Talia Wolf started out in social media. But in the days when likes and comments were the most popular metrics, she was always more interested in something else—how to get people to become customers.
Today, Talia is a conversion optimization expert who helps clients improve their conversion rates through her company, GetUplift.
Talia’s approach to conversion optimization centers on emotion. When you understand the deep pains of your audience, you don’t need to guess at what to put on your website. Or what to say on a sales call, or in a meeting.
In her conversation with ActiveCampaign’s Chris Davis, she talked about how her “emotional targeting” approach is related to data-driven marketing—and how it can result in 2x, or 10x, the conversions.
The lightly edited transcript of the conversation is below. But if you’re short on time, here are the biggest takeaways.
- A lot of conversion optimization today is too tactical. Instead of focusing on button color and individual KPIs, think about how to optimize the entire funnel from start to finish—from the moment your visitors land on your website to the point of sale.
- Data-driven marketing has limitations. With data, you can find “leaks” in a sales or marketing funnel. But you don’t necessarily know what caused them or how they can be fixed. Starting with a deep understanding of your customer helps you use data more intelligently.
- Your goal is to help your customers achieve their goals. When you start the conversion process by showing people you understand their pain points, it’s a lot easier to convert them into customers.
- Reviews are a gold mine for customer research. Look at your competitor’s reviews to find out exactly what your potential customers like about their services—and what they wish your competitors had but don’t. You can use those reviews as language in your copywriting, or even to develop new products.
- Start by researching customer pain points. Everything starts with this qualitative data, because it’s the understanding of what your customers want that lets you make sense of what you need to offer them.
Chris Davis: Talia, welcome to the podcast. Glad to have you on. Before I get ahead of myself and jump into talking about conversions—tell us a little about your background, who you are, and how you’ve got to where you are?
Talia Wolf: Thank you for having me. I’m excited.
I’ve been in marketing many years. I started out with social media marketing. I worked in an agency, doing ads, campaigns, building Facebook pages and stuff like that. I was always intrigued by how to turn that traffic, that engagement into ROI, into actual revenue and leads and money.
My clients, they weren’t so much.
They were more about likes and comments, so I took it upon myself to test stuff—without really knowing what I was doing. I was just changing headlines and call-to-action buttons and stuff like that. I didn’t get the results that I wanted.
But when I started researching and reading, I discovered that what I was doing had a name. Conversion optimization. That’s how I got sucked into it and started my own agency.
We ran that for five years, and then we sold the agency to built a startup company. But I very quickly I realized that’s not where I want to be. I really want to go back to conversion optimization and optimizing stuff.
So I built my own consulting company, GetUplift, and I’ve been doing that for a year and a half.
Chris Davis: Wow. Would you say there was a specific point in time when you made that shift from likes and followers and the “vanity metrics” to tracking actual ROI?
Talia Wolf: I think it was when I got a charity company as a client.
I was working in-house for an agency, and there was this amazing charity. I wanted to be doing more. It was great that we were getting the conversation going on Twitter and Facebook, but I wanted to get donations.
I wanted to make a difference and not just be the sidekick that gets told, “okay, now we should post this or post that.” I really wanted to be able to sit there in front of my client and say, “Hey, we raised X amount of money,” or, “Thanks to this, we were able to complete the whole funnel.”
Chris Davis: I remember, back then it was all about the likes, and nobody was really thinking beyond that. Everybody was judging other pages, “Oh my god, 12,000 likes, how did you do it? A million likes, you’re official!” It was a select few people behind the scenes that knew those likes didn’t translate into dollars automatically.
Talia Wolf: I think it’s something that happens when something new comes out.
People were told they needed to do social media, but they didn’t really know why or how. They just knew that everyone had a Facebook page or a Twitter account.
So they ran and spent money on it, but they didn’t really do anything besides say, “Yeah, don’t worry. We’re on social media, we got this,” as a report to their manager.
I think this happens with every field in marketing when something new comes out. “We’re on Snapchat. Okay, we’re on Instagram, don’t worry.”
It’s just a trend. Everyone’s there, so let’s run into it. Many companies spend a lot of money, and it takes them too long to realize, “Whoa, that’s not even converting? Why am I spending so much money on this?”
Chris Davis: Yeah, yeah. That’s the benefit that digital gives us. Digital gives us that insight to see exactly how something is performing.
You see it across the board, and I think it comes from really a lack of understanding of marketing. Even before the digital age, a lot of people didn’t know how to market. You would see another business in the yellow pages and you would say, “I need to put a yellow pages ad in.”
It was like, okay, hopefully if I do this people will come, leads will be generated, money will be made. That really hurts you in the digital age, because you spend a lot and you can waste a lot of money.
There’s no shortage of agencies ready to charge you $30,000 for a website that doesn’t convert, no shortage of consultants that can build out a funnel that worked for someone else and is not working for you, no shortage of copywriters that will write copy that converted somewhere else, but isn’t converting for you.
It can get very expensive very quickly.
Talia Wolf: I agree. I’m actually really excited that you said all of that, because it leads in so well to my framework and the way that I optimize websites. That’s exactly what led me to change everything I was doing with optimization.
When I started out with optimization, I was following certain tactics, I was following someone else’s best practices, I was reading blogs, I was listening to random opinions, and I got no results. If I did get results, it would be nothing that I could scale.
