Hi Stephen, how are you today?
Good! Thank you. Conversion Factory is the biggest (and busiest) it’s ever been, and it’s showing no sign of letting up.
Can you give me a bit of background to yourself?
Sure - my focus is on conversion optimisation. That is, testing a website’s text, design and functionality to see if we can make it more persuasive and easier to use.
I’ve been focused on conversion optimisation since 2006. Before that, I was working in educational publishing: creating and editing books for schools in the UK and Central America.
Tell me about Conversion Factory:
Conversion Factory is a conversion optimisation agency. We work with websites around the world to help them generate more sales - without spending a penny more on traffic.
We do this by make the websites more engaging, more persuasive and easier to use. Every change we make is “split-tested” - that means 50% of users see the original website, and 50% see our version. We can track exactly how each group performs - so we can pinpoint the impact on revenue from each change.
In doing so, we’ve helped many of our clients add millions to their annual revenue.
What was the inspiration behind it?
Back in 2006, I took a job with an open brief: to increase a website’s sales as quickly as possible. I started by working on SEO - getting the website to rank better, so we’d get more traffic.
Within a few months, that was working well but the gains were levelling out. I wanted to see how we could increase sales even more. That’s when Google launched “Website Optimizer” - a free tool that lets you split-test your website.
I started experimenting with split-testing and within 3 months, we’d increased sales 6x.
Did you always want to start your own business?
Absolutely. It took me a while to get started though - I was 27 when I set up Conversion Factory.
How did you get your first few customers?
My first customer was my ex-employer. It meant that I could set up a company without much risk - their invoice would cover my essentials, so everything on top was a bonus. They recommended us to their contacts, and we built Conversion Factory on word-of-mouth.
What's the hardest challenge you've faced since starting your business?
Our next challenge is going to be entering the US market. We’ve focused primarily on the UK so far, but nearly half our revenue is international. In the future, we’re keen to expand formally into the US so we can grow even faster.
How do you plan to overcome that challenge?
There’s a lot of support - especially through companies like Chinwag who organise a yearly trip to the US for British companies. It’ll give us the initial contacts that we need to get the company set up formally - leaving us to focus on building the business.
Starting a business has its ups and downs, how do you keep motivated during the downs?
For me, the worst case scenario is never that bad, and the best case scenario is incredible - and that’s normally enough to keep the motivation up!
You started the business 6 years ago, what do you think was key in ensuring you had a sustainable business that could survive the first 5 years in business?
Because Conversion Factory is a service business, it meant we could expand gradually. As we take on more clients, we take on more staff (though we always focus on being over-resourced rather than under). That’s enabled us to expand at a level the company - and the market - can sustain.
The other advantage we have is the industry: conversion optimisation is relatively new to most companies, but its impact on our clients revenue can be amazing. Not only can we add multimillion pound increases to their revenue - but we can pinpoint the exact ROI from our work.
What advice would you give to any aspiring entrepreneurs?
Test everything - it’s simple now to test an idea out small-scale, before you invest time and money building a business. If you can prove there’s a market - and what you’re offering will solve a real problem - then you have the best possible foundation.
Great, thanks for your insight and good luck with your expansion!