Josh Haynam, CEO of Interact on Listening to Your Users During Acquisition

Josh Haynam, CEO of Interact on Listening to Your Users During Acquisition

Josh Haynam is a co-founder of Interact Quiz Builder, a tool used by more than 30,000 businesses including The American Red Cross, Budweiser, and Forbes. It’s possible that he’s probably seen more quizzes than the majority of all other marketers.

Interact is a bootstrapped company launched in 2013 that has helped businesses bring in more than 5 million leads, the product is used by businesses to create quizzes, giveaways, and interactive polls.

Here are some of the topics discussed in this episode.

Quizzes Create Personalization

The publically available data that we have on all of our target customers, audiences, and leads is fairly limited. Using quizzes for lead generation allows marketers to gather more information about our target users in a fun and engaging way.

“Think about a coffee brand making a quiz like ‘What’s the Best Type of Coffee for You?’ and you’ve got light, medium, and dark, they can actually segment you and then send you coupons for light roast coffees. That’s your preference, it’s personal to you, it’s real, and they’re able to follow up in a personalized way…At that point those emails are almost transactional. You’ve collected data from a person and then you’re sending an email in response to that, so it’s not a blast anymore. It’s a real thing that’s based on preferences of that specific customer. ”

The data collection opportunity that quizzes and other types of interactive lead generation provide a powerful opportunity to personalize and segment your audience to their specific interests and needs.

Let Your Target Audience Talk About Themselves

As marketers, we do an awful lot of talking about our product and what it can do for our prospective users. Instead of primarily focusing on platform to voice our own thoughts and opinions, it’s important to also create a venue for our audience to express what’s on their mind, especially about themselves.

“Quizzes let people talk about themselves and if you look around at marketing, where else is that possible? You have content, you have videos, infographics, and all these things that are broadcast mediums. One-to-many. There’s no conversation going on. Time magazine did a study and they found that 40% of the words we say in our lives are about ourselves… We actually get a small release of dopamine in our brains when we talk about ourselves. We kind of get high off of talking about ourselves because we love doing it. A quiz lets you do that… We like to learn about ourselves and especially when it’s a positive thing about ourselves, that’s amazing.”

The opportunity to create positive reinforcement of our target audiences beliefs also has tremendous power as we continue to personalize our marketing campaigns and as we think about post-acquisition growth efforts including retention.

Automated Personalization Requires Listening

Automation is central to everything that we do as marketers. It simply isn’t possible to maintain the level of growth necessary to meet our goals without some level of automation. However, automation requires deep listening upfront in order to be genuine and effective.

“This personalization has to be automated because with tech companies at scale there can’t be any lag in the process. It does have to be automated. But in order to automate personalization you first have to know what you’re supposed to be automated I think it starts with listening to the right people and then really paying attention to what the commonalities are between the questions they have, the struggles they have, and then turning that into something that’s an engine for personalizing every experience of new people that come to your site or to your company.”

Make sure to give individual attention to the thoughts of your customers can be as your business continues to grow. Even if it’s more difficult as you have less time, it becomes increasingly more important.

Transcript

Note: this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Ander: There are many different types of marketing thought leaders, lots of different types of representatives from different companies that come in here to talk on this podcast and today we’re talking to somebody who is the founder of a company that, like Instapage, helps you lower your cost of customer acquisition.

Josh Haynam, CEO and cofounder of Interact.

Josh, how are you doing?

Josh: Doing well. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate you having me here today.

Ander: Yeah, yeah. Thanks for coming to our office. You are in Oakland and you took BART or something across the bay to get here, so thanks for coming out.

Josh: Yeah! So Interact is a platform for generating leads in a cost-effective way and, actually, in a really new way. I’m sure you’ve all seen those quizzes that are on Facebook all the time…

Ander: The BuzzFeed-type quizzes, yeah.

Josh: Yeah, the BuzzFeed type. Everybody’s in the game now, you know, ‘What Kind of Soft Drink are You?’ ‘Tell us Your Preferences and We’ll Build You a Perfect Boyfriend’ type of thing.

Ander: Haha, right.

