Growth Methodologies in a Distributed Environment


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In 1986, my mother climbed “Passo dello Stelvio”, by bike after ten months of extensive training. I was six, and I happily followed my mom throughout her adventure. My grandfather was a biker; my uncle is a biker and my cousin too. For quite some time I thought I was supposed to become a biker too. After my mother had gone on top of that mountain, I decided to remove the sidewheels from my little bike, and I fell many times, getting bruised, and frustrated.

I ultimately learned how to ride my bike, but at some point, I realised it was just not my thing. I like bikes, I have one, they are beautiful objects, but riding bikes at a professional level it’s not for me.

My job was supposed to be something else: many years later I became a growth engineer, and started working at Automattic, the company behind

One of the well-known thing about Automattic is that we don’t have meetings, we don’t have offices, and the company is fully distributed. Everybody works from home, wherever home is. We are mostly located in North America and Europe, but we are a global company that covers the whole world and all the time zones. We love to work asynchronously; we don’t need to be all awake at the same time to get things done.

Combining being spread across multiple time zones, with the open vacation policy we have, we developed asynchronous ways to keep the productivity wheel spinning. We are productive but not hierarchically organized, and the first message we get when hired is: “Welcome to the chaos”.

When I was hired, I was coming from a very different experience; my previous employer wanted all of us to be at the same place at the same time and had a very strict organizational pattern in their mind to make sure everything was carefully organised. Productivity was nowhere near to optimum and not even close to the level we reach at Automattic.

I specialised in growth methodologies, and when I joined Automattic, coming from a very structured work environment, I had a little struggle in trying to apply my experience in a chaotic environment. There were no deadlines, and everything happens just because the best people in the industry are offered a fertile ground and not too many rules.

Let’s start with a the question I get all the time: “what is growth?”.

We hear this word a lot, but the real meaning is not easy to grasp. Like many of other terms in this industry, the sense of it mutates according to the context. Trying to have a unique definition is quite hard.

Growth = Optimizing the product/market fit

Having a company with so many products, and so many stakeholders, growth cannot just be limited to a single key metric as many startups can afford to focus on.

We have millions of people who rely on us to improve their lives. Our job is to support them along this journey. Growth focuses on making sure that the decisions we make have a positive impact on our stakeholders’ lives: better UX, better support, better internal tools, better satisfaction, better revenue.

Among many things I do and many tools I use, the following three are the most important:

Business Analytics

An example of a Business Analytics tool is Google Analytics.

It offers great insights on what happens on your online premises, giving the opportunity to track, measure, compare different key metrics, mostly tied to the behaviour of you online visitors.

But the measure of visits, traffic, clicks, are not the final goal, they are key metrics, represented on a tool, that contribute to the success of your business.

Always keep clear in mind the separation between metrics, tools, and goals of your business.

Split testing / Usability testing

These testing activities are relevant parts of my day-to-day work. I submit our designs to real people, so to find out how to improve them before hitting the market. I also perform split testing to measure with reasonable precision the performances of new designs, flows, and interfaces.

Data-Informed Decisions

Most of the decisions we make as human beings are wrong. Deeply wrong. It happens at the personal level when we chose a restaurant, food, clothes, etc.
It occurs in business when we sign a bad contract with the next partner, we approve the next feature on our website, we select the next design on our product.

Every time you hear the sentence “I feel this is gonna work for sure”, guess what, it’s wrong.

My job is to tell you how small that “for sure” is.

My job is to provide enough information to the decision makers, so they can limit the amount of risk of every decision, maximizing the potential impact.

All of this it’s science. And we all know that science requires to be strict. You cannot just make science without having a rigorous process. Otherwise, it’s Voodoo.

The main struggle I had, when I joined Automattic, was to find ways to implement strict procedures, to a chaotic environment. There were strong constraints that were not possible to change in either way. The math behind an A/B test does not accept compromises. The distributed nature of the company cannot be altered.

