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EFP 42: Conversion Strategies That Work

Justin Cooke April 11, 2013

It can be a bit of a struggle to balance design and conversions, especially if that’s not your expertise. Of course you’d like to drive more email opt-ins and sales, but shouldn’t you be able to do that without shoving your offer down the throat of your audience?

Introducing Andy Hayes on Conversion Tactics that Work

This is exactly what we were faced with when redesigning our site, so we reached out to Andy Hayes from to work with us critiquing our website and providing us the experience we needed to deliver for our audience. He’s worked with hundreds of business on their websites and was happy to work with us over the past few months as we rolled out our redesign and new brand.

We sat down with Andy to snag some valuable tips, thoughts, and strategies that will help all of us as we drill down on conversions for both niche and authority sites.

Check Out This Week’s Episode Here:

Direct Download – Right Click, Save As

Topics Discussed This Week Include:

  • Getting our butts kicked in the latest mastermind.
  • How to ask the RIGHT questions to get useful user feedback
  • Following up on conversion goals (and sticking to them)
  • Balancing conversions without being annoying
  • Design for users, not for yourself
  • Trading time for cash (and why it’s underrated)


What are you doing to improve conversions on your site…any ideas you’d like to share? Let us know on Twitter or give us a holler in the comments below!


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Male:                    Welcome to the Empire Flippers podcast. Are you sick and tired of gurus who have plenty of ideas, but are short on substance? Worried that e-book you bought for $17.95 won’t bring you the personal and financial freedom you long for? Hey! You’re not alone. Join thousands of others in their pursuit of niche profits. Without the bullshit! Straight from your hosts, Justin and Joe, from Empire Flippers.

Justin:                   Welcome to Episode 42 of the Empire Flippers podcast. I’m your host Justin Cooke, and I’m here with Joe “Hot Money” Magnotti. What’s going on, buddy?

Joe:                        Hey everybody.

Justin:                   We’ve got a great episode lined up this week. We are talking with Andy Hayes from We’re gonna be talking about website design and conversion strategies. Got some great tips for you, but first, let’s do some updates, news, and info.

                                First thing I got for you, is a new, five-start iTunes review, buddy.

Joe:                        Where is it coming from?

Justin:                   It is coming from the U.S. His name is … I don’t know if his name is this, but it’s “Tune Again.” It says, “I get great tips and advice on every episode. I started from Episode 1 and I’m working my way forward. Even the ones that are a year old have excellent and usable material. Justin and Joe tag team of each other perfectly to create a very listenable podcast. Bravo guys. It’s no wonder your business keeps growing.”

                                Well, thank you, Tune Again. I appreciate it.

Joe:                        Yeah! Thanks, Tune Again.

Justin:                   So, our second bit of news we got. We just finished our Mastermind with our Philippines peers here, and we went over a ton of information. I’ll tell you, man, I’m really a fan. I’m not sure I liked the weekly masterminds, and maybe that’s okay. But, for our business, a bit more established, I like the two months, because we can really knock some stuff out in between Mastermind meetings.

Joe:                        I have to say, I know we are in a virtual, sort of business, a semi-virtual business, but I really think the in-person Mastermind makes a big difference for me.

Justin:                   That’s cool. It forced us to travel around the Philippines a bit, too, like, “Oh, well, it’s cool. I’m going to Manila or I’m going to Cebu, or they’re coming to Davao next month.” It’s really nice.

                                So, anyway, in our Masterminds this time, we talked … We got beat up a little bit.

Joe:                        Yeah!

Justin:                   Damian was whipping me, man. I was his whipping boy. We talked about improving content. Definitely picking up the pace and it made the podcast a bit better. We talked a little bit about emailing. He beat me up about that. I don’t send out enough emails for Empire Flippers. So, what I’m gonna start doing is, start channeling people a little bit better into their interests, and start emailing them more specific content based on those interests.

Joe:                        Yeah, I promise we’re not gonna spam everyone out there, and if we do, you can blame Damian.

Justin:                   Yeah, just beat him up for me. I’d appreciate that.

                                We also talked about tracking our customers a bit more and putting out a bit more content. So, you’ll see more of that in the coming weeks.

Joe:                        Yeah, I think we’re gonna get better at that as time goes on. We’ve installed some re-marketing on the Google Analytics for Empire Flippers. So, there are some tools that we are not utilizing and taking advantage of.

Justin:                   So, talking about tools, buddy. IntelliTheme JV launch is this Friday.

Joe:                        A little nervous.

Justin:                   Yeah, man, we’ve been really nose to the grindstone on this thing, man. Really trying to get all the content ready and get ready for the launch. You got Mark Thompson helping us out, he’s bringing a ton of JVs to the project. So, I’m really excited about how this is gonna go.

                                I’m definitely going to do follow-up blog post and lay out everything about our experiences with a product launch, a true, full-on IM product launch, and tell you what my thoughts were and how it went.

Joe:                        Yeah, that’ll be very interesting content to see, and what people on the other end of the spectrum, when they get the email, of the email, of the email of some JV who’s offering IntelliTheme for sale, what are their thoughts gonna be?

