February 2, 2018: I shared this post on LinkedIn:
I’d started a new job, lucked into the opportunity to advise two founders and companies I think highly of, and committed to pushing forward on a passion project of mine that had stalled for 10 years (kids books about social and environmental issues).
Life was almost too good to be true. I was coasting and sailing through life again, blissfully.
2018 was going to be the best year of my life. I felt compelled to share how thankful and grateful I was for where I was standing, and how optimistic I was about what the future held.
I clicked post, and sent the above into the world.
48 hours later I got a phone call. An emotion-choked, broken voice on the other side made her way through the following words:
“Your father…he’s no longer with us.”
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Life changes instantly. Often. Sometimes you miss it. Sometimes it knocks you on your tuchus.
Am I Coasting Through Life, Or Being Deliberate?
The older we get, the more time moves forward. The faster things change. Life doesn’t just keep marching on, it keeps accelerating.
The world plays a cruel trick on us with every new day, propelling us forward, ever faster, into an ever shrinking time and space. All the while, things are changing around us.
Change is inevitable. Nobody needs that reminder. Our biggest challenge is how we let change happen.
Many of us create an environment devoid of friction, one fully conducive to being pushed, shoved, propelled, catapulted forward.
Instead of stopping and taking notice, instead of being thoughtful about our next steps, we let that momentum happen. Hell, we strap wheels to our feet, we put up sails, and we let our environment propel us forward.
As a result, we’re coasting and sailing through life. We aren’t deliberately working our way through it.
And when we aren’t working, things come easy.
And when things come easy, they lose their value and their impact.
We see it everywhere. Obviously, with family and friends. But our work selves aren’t insulated from mindless coasting.
Think about your work day.
If you’re like me, for so long, we’ve focused on moving faster and catching the next coattail at work or riding the next shiny new trend and wave instead of paying attention to what matters.
What should matter are the people we work with (our teams, our partners), the people we work for (our teams and our customers), and the reason we work in the first place — to help people achieve their goals.
What has mattered for so long is the next, not the now. The next tool, the next platform, the next hack.
We’re so focused on what’s next that we forget about what’s here — the people who need our time, attention and support.
So, What Happens When There Is No Next?
If you are a part of the economy in 2019, you’ve already seen things get harder.
Building, growing, expanding a business is getting harder because the “next” big thing designed to help us grow hasn’t materialized.
It’s getting harder and harder to get people to use and fall in love with you and your product because competition is exploding.
Not a bad thing if people were using these products aggressively, but the hard truth is that on average, people are visiting these tools a little over 2x a month.
Proliferation hasn’t led to adoption and usage.
We’ve compounded the problem by being disrespectful to the people we’re trying to have fall in love with us in the first place.
We’ve bombarded them with more (messages, content, ads, emails, phone calls, sales pitches). The people we want to have fall in love with us don’t trust us and, they’ve stopped hearing us.
It’s harder to build a business.
It’s harder to find and retain customers.
There’s more competition than ever.
And the people we want to love us have lost their ability to trust us and our tactics.
If that wasn’t enough, the funny money we all got to play with has taken notice and is pulling back in 2019. We haven’t built the skills necessary to propel ourselves forward without help, and, we’re about to lose our training wheels.
Times have changed. The wheels we strapped to our feet are now worn. The sails we held up in the air are torn. There’s less wind at our backs and instead of riding downhill, markets are plateauing and even starting to bend uphill.
If we want to be successful in 2019 and beyond we have to retrain ourselves on how we work after the run we’ve just had.
Why Should We Be Optimistic?
I’m optimistic that we can and will fix this. The best companies, the best company cultures, will adapt to this environment and get it right because of the all important fact:
This pain is self-inflicted.
We dug ourselves into this hole, and we will dig ourselves out.
We created this environment because we had it easy. When it came to building and growing companies, things were too easy. Rapid technological and business model evolutions meant we always had new ways to reach people, new protected channels in which to find them.
It felt like every 1-2 years this millennium we’d have a new silver bullet channel to go talk to customers. (Read: marketing and growth were downhill, wind at our back environments.)
As soon as something got hard to do, or a market grew saturated and hypercompetitive, an entirely new playground emerged. At least, until a few years ago. Where new marketplaces and environments gave way to hyper-fragmentation and ultra-competition.