At the same time, there were problems to solve. There were decisions to make quickly. Way worse that a wrong decision is not to make a decision at all.

I had to find ways to provide test results on short time frames, without letting biases and errors pollute the results.


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This is the team I’m part of. There are five of us: Brie, Dan, Mike, Ran and I.

We almost cover the whole time zones: Ran lives in Israel, I live in Vienna, Mike lives in Virginia, Dan lives in Philadelphia, and Brie lives in San Diego. Our days are organised to allow us to be efficient.

Let me show you three peculiar methodologies we refined over time so to get the best out of our efforts:

Weekly Sprint

Our sprint method requires us to define what we are going to do within a week, breaking down our job into tasks that can be completed before every Friday evening. We use Trello to keep track of what we have on the table, and we came up with a nice “size chart”.

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Our size chart tells us that only three types of tasks are allowed on our boards:
– XS: tasks that require less than two hours
– S: tasks that require less than one day
– M: tasks that require less than two days

There is no Large, no extra-Large, no specials. With our weekly sprint, we only allow tasks that can be completed in less than two days. Otherwise, we risk to get stuck and create bottle-necks. If we have something larger, we need to break it down into smaller bites.

Weekly Growth Hangout

Growth hangouts include people from other teams. As a design team, we collaborate with others to get things done. The weekly growth hangout is made of three parts, with a very strict schedule.

  • 10 minutes to discuss test results from the previous weeks
  • 10 minutes to pitch tests for the upcoming weeks
  • 10 minutes for general discussion

It may look that 10 minutes are not enough to discuss things in detail, and that is exactly the point. The purpose of the hangout is to make sure we are all on the same page, but details must be discussed in a written form on an internal blog, so to allow everybody to chip in, provide feedback and contribute with informed opinions. That can only happen asynchronously, allowing people to think, do research, elaborate ideas.

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During the general discussion, we iterate on the hangout format as well. The company evolves very fast, we hire very fast, we change very fast. We cannot afford that any of our processes gets stuck on the same format for a long time. We need to improve continuously every single thing.

This is an example of our testing board, where we keep track of the current, next, and past tests.

Meetup project

We live in different countries and a few times a year we get together, and we work in person for a week. Our team had a meetup a few weeks ago in Vienna, and this is our most recent meetup project.

We wanted to try the process described in the book “Sprint: solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days” by Jake Knapp.

It takes a design team from zero to MVP in five days. It requires a lot of post-its, a lot of stickers, and a lot of wall space. The perfect project for a design team.

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Following the book, we created the blueprint for our next product. At the end of the week we ended up with a prototype, we tested it with real people.

It had a few points of failure. And that was good, because it happened early on in the design process, not when we went to market.

This model helps you to fail at the right time, on the right things, so to iterate and increase dramatically your chance to succeed.

We also had sessions of guerrilla testing, getting real people on the street, trying our mobile interface and giving us real-time feedback.



Make things, don’t indulge in talking about it.
It’s way better to making things fail, than not to make things because you are afraid to fail.


Take notes of what works and what does not work.
Use your failures as your platform for learning new things.


Don’t start long processes, with the unrealistic expectation of success.
Always plan in short iterations, changing direction often, adapting to the new things you are learning along the way.

Up and right

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Growth looks like a straight line, but it’s not, it’s a complex path.
My mother did not get on top of that mountain with her bike spending a lot of time discussing her project with her friends. She trained every single day for ten months. And that was the only way to make it.

Some people make a living as professional bikers; other people use their bike to go to work. Others ride their bike at the park on Sunday. People can have different goals and different needs, but they all have to learn how to ride a bike. And they all will fall many times.

So when you read about growth methodologies, don’t think that they apply only to Google, or Amazon, or Automattic. Don’t spend too much time on forums trying to find the best design process, or the best A/B testing tool.

Take something you can immediately apply to your business, try it out, iterate, and make it yours.