Justin:                   Well, our thoughts are honestly, we make a lot less money on this, because give a ton of money to the JVs, and then we’re giving some to the … Our affiliate manager is basically running it, and we’re dropping the price way down. But the idea is, to get paid customers into your circle of trust, right? Get them to know you, introduce them to you, and show them other products and services you can help them with.

Joe:                        And I think that’s huge. As IntelliTheme matures, and becomes just a better product, we’ve added more people to use it. And you get free life-time upgrades, so it’s not like we’re gonna charge you for Version 1.2 and then, when we come out with Version 2, you’re gonna have to pay for it again. No, you’ll get free life-time upgrades.

                                But, what I’m hoping is, as the product evolves and gets even better, you’re gonna recommend it to your friends, who are gonna recommend it to their friends, and then we’ll just have a user base grow like that.

Justin:                   Yeah. So, our last bit of news is, that I’ve been looking at, both, Infusionsoft and Office Autopilot, which is now called Ontraport. But the idea is this, we’re basically dealing with virtual, online real estate, right? And I think, getting to know our buyers and sellers a bit better, is a good thing.

                                For example, we have people right now that have sold sites on our platform. We should start, basically, collecting them and getting their information, so that, when we’re low on sites to sell, we reach out to them and say, “Hey! It’s a great time to sell. We don’t have as many sites available. You should list on our platform.” People that were buyers, say, “Hey! We just got a couple of new ones on there. You should come back and check it out.”

                                I mean, being able to serve those markets better. Right now we’re using Aweber, and it’s not contact-based, it’s list-based, and so it’s good, I think, for starting off, but I’d really like to go more down the contact route.

Joe:                        I see where you’re going here, Justin. I am a little worried, man, about deep-diving on another UI, and another tool, and another thing we have to put in the arsenal and figure out. And when it doesn’t work, or it’s broken, we have to hire experts. I just worry about that.

Justin:                   Well, if I got a nickel for every time you worry, man, I’d be a rich dude, man. I tell you that.

Joe:                        Yeah, of course, I think we need some advanced targeting and tracking for our customers.

Justin:                   Which is cool. I think, as we level up, we should probably level up the level of service that we’re able to deliver, and our understanding of our buyers, our readers, our listeners, should go up, as well. And it will be really interesting.

                                Enough about that. Let’s go right into our interview with Andy Hayes.

Male:                    This is the Empire Flippers podcast.

Justin:                   So, we’re very excited this week to have Andy Hayes from with us. We asked him months ago now to do, basically, a site review with AdSense Flippers, which now became And we wanted to know what we could do to convert better on several different goals. And we’re happy to have him on the program today.

                                What going on, Andy?

Andy:                    Good morning. This is so cool. I am a long-time listener. So, this is like I’m on the other side of the desk. It’s kind of cool.

Joe:                        Yeah, it’s great to have you back on, after talking to you so long ago, and finally bringing this to fruition. I’m really happy that we were able to implement what you were talking about.

Andy:                    Yeah. Well, congratulations. You did a rebrand, a site optimization, new products. That’s a lot to chew off, ey?

Justin:                   Well, let’s talk about this a little bit, Andy. So, we did we come to you? I don’t even remember exactly how we met, but guide us through your background and how we came to doing business together.

Andy:                    Well, I’ve always been a reader, because I used to do a lot of new sites. I do a little bit less now than I used to. I think we got a conversation going in the comments one day, didn’t we?

                                My background, I come from a software technology background, and what I do now is, what I call the “website critique.” So, I help people who are really struggling to create that really nice experience with their website. And I think, so many of us do a really great job in person, or we have a store, or a consultant, we’re just a rockstar on the phone. But then, when it comes to our website, it’s just a little like, “Hmm, it’s not so great.”

                                And what I saw with you guys is very emblematic of that, and that you have all these really great things going on, and maybe not organized in quite the fashion that presents them in the best light. Especially to people who don’t know you, right? And that’s really what a site is best at, is illustrating your genius to the world that doesn’t know you.

Joe:                        Yeah. Well, thank you, Andy. Because I tell you, the rebranding and this whole relaunch has kind of re-energized me in our efforts to do this, and make it come full-circle to what you originally said to us. Which was, it’s all about the content, but these other things are important, too, and they help. They help get your message across.

Justin:                   Yeah. We were worried that people were first coming to our site and were turned off a little bit by the design, or whatever, and we knew we had great engagement with our audience, but we wanted to make sure we weren’t turning away first-time visitors. I think a lot of people struggle with that with their sites. The site doesn’t look as good as they want, or it’s not converting as well as they want. We’re allowing readers to deep-dive. And so, really improving that, you’ll have a better stick-rate on the people that first come to you. And that’s really important for sites like e-commerce sites, for example.

Andy:                    Yeah. And I think, doing this the way you’ve done, with this top-down approach, is really important to do at some point, especially on an authority site. Because you worry too much about, should the buy button be orange or green, and should it say, “Buy Now” or “Click Here,” when people are getting lost miles before then. So, I really like this.

