Oli is also a self-proclaimed opinionated writer on conversion centered design in inbound marketing. He has also been known to have the occasional brush with, let me see if I can this right, the charismatic quadrupedal megafauna which I can only speculate has something to do with helping to protect (LARGE) endangered wildlife species; Charismatic quadrupedal megafauna, basically that means big sexy four-legged animals, that’s where how I like to spend my time when I’m doing photography.”
James: Alright, welcome back my friends. We got another edition of the Big Value Big Business Podcast. I am your host James Lynch. I am really big, big, big time super excited about my very special guest today. His name is Mr. Oli Gardner. Oli is the co-founder and creative director at Unbounce.com. Unbounce.com is a landing page building platform for marketers that provides the easiest way to build an A/B test targeted landing pages for your online marketing campaigns. Now Oli has been quoted as saying, “I’ve seen more landing pages than anyone on the planet.” And that’s a pretty big claim.
He’s also a self-proclaimed opinionated writer on conversion centered design in inbound marketing. Oli has also been known to have the occasional brush with, let me see if I can this right, the charismatic quadrupedal megafauna which I can only speculate it has something to do with helping to protect endangered wildlife species. But, I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of all this. Let’s say a big hello to Mr. Oli Gardner. Oli, how are you today?
Oli: I am wonderful. Thanks for having me on James.
James: It’s cool. Hope you got it a chuckle bro.
Oli: I’m good.
James: Yeah, give me that charismatic quadrupedal business there.
Oli: Charismatic quadrupedal megafauna, basically that means big sexy four-legged animals.
James: Nice, nice, alright. And it’s for the proliferation and protection of what you said big sexy, correct?
Oli: Yeah, indeed. In fact that’s where how I like to spend my time when I’m doing photography.
James: I love it, I love it.
Oli: Getting in harms way of things that shouldn’t be standing in front of.
James: Living dangerously. I love it. Alright man, cool, well listen, I want to thank you officially for coming on the show today and I’m really excited to get your unique perspective on how we can offer more valuable content and achieve higher conversions with our website in the process. Sound like a plan?
Oli: It sounds awesome.
James: Awesome, awesome. First can we get a look a little bit of history about you. I’ve given just a little intro to where you’re at today. Would you give us a little history, by where you came from and kind of what brought you here to where you are today?
Oli: Yeah, for sure. Well, we started Unbounce about four and a half years ago, six co-founders which is pretty unusual. We’ve worked together on and off for the last 14 years in a bunch of different companies and It just seemed that the time was right that we’re all either not working or some people were doing contracts that were finishing up and we just thought, you know, why don’t we work together again. And CEO, Rick had two ideas. We — and we voted on which one we were going to do where we chose correctly. I’m really happy we didn’t do the first one because it was a pretty terrible idea. And yeah, it’s just been four and a half years of amazing growth and just, you know, we have 42 staff now. It’s — yeah, it’s amazing. Everyday I look around the office and it blows me away.
James: And that’s — so Unbounce has been around for approximately six years?
Oli: Four and a half.
James: Four and a half, okay, I thought that.
Oli: Yeah and we publicly like launched, so, just over three years in the hands of our users.
James: Cool, cool. So tell me before Unbounce if then go as far back if you care too or not.
Oli: Yeah, oh okay.
James: How, have you always been an entrepreneur or did you actually work for the man or can you tell us a little bit about that.
Oli: I worked for several men and woman — yeah, going way back, I started as completely different. I started as a programmer in the Financial District in London. And did that for a few years then made my way over to, you know, front-end web development and worked for a big online gambling company called Bodog for a while, that was a lot of fun. I moved on to run a usability team and then became a creative director and then the day we started Unbounce is the first day I became a marketer.
Oli: So I’d never done it before.
Oli: Yeah, so that was an interesting way to kick off a new company.
James: Would you consider that to be your entrepreneurial turning point?
Oli: Yeah, I mean, I’d always had a little bit of the instinct but never — I never seen from perspective of here is an idea. Let’s officially make a company and see where we can take it. I think it was in my blood from the amount of money I managed to gouge in my parent’s pockets for doing housework when I was kid.
James: Once and entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur.
James: I love it, love it. So, that being your turning point coming in to Unbounce and that’s starting off your marketing career. Dude you’re a monster. I see you — I heard about you before I heard about Unbounce. I mean your blogs are everywhere. Your blog posts and your introspective take on conversion and conversion design. You are a name in the industry that is very well known. Tell me a little bit about — obviously starting your own business or…
James: …co-founding your business, it had to be some challenges there. Could you maybe shed some light on some of the challenges you had and how you managed to get over them because you’re rocking now.
