Chris Bonney from Gulo has a very special guest, Dan Hickey from DelCor, on the podcast. They talk about conversion optimization. What it is. What it isn’t. And why associations need to change their mindset when it comes to website results and performance.

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Speakers

Chris Bonney

VP of Strategy

Dan Hickey

Strategic Consultant, DelCor

Transcript

Chris Bonney:

Hi everybody and welcome to another edition of Web Marketing Insights Podcast from Gulo. I’m Chris Bonney and have a very special guest today, Dan Hickey from DelCor. Dan. Welcome. We’re going to talk about conversion rate optimization today, and that’s not a term you hear a lot in association circles. I know that it’s something you talk with your clients a lot about, or try to, and bring some awareness to it. But we wanted to break it down today. I think you and I were talking outside of this podcast on the phone and saying, this might be a really interesting topic to talk about. So we wanted to do that. Before we do that, do you want to just let people know that don’t already know who you are what you do at DelCor?

Dan Hickey:

Sure, again my name is Dan Hickey. I joined DelCor about two years ago I’m out of our Chicago Office. DelCor is based out of Silver Springs, Maryland. Before I joined DelCor, I been in the association space for 15 years and wore various hats throughout those years with a strong digital background, but also did a fair amount of project management, IT director, and some virtual CIO. Now what I’m actually doing with DelCor is virtual CIO, strategic work and IT maturity assessments. Part of that is looking at, some of their digital components into their overall technology stack. Yeah. So excited to talk about this today.

Chris Bonney:

Yeah, it’s right in your wheelhouse, again thanks for being part of it. So, conversion rate optimization, or sometimes known as CRO, we have to have an acronym, right, if it’s associations?

Dan Hickey:

We’ve got to have one!

Chris Bonney:

So, we’ll call it CRO, that’s what the industry likes to call it CRO. So again, not a term that you hear a lot about, but I think it is moving in a direction where even if people aren’t talking about it, per se, it’s something that I think we’re more and more aware of. Maybe we don’t know what the label for it is, and it’s not the best name for what it is, but it is what it is. But basically, conversion rate optimization is when you look at a particular webpage or a flow of web pages where you want someone to convert on something, some sort of transaction of some kind, whether it’s an eCommerce sale or even something like give us your email address.

Chris Bonney:

What’s the flow of things that happen either across pages or maybe even down one page, how many times versus when someone arrives at a page, are they submitting a call-to-action? And how many times are they not? And if we look at that rate, how do we optimize for it? I mean that’s more the literal term, what are we doing to that page or flow of pages to make sure that conversion rate is continually improving. And examples of conversion rate optimization, simplest form is, there’s real world examples out there to say, we changed our button for submitting something from red to green and our rates went up because green is more of a go color. There’s a lot of different examples we can talk about sort of what those are, but just for the sort of the layman’s terms, it’s really changing or enhancing elements of the flow of getting someone to do something on your website, perpetually looking at those and optimizing whatever it might be. And we’ll talk about what those elements are here in a minute. So that’s really what conversion rate optimization is. For an association and chime in here, for me it feels like there’s things like, event registration, and there’s also obviously member renewals that kind of things. But I’m curious to hear from your perspective, Dan, when you talk to your clients about conversion rate optimization, do you call it that? How do you intro that? What’s the response when you talk about it? What do you think some of the basics are for associations to think about around this?

Dan Hickey:

Sure. In terms of kind of the acknowledgment of that term, definitely not always, but depends. It seems to be more acknowledged in meeting with marketing teams, in marketing folks much more dialed into that term or some kind of concept. But it is kind of a focus in terms of, at the end of the day what do we want our end-users to do? And make it a really clear action, an actionable item that you want your end-user to take place. When working with other departments you mentioned, membership renewal, membership applications, membership join, registration, certification. Really when we’re looking at a lot of this, you hear, you meet with our clients, they talk about what kind of the user experience, you always kind of go back to that. They think that a lot of their experiences with their members or constituents have to go through is kind of a poor or weak user experience. And so, you mentioned layman’s terms, that’s kind of how we try to talk to them about it. And even break it down. So, if you look at the membership join process, one thing we do see quite often is just that how many steps does a member or a prospect need to jump through to join your organization.

