How Entrepreneurs Can Teach New Dogs Old Tricks

(Episode 2 of 2 with Matt Bailey)

How Entrepreneurs Can Teach New Dogs Old Tricks

Welcome back to another episode with Matt Bailey. In the last episode, we discussed strategies to chase real profits and not just vanity numbers. In today’s episode, we’ll discuss some of the concepts Matt teaches us how to teach new dogs old tricks, including knowing emotional needs, applying the “mom test”, not muddying the water, removing friction, and acquiring the best customers.

The Need Behind the Need

One day, Matt went to take his daughter shopping for shoes. They got to the store and there were 200 different kinds of Converse, which Matt wasn’t expecting. He told his daughter to go look around, meanwhile, he started checking his email, thinking she would just be a few minutes. 

Fifteen minutes later, Matt started looking for his daughter. He found her taking pictures of about six different pairs of shoes and sending the pictures to her friends. Suddenly Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs popped into Matt’s brain. He realized she was looking for social validation. The immediate physical need was the shoes, but the need behind it was social validation. 

Many times we position our product or our service as, “Hey, this will help you.” But our customers may think, “Help me do what?” We need to think about what emotional satisfaction we’re providing.

When Matt had his agency, he didn’t just tell clients that he would get them rankings or increase their sales. Instead, he would ask, “If I improve your sales by 30%, what does that enable you to do?” By asking this, Matt is shifting from selling something like rankings to selling the ability to take a vacation or hire someone new to help with the workload. It becomes a deeper need, and we begin to persuade our customers at an emotional level. Matt said, “Everyone’s selling [higher rankings]. What I’m selling you is more time, more money, and what are you going to do with it. That changes everything.”

When Matt was working for a printing software company, they were trying to sell to the New York Times. The decision-maker told him, “The software that you guys have checked all the boxes. Logically, you are the best choice, and you’ll hear from me in the next couple of days.”

Matt went home excited, already thinking about how he would spend the commission. A week went by and he didn’t hear anything. The whole company was waiting in anticipation. Eventually, Matt gave the decision-maker a call, and he told Matt, “I’m so sorry. I hate to tell you this, but no one ever got fired staying with the legacy provider.” He was afraid of going with Matt’s startup company, so he was going with the safe option, a company that was already established in the industry.

Everyone's selling_Blog

Again, Matt realized that this was about a deeper need. While his startup was good, they were only selling on organizational benefits, but their competitor was selling job security.

We need to know our customers well enough to know the need behind the need. What is it that they really want? What is our product or service going to do for them on an emotional level? This is what we should be focusing on. When we sell to the emotional need, it creates an emotional connection with our customers that our competitors won’t have.

Keyword Research

Many companies do keyword research about their company, their brand name, or their product. The problem with that is people don’t always search with a product in mind; they search with a need. So we should be asking, “What need does our product or service fill,” and “What are the needs that people have?”

Keyword research helps us understand the needs people have and how they describe those needs. What are the trigger words? What are the emotional words? What are the words that signify not only intent but also the intent to purchase to make a decision? Are they comparing products right now? Are they in the early stage where they’re using general keywords, or are they mid-stage where they’re now defining what type of solution they want?

To research keywords, we need to be asking questions like this in order to see things from the customer’s point of view and better position our products and services so they can find them on their journey.

Once we know the answers to these kinds of questions, it should be guiding our content and the customer’s experience on our website. Doing this can help us build rapport and trust because we’ll be answering the right questions for our audience.

Don’t Muddy the Water

When we’ve got someone lined up to sign or someone who’s ready to buy, it can be hard to stop selling. We want to throw more services or products their way that we think they’ll want. When Matt was working for a software company, they would often work in groups of two salespeople. They had a code phrase to let the other person know when they were doing this: “Stop muddying the water.”

Matt said we need to stop muddying the water digitally. “I equate that to what we do on our websites. When someone’s . . . looking for information and they’re ready to fill out that lead form, what’s the worst thing we could do? Send them a pop-up, ask them for more information, make 20 required fields, [etc.]. We do the same thing on our website when we make it difficult for our audience to engage or take action. We put obstacles, we put friction in their path, which prevents them from doing what they want to do.”

How to Remove Friction: The Mom Test

How do we remove this unwanted friction? Matt suggested what he calls the Mom Test. When he had his agency, he would pay his mom, who wasn’t very tech-savvy, to test their websites. 

Matt said, “I want someone who doesn’t know what to expect. I want someone who’s not familiar, who’s not going to try and hammer away at this because that’s not reality. I want someone who, when I give them a task . . . is going to be completely honest about what they think, who’s going to run into obstacles and not be sure what to do.”

Matt said his mom identified so many friction points, making his clients millions of dollars. She would identify something, they would change it, and then they’d seen a dramatic change in conversion rates. “That’s the easiest and most inexpensive way to remove friction on a website,” he said.

Because of this kind of testing, Matt got very good at identifying those friction points. He had a well-known brand come to him because they were having trouble. Their conversion rate was only 0.01%. Matt looked at their checkout page and right away identified five things they needed to change. After working with Matt and his team, the company’s conversion rate went from 0.01% to 3.5%, an increase of 30 times and $30 million a quarter. An important thing to remember with this is the company was already paying for those visitors to come to the site. 

We can all find someone in our lives who isn’t particularly tech-savvy to help us with things like this. All we need to do is have them sit down in front of a computer and record them trying to get through the process. Once we fix those things, we should do this, again and again, to eliminate as many of those friction points as possible.

The “Best” Customers

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Who are our best customers? Matt said it depends on how we define “best”. A stakeholder and a marketing director might look at it differently. If we’re looking at it from a financial standpoint, our best customers are the ones that spend the most money with us. 

Matt said his best customers are the ones who might not spend the most, but they have been with him the longest, refer new business to him, and he loves working with them. “If they were to call and ask me to do anything beyond the scope of our agreement, I would do it because I love them; we have a great relationship,” Matt said.

Typically, customers will follow the 80/20 rule. 20% of our customers are our best customers, and they’re responsible for 80% of our business. Matt said, “Find out who your best customers are and define what you mean by “best”, because when you focus on the best, then what you’re logically going to do is produce more of that kind of customer.”

When we treat these customers well, it will automatically lead to more business. They will want to tell their friends and associates about us and recommend our services to them. 

These customers will also be more likely to work with us in tough spots. During the crash in 2008, this was one of the things that helped Matt’s business survive. When his best customers called, telling him they had to cut somewhere, Matt was able to sit down with them, look at the numbers, and discuss how this would really affect their business. Many hadn’t thought of that and realized they couldn’t afford to lose him.

Key Takeaways

Thank you so much Matt for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

1. We can identify what our customers need emotionally and communicate how we can help them with that need.

2. We can research keywords from our customers’ point of view, so we can help them find our products or services easier.

3. We must know when to stop selling and muddying the waters with our potential customers.  

4. We would apply the “mom test” to remove the friction from our business. Friction can be removed on our website by having someone who isn’t involved in the business test it.

5. We should analyze and identify our best customers. When we find who our best customers are, we can focus on them and it will lead to finding more of those kinds of customers.

Connect with Matt

If you want to learn more about Matt or connect with him, you can find him on LinkedIn or check out to learn more. 

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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