How Neurobiology can ‘Unleash Your Primal Brain’ and be Used to Drive Growth According to Author Tim Ash

Episode 32 September 24, 2020 00:55:49
How Neurobiology can ‘Unleash Your Primal Brain’ and be Used to Drive Growth According to Author Tim Ash
The Breakout Growth Podcast
How Neurobiology can ‘Unleash Your Primal Brain’ and be Used to Drive Growth According to Author Tim Ash

Sep 24 2020 | 00:55:49


Show Notes

Tim Ash ran the strategic Conversion Rate Optimization agency, SiteTuners for over 20 years, a business that has generated over $1.2 billion in value for its clients. At the core of that success was a deep understanding of neurobiology, which Tim explores in detail in his new book ‘Unleash Your Primal Brain’. In this episode of The Breakout Growth Podcast, Sean Ellis interviews Tim to better understand how “what makes us bizarrely and uniquely human” can be used to help us drive growth. 

The conversation is spirited as Tim holds some contrarian views to Sean when it comes to driving growth through high-velocity testing and optimization practices. However, there is also plenty of common ground as they discuss how the biology of the brain impacts everything from interpersonal relationships to politics, and how an understanding of these ideas can be applied to accelerate growth for businesses.

Both Sean and Tim are passionate about the importance of driving value for end-users as the foundation for unlocking growth, and there are exciting learnings as Tim explains how “relentless dissatisfaction” can help companies find opportunities to drive significant improvements. According to Tim, “‘Unleash Your Primal Brain’ may help you make a billion dollars or even become the next Dalai Lama, but at the very least this interview will help you understand how a deeper look into your own brain can help you understand and influence others.

We discussed: 

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:08 Welcome to the breakout growth podcast, where Sean Ellis interviews, leaders from the world's fastest growing companies to get to the heart of what's really driving their growth. And now here's your host, Sean Ellis. Speaker 1 00:00:23 All right. In this week's episode of the breakout growth podcast, I interviewed Tim Ash author of unleash your primal brain. So it's a pretty different format than what we usually do on the show. So instead of interviewing a leader at a really fast growing company, I wanted to dig more fundamentally into ultimately what drives growth and that's human behavior and how we can actually influence human behavior. So Tim is one of the world's best experts on the topic. So figured let's, let's bring him on the show, give them a chance to talk about his book in particular. So his book is really written for a, a broader audience than just marketers and product designers. Um, really anyone who wants to understand how the brain works, which is hopefully just about everyone in our, not only our own brain, but, but those around us, who we want to influence and try to get along with. Speaker 1 00:01:17 So Tim has really good insights in general on that, but he actually has a lot of directly applicable insights in growth. So he's, uh, he had a business called cite tuners. I think his he's not so much involved in the day to day parts of the business anymore, but he started that business and grew it to the point where it's driven about $1.2 billion in value for clients. And he believes much of the success was really derived from neuro marketing principles that tap into the biology of how we are wired. So they've done a lot with fine tuning, persuasive website, design and marketing. And so while Tim has that direct applied experience, his book is broader, but I still think we have a lot to learn from from it. So before we get started with the interview, I wanted to thank amplitude for sponsoring this week's episode. Speaker 1 00:02:10 Amplitude has long been my first choice for understanding user behavior on a website, in a product and a SAS based product or in a mobile app. In fact, we're such fans of amplitude at go practice that we, we made it the foundation of our immersive simulator for learning data-driven product growth. So you can learn more about amplitude at And if you want to sign up for go practice or learn more about go practice, you can go to go, but let's get started with the interview with Tim Ash and learn important insights about understanding human brains for both ourselves and in our efforts to drive breakout groups. Speaker 0 00:02:59 Hey, Tim, welcome to the Speaker 1 00:03:00 Breakout growth podcast, right? Speaker 2 00:03:01 Thanks, John. Great to be with you. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:03:04 I'm super excited about your new books. So why don't you give us a quick overview? What, uh, what's the book about? Speaker 2 00:03:10 Oh, well it's about what all 8 billion of us on the planet have in common, you know, there's books that are pretty specialized about neuro marketing behavior, change habits, social policy, neuro imaging and medical stuff. And none of them really talk about the big why behind it, which is our brains just didn't pop up and appear they evolve. So we have all that old stuff still buried under there, and that's, what's doing most of the heavy lifting. I wanted to have this evolutionary arc that describes everything from early, early life to what makes us bizarrely and distinctly human. And that's what this book is an attempt to do. Awesome. So why did you decide to write this book? Well, I, I think it's, um, kind of come full circle for me when I was in, at UC San Diego. My undergraduate majors were in computer engineering, but also cognitive science and my graduate work was in what you'd now call machine learning, neural networks, artificial intelligence. So again, how do, how do people and computers learn? So I applied that to marketing. I ran an optimization agency as you know, called site tuners for 20 years and we created 1.2 billion and documented value for the Googles and Nestle's of the world on down. And, but really most of that value was coming from these durable, evergreen, I guess you'd call neuro marketing principles. So I've really come full circle to understanding the brain and explaining it to everyone else. Speaker 1 00:04:38 Awesome. And so you've, you've kind of described it as, um, addressing almost every person on the planet in some senses or, or that it might be useful for everyone on the planet, but is there, is there a particular reader you had in mind when you wrote this up, who's going to find it the most? Speaker 2 00:04:56 Well, again, as you know, I speak a lot on neuro marketing and digital marketing and keynote all over the world. Uh, but this book is a little different. It's really the why behind how our brains work. So I think it's it's of interest to just about everybody, but there are three distinct audiences that I think would benefit. One is the business audience, that's you and me, if we're talking about marketing about leadership, about building corporate culture, anything like that, you're going to get a lot of insights out of it. Um, sales of course, eh, the second would be relationships and this is, um, whether it's intimate relationships or relationships with other people and managing those understanding where others are coming from and finally, personal development. I think if you understand how your brain works and why it evolved to be what it is, you're going to have much better, easier time of taking yourself into account and understanding yourself. So those three audiences, personal