And it varies, some groups who I work with have a more simplistic approach, and others are very complicated. At the high end, I’ve seen a client have 35 steps that the end-user needs to go through. I know there’s some frustration with the website or their AMS and its inability to kind of provide a good user experience, but we try to push back a little bit on that and say, well, do you really need to capture all that information? You really need to make them go through all of those steps to join? And it has varying degrees of success. And the good news is I think a lot of more organizations are becoming much more acutely attuned to it. They know that it’s an area that they need help on and that it’s frustrating.

Whereas even just five, 10 years ago, I’d say more like 10, 15 years ago. I think there was just an understanding, well, if your association and you are a member and you’re joining well that’s just what you have to go through. I think the digital space has changed so much and everything. The digital transformation the last 10 years made life so much easier to transact online that it’s kind of catching up, that you can’t just say, well, our members are fine going through 10 different steps to join us. That’s not the case, especially with younger, I hate saying that, but younger members that are trying to engage with your organization, you really want to make things as simple as possible. So, we kind of start there looking at the business rules and what is absolutely critical. Again, I’m focusing on the joint process, but just as an example, what absolutely is critical to have that person or that end-user transact with you.

Chris Bonney:

Yeah, absolutely. I think you make a good point about the younger membership because that’s the future of any organization, whether it’s your user group, trade, professional society, that’s part of this, factor, right? That’s what we want to achieve. And I think thinking about how we’re converting on membership is a perfect example of thinking about how to do this differently. And so yes, 35 steps, 38 fields to fill out is too much for most people, especially someone that’s younger, they’re not as patient. They’re not understanding why that’s all-important, but I do think another aspect to tie in is that one way to understand how to better optimize the things that you’re trying to get a conversion on is what’s an equivalent to what they might be doing out there in the real world as well. It might not be in the association world.

Everything on the web is geared around your audience. Okay. If we’re not thinking about our audience first, we’ve already kind of lost a thread, but what does our audience and younger members, let’s just say, what are they used to in their life, right? What is their expectation for what they want to be able to do? And any sort of friction in the joint process I think is definitely a lost opportunity if we’re talking about getting into younger membership, for sure. Now the elements of conversion rate optimization.

So, here’s something I want to actually back up and maybe talk about can you talk about when it comes to AMS? And regardless of the organization’s mindset around how many fields of information, they need to see, what do you think the temperature is of folks with how AMS is working for them in those processes? And is there something that AMS is or could be doing for their clients around conversion rate optimization? How do folks like you at DelCor as a consultant, fit into that equation? Is it a strategy issue? Is it a tool issue, right? Is that the application itself is inflexible? Is it a mindset issue? Where do you see, if I’m saying, Hey! I’m an association, I love this idea, but, what’s the but that we’re going to hear out there on the world around those elements.

Dan Hickey:

Yeah. It’s a really important concept to address early on. So, in relation to the AMS and it really depends, again, I’m gonna keep kind of harping on the membership joint process we’re using that. Well, looking at, I mean, some organizations do have a fairly simple joint process. And so, therefore, that membership joint process, you know, leveraging your AMS capabilities, is kind of like public-facing interfaces too to leverage that may work. But, other times, again for those more complex processes, there are a lot of challenges to making kind of a seamless user experience. And one thing I would just recommend anyone want to take away from this is really leveraging an outside vendor such as you guys, plug, a digital agency to help and that specializes in usability and user experience because, not all of them, but most of the AMS vendors just don’t have that expertise in terms of when you’re kind of building those workflows or those different designs in terms of what your joint process may look like, your event registration too.

Dan Hickey:

There are nuances, as you mentioned with this that I think you’re gonna get to momentarily a little more detail that really helped and do have a big impact on the conversion rates. And so how are you collecting that data? What’s necessary to flow? But really making sure you have that oversight from a UX expert to make sure that process is as seamless as possible. My experience is that gets continually overlooked. And again, there are associations that do focus, many don’ts, they just kind of configure their processes up and then kind of get frustrated that they aren’t as optimal as they would like.

Chris Bonney:

Yeah.

