I started to work with that team more and more. And actually, I actually started to move away from the advertising side and left that with my colleague because she she she liked it Right. So I said, I’m gonna focus on what our customers want the feedback, the email marketing side as well, and start to optimize the business for what our customers actually want. And saying to them, we’ll ditch the referral program, which I think it was used not user profiles. There were just things in the pipeline that the business wanted to do. And no one had ever mentioned this in any feedback. Okay, so that kind of got me into that. And then I moved to another final startup, which was a competitors to Zipcar. Okay, familiar, was it? Yeah. This

Rommil Santiago 10:40
is Rommil. Santiago from experiment nation. Every week we share interviews with and conference sessions by our favorite conversion rate optimizers from around the world. So if you liked this video, smash that like button and consider subscribing, it helps us a bunch. Now back to the episode, just saying,

Khalil Guliwala 10:54
You know what I’m kind of picking up on sort of when it comes to your, your, your career journey working different CRO, what it sounds like, on one hand is like a lot of companies, we talk about product market fit. And like a lot of it’s almost like, it’s almost in baked where it’s almost like companies have a sense of they think they know what the users want. They have access to the data already, like you mentioned, the data was there, right? But yet, you didn’t said hey, like, do I like water users actually doing what they actually care about? Right. And that obviously transforms the product roadmap, because why spend money on something that users don’t even want? Can you talk a little bit more about that, for example, like, you know, do you have any ideas or theories of why there’s this still sort of, there’s this, this lack of fit between between the product and the market, given that the data isn’t available?

Will Laurenson 11:49
Um, arrogance? Is it people coming up with an idea, maybe speaking to a few people about it, likely friends, family colleagues, you know, people are going to tell them get this great idea. Going off and building it, getting that initial piece of traction. And then it’s that kind of, well, I’ve got this experience anyway. So I know what I’m doing. And I’ve built this product, and some people are using it and spending money through it, therefore, I’ve got product market fit. Let’s go. Maybe arrogance isn’t the word because I think that that implies people know that they’re doing that I get you, when actually I think it’s just a case of you know, like, I’ve been doing marketing for 12 years. Right? It wouldn’t surprise me if there are certain things I do because I’m going well, you know, I’ve done this, I know this works. I’m happy to to get on with this and get a bit of traction with it. And then I’m thinking sweet, I’m good. Let’s now we can spend some money. But actually, you do the research, you take a step back, or get a third set of eyes on it, get someone else to take a look at that. And you realize, oh, actually, we’ve got some problems here. And I think what happened with these other two businesses was probably the amount of money being spent on it showed that there were results. Okay. Right. If you spend $100,000 A month driving people to it, you’re going to get some results. Yes. And instead of looking at it from a product market fit point of view, which is what does it 60 70% of people need to say? I’d be really disappointed if I if I lost access to that. Okay. I think that’s that’s the general kind of rule for the survey. They’re almost flipping it the other way and saying, Well, we’ve got 30% of people are buying it. So we’ve got something that people want, and they like, but we just, we need to optimize. Okay, except that they don’t go and optimize they go build the stuff they think they need. But yeah, I think I’d say that’s, that’s probably the problem, they get enough initial traction that they think this is, this is going to work and maybe they think 30% of what we’re getting 30% of the traffic buying is good enough to 30% That’s a huge number.

Khalil Guliwala 14:17
And then right here, on one hand, it’s also like big, that’s money on the table. Right? This might say well, that they’re just not picking up because you’re not being involved into it. Anything I also kind of I’m also going to kind of infer from his story. Well, is that because you work in sort of different companies where for example, you talk about sort of that place where you kind of book a sort of hotel, or essentially some kind of activity within 15 minutes, talking about storage place, talking about sort of, you know, cars vouchers. I’ve always had this feeling that because you’ve kind of seen these different ecommerce models or different products, it was almost become a question of mosaic pattern recognition, right? Because you’ve seen these different use cases by different companies. Whenever you’re working with a client you’re not someone who’s been Then let’s say 10 years working on just one product, you work with different types of items with different kinds of models. And you’re essentially coming with a knowledge to people’s now let’s be incredible, right? Because you’re like, you know, like, how did that play into you kind of wanting to be kind of having your own company, like, you know, customers? Like was I imagine that I just feel like you’re someone who is curious and wants to do more with that? Yeah, I