development, relationships and business slash marketing. Cool. That makes sense. Speaker 1 00:05:58 I actually got the book this weekend, so I, one of the very first things that jumped out at me when I, when I opened the package with the book is a quote from Robert Cialdini, which was exciting because he's literally my, probably wrote my favorite book, the book influence any, any road on here, invaluable insights into human decision making and behavior. First of all, how the heck did you get Robert Cialdini to a T to give you a quote for the book? That's awesome. Speaker 2 00:06:24 Yeah, he just honestly liked the book and by the way, I, you know, I have a little professional crush on, um, uh, dr. Gildea as well. Um, you know, I've, I've read his book and we applied it and it applies to specifically sales and marketing a lot. But, um, so I think what he liked about is, again, that I, uh, talked about the why behind it, you know, there's the thing is like with behavioral economics and applied stuff, like, like his work it's applied, you know, it's like, here's a bag of tricks, try this stuff. Right. Okay. Try using social proof and try using liking and you know, whatever those strategies or tactics are, but what did I think he liked about it? And this is what he told me is that he liked that. I explained the why behind it, it all kind of it's together. You know, why he's reenacting that way. Speaker 1 00:07:12 Right. Going much deeper on it. So it's interesting when I moved to Silicon Valley in 2007, I, I don't think I was there for a few months before I started hearing about Cialdini and his book on influence. And, um, it's probably a conversation with Andrew Chen pre pretty early on when I got there, that just said, you know, made me want to go out and get it. And you know, that since that time, I've sort of learned that that's, that's the Bible for a lot of people who are in growth and marketing. It's just that, because there is just so much actionable details in the how, how do you persuade people to do the things you want them to do? And obviously that's a huge, huge, huge part of marketing. And it's cool to be able to see what you, how this relates to that and how it goes into a lot more detail. But then the other thing that was really interesting is literally the morning I'm going through the Apple news on my phone, and there's a quote from the Shopify CEO or an article that that's referencing the Shopify CEO, where he said that the book literally made him into a billionaire. So yeah, between those two things, the fact, and then seeing his, his quote on the front of your book there's is your book gonna make people into a billionaire? Speaker 2 00:08:23 It is, if you're in the business world, um, it's gonna give you trends and dental wisdom and insight, if you want to be the Dalai Lama to on a personal level. Speaker 1 00:08:33 Awesome. So even more bright, it's going to make you realize that being a billionaire is not the end all. Speaker 2 00:08:38 Yeah, that's right. Yeah. So I'm dr. T Eldine and I both keynoted at a big event, um, in Brazil called RD summit. I think you, you you've spoken there as well as I recall, Speaker 1 00:08:53 I just speak there, but I have not a chance to do it yet. Yeah. Speaker 2 00:08:56 So that was pretty cool in front of, um, you know, uh, 8,000 people. Um, and that was a lot of fun. Um, but you know, the thing is I never thought I'd be on the same stage as him, you know, that was kind of cool. So like I said, I had a little professional crush moment. Speaker 1 00:09:12 Absolutely. And so what, what are some of the areas, um, when you say you're you go into the why behind some of those triggers that he talks about, what are, what are some examples of, uh, of some of the why's in between some of those key influence principles? Speaker 2 00:09:29 He talks a lot about sales and marketing, obviously in R and M the last part of the book, like I said, it's, it's laid out kind of chronologically from early life, the reptilian stuff, the Maillian commonalities apes, and then us as, you know, hyper social human beings. And one of the things that's, that was a huge insight when I was writing the book for me is that this idea of culture and genetic co-evolution like other animals that have taken, um, the, every different niche on the planet they've adapted physically. So squirrels, for example, they have wings, the glide between trees, others hibernate. If they live in the desert, I mean, they make these giant physical adaptations to it. Whereas human beings, haven't done that. We're not really that different physically different eye color height. You know, there's Pygmies, there's the Dutch are the tallest in the world, but not that much difference what our big bet is, is on effectively spreading culture. Speaker 2 00:10:27 That's why we succeed in groups. And so for that to happen, a lot of things have to be in place. We have to be super cooperative. We have to mimic stuff and copy it, whether it's right or wrong, doesn't matter. We just have to copy it. So the ideas spread inside of our group, and we look to others for social cues and who to learn from. We also look for mentors and we want to be mentors to pass on knowledge. So it's not just someone learning from us. We actively are reinforcing that chain of learning going on. And so all of those ideas of how culture actually evolved us are critical to understanding dr. Cialdini's work, Speaker 1 00:11:10 Given the scope of the book and all, all the areas where it applies to the, the focus of this podcast of course, is, is breakout growth companies and, and how to, how to build breakout growth companies and, and the difference between companies that succeed and companies that, uh, that, that languish and really don't reach very many people. So what are some of the key parts of your book that, that could be really helpful in our efforts to build high growth companies? Speaker 2 00:11:37 Well, one of the things that I talk about is motivation through negativity. Um, most brands don't want to say anything bad about their competitors. And I think it's critical to understand that our default is to do nothing when we call the status quo by is just keep down the same road. And it's really, really important for a brand to actually say, life sucks without our product or service. And here's rubbing salt into the wound, all of the implications of that. And it's really, really, really bad and painful. Therefore you should change the path you're on without that motivation. It's really hard to do marketers. So anyone that's, uh, you know, fighting with one hand tied behind their back and only talking about happy, happy stuff. We're a great life with us is great, is really missing the point of what motivates human beings. Speaker 1 00:12:26 I think in particular, when you look at the advertising industry, huge, huge industry, and, you know, you take it then from the consumer's perspective, they're seeing thousands of advertisements in a day and getting someone to actually take action on an advertisement. I think the personally, I don't even try that most of the time myself. Like, I, I, to me, it's much more about trying to tap into intent. That's already there. If someone, if someone's raised their hand and said, I have pain around this, uh, then, then I'm much more likely to acquire them through that or through it Speaker 2 00:13:02 Referral or whatever it might be. The point is to focus on the pain as opposed to upside. If I say, Hey, Sean, you could win the lottery or, Hey, Sean, let me hold your hand on this hot stove burner and