Justin:                   Yeah, yeah. It’s the whole pipeline and where they’re going and where do they go next. So, let’s talk a little bit about our first goals when we came to you. We said, “Look, there are three things we really want to do. Number 1, we really want to promote engagement. We have really good comments, and people are helping each other out on the blog, and we want to further that. We want to have them more engaged and move them down the value chain, right? Second thing we want to do is, make sure that our Sites for Sale, which is now our Marketplace, is extremely visible. People know exactly where to go and engage with it, check it out, and keep coming back to it. And then the third things was, make sure that our products and our resources are readily available throughout the site.”

                                So, we had that first chat, and then you put together a goal, or I’d say a playbook, or pipeline for us to go through. Can you step us through that a little bit for our listeners so they can have an idea on the process we used?

Andy:                    Yeah. So, I think it really starts with asking good questions, and so some of the questions I was trying to get out from you were, “Who are you trying to attract with this site? What’s the level of sophistication and knowledge of these people who want to build an empire?” And, I think it’s really important. I’m sure people are thinking, “Okay. Well, I know that. I know that.” Well, I’m gonna stop for a second and make sure, and check in, that you do. Because it’s really, really important to think about that. Who do you cater to?

Justin:                   Yeah, I thought that was interesting. You mentioned that, and then we said, “Well, some of our people are new to Internet marketing or building sites, so we definitely want to support them. But a lot of our listeners, and readers, and stuff, are also the crowd that has been burned by a ton of e-books, or products, or whatever, and they’re sick of the fake guru hype crap. And so, that’s one of the reasons that it’s nice, because we’re talking about our actual, real business. And the third group are people that are business owners that are building life-style businesses, or already have an established life-style business, and are looking to connect with other people that are doing the same.”

                                So, we had a pretty good understanding of our market. And then, what I loved about what you did was, you actually said, “Give me some readers, give me some listeners, let me reach out to them and get real, honest feedback.” That was awesome, man.

Andy:                    Yeah. And so, did you notice, one of the things I asked readers, was the same things I asked you. So, I asked you, “What kinds of things are important on this site?” So, you told me things like the podcast, your Marketplace, but then you also talked to me about some of the products and services that are here now, that weren’t there back then.

                                So, you not prioritized, but really talked through all the components and how they fit together in your mind, and then I also asked readers the same thing. I said, “Hey guys, when you come to this site, what are you here for, and we do you keep coming back?”

                                And to compare those was really interesting. I mean, everyone has their own opinion, but you can definitely see some trends pretty quickly when you ask people, “Hey, if you come to my site regularly, why are you here? What are you looking for?” And that’s pretty powerful.

Justin:                   It was cool to get the feedback, Andy, because, if we ask people, we get a lot of positive reinforcement, like, “Oh, I love the podcast. I love this.” But they’re not gonna tell us, or they rarely tell us the things that are, “Well, this sucks!” or “You need to fix this!” And so, having you reach out on our behalf, whatever it is that you did, worked out some magic, where they were positive, but they also gave you some stuff that was bugging them, too.

                                So, how can one of our listeners do that? Have a friend reach out? Have someone else reach out to them?

Andy:                    Well, yeah. So, I think the first thing to think about is your questions, because the questions are really important. The way you ask a question can affect the answer. And I think a lot of us, too easily, ask a really pointed question, and force someone into a corner. So, you want to be really careful about the questions that you ask, and you want to talk to them about their current behaviors. So, instead of saying, “Would you pay 99 cents for my site in an app version?” And you can picture the finger pointing. And they’re, “Uh, I think so.” You want to say, “What do you read now on your iPad?”

Justin:                   Yeah.

Andy:                    “What do you do now?” And just giving them some opportunity to give a little bit of air and make that connection before you get too specific.

Joe:                        I like that. It’s more open-ended that way and it really will lead you to the end goal without you taking them by the nose.

Andy:                    Mm-hmm (affirmative). The other thing that I did with you, which I think is really important for people to try and do, is, I asked you for different kinds of people. So, I said, “Give me someone who is very active in the comments, give me somebody that you know is a reader, but you don’t really know them, you just see their email address floating around. And maybe somebody who’s real active on social media. Because different people have different experiences, and for those trends you want to find out what different kinds of people say about the same thing or what’s different.

                                So, it’s really important to get a diverse range. If you only talk to people who are your wildest fans, you’re getting good feedback. The better feedback is getting something that’s a little more rounded.

Justin:                   Yeah. Not just the critics, because people that really hate your work, or whatever, do you really want to target your stuff toward them, but the casual reader, right? I mean, that’s pretty valuable feedback from the casual reader who has both good and negative points.

Andy:                    Yeah. I like that term “casual reader.” Someone who is engaged in your business, and knows you, but this is not like jumping over fences for you. That’s a great person.

Justin:                   So, I love the fact that you took, both, the reader feedback from fans, to casual readers, and blended that through the brief, and mixed in your own experience as far as what converts well and everything.

                                We’re actually gonna put a copy of the brief that you sent us on the podcast [inaudible 00:14:41]. You can download and take a look. It’s really cool. But guide us through that a little bit, how you mixed in your experiences with the reader feedback.

