And the story of why Y Combinator flew us out to meet them, Techstars invested in ConvertFlow and how Infusionsoft awarded us $25,000.
This March is an important month at ConvertFlow. It marks 12 months since we started the company. We’re also having our biggest month ever, and with the March update, we just took a major stride forward with the platform.
Just a year ago, ConvertFlow was a tool built for marketers to get quick conversion wins using conversion tools like leadhooks and exit overlays. And since then, it’s evolved into the most powerful on-site marketing platform in the industry.
Before this time last year, my co-founder Ethan and I were still running a marketing agency full time. In our spare time, Ethan was designing and I was developing what would become the beginnings of ConvertFlow (originally called GetLeadFlow).
At this time, we watched marketing automation reach the mainstream, and we had a general idea of what the next stage of marketing & conversion would look like. We envisioned that on-site marketing was the next evolution of marketing automation.
You see, back then, we were helping our clients deliver the right offers and messages to their audience with email marketing, but their websites would then drop the ball. Why? Well, because they were showing the same static CTAs and offers that returning visitors had already seen.
Each time a returning lead would come back to their website was a lost opportunity, which was a shame because when someone is on your website, that person is focused on just your content, rather than the dozens of other emails they could see in an inbox, or social posts when on Facebook.
We knew the best potential customers for our clients were already on their websites, already reading their content, and looking for more info on their products and services. All we had to do was get those visitors to take the next step, depending on where they were in the lifecycle, and we could get our clients amazing conversion results quickly.
So we created a solution for our clients at the time that we called “LeadEngine”, and began developing custom systems for on-site marketing and dynamic CTAs, because the only software that offered a hint of on-site marketing features was HubSpot, and there was basically little to no chance of our Infusionsoft clients switching over.
The first flow of dynamic CTAs that we set up for a client, quickly validated our assumptions. Our client was getting a 40%+ conversion rate on thousands of people in the 2nd stage of their conversion funnel. This means that their website was no longer pushing their lead magnet after visitors had opted-in, and was getting their returning leads to take action on the next step in their customer lifecycle.
This conversion strategy almost seems like a no-brainer. But to our surprise, almost no one was actually setting this up on their sites. Even though, it had such high potential for an immediate ROI. This was the stuff that only companies using enterprise marketing automation, and a team of developers, could pull off.
Looking back at the LeadEngine service that we offered, we had just discovered on-site retargeting, a form of on-site marketing, which is something that would become a game changer for many marketers. We could now help our clients get more conversions and paying customers quickly, just by promoting offers on their website to the right visitors, the same way we would promote targeted emails to their audience.
And we could do this without having to rebuild their websites, which was great! Because it had been something we had painfully done a hundred times before. This made LeadEngine the perfect ice-breaker service for our agency, because we could set this system up very quickly for a new client at a low cost, gain their trust, and then upsell them into a bigger retainer.
The vast majority of agencies weren’t and currently aren’t offering this service, so the market was wide open for us and still is. Plus, the sales cycle for LeadEngine was very short. Many times, we could close a new client from a cold email with one quick discovery call.
So we began ramping this up, and I began developing a tool to help our agency set these systems up, and manage client projects from one platform. That tool, which we called GetLeadFlow, was the beginning of ConvertFlow.
Within 2 months, Ethan brought Infusionsoft’s Battle of The Apps competition to my attention. I bought ConvertFlow.com in a bidding war against BuyDomains.com (don’t ask how much), and we rebranded GetLeadFlow to ConvertFlow because the “Get” in the domain wasn’t exactly pretty.
We whipped up a pitch video in a weekend and sent our contest application to Infusionsoft. Leading up to their competition, we were beginning to make some noise in the Infusionsoft space, and had marketers and agencies coming from all directions requesting access to ConvertFlow.
At Infusionsoft’s competition, we were going to open up the doors and start giving open access to our platform. 4 days of conference hustle later, Infusionsoft and their community of amazing customers named ConvertFlow Champion of their Battle of the Apps competition, and sent us home to Miami with a $25,000 check and about a thousand marketers who were eager to use ConvertFlow.
That marked the beginning of ConvertFlow as a software company. We handed off our agency to our agency partner, and went all in on building the software for the next era of marketing, which we recognized was approaching quickly.
During this time, we began looking into startup accelerators, and got invited to San Francisco to meet with Y Combinator (which in case you don’t know, is the accelerator where Dropbox, AirBnB and Stripe were started). Apparently, Y Combinator saw a potential conflict of interest with Optimizely, a CRO company in their portfolio.
At the same time, we were applying for Techstars, who also shared our vision for the next era of on-site marketing, and invited us to be one of their portfolio companies and join their Chicago cohort.
By the end of their summer program, we had shipped our visual CTA builder, had our servers temporarily crashed by a CNN-owned Brazilian sports site (here’s how we survived), expanded beyond our Infusionsoft integration and tripled our revenue.
To say the least, it was both a challenging and thrilling experience.