How I built a career in the tech industry writing horrible code

When I was 21, I dropped out of university in Bologna and started writing code as a freelancer. Clients, mostly from personal connections, began knocking on my door. I had no experience in software development or anything at all back then, so I said yes. I was making little to no money, but it was fun.

Swiping floors

I followed my girlfriend at the time to New Zealand for a few months and then came back to Italy. A friend of mine offered me a job in a club. I had no experience in manual labor, so I said yes. I quickly went from sweeping the floor, to cleaning toilets, to managing the room, to cashing tickets.

In 2006, blogging was big, and I started a personal blog, writing mostly about myself and my interest in human behavior. Clients started knocking at my door, asking me to be a marketing consultant. I had no experience in marketing, so I said yes.

Within a few months, I was in Milan, negotiating a large contract with a Viennese startup that wanted me to be their country manager in Italy. I had no experience in managing countries, so I said yes.


Country Management FTW!


Six months later, they offered me a permanent job in Vienna, taking charge of company communications in 13 countries. I had no experience in communications on an international scale, so I said yes.

After resigning from that company, I was asked to join the startup team of a new business. I had no experience working at a startup, so I said yes.

Automattic - Team Picure 2015
400 Automatticians at 2015 Grand Meetup, Park City, Utah

Before Automattic, I had no experience at a global company. But every job was a dot I connected and led me to the position I have today. I am a lucky man. Except there’s no such thing as luck.

As a kid I always had the toys I wanted, I went to the school I wanted, my parents supported the education I desired. I played when I wanted to play, I slept when I wanted to sleep, I had good grades when I wanted good grades. I now do the job I wish to do at the company I wanted to join. I am a lucky man. Except… there’s no such thing as luck.

I’m from a working class family, and my parents and my grandparents before them did not have the luxury of choice. They took what life gave them and made the most of it. I’ve struggled to earn a living. For years, I didn’t make enough money to move out of my parents’ house and be independent. My family had helped me more than once when my income didn’t pay the bills. It was hard and still is.

In 2012, I attended the wedding of one of my best friends. Simone flew me into Singapore and wanted me there to take pictures and bring a wedding ring from Europe. Usually when you go to a wedding, you bring a present, but what happened is Simone gave me a gift I keep dearly, and today I’ll share it with you.

Street Bar in Singapore

We were sitting in a street bar late at night, just Simone and I, drinking iced tea and smoking shisha. He was employed at Amazon, and I was struggling with a startup in Vienna. I told him my challenges at work, the little money I had, and the difficulties of navigating unknown territory.

He looked at me and said: “Don’t worry, people like us always survive. Things can go south quickly but in the end, you worked in a club sweeping floors and cleaning toilets, so you know that whatever happens with your job, you will never starve to death.”

663 million people live without clean water. One in nine people on earth do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. How about you? Do you have clean water? Do you have enough food to live well?

The hard part has been done. We have clean water, an abundance of food, and access to medicine, energy and consumer goods. This gives us a feeling of safety, security and comfort. The need to succeed, a better job and a better salary, are bonuses. Whatever happens, I will survive.

Besides being “lucky,” I have always been lazy. We all are, we just try to hide it. You are lazy too. You don’t go to the river every morning to get water. You don’t work in the fields and harvest crops; you drive your car to the grocery store.

We like comfort, except when we go to work. At work, we like to keep ourselves busy, and hard working people who c start early and leave late, notebooks full of scribbles, and packed schedules. I don’t. I like to do my job, get things were done and sweat as little as possible. If I don’t overwork, I can focus on doing things better; if I optimize the outcome, I can do more with less effort.

We also value efficiency. Efficiency is about doing things in an optimal way, for example, doing it faster or at a lower cost. It could be wrong, but it was done optimally. I prefer to focus on being effective. Effectiveness is about doing the right task, completing activities and achieving goals. I value results more than the process of reaching them.