Andy:                    Well, I think me, just like any other topical expert, I have an area of expertise, but then I’m not always a customer of the client. But in this case here, a lot of the people I was talking to, do hundreds of niche sites, and do all these crazy things I don’t do. Except for me, I have to step into their shoes for a minute.

                                So, the bad part is that I’m not them. But the good part is, I’m not them. I can look for, I can spot what’s the difference here. So, that’s what I really do with the brief, and I think that’s a really powerful way to get feedback, is to take things that are based on sciences or experience, and then just what people say, right?

                                Because sometimes clients, or readers, or customers will tell you something and you really don’t know what it means. Something that bugs them and you’re, “Is that because they don’t know, or is it because it’s broken, or-” It’s good feedback, but it needs a little analysis before you decide what to do with it. Because something you don’t do anything, right? Maybe they’re just crazy, and that’s totally possible.

Justin:                   Yeah, trying to decide what the good feedback is versus the outlier feedback can be a little difficult. So, we got this brief and we implemented quite a few of the strategies. It was funny. It was months ago, I went back through shortly before this interview. I was going point by point, and I realized a ton of things we could add to get value tomorrow on our site today. So, definitely, if you’re listening to this, download that brief, take a look it’s really interesting.

                                But tell me Andy, what are two things that you think we did extremely well with the transition from AdSense Flippers to Empire Flippers. What do you think is a win?

Andy:                    Well, the first kudos for looking at your original goals, because a lot of people don’t do that. I’m probably in that case too. We’re so busy, right? We just Keep moving ahead, and sometimes it’s really great to say, “Why did we do this?” and “Did we achieve what we wanted to do?” So, kudos for that.

Justin:                   Yeah.

Andy:                    The first thing I really love about the new design is, that it’s simplified. If you guys are listening, pull up in a new window. I’m looking at the top of the page, and I also have it on my phone just to check. And it’s just so much simpler. I remember back in our first conversation, you had all the topical categories, very top-of-mind. It was at the top and it was just overwhelming. Especially for someone who is, “Hmm, I don’t know where to start, but these guys look like they know a lot and it helped me.”

                                So, I love this very simple, “Podcast,” “About” … And you have the three boxes here – Buy the Sites, Products & Services, [inaudible 00:17:19] & Resources. And it gives me time to digest that before I get down here into the categories and topics. So, much better job in organization, guys. Keeping it simple, pushing me forward towards …

                                Obviously you’re promoting things at the top that earn you money, but it’s also just the right balance of, “Start Here,” there’s some testimonials, there’s contact information. And that we also talked about just a couple of minutes ago about the whole “sleazeball factor” and are these just another scammy marketing guys? And there’s an “About” page where I can learn your story. And we talked actually a lot in some of our conversations about your story and making sure that your “About” page really incorporates that.

                                So, that’s a thing I love, for sure. You know, I think I love the name, too. I think you guys really did a nice job with the name, and moving to a new name with taking a little bit of our old branding with you and still presenting a new person.

Joe:                        Yeah, that’s interesting, Andy, because I was a little worried that we were too cartoony and that we were gonna take it a little too far, but, Justin and I said, “What the hell. We’re gonna have fun with it. We’re gonna stick with it, and we’re gonna unify all of our brands.” And some of our classic outsourcing clients are more stuffy and they’re more corporate, but we wanted to unify everything and still have a fun look.

Justin:                   Honestly, if it turns off potential outsourcing clients, because we have a somewhat cartoony logo, then they’re kind of anal, and I don’t want to do business with those guys anyway. That’s the deal, right?

Joe:                        Yeah. It’s a very good way to segment out the market, I guess.

Andy:                    Yeah. Let them self-identify. That’s what I say.

Justin:                   Yeah. Exactly. What do you think, Andy, that we didn’t do as well as you’d hoped, and you think that we could make improvements on?

Joe:                        And don’t beat us up too badly. No.

Justin:                   No, beat us up. Beat us up, buddy.

Andy:                    Yeah, you know, I was thinking about that. The one thing that I was wondering this morning when I opened up the original brief, because I was ready your note about reading it and I was, “Yeah, we really should do that.” Was the comments and trying to improve engagement. So, I’m thinking about that. I’m not sure what I want to do about that. If maybe the social media option should be a little more prominent, like here in the sidebar. Because I think, right now, they’re just in the footer. So, maybe they should be a little more prominent.

                                I think that’s also a good way for people to get a little social proof. They can go look at your Facebook page and see what you’re talking about. So, I wonder about that. So, that’s something I would think about doing.

Justin:                   One thing we talk about a lot, is played out in the comments, is that people love the podcasts, right? So, a really important thing in our brand. So, I think, probably making that more evident and having a “subscribe” button or something on the site itself. Because we talk a lot about moving people down the value chain, right? From casual reader to reader, reader to fan, that kind of thing. And the podcast really helps to do that. So, probably making that more prominent would help, I think.

Andy:                    Yeah, I think the other thing that you’re gonna want to spend some time with, is the text for your email signup, because we all know how important that is. And for you, you have chosen to focus on the free training that comes with it, but you also get updates on the podcasts, and new debates on the blog, all that kind of stuff. So, I would think about, that feels a little heavy to me on the training course text. I don’t know. It’s just something to think about.