Since then, we moved to Chicago, released ConvertFlow’s Winter Update, Ethan co-authored the post on “on-site retargeting”, that got shared by 700+ marketers included Sean Ellis (Former head of growth at Dropbox & Eventbrite), helped our customers engage 13,222,533 leads, studied the results of thousands of live CTA campaigns, and made an important discovery about what makes on-site marketing work really well.
Here’s the important discovery…
The more personal your on-site marketing is, the better it works. Just like email.
After studying thousands of CTAs that were crafted in ConvertFlow, we began to notice a pattern.
It isn’t just about showing the right CTA to the right person, at the right time. It’s also about the CTA coming from a real person, to engage and build a relationship with the website visitor.
We’ve seen that our customers, who are marketing to their website audience as if they were marketing to their email audience, are getting much higher engagement.
By targeting the right people like you would target your email subscribers, with a personal message that delivers a strong CTA, your visitors are very likely to engage with your message, because that call-to-action will be 100% tailored to them.
So we made crafting and launching personal CTAs as easy as it can get…
Introducing the “personalized” CTA pack
My co-founder Ethan is a great designer, especially when it comes to designing direct response marketing. I’d argue he’s one of the best in the game. I see more and more marketing companies emulating his designs each month.
We got him to take a day away from doing CEO stuff and design amazing personal CTAs of all types (embeddable, hooks, overlays etc).
The result is the “personalized” CTA pack.
Your email subscribers engage when real members of your team send them targeted emails. So, why would marketing on your website be any different?
Here’s the thing, people who visit your website are still your audience, and yet many marketers are spamming their audience with annoying YES/NO pop ups and frustration-inducing welcome mats, even thought their loyal subscribers and paying customers are returning to their site.
So while on-site marketing is undoubtedly powerful and effective. With direct response marketing you’re often walking on a thin line between effective and overly aggressive. We encourage you to promote enthusiastically, because many marketers are often times too subtle. However, we also encourage you to be thoughtful of genuine ways to engage your audience in a polite way.
Nothing works better than displaying a tailored message to a person visiting your website, coming from a real person on your team, that moves them to take the next best step that is relevant to who they are, and where they are in your conversion funnel. Just like you do with email.
We made adding your profile to CTAs easier than ever
Now, on any CTA you create, you can flip a switch and your user profile will be added to your CTA. You can also select between members of your team, which will automatically update the profile in the CTA for you.
And, you might have noticed something new in the screenshot above.
Now you can personalize your CTAs using merge tags
I’m not sure how many times marketers have requested this feature from us, probably hundreds at this point. Well we listened.
Now, as you’re writing content in your CTAs, you can quickly add merge tags from our merge tags dropdown, and provide a fallback word in case the visitor doesn’t have the contact info collected yet.
There are 3 ways a person’s info can currently be used in ConvertFlow for personalization…
- Collecting it through our forms
- Through our automatic social profile data research
- When a contact from your email marketing software is synced with ConvertFlow
We’re working on a public API and a Zapier integration, which will open up more ways to add personalization data to ConvertFlow.
Because ConvertFlow works alongside your existing marketing automation software, website personalization is now easier than ever.
As you can imagine, you can now start marketing to your audience exactly like how you can market to your email list.
Just sync up ConvertFlow with your email marketing app, and you can bring marketing automation to your website.
And that’s just one part of the huge March update. We just released a number of features that have evolved ConvertFlow into the most powerful on-site marketing platform you can find.
Let’s dive in…
We just made a big update to ConvertFlow’s powerful targeting system
Custom tag targeting conditions
Now you can easily segment your website audience how you’d like, using ConvertFlow’s own custom tag manager (no more auto-generated tags!).
This means that you can market to your website audience, like how you would market to your email audience in most marketing automation software.
This also brings the full power of automating on-site marketing, without needing your email marketing app to be connected, opening up the same targeting options to any marketer’s tool stack.
Create conditions with AND/OR operators when launching campaigns
Now, when you’re creating targeting conditions, you can specify whether you want your
condition to be either an “AND” operator, or an “OR” operator.
So what does that mean? By creating “AND” conditions, you’re telling ConvertFlow that this condition is required. All “AND” conditions must be true for ConvertFlow to show your campaign.
And by setting your condition to “OR”, ConvertFlow will check if ANY of your OR conditions are met.
The simplest scenario of OR conditions would be…
If page is jondenney.com OR If page is convertflow.com
And because you can string together as many conditions as you’d like, you can create campaign targeting scenarios like…
If ALL conditions are met…
If person has tag “Lead” AND If device type is “Desktop”
And if ANY conditions are met…
If page is convertflow.com OR If page is convertflow.com/blog
This gives you granular targeting control, and removes the need to have to duplicate campaigns to target multiple scenarios.
Now you can schedule your broadcasts with timeframes
ConvertFlow’s broadcast are high-priority campaigns that override your on-site retargeting flows. And now, you can set a timeframe that each broadcast can show in.