If the top of a mountain is the goal, many people enjoy hiking uphill, breathing fresh air, sweating, and romanticizing the effort of getting there. I would make friends with locals, so I can learn the most convenient way to get on top, and maybe catch a ride on a gondola.

It’s not about cutting corners, and it’s not about avoiding responsibilities. It’s about focusing on results and optimizing resources.

I have never worked for free in my life. And I have never worked for money in my life. It sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not. I worked for good money, little money and sometimes no money at all. But every time I had clear in mind why I was doing it. I knew I had no experience in many trades, and not being qualified meant that I could not be competitive or demand higher rates. The compensation I wanted went beyond money, and I made sure to identify the real motivation behind that job.

When I started as a software developer, I wanted to know what real work was. When I was sweeping floors in clubs for little money, I wanted to meet people and have fun. When I became a country manager, I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. When I moved to Vienna, I wanted to live abroad. When I joined Automattic, I wanted to contribute to one of the most significant cultural shifts of our generation: Free Software.

These motivators were stronger than money. I don’t care about money. Money’s important because it enables lifestyle. But that’s all. A lifestyle without motivation is boring.

In 2007, my blog was somewhat popular, with 1500 unique visitors a day and 20 to 25 people leaving comments on every post. I became friends with many readers. One of them is Livia, with whom I went all in for a crazy venture. We took an offer to be reporters at a new web channel called Intruders.TV, covering tech events and interviewing startup entrepreneurs.


Intruders TV Italy


There was no money on the table, and neither of us had ever produced videos before. All we were offered was a video camera, media passes to tech events all over the world, and access to anyone in the industry. We had to cover expenses ourselves, arrange our own travels, and do everything from filming to editing and publishing.

We took side jobs to pay for travel, slept in hostels and ate at McDonalds. Every conference had a party dinner, and I remember having one clean shirt in my bag – the only decent outfit of the week. We were meeting big names and wanted to impress.


Intruders TV at IJF09


We knew it was temporary and unsustainable in the long run, but it worked out for both of us. At a time when online videos weren’t as popular as they are now, we turned our unpaid gig into a portfolio of relationships that landed us great opportunities later on.

Within a few months, Livia was offered a job as community manager and TV host at Current TV, and now she is a manager at Twitter. She got the job because of her skills, but those skills were built over time and refined through solid connections.

When we attended conferences and recorded interviews, pictures were always needed for editorial content. I started taking my camera with me and each time had a hundred shots. I didn’t want to bother with copyright laws and such, so I grabbed the easiest licence– Creative Commons, attribution only. I didn’t care about chasing down how my pictures were distributed I only needed a few good shots to publish with our videos.


Taking all the pictures!


I quickly learned that event organizers were struggling with photo content because photographers were not good at covering tech events, rights management was a nightmare, and they wanted to monetize every picture.I sent event organizers the link to my Creative Commons galleries and made them happy.

After that, I began getting invitations to every event in the industry. I had already left Intruders.TV behind, and for a year I had free access to the top tech events and everyone who attended thanks to my contribution.

What would have happened if applied the classic “All Rights Reserved” that other photographers were using?

Have a clear goal, plan your resources, and identify needs. If assets don’t cost you anything, give them away. Help people, be useful, don’t be stingy.

If you had 10 gallons of milk that expire tomorrow, what would you do? Some would drink some, and try to sell the rest. Others would drink some and then throw it away. I would sip a little bit and give away the rest for free. Making friends and helping others is an investment in the future. You can go fast if you go alone, but you need others if you want to go far and have fun.

I like to get things done. Getting started is the key. I started many things I never completed, but “done” is different than “completed.” It took me years to understand and accept this concept: Done is better than perfect. We tend to believe that we need to finish what we start. No matter if conditions have changed, or if we have new data, or if it was a mistake.

