This interview first appeared on AmbroiseDebret.com
Are you sitting on a goldmine without realizing it with a non-optimized website?
Are you doing the right efforts so that your website’s visitors take the actions you want them to?
I’ve had a lot of exciting discussions about those topics with Raphaël since meeting him a year ago at MTL+ECOMMERCE (to which he comes every time!). Raphaël is a CRO (conversion rate optimization) expert and runs Splitbase, a company that offers conversion optimization services for luxury ecommerce.
From his start as a magician when he was 11 years old to becoming a cryptocurrencies expert and then going into CRO, Raphaël is an overall very interesting person. He’s a really great speaker and communicator (Tedx, MTL+ECOMMERCE, Inside Bitcoins), was named one of Canada’s 10 future Dragons by Shark Tank billionaire Kevin O’Leary, and counts the famous Dan Martell as his mentor.
In his interview, Raphaël shares his tips on CRO, entrepreneurship, content promotion and much more!
Ambroise Debret: What would you do differently if you were starting in CRO right now?
Raphaël: I’d likely work for free to gain experience, or even though I consider myself as “unemployable” being an entrepreneur, I would possibly try to get a job with companies that are incredibly well versed in CRO. Optimization is much more complex than it seems, and learning from the best is the quickest way to learn.
[NOTE FROM AMBROISE: I couldn’t agree more. For detailed tips about this, you can check out my job search growth hacking blog post. ]
What are the most common misconceptions about CRO?
That A/B testing IS conversion optimization.
Although it’s a part of it, A/B testing is a tool to validate or invalidate hypotheses. That’s it. To me, conversion optimization is about continuous improvement of your key metrics through analyzing user behaviors, psychology, and understanding data in order to create hypotheses to implement or to test.
Another misconception is that CRO is something that can be done almost overnight. Sure, some aspects of CRO can be done by one person, rather quickly. But the whole process? In a way that will actually generate results? That’s much harder.
For example, when we launch an A/B test, it’s not just one person deciding to test X. It’s weeks of both qualitative and quantitative research to explore a problem (e.g. a checkout step with a high dropoff rate).
Then we involve an interactive designer and conversion copywriter to create different test variations based our data and hypothesis. Finally, we include a test developer that will code the test in the A/B testing tool (we don’t use drag & drop – it creates a whole lot of issues when running tests).
So at the end of the day, launching a test often involves 4 to 5 people and a few weeks of research, planning, and development. Some people may scoff at this, but this is what’s needed if you don’t want to waste your time running useless tests.
What are the 2 least & 2 most sexy moments of your career? What did you learn from them?
Least sexy moments:
1. When I was getting started offering CRO as a service, ~5 years ago, I thought CRO was something that could be done by one person (see misconception above). I signed up a few clients and realized I had a problem: I’m not a designer, I’m not a test developer. Doing CRO was much harder than I anticipated, and I didn’t charge enough to be able to hire, so it became quite a puzzle until I 5x’ed the price of the service.
2. Failing at building companies over and over again. Before SplitBase, I started about 5 companies and tried countless other failed ideas. Out of these 5, only 1 made enough money to be worth it. It was tough to keep going after so many failures, but I learned that these are the most valuable learning experiences one can have. Now I embrace them, and I’m quite happy they happened, or otherwise, I may not be where I am today.
1. Being invited to speak in front of hundreds of Middle Eastern bank executives in Beirut, Lebanon back in 2014. I had a bitcoin consultancy at the time and they wanted me to explain cryptocurrencies. I had 15 or 30 minutes on stage, and it was my first time being flown so far to speak. It felt surreal, I didn’t expect it. That’s when I realized anyone can build authority in a space if they follow a strategy and commit to it.
2. Every time we increase the revenues of our clients… That’s the goal of our work, of course, but no matter how often it happens, it’s incredibly exciting. In the past few months we increased ecommerce revenues of our clients by 20% on average – again, such bigs wins feel surreal, but I can’t allow myself or anyone on my team to sit on our laurels. By experience, I know that if we stop improving, or think everything we do will work out, wins will start to fading.
Your close mentor/mentee relationship with Dan Martell is quite famous. Any tips for young ambitious people on how to find & keep mentors?
