You Don't Need Traffic, You Need Customers

Stop trying to drive “traffic” to your website. You don’t need more “traffic”, you need more customers. In the growth community, we talk a lot about optimization.  Optimize your ads, your landing page, your checkout page, and so on. But here’s the tricky thing. Optimization only matters if you’re working toward the right metric. If you optimize your ads for clicks but not conversions, you might very well drive massive numbers of clicks from the wrong types of customers.  Think about it this way - if you offer users a “six month free trial” on test prep software, you’ll get a terrific conversion rate to free trial. But your conversion rate to paid subscription after six months will probably be more or less 0%. So instead of trying to drive massive numbers, focus on reaching the few who are your target customer. And when you’re optimizing, always measure against the last step in your funnel - the purchase.

The Successful App That Made No Money

Lincoln Murphy tells the story of a SaaS client, Jerry, who continually optimized their top funnel metrics[2. SaaS Sales Funnel: Stop Optimizing for the Wrong Customers].  After working on his ads, his landing page, and his email drip campaign, Jerry was getting plenty of users.  But almost none of them ever made it past the free trial. Now, they had two options for moving forward.  First, they could shift the optimization to focus on final conversion. Second, they could rework the entire funnel after reassessing who the “right” customer was. While optimizing for final conversion is a good first step, it isn’t enough if you’re working with the wrong people to start with.  Making the free trial shorter would increase the number of paid conversions, but the number of refund and complaints would just go up too once people realized the product wasn’t right for them.  That sort of optimization would matter later, but only once the right customers were in the funnel to start with. No, they first needed to reassess who the right customers would be for this product.  With that outline in hand, they then went back through the entire funnel - rewriting ads and landing pages to attract the customers who this product could really help. Only then, once the target customers were moving through the funnel, did they start optimizing conversion through to paid signup. Today the app is an actual success - not because they got more “traffic” or ”optimized the funnel”, but because they finally started reaching the right customers.

The Email Marketer Who Only Contacted 5% of Their List

Sol wanted to run a subscription sale to help push prospective customers over the edge[2. $100,855 by segmenting to 6500 emails.]. But he also knew that he didn’t want to blast all his 125k email subscribers with a promotion that they might not even care about.  Better to figure out which customers are deeply interested right now than to annoy everyone who had been interested in the last couple of years. So to find his potential customers, Sol sent out two value-based emails to his existing subscribers:

  1. A notification that the upcoming anniversary edition would be 50% longer than normal and feature a celebrity op-ed
  2. A deeply researched guide to scientific studies (something valuable to his subscribers)

In both these emails, he asked people to opt-in if they wanted to be notified of the special anniversary edition.  Nothing was mentioned about a sale. Out of 125k subscribers, a much smaller 6.5k expressed interest and opted-in.  Sol now knew which customers were interested in his product right now. Once the anniversary edition went live, Sol sent a series of three emails to this much smaller list of 6,500 people.

  1. Announcement of anniversary edition + a 24 hour flash sale
  2. A “12 hours left” reminder
  3. Just to the 40 people who visited checkout but didn’t buy: a humble text email offering to help

At the end of the sale, this 6.5k list of people drove 225 sales and ~$100,855 worth of revenue based on LTV calculations. Sol didn’t need to reach a massive number of people - he just needed to email the right people at the right time with the right message. Too often in the past, marketers have turned to broadcast media because “10% of our efforts are working, but we don’t know which 10%”.  Today, we can know, and we can optimize our efforts to reach the customers who are actually interested. Once you’re reaching the right customers, then you can start thinking about scaling up.