Josh: All that kind of ridiculous stuff. But brands need to capitalize when there’s trends like that and so we have built a platform for brands to create quizzes exactly like those ones that you see on Facebook all the time, but for your company. And then, as an added bonus, you can use it to collect leads. So when a quiz taker is going through a quiz that you’ve created for your brand that they’ve found on Facebook, after they’re done with the questions there’s a lead capture form that comes up and says, ‘Hey, in order to reveal your perfect boyfriend you need to answer your email,’ and then we’ll send you dating advice or whatever if it’s from a dating website, right?

And it’s a way to not only capture those leads but also segment them because you can segment them based on which outcome they get.

Ander: Oh, that’s really interesting.

Josh: Yeah.

Ander: Yeah, and it’s sort of obvious when you say it like that but when I have, I guess you could say, fallen for it and taken those quizzes in the past, it never occurred to me for some silly reason that that was part of the segmentation process. It makes perfect sense.

Josh: Yeah, exactly. So if we switch gears a little bit to a coffee brand and you think about a coffee brand making a quiz like ‘What’s the Best Type of Coffee for You?’ and you’ve got light, medium, and dark, they can actually segment you and then send you coupons for light roast coffees. That’s your preference, it’s personal to you, it’s real, and they’re able to follow up in a personalized way.

At that point those emails are almost transactional – you’ve collected data from a person and then you’re sending an email in response to that, so it’s not a blast anymore. It’s a real thing that’s based on preferences of that specific customer so it’s really powerful for dividing up your list into different segments that you can actually send the appropriate stuff to.

Ander: And is this quiz that I might come across as a consumer something that lives on Facebook? Can it live on a landing page? Can it live on a website? Where does it actually go?

Josh: Yeah. It can live on Instapage or any other sort of landing page, WordPress, and any page that you own, you can add a quiz to. It’s just an iframe code.

Ander: Ok. So an embeddable element. Pretty easy to do.

Josh: Yeah. Exactly like you’d embed a YouTube video, you can add a quiz to your site and then everything is on your site at that point. They never leave your site. They never go anywhere else. The lead collection happens within the quiz as well, so they’re always going to be on your site. And then you would share out the URL of that landing page or page on your website where you have that quiz to Facebook as a post, as an ad.

Ander: Very, very cool. And what happens with that data that gets submitted – does it just go to whatever third party technologies you’re using?

Josh: Yeah, we integrate with everybody… all the new ones including ConvertKit and Drip; as well as the older ones – MailChimp, AWeber, Constant Contact, GetResponse. Even the big ones like Marketo, Eloqua, and Pardot, so you can pass that data directly through to your email marketing or your marketing automation program and it’s all going to be tagged by which outcome the person got on the quiz so you can follow up with different sequences, different email blasts, things like that.

Ander: Awesome.

Josh, obviously this is not the only thing that you’ve engaged with as a professional. You had a few things that you did before you moved into this. So I’m curious: what’s the story with how Interact started and how you came up with this idea?

Josh: Yeah, definitely.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for a long time actually since, like, fifteen, sixteen years old. I was buying and re-selling used laptops, which was very lucrative at the time. That was seven or eight years ago. That’s how I got my start. I’ve started a few companies since then, just a smorgasbord of things, really. Just always had that spirit to create things and build something for myself.

Interact actually came out of a lull in that. When I was in college, I kind of ran out of ideas. I had finished the laptop thing and I had done a couple of other things. Nothing really panned out and so for a while myself and a buddy were just doing agency work. We were finding clients. They were paying us handsomely to build them websites and to do all their marketing, all that kind of stuff. And it was really interesting because we would get a client, they would pay us $30,000, $40,000 to build their website, do all of their marketing, do all of their SEO, do all their email blasts and everything. And at the end of the day, the only number they ever cared about was ‘How many new email subscribers did I get?’ like, ‘How many new leads did I get?’ That’s all they would ever ask us and we were just like, ‘Well, we did this and this and this,’ and they were like, ‘We don’t care. We just want to know that number.’

Ander: Right

Josh: And in there somewhere, one of our clients had asked us to build him a quiz to capture emails. I think it was a sales consultant actually, and his quiz was ‘What Type of Salesperson Are You?’ It had an email capture form, it was connected to AWeber, and it was getting him leads. And that thing killed it – 75% conversion rate!

Ander: A 75% conversion rate on the quiz? And where was that quiz living?

