When Nate Wallingsford stepped into the role of Director of Conversions, Acquisition Marketing at The Motley Fool 3 years ago, he knew that experimentation would be a primary focus.
Nate understood that the ability to provide data-backed recommendations for digital experience improvements is crucial. And for a multimedia company like The Motley Fool, whose website receives millions of unique visitors each month, even a slight increase in customer acquisition rate could have a massive impact on the bottom-line.
Today, Nate is the Head of US Marketing Operations and Optimization at The Motley Fool, and the company is testing across the entire customer journey and multiple teams.
While experimentation has always been celebrated at The Motley Fool, Nate’s work in partnership with Conversion has led to increased visibility for the experimentation program, massive revenue gains, and—perhaps most importantly—actionable customer insights.
This case study explores how Nate and his team are using experimentation as a fool-proof (pun intended) growth strategy.
The business context
As mentioned, The Motley Fool is an established multimedia financial services company.
Their website consists of pages on pages of useful, free content for investors; the company generates revenue through various stock, investing, and personal finance premium services. The Motley Fool’s funnel consists of three primary areas:
- User acquisition or front-end marketing: The goal being to encourage non-paying members to sign up and become paying members
- Upsell or back-end marketing: The goal being to encourage members paying for lower-tier services to purchase more premium services
- Product: The goal is to increase member engagement with the service(s) they’re paying for and increase member retention
Each area of the funnel is the responsibility of a different team within The Motley Fool, but everyone is focused on creating the best customer experience and increasing customer lifetime value.
“Across the teams, we’re all really focused on customer lifetime value (LTV) for every stage. Whether it’s someone’s first product with us—getting them into a higher tier. And on the product side, the more we get people to renew, the higher their lifetime value. It’s a win-win for both the customer and us—they get great stock advice and recommendations and we get to retain them as a customer.”
– Nate Wallingsford
As the leader of the user acquisition team, Nate’s main focus was to hit his revenue targets by increasing paid subscriptions. And experimentation was his tool of choice.
Finding the right experimentation partner
From the outset, Nate had almost everything he needed to build a successful experimentation program within his team: senior-level support, high website traffic, plenty of ideas for improvement. But he was lacking a process.
Nate was running what he refers to as “good-idea tests” – you have what you think is a good idea, you test it, it wins, loses or is inconclusive. If it wins, hooray! You can implement changes. But if it loses, it’s back to the drawing board.
As a self-proclaimed process-oriented person, he knew there had to be a better method. It was in this moment—searching for experimentation processes on Google—that Nate stumbled upon Conversion Founder Chris Goward’s book, You Should Test That! He bought it, read it, and loved it.
“I thought, This book is awesome. I’m going to start building out our optimization program for acquisition around the Widerfunnel [Conversion] methodologies.”
– Nate Wallingsford
And he wasn’t kidding. Nate took everything he’d read in the book, as well as resources from the Conversion website: The LIFT Model®, what makes a great hypothesis, the Infinity Optimization Process™, the PIE prioritization framework – and built a Trello board of the Conversion process as he interpreted it.
Nate understood experimentation from day one. It was fantastic. He was already familiar with the LIFT Model and experiment design principles. We were able to jump into collaborative experiment ideation and strategy right away. You know, the fun stuff.
– James Flory, Experimentation Strategist, Conversion
Ultimately, Nate decided to partner with Conversion to ensure his program would be as successful as possible: To solidify his use of these processes internally. To gain access to additional design and web development resources. And to collaborate with expert experimentation strategists who are testing across industries every day.
The power of fresh perspective
With every new client, there is a discovery phase. In the early days of our partnership, Nate and the Conversion team dug into The Motley Fool’s most important user acquisition goals and conducted initial analyses of fool.com.
One of the first things we noticed was the lack of a prominent call-to-action to sign up for The Motley Fool’s premium services. Users were landing on the site and engaging with content, but there was no clear path to conversion. In fact, there was almost no indication that there were professional services available.
Nate and his team have a ton of knowledge about their product, their marketing, and their customer, but they had overlooked a seemingly common-sense improvement. This happens to marketers constantly. We are so close to our day-to-day, so wrapped up in our way of thinking, that we miss simple solutions.
Which is why a partner with a fresh perspective can be essential.
The first experiment Widerfunnel [Conversion] ran with us was to add a call-to-action button to our desktop site-wide navigation. It was super simple and seemed like a no-brainer, but the impact was insane. After that, I knew this was a good decision. And I knew it was going to be really cool to work with [Conversion].
— Nate Wallingsford