Convert More Perusers into Users with A/B testing and KissMetrics

KISSmetrics Sticker
Image by teamstickergiant via Flickr

One of the keys to success for a Startup company is keeping down the cost of acquiring new customers.  One way to do that is to convert a higher percentage of your visitors into paying customers.  I’ve been doing some work on this for my Startup OtherNumber with great results.  Hopefully you can apply this to your own Startup!

Getting Traffic isn’t enough

If you have a web application then I’m sure you’ve built a way for people to register for an account.  I mean, unless you’re a freak or something.

So you write some snazzy copy, extol the virtues of your app and explain why people would have to be crazy not to sign up for it.  Maybe you write too much copy.  Maybe Leo Tolstoy would balk at the copy on your homepage.  Maybe you just wrote the wrong thing.  Your customers need a voicemail platform but you’re blabbering on and on about SMS.

In any case, people aren’t signing up.  You get traffic to your site by running across the field in the middle of the super bowl with a URL on your ass chest but your conversion rate is terrible. (For the record, I don’t recommend doing that.)

So what do you do?

Experimentation is not just for college students

What you need is a way to test different versions of your “Call to Action” phraseology.  Maybe it’s your wording, your comparison charts or even the color of the button!

You need to build multiple variations of the page and choose randomly which one to display. (Well, random is not always best but for now we’ll go with that…)  My app is written in PHP so if yours is written in something else then you’ll have to translate it.

$body = "one";
if ( rand() % 2 == 1) { $body = "two"; }
$_SESSION['layout'] = $body;

Simple right? No.  That will randomly present the users with two (2) different versions of your page but you’ll have no idea which one is the most effective.  That’s where the KISSMetrics comes in…

Measure Everything

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]With KissMetrics, you get the ability to record events that happen on your site and these events can be tied to page loads but they don’t have to be.  The Javascript API is very straightforward and that’s what I’m going to use in this example.  There are other APIs including PHP but I’m saving that for another post…

So you put this code in your PHP page…

<script type="text/javascript">
  if (document.location.pathname.toLowerCase() == "/" )
    KM.record("Home Page", { "Version": "<?php echo $_SESSION['layout']; ?>"})
  if (document.location.pathname.toLowerCase() == "/account/register.php" )
    KM.record("Self Register", { "Version": "<?php echo $_SESSION['layout']; ?>"})

And what you get as output in your browser is this:

<script type="text/javascript">
  if (document.location.pathname.toLowerCase() == "/" )
    KM.record("Home Page", { "Version": "two"})
  if (document.location.pathname.toLowerCase() == "/account/register.php" )
    KM.record("Self Register", { "Version": "two"})

So with this block of code added to the head of my html document the KM.record verb gets called on both the root of the site and on the page that processes the signup form.  The data you pass in with this function is where the magic happens.  Use easy to read descriptions as your page names because that’s what will show up in your report.  The { “Version”: “two” } is the real secret sauce.  Now you know not only that a certain user went from / to /account/register.php but you know which version of the home page they saw!

What you end up with in KISSMetrics is some awesome visualization.  Here’s an example from my usage of this technique on

So here I can see that the “two” version of the homepage was twice as effective at convincing people to fill out the signup form!  The next step is to make two new homepages that are slight variations of the “two” version that worked so much better.

Other Next Steps:

  1. Explore the PHP API
  2. Use three or more test cases at once…
  3. do micro tests by performing variations on button text or color
Published in: on February 21, 2010 at 05:21  Comments (2)  

StartupRiot Rocked!

Startup Riot 2009
Image by Tim Dorr via Flickr

I know Startup Riot was 2 days ago and most people have already written their summary posts… but I’m just now recovering from it.  It’s like I have a Startup Hangover!  The event was a smashing success this year.

Maybe it was because I was presenting this year, but the energy in the Fabulous Fox Theater was AMAZING.  People were buzzing around, meeting new potential customers, business partners, co-founders… maybe even investors!  The cacophony in the exhibit hall was thunderous.  It was wildly exciting.  By the time we left to go to the after party I was losing my voice!  I haven’t talked that much in one day in a long time!

The Keynote

This year’s keynote speaker was Bo Peabody who founded and later sold it to Lycos.  He’s now a venture capitalist running a family of smaller funds called Village Ventures in Massachusetts.

He broke down his personal history with Tripod and Village Ventures and opined on the nature of the word “entrepreneur” and joked about how it literally means “undertaker”.  Every venture he’s been associated with has been at death’s door at some point so both meanings are appropriate!

He talked about the doggedness required to succeed as an entrepreneur and gave examples of how the best defense is a gracious offense and how entrepreneurs get screwed ALL THE TIME.

He was a great keynote, took some questions from the audience afterwords and was very accommodating.

The Pitching

I thought we were pitching in the second block of startups so I would have some time to practice.  I thought maybe if my nerves were still jumpy I could have a beer at lunch and chill a bit… but it turns out something got scrambled a bit and we went up in the first block.  I had to go third, right after Ben Dyer who was pitching for MediaSode and did a great job.