Oli: Yeah, well, early on with Unbounce, the challenges are the same that every online business faces and that’s getting people to show up so you can grow the business. They way we did it, first off we to put a website up, it’s a two-page website the first day on the WordPress same with the blog on it. And we started the blogging the very first day and that’s huge because, you know, I’ve wrote a blog post, everyday for a few months and all of a sudden you’ve got 30, 60, 90 business content, right? And at the same when I was aggressively building our Twitter account, so that would have a medium for pushing the content. And, you know, it’s just a lot of hard work. I spent four, six, eight hours everyday just growing the Twitter account for the first six months. And it was just — I was either writing or I was doing that, and they’re the only two things I did. You know, and then soon enough, we had, you know, over 20,000 followers and a lot of content. So that kind of gets our channels going. We have the inbound channels for, you know, organic for the content and the blog, we have a channel to push the blog on Twitter and elsewhere. But then, you know, that gets the momentum going but at some point you need to — we need to build a list of leads for when we launched the company, right? We need some people ready to jump in to our beta launch.
Oli: So we needed some lead gen and lead gen is hard to do if you don’t have anything to give away. So I decided we’d write our first eBook which was 101 landing page optimization tips and to do that, we just went around to one, founder’s. I ran a two-hour brainstorm, I had 14 questions and each question, you know, we get a whole bunch of stickies and put them all over the wall. Each question became a chapter then I wrap them up, went home and I wrote all night. So I pulled an all-nighter but I worked 16 hours, came back the next day with the finished eBook.
James: Get out of the town. Within 16 hours, you got the main lead magnet…
James: That started Unbonce.
Oli: It was kind of crazy, lots of Red Bull which I’m sipping right now as we speak actually.
James: Old habits die hard.
James: If it works.
Oli: It was funny though because one of the other founders was saying, really we’re going to spend two weeks making an eBook which would have been valuable in itself but I’m like, no. I’m going home and I’ll see you guys when it’s done. So, yeah, next day we put that up and that was our lead gen mechanism for the next, you know, six months or so. It was on the homepage of our site, we pushed it through the blog, it was on our Twitter account information and background. So that was a thing that was everywhere, associated with our name. So that started things. That’s the lead gen aspect but you can’t grow fast just doing lead gen. You have to build brand awareness at the same time. So from that, I started guest posting. And I kicked things off by guesting on the SEO Moz blog, now Moz. And that was the smart one — the smartest decisions I’ve ever made.
James: Not a bad place to guest post and get accepted.
Oli: Yeah because anyone gets in on the UMOZ blog and if it was really good, it gets pushed through to the main one. So there’s none of that editorializing kind of barrier to entry that you get on lot of blogs. So the first one I did was great and then the second one I did just blew up. It was a new guide to online marketing which took me months to create. It was a 15-million-pixel infographic and a six-months-course in marketing. Basically it was telling a story of how I became a marketer in this first six months. So it was fun to write in that perspective and that’s been shared download over 150,000 times, translated in seven languages just that really put us on the map.
James: Cool! Is this still being downloaded today?
Oli: It is. I don’t pay much attention to it anymore. It just kind of sits there. Maybe I’ll update it one day but…
James: Yeah, we need 2.0, dude.
Oli: Yeah. It’s funny when you get the occasional photo of someone who has printed it out and put on their walls, about six feet long.
James: Oh wow. I do remember it. I’ll have to and actually we’ll have to get the URL a little bit later and so I can put it in the show notes because I do remember it as well when it came out. So cool, yeah, so challenges would be in the beginning would be lead generation and then brand awareness. So basically getting your name out there and then so getting people interested in you, is that a fair statement?
Oli: Yeah. And the important thing is to split up between the two. I remember listening to Dharmesh from HubSpot, he was talking MozCon kind of last year and he said the mistake he made at the beginning was doing all lead gen. He didn’t do the brand awareness sides and looking back he wish he had split it in two so that was good validation also from him that I was doing the right thing.
James: Well tell me do you think that advice because we – our audience consists of a lot of consultants, entrepreneurs and small, medium sized business, do you think that’s still whole true to keep that balance of lead generation and brand awareness out there?
Oli: Absolutely. I mean, on one-tends to feed the other in some respects but you can target us fairly small niche if you just do lead gen route and can just drive people in there but if you start doing guest posts in all different areas, different parts of your target market, you can just extend your reach much, much faster. And if you’re driving people back from there to a lead gen form, like go on a page or something then you’re doubling up. So, the momentum kind of spurs them both together.
