In the third episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast, Kira and Rob interview Talia Wolf, a conversion optimization expert who just launched her first course on emotional targeting. Talia shares her take-aways from the launch as well as her thoughts on sky diving and Harry Potter (of course). There’s a little background noise when Talia is speaking, but the advice Talia shares makes it all worthwhile. Take a listen by clicking the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
Emotional Targeting Course
Talia’s post on Copyhackers
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
Intro: Content (for now)
RM: What if you could hang out with really talented copywriters and other experts, ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes and their habits, then steal an idea or two to inspire your own work? That’s what Kira and I try to do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.
KH: You’re invited to join the club for episode 3 as we chat with conversion marketing expert Talia Wolf about emotional targeting, conversion optimization, the impact of speaking engagements on her career, and her thoughts about what makes a good copywriter.
Hey Rob. Hey Talia.
RM: Hey Kira, Talia.
TW: Very well. How are you guys?
KH: Good. Thanks for joining us here today. Talia, can you just start off by sharing briefly your story of how you got to where you are today, where you just launched a course, which we want to talk about in a little bit, and the path, how you got here?
TW: Sure. I’ve been doing conversion optimization for I think around six years. I’m never really sure because I actually started doing conversion optimization before I really knew that’s what I was actually doing. I started my own conversion optimization agency around six years ago. The conversion optimization agency, as an agency we worked with companies all over the world, helping businesses optimize their websites with a methodology that I developed called The Emotional Targeting Methodology, which I’m sure we’ll touch on soon. I actually sold it last year, but during that time, while I was doing that, I was also teaching and doing a lot of workshops and speaking all over the world in different conferences, and teaching this methodology, helping companies everywhere. The past year I’ve basically been running my own conversion optimization consultancy business and training, and I love it.
RM: An interesting career path. Lots of different things. Let’s sort of cut to the chase with the training that you developed and a lot of the things that you focused on with your career. What is the deal with emotional targeting?
TW: Basically what happened is when I started doing conversion optimization first, I was relying on all sorts of hunches, just guessing what I should optimize. I was optimizing based on blog posts and different articles that I found. I didn’t really have a process set in mind. The one thing that I did notice is that everyone was paying a lot of attention to behavioral elements, such as geographical location or the age of the customer, or the browser that they were using, a lot of technical parts, but not enough information, not enough emphasis on the actual customer.
For me, conversion optimization was a way of meeting and satisfying my customers’ expectations and helping them with their challenges, so that they can actually solve their challenges and then I would increase my conversion rate. It’s about understanding who my customers are and creating an experience for them. I set on this path to creating a methodology that would help me, A, understand better how to optimize the funnel, how to meet my customers’ expectations, and, B, get to know my customers better and of course optimize those conversions. Instead of testing random call to action buttons or titles, for me it was more about finding a real process where I can learn as much as possible.
Essentially, that’s what conversion optimization is all about. It’s not about just optimizing one KPI and getting more downloads or sales. It’s about really transforming your business by gaining as much knowledge as possible about your customers. Once you’ve done that, you can optimize every part of your funnel, not just the top part of the funnel or even a thank you page. You can optimize shipping, billing, customer success, and many other departments. The emotional targeting methodology is essentially my way and a process of getting to know the customers better, understanding their decision-making process, understanding their challenges, and then using that knowledge to create a better experience.
RM: You’re talking about testing strategies versus elements? Does that sound about right?
TW: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
RM: How do you do that?
TW: Every CRO process starts in the same way. We start by finding a leak, finding where the story is. That’s where most optimizers are, they look at Google Analytics, they may use some heat maps, looking at user behavior. That is the first point, which is great. Then comes the next part: what is the actual story? You’ve found where the leak is, but you don’t know why it’s happening. The emotional targeting methodology helps you understand why this is happening. We’ll do very in-depth research. We’ll talk to customers. We’ll interview them. We’ll talk to the staff itself. We’ll do competitor research. We’ll build profiles and personas. We’ll actually look into SWOTs and different marketing techniques, really identifying the emotional triggers of the customers.