see how you like it. I mean, I know which one you're going to respond to. Okay. And so the point is say bad things. It doesn't have to be bad, your competitors, like they suck. It could be life without our product or service is really horrible. And here's the full implications of that. Yep. Speaker 1 00:13:30 So is there, is there something specifically kind of in the science that you can, you can share about about in particular, if most people are seeing so many advertisements that they just start tuning everything out, um, that, you know, what, what is it that helps you get through using pain or using existing in tent or a trusted friendship when something's being recommended? What is, what is it in terms of sort of making the brain more receptive to a message so that you can actually start leading them toward your solution? Speaker 2 00:14:00 Okay. Well, the thing to understand about your primal brain is it's getting massive amounts of input all the time, whether it's advertising messages in the modern world, doesn't really matter. It's just like it's processing huge amounts of information on autopilot and you know, what it does with most of it, nothing, it ignores it, right? Not only does it not process it consciously, it does certainly doesn't store it in the memory for future use. Most of it just gets flushed immediately. The brain is, has a big delete button and it's just going bop, bop, bop, hitting it over and over. So most stuff won't even register. So to cut through that, you need some kind of novelty and a threat. Okay. So to, to, um, if I can, if I know what to do with this, I'm handling on autopilot and I'm not going to change what I'm doing. Speaker 2 00:14:48 If I don't know what to do with it, then kick it upstairs to the conscious brain and consider it. So if you're a new brand, that's trying to get me to change and adopt you instead of your competitor, you have to do this kind of pattern interrupt and the best way to motivate people again, is negativity. So say, Hey, doesn't life really suck for you. Well, never thought of it that way. You know, gotta start with that. So I'll, I'll again, all this marketing happy, happy talk. We're the world's greatest solution for, you know, that stuff flush it. Speaker 1 00:15:21 Yeah. It's interesting. I remember working on one, one business early on where I couldn't drive much response. It was a, it was a business called Xobni in the email space. And I think part of it was that people didn't kind of feel like they needed a better way to handle email, or it wasn't like a problem that they noticed enough to be really receptive, but once they used it, that really liked the product. And so kind of mining the insights from our existing customers. What we kept finding when, when we asked them why the benefit of finding things faster in their email was important to them. And some of the other benefits associated with it, we kept seeing the statement coming up over and over again, which is I'm drowning in email. And so when we finally said, let's, let's lead with drowning, an email question, Mark, we saw a huge increase in, in receptiveness to the message Speaker 2 00:16:12 Of what the solution was and I'd go and I'd go further. I'd like I said, the rubbing salt into the wound part of that would be okay, so what could you be doing instead? You can't, you can't focus. You're not getting enough sleep, you're working longer hours. Um, you're not doing anything productive and just fighting your inbox. So you're not getting noticed by Europe, uh, higher ups and getting that promotion or raise. I mean, there's a lot of implications that draining an email. And so digging underneath just is, is also very powerful. And this is, there's a great book by Neil Rackham called spin selling. Actually, I can't say it's a great book. It's a bit of a rough ride, but it has really good principles. So spin is an acronym for situation, problem, implication, and need payoff. And basically what he says in a sales situation, get some facts, dig at the problem, dig at the implications of the problem and only then say, Hey, what would life be like if that wasn't an issue and the knee pay off is visualizing your solution, but you haven't even talked about what that is until the very, very end. Speaker 1 00:17:12 Yeah. Until you have all the context for how that Speaker 2 00:17:14 Yeah. You're to, you're going to weigh the value of the solution based on the amount of pain is causing you and how much you're willing to make that pain go away Speaker 1 00:17:24 Back to Cialdini. And, and the, the influence book that really has become like the Bible for, for a lot of growth and marketers and it's, and it's a book that's been around for probably 20 years at this point. Yeah. Speaker 2 00:17:36 I think he's done his seventh edition. He just also came out with a great, great new book called Pre-Suasion not persuasion, persuasion, awesome book. Speaker 1 00:17:45 Okay. Yeah. I mean, so it's really interesting with that book. I think there is a little bit of kind of a, a tactical checklist nature to it, but I can tell you that for me, it was much more about reading it multiple times and just internalizing how, how the brain works. And I think it was, it was less about, okay, when I'm writing copy or I'm designing onboarding, I'm gonna go back to that book and kind of checklist that, but it was a, it sort of tuned my instincts to, to run tests that ultimately led to better results. Speaker 2 00:18:18 Yeah. Amen brother. I mean the, the, the reason I say like, this is what all 8 billion of us share on the planet. This is the durable stuff. I think it's really hilarious that most marketers, especially younger ones that they're all about the technology is like 140 character tweets or tick talk, or I don't care what it is tomorrow, like holograms or positories, I don't know. It doesn't matter. Right. But they're all about the technology. And I'm like, what are you trying to influence? That's the human brain. And that doesn't change, not on a life's on your lifetime during, you know, on an evolutionary timescale. So to me, if you're going to have a good career in marketing or business to understand what you're trying to influence has to kind of be the basis of it. And there's a vast ignorance. It's not about the technology. It's about the biology. Speaker 1 00:19:05 Yeah. So, so it's interesting that, um, for my, uh, for my presentation at the growth hackers conference in a couple of weeks, they were, they were basically saying, you know, this, this whole conference theme is really about sort of cutting edge technology and how that's going to change our growth. And I I'm kicking the whole thing off, but it was like for me, driving breakout grit, I think the title is driving breakout growth by understanding and amplifying your core product value. It's like, what I said to them is like, there's a lot of great technology out there, but most people are missing the fundamental piece of what does your product actually do for people and why should they care? And how do you, how do you tap into those things? And, and the, and the technology can, can help you maybe do things at scale, but you know that it's not going to move the needle that much, if you, if you can't know, Speaker 2 00:19:56 If your message is off, and this is the importance I was talking about how Kylie cultural we are, and we've we self select into tribes and try to reinforce, you know, kind of again, culture, transmission within the tribe in order to fight other tribes. So, um, the, that used to be a life and death thing, but now it's more like