Talking CRO with the CMO of Flow [Interview]

by Sharon Hurley Hall

Last updated on January 9th, 2018

Today we talk to Lance Jones about conversion rate optimization (CRO) and the role of a task management tool in managing the process.

Lance has been involved with CRO since the early days of the web in 1993. He’s done conversion optimization for Intuit, Conversion Rate Experts and Adobe and is the co-founder of CopyHackers and Snap.

Lance is currently Chief Marketing Officer of a new team task management tool called Flow.

Flow home page

Lance, what do you love most about CRO?

I have managed a team for going on 10 years. Trying to break through a conversion rate ceiling can be challenging, but I love how rewarding it is when you find a test or tactic that delivers a positive lift. It’s kind of addictive.

Why is CRO so important?

We’re all competing for attention much more than we used to, and that places importance on CRO because you have to figure out a way to squeeze out every last  opportunity to begin a relationship with someone. If you don’t convert them, someone else will. And that’s what makes CRO so important.

Changes in CRO

How has the use of CRO techniques changed things?

Over the years, I’ve seen the bar on good marketing always rising. People are so open about sharing the techniques they have tried and what’s worked for them.

Lately, exit intent and opt-in modals have had a lot of attention, the quality and length and frequency of blog posts, using email as a real relationship builder and engagement tool, in-app messaging from tools like Intercom, remarketing, drip campaigns—all of that has been raising the bar.

Is there a downside to this?

The level of sharing is unbelievable. So everybody jumps on the good stuff that’s shared and they eventually wear it out. Once everybody has tried a tactic, it tends to lose its luster. Many of those tactics are starting to approach overuse.

If some tactics are now overused, what do site owners and marketers need to be thinking about from now on?

Something we’re trying, recently written about by Shawn Ellis of Growth Hackers, is high tempo testing. They amped up the experiments they were running and ended up increasing monthly active users from 90,000 to 152,000 in only 11 weeks.

They included things like new email campaigns to get people more engaged, did product feature releases, A/B tests, and  gathering info from their most committed users and visitors to understand what they wanted to get out of the community. To make this work, they needed a lot of ideas.

What’s your key takeaway from the Growth Hackers strategy?

The more experiments you can run, the better. Nobody knows for sure going in whether an experiment will be successful. When you maximize the number you run, that maximizes the potential for gains.

The Importance of Onboarding

Are there any other areas conversion optimizers should think about?

As a technique for CRO, there’s a renewed focus on onboarding.

Conversion is a term that’s used kind of loosely. Just because somebody opts in to your marketing, or they sign up for your free trial, even if they make a first purchase, it doesn’t mean they have converted. To me, those are just the first steps toward adoption.

For us, CRO has been transformed. We have become more focused on getting people to adopt our solution and make a habit of our solution—that’s what onboarding is all about. It’s getting people to that AHA moment as soon as possible and ingraining the behavior so they don’t even think about using your product or service, they just do it.

A good resource we have used is Hooked, by Nir Eyal. We use his Hooked methodology to get underneath what our customers’ triggers, actions and rewards  and investments are and optimize for those.

Hooked book cover

CRO and Mobile Apps

In terms of CRO, how much do we need to care about recent changes in Google algorithms?

I don’t know how much I think about it, but the fact that Google is expanding its use of mobile friendliness as a ranking signal is interesting. It’s clear that if you want to show up in the search results, you need to be aware and make sure you’re not ignoring it.

The more important aspect for CRO is the idea that Google will start indexing apps, just like they do websites. They are going to be deep linking into your web or Android app, and those results will show up.

It’s something we didn’t really have to think about much before. You had to think about your website and the end-to-end user experience, but once you got people into your app, it was less important just because you had more control over the flow of how people ended up there.

If Google is deep linking, you can’t believe that you’re controlling the flow. People could land past the typical entry point for your app. More than ever, you have to think about the entire experience (website plus apps), and that’s going to impact the pages you optimize and how you optimize them.

To me it feels like there’s more work for CRO experts than ever, as a result of Google’s changes.

Managing CRO Projects

What are the biggest issues people face when managing CRO projects?

Unlike some of the marketing tactics or experiments, the biggest issues haven’t changed a lot over time. The challenges I continue to have to deal with are:

  • Everything needs to be on the table. There can’t be any sacred cows, because you don’t know where you will find a gain.
  • Getting everybody on the same page regarding the creative—emails, page testing—it can be tricky to get agreement and final sign off.
  • How long to keep an experiment running.
  • What to do with a winning test. Do we launch the winning creative or not?
  • What to do next.

How do you use Flow to help with these issues?

Until I joined Flow, I hadn’t used a task management tool to run the experiments, but if you have a team of two or more people, having a task management tool can be a huge help.

flow kanban view

We are using Flow to keep track of all the active experiments, plus everything in the hopper, a huge list of ideas.

One of the views inside of Flow is Kanban, which is the approach that Trello uses. We use that view to manage the flow of creative from initial idea to deployment as part of a test and getting feedback on the way, so you always know the status.

We assign tasks to a single person, but subscribe anyone with a stake in that experiment to updates. All discussions take place inside Flow. We also use project templates so we don’t have to start from scratch every time.

And the tasks themselves include the rules about when we’re going to call a test and what the success metrics are so no-one ever forgets what we’re testing and why and what we’re going to measure.

flow task discussion

For me, this was new, but I’m pleased with how focused and productive it keeps us.

Can you give another example of how you use Flow for CRO?

We run a lot of tests on our own website and we’re changing a pricing page. To do this, we’re using Flow with Redpen, which lets you look at screenshots and give feedback.

In order to keep everything out of email, when we decide on the page version we want to test, we move the conversation back into Flow to manage the more typical requirements of getting the creative built and making sure that is reflective of the design. We then use additional tasks to decide on when to deploy it and to choose the success metric of the particular test.

flow live feed

There’s a trail of activity all around this pricing page test that you can follow from start to finish—it’s like a timeline of activity that shows every task, sub-task, comment, every link out to Redpen. You don’t need to check email; everything is contained completely within Flow. That’s what makes it so easy to use a task management tool to run this type of experiment.

What does Flow bring to the table that’s different from other task and project management tools?

Metalab—the team that designed Slack—needed a better way to manage its projects. Flow came out of that need and got some early traction because we designed it to help run better projects for the clients we were working for.

People also come to Flow because of its design. They come for the UI but they stay for the way Flow keeps them  productive and organized without having to learn a whole bunch of stuff.

It’s got a shallow learning curve. Plus, we don’t want to build bloatware—we only build things that we believe will have a material impact on teams getting things done. The Kanban view is an example of something we did let through the gate and it’s very apparent that it’s helping customers be more productive.

Any last words?

It’s always hard to form a new habit, but it’s clear that you have to commit to it. Getting things organized, not having to remember what you have to work on, not having to remember whether something was said in Gmail or in your task management tool—those are important ways to change the way you work.

lance jonesTools like Flow work best when you bring in your team, start assigning tasks and watch them progress. That’s when you get the value.


Follow Lance at @flowapp. And take a minute to check out Flow.

Read other Crazy Egg articles by Sharon Hurley Hall.

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Sharon Hurley Hall

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 25 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer, university lecturer and ghost writer. Connect with Sharon on her website.


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