I would be basically testing elements and tinkering with the website, like changing a call-to-action button in their headline, and it got me nowhere. It’s only when I understood what I understand today that everything changed for me. I was able to build a framework that didn’t just optimize a KPI. It didn’t just get more downloads. It optimized the entire funnel and the entire business.
How to use emotional targeting to
optimize your entire funnel
Chris Davis: That’s good. In fact, that’s so good, I can’t wait, Talia. Let’s jump right into the framework. Tell us about your approach to conversion optimization.
Talia Wolf: As I mentioned, I used to tinker with websites. Just play around with the elements on the website, because that’s what people are doing. I was frustrated, because I wasn’t getting the results that I wanted for my clients, and I felt like what I was doing didn’t make sense.
I went back to my bat cave, and started thinking about what conversion optimization really is. I realized that optimization isn’t about getting an increasing KPI, or about changing elements on your websites. It’s about solving people’s problems.
The root of every conversion in life is a decision making process. If you can understand why people make decisions in life, it will be easier for you to build a funnel for them.
If you know why they make decisions, you will know exactly what copy to put in, what visuals, what colors, what images, and what social proof you need on your page. Because you know what motivates them, you know what changes the way they think, or you know how to persuade them.
The thing about decision making is that we are all irrational beings. I know we love to think of ourselves as rational people, but every decision we make is based on emotion. Every decision.
When we buy something, we’re essentially buying a better version of ourselves, a better marketer, a better father, higher self-esteem, I want to look good for someone else. Whatever it is, when I buy something, whatever I buy, what I care about isn’t the what, it’s the why. It’s the value behind that.
I understood that if I could figure out the emotional drivers of a customer, find their hesitations, discover their concerns—what are they worried about, what would make their day, what are they feeling right now, what is the pain that they feel when they’re on the page—and how would they feel if they found the right solution for them?
If I can identify those, it’s so much easier for me to optimize the page. I’ll look at a landing page, I’ll go into Google Analytics, and I’ll see the data, and I’ll discover that there’s a problem with the landing page, or I’ll see that there’s a problem on the pricing page or in the checkout page.
That’s great, but that’s only where you find the problem. It doesn’t help you actually optimize it. When you find a leak in the funnel, how do you know what to optimize, what to change, what changes to make on that page that will actually lead to a higher conversion?
Data is cool and it’s great, and you should be data-informed. But that’s why I really don’t like it when people tell you to be data-driven. I say customer driven.
Know the data, understand the numbers, but then go deeper and understand those emotional drivers of your customers, their baggage, the underlying things they come to your website carrying.
If you know that, if you know the pain, it’s easier for you to create the right experience. You’ll know exactly what copy to use, what headline, what call-to-action button, what psychological colors, what cognitive biases, and everything else.
Chris Davis: Wow.It really takes the spotlight off of you. “Here’s my company and my website. Here’s what I can do, and look what I can do, all of that.”
When you start to focus on making your visitors, understanding that your visitors want to become a better version of themselves. When that is the target and you start taking into account, like you said, all of the psychological triggers, their behavior and all of that, it totally changes how you position your website.
The first pillar of emotional targeting
Talia Wolf: The first pillar of emotional targeting is make it about the customer. You are not the hero of the story.
The funny thing is that the first question I always ask my clients or my students is “why do people buy from you.” As you said, the first thing people talk about is themselves. “We have this and this product, and these are our beautiful features. We have the best pricing in the business, and we’ve got these deals and that deals, and our support is great.” But that’s all about them. That’s nothing about the client, nothing about the customer.
That’s why I love Bryan Eisenberg’s quote. He says, “When your customers achieve their goals, you will achieve your own.” You need to stop talking about yourself. You need to talk about your customer. You need to understand them and show them on the page.
No one cares about your features or your pricing—not at first. They want to see that you know them, that you understand them, that you have gone through that pain and that you’re there to solve it for them, not for yourself.
Chris Davis: Yeah. I had a vision while you were talking, and it’s a person walking. Someone who wanted to be more muscular, right, and they’re walking, and they walk in front of this mirror. And when they look in that mirror, they don’t see them—they see the more muscular version of themselves.
Talia Wolf: Yes.
Chris Davis: That’s the experience that should be communicated via your website. The visitor comes to your website as Clark Kent, but they leave as Superman.
Talia Wolf: Yes. Brilliant. I’m going to steal that. That is gold. Yes.
Behavioral targeting vs. emotional targeting
Talia Wolf: Everyone talks about behavioral targeting. That’s actually where the idea of emotional targeting came from. When the world keeps going towards automation, the world keeps going towards data, businesses see their customers as browsers, devices, geographical locations, gender.
That’s what people look at. But people forget that when someone comes to your website, they have a challenge. They have a problem, and they’re looking at you to solve it. It doesn’t matter what it is—if they’re looking for something to wear that night or if they’re looking to solve a problem within their business. When they come to your website, they need you. They’re looking for you.
The idea of emotional targeting—what stands behind it—is a process of identifying those emotional drivers.
You should start by understanding those emotional drivers. You should then use the power of color psychology, of images, of copy and so many other elements, and social proof in order to speak to your customer’s emotions. But you have to figure those out first.
That’s what emotional targeting is about. We go through a process of identifying the emotions that drive your customers to say yes.
What are those emotions? What are they looking for? What are they worried about? Then we’re able to take the next step and say, okay, if those are the emotions people are feeling right now, here are the emotions people want to feel.
If we take a look at the easiest example—the dating world. Right now someone feels lonely, they want to feel loved. If we take a look at the dating world, I know what people a