dollars and cents kind of thing. But, um, although not always, there's still a lot of, uh, injustice in the world that really is life and death. But one of the things that you can say is you need to understand the values of your tribe and that I can't say that enough. Um, so for example, in the book, I use this story of like, if I tell you a story about the Matador, who definitely sticks the sword between the shoulder blades of the charging bull, as he sidesteps it with his Cape, right? Speaker 2 00:20:41 So if you're, you know, bull fighting efficient auto, you're going to go, Oh, that's about bravery and about training and about, you know, excellence and about, you know, being an impeccable warrior and, and the traditions that we carry, right. And then somebody who's from PETA, the, you know, is going to say, this is just like torture of animals and you're subsidizing it by selling tickets to, and how gross is that? Right? So the same objective story that I told you is going to land very differently based on the culture and the values that you carry inside of you. And we see that in politics these days, all the time, but where it starts is understanding that we're just, we have a little legions to, uh, kind of the belief system of our cultural tribe. And so you have to really immerse yourself in that and understand how to talk to your audience. Speaker 1 00:21:30 I was actually on the next door app in the last day or so. And, uh, somebody had had written a post that said, you know, heads up to a group of suspicious looking people on a, on a bike through the neighborhood. They don't look like they're from here and Speaker 2 00:21:47 Right. They're not the right color, maybe. Yeah, Speaker 1 00:21:49 Yeah. I'm looking at that going, Oh, that's, that is just not the right thing to say. Um, you know, and so you get a few people saying, Oh, thank you for the heads up. And then of course somebody says, what the hell does that mean? You know, are they the wrong color? Or, you know, I'm from a multicultural family that that could be really sending the wrong message to my family. And, and, you know, again, it's just, I think it's a, it's a certain tone deaf ness that maybe maybe a while ago it would have been okay to say that. And it's less about sort of political correctness. And it's more about just, just recognizing that our culture has moved on from being able to say someone doesn't look like they're from here. Speaker 2 00:22:30 Well, you like to think so, but there's a huge swath of the country that doesn't actually agree with you. And that's what some, Speaker 1 00:22:35 He doesn't agree with. It, Speaker 2 00:22:38 There's actually some really interesting sociological research I ran across, which is that the difference between conservatives and progressives. So if you can think of that as we have these spheres of concern, these concentric circles, ourselves, our immediate family, our extended a kind of try, maybe if you're religious, where you worship your town, your nation, everybody on the planet, beyond that, all living things on the planet and then the universe, right? So you can think of these concentric tribal allegiances and what they found was fascinating that more conservative people are more local, that they care about family and church in the case of religious people and town and things like that. Whereas the progressive people are like every human being on the planet, which is even if the person's Brown, don't put kids in cages, right. Or don't take animals and things like that. So they're those concentric circles that they focus on are like way out there and more universal. So I thought that was kind of an interesting perspective. Speaker 1 00:23:40 Yeah. But it is, it is so much around like culture as you, and just know, and culture is just forming, forming circles of people who share your beliefs and your outlook on the world. And, uh, it's Speaker 2 00:23:54 So back to your question of like, how do you cut through it? One of the keys is laser focus, you know, as a brand or messaging is like jam. If you spread it too thinly on too much bread, you won't even taste it. You know? I mean, it's, it's gotta be one of those, like laser focused, where have you been all my life? Wow, this is perfect. I get it. I buy with it kind of reaction. And how rarely does that happen on the internet? Right. So really go for micro niches, understand them intimately. And then only from then, can you grow? And they'll probably through other micro niches, not by just your brand, more generic, Speaker 1 00:24:32 Even from a product market fit perspective. My, you know, historically I've been focused on, let me, let me find companies that have product market fit already and how am I going to help them reach more of their market more quickly. But increasingly I am looking at companies that are, that are trying to get to product market fit and trying to be helpful in, in that journey. And it's, it's interesting that the more that I read on the path to getting to product market fit, and even in my experience of helping companies with it, it starts with exactly who and what problem are you solving for that exact who, and sort of the smaller you can get there. Speaker 2 00:25:12 Right. And I'll, I'll take that one one step further because you're still, I would say, you know, just calling you out on it to product centric. So when you're saying, what problem does it solve for them? Okay. What I would say is like, look at where their center of gravity is, what they believe, what do they value? So you have a company like REI, I can promise you, they care about climate change. I can promise you that care about preserving green space and not burning down the Amazon. You know? So that goes more to values. Not whether I want to buy, you know, some crampons or, or a fucking Sub-Zero sleeping bag from you. That's, that's a product market fit. I mean, that's a product fit, but really go back to again, the values of the tribe. Speaker 1 00:25:58 Yeah. Yeah. But even to know which tribe to go and dig into, you have to start to say, what problem am I trying to solve for a particular set of people. Right, Speaker 2 00:26:08 Right. Yeah. You can't say, yeah, Hey, this works for everybody. Fantastic. Speaker 1 00:26:12 But definitely from the, yeah, from the niche perspective of you, of what you were talking about, the more specific you can get about it, the more likely you're going to be able to solve for that group. And then, and then beyond that, you can start to figure out who else, who else can I expand in? Speaker 2 00:26:28 Absolutely. And if you want to understand how to talk to them, here's the other problem that I have with marketers is we're very deep in the balance of our companies. I mean, if I asked you, it's like, Hey, when does the last time you talked to an end user of your product or service? Most marketers will probably say never, or several months ago or something like that, where you really need to go for the good stuff is to the front lines, right? You want, you want to have somebody in your call center. Who's like trying to keep people from canceling and talk to them, or the product returns, people that are taking return packages in with all those nasty notes, if it's a physical product. So you want to know what's really going on, how to talk to people, what they care about, go to your frontline troops and stop hiding out in the back and measuring the row. As of your campaigns. Speaker 1 00:27:17 I kind of stumbled across that with the pressure of one of my investors, probably pushing 16, 17 years ago in the early