This classic cognitive bias is called “sunk cost fallacy”: I already spent a thousand euros on this slot machine, I need to spend a hundred more. I’ll win at some point. No. The right attitude is: I already spent a thousand euros on this slot machine, experience tells me that a hundred more would be wasted.

I invested my whole self into a few jobs I had. I worked 18 hours a day for months, borrowed money from my family to pursue new ventures, dedicated everything I had to crazy adventures. But each time I had a reasonable amount of information telling me that the venture had no chance of reaching its goal, I walked away.

That’s why I don’t like gambling. Odds are against gamblers. I’d rather start a casino.

My three tips for building a career in any industry are simple: Take it easy, help others, and make things happen. Basics like water, food and shelter are sorted, so don’t stress. Be useful to others and help as much as you can. Don’t wait for things to happen, make them happen. I have always been lucky. Except there’s no such thing as luck. Be your own luck.

Presented at Codemotion Milan 2015Feedback on Joind

Credits: Kat ChristopherFrancesco PiasentinGiorgio MinguzziLivia Iacolare

It’s not about the free food: how to develop a healthy corporate culture

In 2010, on one of the most epic road trips of my life, I was passing through Las Vegas and visited Zappos, a year or so after it had been acquired by Amazon. I spent 4 hours visiting headquarters, taking pictures, chatting with executives, and getting the full Zappos experience.

Zappos HQ
Zappos HQ in Las Vegas

If you have never heard of Zappos, it’s a vibrant company founded by Tony Hsieh. They sell shoes. How boring is that? They have a website, and they sell shoes. However, they did not become popular due to the quality of those shoes. They became popular in our industry for their outstanding corporate culture.

To give a few examples, employees had free food and drinks (excluding Red Bull) available 24/7 at headquarters, a car wash service on weekends, massage sessions at the end of shifts. And surprisingly, for an e-commerce company, employees were not evaluated by sales volume or the number of calls they took during support shifts. Performance was only tied to customer satisfaction, as measured by independent post-sales surveys.

The party wall at Zappos HQ

Other companies made headlines for their fancy policies. Apple has the most amazing headquarters on Earth, Facebook offices are also great, and Google was featured in a movie called “The Internship,” which was a comedy mostly about the unusual culture at Googleplex.

My visit at Zappos was a blast, and I raved about it for months and years. At the time, I was working for a startup in Vienna that had recently been sold to a large French corporation. I was so enthusiastically impressed by Zappos that I tried introducing some of their practices. Every experiment failed miserably. My repeated attempts and failures in changing the work practices of my team resulted in a clash with upper management, and I left the company.

In the five years that followed, I discovered through other experiences that free drinks, free food, and unusual methods to measure productivity are the consequence of something deeper — a unique set of values that are at the foundation of outstanding companies. They are like Hawaiian shirts. They make total sense if you live in Maui, but wearing a Hawaiian shirt when you work in a bank does not make you a surfer, and it will probably end in a serious chat with your boss.

400 Automatticians at 2015 Grand Meetup, Park City, Utah
400 Automatticians at 2015 Grand Meetup, Park City, Utah

A few weeks ago I was in Park City, Utah, meeting 400 coworkers at our annual Grand Meetup, a yearly business retreat where we have the chance to spend a week together under the same roof after 51 weeks scattered all over the world. The Grand Meetup schedule is packed with meetings, chats, work sessions, classes, and fun activities. On the first day, Matt Mullenweg, our Founder and CEO, gave opening remarks in a 15-minute speech. It was not super formal, but the tension during kickoff was strong.

Do you know what I remember from those 15 minutes? “Be nice to each other. Grand Meetup can be intimidating for new Automatticians, make sure you are welcoming. Pick up trash on the floor, and be nice to the wait staff of the resort.”

Matt Mullenweg
Matt Mullenweg – Founder and CEO of Automattic

I knew Matt Mullenweg for years before joining Automattic, and one thing that always struck me about him is his kindness. Many times we shared a dinner table at conferences. Matt is the guy who makes you feel good about yourself because he pours water for other people before drinking himself. He’s the one who opens doors, and says please and thank you with absolute sincerity.

