What we talk about:
- The power of a good site (for yourself)
- Building your site to attract the clients you want
- WordPress generalist vs a specialist
- Digital marketing (and advertising/promotion)
- Mobile e-commerce experience
Carrie: Howdy. Howdy. Welcome to officehours.fm Episode 121. Today I have an interview lined up for you with Cody Landefeld of ModeEffect. Before we get started with that I want to thank our show sponsor. That is WP Development Workflow. So if you are a WordPress developer and you are looking to level up your workflow to have a professional workflow what I mean by that is developing your code on a local server, putting it under version control, learning how to use a suite of development tools like Grunt and Bower and various code libraries to automate those repetitive tasks. If you want to check out more of that you can at wpdevelopmentworkflow.com. It is a 3-part course by the illustrious Mika Epstein and hosted by yours truly. For more information go check that out.
Without further adieu, I give you my interview with Cody.
Hey guys welcome back to officehours.fm. Today my guest is Cody Landefeld of Mode Effect. Cody is no stranger to the WordPress ecosystem. He’s been around for over a decade. Cody welcome to the show. It’s great to have you.
Cody: Thanks Carrie for having me. It’s good to be your co host.
Carrie: So Cody. For people who haven’t gotten to meet you can you share a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Cody: Yes. So I as you mentioned, I founded a company called Mode Effect. I’m a husband and father of three. Most and more importantly on business and WordPress, we work with enterprise companies and even smaller companies working on WooCommerce and helping storeowners launch a successful website and find the conversion they need. We do a lot of other stuff with WordPress. I’m very passionate about WordPress and open source and design as well. So we really want to see the Internet become a better place to use as we become more and more dependent, whether we like it or not.
Carrie: So when talk about doing WooCommerce work, is the enterprise-level customer who you’re doing WooCommerce work for? Or are you working with smaller shops? Can you talk a little about that?
Cody: Yeah. Enterprise is interesting because what we’ve seen with the clients we work with, they look at WordPress as a suite of offerings. Depending on the project, you can pick a framework and then build the project to the strength of that framework within WordPress. So I think it’s difficult to lead just with WooCommerce for enterprise brands because enterprise brands typically start with the type of project they want and then the framework kind of fits later. We work with them to help determine that. It definitely comes up though. WooCommerce does factor in with enterprise brands and we see that happening. Specifically speaking, to qualify the WooCommerce, we really are focused on storeowners and people either coming from Shopify or coming down from Magento and looking to just run a more efficient store. I’m not really trying to hate on any other platform but specifically speaking to WooCommerce there’s those storeowners that have a brand, have a company and looking to either migrate or just build a successful store and find the conversions they need in order to grow their business.
Carrie: So you touch on conversions. I want to dig into that little bit. But first, I want talk about your website. It’s ModeEffect.com for those of you who are listening, go check this out. Your front page is basically like textbook what you should do. You come in. You’re greeted with a bold intro and then you immediately show the companies…some really huge name brands that you guys have done some work with…get that trust factor. Then you roll right into giving away valuable content for free. So you’ve got (I love this) questions to ask your web development partner. How to convert first-time visitors. There’s a cheat sheet. So before you ever even offer your services, which below that you show visitors some of the things that you do. Before you ever get there, you’ve already given away value and shown that you guys are clearly a boss in your space about how to do these things with WooCommerce and how to be a web vendor. You’re setting your customers up for success when they come to work with you. So kudos on that! I love that. Have you guys like A/B tested? That’s kind of a weird question.
Cody: Yeah. Thanks for acknowledging that. It’s always funny I think (and you can appreciate this Carrie) I mean we work so much for our clients and then we turn to work on our own stuff at times I think we just have her heads down. We get good feedback along the way from prospective clients and current clients or other colleagues but it’s really hard to know what the right formulas is and know exactly what’s going to work best for people to attract the companies we want to work with. I appreciate the acknowledgment. Know that’s a continued effort because it’s just something that we need to dog food a lot of things that were teaching our clients as well. We are in this just as much as any client. We can’t sit back and laugh and say “Oh yeah our website sucks. It’s not updated and the portfolio’s not up to date”. I just think that it’s too late to (it’s a hugely grossly unprofessional answer) but to answer your question taking the longest way possible…do we be A/B test? A little bit. We use a plugin to work with our headlines, especially on our articles to do some variations. Not only with that but also with featured images. Yeah the next step would be digging into some copy and digging in on some further A/B testing. I’m becoming a real student of the digital marketing side of things, although I’m not quite ready to dive fully in and offer those services. I definitely know that it’s been something that we’ve invested a lot of time and resources into, you know doing a better job to attract the clients we want work with. It’s important to understand it on a high level for the folks that we work with, especially WooCommerce storeowners because I think that’s usually one of the things that folks don’t understand when they approach a project.
Carrie: Well, not give away your trade secrets; you’ve touched a couple times on something that is so important. That is building your site and your brand around attracting the client that you want to attract versus just anybody with a checkbook coming in off the street. Do you have some tips that you can share for listeners? What is some low hanging fruit when it comes to the content on your website or whatever to attract your target customer?
