In our Customer Spotlight Series we like to spotlight some of our amazing customers who do incredible work with X, and we are thrilled to introduce you today to Branko Kral of B King Digital (powered by X). With obsessive focus on data and using that data to form his subsequent site designs, Branko will challenge many conventional thoughts on web design while explaining why building based off the numbers alines both you and your clients interests beautifully! Take it away, Branko…
Q: Hi Branko! Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in online marketing?
Hi! I am from Slovakia and due to my lovely lady being American, I currently live in California's Eastern Sierra. I love people, mountain sports, languages and tech. I also consider myself entrepreneurial - the mix yields an affection for online marketing.
I first started in the field when working on a Prague startup some years back. We fared well with events, a good store location, partnerships, etc., but PPC, link building and tweaking the eshop were just much, much more effective. Scalability of these tools along with ease of access to analytics is king.
Q: What does your business do and how is X a part of that?
B King Digital does online lead generation, with focus on social media and analytics. The goal is always to create great marketing through applying data, so that decisions are not based on what someone thinks works; but on what we definitely know works because the numbers say so. A website is usually the hub for the brand's online presence, and X is great for designing marketing websites built for conversion funnels. So by now I've had X power 7 very different sites.
Q: For online marketers, what are the pros and cons of being on your own as opposed to working for someone else?
It's better to be employed by someone else's marketing company if they can teach you a lot, are creative, aim to create awesome things only, can demonstrate results, are honest with clients. Also, if you prefer to have a firm structure at work, or if you straight out need more experience, you should probably work for someone else.
It's better to start your own gig if you have ambition, self-discipline, self-learning habits, or if you just know you'd prefer to do things differently. With platforms like oDesk or with some reputation, you can have a pretty quick start. Then, the biggest practical benefit of not having a boss is that the only people that get to have a say are the direct recipients of your work - the clients. That keeps you more focused.
Q: You were a marketer first, then a developer. Can you explain how that helps shape your strategy for web design?
One thing that marketing taught me to do is to first find out what exactly the goals are. I ask the client about where they want their business to go, but I also do my own market research - search keywords, audience insights from social, competition. Then you can set the site up for SEO and conversions much better.
Adding, marketing experience gives you good ideas for how the site should be integrated with other online channels. What purpose the blog should serve, what your copy should be like, what visitors coming from social should be doing.
Finally, I want my projects to be great, not just good. So I often have my oDesk designers and programmers help. That way, each project can be made by experts in the three critical areas - marketing, design, code.
Q: What are 3 of your “must dos” on any web design from a marketing point of view?
- Lead Generation – Cater for the typical conversion funnel.
- Measuring – Collect data that help achieve goals or show opportunity.
- Integration – Support and get support from all other active online channels, a website alone is often not enough to generate leads.
Q: How did you learn about X and what has it done for your business?
Scouring ThemeForest, I stumbled upon X. I loved the demos and felt that this theme could level up my work. It has indeed. I've put a lot of time into learning the nooks and crannies, and thanks to X's flexibility, I can now create very different sites using the familiar layouts and Shortcodes. Work becomes fast. Also, I've learned a lot from the impressive knowledge base, and had a number of issues resolved in the amazing forum. Some of my important routine steps in web development, e.g.CloudFlare for boosting website speed and free SSL, are things I learned in the member base.
Q: What are some of your favorite features in X?
The Customizer is great, it makes styling as easy as with a quick Tumblr site. The Shortcodes are amazing, I even look at Shortcode demos when short on ideas. Visual Composer integration is epic. The Stacks are great too which is something that makes X able to beat the Genesis framework - it's just as flexible but simpler. Integrity is my favorite, and I can't wait to try Ethos. I'm also very happy for the addition of Extensions, browsing through them feels like checking out Jetpack.
Q: Some developers think everything should be coded from scratch. You think a template is the way to go (we agree). Can you walk us through your thought process on that?
I like to use Points of Parity (POPs) and Points of Differentiation (PODs) to explain my preference. Every brand should be just as good as the competitors when it comes to shared characteristics, the POPs. A grocery store, for instance, is going to be seen as no good if they don't carry milk and flour. You just HAVE to deliver on these basic shared expectations your customers come to you with.
Then, you can work on what sets you apart, your PODs, like the excellent organic section, the fresh mangos, the local craft brew. Website POPs are speed, great looks, smooth UX, lead generation. I'd also say that all or most websites should be highly visual and flat. If I can spend $63 to buy beautiful code that caters for all those POPs, as well as some PODs such as knowledge base and flexibility, I say yes thank you. The time that saves you can be used to create new cool things, instead of coding something that is already available.
Q: You like talking about websites built for conversion funnels. Can you give us an example?
Developing for a conversion funnel means that you build a marketing website that is a part of your content marketing strategy, one that caters different types and formats of content to prospects at different stages of the funnel. The more touch points it takes for your prospect to convert, say when you have a service that requires commitment or simply costs more, the more relevant it is.
To give an example, my favorite client provides regenerative medicine procedures. It's a growing market with high competition and as people are really careful about what they do for their health, conversions are far from easy to achieve.
What website analytics showed was that people would find the site in search, but mostly not its most important pages, and then bounce off quickly. So when we were giving the site an overhaul, using X, I put a lot of time into creating a site map and a content strategy before we even touched the first page. Now, we follow a formula.