My best tip is to watch Dan’s video on how to find a mentor. He articulates it better than I ever could:
I doubt that I have the best promotion process out there, and I’m sure it can be improved by quite a bit, but here are the big lines:
- Write really, really good content. No rambling, more detailed than anything else out there on the topic, and tons of quotes, examples and images.
- I’ll also hire an editor to make sure whatever piece is written is good enough for prime time.
- When it’s time to promote, I’ll start emailing everyone (company or person) that I mentioned in the article to let them know about it. I’ll tweet as well, tagging everyone I mentioned.
- Of course, I’ll share it on all my social media channels, send it to GrowthHackers, Inbound.org and email it to my newsletter.
- And finally, I never stop promoting my content. Even if it’s a year old, if it’s still relevant, I’ll always promote it. It’s not because I published something new that the previous pieces should be forgotten.
Assumptions are public enemy #1. What are your tips on how to incorporate the “never assume” mentality to everything?
Not assuming is a habit, so like every habit, you need to work on it.
My first tip is to put a post-it note on my desk as a reminder to never assume. Second, consciously challenge your own assumptions. When you notice yourself assuming, ask yourself if there’s a way you can validate that assumption and if so, do it.
If you can’t validate it, acknowledge your assumption and accept that you may be wrong.
[NOTE FROM AMBROISE: if you’re interested in the topic, you can read Raphaël’s article on Startup Grind’s Medium on Why “Assuming” Might be Your Most Dangerous Daily Habit.]
What are the big lines of your CRO Testing Trifecta method? What makes it special?
The Testing Trifecta was created to create a conversion optimization process that can be scaled based on the size and needs of a company. To this day, a lot of companies make decisions about their websites based on blog posts (e.g. 100 things to test) and based on opinions and discussions in all-hands meetings.
This means they’re making decisions that can heavily influence their sales performance. And yet, the same decisions are rarely backed by data or even tested. Too often it’s assumed that these decisions will be improvements no matter what, when in fact it could tank their conversions. I’ve seen it happen too many times.
Back to the Testing Trifecta, this method is all about getting the proper data you need to create improvements or launch an A/B test before implementing such test or improvement. This way, you get A/B tests that are data-driven (not just based on the guesses or opinion of whoever is launching the test), and you’ll implement changes that will truly have an impact.
The method starts with Quantitative analysis (mostly analytics) to find the weak spots of a website, and the areas to improve that will have the most significant impact. Then, it uses Qualitative analysis (using methods like surveys, polls, user testing, customer interviews, and so on) to understand WHY those weak areas are not performing well. And finally, the last part is testing. Once you know WHAT is not working well, and WHY it’s not working, you can create a hypothesis for a solution and then A/B test it.
Your impressive list of customers includes L’Oréal, Kiehls, Frank & Oak. How does one pitch & convince such big companies of CRO’s potential impact?
Most of our clients come from referrals or from some of the content we’ve published. And at the end of the day, numbers talk.
When one company hears we’ve increased the sales of another similar company by, example, $1.6M, they become interested and want to know more.
Then when said companies get in touch, the key is to listen. Understand what they need and what they want. Don’t try to sell them something that won’t solve their problems. Only work with companies that truly need your help and that will value your work.
Not everyone has a multimillion luxury ecommerce website. How can everybody use CRO to get more signups, contacts forms or more filled even with little website traffic for testing?
When people hear CRO, they think A/B testing. Now if you have a small website, A/B testing will likely be a complete waste of time. So the #1 thing I recommend to people to increase their conversions is to talk with their audience.
Pick up the phone and talk to them – what words do they use? How are they describing their challenges? What are their needs and wants? Who do they look up to? Understanding your customer in-depth will help you become more relevant to them.
What you’ll write – from a headline to a blog post, to call to action – will make them feel like you read their minds. And there’s no shortcut. You need to talk to your customers to be able to achieve that.
I work mostly in ecommerce, and I can definitely say that if you run an ecommerce website but don’t have reviews on your product pages, you’re missing out.
It’s the most powerful form of social proof there is when it comes to ecommerce. People want to know what they buy, and if you genuinely believe in what you sell, you shouldn’t be afraid of reviews. At the end of the day, if you don’t have reviews people may think you’re hiding something.
And if all of your reviews are 5-star reviews, people may think you edited your reviews. So don’t be afraid of reviews, and don’t worry about a few bad reviews either. They can help too.