We experienced an explosion in technology companies designed to help us market, build, grow our businesses (3 new technologies have launched every single day since 2011) and an overall explosion in entrepreneurship (550,000 new businesses launched each month in the US alone!) The markets that had played so nicely with us for so many years, decided to turn on us and then, pile it on.
For a while, I thought we were all being lazy. I’ve wondered hard about the idea of burning vs exhausting leads with customers for years (burning equals wasting them, exhausting them means working them to an irrational end).
But the smart move five years ago was to burn through opportunities quickly acknowledging that access to more people with more context was always at your fingertips; and also acknowledging that new forums in which to converse with the same people were always emerging (so you’d always get a second chance).
We weren’t lazy. We were opportunists.
In that spirit, there’s a new opportunity. Because there’s a new constraint driving a new frontier of opportunism and optimism.
It’s Time to Start Paying Attention
In 2019, the thing that’s changed the most is second chances. We aren’t getting them. Which means we have to make the most of our first ones.
The best way to make the most of every opportunity, is to start by paying attention.
Our friends at Nonfiction Research wrote an excellent report titled “The Secret Financial Lives of Americans.” Read it. It’s powerful commentary on class, on wealth, on optics vs reality. They share facts like:
“52% of people admit to having cried because they don’t have enough money.”
“37% of people have gone to sleep hungry because they don’t have enough money.”
“44% of people couldn’t handle a $400 emergency without borrowing.”
Yeah. Heavy stuff.
Of all the data points they shared, one that seemed most relevant to this post is:
64% of people who have a Financial Advisor, feel like they don’t have someone to talk to about their money.
You read that correctly. More than 2/3 of people who are paying someone to manage their money, don’t feel like they have someone they can talk to about their money.
Consider it a microcosm for business/customer relationships in 2019.
Disciplines like “Customer Success” and business models like “Support-Driven Growth” (something I built while at Help Scout) are on the rise because we got really good at marketing and selling but not at supporting, serving, and helping.
We marketed, we sold, and then, we stopped paying attention.
Customers took notice and they’re not taking our sloppy follow through anymore.
Customer Success, Support-Driven Growth, Consultative Selling, are all subsets of a broader philosophy: paying attention to the people who are paying attention to you.
Prospects or customers.
Readers or tire kickers.
Buyers or advocates.
It doesn’t matter. If they’re paying attention to you, they deserve your attention.
Per Wesley Bush at Traffic is Currency, the average website converts 0.044884853% of visitors to customers.
Do you get why I’m optimistic? 99.56% feels like a hell of an opportunity for me to do better.
For the past 19 years we’ve focused on the outside in. We’ve dumped people onto our websites, homepages, landing pages, dashboards, apps and left them to fend for themselves.
We’ve brought them to us, we’ve piqued their interest, and we’ve then focused on tweaks and optimizations to convert them while also tolerating an incredible amount of acceptable loss (when is losing out on over 99% of potential interest, acceptable?)
With all of this competition. With all of this technological density. With all of this existing frustration and disappointment from the people we’re trying to help — our customers — the way forward is to slow down.
To unstrap those wheels from our feet and slow down a bit so we can respond more quickly and thoughtfully to the people whizzing by us as opposed to simply, letting them fly by. To lower our sails so we aren’t being carried or blown forward but rather, so we’re deliberately choosing how and where we walk in the first place.
The market is responding. In a survey of 1000 marketers, CRO has the highest ROI. It’s also the thing that gets the least amount of attention or investment (less than 1.7% of Marketing budget gets allocated to it).
I’m often met with skepticism when I share the two data points above:
“Show me evidence. If it’s the best thing for a business, why aren’t people doing it?”
People aren’t doing CRO and people aren’t paying attention because it’s not new and shiny. It’s not sexy. It’s not written about in magazines or featured on stage at conferences (we’re going to change that, but it’s our reality today).
And if it’s so hard for you to believe that people don’t do things that are obviously and proven to be good for them — tell me why so few people eat healthy, exercise, practice mindfulness, or talk about being grateful every morning?
Make paying attention to the people who are paying attention to you, your superpower.
Use all of the technology and tools at your disposal for good; focus less on tweaking and optimizing small experiences, and focus more on paying attention to people specifically so you can find inspiration for transformative opportunities.
It sounds easy. It is. Why aren’t we doing it?