Cody: Who you’re looking to work with and what you can do for them. I know for instance one of the biggest challenges we have (we’ve had to date) is just being a WordPress generalist or being a website design generalist. I think that puts you in such a wide array of competition. Really our customers just don’t know who to turn to. What I found not only by having conversations with our clients, but also seeing the behavior that they take on our website is that they are very interested to make sure that when they invest their time and their resources into a partner that can help them. They want to be sure at least before they even get on a phone call, to know that you are an expert in the solution that they’re looking to get in order to solve the problem that they have.
Carrie: That’s awesome.
Cody: I don’t know if I really answered that totally but I think you just have to put that on your website. If you say you do WooCommerce development, talk about that. You do WooCommerce development for storeowners. You can even go as specific as I do WooCommerce development for retail storeowners. If you’re doing Easy Digital Downloads, say you know I’m a digital product Web development person. These are the types of projects I’ve worked on, these are the clients I’ve worked with and these are the solutions I’ve gotten them. I think that does a whole lot in bringing the conversation forward in qualifying the clients that you will work with.
Carrie: Golden Nuggets right there. What you just said has been a recurring theme of the savvy business folks that I’ve had on this podcast. That is go deep not wide. When you go wide with a service offering like your said being a WordPress generalist, you attract a little bit of everybody. Like you said, your customers don’t really know how to differentiate you from someone else. I love that. I love that advice to just come out and say exactly what it is you do and who it is you want to work with. So let’s talk about conversions. You said you’ve become a student of the online marketing and conversion plays a huge role in that. What’s your journey for that? How does that impact ultimately who clicks on your contact form or picks up the phone?
Cody: Yes. I do a lot of rubbing shoulders with a lot of folks in the digital marketing space. It’s interesting to observe the separation between our fields, although they’re somewhat related. Agencies are either full-service or they don’t want to do anything with development. I found that it’s just something that we needed to do to extend our marketing reach and grow our funnel. Let’s face it. Consulting is tough. Consulting is by definition the sales cycles of consulting or just very unpredictable. Even if there is some prediction, it’s really tough to just solely rely on referrals to grow your business. Although that is the best kind of lead coming through, there’s definitely value in being able to grow an outbound approach or outbound reach (or even an inbound reach) with folks coming to your website, signing up for email list and getting the value there. That just opens up so many opportunities whether you’re going to actually do long-term consulting with a client or potentially sell them some type of product or some type of a one-time offer to bring them further along to turn them into a consulting client. That’s been our focus you know. Going back one or two years ago just needing to write articles and feeling that need to invest in that. I started writing the articles and I would get direct messages from people that like me. They’d say hey! You know the grammar is not so great on this. Maybe if you try this, it might workout. I found that I was so inconsistent with writing those articles. It just made sense to add to our team to bring on a writer that really understood going through multiple efforts to make sure that we’re hitting on the content that we need to. I feel we finally found a really good solution with regards to getting a good formula with content writing. That was the first thing. The second thing is making sure the social media is set. There’s distribution of the articles that are going out. There are a couple of tools we use. One in particular is MeetEdgar. I’m not affiliated with them. That’s a really good distribution channel to make sure you get your posts out along with getting your actual articles written. We worked a little bit with a company called Audience Ops. They have a really good product you can use that allows you to set up a content upgrade piece in your article. For instance, if you’re writing an article on say five things to do before you design your website, you can always write a premium piece of content to entice users to come onto the site, drop in their email, get the PDF and then they sign up for your email list. You could segment them any which way you like. Finally, doing a little bit of investment on paid advertising works. We’ve done a decent experiment with Google Ads. That kind of had mixed results. We’re starting to get back into Facebook ads a little bit more and just put more distribution and more eyeballs on some of the articles we’re writing and some of the articles that have performed well on the site. We’re just looking to grow our exposure for the folks that are looking for the content we’re writing. Those are really the three things. That’s kind of been the timetable in which we’ve invested into digital marketing.
Carrie: It’s a lot of work!
Cody: It is.
Carrie: Yeah. I’ve recently tried to start on this journey myself. I had done very little with paid ads. That’s been on Facebook. But the amount of time it takes to think about what kind of headline am I going to have? How will that convert? I love the Audience Ops content upgrades. That’s really cool.
Cody: There are just so many great tools out there. The other side to Facebook and Google ads is understanding where the buyers are in the funnel. Facebook ads are typically the people at the top of the funnel. People who are unfamiliar; they’re not necessarily ready to buy. They’re not on Facebook to search for your service. They’re finding your service while looking for other things. On Google, you’ve got people searching for your type of service and they’re landing on something that they’re interested in. They can quickly find your website and contact form. You might find somebody who is ready to buy. Over on Facebook, it might take years of nurturing to bring somebody in to finally get them to open up their wallet.
Carrie: Let’s talk about WooCommerce. What’s the coolest thing or project that you’re really proud of that you did with WooCommerce?