When I joined Automattic, I was overwhelmed by the kindness of my colleagues. The first three weeks of support rotation were challenging, but at any time of the day I only had to ask for help and a bunch of people would come to the rescue. The same is true today, with 200 more people on the payroll.

The foundation of corporate culture is the shadow of the founder. So if you are a founder, pay attention to how you behave, more than your corporate policies. If you are joining a company, do a background check on the founder. It’s unlikely you’ll find a pleasing working environment if you and the founder don’t share core values. Steve Jobs was known as a difficult person to deal with, obsessed with details. Look at Apple now: the shadow of the founder is present in every connector, charger, and icon. Of course, the company changed after Steve Jobs, but the legacy is strong and Apple has a long history of ups and downs.

Things change. But people don’t like change. We like to settle in and get comfortable. Don’t get comfortable. Accept the idea that things need to change and when it’s time, it’s time. Think about life, the most important changes just happen. You get a new job, you get fired, you meet that special person, you get married, you have kids, you have to let someone go. Life and death do not follow a schedule. When it’s time, it’s time. So why would your company wait until next quarter to change? So it better fits your Excel table?

Get over it and learn to embrace change.

When I joined Automattic, there were just over 200 people. Two years later on our 10th anniversary, we crossed the 400 mark. I have personally seen many practices get introduced and dismissed, new teams formed and disbanded, projects shelved and picked up again. It’s a good way to keep things spinning and to stay alert and ready for new challenges. We are in a marathon, not in a sprint.

Change of paradigm at Facebook
Change of paradigm at Facebook

Since the beginning, the motto at Facebook was: “Move fast and break things”, until they got big. Then it changed to “Move fast with a solid infrastructure.” How easy do you think it was for Mark Zuckerberg to go on stage at F8 and announce the new motto? Deep thoughts were behind that announcement. The company followed him because of the culture he built over time.

A few years ago I worked at a company that hit rough waters. After a summer with limited liquidity and a series of pay cuts, employees were asked to make a difficult decision: voluntarily work half time to avoid layoffs. We were all pretty weary but the spirit was strong, and we agreed to go half time. In addition, the CEO asked us to concentrate our efforts and be at the office from 9 to 13. It was difficult to accept, as a few of us typically got to the office at 10 or 11.

Starbucks Latte
Starbucks Latte

On the first day of this new schedule, we were all on time. Even those not happy about waking up early were at the office at 9 am sharp. Except one. The CEO showed up at 11 am. There was absolute silence when he walked in the door, holding his usual Starbucks latte. After a moment of hesitation, he said: “There was a hell of a traffic today.” Three people, including me, resigned in a matter of weeks. A single act of disrespect broke months and years of trust.

If you want a healthy company culture, lead by example. Every action you take as a founder, more than just words, sets the tone and makes a difference.

Presented at Better Software 2015Feedback on Joind

A. I. Sajib
Rebecca Krebs
Kat Christopher
Andrea Badgley

Powering Business Sites with WordPress

I’m going to tell you a story you’ve probably heard before and it goes like this:

You have a friend who has a shop, a restaurant or a yoga studio. He has heard about the wonders of the Internet and one day, he asks you to help him set up a website for his business.

This is how it plays out in the beginning of your career, but the truth is, nothing really changes and soon enough, you have a new client.

It doesn’t matter if you do it as a favour or for money, you are going to pour your heart and soul into this project because you want them to succeed.

So what do you do?

  • You install WordPress.
  • You find a theme.
  • You paste some content.
  • You tweak the template here and there.
  • You make the client validate the site based on his aesthetic taste.
  • You listen to the client’s meaningless feedback.