The idea that stands behind it is that everything we buy in life has an emotional reason to it. Whether it’s to feel loved, part of a community, just to feel better about ourselves, everything we buy has an emotional reason to it. My goal is to find out what that emotional reason is and how I can tap into that. Once I actually combine the two – the analytical data and the research about my customer – it’s easier for me to come up with a hypothesis of how I would actually fix that leak. I have a better understanding of what kind of customer journey my customers are expecting, what kind of words they’re looking for, what kind of content, colors, images, elements on a page they need in order to feel secure, safe, happy, loved, or whatever the emotional triggers are. I combine all that into a hypothesis.
Essentially, instead of just testing red versus blue, I test an entire overhaul strategy and see what happens. If a test wins and that’s great, we also see an uplift. We also know why that actually worked. If it doesn’t, and we didn’t increase conversion, we still have the knowledge of why it didn’t work, what emotional triggers don’t work or do work. That’s kind of the way the process goes.
KH: For copywriters specifically this is so huge for them, to be able to use the emotional triggers in their copy when they’re working on a campaign. For someone that’s listening and they’re like, “Oh! This makes sense. I want to start doing more of this,” is there one way, almost like a baby step that we can take to start using your methodology in our own work?
TW: I think any copywriter that starts writing good copy first needs to understand who they’re writing for. At the end of the day, you’re telling a story. It’s not just words on the page. You’re telling the story. You’re telling the customer’s story. One of the basic foundations of emotional targeting is that no matter what you’re selling, what customers really are about is the why, not the what. That’s the first thing we usually look at, especially in copy and content: how can we actually turn it around from talking about your product, your pricing, your features about yourself, to talking about the customer and making it about them? When you make it about them, they listen, they care, they convert, and they will read on.
There’s this thing that people like to say, that people don’t read copy. “Write as short as copy as you can. People haven’t got the patience to read.” In fact, I don’t it’s that at all. I think it’s all about the fact that we don’t know how to write. We write about ourselves, so we don’t give people the reason to continue reading. Words are extremely important in capturing people’s attention and giving them the why you should continue reading and finding out.
I would definitely start by, A, making it about the customer. If you want to go back a few steps even before that, it’s just talking to customers, talking to the clients, understanding who they are, and most importantly, what are they looking for? How does this product or service actually help them and solve their challenges?
RM: You’ve obviously taken a lot of this stuff and put it into a course that I think you just went through a launch and closed that maybe a couple weeks ago. Tell us a little bit about the process of creating a course. It seems like everybody has a course these days, but what is that process like? How much time did it take? As you put that together, how did it go? As you launched, what did you learn from the whole process?
TW: I think from the moment I decided to actually do it, it took me about four months to create.
TW: Yeah. There was a lot of work into it. I’m a perfectionist, so for me it was a lot a lot of work. I loved every moment of it, the frustrating moments, the hard moments, the great moments, but it really was something completely new to me. There’s a saying in Israel that the shoemaker walks barefoot. I couldn’t agree more. It’s so funny that I’ve been helping the largest enterprises in the world optimize their website, writing content for them, I’ve been designing stuff for them and increasing their conversion rates by hundreds of percent, and then it comes to your own business and you just sit there. Everything is suddenly scary. Everything is suddenly, “Should I do it? Should I not do it?” You take less risks and stuff.
It was a very educating process for me, recording all the content. Even before recording, writing out all the content, creating the presentations for it, then recording it, then editing everything, then remembering that I want to say a ton of more stuff and putting it in there. All of the marketing aspects of it, too, is huge. How do you actually even sell a course online? I’ve never done that before. I’ve seen amazing colleagues of mine do such great work. I had the pleasure of having them as mentors, talking to them, and really listening to their tips and ideas on how I can do it.
It really was a roller coaster. It was crazy. It was great. I learned a lot. Especially I guess because I’m an optimizer, I have such a long list of things that I want to optimize and change for my next launch. For me, this was like a dry run here. I’m going to put in my everything for this course and all the students that enrolled and learn as much as possible so that I can just do better every single time I launch and change something.
