How Brennan Dunn Increased Sales by 70% Using Website Personalization

Brennan Dunn increased sales for "Double Your Freelancing Rate" by 70% using website personalization, then spun his success into a fast-growing SaaS startup. Read how he did it!

RightMessage Web site Personalization

A decade before launching RightMessage, a platform that allows companies to personalize the content on their website per visitor, Brennan Dunn learned the positive impact of personalization in sales.

This was during his first job working for a call center selling vacation packages. Like most phone sales newbies, Brennan read off a script: asking about people’s family, where they’re from, and so on. And when the consumer seemed ready to buy, Brennan would hand off the call to one of the managers standing by who was “really good at closing the deal.”

Almost everyone turned over the calls to closers except for a few call center veterans that had learned how to work off-script. “They knew the pitch, they knew the script. They modified heavily by asking people questions and looking at how they’re behaving, trying to figure out—just by how they talked—what their demographic might be, what their income level might be, and so on. And they did really well,” Brennan told us in a recent phone interview.

It cemented the importance of personalizing a sale in Brennan’s mind: scripts don’t close sales.

In the ten years that followed, Brennan ran his own design firm, created and sold a project management tool, founded a freelancers coaching business, as well as his new startup, RightMessage. Through it all, he’s maintained an enthusiasm about “going off-script” that has directly led to the success of many of his ventures. For example:

  • He used personalization tactics (we’ll discuss below) to increase the sales of his coaching business, Double Your Freelancing, by 70%.
  • Ten companies invested in an annual plan based off of his minimum viable product (MVP) alone.

In this article, we’ll let you in on Brennan’s secrets not only in personalizing website content, but also how how he bucked the norms when finding funding and partnerships, and the unique packages he used for RightMessage’s earliest paying customers.

(Note: Personalizing your web site starts with understanding who is actually visiting your web site and what brought them there. Create a web site feedback survey with Fieldboom to find out. Try it free.)

1) Website Personalization

Double Your Freelancing offers online courses to help freelancers of all backgrounds learn how to grow their business. From the get-go, Brennan hacked his WordPress template with some simple JavaScript checks to see if someone was already a subscriber to his site. He created two different landing pages based on what the JavaScript came back with.

JavaScript functions change based on the user

Then, he had a lightbulb moment that led to more complicated personalization strategies based on what content people had viewed, their referrals, etc.

His most profitable course was (and still is) “How to Double Your Freelancing Rate.” He got an email from a copywriter who asked whether the course would work for her.

“She was looking over the sales page, and a lot of the examples I gave and the language used in the testimonials were people who were web developers and designers. And she was like, ‘Can this actually help me?’”

Although the course was designed to work for any freelancer, Brennan’s background was in web development, so the people he initially attracted were other developers, and much of the language he used was developer-centric.

He was able to convince her over the phone that the course was “industry-agnostic,” and that she should sign up. “But I knew that if she had that question and took the time to write in, there’s probably a lot more people who thought that and closed the tab and left.”

The majority of people signed up for the paid course via a free email course he set up as a lead magnet.  “What if … when they join the course, instead of just asking them for their email address, why don’t I ask them what kind of work they do? And then, if they are a copywriter like this person, when they get to my sales page, make it so they see copywriter testimonials and language about copywriting.”

Brennan built a WordPress plugin that tied into his email provider at the time, InfusionSoft. He tagged subscribers via their industry, as well as what courses they’d already gone through. If they’d watched one course, show the next. If they were designers, developers, copywriters, etc — show related copy and testimonials.

Brennan's WordPress Plugin

(Note: Personalizing your web site starts with understanding who is actually visiting your web site and what brought them there. Create a web site feedback survey with Fieldboom to find out. Try it free.)

Different industries use different verbiage.

Brennan found it extremely useful to modify the verbiage on his site to show specialized terms specific to an industry.

“Designers use the word fee, but developers used the word rate and copywriters and marketers use the word budget … They all mean the same thing, but they use different language to describe it. And I knew that if I could just do some swapping out of words, it would probably make it seem like, ‘Hey, this site is all about how copywriters can better close proposals.’ It’s niche to that on the fly because you are probably a copywriter or you’ve told me you’re one and you’re behaving in a way that says if you’re reading articles about proposals, you probably have a proposal problem.”

Marketing Takeaway #1: Brennan figured out that people use different languages in different industries by running a web design firm that targeted multiple industries and also by simply asking his customers to describe their goals. Whenever possible, ask customers to describe what they want and make a note of what differences you find.

“People want to buy the product or service that’s meant just for them. And by seeing people like you as testimonials, by hearing language that appeals directly to you, you’re more likely to buy the thing,” he explained.

Site Customization Suggestions

Marketing Takeaway #2: “People behave in certain ways that tell you a lot about what they want from you,” according to Brennan. How can you capitalize on this? Why use static site copy and CTAs when customers have different goals or when customers from different industries use different language? How can you personalize your message? Start with separate landing pages and separate newsletters per persona.