In a poll of 1000 business leaders we found that more people took the time to read what other people were saying about their customers, than people did to stop and talk to their own customers. We’ve got a mental block stopping us from paying attention to our customers.
We don’t pay attention because….
“I’d say it’s a combination of reasons. One, a lot of the analytics softwares are costly. Sure some are free or lower cost, but everything adds up. Another is hassle or being busy with other things on your website.”
We’re too busy:
“I am responsible for updating the website, but I also have a lot of other responsibilities that prevent me from spending time on looking into the site’s analytics.”
“I don’t feel like taking the time to update my website because I think it’s good as it is.”
The truth is … we’re making excuses.
Paying attention isn’t hard; but it’s a change in behavior.
Change is hard. Change for the right reasons, though? It’s worth it.
Life. Relationships. Work. Everything gets real when you pay attention. I’ll also tell you that when you start paying attention, you’ll stand out in the minds of the people paying attention to you. You’ll be remembered for remembering.
Paying attention and caring is the most authentic way to differentiate yourself and stand out in a noisy world. For your company, team and customers.
We focused on this idea of paying attention at Crazy Egg. We stopped pushing sales and we started offering people help. In six months we had 400 conversations with customers about how we could make their websites better.
When we asked how we could be helpful in our application, 82% (of 3,000 customers prompted) responded quickly with intent. When we paid attention. When we made everything about the people we were working for, they responded. Clicks. Form fills. Email responses. Actual conversations.
The numbers inverted. We went from 80% acceptable loss, to 80% engagement.
Paying attention is transformative. Not just at work though; for your family and friends, too.
“Your dad. He’s no longer with us.”
Life changes instantly. How do you change with it?
It’s hard to believe I’m standing here one year later. In hindsight everything has happened so fast. But every moment of 2019 feels more salient, too.
For as fast as it’s gone, I feel like I was sometimes forced and sometimes compelled to squeeze the most out of every moment. My father dying created a life-changing moment for me to pull down my sail and for me to unstrap those wheels.
It forced me to slow down and pay attention to all of the people who matter to me. I’ve gone from thousands of friends and contacts on social media to all but deleting FB (it would be gone altogether if not for the rich history of photos and memories I’ve catalogued there since 2007).
I’ve gone from making time to be out and about to forcing myself to be home and be present for my kids. I’ve gone from spending time networking outside of my company to spending time diving deep with the (amazing) team at Crazy Egg, and the other companies I work with (thanks to the teams at Boldr Impact and BeerMenus and Dream Village).
I’ve inverted the priorities that technology set for me by default, and have created my own priorities that I am now setting deliberately.
The results are positive. Crazy Egg has grown and inflected as a business; we’ve also built a culture and an infrastructure that has set us up for a very exciting 2019.
This team is wonderful; and their respect for each other and the people we’re trying to evolve Crazy Egg for, is humbling. I’ve seen similar progress and energy with the other companies I’m doing my best to support, advise, and grow.
Paying attention to the people paying attention to me; and helping the people around me focus on doing the same, made 2018 a foundation at my feet instead of a wall at my chest.
The idea of paying attention is a philosophy that feels right to me because I believe I can apply it universally, with positive impact. Who I am at home has to be who I am at work and vice versa; context switching at the highest levels is impossible and disingenuous.
For 2019, we here at Crazy Egg are all in on helping you pay attention to the people who are paying attention to you.
If we can be helpful practically, with your business, reach out to our team and we’ll be back in touch.
If this article has resonated with you and you want to talk about it, you can contact me directly.
If you’ve taken the time to pay attention to what we’re doing as a company and what I’ve written here; well, the least I can do is pay attention in return.
Thank You, Daddy
My dad made it a point to pay attention to what mattered. Always.
Here’s a photo of him with our daughter when she was a few months old.
We had a full house that day. Family and friends around us. Yet, among all the chatter in a very full house, I found him and her like this.
I’ve come back to this picture often over the past year. As a foundation and as a reminder of what’s important and what’s possible.
Paying attention is easy. Especially when you’re honest about what really matters.
PS: An extra special thanks to the folks who have invested in me at Crazy Egg; and who made it possible for me to take a month off, a month in to taking over a company they had poured their heart and soul into.
Hiten Shah, Amee Shah, John Butler and Neil Patel — you’ve lived the values you shared and showed to me from the first moment we met. It’s an honor.