KH: I’m just curious to hear more. What surprised you, copy-wise, from the launch? Regarding the sales page, emails, as far as what actually worked and what didn’t work. I know you have all your stats already.
RM: We should jump in and say that Kira actually was the copywriter that you worked with for your launch page.
TW: Mm-hmm (affirmative)- and she did an amazing job.
KH: Thank you. I wasn’t going to say anything.
TW: Why not? Yeah, for sure. It was surprising. I think I was saying to Kira the other day that I have been optimizing landing pages for as long as I can remember. I have a certain way around it. Even when you say don’t do best practices and you do your research all the time, but you have this certain type of thing that you know that works. This was the first time that I ever launched a landing page that was a gazillion words. It was crazy.
KH: Like 5,000.
TW: Yes. Kira knows better. It felt like a gazillion words. 5,000 words. The call to action was after 2,000 words. That’s how I felt. I’m sure it was less, Kira. It was a big challenge for me personally to accept that and to say, “It’s okay that the call to action isn’t above the fold or it doesn’t come in after a certain amount of words or there aren’t specific bullet points that make the case.” It was also about me. The landing page was a personal story about me and my skydiving and why I started. It was a huge thing, and I think it’s so great to have been doing something for so long and still be surprised every single time you launch a new test.
For me, it was so educating and so exciting to see the results. I was just looking at the heat map before, most of the people, like 90% of the people would scroll 50 or 60% of the page. People were reading that thing. It was crazy. For me, just to watch people read on and on, and I was getting responses and people were emailing me and asking me, “Why do I do this? Why did I do that? Interesting story?” It was an amazing experience for me, to try something completely different than what I’m used to. The other thing that was hard for me to do was actually emailing my list every single day.
KH: Lots of emails.
TW: Yeah. As I said, I spoke to a few friends of mine and colleagues who have done so many launches. They sell a lot of courses, and they said, “You can’t be afraid to email these people. You have to email them every day. It’s your duty. It’s the right thing. You’re selling an amazing course, amazing content that’s going to help everyone. You should feel proud about it.” It was so hard. I did lose subscribers, and I did get emails from people asking if they could be removed from this list and just be on that list and this stuff. It was kind of a challenge for me to say it’s okay to do that. I was gaining many new subscribers every day, but just kind of seeing that every day was very hard and trying to figure it all out, be confident enough to continue emailing people about the course and feeling confident about it, if that makes sense.
KH: What marketing tactic worked the best for you?
TW: I think it was definitely the email marketing. I mean, I have been doing a lot of email marketing for my clients before, which I’ve sold actual products for, but it was really interesting to see how the email was working well and how it was actually selling and really bringing in people to the course. A lot of different people from all over, from different career points, many copywriters, many designers, many entrepreneurs. It was lovely, and it was surprising. We did a bunch of different things, and we tried stuff. I also had the privilege of having amazing people tweet about it and write on Facebook about the course. That definitely also delivered and drove in sales for the course. The email marketing was the biggest channel for me, and it was fantastic.
RM: It sounds like a great resource and something that, if a copywriter were considering wanting to learn more about conversion optimization and emotional targeting, they should probably get on your list so they can know about it when you relaunch in the coming months. Talia, we’ve been talking for roughly 20 minutes, and we haven’t even talked about skydiving. Which is maybe a little bit weird because you seem to always start with this story or this part of your life. I’m curious, because you’ve talked about it so much, what have you learned from skydiving that you take to conversion optimization? Why do you do it, first of all, and how does that impact the rest of your life?
TW: I do it because I’m crazy. No, I love it. I really, really love it. In fact, I think that was the first story I ever told on stage. Skydiving for me is the essence of emotional targeting because my biggest fear in life is flying. I’m petrified of planes, and that’s a big issue because I fly a lot.
RM: Yes, you do.