Josh: On the quiz, and it was plastered across his homepage. It was kind of a website takeover. There was obviously other content and, like, blog postings, contact information and stuff like that. But 75% of the people who started taking the quiz converted and about half of the people that hit that page started taking the quiz because it was so appealing.

Ander: Wow..

Josh: So your overall conversion rate was still amazingly high. And he had requested that. We built it custom code. It was a mess. It took weeks. But at that point we kind of knew. We had put two and two together. Everybody just wants leads, this thing works to get leads, and nobody is doing this thing. And I remember I called some of the biggest names in marketing to ask them, ‘Is anybody doing this?’ and they were like, ‘No, but you should.’ That’s really where it came from. And that was four years ago and since then we’ve been able to build out the platform into something that really anybody can use and now there’s 35,000 companies using it.

Ander: Wow! That’s a good number.

Josh: Yeah! Yeah, it’s been crazy.

Ander: So you came up with the idea. Obviously there was a need for this. You guys wanted to fulfill that need. How did you guys grow to what you are today?

Josh: It’s been a mix of things and it’s been almost all educational because this is a new concept. When we started, and even today, there’s very few people using quizzes for lead generation in marketing. It’s just not something that’s in the repertoire. So all of our marketing has been about how to do that and how to do that effectively. So over 500 blog posts on how to do everything, a lot of videos, a lot of infographics, a lot of just content in general that explains how this works to grow your email list to get you more leads to grow your business and that’s been it from the start.

Now we’ve got an entire network of people that are writing those posts and promoting them on our behalf, including other marketing professionals and things like that so that we’re amplifying those efforts. But it’s literally been the same thing the entire time, just giving that education, explaining how this works in all sorts of different industries and use cases, and being really, really clear about how this actually happens. That’s been all we’ve really done.

Ander: Have you discovered throughout this process that a lot of people just don’t get it and that it’s actually kind of a hard-to-grasp concept for some companies out there?

Josh: Yeah, that’s been fascinating to watch too. Like I said, four years is a long time in tech and that has changed dramatically. At the beginning when we would email people and connect with people, nobody got it. Nobody understood what we were talking about. It would take literally an hour of talking to somebody before they were like, ‘Oh, I get it. That makes sense.’

Now that’s changed. It’s shifted where there’s a good portion of the marketing world that’s like, ‘Yes, this makes sense. I understand how this works on the consumer side. That should be applied to the business side. Marketing departments and companies should be using this as a way to engage their potential customers and generate leads. I get it.’ It’s a much quicker conversation. Sometimes you don’t even need a conversation. They can just go ahead and sign up and get started. That’s been a seismic shift from where we started. But yeah, in a lot of industries it still is like, ‘What’s going on here? How does this work? How does this apply to my specific use case?’ That’s been a big challenge for us.

Ander: What are some of the differences that you’ve seen in how B2B versus B2C companies are using quizzes? Because when I think of quizzes, I think of them as something that’s very B2C-focused and part of that is because when I think ‘quiz’ I think BuzzFeed. However, I know it doesn’t necessarily work that way. That’s just kind of what’s ingrained in my thinking over a number of years. Obviously it’s something that can be used in a B2B context as well so I’d love to hear what your thoughts on that are.

Josh: Yeah, so I mean it is still primarily B2C. I would say the split is about 80/20 for us. But in the B2B applications, I think this is an opportunity for them to learn how to really personalize their marketing. I think B2B falls into this trap of, ‘We sell to companies so we need to sell to the company,’ and they forget that they’re not selling to a company, they’re selling to an individual in that company. For example, if you’re an IT company selling server software or training courses for server software to another IT company, instead of saying, ‘Is Your Infrastructure Solid?’ or something like that that would apply to the entire company, you would do something along the lines of, ‘What’s Your IT Personality?’ or ‘What’s the Personality of Your IT Team?’ That applies to an individual because the result of that quiz is a specific personality and not, like, a score or something very vague. I think B2B companies have to remember that even though you are selling into an organization, there’s still an individual that’s going to be your advocate and say, ‘I want to buy this.’ You’re not selling only to a room of people; somebody has to make that decision.

Ander: Right.