Will Laurenson 15:21
think it was part. Yeah, seeing that same problem popping up again and again, and thinking, well, we need to fix this. And also and also seen no one fixing it. Yeah. But I remember working with a quite a big, quite a big media agency in the UK. Like a PPC, Facebook ads, that sort of thing. And being on several calls with them, or sending several emails asking, What do you need from us? Like, what do you need us to do on our side, to get to help us all get better results? And frequently getting the response? Nothing. You don’t, we don’t need you to do anything. We’ll we’ll we’re running the ads, we’re good. You don’t need to worry about it. And then we’re not seeing the results. Right. So I’m obviously looking at going well, we’re not seeing the results. That’s why I’m asking what, what what we can help with. It’s not things are going great. But I’m trying to get something better from it. It’s, we’re not hitting targets. What else can be done? And I remember mentioning landing pages and things to them. For one brand that it was like no, no, don’t, don’t worry about it. We don’t need any of this. Nice. So that that kind of really annoyed me a bit. And combined with the fact we also got and then no, this this comes up a lot. Because I’ve been on sales calls where people have mentioned this to me. I’ve spoke to other agencies who have had the same thing. We got pitched to by the directors. Okay. And then the people who worked on our accounts had about 18 months experience. Okay, and that really bothered me. Because I was like, we’re paying you because you have the expertise that we don’t. But I’m pretty sure I’ve got more Facebook ads expertise than the guys you’ve you’ve put on our account. Yeah. Right. So that’s like, well, what’s what’s the point of me hiring you? Yes, agencies. So my that’s that’s kind of why. So that’s kind of why customers are click was a consultancy at first. Because I wanted to be the one working with the brands. The whole point was you will you would work with the expert. Not someone reasonably fresh out of university, who I’ve just trained up a bit and stuck on your account. Yeah.

Khalil Guliwala 17:36
Yeah. And so it’s definitely more about customers than me more about sort of the process of setting up tell me more about sort of like the experience of someone working with you.

Will Laurenson 17:49
Yeah, so I’m actually onboarding to clients today. After shortly after this recording, which is all quite a new process that we’ve, we’ve spent a little bit of time working out. But since you there’s an onboarding process, right, we need to get access to everything we need. We have a call with them, where we make sure we’ve got everything and anything we haven’t, we just make it clear what we need. And then it’s what should you expect from us over the next couple of weeks, like this is what we’re going to be working on immediately. It used to be his three month plan, kind of but people don’t really care about that. Really, they want to know, what’s going to happen next. You know, going back to what I was saying about the agency, right? It was what, what are you going to be doing next? What’s What’s this week? What’s the next week? Do you need anything from us to help you do this? So I’ve kind of redesigned our onboarding process around that, and just making sure they know on. Yeah, I mean, think they know, our goal for the next three to four months is to run tests and improve their website and give them learnings. I don’t need to tell them that. I need to tell them, what are the learnings you’re gonna get from us next week. And the week after, we’ve revamped that a bit. We work on a three month rolling contracts with clients. So we tend to do it as a bit of a like almost a sprint to the wrong word. Obviously, Sprint, a sprint is about three months, but like three months projects, essentially, you know, we’ll try and identify some key areas that need work in those first three months, and we just target those, okay, which is run our tests and our research focused on those. And then that’s not to say we just move on and try three new things after that. But hopefully, we’ve made some decent impact in those key areas. There might be some more iterative tests to run going on from that. But let’s say ideally, first first three months we’re looking at Add to Cart, right we get healthy amount of traffic to a product, but add to cart some problem. Let’s work on that. The second three months might be? Well, actually, you know, do we think people are just landing on the wrong products. So let’s work on product discoverability for the next three weeks and put a bit more focus there, there’s no reason why we can’t be doing. We’re doing both.