days of log me in, I had one of my investors who literally said, you know, when was the last time you talked to a customer, every time I'd run into him, that that would be his first set of words. And then I finally kind of tucked him aside and he said, you know, Woody, I don't really care what my customers say currently customers do. And I'm all about testing and, and it's all about what, what response am I going to drive? And he said, no, I want you to talk to your customers. And so I was like, okay, I'm just gonna, I'm gonna, I'm going to humor him. And I'm going to make sure that I talked to a customer every day, at least one, because I know I'm going to run into him and he's going to ask me the question. And so a funny thing happened about six within six months of that having successes, I started running much better tests. So I didn't give up my test learning process. It was just that my testing was much more anchored in what the hell is really going on with my customers and how they engage with the product and what their concerns are and what their life is like without my product. And it just, it just, uh, that that light bulb went off to where qualitative and quantitative. Speaker 2 00:28:38 Yeah. Also seeing that in the field, one of the best things you can do is go out to their national environment. So if you have say, you know, a single mom, we had some EDU clients trying to go back to school. Right. See what her day is like working, uh, taking care of the household, having, you know, an 18 month crawling up her ankle while she's trying to study. Or, you know, if you want reality check, go in the field and don't ask a bunch of like survey questions, just watch people. That's all, it's not that hard. Really. You don't need statistically significant user group sizes or any of that bullshit. Just go watch people in re in the wild as it were. Speaker 1 00:29:17 Yeah. It's amazing. You mentioned statistical significance there. It's amazing how many times I get that pushback of, well, I'm not gonna, I'm not going to talk to customers because there's just no statistical significance there. Like when you're testing, you want statistical significance insights. So you're saying your guess is better than a conversation with actually someone who would want to use your product. And if one's good, tens better. When you know, my, my friend Speaker 2 00:29:42 Steve crew go, we wrote a don't make me think. And, um, you know, it's not rocket surgery is a great line of, but he talks about informal usability testing. He says, you don't need your particular niche or cohort or three to five regular people pull, pull your mother-in-law into it. That's fine. Speaker 1 00:29:59 Wow. So if we take all these principles and clearly you, you understand on a, on a much deeper level than I do of sort of the why behind the decisions people make and, and the lack of decisions in our favor that they make. D do you feel like you've got it to a point where you can pretty reasonably predict how people are going to behave and if so, does that start to eliminate the need? Speaker 2 00:30:25 Oh, absolutely not. Um, so the problem is, if you really are talking about universal things that we all share on the planet, those are basic mechanisms. We also share that with, with apes and rodents. And I mean, people talk about dopamine, right? It's like, Oh, this is the reward chemical. And it's about, you know, all of that stuff. Well, that makes it sound like it's human. What we shared with fruit flies going back several hundred million years. So I doubt it was designed for humans to feel good about themselves. You know? So the, my point is, if you're going to have this general stuff, it's going to work across all life and motivate all life. Um, there's some bizarrely human stuff that we definitely layered on to that, but, um, it's going to give you tendencies in your mileage may vary. So testing is very specific. Speaker 2 00:31:12 It's also saying like, what's this trigger that I'm using? Does that work? What's this messaging that I'm using culturally, does that work? There's no substitute for that. You have to do it. Um, and so I think that's, it has to be reality based. Uh, and, and, but I think that one of the problems with testing is there's too much reliance on it. I think this is largely a push by the testing tool vendors, not going to name it. They all do it. It's Hey, it's about testing velocity. How many tests have you run? You know, that kind of stuff. Right. Or statistical significance and hypothesis. If I hear, you know, no hypothesis, one more time. I think I'm going to add gag. You know? So making that sound all scientific when in reality, it's like, yeah, you need enough people to make sure that you're not just, you know, flipping coins and doing random stuff. Speaker 2 00:32:04 Right. But the problem I have with testing at a macro level is that it's too tactical. Um, that for the sake of testing, big changes are put off, you know, like adding a personalization layer to your site, you know, redesigning your whole site, fixing your fricking call center. And the way that those retards back they're actually talking to customers, to me, that's growth hacking is like, look at the problems with the business overall. And just because you can test doesn't mean you should test, right. It's kind of like that story about drunk guy crawling around under the street lamp. And the cop comes up and says, Hey, what are you doing, buddy? And he says, I'm walking for my car keys. And the cop says, well, where'd you lose them? And, and the drunk guy points to the dark end of the alley, like a hundred feet away and says, Oh, we're there. Speaker 2 00:32:54 And the cop says, so why are you looking here? And the drink looks at him and goes, because the light's better. I mean, that's what we're doing with testing. Here's the part that we can measure over here under the light, but forget all that other stuff. The important things are actually happening away from the light, or you can get insights about them other places. And they involve wholesale redesign, sorry, not sexy, but if you do it right, that will reset the goalposts in a fundamental way. And then you can test the fine tune on top of that. Also the dirty little secret is you probably don't have a lot of pages where you have high volume testing as a possibility in the first place. And if you do, and you're not a total moron, you probably, after two, three tests will use up all your good ideas in your page got better now what you're going to plateau out anyway. So if you think of optimization as strictly being testing, you're fighting with your hands tied behind your back, Speaker 1 00:33:49 Right? So I am definitely one of those people who, uh, who talks about test velocity and hypotheses. So we can, we can debate a little bit because ultimately Speaker 2 00:34:00 No, what I'm coming in, when they have the mother of all data rates, okay, don't get me wrong. If you have, if you're in an enterprise and you have a BI department and all of that stuff, great, you probably have paid at a test. Speaker 1 00:34:13 So, but what I'm coming up against more often than not is people who do zero testing and zero testing means that. And what they'll say is I can't, I can't run a test because I'm not going to be able to have statistical significance. So, so in that case, it's like, okay, I'm so my guess is going to be better than, than collecting some insights from customers about what's really going on and trying to improve it. And so I do think this idea of continuous improvement is, is really important and how