                                I’d say, look at the numbers after a couple of weeks and see, but you have it much more prominent than before, which is good. So, I’m sure the numbers will go up, no matter what. So, the question is, how do we get them just totally optimized?

Justin:                   Cool.

Andy:                    I’m liking the priorities here, for sure.

Justin:                   We don’t want to be those, sign up for our email list and start spamming the hell out of you, and just the IME crowd. But it’s definitely not subtle. I mean, the email signup is there. But we provide enough value in the emails, that I think that it’s worth having it that prominent.

Andy:                    Yeah. I know it seems silly, but I would definitely put on this signup form the “No spam. You can unsubscribe at any time. We don’t sell your email address” text. Just because. It sets the tone for the relationship.

Justin:                   Cool. That’s something we can definitely add. So, I mean, that’s enough about Empire Flippers. We’re really excited. We got a lot more changes based on the brief, and again, definitely download that if you haven’t seen it.

                                Let’s talk a little bit more about some of the general mistakes, because you do a lot of site reviews of people, and there all different kinds of conversion strategies that you’ll use, depending on the type of site it is. So, there’s a guy I know, named John, that we were having a conversation a while back, and he told me, “It all comes down to conversions. Nothing else matters. It’s all about which converts to either subscribers or sales, or whatever, and whatever converts the most, is best.”

                                And we had a disagreement about that, because I was thinking that it’s not just about whether they sign up for your email list or even if they’re paying you the most. There’s an engagement benefit that you may lose by having this hardcore sales funnel that’s important to us, important to other readers and listeners that we have. So, what are the most common types of clients that you come up with, and are most of them hardcore sales funnels, or-?

Andy:                    Yeah. I definitely am aware of this philosophy, and I’m on your side with sometimes the slower approach is better. I mean, I think, everything on our website is a trade-off. You think about the whole Google, when they used to say, “We have a hundred and so many words on the page, and if we add anything, we have to take something away.” And I feel it’s the same way on this site. I really encourage people to have longer, more in-depth “About” pages, because people are really interested these days in learning about the people behind the company.

                                And there are other schools of thought, where it should be short and has an email signup at the end of it, and in the middle of it, and at the beginning of it. And I just think that’s the wrong place to have that conversation. It’s like, “Hi, it’s nice to meet you. Sign up for my email.” You wouldn’t have that conversation in a bar.

Justin:                   Yeah. I think our first “About” page on AdSense Flippers was that way. It was a little “high markety,” like the first paragraph, and then “sign up for our email list.” And I thought that was a little overbearing, and not really who we were either, right? That’s not really what we’re all about.

                                One thing that has changed significantly since we started our outsourcing company, we thought it was better to be this organization and not be that personal on your site. And what we’re finding, we’ve done a 180 on that. Being personal on your site and pushing your own personality and flavor into your brand. Even B2B stuff, as much as you can, is critical. Right, Joe?

Joe:                        Yeah, and I would say, being open and even the painful stuff. When we’ve released that, we’ve talked about that, that’s been some of our most popular content. So, I think we should continue to do more about that. But what do you say, Andy, about putting your own personality into things. I mean, what’s your take on it?

Andy:                    I think it’s crucial. It’s a must-have for me. It’s a must-have. You know, most of my clients are people who don’t have a $1M marketing, branding budget. So, I don’t work with Target.

Joe:                        Yeah.

Andy:                    They don’t need me. They’re good. So, I’m working with people who really have to work hard for each and every single little person that comes along, right, to do the best job they can to show them what they can do and what they’re about. So, it’s really important. And if you asked me the two most common mistakes I see in audits, and something I talk about in every website critique that I do, every critique, it’s the copy and the organization.

                                So, the copy, the text, the language. How do you speak to me? How do you talk to me? What do you choose to tell me, tells me a lot about you and what you do. Here’s a good example – Groupon. That cat at the end of the deals that talks about some weird-ass crap that doesn’t make any sense?

Justin:                   Yeah.

Andy:                    That totally tells you a lot about Groupon, right? They’re kind of fun and they’re a little quirky, and maybe almost too weird. But maybe you’re cool with it and maybe it turned you off. And they know that. So, that’s why they do it.

                                And then the other things, like the organization. What do you prioritize? I said that was us. You had all these categories and it was just overwhelming. And now, it’s very smooth. So, your priority is, pulling people in slowly, who maybe don’t have the sophistication of knowledge that they’d like to have. So, you’re very in touch with that, which is important.

Justin:                   So, Andy, what would you tell … Because I get this a bit. We talk to the people that do B2B sales and stuff, what do you tell them, and they’re like, “No, I need to have a really corporate look. It needs to be kind of plain and vanilla.” What’s your argument to that?

Andy:                    So, I run a magazine. So, I deal with media buyers a lot, and so I know that they’re very busy. They get way too many emails. They’re annoyed. They’re cranky. Yeah, this is a lot of these B2B people, this is the kind of person you’re dealing with. So, you need something that stands out. So, the first priority is, that you have your language really clear, so I know exactly what you do and how do I work with you in just seconds, right? Really simple, straight forward stuff.