Khalil Guliwala 20:14
If I’m on your LinkedIn, you talk about the UAM. Matthew am method is part of what you’re talking about in terms of onboarding.

Will Laurenson 20:23
It’s not necessary onboarding, that’s more of our just our CRM method. Okay, the methodology we’ll use. So after running, God knows how many tests several 100 tests probably by now. It kind of felt like, everything was falling into three categories. Which then yeah, to be fair, have subcategories. There’s various different ways of dealing with things. But everything kind of falls into three areas, which is usability, anxiety, and motivation, right? Usability? Very simply, how does the website function? Right? Is it easy to browse? Do you have a good search function? Is your navigation clear? Are your product options, easy to use? And understandable? And good? Can people just buy the products they want? The user? So the anxiety piece is questions of concerns that someone has about both your products and your business. So product wise would be if I’m buying this food product, and I have a nut allergy, I need to know that this product does not contain nuts. Okay. But if that information is not there, I can’t buy it. Right? If there was no mention of allergens, or allergy advice on that page, there’s a very good chance that I just won’t buy that product because they don’t feel safe. And then you’ve got the anxieties about the business. You know, if I’ve never heard of your business before, do I trust making a purchase from it? Generally, to be honest, if you have a reasonably professional looking Shopify site, you’re out you’re doing doing well there already. But it can be product, business reviews, it could be just visibility of customer service has an impact. Sometimes just putting putting an address in the footer can have an impact, obviously, further, you’re looking at high intent people anyway, if they’re if they’re scanning all the way to the footer as well. But yeah, such anxiety is what are the questions or concerns someone has about your products and your brand? And how well you’re doing actually dealing with those. Okay. And then the motivation piece is, what are people trying to achieve with this product? So it could be what are the pain points that they’re trying to overcome with it, or it could be the desired outcomes that they’re hoping to achieve? Do they get that feeling from your website, that your products are going to help them do that? And achieve that? And then there’s a little bit of scarcity and urgency to just nudge people over the line. But those only work if you’ve done those other pieces? Well, what if people still have questions about a product, then putting a timer on it doesn’t matter. If they’re not excited about it, then putting a timer on, it’s not going to matter. But if you get those right, and then you have a little time, which says ordering the next one hour, one minute, we’ll be able to ship it. Ship it today. You’ll receive it tomorrow. Yeah, somewhere that those times, you know, those work, think they’ve worked every single time I’ve tested them. But they work so much better when when you’ve got the other pieces done.

Khalil Guliwala 23:21
Nice. I think it thank you so much for kind of walking to walk into the methodology. Here. It’s in a graph commercial optimized optimization, I think it’s so focused on sort of, it gets so granular, which is part of it. That is no, it’s rare to hear someone actually talk about methodology that they’ve used. And again, one that I’ve linked to all the different projects and work that you’ve done. Yeah,

