October 12, 2022

The Optimizely Podcast - episode 27: Turn your website into a conversion machine

Stephanie Nivinskus, CEO of SizzleForce Marketing, sits down with the Optimizely Podcast to explain how you can ensure your website’s content will convert time and time again. Click below for more.
Optimizely Team

Transcript:  

Laura Dolan:

Welcome listeners to the Optimizely podcast. I am Laura Dolan, your host, and today we are joined by Stephanie Nivinskus. She is the CEO of SizzleForce Marketing. Welcome, Stephanie. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

Aw, thank you. I am delighted to be here.

Laura Dolan:

I just want to mention really quick, I see you live in San Diego, which is where I grew up. Is that where you grew up as well?

Stephanie Nivinskus:

Actually, I grew up in the Bay Area, but like most people that live in Northern California, we all migrate south, so.

Laura Dolan:

That's awesome. Well, cool. Glad to talk to a fellow San Diegan. It's been years since I've lived there, but it is just nice to talk to a little piece of home, so that's really cool. I've been really excited to talk to you for a while now, because I know what we're going to discuss today is really invaluable for marketers, and that is essentially how to improve and increase your website conversions. But first I just wanted you to tell us a little bit about your background and your history with SizzleForce. How long has the company been around and how did you get it started?

Stephanie Nivinskus:

Yeah, SizzleForce started in 2009, and I have been in marketing since 1995.

Laura Dolan:

Wow.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

So I started the company really because I saw a hole in the marketplace where there were a lot of companies out there that were spending massive amounts of money and doing all kinds of great stuff. And then there were a lot of small businesses that wanted to do great stuff, but didn't know how to do so with the staffing and budget that they had available. And so I just, I've always had a heart kind of, if you want to say, for the underdog, and wanting to bring the big powerful things that I know can work and make them work for the smaller business owners.

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Laura Dolan:

Awesome. And how big is your company now?

Stephanie Nivinskus:

So now we have seven people on staff, and we are working with lots and lots of clients. It's growing.

Laura Dolan:

That's awesome. I was also reading through your website ahead of our conversation today, and I noticed you used the term fractional CMO in a few places. And I would just like to know what is a fractional CMO?

Stephanie Nivinskus:

Yeah. It is a term that has become more trendy lately, even though it's not a new position. It actually is an executive level marketing expert who works with companies on a part-time basis, and usually the responsibilities of a fractional CMO are fourfold. The first thing is we're responsible for creating the overall marketing strategy. We're also responsible for identifying the tactics that need to be implemented to bring the strategy to life, and then optimizing performance of the tactics along the way, as well as coordinating and overseeing the day-to-day activities of the implementation team.

Laura Dolan:

Nice. So it's basically being a one-person show.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

It's being the head of the one-person show and making sure that the team that's implementing the day-to-day activities has all of the strategy, all of the support and every opportunity possible to be successful with what they're implementing, whether it be social media or email marketing or website stuff, or whatever it is. That they have a captain of this ship, if you want to say.

Laura Dolan:

Exactly. That's awesome. Would you consider yourself a fractional CMO at this point?

Stephanie Nivinskus:

I am a fractional CMO, yes.

Laura Dolan:

Awesome. Cool. Well, let's dive right in by identifying what you think marketers are doing wrong on their websites right now. What is preventing customers from converting?

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Stephanie Nivinskus:

I think there are several things. One of the most important things that I see every single day is unclear messaging. People are so close to their businesses, they're so close to what they do every day that it's very, very difficult for them to see things from a consumer standpoint. So they use marketing messages that are full of industry jargon and things that they think are clever and cute, but they're not clear, and it really is a problem. The messaging isn't clear, and so they're not getting the conversions that they want. Another thing that I see all the time is that there isn't a clear process of guiding website visitors toward making deliberate decisions, right? People are visiting websites and they might click here or there, but it's kind of random. There's no real strategy or plan to get them to click on what we really want them to click on so that they take the options we really want them to take.