TW: I really don’t like it. I really, really don’t like it, but somehow I found myself, I think it was six years ago, jumping out of a plane to impress a guy. I just really liked him, and I really wanted to impress him. I wanted him to think that I was cool and this kick-ass, awesome person. I was petrified, but I did it because it turned me into this cool, awesome person. That’s kind of a funny way to explain emotional targeting, because we do stuff irrationally. We then explain it with ration, but we do them without thinking. It’s funny because obviously I didn’t end up with this guy, but I did end up falling in love, madly in love, with skydiving. I think definitely a big part of it is because it makes me feel really awesome about myself and cool. I enjoy it, and it liberates a lot of things in me that I don’t get to express at work or day to day kind of stuff.
Skydiving really does create a better version of me. I think that’s what people buy. They buy better versions of themselves. It really is the essence of emotional targeting, just kind of buying stuff to increase how you feel about yourself. I think there’s a lot to learn from skydiving, according to conversion optimization. There’s a lot of resemblance. It’s, A, the idea of preparation. You can’t just jump out of a plane. I mean, you can, but that will be kind of a waste. There’s a lot of prepping. There’s working with your team. There’s a lot of research you do beforehand. You join a certain team and you sit with them. You plan the skydive, and you talk about everything that you’re going to do. We each know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We discuss how it’s going to work best. We plan everything beforehand. There’s a lot of research that goes into the jump.
A true conversion optimization process really does have a lot of research in it. It’s teamwork, because you can’t really do it alone. You also have a defined goal. Similar to conversion optimization, you want to increase something, you want to learn something. In skydiving you have a defined goal. You want to optimize your personal progress and your teams. You only have one goal per jump.
RM: To land safely?
RM: To be alive at the end.
KW: That, too. You forget that once you’ve had 700 jumps, but yes definitely. There’s a lot of things, but I think the biggest thing is probably taking the plunge. You’re standing in an airplane and you’re about to jump out, and it is scary. Even after 700 jumps. I think it’s really important that you have fear in you because you want to be alert. You want to be aware. The people that don’t have that fear are the people that get hurt and think they can do anything. You have this fear. Blood rushes to your brain. You get this adrenaline rush, and you really want to stay focused.
It’s the same kind of, with testing. You need to really take that plunge after you’d done all of your research and all of your creating of the hypothesis and creating the different variations and everything. At some point, after you’ve done QA and everything, you have to just launch the test. More importantly, you have to trust in it and let it run and not stop it. Just have faith in it for as long as possible and watch the numbers grow or decrease or whatever, in order to learn as much as possible. There’s a lot of different things that skydiving has given me as a person and has also helped me to become a better optimizer on different kind of levels, I think.
KH: I feel like Rob and I should go skydiving together, as a true bonding experience.
KH: In honor of this podcast, to become true co-hosts.
RM: I’m not sure that’s going to happen.
KH: We should do this together.
TW: I love that idea!
RM: I’m like you, Talia, I hate flying. The idea of jumping out of an airplane that’s not crashing? It’s not happening.
TW: I have to say that I was on a plane once my entire life where we had to jump out because we were going to skydive and there was a problem with the plane and they told us all to jump out. That was the actual only time I had fear of jumping out, because you don’t have the time to prep or anything. It’s funny, everyone keeps telling me, “How can you jump out of a perfectly fine airplane?”
RM: Yeah, exactly.
TW: I’m like, “Actually, that makes complete sense to me, rather than jumping out of an airplane that’s about to crash and you’re screaming and going …” Yeah, no thank you.
KH: Talia, I keep thinking about this. As far as copywriting, from your perspective with your work with copywriters and your optimization work, as we approach 2017, what does a copywriter really need to have— skill-wise and maybe just an understanding of—in the new year, in order to really, truly be up-to-date and cutting edge? Do we need to know the colors? Do we need to submit design ideas when working on projects to really include the emotion in multiple ways, not just through the words?
TW: Yeah, I really like that question because I actually get it from the other side a lot from designers. The two things that I would say that you should really focus on and know is, one, it’s always about the customer. You should always have that in mind, the person that’s actually reading the content. You’re trying to convert that one person, and you’re trying to appeal to them on an emotional level and connect with them. The other, and you just started mentioning it, is that words don’t work alone. Design doesn’t work alone. Images don’t work alone. Everything works together. You can have killer copy, but if it’s not set in the right way, if you don’t have the right color background, if you don’t have the right images, if you don’t have the certain elements that you need there to support that copy, it’s not going to work.
