Towanda & the Gentle Art of User Linking

Have you seen the movie Fried Green Tomatoes?

Do you remember the part with Evelyn Couch (played by Kathy Bates) in the parking lot? 

Here’s the gist…  Evelyn is waiting patiently for a parking spot when two young girls steal it.  (“Face it lady, we’re younger and faster!”)  Livid, Evelyn says “Towanda!” and then crashes her big ole’ boat of a car into their little VW bug.  Repeatedly.  (“I’m older and have better insurance.”)   

Fast forward to a couple days ago…

I was running through the parking lot.  I stopped to tie one of my sneakers and as I was crouched down, I saw a bumper sticker that said “Taxes are the privilege of a civilized society.”

Granted, I was in a cranky mood and it doesn’t help that it’s tax season (I’d prefer root canal without anesthesia through my belly button to paying taxes) but seeing that bumper sticker made me want to go all Kathy-Bates-Towanda on the car.   Just call me Fists o’ Fury.

As I was looking around for unlocked cars (my diabolical plan was to pop a trunk, steal a tire iron and smash all Civilized Society’s windows  in an “I don’t know if I’m older but I guarantee I have better lawyers” kind of way), I noticed that good ole’ Civilized had two other bumper stickers.  One said: “Co-Exist” and the other said “my website is” www.{NameRedacted}.com

My website is www.{NameRedacted}.com.*

WOW.  Can you imagine the linking on that? I thought to myself.

Then, I remembered I had five “Ask Amy” questions on just that very topic that I needed to answer.

Turns out there is a lot of confusion on linking.  What it means and how it works.

Even if your mobile site is completely flawless – as in THE best, most perfect site ever – chances are that you will get the majority of your mobile leads or sales through other channels (email, phone, text message, your traditional website, etc.)   Yes, this will change but as of today, it’s more than likely that your users are going to buy/book/sign-up/register/order in or on one of your other channels.

Not to mention there are countless scenarios such as this – I take a picture of your product with my phone.  I send it to you.  I get a text message back. I open the text message and click on the phone number inside.  I get IVR.  Someone sends me info to my email address.  I open my email at home. I click on your website from that email.  I order the product from your website.

Who gets the credit for this?  What source is it attributed to?  If I want more orders like that one, where should I spend the money?  

Companies who are trying to figure out the mysteries are looking at what we call user linking. 

In a nutshell, user linking tracks all the steps of the sale or lead.  Some analysts like to work from the end to the beginning and others find it easier to start at the beginning and try to piece their way to the end.  Whichever way you choose to do it, the only thing you should remember is that it’s not going to be perfect but whatever you cobble together is better than nothing.

There are lots of ways you can implement linking in your business.  Many folks who are first starting out find that they like to tie things together with email addresses and mobile phone numbers.  (If you’re not collecting mobile numbers, you should be, even if you don’t know how to use them quite yet.)  Again, is this perfect?  No.  But it’s a good start.

Can you ask the customers?  Yes.  It’s not the most accurate but it’s better than nothing.   What are the best ways to ask them?  Surveys work.  You can also ask them after completions – so after they’ve submitted their order or lead, you can ask them on the thank you page.  I would NOT recommend doing this in the middle of your lead forms or checkout – only at the end.  That way you’ll be certain that it will not increase your abandons.

What will linking help you with?  It’s one of the best ways to figure out where you should be spending more money.  It often tells you where you should spend less.

A lot of times we give the credit to the wrong place.  Linking doesn’t fix that overnight but it does help you get an idea of what kinds of contacts are involved in getting a sale or a lead.

It also helps you figure out where you need to nudge.  (Nudging helps reduce DTS.)  When you start looking at your linking you’ll begin to see places where users get stuck in your pipeline.  So, in the earlier example, if you send out 1000 text messages to users and none of them click on the links, you know you may have issues with your messaging (perhaps you aren’t using aggressive action directives.)  However, if a lot of people click on the link and call the number and then don’t do anything after that, you may have an issue with your phone messages or you may need to send them more than one trigger email.  (Many companies find that series of trigger emails work best when dealing with mobile users.)

Have anything you’d like to add about linking?  Please jot it in the comments below or send me an email at

Oh, and as for my Towanda moment, it never happened.  I’d like to say that I was a better person and walked away silently but the truth is I was stopped by the grumpy man on my iPod who told me that my “pitstop time had ended” and that I needed to get back in gear.  

Getting bossed around by a piece of technology.  Just one of the many privileges of a civilized society.

*Yes, I know it’s wimpy to not list the site name but I am still getting enough hate-mail from people who think I’m racist or unpatriotic.   I don’t need more drama from the high priestesses of cosmetics.  Trust me, I’ve battled with those chiquitas before and it’s nothing but ugly.  Literally and figuratively.


  1. says

    The biggest key to linking, in my opinion, is to also make sure that the “hopeful” paths are at least set up simply enough so that one can understand where and why people start and stop. However, most marketers have some convoluted view of ten+ likely paths that the analysis gets more lost than the user going through the site. On top of that, so called “analysts” then guess what “would have happened”, project personal opinion into the mix and then are stuck with a big casserole of muck. The exceptions are not the rules.

    • says

      Excellent point. Thanks Kevin.
      P.S. I am stealing casserole of muck.

      • Kevin Strawbridge says

        Just be sure to preheat the oven to 375 and bake for 1:30 – or until golden brown on top.

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