Laura Dolan:

Right. So it's they're not providing that clear navigational path for them.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

Right. They just throw up a bunch of random things and they're like, "Well, hopefully they find what they're looking for." And instead of really guiding them through a step-by-step journey. Another thing I see all the time is companies are not acknowledging the pain points that their prospects have, and that's a huge thing. Sometimes I hear people say, "Gosh, we don't want to be negative. We don't want to talk about all the bad stuff." But I stand on the other side of that coin because really people take action when they have pain. When you break your arm, you take action and get it in a cast.

Laura Dolan:

Right.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

And everybody has pain. Pain is what motivates us to change something. And so if we pretend the pain isn't there and we don't acknowledge it, and we don't agitate it at all, then people don't really feel the pain, and they don't really take the steps to change anything.

Laura Dolan:

There's no initiative, and they don't feel the need to be proactive at that point.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

Right. Right. And then another thing that really impacts conversions that is not done frequently is people are not identifying really how they're different or better than the competition that's out there. They look like everybody else. A lot of people play it real safe.

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Laura Dolan:

It's true. Yeah.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

Yeah. And I get it. I why they want to play it safe. They don't want to rattle things, they don't want to offend anybody. They don't, none of that stuff. But the bottom line is your prospects have a lot of choices in who they can give their money to. And if you want them to give their money to you, you need to tell them why they should.

Laura Dolan:

Do you think it's also an issue of budgeting? Maybe companies can't afford a website wire frame that sticks out, so they just basically invest in something that looks exactly the same as everyone else's.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

I think that happens a lot, but I'm going to call the bluff on can't afford it as much as won't afford it or don't understand why they need to afford it.

Laura Dolan:

Sure. Yep. Big difference.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

Yeah, I think the money is probably there. It just needs to be reallocated. And when people understand, look, if you make this small investment in the grand scheme of things, if you invest $8,000, $10,000 in making your website rock, and as a result you're making seven plus figures from it, well, that's a pretty dang good ROI.

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Laura Dolan:

Right. Definitely. So what do you think is the solution to those issues? So when it comes to content, what should marketers be putting out there right now to not just capture their attention, but make sure that the layout is conducive to what customers are looking for to meet those pain points?

Stephanie Nivinskus:

One thing that's super important, I call it the big bold promise at the top of the website. When somebody goes to your website within just a couple of seconds, they need to know exactly what you sell, why they need to have it, and how to move forward if they want it. Right? It's a very simple three-step process of creating a statement like that. But when you do that right from the beginning, you hook the website visitor in and they know immediately that they're in the right place, which is going to lend to them spending more time on the site and scrolling and going to the next place. As opposed to landing there, seeing something that doesn't really stick, doesn't really hook them, doesn't show them that you can immediately solve their problem, so they click away.

Laura Dolan:

So just don't bury the lede. Right?

Stephanie Nivinskus:

Don't bury it. Let people know they're in the right place right away from the top.

Laura Dolan:

So then as far as leveraging content, how do you ensure that you stand apart? What channels should marketers be using right now in lieu of, let's say, a wall of text with blogs that just has a CTA to the same place on the site? Do you have any recommendations in mind on how marketers can go a different direction or be more innovative in that space?

Stephanie Nivinskus:

Sure, sure. I'm still a massive fan of blogging. It works great still. You just don't want to regurgitate the same content that's already been shared thousands of times by everyone else, right?

Laura Dolan:

Yeah.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

You need to be different. In addition to that, however, huge fan of podcasts. When you host one, I love slicing and dicing podcast content and repurposing it in 10 different ways, into a blog, into a video, into social media posts, into LinkedIn newsletters, into lead magnets, even possibly writing a book from it, developing a course from it. There's so many different things that can come just from podcasting. I wrote the content of my own book four years ago, and I have sliced and diced that baby and reused it in just about every way possible, and it has created incredible revenue growth for me as a result of the slicing and dicing.

