Conversion optimization is difficult to understand for people who don’t already get it.
Terms like SEO, content marketing, PPC, SERP, and so many analytics data, tools, plug-ins, and rules can make things really confusing.
And then you come in — maybe you’re a director of marketing or “the marketing guy” or whatever — and you’re expected to pull off an amazing feat.
You’re expected to put in place a conversion optimization plan that everyone can participate in and understand.
I know. It seems insurmountable.
It’s like running a quantum physics experiment with 27 preschoolers.
So it’s not easy; that’s a given.
But it is possible.
How exactly to implement a CRO plan that everyone understands and can participate in.
First, the big overview.
Let’s start with the conversion architecture chart. This is a general overview of what your conversion optimization plan should look like.
Any changes to web design, branding or backend databases should follow this cycle continuously to create an adaptive and responsive data-driven digital marketing plan.
When explaining the reasoning to anyone and everyone on the team, a written policy, procedure, schedule and KPI goes a long way toward showing the sales funnel and why certain tactics work.
Here are my suggestions to getting everyone on the same page.
1. Emphasize the customer-centric nature of CRO.
From the foundation up, everything about your company needs to be focused on converting and retaining customers.
Customers are at the core of this.
You may need to start at the very beginning with some team members.
For example, what is a conversion rate? That’s a question you may need to answer.
As mentioned above, various tools and analytics exist to optimize conversions, but as Peep Laja says at ConversionXL:
"Different sites have different traffic sources (and the quality of traffic makes all the difference), traffic volumes, different brand perception and different relationship with their audiences."
Everything comes down to customers.
Conversion optimization is basically the development of a high-quality web experience that’s optimized to guide customers through every step of obtaining what they need as fast as possible.
The way to accomplish this is by focusing on the customers.
Content should focus on providing what the customer wants, not what the business wants.
Every initiative should show how to provide an ROI, as quantified through established KPIs, by improving each customer’s brand affinity. However this number can only be generated with a customer-focused initiative.
No matter whom you talk to throughout the company in any department about any project, ultimately, everyone on the team should understand they’re working for the customer.
They should have a general idea of who that customer is. They should know how they’re helping customers.
With the customer as the focal point, everyone can understand the benefits of catering to them through content marketing, website optimization, social media initiatives and other marketing campaigns.
2. Involve All Departments
One of the biggest mistakes made by companies is to let departments step over each other in the pursuit of a goal.
A change that may help one department could negatively impact another, especially if they’re not ready for it.
Conversion optimization is a minefield of potential interdepartmental conflict.
Tension between uninformed teams quickly degrades the business. Teamwork is an essential component of any business plan. It keeps everyone moving and acting in the same direction.
This is where you put on your managerial hat.
Notify everyone of changes and encourage input at all levels. Don’t move forward on new initiatives until everyone is notified and understands.
It seems like a lot of red tape, but that red tape keeps things moving in a unified direction.
By proactively getting everyone’s buy-in for new projects, you avoid having to reactively correct issues found after the fact, which is a costly endeavor.
Keep in mind the conversion improvements are going to require the buy-in and activity of a lot of different people and/or departments.
Here are some of the roles or personnel that will need to be apprised and/or involved in the process:
- Content writers
- Data analysts
- Customer service reps
- Social media managers.
3. Focus on KPIs.
It doesn’t matter how well any conversion optimization initiative performs if there are no key performance indicators set to quantify it.
Here’s a visual breakdown of KPIs.
I have an in-depth breakdown of huge user experience mistakes made by e-commerce sites. Had these businesses set KPIs for everyone to understand, mistakes wouldn’t have been made in designing their sites.
Greg Linnemanstons at HubSpot lists the following marketing KPIs you should track to measure campaign effectiveness:
- Unique website visitors
- Marketing-qualified leads generated
- Sales-qualified leads generated
- Marketing event attendance by qualified prospects
- Requests for proposals by qualified prospects
- Cost per SQL
- Sales force effectiveness
- Key customer profitability
- Customer retention
- Net promoter score
- Closing rate.
Any combination (though ideally all) of these KPIs quantifies the marketing efforts being performed.
Some changes take half a second and others take weeks, but the overall optimization effect leads to more sales conversions.
KPIs should be included on the first page of any conversion optimization plan, so people know what’s expected — the big outcomes of the plan.
Clearly communicating these KPIs provides everyone with the measurements necessary to set short-term and long-term project goals.
Susan Ottmann, program director at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Engineering Professional Development has this recommendation:
"Internal metrics often include first-pass-yield, scrap and rework routinely expressed in PPM. External metrics measure warranty and service dollars along with percent returns. Quality metrics should show how well processes perform as a system, i.e., end-to-end, or individually. To ensure success, teams should be proactive when numbers begin to trend in the wrong direction. Measure and inform action as far upstream as possible."
Because data is essential to any company, establishing KPIs is a win-win situation.
Doing so allows you to set milestones and perform A/B (or split) testing.
4. Set milestones and create a split-testing calendar.
A split-testing calendar is going to become the main framework of your CRO plan.
Obviously, without split testing, you’re not doing CRO. You need many tests, the best variety of tests, and continual testing.
Continual split testing allows you to quantify changes and conversion rate changes. As Daniel Sims at Crazy Egg notes:
"Things like differences in user demographics, types of devices and daily conversion rate patterns are all examples of variation observed in A/B testing. To go from variation to variance, you need another layer of data which assigns a number to anything that can change, then measures the difference between that number and what is observed over time."