James: Yeah I have to say you are very effective and Oli Gardner first, Unbounce second, I don’t know if that was by design but I think you had kind of a charismatic rock star kind of approach that you took. So, it kind of led and it was awesome because you still have that persona out there today but I remember back years ago when it all started. So, it worked brother.
Oli: Yeah, that was — it wasn’t exactly a thought out I plan as much but I guess it’s my writing style is very honest and opinionated. It tends to — I don’t know, it’s authentic, right? It doesn’t change. I’m always talking the same kind of way and people liked it luckily. And yeah, so I guess that did build my personal brand if you want and maybe more quickly and then it came, you know, associated but definitely a good thing to have.
James: Absolutely, as like you say, it is what it is, what you see is what you get.
James: Awesome, awesome. Hey, I’m going to just back up a minute and just talk about the lead gen approach. So there are couple of business models out there now and I seem to — you guys have a 30-day free trial at Unbounce.
James: You also have, if you read the fine print, don’t want to take a 30-day free trial, try it for free. So tell me about that and how that staggered and what’s the marketing mentality behind that whole set up there?
Oli: Couple of things, I mean, when we, you know, the pricing thing affects things a lot and then what you can look at that, when we started, we had a lower first year pricing, it was $25. And we found that the customer type that we got in there wasn’t our ideal customer. They were, you know, people that really didn’t understand marketing at all. They just wanted to be online. So they should have been with someone like Wicks or Square Space or something. And it was too much of a burden on our customer success team because they’re having to help out a lot, to teach people having marketers which isn’t our job with our content, we like to teach people to be better marketers. It’s not day one stuff. So we just boosted the prices up a bit and that solved that problem almost overnight. And then the free option, we — you know, we try and reduced the barrier a bit without completely opening it because when we did turn on the pricing compared to just having free, it made a big impact. You know, you think a lot of people going to run away when they see the credit thing. A lot of them do. This point we don’t have like a live kind of go and try it out version. You have to go and do the free sign up. The sign up is really interesting; the power A/B testing or the power of A/B testing to make things go wrong. We were testing our pricing page and we put another piece of content in there which pushed the sign up for free, the one below that push it down further. And that killed us for about three weeks. The amount of free sign ups we get because they are so very valuable because they upgrade at some point. And our numbers went — they just tanked completely.
James: So are you saying your overall numbers tanked free and paid or just the free?
Oli: Yeah, it was the free…
Oli: The free tanked a lot but all the people that would upgrade from free, that went down as well just from moving that, you want to kick the tires free, that free sign up that you’re about moving it down like 300 pixels. Nice to figure that out to move it back up but…
James: Well, you know what, this speaks to what you do for a living.
James: It’s conversion design.
Oli: Uh-hmm, it’s, yeah.
James: Lessons learned the hard way.
Oli: Yeah. It’s a dangerous weapon
James: Just to kind of circle back the 30-day free trial…
James: It’s there. And then you also have the free trial, a little bit lower on the page and you find success in the free — not the trial but the free version and that they eventually upgrade or a percentage of them do.
Oli: A percentage of them do, yeah. You’ve got to mix it up. We’re still trying to find the right mix of how much we want to bring the free, free to light. And we’ve had it — I think we use to have it on the pricing grid itself, it’s one of the columns and when we took that away, we had a good spike and, you know, the revenue went up quite significantly, so yeah.
James: Yeah, there’s a lot of chemistry there about whether…
James: You know, the value or the perceived value so on and so forth.
James: Yeah, absolutely. Well that’s awesome. I appreciate you opening up the — or pulling back the curtain on the marketing mindset behind those two because…
Oli: Oh sure.
James: Very, very interesting. I want to ask you about Unbounce and have you — what’s the mentality? Have you guys made it? I mean, is this where you want to be? Obviously, you want to grow more and increase your market share but there is no turning back. You guys have success and you’re going to just keep getting better. Is that that mindset or maybe just give me a peek?
Oli: Yeah. We are no way down. Like I said, we are growing fast and we doubled — we’ve doubled in headcount and revenue the last two years running. And we want to just keep doing that. I mean, in terms of direction, we’re still not — you know, what we term feature would be complete. We’re very close but there are these things that — there are some features, we call them the big four that we’re working on, we’re working on all of them right now. When those are done, it will look like in our minds where we’ve imagined it a couple of years ago.
Oli: And then we can — then the exciting part there is we can start innovating.
James: So you’re still building?
Oli: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, all the time.
James: Cool, cool but just to get back to you guys have made, there is no turning back?
James: Awesome, awesome.
Oli: Absolutely not.
James: So talking about present day and Big Value Big Business that’s what we’re all about just trying to get in the heads of people that are marketing out there that, you know, lead with value.