you drive that improvement, having some kind of feedback loop, whether that feedback loop is an AB test with statistical significance or even a usability test that says, okay, now people are going through this and they don't seem to be confused. And they're able to get to the point. Speaker 2 00:34:58 It could be a survey, it could be any number of things you'd get excited. It could be field research of watching people in the field. Some of that's qualitative, someone's quantitative, it's all like you say, continuous improvement. That's the part that matters. But testing specifically, when we set up testing programs for some very large companies, uh, we basically kind of set up two tracks or three tracks rather. There's what you and I think of is tactical testing, usually confined to a page or linear flow. Then there's bigger projects like side redesigns or adding personalization or something like that, or changing your email followup sequences. And there's the, just do it stuff. I mean, if you actually think about the cost of testing coming up with the ideas, coding it, making sure the data is being collected, right? The fact that most of them are gonna fail to produce any positive results. There is a real threshold, there's a cost to testing. And so changing the font in the footer from eight point to 10 point to make it more readable for fuck's sake, just do it just crutch. Speaker 1 00:35:59 So for me, I think the biggest kind of aha moment for me around testing was when I was working on log me in and 95% of the people signing up for our product, never once did a remote control session. And so that's one of those things where it was not about, Hey, let's run more tests. And so we can move it to 94% 93, until we finally get to, you know, it was, it was fundamentally, this is a screwed up experience and we need to figure out what the hell is going on and how to actually make it so that people who show an interest in this get to the point where they experienced at one time. And hopefully they have a good enough experience Speaker 2 00:36:37 Back and use it. You got it. So there's, there's kind of three areas that we focused on that unlocked huge value that had really nothing to do with testing. The first is the onboarding experience. Okay. Like you say, you, you, you can tell if somebody does a remote session, they're much more likely to continue after the end of the free trial. So the goal is not to get them to sign up it's to do a remote session. So what educational materials do you have? Do you have videos? Do you have, you know, Bob, the paperclip step me through it kind of stuff, right? Like, so onboarding is huge and paying attention to that. The second thing is externalizing the value of your product or service. Okay. So now they're a client. Are you telling them how hard you're working on their behalf by having that show up? Speaker 2 00:37:25 Not just when they log in on their dashboard, but by emailing them key statistics pretty frequently saying, look, this is all we're doing behind the scenes to make your life better. So externalizing the value for clients so they don't forget you. Okay. Then the last part is on the tail end of it, which is what I call loss prevention in a story, you know, like counterfeiting or shrinkage, how do you, you don't want to be like, I'll go daddy and, and not let them actually cancel your service without walking them through a gauntlet of pain, you know, but how you handle and divert people that are trying to leave your service or downgrade, um, how you interact with them detecting when they're about to flip on you and go negative, all of that stuff. So like loss prevention on the backend is also another huge area to explore. Speaker 1 00:38:15 Right? So, yeah, I mean, there's definitely, I think one of the things that's kind of unique about growth hacking, for lack of a better word, there is that, um, is that it does go so much beyond the surface level testing of just trying to drive surface level conversions. But it's more about understanding the full machine that leads to customers who love your product and advocate on behalf of your product. And it goes beyond what a marketing team's doing to really the rest of that team. And how do you drive improvement across that full machine to, Speaker 2 00:38:48 And it also depends on, you know, exactly what your, what application you're doing. So for e-commerce, for example, um, if you look at Omni converts reveal product that works with Shopify, and I think some other e-commerce engines as well, you know, it basically gives you like x-ray vision about your customer base, which ones are your advocates, which ones the about to leave use, and get insights at a cohort level about how those people are behaving. So tools like that are awesome before that you needed to have a big enterprise level business intelligence department. Now this stuff's like spit out through excellent tools, like reveal from Omnicom. Speaker 1 00:39:24 Yeah. And something that just about asking the right question. So yeah, going back to that log me in case that I mentioned, we had one, just one referring channel that had a massive loss on the, on the sign up to usage rate. And it was a, it was a new channel after we'd already fixed a lot of the funnel. And so we had, um, I think it was 200,000 people a day visiting through this channel with a 10% signups, a 20,000 signups and then 90% drop off on the download step. And so their email addresses. And so, you know, step one was kind of the old school of like, okay, let's just test a whole bunch of stuff. Maybe they don't see the button, let's make it bigger. Let's make it redder. You know, obviously none of that helped. And then we finally said, gosh, we have their email. Speaker 1 00:40:09 Let's just ask these people, why are they signing up and not downloading? And what we saw pretty consistently, not in the form of a survey, we actually automated an email out just for a day or two to the 18,000 people who were signing up and not using. And we saw the answer. I don't believe it's free. So that's what we were one of the first freemium, SAS applications out there. And so once we knew they didn't believe it was free, it became a lot easier to solve for that problem, which was, we actually got a tripling of the download rate from, from a single next test, after we'd run a ton that didn't move the needle at all, which was, we actually gave them a choice. We said, download the free version or download a trial of the paid version. Right. Speaker 2 00:40:51 Yeah. And clarify that. Or you could say it really is freaking free. Okay. We're never going to charge you if you don't want us to, you know, uh, one of the, so when you point to is also, uh, a lot of leverage is inherent in the business model. And unfortunately, if you're just focusing on the web and user experience, you're rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. You're not allowed to play with the important stuff. So if you want to see that the grownup table, you have to say, Hey, look, maybe we shouldn't have a seven day trial. That's not enough to form a habit. Maybe we should have a 30 day free trial. Guess what? Pushes revenue recognition out a little bit, but it triples our take rate, you know, that kind of stuff. That's really common. So playing with it at the level of the business model and whether you ever, how you charge Speaker 1 00:41:34 A couple there actually, um, I remember the early days of zoom, um, their CEO, Eric Yuan reached out to me and he'd seen, I'd been at log me in, but I left log me in before they launched joined