Here’s an infographic that explains the benefits of A/B testing:
The benefits of A/B testing are undeniable. Performing it properly helps to ensure that every change to a website optimizes user experience and, ultimately, customer conversions. Testing results can be used to increase customer engagement and retention, and to proactively resolve issues that impede navigation of the sales funnel.
Video game developer Electronic Arts managed to drive 50 percent of its $1.1 million in sales of SimCity 5 with results from A/B testing. The gaming giant found that a direct promotion campaign was getting in the way of conversions.
Site designers thought a promotional offer to save $20 would drive pre-orders, but once the banner was removed, sales spiked 43.4 percent.
Running the data before and after all documented content and layout changes lets you fully optimize your web property. This includes changes to shopping carts, product descriptions, menus, headers, backgrounds, blogs, terms and conditions, and even fonts.
It’s that serious. And if you’re wondering what those changes can do, check out this article on optimizing landing pages with essentialism.
So, back to that calendar.
What should it look like?
- First, write down a list of all the split tests that you would like to conduct on your site.
- Then, assign each of these tests a specific period of time on your calendar. Two to four weeks is a safe timeframe for each test. You will need to adjust this time frame as you begin to measure results and analyze your numbers.
That’s it. As long as everyone knows there’s a calendar with real tests and dates, you can keep your CRO plan moving on schedule.
5. Document your processes as you go, and create training materials.
Training and procedure manuals, job aids, and even a test environment all serve a purpose.
Regardless of how solid your staff is, eventually you’ll need to expand; people will move on and be fired, and life will happen.
How does this impact your conversion rate optimization plan?
Write it down. Explain how to do things. Discuss rules, plans, guidelines and processes.
By ensuring all processes and procedures are documented, the quality of your website doesn’t have to degrade after someone leaves, as long as the processes and procedures are followed.
Don’t suffer from these corporate training pitfalls as you document your CRO plan:
Training is the backbone of every company, every department, and every project. CRO is no different.
Without proper training, nobody will understand what to do and there will be no consistency across the company.
By creating training materials – from long manuals to online, interactive games and quick cheat sheets – you’ll be able to focus on the important pieces everyone needs to know to replicate results.
Without a documented process, businesses often find themselves struggling to replace employees once they leave. Think of it as a business continuity or risk management plan. In fact, employee training is an important criterion for employees in determining overall job satisfaction, so providing training materials can also increase employee retention.
People are always interested in growing and evolving; so taking on the expense of creating training materials and courses to assist employees is a worthy investment.
It also helps relieve employee anxiety when any routine changes are effected in the course of conversion rate optimization.
CRO requires a lot of time and continuous effort. Anything can derail these efforts.
Putting a training plan in place, and writing down your process is simply part of protecting what you’ve started.
6. Hold regular meetings to discuss the program, to analyze progress, to pivot and to work through issues.
Meetings can sometimes feel like a waste of time, but they do hold value.
As long as the meeting is focused and agenda-driven, it can be beneficial.
Such meetings give everyone an opportunity to hear everyone else’s progress and discuss any issues that have come up. In fact, here’s an infographic showing the secrets of a successful meeting:
By running regular CRO meetings, everyone will become familiar with the process. Everyone is still learning the principles and practices of CRO as they pertain to your business in particular.
Meetings allow teams to be motivated more easily, especially those working remotely. The chart above is actually regarding face-to-face meeting effectiveness, but virtual workers benefit from regular meetings as well.
Meetings shouldn’t be the only time teams (whether on-site or virtual) interact. Regular communication through email, IM or proprietary collaboration software encourages teamwork and collaboration, regardless of where an employee is working from.
Of course, not every meeting is a productive meeting. Sometimes you simply go through the motions like a roll call and end it. Other times, so much work can be generated that the meeting spills over. Be sure to control meetings and stick to schedules to avoid wasting anyone’s time.
Here are a few more statistics about meetings that are important to know so you don’t suck at them:
Understand that everyone is there to discuss business, and make meetings as professional and to-the-point as possible. This isn’t to say there isn’t room for humor or socializing, but you should be focused on your goals, as everyone is being paid to be there.
Who should come to the meeting?
It depends on the size and scope of your conversion plan. I would recommend a minimum of the leader of the department in which CRO takes place (i.e., DOM, CMO, etc.), the leader tasked with creating the CRO plan (DOM, Marketing Manager, etc.), the person responsible for data and analysis, and anyone who is actively involved in implementing conversion changes.
Of course, conversion rate optimization involves collaboration of SEO, PPC, social media, content marketing, graphic design, videography, copywriting, editing, web design, IT, sales, and more. Having everyone attend regular CRO meetings is probably not necessary.
What should be on the agenda?
Sending an agenda prior to the meeting and distributing notes afterward allows everyone to review and refresh themselves on any main points discussed in the meeting.
Here are some of the main items you should cover:
- Status – What’s going on right now what’s coming up.
- Progress Review – What improvements have been made.
- Planning – Preparing for a new round of testing, creating hypotheses, etc.
- Assignments – A list of the changes/improvements that need to be made, and who will be responsible for them.
Conversion optimization is a niche topic in marketing, but it affects the entire company.
Every conversion optimization plan is different for every business, but so long as you include the information above, you can develop a plan everyone on the team can understand.
At the end of the day, that plan boils down to making it as easy as possible for visitors to become sustainable customers.