                                But then, “Hey, give me a little bit of personality.” Right? If you do luxury goods, I’m expecting something to make me smile, to make me feel good. “Oh, that’s a really interesting color. Wow! They’re really topical.” Or, if you sell, I don’t know, watches, maybe you have a lot of interesting stories, or something. I feel people say, “Oh, a boring site works better. We tried something and it didn’t work.” Well, did you find out why it didn’t work? Did you give it time to work? Or did the first person you talk to not like it and you took it down?

Justin:                   That’s so funny, Andy, because I definitely want an authority site. Design, having it look good, and having good engagements with clients, and stuff, is really important. We found that with niche sites, right? People just go in there, click on the ads. The crappy designs work better. And I really wish that weren’t true. I wish better-looking sites converted better.

Joe:                        Yeah, and I read and article today that talked about the difference between bad design and crappy design. Bad design is actually bad, crappy design is crappy intentionally, right? Because you want people to click on the ads, you want people to get off the site, kind of thing.

Justin:                   That’s funny, Joe, I read something that was talking about sites that look like they’re built in 2004 today, and one of the reasons that can be good is, it makes them look old and credible. Because they’ve been around for a long time, and it’s not the best design, but this is someone who’s been on the Internet forever. So, if there’s some value in looking that way, sometimes having those old-school designs are helpful.

Joe:                        What do you think about those tricks, Andy?

Andy:                    It’s true. I have data that does agree with that, that the older Web 1.0, with the Comic Sans,-

Justin:                   Yeah.

Andy:                    …you get good numbers for that, and I think, it all depends on what you’re doing. Right? So, if you’re a fashion designer, I don’t think I want to work with you if your website design is 20 years old, because maybe your fashion’s are like that, too.

Justin:                   Yeah.

Andy:                    But yeah, for these niche sites, I’m with you. I wish that wasn’t true, but it is true. I think, part of it is, it’s very easy to make a site a little too slick, it feels a little to polished, and with these older sites, I think, people let their guard down a little bit. We’re not so ad-blind, we have our fists up, ready for the punches. I mean, I think that’s what’s going on. It’s really interesting.

Justin:                   So, okay.

Andy:                    I wish it were not quite like that, but yeah.

Justin:                   So, we recently added productized services to our site, Empire Flippers. And one of the reasons we came to that conclusion was, we had a lot of people asking for it. So, they asked for this, this, and that. And right now we tell them ‘no’ and we’re not taking money. And, stupid us, we’re, “Oh my God! We should take their money for that. They’re wanting to give it to us, we might as well create products.”

                                I noticed, I was at, and you’ve taken some of your services and turned them into priced products, too. Why did you head down that route and how did you determine the products that you created?

Andy:                    Well, it’s more efficient, isn’t it? And I think by having a productized service, it forces you to have templates, procedures, questionnaires, etc. It’s a time thing, right? Especially for those of us who trade money for time, which is nothing wrong with, you can get into a real suck. So, you have to avoid that by making the processes as efficient as possible. So, I think that’s really the key to it.

                                How do you choose? I started with my critique. I found my critique … I’ve been doing this for quite a long time, more than I’d like to believe. But, so, when people sign up for a critique, I give them this questionnaire right away. It’s just goes “Bam!” out to them. The payment page takes them to this thing. So, they can get started.

                                I have a few other things. I work with people writing their “About” pages and media kits, and etc., and it took me a while, and I’m still tweaking with them. And so, what I do is, just pay really close attention to what people ask for. I call myself a producer. I say, “This is my area of expertise, but please, if you have interesting projects, bring them to me.” And so, my clients do.

                                And I’ve done some projects and I think, “Hmm, I don’t want to do that anymore.” or, “That was fun, but I don’t want to do that again. That’s not for me. That’s not my expertise, or not profitable, or I didn’t charge enough.” So, I think, once you do everything a couple of times, you can start to see what floats to the top. I’m sure, for these packages that you have now, you’ve done them before, right? So, you have a really good handle on if they’re profitable. Do you actually like to do them? Can someone one the team do it, etc.?

Joe:                        Yeah, I mean, these were all stuff that we were doing intentionally. So, now it was just a matter of, how do we explain that to other customers? And most of it were just no-brainers. I mean, people have been asking for it for years anyway, but I love the structure of it, because it allows you to see what people want and what people don’t. Like we were saying, and then, what’s profitable for you and what’s not? And I’m sure we have products and services today, that we may not offer in the future, or that we may have to adjust the price to, or we may have to slightly adjust the offering to make it more valuable to the customer.

                                But, when you have a product, when you have a set hamburger that you’re selling, if you’re just gonna put sesames on the bun and then you sell more hamburgers, it makes it really easy.

Justin:                   Andy was right on when he said that you can have a set standard of procedures of how you go about each different product, and it’s hard to do that when you’re in the service business, because everything is custom. So, we’ve run into that a lot with our outsourcing clients. We’ve had to be very choosy on the projects we take on, because otherwise it’s all this custom, trying to figure out how we’re gonna work with their process.

