Conversion: It’s a Piece of the Picture, Not the Whole Puzzle

So, the other day while I was sitting outside waiting for a friend, I observed a rather suspicious man pacing up and down the sidewalk.  

The guy was in his late 20’s-early 30’s and I could tell from his body language that he was definitely up to something.  I knew he wasn’t going to rob the bank (which coincidentally we were both near) so I tried to figure out EXACTLY what he was going to do.   (Yes, this is indeed the type of thing I do when I am avoiding e-mails and BBM.)

I watched him stare at the hippy-chick with the dandelions in her hair who was screaming at someone in Tagalog on her phone.  (The romantic in me was actually hoping he was going to propose to her.)

I saw him glance furtively at the three scantily-clad college girls whose combined outfits used less fabric than a scarf.

I looked at him chin-nod at the surfer dude; purse his lips at the skateboarder with the pants that STARTED at his knees; and grin at the bimbelina who was stuffed so full of Botox she couldn’t smile back.

I was so focused on him – the suspicious guy — that I completely missed what was really happening…

A flash mob.

As I watched the “suspicious guy” I came up with all sorts of notions of what he was doing. 

Sadly, none of my ideas were right because I wasn’t looking at the whole picture.

Very similar to the twisted way in which a lot of folks look at web conversion these days.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a big conversion proponent.  I write about it, I give speeches about it and I pimp out our kick-ass conversion services on a daily basis.

However, conversion is NOT the end-all be-all.  I repeat.  Conversion is not the end-all-be-all.

It’s like this morning. One of our newer clients called me yapping about how their conversion was tanking.  He went on and on for a little over twelve minutes before I could get a word in sledge-wise.   When I finally got to ask “so, how much are sales down?” I was met with a deafening silence. 

“Sales are up almost 30%.” The voice on the other end replied.

It was all I could do not to slam the phone down.  “So, your traffic is up.  Your e-mail subscriptions are up.  Your sales are up AND your profits are up.  What exactly are you bitching about?”  I asked.    (Yes, this is why I’m not really allowed to deal with clients these days.)

Before he had a chance to say a word, I continued.  “This is the thing about conversion.  Anyone can improve your conversion.  If I wanted to just improve your conversion, we would have blocked all the garbage traffic from your site. Your conversion as a percentage would have skyrocketed but what exactly would that have done for you?  Yeah.  Notsomuch.  It would have done jack.”

Conversion isn’t a flash mob. 

You can learn from it but you’ve got to look at the big picture.  Look at it as a percentage trend alongside your sales and profit numbers; the number of new customers you’ve brought in; the number of customers you’ve reactivated; your traffic numbers; and so on.  If you do that, you’ll get a much better idea of what’s going on…

P.S.   If you’ve never seen a Flash Mob before, click here now for a good example


  1. Richard H. Levey says

    Hmm, I wonder if there is any correlation between high unemployment rates and the frequency of flash mobs? I mean, Generation Y has to burn off that excess Starbucks somehow, right?

    Ain’t got nuttin’ to add to your comments about observing percentage trends alongside raw numbers, except to ask whether your yapping client was in either a high-level financial or other executive position. If so, I’m selling my stock in his company immediately*.

    * No, I have no idea who your client is. And I don’t own stock, so it is at best a hollow threat. Even so, I’m often amazed at the folks pulling handsome salaries whom I wouldn’t trust to help a child cross a street.


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