Will Laurenson 23:42
yeah, I’m just, it’s pretty much everything we’ve done everywhere, you know, even going back to the magazine app, for example. Okay, part of it was part of the tweaks, we made one motivation to get people over the line reading more magazines. And that was to do with with the money they were saving. So we ran a very basic test, which was, it was it was during during that onboarding during that trial period, I think one of the emails they received, gave them an idea of how much money they saved by by using, really the app instead of buying the magazines. And this was just an across the average. Right? So it was, on average, people read X number of magazines, and that’s going to save you. So that would have cost you 43 pounds something and then you’re thinking Well 999 is an absolute steal. It’s that sort of thing helps. Okay. And then we did so obviously, usability things to get people discovering more magazines. And then with that, there was a few other things like one test that I did that I loved, which was still an A B tests, but it just wasn’t on the website. We were sending postcards to people, just with a little thank you note And I remember we tested this, the original idea was to get more, more trial people to subscribe. And so we tested sending it to people in the trial period. And this had almost no impact whatsoever. In fact, I think it literally no remotely statistically significant stat change on any of the stats we were looking at. And it was just it was literally a postcard. It said, welcome on one side. And on the other, it was handwritten note saying Welcome to the Reedley family. Feel free to contact us if you’ve got any questions. It was something along those lines, no sales or anything like that most no marketing message, just a thank you. I said, Well, yeah, maybe this is just the wrong audience. Let’s push it back for weeks. And let’s send it to people who started their paid month two weeks ago. Okay. So they should receive this postcard. And yeah, about I think it’s about to, like 120 days, something like that. They should receive their postcard just over a week before their subscription is due to when you get exactly the same postcard. And it had a massive impact on the numbers. The number of magazines, they read, the average time they spent in the in the app, the devices, the activated on the profiles they added, and their lifetime. Just because we tracked it for for quite a while. Just a simple postcard had had a really big impact on these people. And we sent enough of these for me to be pretty confident in these numbers. I mean, not 1000s and 1000s, because it was handwritten. Yes. But Ashley, who did the writing must have sent must have sent probably 2000 of them.

Khalil Guliwala 26:45
And it said, Vicki said it’s not someone who’s doing so ready, right? Ladies? Have you just been optimizing when it’s sent? Right, not only saving money, you’re actually doing a lot more due to increasing lifetime value increase engagement with the product.

Will Laurenson 27:00
And I think that’s a really important point of CRO that a lot of good CROs will, will do and do and do well. And a lot of people who have no experience would you know, a lot a lot those people would have stopped when that first test went wrong. When they saw it having no impact. A lot of people would have said no, right? We’re done with this. It’s it’s taken up time and energy. Let’s Let’s ditch it. It’s having no impact. But I said no, no, we’ve got the postcards, we have the process, all we’ve got to do is push it back about four weeks and have it pull some slightly different data. That’s the only part of the process that has to change. And we just carry on. And then and then we got that result.

Khalil Guliwala 27:45
Well, before we head off any is anything you’d want to discuss anything you’d want to focus on?

Will Laurenson 27:53
Um, just just a quick mention that I have a podcast as well as customers who click podcast, which in October, September, I’m not sure when this is going up. But October, September time, we’ve got quite a heavy CRO segment. So it will probably be about roughly eight, eight to 10 weeks worth of just CRO related episodes. So if people want to check that out, yeah, customers are click. That’s probably it. I don’t have any. Unfortunately, I’m not launching a book anytime soon. It feels like that. So. So yeah, I think if you want to learn more, yeah. Yeah, go to the podcast. Okay,

Khalil Guliwala 28:33
so I think that in in similar way, we’ll, if any readers want to find out more about your podcast more, but your company or where can they? What’s the best way for them to follow you or contact you just know what you’re up to?

Will Laurenson 28:48
Yeah, obviously the website customer cyclic.com. But best place is probably LinkedIn. I’m very active on LinkedIn posting content. And I’m pretty responsive on on direct message there.

Khalil Guliwala 29:02
Great. Well, thank you so much for being a guest today.

Will Laurenson 29:05
No problem. Thank you for having me.

Rommil Santiago 29:09
This is Rommil Santiago from experiment nation. Every week we share interviews with and conference sessions by our favorite conversion rate optimizers from around the world. So if you liked this video, smash that like button and consider subscribing it helps us a bunch

If you liked this post, sign up for Experiment Nation’s newsletter to receive more great interviews like this, memes, editorials, and conference sessions in your inbox: https://bit.ly/3HOKCTK

Connect with Experimenters from around the world

We’ll highlight our latest members throughout our site, shout them out on LinkedIn, and for those who are interested, include them in an upcoming profile feature on our site.

Rommil Santiago