                                I want to go back really quick, Andy. You said, there’s nothing wrong with trading dollars and hours, right? And it’s funny, because a lot of lifestyle designers have the idea that, “Oh, my God. You should never trade your time for dollars. That’s horrible. You should be building a business that’s completely automated and the hockey stick-kind of curve.” And I see so many people doing that, and not actually making that much money, that they need to go spend their time making dollars. You know what I mean?

Andy:                    Yeah, yeah. I speak from experience when I say that. I guess I have the benefit, before I worked for myself, I worked for a big software company as a hired hand. So, I’m very good at being a consultant, because that’s what I did for a decade. But then I have niche sites, and I know the hustle about trying to build and ad line, building out e-books, etc.

                                And well, okay, I came from a world where I made a lot of money. And so, making $1.60 per e-book, I’m not in love with that model. Let’s put it that way. But I like the balance, because I find this work interesting and it gives me an outlet to write and be creative, and yet, I pad the bottom line with this other work I also enjoy, and I’m happy to give people my time for a lot of money. So, for me it’s a balance. It’s a balance.

Justin:                   Yeah, I think it’s nice to balance. And then, when you’re also trading your hours for dollars, you’re also in the thick of it, right? You’re seeing what problems people have, you’re solving them, you’re getting paid to figure things out, and I really think it’s a great way to work.

                                Let’s talk about what kind of problems are you running into with your clients? What are some of their major issues with their sites? Or what are they bringing you right now that you’re helping them fix?

Andy:                    I feel like a lot of people are just over it with technology. I have so many clients who are really busy and very successful, and then their email farms don’t work and they’re driving me nuts trying to find people who can help them. So, even myself, from being a software guy. I don’t have much problem with technology, but even this morning, when we were prepping for the call, I was, “Oh, my God! Why is this so complicated? It’s way too early to be dealing with all these settings.” So, it’s really easy to get overwhelmed. So, there’s a business idea for somebody. Really smart tech support for people who have websites that drive them nuts.

                                The other thing, too, is, I find clients have a hard time getting out of their own head. And so, let me unpackage that bit. So, you know your business better than anybody else. And you know your products, you know your services, you know your packages, you obviously know your “About” story, because it’s about you. But sometimes we get so wrapped up in that, that we forget to think about our client, and maybe our clients have moved on, or the world has changed now that we have this very interesting economic era. So, what’s in their head and how is all this landing for them, and are you making sure that you’re using the right language to talk to them.

                                So, I think that’s a huge part of the benefit of working with somebody else, even for a short period of time, is to say, “Hey, I’m so heads down with what I’ve been doing, how is this landing for somebody who has no attachment?”

Justin:                   Yeah. Especially, if you’re talking to someone outside of your niche, and it’s their first time to the site, you need to speak their language. I’ve seen some of the people that talk about niche sites, or they run their blogs, and they’re saying, “SEOV,” which is a market samurai term, “My SEOV was this and I did this,” and someone new to our site is going to have no idea what you’re talking about.

Joe:                        Yeah. That’s why I think Masterminds and having another set of eyes, like Andy is saying, where you have colleagues and friends, you know, someone that you work with closely to look this thing over and go, “We’re you coming from here?” And that’s pretty important when you’re putting original content up on the web.

Justin:                   Alright, Andy. Really quick. What’s a plug? I know,, people can go to, and we’re gonna link See Up in the show notes. Where else you hang out?

Andy:                    I’m a big Twitter guy. I’ve been on Twitter since it started. AndrewGHayes. So, if you want to talk to me, that’s a good place to start.

Justin:                   Cool, man. Well, I really appreciate it. Last point we have is, we want to cover your niche business idea. We do this part of the show every week, and we like to highlight things that you just haven’t gotten around to doing that’s been a bee in your bonnet, or there’s a pain point where you’re, “God, I wish someone would fix this for me.”

Joe:                        You mentioned luxury tech support, and maybe you could expand on that.

Andy:                    Oh, yeah. I have a couple of ideas for you. So, yes. So, tech support. There’s good WordPress hosting now, like Zippy Kid and WordPress Engine, and I love that, because it’s-

Justin:                   Yeah, we’re using WP Engine now.

Andy:                    I love WP Engine. I’m using Zippy Kid for some things, too, and they do a great job. Nice guys. So, those are two things to think about. So, I like the hosting. I love that kind of model for tech stuff. Like, “I kind of need this little thing done.” We have all these “little things,” right? And they end up being 10 hours of work when nobody has time to do it.

Justin:                   It’s funny. We talk about WP Engine, or whatever, and I compare them to the “Soup Nazi” from-

Joe:                        Seinfeld.

Justin:                   …Seinfeld. So yeah, you go to them and they’re like, “Okay. We’re gonna charge you more money, we’re gonna be restrictive on what we allow you to do,” right, “No soup for you!” But they’re fast. They’re lightning fast, and their support is phenomenal. So yeah, more services like that would be pretty cool.

                                Are you familiar with

Andy:                    No. Should I be?