The result? The site is online but not really making a difference for the business. The client will never be happy with the website and will say things like:
– “Why didn’t you create a Facebook page? Everybody is on Facebook!”
– “Why am I not the first hit on Google?”
– “What do you mean with which keywords? All of them!”
– “That green is not green enough.”
– “Why isn’t it as cool as this other website?” And then proceeds to show you

I told you before this was a classic scenario and I’m sure that many of you have experienced it at least once.

A Better Approach

In order to succeed we need to change our attitude and our process. We must be mindful to never detach the business goals from the online presence. This happens way too often and it’s a source of frustration for many businesses that try their hand at online channels.

Let’s take a step back, take a pad of paper, a sharp pencil and let’s work old school:

  • Define reasonable goals.
  • Identify checkpoints and metrics.
  • Measure and improve.

First thing’s first – Business sites

Business site are websites designed to support a traditional business. These businesses primarily serve local clients in the area and they can afford investing a little bit of money in online marketing activities.

Define the goal

The first thing you should do when you acquire a new customer is to ask a simple question: “What do you need the website for?”

Let’s try it all together, repeat after me: “What – Do – You – Need – The – Website – For?”

This is where you’ll get the most surprising answers: To get new clients, to get visitors, to save money on advertising, to sell stuff, to have a URL for the business cards, to compete with Facebook or I don’t know, they told me I needed one!

Your first job is to clarify the goal of the website with your client. It won’t be easy, life isn’t easy. Life is simple, not easy, right? So, the first step is to help your client find out what the primary goal of their website is.

Define checkpoints and metrics: The Growth Funnel
The Growth Funnel is a business tool that serves as a framework to break down the entire relationship businesses have with their customers. It helps us identify where our weak points are and how we can improve our business. It’s a simple 6-step funnel that goes as follows:


As soon as people know the shop is open for business we have met this goal. How do we do this? We could, for instance, put flyers up in the neighbourhood. Would that make people aware? Yes. Would that scale as the business grows? Not really. What is the equivalent of flyers in the online world? Display advertisement, local directories, Chamber of Commerce sites, Yellow Pages, Google AdWords, Google Search.


Can we consider people acquired when they visit the website? This is a classic mistake. It’s true if you have an online business, but not when you have physical business location. People are acquired when they call a phone number, they send an email or even better, when they walk into the shop.


People are activated if they become customers. They can buy something, take their computer in for repairs, lease a big copy machine.


People are retained if they come back and purchase again. Some people may sign a service contract for support, they may simply take another computer in for support and so on.


Customers are so happy about the service they tell other people and bring in more customers. They can also be invited to do so by a well-designed referral program.


The final goal of every activity is to generate revenue in a sustainable and long-term way.

WOW, I though this was about websites and WordPress and we are all business here. As I said, first thing’s first, there is no business site without a business. Never detach your online strategy from the business you are trying to serve.

Now that we have all our steps in place, what do we do?

Landing pages 101

Imagine you go camping and you are looking for a pocket knife. You go to a shop and what do you ask for? A pocket knife, right?
Good, so the man at the counter shows you this knife, a luxurious kitchen knife, extremely well-designed and well-balanced. Wow, it’s an amazing knife, but would you take it with you to go camping? Of course not.
Oh, sorry, says the guy, you’re going camping, right? Then he shows you a top-of-the-line pocket knife with every tool under the sun and then some.

So why do you always settle for the first two options when you set up a website: A site so beautiful that it is basically useless or a website so packet with features that you can barely find what you are looking for.

Websites are tools, they need to be useful. Then they can be beautiful and eventually full of features. But first of all they need to be useful.

A business site, to be useful, needs to do one job and one job only: Get people through the door. How? By providing enough information, trust and reliability to the visitor and we do that with powerful landing pages.

100% of the traffic we care about comes from another site. They can be coming through display advertisement, directories, partners but most of all from Google AdWord or Google organic search. Direct traffic is not so important for conversion because if someone knows how to reach your website directly, then they are already willing to walk in the door.

In order to convert visitors into customers we need to have killer landing pages, each one of them sharply refined down to the very last pixel.