Dan Hickey:

I wrote a blog a couple of months ago on just how important it is to factor that in whether you’re doing an implementation to make sure that you are factoring a usability testing and getting actual user feedback but also making sure they are wireframing and some component is factor into that process too. And if you’re already staying with your current system, when you go to revisit the same principles, do some lightweight usability, perhaps get a third-party vendor that does specialize in usability best practices to make sure that that is a seamless experience. All the way end to end, when you access the homepage or however you’re going to access the site, whatever the entry point is all the way through the order receipt page, but sometimes there’s follow up tasks or follow up steps that are needed from there. So really end to end making sure that that is an easy, seamless, clear experience for the end-user.

Chris Bonney:

Yeah. I think you brought up something that I wanted to touch on real quick is reporting or testing. I think there’s this transitional point that someone that works on websites mostly that you’re bringing the user down a path and then there’s a cut over usually may be through a single sign-on when they head over to the AMS side of things, we need to track them. AMS is doing a pretty good job of tracking the activity and what’s happening during that flow, but it’s a matter of matching that up with what’s happening on the web. And I think a lot of times what we see as a people, organizations, I think everyone has Google Analytics on their site on some capacity, but there’s things like Google tag manager, there are things like Google optimize.

There’s a bunch of other tools that I would say, go out there and take a look at those and see what kind of things that you can do to help understand how to test and how to report on the things that are happening on your website. Really simply within Google analytics. There’s the goal tracking where you can set up the path that you think people should be following or you’d like them to follow across your website and it tracks and gives you a thumb up or a point when you actually get someone to follow that goal. And that’s what we’re talking about. That’s a conversion, that’s a path. And as you’re building a website, just in general, we want, we were saying, this is about knowing who your audience is and then knowing why they’re coming to your site, what are they trying to do?

And then let’s formulate your site in a way that allows them to walk through that path. Right. And then we’ll see along the way where we lose people, we see where we’ve lost them, go back and take a look at it and optimize it. AB testing is another thing that we can do, whether it’s wrong copy or button colors, or what have you there’s tools out there to do that. Google optimize, Optimizely, others. And I think I want to get your feedback on this. When we try to say testing is super important on any level. But I think people imagine lab coats and strings or computers and people are hunched over and they’re looking at, there’s so many easy ways now to do testing, right? Whatever it is, usability testing. If you had something to say about that or how, when you talk to folks, how they react to that, or, you know, where do you think people’s heads should be at around testing? What would you say about that?

Dan Hickey:

Yeah, you’re right and that’s a great point! Even when we have recommendations, DelCor does an IT maturity model assessment in which we go in there’s different quadrants that we look at their business infrastructure, data, technology management, and then digital being one of them. And on that digital quadrants, I like having recommendations regarding usability testing.

I think you said the lab coats, but yet that are just dollar signs too, they’re concerned about it’s going to cost me tens of thousands of dollars. They think it’s going to be some really high-tech expensive endeavor, and it doesn’t need to be, I mean, there are various tools out there. Especially now that I’m getting more comfortable with the Zoom and really can just schedule this online. And you can! If you want to, you know, engage with a third party, you know, vendors such as yourself, you can, or else you can do some lightweight testing yourselves, maybe from your marketing team that can just reach out to some of your key members and just take, you know, 10, 15 minutes of their time and walk through some of those processes and get feedback. And you really just need a handful of participants.

You’re seeing trends. This is years ago before I joined DelCor. So really it was a really cool experience. We had not even that many, really about five steps to join with a particular association. And one of them was going through the chapter process, a lot of associations have chapter. Well, it’s kind of eye-opening to us is when we went through this a lot of the newer members had no idea what a chapter was. They picked their state and we’d ask them why you live in Illinois or in Chicago, why are you picking this? And they’re like, well, that’s just where I live. Do you even know what a chapter is? And it was eye-opening that they didn’t, and they didn’t understand the benefit. Why am I being forced to even pick a chapter?

The organization subsequently kind of removed it from their requirements, that’s a different story. But, when we presented those findings to the senior leadership team, I think there were stunned that something as basic that everyone just takes for granted. Yeah. We did a redesign and simplify the whole joint process. And we did see an increase in conversions, but interesting story, that was tangible proof that we can kind of bring back and say, Hey, this is a problem for us.

Chris Bonney:

And it was simple testing, you didn’t have to talk to a hundred people to figure that out. Right?