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Laura Dolan:

I love it. That's a great idea.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

Of course, another thing, short-form video is hot, has been for a while now, but when you're doing reels, you're doing TikTok, YouTube shorts, etc. That's a place that you just need to be, and you need to be taking advantage of that right now, because that's getting all the visibility.

Laura Dolan:

It is. Videos are hot right now.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

People have such short attention spans, so especially if video as a whole is wonderful, I feel like, because when somebody watches a video, it is possible for them to hear the tone in your voice, see the body language that you're putting out there, listen to the wisdom that's coming from your mouth, but it's a more holistic experience of engaging with a brand as opposed to just reading text for a blog. Right?

Laura Dolan:

Exactly.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

And because their attention spans are so, so short, whenever we're doing stuff like a 15 or even a seven-second reel, or a real short TikTok or YouTube shorts or whatnot, we're feeding that desire for information, for education, for entertainment, but we're doing it in these tiny bite size pieces that are making it super easy for people to digest and to digest on the go wherever they're at. Right?

Laura Dolan:

Exactly. Yes, exactly. They don't have to worry about having access. I mean, obviously, everybody's on their phones now and everybody is making websites with responsive design. That is absolutely essential. 'Cause people, they want to read on the go. If you want them to look at your website, make sure it's conducive for mobile, because they're looking at your videos, they're reading your blogs, they're listening to your podcasts, and like you said, making it digestible and more accessible that way, I'm sure makes a huge difference in your conversions.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

It sure does. Absolutely. Yeah. You want to meet people where they're at, and we have to be very aware of the fact that everyone is being pulled in 10,000 different directions. Most people that own businesses have some form of ADD, I think, right?

Laura Dolan:

Yes.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

And whether diagnosed or undiagnosed, just our attentions spans are shot. So what can we do to provide them with the content that's really going to hook them in and intrigue them and showcase our authority and our credibility, but also do it in bite size pieces so that people don't have to spend a half an hour or an hour doing something, they can do it, literally, they can get some value from something in 15 seconds.

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Laura Dolan:

Absolutely. And I also want to circle back to repurposing content. I'm such a huge advocate of working smarter, not harder. So if you have, like you said, a podcast you can repurpose as clips on social media or a book that you could splice into something smaller like an ebook or a white paper or a blog series on your site and already have that content there and just kind of building up from there. That's such a smart way to market right now, especially if you are working on a budget or you are working with a smaller team. The possibilities are endless when you can be that innovative and just look at what you already have.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

And the thing that's funny is that I think most companies already have a ton of content. They just haven't compiled it all in one place and thought about how to slice and dice it properly.

Laura Dolan:

I went to Content Marketing World last week, and a few of the speakers gave us the same stats, that right now there's about 4.6 billion blogs that exist online that were published just this year.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

Wow.

Laura Dolan:

So there is so much information out there, and we just keep piling on and piling on and adding to it, and everybody's having the same issue. Nobody's converting, nobody's clicking on this stuff. So what can we do differently? And I think this is something that more companies do need to explore. So as far as getting into the nitty gritty of conversions, what do you recommend as far as robust CTAs go? Are there any particular action verbs industries should be using right now in lieu of what's already out there?

Stephanie Nivinskus:

I think there's a couple of ways that we can look at this. One way is what we need to avoid and what we need to do more of. So when we think about what we need to avoid anything in a call to action that sounds like work, for example, download this or subscribe to this. Even though download, I mean, realistically it's clicking a button. It's not work, right?