Josh: I think they can actually learn a lot from what the B2C companies and even the general news like BuzzFeed and New York Times and Zimbio and all of these other websites that have killed it with quizzes are doing. And they can draw that back in. Obviously you have to remember to stay on brand and it doesn’t make any sense to do like, ‘What Color are You?’ if you’re selling server software.

Ander: Haha.

Josh:But you do have to remember that it’s an individual and not some sort of conglomerate that’s making these decisions and you should write a quiz appropriately to that person.

Ander: Yeah.

What do you think it is about quizzes that appeal to people?

Josh: There’s a couple of things. The number one thing is that quizzes let people talk about themselves and if you look around at marketing, where else is that possible? You have content, you have videos, infographics, and all these things that are broadcast mediums. One-to-many. There’s no conversation going on. Time magazine did a study and they found that 40% of the words we say in our lives are about ourselves.

Ander: 40%?

Josh: 40% of the words we say.

Ander: Alright. I can believe that, yeah.

Josh: Right? If you think about it you’re like, ‘Oh yeah. That makes a ton of sense.’ And we actually get a small release of dopamine in our brains when we talk about ourselves. We kind of get high off of talking about ourselves because we love doing it.

A quiz lets you do that. You get to answer which of these horses is your favorite or what’s your favorite animal.

And those are silly examples but even in a more practical sense, you know, like, ‘What’s the Most Effective Marketing Strategy for Your Business?’ and you get to answer that question and it’s something that is about you – especially if you’re in the marketing department. That’s the number one thing.

And then the number two thing is that they always tell you something good about yourself so it kind of plays into that narcissistic tendency. When you get an outcome and it’s like, ‘You’re great because of X, Y, and Z,’ and X, Y, and Z are literally things that you just said in the quiz and they were the answers to the questions that you put in, they’re being spit back to you as positives. That makes you feel good about yourself and that’s just something that we like. We like to learn about ourselves and especially when it’s a positive thing about ourselves, that’s amazing.

It’s really those two things: getting to talk about yourself and then getting to learn about yourself, especially when it’s a positive thing. And those are two very human things. They are not changing; they’ve been the same for all of time.

Ander: Yeah, for sure. I was actually going to move on to your marketing philosophy, which it sounds like we’re sort of getting into here.

One component I would guess – and correct me if I’m wrong – is that it sounds like you think that there are not enough marketers that are creating environments for their target users or personas or members of their audience to speak about themselves. Is that something you’d agree with?

Josh: Yeah, I would agree with that. I think people need a connection, they need somebody to talk to. In terms of the way that we do marketing it’s really two-pronged. I mentioned the content before, which is educational, but that is a broadcast. But we also have, from day one, put a huge emphasis on talking to as many people as we can, and when I say ‘talking,’ I really mean listening. We’ll get on the phone with clients – and now we have a team of people that do this – ten, fifteen, twenty times a day, and just listen. And that doesn’t exactly sound like marketing but it does play into everything else you do. If you sit down and you listen to a potential client, somebody who’s never heard of you, talk about their struggles, you’re going to be able to create a better content, you’re going to be able to create a better website, you’re going to be able to create better materials and messaging. All this stuff comes into play because you’re sitting down and you’re just taking the time to listen to what somebody’s struggling with and what they’re interested in. And you can ask good questions and things like that but that’s really, I think, a huge missed opportunity in marketing. We just don’t listen enough to what people are actually having trouble with.

Ander: What about the rest of your marketing philosophy? How would you describe it? And I’m also curious to know how it’s changed since you’ve founded Interact. What’s changed about the way that you look at marketing?

Josh: I think the philosophy has always been to help people get what they want. Often times, that comes through explaining how to do something that they’re interested in. In our case it’s quizzes. “I’m interested in this concept. It’s intriguing to me. Tell me how to do it. And then also listen to me struggle with how to do it.”

I think it’s really about helping people get what they want and there’s a quote about that. ‘If you help other people get what they want, you’ll end up getting what you want,’ something along those lines.

I definitely believe in that and that’s really been my marketing philosophy for a long time. I think it has played out in different ways as this company has grown. At first it’s one to one and how do you do it with one individual, and then as you scale up it’s like, how do we make this more personal, how do we grow this thing we’re doing, which is helping people get what they want but instead of doing it one to one, how do I do it one to a lot but still make it feel like one to one? It’s a really meta question.