Dan Hickey:

And it really wasn’t that expensive, but it made a huge impact, and strategically made a big impact. So this it’s just one example again it was a little light, more lightweight, but did have an impact in the organization. You know, another thing too, with usability testing sometimes talk about, completely rearchitecting redesigning the whole page. And I’ve seen sometimes it’s literally shifting a button. You mentioned the button before making kind of a red degree or something like that. I’ve seen some more subtle changes like that, that can pay big dividends. There subtle changes too that maybe you don’t think, it’s kind of hard cause a lot of, especially on the marketing side folks working in the content management system, they’re working with these pages days out and they kind of take it for granted some of these processes and they don’t think through that, for a brand-new user someone that comes once a year things you made, components you made feel they make perfect sense aren’t to a user.

Chris Bonney:

Yep.

Dan Hickey:

It comes back to, you know, you mentioned the AMS too. And so, we hear that a lot too. We want our AMS to be more user friendly or greater usability, which of course is important, but you need to have tangible steps to then improve those interfaces. What are the interfaces and transactions that are absolutely most critical to the business? And then, you know, again, I keep going back to the business rules and what can you do to simplify and track those changes you make and make sure that those improvements are made.

Chris Bonney:

Well, you raise a lot of good points there and one of the things too, and I don’t think this is exclusive to associations necessarily, but I’m thinking, you know, thinking in our own terms, we’ve been doing this, like you said, for so long, we have the jargon, we know what a chapter is. We know what this is. We know what advocacy means. We talking about this all day long and, and folks outside don’t. So I think there is just an overall good lesson in there that says we are not our members. Even if we feel like we are, we’re not, and, you know, creating personas and scenarios and having, like you said, someone like whether it’s Gulo, DelCor or someone else helping you understand who that audience is and giving you that outsider perspective that, wow, we don’t know what chapters are either.

Chris Bonney:

So let’s maybe think about what that experience might look like. That’s one of the benefits too, I think from bringing people outside, but I want to talk about the nuts and bolts of CRO. I think we’ve made a pretty compelling case that it’s something we should think about. It’s going to enhance your business. It’s a worthy investment to think about how to test and optimize, but what do we want to do and how could we do it if we wanted to do it ourselves? Or what elements are we looking at? I want to talk first about just overall user experience and design and that kind of thing. And I know you have some thoughts about, you know, what that should be for associations just on a bigger scale, but you want to just talk about that for a minute, just how you feel design impacts it and how associations should be thinking about design. Like, you know, just in general.

Dan Hickey:

Absolutely a couple of thoughts on that. You mentioned audience, I mean, first and foremost, it sounds like I’m stating the obvious, but really understanding your audience. Audiences are most important, but even with that said you do you have to prioritize and need to be a little discipline on that. One problem I’ve seen on various website engagements with associations there is a desire to kind of please everyone and cater to all various audiences, but you do need to kind of hone in on who are the most critical audiences that are most impactful to your business.

The other thing I would also say in terms of your approach to it is think of it holistically too. There are again, a number of good web vendors that do this a lot. A lot of the focus that we see is just on your website. So, wireframes and we’re going to look at the design palette and you know, all the design elements, but the focus always tends to be solely on just their website, the content management portion of their digital portfolio, when really, you’re interacting with AMS components, LMS components, your online community, various other entities, digital property, abstract submission. This is something we see quite often is there is no holistic overview of all this. I mean, at the end of the day, you know, an end-user doesn’t care what the platform is. They wanna make sure that they came to their site for whatever reason, they just want to do what they need to do, and they rather do it fairly quickly too. So that’s another key takeaway is really making sure that and I get that there’s budget implications and resource implications, but really looking at all of your digital assets holistically in terms of that user experience. Take that same lens or that same perspective with your other digital properties and assets too.

Chris Bonney:

Yeah, that’s a great point. I think the design is a part of this, right? If someone’s arriving at your site, whatever page it may be and they’re disoriented, they don’t know what it’s about. That’s at the highest level, we get not good and how do we optimize for that? Well, we want to make sure that people see themselves when they arrive at your site, right? It doesn’t have to be a person that looks like them. It just has to be like, these are my people. I understand so many websites have just on a homepage, especially you see the acronym without a lot of explanation about what it is, and then they just go into it as if they, everyone arriving just assume they know what your organization is.