me. But I, I had kind of enough understanding of the space that he reached out to me and just asked for some advice. And in my mind, I'm thinking this, the meeting space is so done with, I can't believe that he's launching a new product in the meeting space. Like it used to be really hard, but now you've got joined me and you've got, um, go to meeting that just so much easier to use than WebEx. And so they've already solved that usability issue go to meetings expensive and easy to use. Join me is free and easy to use. They're going to take all the Slack out of the market. Speaker 1 00:42:17 There's nothing left. I was wrong. It's, that's an $80 billion business. Now zoom is the exactly hits on the business model. I think the reason that they were so successful was that one, it works really well. Like we're, we're doing this conversation on zoom. And so it works really well. But the other side is that this business model tweak of it's free for up to 40 minutes, as long as it's a one on one meeting was just so brilliant. And I didn't, I didn't recognize it, but I know when I started paying, it was when, you know, often on a sales call, a second or third person joins. And when that second or third person joins, if you're on an internal meeting, it's predictable, how many people are going to join. And if you have to say, Hey guys, I'm saving some money. Let's reconnect. That's okay. But when you're in a sales call and you're like, Hey, my 40 minutes of the free program is almost up. Can we call back and reconnect? You look like a jackass. And it was just that subtle little piece. Right. Speaker 2 00:43:17 And the huge difference. You're absolutely right. And w where, where you put those little blockers, those little bump stops in your product or your offerings is critical and understanding what's the kind of the use case and how likely are people to run into that limitation and what are the consequences? How embarrassing is it? You know, like you say, in your case, you know, that's really critical, fine tuning your offering your business model, uh, whether you have a trial, whether credit cards are required, all of that is really, really powerful. So if you're just saying, you know, put lipstick on this pig, here's the web experience and do what you can with it in the context of our business model. That's too restrictive. I believe. Speaker 1 00:43:57 I agree. I agree. And so I think that's where the, where if the testing is aimed at real objectives and problems, that that behavior should be different. And I don't understand why customers are not behaving in the way that I would expect them to behave and you can dig into what's their motivation. Where's the friction. That's preventing them from taking the action that I want them to take. And you use that information to feed your test schedule. Then maybe you're going to be able to run good tests. But I do think it is a function of if you're not running tests, you're not driving improvements. So you do need to have focus on velocity, but quality, Speaker 2 00:44:33 It makes a huge difference as well. So, so I had a friend who once told me we were working with this company and he said, well, I believe that CRO is just another swim lane. You know, there's, pay-per-click, there's SEO, there's the affiliate channel. CRO is just a swim lane. And whenever I've seen companies that treat it that way, they fail. So if CRO is just testing and it's a tactical activity, you won't unlock the benefits of it. My friend, Joe megabyte used to run this optimization for Expedia, you know? And, um, he reported, I think, as a senior VP directly to the president of Expedia. And then he grew his two person team to, I don't know how many, and I presented one of their worldwide summits one time and they only moved the needle 5%, but on a $20 billion business, that extra billion is nice. So Wayne is, it was only because you have air cover from the highest level that it was working. And so don't be shoved down into tactical stuff as an optimizer, really, to be talking to, Speaker 1 00:45:33 It'll be a holistic look on the whole business, understanding of how the entire engine works. As much as you can contextualize the behavior or the lack of behavior. You're trying to drive and looking at it as an interdependent machine then as you're trying to drive improvements, because a lot of times you might drive a local improvement, but it actually messes up the machine in another area. So yeah, Speaker 2 00:45:56 I could be selling vacuum cleaners and I could say free sex. You know, I'd get a lot of people looking at the ad, you know, but well actually vacuum cleaners and sex. They have some contextual ferrying people that are going to end up in the ER, as a result of that anyway, but you get the idea. Yeah. It moves one metric, but it's really a tactical metric and not the end result that you want. Yeah, Speaker 1 00:46:21 Yeah, yeah. Depends how, I mean, for me, what I, I do still have the kind of basic formula where I look at my two main levers and trying to drive an improvement in behavior is I can increase the desire for something and I can decrease the friction that prevents them from doing something. And so I want to understand both sides of that, but I have to look at it in context of the full machine. Speaker 2 00:46:41 Uh, my friend BJ Fogg, who was in is in charge of the Stanford persuasive technology lab. He keynoted at, uh, what's now called digital growth, unleashed those conversion conferences, you know, cause you've spoken there, but he, he has the, the, uh, the behavioral model. He says for an action to happen, three things have to come together at the same time. The, uh, is called the motivation, the ability to do something and the trigger, if any, one of those is missing, it won't work. So, you know, motivation. I want a Ferrari, I love me a Ferrari ability. No, I don't have a quarter million dollars to buy one. Okay. So, but you need motivation ability and trigger. So definitely we can play with the triggers, but like you say, a lot of times, the easiest way to fix things is to improve the motivation where are kind of coming full circle, where all this neuro marketing stuff and evolutionary psychology come to play is understanding how to increase the motivation. Speaker 1 00:47:40 And I would actually even tie the ability a bit to the, to the friction piece that I'm talking about. That sometimes the ability is it just doesn't work with my browser or it, you know, that there's something that is making it so difficult. Like it might be that it's too expensive, like in the case you're talking about, but it might be that I don't trust the security on this thing, which is going to be, you know, Speaker 2 00:48:05 I don't understand your menu options or what the, what the language means or Speaker 1 00:48:11 Not enough, I don't have enough desire or motivation to overcome that friction. So I'm going to bounce and go somewhere else because it's just, it's just not worth it to me to deal with this BS of trying to get started with this product. And so I think, I think there's always way more details to, to get into the, you know, the different sides of that. But I like to try to simply simplify things down to a point where they become really actionable. And that's why that simple formula of if I can increase desire or motivation and I can decrease friction, I'm going to drive a lot more people to the desired result. And those are about getting to know the customer better. Yep. Speaker 2 00:48:49 But don't forget the trigger, what the button says, how big it is that stuff still matters, where