What to focus on: Product, Conversion or Traffic?

pctThe core message of my Art of Ignoring presentation is focusing on the right stuff and in particular, choosing between working on Product ( = Programming), Conversion or Traffic.

Many developers default to working on their Product, spending most (or all) of their time programming. But that may not be the best way to increase your sales. For example, if you are getting about 100 visitors a day, then adding more cool features to your program is not going to help your sales. (Tip: if this is you, focus on Traffic).

On the other hand, if you are getting thousands of visitors per day, but are only averaging one customer per 1000 visitors, then spending time and money to get even more Traffic may not be the smart thing to focus on. You should improve your Conversion first.

Final example: if you are getting 1 or 2 sales each day, then trying to optimize the Conversion of your check-out process is not a good idea, as you won’t be able to measure the effects reliably.

That’s enough examples of what not to do. Here’s some simple guidelines for deciding when you should focus on Product, Conversion or Traffic.

When to focus on Product?

  • When you get lots of trial downloads but they’re not converting to sales.
    Try to improve the user interface, add features that will help convert trial users into customers. (This could actually be seen as a Conversion job.) BTW: Adding exotic features for advanced users won’t do the trick.
  • When there are bugs that hurt your sales.
    In particular, bugs that many trial users run into.
  • When you can add features that you can sell as a major upgrade.
    This is only worth your time if you have large customer base already.
  • When you can create an add-on that you can sell to existing customers.
    Again, only spend time on this if you have many existing users.
  • When you can add a new feature that attracts a new audience.
    Change your product to open up new ways of getting Traffic.

When to focus on Traffic?

  • When you have a great product, but no one knows about it.
    Make sure people do know about it. Get your product out there. Think Adwords, SEO, Adwords, download sites, and did I mention Adwords?
  • When the numbers of visitors is too low to work on Conversion.
    You need lots of visitors (and downloads) before you can reliably do A/B split tests for website changes.
  • When your Product and Conversion have been tweaked and tuned.
    Then you can safely go for new channels to attract visitors (Adwords Content Network, Yahoo Search Marketing, Microsoft Adcenter, Affiliate networks, banner advertising, offline ads…)

When to focus on Conversion?

  • When traffic is high, but the number of downloads too low.
    Improve your website, make the “Download Free Trial” button easier to find, change its headline, your benefit and feature bullets, add cool screenshots and user testimonials. And track the results.
  • When you have lots of visitors and downloads but not many sales.
    Improve the sales mechanisms of your trial edition. Check your check-out and pricing. And track the results.
  • When you’ve got nothing better to do 🙂
    When none of the “When.. rules” for Traffic or Product applies to your current situation, choose to work on Conversion. Optimizing your download and sales rates is always an effective way to improve your sales. For me, this is what I work on “by default”.

What if you have employees?

Of course, if your company has grown larger and you have one or more employees, progress can be made on Product, Traffic and Conversion simultaneously. At Collectorz.com, we have 4 full-time programmers so we’re always working on Product. And Sytske (my wife) and AJ (our marketing assistant) are spending most of their time on Traffic and Conversion. But still, for myself, I find that I need to focus on only one of the big three at any given time.
For example, the last couple of weeks before a major release, I spent most of my time on Product, managing the development, testing builds, tweaking the UI, setting up product pages etc…
And once in a while I take a couple of weeks to focus on getting more quality traffic. Doing that now actually, taking another stab at the Adwords Content Network, taking my Yahoo and Bing advertising to a higher level, trying to get my Commission Junction account set up…
And in between, I work on Conversion. I always have some A/B split test running on our website. Tweaking headlines, the presentation of our product bundles, the pricing, etc…

3 thoughts on “What to focus on: Product, Conversion or Traffic?

  1. Hi,

    Great post, thanks for the tips. It helped me to clarify where I need to focus my attention. I seem to be getting good downloads, but not a lot of sales. I think I need to work on Product first then Conversion and finally Traffic.

    Thanks again,

    Kevin

  2. Hi Alwin,

    Thank you for your excellent Art of Ignoring presentation. What about the upgrade policy of a software product? A software’s upgrade policy is important to the revenue of the software. Some well-known software venders, like LimeWire, Speed-Bit, etc. use free one/half year upgrade policy. What do you think of this policy with compare to the free minor update policy?

    Best,
    Bill

    • I prefer the “minor updates are free” policy. The value of “free updates for one year” depends too much on the actual updates being released. There may be none, but there also may be a HUGE major upgrade that I would have preferred not to give away for free.
      The “free minor updates” policy gives me more control of what I give away for free and what I charge for.

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