Chris Bonney:

I think, that that disorientation of folks, is a really simple example of how you can optimize your homepage to say, wait a minute. Let’s not assume everyone knows and jump right into our jargon and our news and everything.  Want to take this to the next level, because we understand people are arriving at our homepage as an association. How did they get there a lot of different ways!  We’re sending emails to people and directing them to certain areas of our website, more specific landing pages, per se. We’re talking to associations more and more and more about search engine optimization and how just because your acronym comes up if they search it and your number one, it goes way beyond that. And what, how can search engine optimization really, improve what you do?

A lot of times we hear people say, well, we don’t need search engine optimization, because we’re not trying to get people to find us online so they join. A lot of healthcare organizations, they know every doctor type and every potential member in the industry, they don’t need them. The doctor’s not going to Google and go, Oh, I didn’t know this organization existed. Maybe I should join. Right. That isn’t what it’s about. As much as creating authority in your industry. Perhaps we talk a lot about that, and just following SEO, best practices as a rule, not only make Google like your pages more, but it’s better web practice in general. It makes you think about how you’re putting a website and webpage together. That then is a better ultimate user experience in and of itself. So thinking about this and saying, we’re going to optimize our pages.

We want people to show up on this page event reg page. And we were using search engine optimization because we’ve got a competitive, commercial event that’s competing with our nonprofit association that happens. So we want to be in the game from a search engine optimization perspective and make sure our event is bubbling up. Well, that seems like a real reasonable case, right. So, okay. So now we’re going to use SEO to drive people to the page. Okay. Now we’re on the page and we need people like we said, the design needs to be a quality. It needs to have a user experience that they’re familiar with. It speaks to the audience. Now we want them to convert on to that page. So, a lot, a big part of what happens there is, how compelling are the words and what’s the layout of the sections of that page.

I think some marketers are very in tune with this is that there needs to be a flow down that page. That’s leading to that call to action. And there’s certain formulas, even that can be a part of that, that you can look up. There’s a whole bunch of them. One, we talk to our clients a lot about is AIDA A-I-D-A, which is awareness, interest, desire, action. That can be a sales funnel. It can be a whole bunch of things, but it can also be components of a landing page to say, you ended up at this page because you were interested in X here’s why that makes a lot of sense. Here’s what other people in the industry are saying about it. Here’s proof that this is the event for you, right? Why don’t you register as opposed to just saying, well, if we put the register button up top as high as possible, so they see it as soon as they’re more inclined to do it, right? So there’s just, you know, components on the page and layout of the page is a huge part of it. It’s one thing to be able to say, we successfully brought people through search engine optimization to this page. That’s half the battle. The other part of the battle is to get them to hit that CTA and, you know, copy as well. The words on the page, I think are a big part of what we do. If you want someone to sign up for your newsletter, this is an example that I think resonates just saying, sign up for our newsletter. And then having a box that says, submit is likely not going to convert as high as join 71,000 other people in our industry that find our tips amazing each and every month, guaranteed to grow your business.

Right. It seems like a very small price to pay suddenly to get in on what a big thing is. So it’s one thing to say, let’s drive people to a page. It’s another thing to say, let’s get it formatted in a way that makes sense as another part to say, let’s get the design, right. But if we’re not compelling in our copy, people have better things to do, right. We’ve, we’ve taken their attention away. And, and now how are we going to take it to one step further. In your mind, what, how should folks, what would a next step be? You know, based on the things we’ve talked about for today, people are saying, look, the CRO thing makes sense. I know a new term, I know a new acronym, Dan and Chris made some sense. This is something I want to look into. How would you, what would you say to somebody as far as what their next steps should be, what they should be? What’s the low hanging fruit for them to sort of get on a CRO?

Dan Hickey:

I would say at the very least really have an inventory of those key transactions and be strategic. And then I think about what are any of those places on the website that are absolutely critical to the business, because you have to start somewhere. And so again, whether it’s an illustration, the whole thing that we’ve seen with COVID-19.

