Conversion optimization isn’t a new idea, but companies have only been investing heavily in it for the past fifteen years. It became popular right after the dot-com bubble when competition grew and tools to read analytical data and test website variants became available.
Still today, it’s not unusual to come across someone in your organization that doesn’t understand CRO, doesn’t see much value in it, or prefers to focus on other marketing strategies.
This is especially true in smaller companies where everyone wears multiple hats. For instance, it’s not easy to convince the company’s writer to create landing page copy variants when she has other tasks on her plate every day, like churning out blog content or creating promotional materials. Occasionally you’ll run into someone who is insulted at the idea that there might be a better version of something they created.
To create the most effective CRO process, you need a culture conversion optimization, which (according to SiteSpect) is a “shift that takes place when an organization has seen numerous and measurable wins from its testing program, and as a result, has expanded experimentation beyond marketing to become part of the corporate culture.”
But creating a new culture can be challenging. We have to understand our goals, put someone in charge, and sell it to the right people.
Align Conversions with Business Goals
Hopefully your organization has clear goals written down somewhere. If your company is small, you may have to confer with the head of marketing or the CEO to determine exactly what the website is supposed to accomplish.
Often the leadership doesn’t have a clear picture of the website’s purpose. They might have vague ideas like “make sales,” “collect leads,” or “publish information about our brand.” But those are wishes, not goals. A goal is concrete and measurable.
- Make sales → Grow ecommerce sales by 20% in the next 12 months.
- Collect leads → Grow our email (with segmentation) by 100% in the next 12 months.
- Publish information → Grow article page views by 300% in the next 12 months.
Once you know exactly what you’re supposed to optimize, you’ll have a better idea of the type of testing and improvements that need to be made first. For instance, if your goal is to collect leads, then optimizing the article pages for email capture becomes most important. But if your goal is to grow ecommerce sales, optimizing product pages should be first on your list.
“Setting the right goals for your marketing optimization program is one of the most important first steps,” says conversion optimization expert Chris Goward.” He illustrates the process nicely.
Understanding the company’s goals identifies what’s important, and puts everyone on the CRO team and in the rest of the organization on the same page.
Uncover What Everyone Wants
Now that you understand the company-wide goals, we have to dig into the deeper layers. Each team or department within your organization has its own goals. They have deadlines to meet, projects to complete, metrics to improve, and they even have personal goals that aren’t mentioned in any company document.
Generally, deeper layer goals stem from the broader business goals. Marketing wants more leads collected because that’s how they’re measured. Sales wants leads qualified better so they can sell to the right people. The blog writer wants traffic steered towards their posts. The social media manager wants social buttons everywhere.
Now, you can’t make everyone happy. Don’t even try. If you’re working in a large organization, other departments many only be interested in the success of their projects, not the success of the company. (Hopefully your culture isn’t like this, but there are many companies who can’t break out of their silos.)
Sit down with the heads of other teams. Interview them about what they need from the website or application. Ask questions like…
- What are their goals?
- What do they hope to achieve?
- What do they wish happened more or happened less?
- What data do they wish they had?
- Do they know anything about the customer that you don’t?
- Have they spoken to any customers? What did the customers say?
- How do their goals serve the company goals? (This question is important because there might be a way to appease someone while still fulfilling your obligation to the company.)
In most cases, you won’t be able to satisfy everyone, but their input may be valuable.
Someone Has to Lead
Like any other department within your company, a conversion rate optimization team requires a leader. As soon as you have two people working on a project, someone has to be put in charge.
A CRO team leader needs to completely respect data. He needs to use it to understand the customer and their preferences. He needs to be able to put aside biases or “best practices” and trust the insights he gains from the data.
The team leader can’t be afraid to take some risks. The only way to learn is by risking failure. At some point, the leader will test a change that drops the conversion rate and loses money. That’s part of the process. The leader needs to accept the cost of his education and bravely try again.
The leader needs to be comfortable with new technologies. Integrating social media metrics to learn about the overall brand experience? Utilizing machine learning to use algorithms to personalize content experiences? These are the types of boundaries your leader must be willing to push.
Finally, the optimization leader must be passionate. Kevin Lindsay, head of product marketing for Adobe Target says it better than I can.
“Optimization leaders are always at the head of the class, hand in the air and ready for more, more, more. They’re diving into anything and everything, ready for whatever optimization adventures arise. […] Whether it’s discovering interesting new segments, testing offers, optimizing personalized content, or even observing results in compelling visual, easily shareable report snippets, the best of the best optimization pros relish their work — and great UX just makes them want to do more of it.”
Sell CRO with Numbers
If you have to sell conversion rate optimization to anyone in your company (maybe you need more resources or more time), it’s always best to use numbers that relate to their goals. “If you can clearly demonstrate how increased conversions will boost the bottom dollar, you may have just sold your CRO services,” says digital marketing strategist Angela Stringfellow.
For instance, let’s say you wanted to convince your head of marketing that spending more resources on conversion rate optimization would make the company more money than expanding the product line. Instead of saying “Jim, CRO will make us more money,” say something like “Jim, I’m confident we can increase conversions by 4% in the next year across all products, which is $400,000 more than the salary of the data analyst I want to hire.”
At the end of the day, Jim’s purpose is to make more money. If you can show him how his goals can be met, you’ll face little resistance.
I know what you’re thinking. Doesn’t phrasing like that hold you accountable to a 4% increase? Yes it does, so be reasonable and comfortable with your goals.
If you can get a few quick positive changes, you’ll create your culture of conversion optimization and put everyone on the same page. When the designer resists creating multiple versions of the same banner, show him how you worked with the copywriter to improve a landing page. Reassure him that he’ll be able to claim credit for the effectiveness of the best banner.
Do this all around your organization and eventually you’ll have all the support you need.