Justin:                   So, they do some of this. They started off just doing WordPress type of things, where basically, if you come to them and you ask for a bunch of stuff to be done to your site, they’ll do tweaks, right? So, for every tweak you pay 39 bucks, or whatever, and you give them your scope, or just what you want done, and they’ll tell you how many tweaks it takes, and how many tweaks each thing is. Really cool service. I love what they’re doing over there. It’s worth checking out.

Joe:                        Yeah. I think it would be great for your opt-in box guy problem. So, that’s something where they could say, “Okay, you have 25 opt-in boxes across your 100 pages on your site, for 2.50 a box, we’ll go in and fix them.

Andy:                    Mm-hmm (affirmative). Nice. The other thing, too, I’m jealous of you guys, you have all these really cool Masterminds in South East Asia. I want something like a Mastermind dating site. There’s a founders dating, or founders something. I would just love something in between LinkedIn and MeetUp that was just … I don’t know. I love Masterminds and I have one I’ve been in for a while, but I feel I could use something fresh. And I always see these things and they’re always not in Portland, and I’m, “But everyone’s in Portland. Why aren’t there cool Masterminds here?” So, I don’t know. Something like that would be cool.

Justin:                   Yeah, what’s that site for entrepreneurs that are traveling and are hosting? You can go live at their place. I have to look that up afterwards.

Andy:                    Oh, couch surfing, or? Oh, I know. Yeah.

Justin:                   It’s like couch surfing, but for start ups.

Andy:                    Yeah.

Justin:                   So, they moved to a paid model, or whatever, but anyway, it’s called Start Up Stay, and they have places all through the U.S., all through South East Asia, and you can hook up with other start ups in Cebu, in Bangkok, in Chiang Mai, and go there and stay with them, and put your laptops together and knock some stuff out. That’s cool, but it’s not really what you’re asking for with the Mastermind.

Joe:                        Yeah, that’s an interesting idea. It would definitely take a lot of elbow grease, but I could see it being very popular if done correctly.

Justin:                   Anyway, Andy. It’s been fantastic having you on the show. I really appreciate it. Make sure you check him out at And thanks for your time, man.

Andy:                    Thanks, guys.

Joe:                        Bye-bye now.

Male:                    You’re listening to the Empire Flippers podcast with Justin and Joe.

Justin:                   So, let’s get into our tips, tricks, and our plans for the future.

Male:                    The Empire Flippers podcast.

Justin:                   Alright, man. So, I got to ask you about this. This is a really funny one. So, in previous weeks, right, I’d mentioned Evernote, or you gave, I swear to God, like-

Joe:                        Pocket, and-

Justin:                   …three alternatives to Evernote. You didn’t want to go with it. And your tip this week is?

Joe:                        Skitch.

Justin:                   Skitch from Evernote.

Joe:                        From Evernote, yeah. I got the Mac here and I was trying to take screenshots using an extension for Chrome that I’ve used for a long time, and it wasn’t working right. And a friend of mine, Mark Brennwall actually recommended Skitch, and I tried it out. And you know what? It’s super cool. It makes annotating, screenshots, and all kinds of crazy screenshots really, really easy.

Justin:                   But it looks sexy, right?

Joe:                        And it makes it sexy, because you can use shadowing and all this kind of stuff without having to fire up Photoshop and blur stuff and do all this kind of advanced photo editing. So, it does it all right in one program. And it’s from Evernote. It forces you to make an Evernote account before you can use Skitch. So, once you get it you’ll start saying, “Well, maybe I should try out Evernote” and I tried out Evernote and yeah, I mean, it’s a lot more powerful than Pocket and some other note programs and all this other stuff. I mean, there’s just not reason to have it all like that. You just consolidate it all into one and make it easier.

                                So, yes. My tip for the week is Skitch. And yes, I caved. I’m an Evernote fan now, too.

Justin:                   Skitch from Evernote. I just point that out. No, no. It is really good, man, and the funny thing is, I get beat up all the time, because I don’t have the paid version of Evernote. And they’re like, “Why not? It’s not syncing.” And I was like, “I don’t know. It kind of works.” I I don’t know. I’m gonna go paid, I’m sure of it, but-.

                                Anyway, that’s it for Episode 42 of the Empire Flippers podcast. Thanks for being with us. Make sure to check us out on Twitter @EmpireFlippers. And we’ll see you around.

Joe:                        Bye-bye everybody.

Male:                    You’ve been listening to the Empire Flippers podcast with Justin and Joe. Be sure to hit up for more. That’s Thanks for listening.



  • ilias diamantis says:

    Hi guys !

    You are sooooo right. It’s difficult to find good feedback .
    People usually are saying nice things to avoid tension and to be honest not everybody can handle critique, even if it is constructive .

    cheers .

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Definitely, Ilias.

      It’s frustrating when you WANT critical feedback and all you’re getting is platitudes from people who don’t want to hurt your feelings…AARRGGHH!!

      I have some trusted friends/colleagues I turn to for some No-Bullshit feedback…that helps, heh.

    • Andy Hayes says:

      Very true. That’s why it’s important to find good friends and colleagues who will tell you when something’s wrong!

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