For example, if you had a webinar next week, and you only want to promote the webinar overlay between 2 dates, ending at midnight, you can just set the timezone and date range…
Retroactive targeting is now easier with new targeting conditions options
ConvertFlow automatically tracks everything people do on your website, in terms of page visits, CTA completions, etc. You don’t have to define what you want to track and wait for the tracking to build up. As soon as you place the script, it automatically collects this data to build history on visitors, so you can retroactively target people from just about any scenario.
For example, you can now easily target people by how they’ve engaged with other CTAs you’ve launched in ConvertFlow.
With the “If person has / has NOT engaged with CTA” condition, you can target a person if they have or haven’t taken the first step of a CTA.
With the “If person has / has NOT completed CTA” condition, you can target a person if they have or haven’t completed a CTA. Because ConvertFlow allows you to determine at which step of a CTA to track the completion, you can now target by whether that person was tracked as having completed that CTA.
Also, with the new “If person’s referral sources contains / does NOT contain” conditions, you can target your visitors by what website originally referred them to you (ex: If referral source contains “facebook”).
And the last new condition is “If person’s URL parameter history has / does NOT have parameter”. ConvertFlow remembers each URL parameter included in the URL of each visit a person has, and now this condition lets you target them by the values of those parameters.
For example, if you wanted to target visitors who were referred by an affiliate partner whose link includes an “affiliate=23” parameter, you can set ConvertFlow to target your campaign “If person’s URL parameter history has “affiliate” and the value was “23”.
Okay, phew, that’s some powerful stuff. Because ConvertFlow can do some ninja targeting wizardry, once you’ve got it all set up, sometimes it be a little confusing to figure out why a certain CTA isn’t showing when testing your flow. Here’s our answer to that…
Introducing the ConvertFlow admin widget
Now, when you’re on your website and logged into ConvertFlow, a tiny little blue ConvertFlow icon shows on the bottom left corner of your website.
If you click that icon, a panel slides out, showing you insights into what on-site campaigns are targeting, which conditions were true/false, etc.
There’s also an link with easy access to your ConvertFlow website’s dashboard, and a link to reset your tracking session (no more incognito mode!).
ConvertFlow’s interface just got a facelift
We rebuilt the flows interface from scratch
Flows are where the automation magic happens in ConvertFlow. They allow you to define your lifecycle stages, add goals, dynamically display CTAs and trigger automations in your apps as people progress.
With the new Flows interface, visualizing your on-site retargeting and campaigns is easier than ever.
New broadcasts interface
Broadcasts now adopt the consistent campaign interface you’ll find throughout ConvertFlow, with an additional step for setting your timeframe options.
Introducing the custom tag manager
By heading to your website’s settings area, you’ll now find the “Tags” area, where you can easily add and remove custom tags.
New “areas” manager
From the website settings page, you’ll also find the new “areas” interface. Here you can add and copy HTML snippets for your website’s “areas”, so you can inject embedded CTAs on your website.
New CTA launch page
As you create your CTAs, you’ll find the new CTA launch page. Here you can easily launch a standalone CTA campaign, or add your CTA to a flow or broadcast.
Now you can get reports on just about everything
A new website analytics area
If you head to the Analytics tab of your website dashboard, you’ll now find the website analytics interface. You can now easily see how leads you’re getting, how visitors you’re getting, what’s your conversion rate, etc.
You can easily drill down by timeframes, see which pages are getting the most traffic, and what websites are referring you the most traffic.
Announcing the “Activity” page
From the analytics area, you can now click through to a dedicated activity page, where you’ll be able to see a history of the events tracked on your leads.
Introducing the new reporting interface for all of your campaigns
On your Flow CTA goals, and your Broadcasts, you can easily see reports on how your campaign is performing and which CTAs in each campaign are performing best.
Flows now have a dedicated reporting page
Alongside the new Flows builder, we’ve introduced a dedicated reporting page, so you can see reports on how many people are progressing through each stage, and how many are converting on each goal in your stages.
And last but not least, you can now filter by date ranges
With all the new reporting tools shipped, you’ll now find a “Date range” option when selecting a timeframe, allowing you to drill down reports and see how each day, week, month, quarter etc. are reporting. This is also makes it easy to filter out stats on days where you may have been testing a campaign before going live.
3 new marketing automation integrations
ConvertFlow now fully integrates with ConvertKit, AutoPilot and SendInBlue, meaning you can capture and segment leads into your email campaigns, and target CTAs on your website using the data of your subscribers in these tools, such as tags, lists, etc.
In the next few months, we’ll be releasing marketing automation integrations with Intercom, Pardot, Zapier, as well as many email marketing providers.
And that’s it folks…
That’s the March update, it’s definitely a big one. We’ve got more awesome stuff in the works, so keep an eye out from the next update from the ConvertFlow team.
And if you have any questions or suggestions, please reach out to us at “firstname.lastname@example.org”. Thanks!