Laura Bony has spent over 6 years in the fields of global business development and direct sales strategy. Currently, she is the Head of Sales for the North American office of Oncrawl.
What is Oncrawl, and what does Laura Bony do there? Oncrawl is a “SaaS data-driven SEO crawler and logs analyzer for enterprise SEO.” For her task as North American Head of Sales, Laura helps the company drive business in the region.
At Oncrawl, Laura Bony fulfills a lot of responsibilities. She helps manage and scale the sales function; develop a sales pipeline with a framework for forecasting and reporting; build, assemble, and energize a highly capable and skilled team; set and achieve performance objectives; provide regular and honest feedback and assessments on team achievements.
With her help, Laury Bony and Oncrawl have secured great success in the industry. In 2019, the company won the Best Search Software Tool prize at the European Search Awards, for the third straight year. Oncrawl also won the same prize at the US Search Awards. Another award the company received in 2019 is the Best Search Software Suit prize at the MENA Search Awards. Finally, Oncrawl also became a finalist for the Best SEO Platform at the Martech Awards.
Currently, Laura Bony helps Oncrawl deliver solutions to over 1000 clients.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Laura Bony: Thank you very much for having me! I’ve been working at OnCrawl for 4 years. I actually opened OnCrawl’s office in Montreal in 2017. Before OnCrawl, I was doing international consulting for companies willing to grow their business (including online) in North America. But it’s at OnCrawl that my focus really shifted to ecommerce and I’m now working with +200 ecommerce companies across the US and Canada.
Besides my day job, I’m a yoga teacher and globetrotter. I was born in France, raised between Europe and the Carribean, and I briefly lived in China before immigrating to Canada.
These personal and professional experiences have helped me develop empathy and resilience. These are values I believe are essential in a corporate setting. So when OnCrawl offered me to start their business in North America, it sounded like the perfect fit.
Jerome Knyszewski: What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Laura Bony: At the very beginning, OnCrawl was built to meet the needs of the biggest ecommerce company in France, CDiscount. Our client was looking for a strong and a cost-efficient crawler to discover their entire website (+100 millions pages). They also needed a lot of advanced SEO metrics, such as near duplicate content detection, page rank, link equity, etc. François Goube, our CEO, was an SEO pioneer in France and he partnered with Tanguy Moal, our CTO, one of the strongest engineers in Europe, to create OnCrawl. CDiscount is still one of our most loyal clients today, and ever since they first gave us a chance back in 2013, we have never stopped growing.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Laura Bony: I can’t speak on behalf of François and Tanguy about their entrepreneurship journey, but I can share my personal experience with launching our activities in North America from scratch.
When I first started, we had near to zero business in North America. We didn’t have our own office. We didn’t have a local team… So I faced a lot of difficulties, like any new business.
I quickly managed to win deals with companies that I’m still working with today (Forbes, Vistaprint, Major League Baseball). But my biggest challenge was management. I thought I was good with people because I’m pretty successful at building relationships, which is 90% of my job as a Head of Sales. However, managing a team is obviously a totally different thing.
I never considered giving up. I grew up instead. I’ve learned to continually ask myself what I should do differently to make sure my team is successful:
1- Thinking in terms of goals (short and long terms; individually and collectively), and making them clear enough so your team will do what they have to do to reach them
2- Having first-class onboarding, to make sure people can deliver quick and well
3- Identifying your own patterns and biases to take objective decisions, be more business-oriented than ego-oriented
Nothing drives me more than seeing people thriving at work. It’s a win-win-win deal, for my team, our customers and our business.
Jerome Knyszewski: So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Laura Bony: After 4 years of activity, we do more than 30% of our business in North America, with a team of 6 people.
We’re pretty proud of what we’ve achieved so far. but it’s during times of crisis that we see — for better or for worse — if we’re truly successful: we’ll be recording growth again this year, despite the circumstances, without letting go of anyone and while keeping our churn rate under 10%.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Laura Bony: I like to share the story of my very first client demo, only two weeks after I started at OnCrawl. I did my onboarding at OnCrawl’s headquarters in France before coming back to Montreal to start doing the job I was hired for. One of my first client meetings was with a good-sized American company which was already nerve-wracking in itself. On top of that, back in the day, I knew very little about SEO, while my target audience was exactly SEO experts. My sales pitch wasn’t quite ready either and my English was kind of shaky. I didn’t give up however. I showed up to the meeting, did my pitch and tried to respond to the company’s concerns the best I could. And this company is still one of my clients today!
The lesson I learned from that experience is that you have to be bold sometimes. No one can blame you for trying.
I think the reason I enjoy working with OnCrawl so much is because I have the opportunity to try, learn from my mistakes and gain self-confidence. I continued to be bold and that’s how I won my best deals so far.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?