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Laura Dolan:

Right.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

However, the way the human brain works, it feels like you're telling me I have to do something and now my to-do list that's already 10 miles long, just got 10 miles longer. And so we want to avoid using words like "download" or "subscribe". Instead, we want to use words that bring it back to what always matters in marketing, which is what's in it for me as the prospect, right? What do your people really want? The CTA should give it to them. So for example, let's say I owned a tax firm. A good CTA to test could be something along the lines of "Save thousands of dollars with these commonly overlooked deductions". It tells me the benefit. I'm going to save thousands of dollars. It also peaks my curiosity because I mentioned that these are commonly overlooked deductions. So I'm like, "Huh, am I overlooking something? Am I actually giving more money to Uncle Sam than I need to? I should check this out and see." Right?

Laura Dolan:

Exactly. It's just, again, getting that pain point in there.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

Yeah. I think it's also really important to test adding verbiage that creates a sense of urgency. So, for example, adding the word "now", adding the word "today", adding the word "immediately" to a call to action can be really powerful. Get the surprising deductions list now. Save thousands of dollars today. Do you see how just adding that one word gives it a sense of urgency? And I'm like, "Oh, now I should do something now. Oh, okay. They want me to do something now. I'm going to click the button." Right?

Laura Dolan:

Exactly. Also, giving them a deadline, too. You have till tonight to save 50% on this or something like that. Kind of also giving them that sense of FOMO as well.

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Stephanie Nivinskus:

For sure, for sure. I always like to caution companies, definitely play into the FOMO, but only do it if it's legitimate. There's nothing that ticks people off faster than being told, you only have until this much time. And then they find out that deal never really expires. Right?

Laura Dolan:

Right, right.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

They just say that to everybody all the time. It immediately causes a break in their ability to trust you.

Laura Dolan:

Exactly, yes. You've got to maintain that trust. 'Cause then so now you're facing bad reviews.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

If you're going to do it, awesome, do it. But make sure that when you say the deal is over, make sure the deal is really over. Another thing I think is so important with CTAs is don't be afraid to have fun. Depending on your brand voice, you can use all kinds of different things. But kind of going back to this hypothetical example of someone that owns a tax firm, a fun CTA might be, "Show me the money!" Have some fun, add a little personality. Don't just be like, "Get it now." I think another thing that works super duper well is making CTAs affirmative. So your CTA button could say something like, "Yes, I want to pay less tax."

Laura Dolan:

I like that. And then do you have an opinion on whether or not first person versus second person is more effective?

Stephanie Nivinskus:

First person, always. Hands down, it always wins.

Laura Dolan:

So "Give me my discount."

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Stephanie Nivinskus:

Yeah. Absolutely. Because here's the thing that we need to keep in mind is that we're marketing to people. People, at the end of the day, people are making the buying decisions. And it doesn't matter if you're making a buying decision on behalf of a billion dollar corporation or you're making a buying decision on behalf of a two person company. At the end of the day, it's still about what does the person that's making the decision want, and that person is indeed an I, right?

Laura Dolan:

Exactly. So yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, we're all in this for ourselves, even though we are doing it on behalf of something, it's our personal decision in how we're going to make the best choice. So yeah, definitely.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

And we know that if we are making a decision on behalf of the billion dollar corporation, well that's part of doing our job well, and we do our job well, and we get more recognition in the company, and then we get more raises, and then we live happily ever after. Right?

Laura Dolan:

Right. That's the dream.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

Yeah. I think it's also super important with your call to action to talk about what people really, really want. We have an innate desire as humans to do anything that's going to save us time, anything that's going to save us money or address another very common pain point. It's always good. Always address whatever you really want. When you're thinking about the product or services that you sell, what is it your customer really, really, really, really wants from you? And making that the call to action button. You're going to get what you really, really want, so do it.

Laura Dolan:

And giving them the path of least resistance to it.

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Stephanie Nivinskus:

The Air Force has a great CTA that I've seen that I absolutely love. They actually are quite bold, but I think it absolutely works for who they're targeting. They have one that just says, "Prove yourself." Which anyone who's competitive, anybody who is eager to be a better version of themselves, they're going to see that and be like, "Oh yeah, game on, let's go."