By personalizing the emails and sales page, Brennan increased sales by 70%. He increased overall opt-ins by 250% by dynamically creating opt-in banners based on things like user behavior and site referrals.

And if these changes were working so well for him, surely they would work for other businesses, as well. This led to Brennan creating RightMessage. But, even then, his personalization strategy wasn’t just found in his product.

2) Don’t Just Raise Money, Create Strategic Partnerships

By the time Brennan had a minimum viable product (MVP), he created initial interest in his product in two ways.

(1) By offering courses on how to automate and personalize your business. He offered free and paid courses via his Double Your Freelancing email list and at conferences.

(2) By tweeting about how he increased his own sales and opt-ins on Double Your Freelancing. Some larger businesses paid attention. “They were thinking, ‘Here are some things that you just shared in a tweetstorm about how you increased opt-ins by 20 percent or something relatively quickly or whatever. If that happened for us, that would be like millions of dollars a year in added revenue.’”

Initially, this led to some contracting gigs. And, a few of these companies signed on as early customers of his software.

He sold ten “early access program plans.” These were $600 annual plans to companies interested in guiding the development of product.

Brennan was able to use these ten early customers as leverage to raise an additional $500,000 in pre-launch funding. This funding came primarily from two sources. One of these early access customers wanted the product developed faster and invested over their $600 plan.

Brennan also solicited funds from email marketing apps that he wanted to integrate with — many of whom were already friends. They helped fund the development of RightMessage because they believed it would offer value for their customers.

The main thing wasn’t the funding. He was building partnerships.

He considers these early customers and other funders “strategic partnerships” with “people that were influential and had the right connections and could ultimately help us out strategically and in a really good way.”

Marketing Takeaway #3: Instead of raising money from anonymous or indifferent investors, seek out collaborations that will add value to your product. What platforms could benefit from integrating with your software? What companies could benefit from influencing the creation of key features?

Software Dripservices convertkit

3) Customize the experience of your early customers

Once Brennan had a more fully-developed product and was ready to release it to the general public, he started out offering only annual plans that included “concierge services,” including set-up from his team. They helped with content migration, as well as creating the right segmentations.

“Everyone on our team now had experience with: Here’s the problem somebody brought to the table, here’s why they were willing to pay 800-plus dollars upfront to get that fixed, and here’s how we went about solving the problem.”

This led to creating better software. In addition: “It enabled everyone on the team to really understand why people were spending their money and time on us.”

These early buyers weren’t just customers, they became RightMessage user test subjects and investors.

4) Tailor offers to new customers via their goals

An initial problem marketing RightMessage wasn’t that people didn’t see the value in the product, but they didn’t know where to start, or they believed it would take an entire quarter to get up-and-running.

Instead of forcing customers to start from scratch, they now offer project “recipes” based on a customer’s goals. “You have all these recipes like ‘I want to change the content based on what industry somebody said’ or ‘When affiliates send traffic to my site, I want to greet them differently’. Or things like ‘I want to change the call to actions on my blog based on where somebody is in my funnel.’”

Website Personalization based on the user coming to the site

They now offer conversion data from existing customers attached to each recipe. The recipes offer companies a personalization strategy with data to back it up.

Marketing Takeaway #4: If you’re interested in personalizing your product offerings, you can do more than just offer a tiered payment structure with more benefits for bigger budgets. By grouping offerings via industry or customer goals, you’re able to more uniquely touch on the desires and needs of each customer. Bonus points if you are able to show statistics per offering.

How Can You Go Off-Script?

Step one: personalize your site

Compare Brennan’s site to the multitude of other SaaS websites out there and you’ll notice something.

Brennan’s site acts like those two salespeople from his call center job long ago.

It tailors its message based on cues from the customer.

“My thesis is that most websites are monologues that are saying the same thing to everyone. The really good salespeople are not doing that,” Brennan said.

Is it any wonder that it makes more money as a result?

Sales people know how to tailor a one-on-one conversation. How can you make your website feel more like that one-one-one conversation?

Step two: go off-script with your sales and marketing strategies

What other scripts have you internalized, such as:

  • Use the same elevator pitch to attract investors or bootstrap using an MVP.
  • Set up free trials, then offer monthly plans.

Instead of sticking with the same sales and marketing script used by so many startups and other businesses, Brennan turned customers and funders into partners.

How can you do the same by creating unique offerings and partnerships that buck the norms and create customer loyalty from the very start?

“My thesis is that most websites are monologues that are saying the same thing to everyone. The really good salespeople are not doing that, Brennan said.

(Note: Personalizing your web site starts with understanding who is actually visiting your web site and what brought them there. Create a web site feedback survey with Fieldboom to find out. Try it free.)

EJ left a career in UX/UI to write full-time. She believes in user-centered design and advocating for diversity in the tech field. Follow EJ on Twitter @whatiwritewith