Cody: Yes. We recently worked on a platform. Actually, this was for an enterprise customer where it was a membership platform. Based on your membership level you were able to buy digital products with WooCommerce. So it was just a really good fit because eventually you know we were going to take the membership platform onto WooCommerce as well. We built it a little more scaled back to validate the idea. I found it was a project we are very proud of just because of all the tools that were out there for WordPress in order to accomplish the functionality the client needed. Being able to have those relationships with a lot of the folks that created that software was super helpful as well; not only knowing that the code was well done and knowing that the people invested in it did a good job. It really gave us the confidence to recommend those things and bring those together with a working ecosystem under WooCommerce and under a membership platform. It was great to be able to turn out a really successful product that’s doing very well for the client.
Carrie: A couple episodes ago I had on Beka Rice from SkyVerge. They do a lot of WooCommerce plugins. One of the conversations that we got into (that I would really love to hear your take on) was eCommerce and mobile…so people’s shopping experience on mobile devices. When you do a WooCommerce implementation for client do you typically do a completely separate mobile app for a store or are you trying to make the website experience work for mobile?
Cody: Good question. We haven’t done a specific app for mobile users just yet. That always comes up in the conversation. Depending on what business it is; they’re just looking to get a certain amount of attraction on their store and their sales. Specifically speaking of mobile, we’re always talking about the type of users and how people get to the products. Let’s face it, mobile experiences on eCommerce websites are not great. I can’t tell you how frustrated I am using something I know as a web developer that is just out-of-the-box stuff and it’s just ok. That’s fantastic. This is responsive but obviously all you’re doing is checking off the box that everything kind of filters down to this super long scroll that I can’t use. The search sucks and all that stuff. I think that’s more of a design question you know? When it comes down to it, you really have to plan that out ahead of time and make sure that the design is well done. I can appreciate that there are a lot of great web designers out there and a lot of folks doing work with WooCommerce development. Specifically speaking I think when it comes to WooCommerce, it is so valuable for your company to invest in great design. Not only just great design but also a great user interface and a great user experience. When you asked initially Carrie on mobile, there are so many folks that just want to shop on their cell phone now or specifically in a portrait mode on their tablet. You really have to meet those users where there at, otherwise the experience is poor. There’s a lot of competition in your space. You’re going to have an extremely uphill battle in terms of getting the conversion and the traction that you need in order to be successful.
Carrie: Thanks for sharing on that. It’s interesting. I had a potential client come with some thoughts of how they wanted the shop to work. When you start pushing back and asking questions like ok. What do you think is going to be the mobile experience? This was one where it was a highly customizable product, so you clicked the checkbox and then the photo updated to show the product with the modification. I was like my gosh! This is so complex. I don’t know how it’s going to translate into mobile. I didn’t get the gig. So I never ultimately had to worry about what that implementation was. When we talk about conversions and WooCommerce, is that anything where you’re actually using the plugin; like where you’re showing related products? Or is that more a factor of how you’re laying out the website? Does that make sense?
Cody: Yeah. That’s a good question. The answer is both. I think it just depends on the type of products or the type of offering that the storeowner has (or the site rather). It really comes down to how folks are finding the product and how difficult or how crowded is the space? There are just a lot of questions to ask and a lot of things to get through. But in a lot of cases, it does make sense to use plugins to find related products. It does make sense to make sure that the design is well executed and make sure that this is done well in a landing page perspective. Something I’ve been really been thinking about, especially for folks that have stores that have a lot of products on it. It’s so difficult when you’re talking about conversion and you’re talking about the design and layout of your site. It’s overwhelming for users and customers to come on your site when you’re just serving them up different filtered views of products. It really will help the customers you have if you have specifically designed landing pages that focus on those categories or those filtered views; similar to what Amazon is doing. I just had a webinar talking about this last week. We briefly touched on this but I think the key is just understanding your space and competition and understanding the buyers in your space to be able to best meet them and understand how to make the buying experience not only easy but also enjoyable. Let’s face it, online shopping is just extremely huge but I think that a lot of folks (for an unproven brand or brand new brand) they definitely want to have the confidence and a good experience, especially if it’s the first time buying something.
Carrie: Absolutely. Cody? As we wrap here, is there a favorite plugin, tool or book? What have you experienced lately in your workspace that has been like this is freaking awesome!
Cody: Yes so I mentioned a little bit back there is a plugin that we are using for A/B stuff. It is called Title Experiments. I don’t know who plugin developer is. That’s been really cool specifically on our website. I will plug another plugin we use on our site, which is called Leadin from HubSpot. That’s been fantastic in terms of the lead flow on the site and seeing how people come in. Not only do they link in with Gravity Forms to be able to bring folks through the buying path but there’s also some steps to integrate with whatever mailing list service you’re using. We use MailChimp with it. Folks can sign up for the email list. You can see all that right inside of Leadin. It’s really cool.
Carrie: That is awesome. For folks that are listening, I will be sure to include those links over in the transcript at officehours.fm for this episode. Cody? Thank you so much for taking time out to chat with me and chat with our listeners. Where can people find you on the web to say hello or just check out the work your doing?
Cody: Mode Effect is the website, ModeEffect.com. You fall follow me @CodyL pretty much on any social platform I think. I get mistaken for other folks on Instagram. Follow me on twitter. I’d love to connect.
Carrie: Awesome! Thanks Cody and have a fantastic rest of your day!