James: What is the value proposition or mission statement for Unbounce these days?
Oli: Same as it was in day one, build, publish and A/B test landing page without I.T. You know, and we’re really trying to help the marketers do marketing more effectively and without all the pains that are associated with dealing with technical people. That’s why we started the company and we felt the pain in our past jobs. And, you know, it still exists a lot. I mean, I did a lot research, just clicking on ads seeing how people are treating, you know, the destination, their lading pages. I mean it’s disastrous. There are so many people that don’t do it right still like a very large majority. So as far as I am concerned, I’m trying to fix that.
James: I’m right with you brother because I sell AdWords and I do a lot of AdWords in these landing pages, they are horrible, they are horrible.
James: They are trying to point them in the right direction but, you’re right. So it’s still a long way to go but I totally love it that you are trying to unshackle people from being under the throws of their developer or web designer and they can just do their own thing and create their own campaigns.
Oli: Exactly, yeah.
James: Beautiful, beautiful. So on that note, could you give me maybe your number one take away you would give to a small business owner as far as creating a good landing page solution? Like what would be the first thing that you would recommend if you would to consult somebody as far as make a good landing page solution for conversion?
Oli: Like an actual landing page or…?
James: Yeah, what do like, yeah, if you cold give like three best practices to — for someone to design their landing page?
Oli: Yeah. Well, structurally, you’re going to start off from the right way. Best practices are only relevant when you’re building your first page. After that, forget about them then you, start testing it and getting feedback and evolving that way. But to start with, five basic elements in your page have to be there. You’ve got your USP and your headline, your value proposition; your hero shot, which should ideally be showing your product or service in context of use… like how actually it is being used by a real person, some — all the features of your product written as benefits, some social proof and a call to action. They are the five basic things but then you need to start applying some rules of conversion centered design, search for conversation centered design. It’s a term I came with. There’s lots — you know, page one of Google, you’ll find a whole bunch of stuff. It’s about using design elements, draw attention to the most important part of your page, this is your call to action. I’m actually — you know, it will be perfect otherwise it didn’t go — when this is going out James?
James: Probably in about three weeks.
Oli: Okay, then.
James: Two to three weeks.
Oli: There is — I’m doing a webinar tomorrow and that was really special.
James: Oh, I signed up, yeah.
James: Hey, give me that — what is that term again? Could you repeat that term to…
Oli: Conversion centered design.
James: Conversion centered design?
James: Beautiful. Thank you.
James: Cool, cool.
Oli: Yeah, and more than that, I think if people just walk around the web, search for something that you’re interested in, click on a bunch of ads and see what happens when they get to the next page and it’s a terrible experience across the board. If you can match the message and the act to the headline on the landing page, you’re way ahead than most people. It’s so simple. Just make those things exactly the same. You will get a higher quality, score, lower cost per click, higher conversion rates. It’s just that stupidly simple.
James: You’re the man after my own heart. I’d thump that day in and day out, that’s awesome. That’s awesome, thank you so much and yeah, I love — I probably really will edit this up but I did signed up for the webinar. I’m looking forward to it tomorrow.
James: Yeah, yeah. Alright, let’s talk about Oli for a second just as we wind things down but I just want to talk about mindset. I mean, aside form Red Bull, what do you use to — I don’t know, what gets you going dude? The productivity, accountability, I mean, you got — you know, you’re rocking and rolling over there. What…
James: I call it the business mindset, how do you get into it?
Oli: Okay, okay. That’s pretty easy, productivity wise I just work all the time.
Oli: It’s that simple. I mean, not everybody can do that. I happen to have the flexibility to do that and, you know — yeah, so I work from when I get up to when I go to bed. I love working late and I like very late, that’s where, you know, my brain starts working. But in terms of like really getting great things done, that’s where I use accountability. So the way I do it is vocalize my intentions with many people as I can. I mean, I’d say, I’m going to do this and I’m going to do it really well, and well a lot. And then there’s a level of peer pressure that comes with that so that you have to live up to it. When I was writing the second guest post for Moz, I told their CEO Rand Fishkin, we’ve become friends and I emailed him. I said, I’m going to do another post. He’s like, awesome, what’s going to be about? I said I can’t tell you but it’s going to be epic. Now, because I told him it’s going to be epic, it had to be epic.
Oli: Which is why it became the thing it was. So, simply by stating that, I produced our biggest piece of content and our biggest brand awareness move that we’ve ever done. And just putting myself in that position it’s also how I like ended up moving to Canada in the first place doing the same thing. So that’s what works for me.
James: Just proclaim it to the many people as you can then you have to live up to it?