it's context it's in, you know, that's gotta be super clear. Speaker 1 00:48:57 Yeah. So another book in this area that I, that I really like is a, is near y'alls book hook, speaking of trigger, I think, you know, just how you, when, what I often think of is like phase one. So like when we were talking about log me in phase one is I need to get someone to an experience where they actually got enough value that they want to come back and get that value again. But you're not done at that point because, because it's easy to forget about that. Like, let's say your, your Airbnb, I get to the point where I book one room, once it's six months later, I'm going to be booking another room and I'm going to probably forget the Airbnb even existed. And so yeah. How do you build that habit once you've built that, that, you know, desire for a benefit, how do you build the habit? And that's where I've found that the book a hook. Speaker 2 00:49:45 Yeah. Merck is a fantastic book and Nira was kind enough to blur mine as well. Um, and you got all the good ones on there. Well, in his new book and distractible is fantastic. It's kind of like the antidote. He did some evil, like telling people how to hook us. And now it's kind of undoing that by saying, okay, how do I become in distractible? Speaker 1 00:50:05 Yeah. I know he took some heat for that, but I, you know, to me, I think it's a, I think on both sides, you know, one of the things he turned me on to as well as this idea of zero-based calendaring and I organize my day around that and I love it. Yeah. I mean the more, the more that you kind of set out exactly what your plan is, the harder it is to get derailed by all these distractions. Speaker 2 00:50:25 There's a reason for that, because if it's empty space, you're not, you don't see the price externalized, but if you're saying this is my opportunity cost, I'm missing out on doing this thing. I had scheduled that and really make, brings it home. I think that's, that's the value. That's why it works. Speaker 1 00:50:39 Yeah. So, I mean, I do think, like, I think it's really interesting with your book that you, that you do start in the it's very much the, the use of just demystifying, how we act and why we act and unleashing your primal brain. I do think there is a lot of value in being able to understand how you personally are wired, but for those of us that are in the growth industry and marketing, the better we understand ourselves, the better we can start to understand our customers and, and what makes them tick and what prevents them from doing the things we want them to do. And hopefully get a lot smarter about how to get them to take the actions we want them to do. Speaker 2 00:51:15 Yeah. And then I did briefly toot my own horn. I really, um, I, as you know, I wrote a couple of books on landing page optimization. They did really well, you know, 50,000 copies sold in six different translations and all that. But those are applied marketing books. This book is a much better book. I mean, those, I wrote a decade ago. Okay. And there's a lot of solid stuff in there, but this book, I think if you're willing to do two, it's an easy read, but if you're willing to do the work, the thing, huh? How does this apply to my work? You're going to mine it for all kinds of goals. So I see evolutionary psychology is as this kind of foundational level that every marketer needs to study. That's, it's not optional. Speaker 1 00:51:56 Yep. And I also just think that, that the Mark of a, of a good growth or marketing person is usually curiosity. Anyway, they they're curious when they run a test cause they want to see how people behave. They're curious when they run a survey, cause they want to see what people say. They're curious how the mind works. So they want to read a book like this. They're curious how the mind works so they can understand themselves better. So that kind of having that curiosity as well as sort of data based feedback loops about continuously getting better at things as is a pretty powerful combination. Speaker 2 00:52:27 Yeah. I guess when you know, the, the part of growth hacking that I like is the growth, I think in the sense of growth mindset, I think like you say, curiosity, lifelong learning is, is absolutely the very best growth marketers I've seen, uh, have that as a common thing. Speaker 1 00:52:42 Yup. And, and I think that when you take it beyond an individual trying to drive self-improvement, but you start to think of that growth mindset as also being every single thing I'm doing in the business, there's a better way to do it. And it doesn't mean that all of them are equally low hanging fruit. So what you have to do is kind of figure it out. That's the opportunity that's opportunities, the biggest issues and, and address those. But just, just recognizing that you have to constantly drive improvement across all parts. Speaker 2 00:53:13 You know, it's funny because I do live website reviews often at conferences, own virtual events. And you know, that chapter, my book, my landing page optimization book was titled your baby is ugly. And I think you have to have that kind of dissatisfaction. Like there's gotta be a better way or what's standing in the way of the visitors and the users from accomplishing what they want. So you have to have kind of like, um, a relentless, not pessimism. Exactly. But a relentless dissatisfaction, I think, to be a growth marketer as well. Absolutely. Well, I'm excited for people to go out and read your book, so where can they get it? Uh, go to primal, pretty simple. And there's the ebook, which is available everywhere. Audio book also narrated by me available everywhere. Um, you can get autograph copies of the print book on my site. Speaker 2 00:54:01 Doesn't launch in the U S to late April, 2021. Although you can preorder it. If you're in New Zealand, Australia, you can order the, uh, the local Booktopia edition, uh, starting September one, 2020. So that's fully available, decide to launch in those countries before here. Uh, well it just happened that the calendar for the U S publisher wasn't until the spring of 21, uh, the Australians they're all over it, then they, they had a window, so they pushed it through. Well, very cool. And again, I think for anyone who's trying to drive breakout growth in a company, every product is really that success of any product is based on how people engage with that product and why they decide to engage with that product. And even why you build the product in the first place. And so it all, it all gets to the root of kind of what makes people tick or not tick the way we want them to. Speaker 2 00:54:52 And being able to understand that on a very foundational level is going to make you a lot better at growing products, businesses, and, and yourself. Yeah. And by the way, if you and I are both obviously international keynote speakers, that's not happening at the moment except that virtual events. But if anybody is interested in, um, you know, internet strategy or advisory, or like I said, a ruthless review of your website, it's going to be like a, you know, MMA take down of your website. I do those, my expert website reviews. Just go to Tim for that. Perfect. Well, thanks Tim. I appreciate you, uh, sharing your wisdom here and thanks everyone for tuning in Speaker 0 00:55:29 <inaudible>. Speaker 2 00:55:34 Thanks for listening to the breakout growth podcast. Please take a moment to leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform. And while you're at it, subscribe until next week.

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