Any association space, a lot of revenue is dependent on event registration, right? And so, there’s been changes in terms of going from in-person to virtual meetings, but understanding kind what your revenue model is and what’s most important to you. Really making sure that those key areas of transactions are a focus. From there I’d say, yeah, making sure that those processes really revisiting any kind of business processes you have around, those interfaces, revisit those. And if you need to, again, bring in a third-party designer to help with that. But I think a lot of this can even be done in-house too, and just revisiting those and seeing how can you simplify that as much as possible. The other takeaway with that, I see this a lot with associations is they’re trying to piggyback on those processes to capture as much data as possible during that, they know, well, it’s our one time in renewal to capture all that demographic data.

So, we’re going to make you jump through seven hoops, you know, seven pages of demographics to collect that, but you’re burdening your end user. So again, focus on that. And really it kind of then becomes a little bit of a data, somewhat of a data governance exercise to really look at every field of data that you’re collecting. Is it absolutely critical for that process? Yes or no. So again, inventory the key processes, and then even within there, look at the data you’re collecting with any of those processes to make sure it’s absolutely necessary. You’re doing something with that data, if you are collecting it, but try to simplify as much as possible if you can do some lightweight usability around those transactions, try doing that too again, now that we’re, you know, everyone’s kind of getting more comfortable with zoom and again, whether the teams go to webinar, whatever you may go to a meeting, whatever you want to use, some tools that go out and actually just ping some of your key members and get feedback on that.

So I’d say just again, low hanging fruit, things like that. You can do. You started talking, you talked about the copy and that’s really important, too. It does touch on another area that we see as kind of problematic some of the more mature organizations have a pretty solid content strategy, but some of the smaller midsize groups that we work with don’t and desire to get people to the website, but once they get there, what then? Right? So again, just focus like you can’t please everyone, but focused on the key transaction pages or processes. And also, on those key pages make sure that call to action is very distinct and making sure that the copy on those pages, as you just mentioned revisit those. And if you can’t, or you don’t have the expertise or bandwidth in house, then, engage with someone such as Gulo to help you with that and hang those up. I think you can do small, small efforts can have a bigger impact. So, I’d say start there.

Chris Bonney:

Yeah. Those are great words to close on honestly because I think a lot of these things can seem daunting. People hear SEO and it feels a little daunting cause they don’t even know what it means or how to do it. Now you’re telling me, I got to do CRO after the SEO, all of this testing, A B testing after the CRO, and the SEO. And like, it feels like a little much, especially if you’re not a marketing person, maybe you’re in it and your website is under your umbrella. That happens a little bit still, we get it. But I think that’s a great takeaway, Dan! You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to be a master at it and it doesn’t have to be wildly successful. And it also doesn’t have to be expensive. It can just be something like taking what we’re talking about here in this podcast. Take it to heart. Think about it, do a little research. I know you or I would be happy to talk to somebody for 15 minutes to get them off the ground and go where they need to go to do it. That’s just helping people get where they need to go. But just start and then you’ll learn as you go, don’t have to be too so daunting that you don’t start to do it. And the minute you do something, the simplest smallest change, it could be the wording on a button could change everything. And imagine the hero you become by making and trying a simple change like that. So definitely worth the investment in the learning on that. So, Dan, listen, I think we could talk for two more hours on this because it’s a really fascinating topic.

Chris Bonney:

I think though this was a great way to kind of get the word out, let people know what it is, let them know how important it is. You come with a great deal of experience, obviously from talking with folks on this and maybe next year we’ll follow up and do another webinar or a podcast and we’ll see where everybody is. We really appreciate you taking the time to be with us today. So, thank you for that.

Dan Hickey:

Well, thank you Chris. I appreciate it.

Chris Bonney:

And thanks to everyone for listening today. We really appreciate it. Next time, maybe I’ll have Zach with me again. We look forward to having Dan back again real soon, but it is The Web Marketing Insights Podcast from Gulo Solutions. If you’re watching this on YouTube, feel free to subscribe below. If you’re listening to us any over the podcasts platforms, we’d love to hear any comments or ratings that you might have.


Written by

Chris Bonney

I’ve enjoyed my years in web design partnering with organizations to harness the power/coolness/connectivity of the Internet. Outside of working on websites, I’m also a soccer evangelist, music junkie, and perpetually in a state of FOMO thinking there is a Netflix show everyone is watching but me.