Laura Bony: In my opinion, an emerging ecommerce brand needs at least 5 type of tools:
- A good CMS: Before starting your activity as an ecommerce brand, the first step is to build an appealing website with several options such as inventory management or secured money transfer. Tools like Shopify or BigCommerce allow you to easily build your website. A good host (OVH, AWS…) is also important to consider because the website performances will depend on it.
- Analytics: The ability to analyze the performance is essential in order to understand where your traffic and conversion channels stand and to constantly monitor the website’s health. Tools you will absolutely need are Google Analytics and Google Search Console, at the very least (plus, they are free).
- SEO & Keywords tools: In order for future customers to find you, your site must be visible to search engines. So you must think about search engine optimization and a keywords strategy. You can use tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush to identify the keywords that are most relevant to your website and that will bring the most revenue. For technical SEO optimization (internal linking, content, status codes, load time…) I’d suggest OnCrawl or ScreamingFrog.
- Marketing tool: There are hundreds of marketing tools out there and it can sometimes be difficult to find your way around. Some tools are, however, necessary to improve your visibility. A few particular ones that come to mind are Buffer, which helps you organize your publications on social networks, and MailChimp, to customize your email templates. To go further with marketing automation, you could look at Hubspot or Marketo.
- Business tool: Who doesn’t need a good old CRM? CRM is critical for contact database management. There are many tools out there, from Close.io to SalesForce.
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?
Laura Bony: The average conversion rate across industries is between 1% to 2%. We talked about it earlier and there are some basics to maintain the average conversion rate: having an optimized navigation, the right design, creating content that builds trust… There are a few tips we can add on top of that:
- Limit distractions on the website and make sure you have a clear call to action
- Try different offers, limited coupon codes, discount and free shipping
- Offer a live customer support through chat box, and develop an actual strategy around that, so that customers don’t have to leave the website if they have questions or concerns
- Add customer reviews on product pages (and use incentives so that customers leave review after their purchase)
- Use remarketing campaigns for prospects who haven’t converted yet, using social media, display on the website, email or ads.
Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Laura Bony: To me, there are three main factors to consider to build trust around your brand:
- Security: A trusted ecommerce brand must be at the forefront of site security. Secured payments and data protection must be the top priority of emerchants.
- Transparency: This can be as simple as adding an actual address on the website, and working on the “about” section.
- Affirm your style and tell your story: For your users to like your brand. You need to stand out from thousands of other brands and assert a style that your users can relate to.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business? Please share a story or an example for each.
Laura Bony: We discussed many different ecommerce tips in this interview, and at this point I’d like to share 5 success stories, along with their success factors, that impressed me the most:
- Disruptive model: I think that every entrepreneur has dreamed at least once of creating a business from an idea that did not exist or to solve an unresolved problem. That’s what Chegg, the ‘Netflix for textbooks’ did, with the difference that they found success from a very old school industry: book rental. On top of that disruptive idea, they added another ingredient to their recipe for success: niche. Instead of targeting the general book rental industry, they’re focusing on students’ needs.
- Follow the trends (and your heart): I’ve been recently introduced to Faire.com and I was impressed by the quality of their website at first sight. Then I’ve been reading a lot about them and I think that one of their key success factors was to take the shop local wave but adding their own vision to create a wholesale marketplace for local products. Faire.com was not created in one day and the founders worked a lot on their idea. According to Max Rhodes, Co-Founder: “Once you’ve found a problem you’re passionate about solving for your customers, you need to build a business around that solution.”
- Make your own (online) space: Vistaprint is another of my successful customers. I want to quote one of their blog posts, because I think it’s an important success factor and Vistaprint itself, of course, has been really good at it: “The space your business owns online is just as important as a brick-and-mortar space.” Expressing your brand online is critical so that when customers think about your products or services, they actually think about your brand.
- Be true: when I think about successful ecommerce I think about one brand in particular, Luxcey.com and its founder, Rose Gwett. Rose has a social media presence as strong as her brand, which, I think, her clients love. The cosmetics industry is extremely competitive and also difficult because customers must develop trust towards your products. Rose enhanced the trustful relationship between her and her audience by being actively present online and true to herself and her customers, which I find very powerful.
- Use SEO: I couldn’t finish this interview without talking about how important a successful SEO strategy is. Generally speaking, SEO is often underestimated because it takes time to implement and to maintain. But it does not require a lot of investment and there are many great tools, blogs or freelancers that can help you go in the right direction. We have recently released a case study about a successful SEO strategy implemented by one of our users, Carwow, who managed to increase organic traffic by more than 70% and its number of inbound leads by more than 68% in under a year, thanks to SEO actions.
I’d like to add a bonus advice here, that you probably already know but it might be good to hear it again: patience. No business is successful overnight!
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!