I had been going over and over my new rough outline.  I had re-written my pitch several times the night before – and once that morning.  I went to Startup Gauntlet the night before and got a lot of truly great feedback from Paul Freet, Jeff McConnel and Keith McGreggor.  Those guys are awesome and Startup Gauntlet is something many more entrepreneurs should attend.

As soon as Ben was done and started walking off the stage my mind went blank.  Totally and completely blank. I walked up on the stage, pressed the clicker and my first slide came up.  *GULP*

I tried to work in something about entrepreneurs getting screwed from Bo’s keynote.  I made sure to say that I could help them with one of the ways that they get screwed: the outrageous expense of hardware PBX solutions.

The rest is a little blurry.  I know I made people laugh somehow.  I honestly don’t remember what I said.  I guess I was pretty nervous but I got tons of compliments via Twitter afterward so I think I did alright.


We came in fourth in the voting behind LessAccounting, Regator and Nexpense so we didn’t win a netbook but I was mightily pleased with our finish. 4th out of 50 is great, actually – especially if you look at the companies that came in ahead of us.

The After Party

We talked to people at our table for a while when the event was over but we eventually made it down the street.  We had great conversations with Jen Bonnet, David King, Josh Watts and Richard LeBer.

Josh gave me insight into the company I work for currently.  He’s a great guy and smart as hell.  I’m glad I finally got to meet him in person after all this time talking to him on Twitter.

Richard, Walter (my co-founder) and I talked extensively about strategy for OtherNumber.  I had met Richard once before at an “Open Lunch” at Which Which in Norcross but this was the first time I got to sit down and really talk to him.  Needless ot say, I’ll be making it a point to spend more time with him in the future!


Go to StartupRiot next year.  Just do it.  GO. Seriously.

I made connections with about 20 different companies.  I still haven’t entered all their business cards into Highrise yet.  I talked to potential customers, partners, consultants, investors, advisors…. you name it!  Several people told me there that they’d sign up for accounts.  I call that a WIN!

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Published in: on February 20, 2010 at 05:19  Comments (1)  

Presenting at StartupRiot

My Camera Wins
Image by Tim Dorr via Flickr

Well, I can officially talk about it!  I’m presenting OtherNumber at StartupRiot today! You can watch the whole thing live on if you aren’t in the audience which you should be.

I can’t wait to see what the BackNoise channel looks like while I’m up on stage.  Bring on the Snark.

We’re running a special promotion today, in honor of StartupRiot.  If you add funds to your account today and use code “startupriot” you get a 30% bonus on the house.

So let’s go! StartupRiot is awesome and we’re super excited to be here.  Come find us!

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Published in: on February 17, 2010 at 02:00  Leave a Comment  

On the Left Bank – My StartupRiot Story

An HDR photograph of the Seine, taken from the...
Image via Wikipedia

I was just reminded today of a long philosophical talk I had with 2 friends.  We were in Paris finishing up our executive MBA program at Georgia Tech about 4 years ago.  We had some free time and went to some museums and then we took a walk down the bank of the Seine.

Rodney was a single man and a determined entrepreneur.  Mike was married, had two older kids, had some startup experience and was working as the CTO of a new bank in California.  I was just working as a software engineer at the time and, while I had begun the MBA program as a single man determined to become an international business tycoon, I was now married with my wife sitting at home in Atlanta 8 months pregnant.  In the 19 months I was in the program my risk aversion had completely changed ends of the spectrum.

Rodney, Mike and I had worked together on our MBA project which was to build a business plan for a nascent venture centered around technology developed at Georgia Tech.  We wrote up a huge plan, 50+ pages, and when we got back from Paris we won the eMBA business plan competition but I’m getting ahead of myself…

So there we are, walking down the bank of the Seine and talking about what we want to accomplish after graduation.  They were ready put our audio/video search technology company on the front burner and see how much further it would go.  I was shrinking back into the steady state world of corporate IT – convinced I could make a difference there.

They both wanted me to take a risk – a risk on doing something bold, new and entrepreneurial.  I just couldn’t do it then.

Cut to February 2009, the ballroom at the 12 Hotel in Midtown Atlanta, GA.  It’s Startup Riot 2009.  50 startup companies get 3 minutes to pitch.  Their passion, creative energy and fanatical entrepreneurship fills the cavernous room.  I was infected with the spirit.

I learned about Twilio there from seeing ShoutNow up on the stage.  I had a million ideas for apps I could build with their incredible platform.  I founded OtherNumber about a month later.

Now it’s time for StartupRiot 2010 and I’m wondering how many other people will be making the same journey.  The entrepreneurial spirit will be a powerful force again this year.  I’m hoping everyone who goes there who’s considering either founding or joining a startup leaves there as transformed as I did.

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Published in: on February 5, 2010 at 23:18  Leave a Comment