I usually have to say this quite a lot to designers because one of the things that most people know is that our brains process images and colors far faster than text. That is usually the first thing that people see on a page or on an ad, is the colors that stand out and the images that are there. They wouldn’t work if you didn’t have really kick-ass copy to convince someone to click. You grab people’s attention, but you need those words to support it. You really do have to pay attention to it. You can’t just write amazing copy. When you do that, you need to also pay attention to the design behind it.
You and I went through that process when we had all the content for the sales page, and I was like, “Okay, just so you know, here’s the landing page. I want to feedbacks from you, as a copywriter, to what you think.” For me it was really important because I want my copywriter not to just be able to say, “Okay, here are the best words that I can write,” but also look at it from a conversation standpoint and look at it as, “This is how someone reads texts.” If your font isn’t a certain way, if the background is a certain color, if there’s too much of something, it creates all sorts of different triggers and unconscious biases that we’re not even aware of. It’s funny that if you use certain fonts or if you write in a certain type or size of a font, it creates more trust. These are things that they’re not to do with the words, they’re to do with design, but you still have to know them.
If you want to be considered as a conversion copywriter, if you want to write something that’s meaningful, you can’t just deliver the words. You have to understand all of the context around it and how that copy should also be read and by who it’s being read and what’s around it.
RM: That is really good advice, in my opinion. I hope I’m not asking the same question in a different way, but Talia you’ve written a ton of content, you’ve worked with copywriters throughout your career. What would you say is the thing that makes a copywriter great?
TW: I think it definitely is being part of the entire process. For me it’s always about conversion optimization, customer optimization as I prefer to call it. We can’t work in silos. We have to work together. The purpose of conversion optimization is gaining knowledge, as much knowledge as possible about your clients. When you’re doing research for your copy it’s the same research that the designer is going to use, or the developer, or the project manager, or anyone involved in the project is going to use. This is valuable information. When you do customer service, when you do interviews, when you do a competitor research, any of this type of research that you’re doing is so valuable to everyone on the team.
I think what really makes a good copywriter, other than the fact of being involved in every aspect and not just handing over copy and saying, “Here I’ve done my job.” Really looking at it and saying, “I wrote this copy, but I don’t think it should look like this. I think it should be placed this way, and I think it should be aligned to the right or the left. I think it should have this color and this size and it should be …” Whatever you have in terms of comments. Working with a team, talking to the designer, talking to the project manager, talking to the product manager, and understanding each and every person’s challenges, the stuff that they are dealing with and seeing how you can all work together as a team, is priceless. It really is.
You can really see a difference between very large organizations, where I spend a lot of time breaking those silos, and small teams of like two, three people that are working on something together. They just get it out the door within a few days because they’re so connected. They share everything. They’re constantly talking. They listen to each other. They feed off each other. That’s what makes a winning team. It’s not a silo thing. You really do have to be part of the team. You have to contribute to it, you have to listen to other people, and you have to be involved in every aspect of the design and whatever the project is.
KH: Yeah, I think at this point if you’re a copywriter, you need to work with the designer on the project, have that initial conversation, and be in touch throughout the project in order to really have it all connect in the end. I want to just ask, really my final question for you, now that you have the master class, you launched it, you’ve got the people, what do you do now? How do you make it successful so you can continue to grow your business?
TW: I’m doing a couple of things. First of all, I’m actually talking, really paying attention to every single student in my class. I have already produced all the content, and it is online content. They could just watch it online and perform all the tasks. I have weekly live calls where they could log in. I don’t really have to do more than that, but I’m doing a lot more. I’m conversing with them. I’m talking to them. I’m asking them questions. I’m trying to get their feedback. I’m trying to understand what matters to them, what’s important to them. I’m also reaching out to people who were on the fence to try and figure out why didn’t they sign up, why didn’t they enroll to the course, so I can see if I can optimize that.