What do we need on every landing page?

A phone number
Big, easy to spot and clickable. Don’t shake your head, this is the most valuable thing you can put on the site. People trust phone numbers and will call. The phone number must be marked up in the code and clickable.

The address of the shop
Make it prominent. Don’t put a map, put an address and eventually a link to Google Maps. Maps slow down the page and nobody will ever use that map. People can click on the address if they need to.

Opening hours
It’s very important if you want people to show up. Phone numbers, addresses and opening hours must be marked up so Google can pick them up and show them on maps and local business listings. There are plugins that can do the job for you. For instance WordPress SEO by Joast does all of this.

Basic information about what people are looking for.
If you have a set of products or services, every product must have a dedicated page, with a clear call to action, like call or send an email.

These are basics, but just try to remember how many of the sites you visit do these basics right.

It should go without saying you need a responsive theme because if you cut off your mobile visitors you are out of business in no time.

A clear call to action
Define your call to action and put it on the landing page. It must be one and one only. Don’t pack landing pages with links and stuff. Just tell people what to do to contact you. It can be a phone call, or sending an email.

Measure all things

You cannot improve anything if you can’t measure it. So let’s start by measuring things. A few metrics are easy to measure, others are very difficult. We are dealing with a local business so we just need to focus on those easy-enough metrics that can be leveraged and make a real difference. Who is the king of online metrics? Exactly Google Analytics. We are going to see Analytics a lot here.


How many people call, send emails or walk into the shop and more specifically how many of them are coming from the website?

Three ways to have a pretty accurate estimate:
– Ask new clients how they found out about you.
– Have a full event tracking on Google Analytics. When people click on the email address or the phone number, track it.
– The hook: If you mention a special discount on your website, have people who walk in mention it.


One of the best ways to keep your customers engaged is to offer them a newsletter. Email marketing is really powerful. WordPress offers many ways to engage your readers via email:
– Jetpack offers email subscription to your content.
– Mailchimp for WordPress is a powerful plugin that integrates Mailchimp with your website, allowing you to have powerful email campaigns.

Once again, it’s very important to measure not just how many emails you send, the open rate and the click rate. What really matters is how many people come back to the business. Measure everything!

Design – Test – Verify – Improve

Here comes the most powerful advice of all: Test your assumptions. I know you are skilled developers, talented designers and amazing code poets but don’t take anything for granted when it comes to business sites. You know your audience but most of the time you know nothing about your client’s clients. Try different designs, different flow, and most of all iterate often on landing pages.

Design – Test – Verify – Improve – Iterate Fast.

Rethink business sites. Next time you have to deal with a business site remember these three things:

  • Define reasonable goals.
  • Measure all the things.
  • Online and offline go together.

One more thing…

Don’t be afraid of offering seemingly old-school solutions to your clients. The only thing that matters is offering valuable support for the business they’re running. Most of the time, they’re still stuck in the 70s. Taking them to 1995 with a solid email marketing strategy connected to their site can be a real game-changer. You don’t need ello for that!

Author: Luca Sartoni – Copy editor: Andrea Zoellner

Presentation Reloaded: Workshop in Milan – 30/11/2010

presentation reloaded

I have to confess, i’m a presentation geek, and in the last few months i worked hard on my presentation skills. I followed several blogs and read many books on this topic. I also started, in collaboration with RBC and Elastic, the project.

Tomorrow, tuesday November the 30th, at Urban Center – Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II 11/12, Milan there will be one of the most interesting workshop about public speaking and presentations: Presentations Reloaded, organized by Augmendy and the super presenter Marco Montemagno.

The guest list is really impressive: Garr Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen and Marco Montemagno on stage. Carmine Gallo and Nancy Duarte live from USA.

It’s an event that you shouldn’t miss! It will be totally in English (extra kudos to Marco for this smart choice) and free, you only need to register here. Don’t miss it!