As we’ve grown, that’s kind of been the question that I’ve struggled with and tried to solve. And, you know, as we’ve gotten to be a bigger company to where we just can’t have a conversation with every customer anymore, what we’ve done now is created a network of people that are explaining things to other people. So we’ve got this core group and then there’s another group outside of that, another group outside of that, and we’re just spreading the message and it’s still a very personal thing. It’s almost like storytelling. One person tells a story to another person, so on and so forth. I think how it’s changed, is that it’s scaled. It’s gotten to be where it’s a question of how do we do this on a larger level but the core principle of just how do you let people get what they want through whatever product or service you offer? That’s always been what I’ve tried to figure out.

Ander: And what about what’s next? What is the future of marketing? I know this is a super broad question with a million different ways you could go – but how would you describe what marketing looks like moving forward?

Josh: Yeah, so this will be a little bit meta.

Ander: It’s a very meta question!

Josh: Yeah! Our core principle that we focus on whenever we’re making a product decision or a new marketing decision is that we want to make marketing personalized for everyone. When a brand is doing marketing, it should be a personal connection between that giant brand and one individual every time and that individual should have a voice. They should get to state their opinions, they should get what they want out of the interaction. It should not just be some sort of blast that’s going out where you hope that someone cares. That has driven all of our product innovation thus far.

I mean, it seems silly to say that quizzes are, you know, this massive future thing where everything is personalized but the thing about it is that it’s really letting people tell you what they want and then giving them what they want. And that’s personalized. That’s the definition of something being personal to you.

I think marketing is going to continue getting more and more personal. The internet started off very vague, very impersonal, and very cold, almost where there was just basically brochures plastered online. Over time it has gotten more and more real to the individual. I think there’s so much more to be done in that space and when I have conversations with CEOs of larger companies, that’s what lights up their eyes and that’s what they get excited about. ‘How can I bring this brand that’s giant down to an individual level and make it seem like something that every single person can connect with?’ If we can do that effectively there’s so much power there.

Ander: Awesome. Absolutely agree. And doing this effectively is obviously very important and as things become more personalized, as there’s more technology out there, there’s going to be more and more for us to know and more and more for us to be aware of.

With what you just said in mind, how can we as marketers prepare for that? What can we continue doing to be prepared for this new future of marketing as it comes to fruition?

Josh: Yeah, I think this goes back to what I just keep harping on here, which is listening to what people are asking for because when you want to make something happen. Let’s say personalizing all of your marketing, how do you do that in the first place? You have to know what all the steps are to get there and in order to lay out those steps to be able to offer up a unique experience to every customer, you need to know what they come in with, what their questions are, what they’re interested in, why they’re confused about things, and all that kind of stuff. And you’re never going to figure that out if you don’t listen. So I think it starts with listening to the customers that you want and then just paying attention to what is the flow, what is the process that they go through when they’re connecting with your product when they’re, trying to buy whatever it is you have or engage with the services that you offer and kind of backing that into automating things.

This personalization has to be automated because with tech companies at scale there can’t be any lag in the process. It does have to be automated. But in order to automate personalization you first have to know what you’re supposed to be automated I think it starts with listening to the right people and then really paying attention to what the commonalities are between the questions they have, the struggles they have, and then turning that into something that’s an engine for personalizing every experience of new people that come to your site or to your company.

Ander: Awesome.

Josh, this has been really interesting and I’m going to think about every single quiz that I take online when it’s the middle of the night and I’m just messing around on Facebook or whatever. I’m going to think about all of those very differently. How do I want this company to market to me? Haha.

Josh: Haha. Exactly. Exactly.

Ander: How can people check our Interact?

Josh: So we are at tryinteract.com, T-R-Y-interact.com. We actually have a free tier you can get started with and play around with how all the quizzes work. We’ve got a bunch of templates in there so you don’t even have to build your own. Just select your category and grab one. That’s the best way to get started.

Ander: Awesome. Josh, once again, thanks for coming across the bay over to Instapage HQ here in San Francisco. Thanks again. I really appreciate you coming in and we’ll talk to you soon.

Josh: Yeah, thanks for having me.