For me, the most important thing is I’m really trying to create a personal relationship with everyone in the class and just get to know them better. It’s amazing for them because they get one on one time with me. They can talk about their own personal stuff that they need help with. Also for me, I am learning so much about who my customers are, who my target audience is. It helps me improve the content that I’m writing for our blog. It helps me improve the emails that I’m sending out. Everything, basically. It isn’t even to do with the course. I will be relaunching again, I guess towards June or July of 2017, and I want to have all this knowledge so I can really provide amazing content for my students. It’s so important to me to do that.
I recently wrote an article on Copy Hackers about it, that the conversion doesn’t stop when someone signs up or purchases something from you. It’s retention. Retention is so important. Keeping those students happy, helping them out, and helping them achieve their goals that they signed up for is a key thing for me. That’s kind of what I’m focusing on right now.
RM: Talia, I have one last question for you as well and that is around the speaking engagements that you do. You speak all over the world. It’s where I first saw you, was speaking at a conference. What impact has that had on your career and finding customers or people to work with?
TW: I think it kind of depends on the period I was in, in terms of where I was in my career and also what my goal was. I wouldn’t say that speaking at conferences got me a load of clients or client work for conversion optimization. It did help me get to know a lot of people. It helped me build new processes for my business. I’d grow my subscribers, and I’d get a lot of interesting connections. I would get clients from conferences, but I don’t think that was the biggest outcome of it.
I think it might be funny to say, but for me the most amazing thing that happened to me from all of these speaking conferences and events that I’ve done is actually meeting amazing colleagues and peers. Like Joanna Wiebe, Angie Schotmuller, Pat Laja, Ollie Gardner and so many amazing people. We’ve become a community that really supports each other and helps each other out. I think that’s what I really love about the conversion optimization community is that it’s a small community, but we’re all there for each other. We talk a lot, mentor each other, and help each other out. I think that was one of the biggest perks for me. Other than getting clients and subscribers and meeting amazing people.
KH: Talia, before we wrap I want to thank you for taking time to hang out with us and share your launch experience and everything else. I want to know, personally, who is your favorite Harry Potter character? Before we jump off. That’s the most important question here, of all.
TW: Rob was saying before we’ve gone a full 20 minutes without talking about skydiving, and I was just going to say, “and Harry Potter.”
I think I’ve going to say Luna Lovegood. It’s too easy to choose the main characters. Harry, Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore, they’re amazing. There’s something magical about Luna. She is such a good friend. She is so supportive of her friends. She always listening to them and helping them out. She gives the most amazing advice. Even when it sounds totally crazy, she somehow always makes her friends feel good about themselves. I think she went through an amazing transition throughout the entire books. Her and Neville were two characters that I really loved to just see how they grew and really became amazing human beings throughout the entire books.
RM: Yeah, and in some ways I sort of see you, Talia, as the Luna Lovegood of the conversion world. Amazing advice. Sort of a magical air to you. If somebody is looking to connect with you after the podcast, where would they find you online?
TW: Mainly on my website, which is taliagw.com. That’s where I share all my articles and thoughts and ranting. That’s where the master class is, too. You can always find me there or on Twitter, where I am constantly talking about Harry Potter and Star Wars. They’ve very welcome to follow.
KH: Because of you, I am now a Harry Potter fan. I avoided it for years, but ever since working with you I was like, “Well Talia does it, and if she’s listening and watching this movie, I should too.”
TW: That’s probably my biggest achievement from this course. The next time someone asks me what is the biggest achievement? I got Kira to watch and read Harry Potter.
KH: Well thank you, Talia. With that we will wrap the show.
RM: You’ve been listening to The Copywriter Club Podcast with Kira Hug and Rob Marsh. Music for the show is a clip from Gravity by Whitest Boy Alive, available on iTunes. If you like what you’ve heard, you can help us spread the word by subscribing in iTunes and by leaving a review. For show notes, a full transcript, and links to our free Facebook community, visit thecopywriterclub.com. We’ll see you next episode.