Laura Dolan:

Yep. That's all I need to hear.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

Yeah. Yeah. I'm not in the military. I'm too old now. I'll never be in the military, but if, as a competitive person, if I saw something that said prove yourself, I'd be like, "Oh yeah, okay. Let's go."

Laura Dolan:

Challenge accepted!

Stephanie Nivinskus:

It's super important to make sure, this is probably the most important thing I can share, that if people really want to increase conversions, they need to add more CTAs to every page of their website. Most companies do not use nearly enough, and because of that, they're leaving big, big money on the table. Have more CTAs. You really, really need to give people multiple opportunities to make a decision to go to the next level with you.

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Laura Dolan:

Awesome. So any chance you can ... Any opportunity to break up your text or just have that button in the middle of your webpage, just put it on there. I mean, what do you have to lose?

Stephanie Nivinskus:

And being mindful of the fact that people make decisions in different ways. People process information in different ways. Some people are going to see that big, bold statement at the very top of your website with the call to action button, and they're going to be ready to click and make things happen.

Laura Dolan:

Right.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

There's other people that, they're processors, right? They're careful decision makers, they take their time. In fact, they have a personal philosophy that they never make decisions under pressure, and they're the ones that are going to read and read and read and read, and they might read into the third section of your homepage and be ready to make a decision, but they might not. It might take them to get to the fifth section or the seventh section. So give them opportunities throughout the page to take action so that whenever they're ready, they don't have to look real hard for that button to convert. It's real close to wherever they are in their reading journey, so they can easily just scroll up a tiny bit or a tiny bit down and click that button, convert and make things move forward.

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Laura Dolan:

There you go. It's just giving them that ample opportunity every time. Awesome. Well, being conscious of time, Steph, I'm sorry, Stephanie. I get-

Stephanie Nivinskus:

Steph's good.

Laura Dolan:

I know you really well now. Is there anything else we didn't cover that you like to talk about before we wrap up?

Stephanie Nivinskus:

I think so many companies are just leaving so much money on the table by, and if you just make some real simple tweaks to your website, you can absolutely blow up your conversion rate. I have actually something that I think can really, really help your audience increase website conversions immediately. It is “7 Fast & Easy Tweaks” that they can make to their website. These seven tweaks, literally, they're really fast and easy to make, and when you do, you can see an immediate, an immediate difference in your website conversions. So why would you not want to do them, right?

Laura Dolan:

Exactly. I love that. Yeah, please send that over. I am going to put that in the blog of this podcast. I will make sure the link is dispersed throughout so that our readers can have multiple opportunities to download that, because I want to read that too. I need to know.

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Stephanie Nivinskus:

Yeah. Awesome.

Laura Dolan:

Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Stephanie. How can our audience find you?

Stephanie Nivinskus:

You can find me at sizzleforce.com. You can also find me on LinkedIn. My last name is a little bit scary, so you'll have to look at the show notes for the spelling, but it's linkedin.com/in/stephanienivinskus. And of course, we're on Facebook, we're on Instagram, we're on all the social media channels, but LinkedIn and my website is the easiest way to track us down.

Laura Dolan:

Okay, perfect. I will make sure to put links to those in the blog as well. And again, path of least resistance, just click on that link and reach out to Stephanie and she will help you out.

Stephanie Nivinskus:

Thank you so much. This has been fun.

Laura Dolan:

Thank you so much, Stephanie. It's been such a pleasure speaking to you. Thank you for taking the time, and thank you all for taking the time to listen to this episode of the Optimizely Podcast. I am Laura Dolan and I will see you next time.

Laura Dolan:

Thank you for listening to this edition of the Optimizely Podcast. If you'd like to check out more episodes or learn more about how we can take your business to the next level by using our marketing, content, or experimentation tools, please visit our website at optimizely.com, or you can contact us directly using the link at the bottom of this podcast blog to hear more about how our products will help you unlock your digital potential.