- For people who have the desired target demographics and interests, but don't look for the procedures yet, we amplify short social media pieces, leading the audience to the website.
- For people who are already looking for a procedure, but are only in the stage of learning about what's out there, we have hub pages such as What Is Regenerative Therapy.
- For people who are already familiar with the procedures, either through our site or another source, we have pages that provide details on specific steps and on how the procedures help their specific needs: What to Expect During a Procedure, Therapy for Joints & Soft Tissue, Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis, etc. We also have a page such as Therapy FAQ for this purpose. I personally don't think you need to have information on a separate FAQ page, but analytics and keyword research show us that people love the format so we give them what they want. You see, my opinion is not the most important here even though I'm a marketer with experience—the process is customer centric
- For people that already want a procedure but need more trust before they pick up the phone, more social proof, we sprinkle testimonials all over the site and we have a portfolio page titled Patient Case Studies. Case studies are more effective for trust building than testimonials, especially if you have many different media outlets publishing them about you. These pieces of content are also the most specific ones on the site, with titles as Non-Invasive Alternative to Hip Replacement
My opinion is not the most important here even though I'm a marketer with experience—the process is customer centric.
You might have noticed how we started with broad terms and gradually narrowed down just like the funnel shape does. Still, people can leave the site without converting. They need more time to think, they get distracted, they at first mistakenly think competition is better 🙂. Blogging comes in play here. Blogs are great, social. We intentionally write for people who are already familiar with the procedures, but who need to be reminded of us. We write it to turn existing clients into returners or advocates, to cater for search queries that we don't want to make static pages for such as 10 Myths About Regenerative Medicine and to solidify our engagement and authority in the field. Blog posts may not always get as much quick love on social media as e.g. images do, but once someone has read your blog you know they're super interested and you can retarget them. Moreover, you normally get a spike of targeted traffic from every blog post, even without promoting it.
For converting itself, we use appealing call-to-action elements (thank you X!) sprinkled all over the site. On a typical page, the viewer first sees a blend of resourceful information and social proof, then a prominent Contact Us Today button. That takes visitors to simple pages where they can convert.
Conversion funnels are not always as linear as described above, but it is often the only way to answer the holy grail question of what exactly turns prospects into clients. It's easy to spread general awareness; it's not always easy to generate leads. The example I'm talking about is fresh but it's already giving me actionable data. In the image below, you can see the graph representing the number of organic impressions the website gets on Google.
The date when we started creating for the conversion funnel marks the start of a new rhythm as well as steady growth. When I look at more related graphs, I see that the growth is there because now we publish information on all the different stages a person considering stem cell therapy may go through. What might happen soon is that I find out that I'm still missing a step, or that I'm doing a step wrong but now I have a system for figuring that out. I just have to make sure we create content for the funnel consistently over time, otherwise the numbers may lie or you just lose momentum. This might sound to you like I'm talking about social media, and I indeed think websites should be highly social. To help plan for the process, I follow these steps:
- Collecting market data through keyword research, social audience insights, analytics of existing website and social, and talking to the client.
- Sketching out the conversion funnel and catering for it with a content plan.
- Measuring answers to questions of What Happened, Why It Happened, and What We Do About It.
- Pouring the data back into your online presence to fine tune the process.
The website I'm talking about has about 30 static pages, but you can apply the same to a small, one-page scrolling site. Just think of what needs to happen between the first and last second of a visit.
Q: How do you find new clients and what do you find is the most important thing your potential clients are looking for when it comes to hiring you?
- Referrals – I love referrals. Doing great work with tangible results and exceeding expectations gets you those. Read Sid Lee's Conversational Capital for more ideas on that. When a client is close to hiring me, having a solid portfolio of work and certifications is what they'll check out. Write up your portfolio in terms that a business manager will like - how your work generates leads, not how many likes you can win; how you deliver actionable market data, not how you can make things look good on the surface.
- Partnerships – As an online marketing expert, having a relationship with experts in development is lucrative. The scope of work we can do together and the combined network of prospects is much bigger.
- oDesk – I use it both for getting hired and hiring.
- Volunteering – Volunteer work gives you much more creative freedom and time flexibility than paid work. Do it with as much quality as you would for a paying client, and people will not only love you for it - they might even want to become paying clients themselves. Events like TEDx are great since they bring many smart, creative, and influential people together.
Q: What core values do you think all online marketers should pursue?
- Long-Term Focus – Do great things consistently over time to see the best results.
- Transparency – Give your client ownership over their channels and data. Also, never make up answers to questions you're not ready for. Impress them instead by finding those answers quickly.
- Trust – Work on trust intentionally.
- Results – Measure and deliver leads and your clients will feel like they're investing when paying you.
- Learning – Peter Senge said that learning faster is the only sustainable competitive advantage. He's with MIT so he must be right 🙂. My favorite sources are Andy Crestodina (marketing websites), Jon Loomer (advanced Facebook), Buffer (all social media), Moz (SEO), Growth Hackers, Udemy (paid online courses).
Anything else you'd like to share?
Thank-you Branko for contributing to this incredibly detailed and insightful piece on conversion optimization, marketing, and funnels! We encourage you to check out bkingdigital.com where you can connect with Branko. If you are a customer of ours who is interested in being featured in a future Spotlight, we'd love to hear from you.