Oli: Exactly, yeah.
James: I love it, man. I totally love it. I ask that question a lot and I get whole bunch of answers but that one seems to be resounding is accountability. And it brings me right in to the next question. I hear a lot about groups in masterminds and communities. Do you have a core group of mastermind of even someone that you follow that you get inspiration for, from?
Oli: You know, this — I don’t. It’s — I am very — I used to follow a bunch of people, you know, online and then I kind of stopped doing that. Now I just — I used to read every marketing book I have like over 100 of them and they’re pretty much all garbage. I’d learn one thing and all and then once you’ve reached certain of knowledge, there’s nothing else we learn in them. What I have been doing is reading a lot more business and psychology books because that allows you to apply different way of thinking to your marketing. So, that’s where I get my inspiration from these days. It’s not necessarily a person, it’s a network really. When you read any of these business psychology and marketing psychology books, there’s a strong network. Everybody talks about each other. They’re all kind of interconnected. So I guess that community is who I’m paying attention to right now. I can’t name many names on top of my head.
James: No, no, yeah there is no right or wrong answer to that. It’s just like what are you — you’re obviously a brilliant guy, you’ve got a lot going on, you’re making it happen. I just like to know what you read about, where you do your research and I have a lot of guys — there is no — some people really on masterminds and community and…
James: And mentors, other guys are subject matter and it sounds like you’re more of that subject matter driven to where. I want to learn about X, Y, Z, so you look up X, Y, Z and you get a couple of opinion…
James: And you see something that resonates with you and then you take your deep dive.
Oli: Yeah. I like trying as much as I can to help develop a new kind of marketing theories and approaches. So I get a lot of — one of our biggest challenges here at Unbounce is because we are — we have a marketing platform for marketers. So we are marketing to marketers. So we have to be so good at our marketing so that they respect what we do and in turn respect the product. So that means that we have to respond with quote “thought leadership” by pushing new ideas, alright and constantly evolving. So that’s my challenge and that’s what I really love doing.
James: And you get that inspiration, I’m dissecting you here brother so, you get that inspiration through diving into off channel business psychology and the like.
Oli: Yeah and sometimes just looking at the way we do our marketing and then going, huh, yeah, we could do that a lot better if did this.
James: Yeah man.
Oli: Learn some insight for some test we run and go, huh, we needed new theory to kind of push that forward.
James: Yeah, yeah, I totally hear you. That’s fantastic. Thank you so much for that. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to put you on the spot because there’s no right or wrong answer. It’s just like where do you get your stuff and that was… beautifully put.
James: Beautifully put, so I’m just going to wrap things up, tell me about any projects you got going on, any products that are rolling out? Anything you want my listeners or our listeners to know about and then the best way we contact you?
Oli: Okay, well I guess what I’m most excited about is one of the features we’re working on right now. It is dynamic keyword word insertion or replacement. This is the PPC marketers; we were doing AdWords and whatever. You should have a targeted landing page, dedicated landing page for every single ad. And that’s overwhelming if you have hundreds of ads. But with this dynamic keyword replacement feature, you can have one page for all of these ads and it dynamically replaces the content on the page with what was in the ad. And then we have some early beta users on this and they’re blown away. They’re quality scores are going up, conversion is going up, the cost per click is going down, just because what I talked about before, the message matches and this is automatically done at this point. So that’s — I think that’s going to be game changer for a lot of marketers. So I can’t wait to get that in the hands of everybody.
James: Yeah, I love that. I messed around with that a little bit with all the way back in the day with SpeedPPC/WordPress but it was so clunky and it really didn’t work well. So, anything you guys put out is world class. I can’t wait to see that product. And could you — what is it called again?
Oli: Dynamic Keyword Insertion or replacement and that keyword replacement I think we’re calling it.
James: Cool, cool. And that’s still in beta, when do you think that will be out for the masses?
Oli: Oh, hard to say. I don’t know, I’m just talking ahead but I will put…
James: Alright, let me put this way. I’d contact your offline if I can get on that beta.
Oli: For sure, yeah, yeah, just hit me up.
James: Absolutely, absolutely. Awesome, okay so and where could we reach you?
Oli: Oh yeah, on Twitter, Oli Gardner or, you know, I’m an open book, so OliUnbounce.com O-L-I at Unbounce.com, that’s my email.
James: Yes you are an open book and you were very gracious to come on my show and to talk to my people and I do appreciate it and we look forward to talking to you again, I hope and…
James: We’ll catch up with you soon. Thanks Oli.
Oli: Thanks a lot — James. Thanks a lot.
James: Okay sir, take care.