A term used in online advertising to describe the ineffectiveness of banner advertisements due to their oversaturation and lack of intent-based messaging. Some say the term “banner blindness” is outdated. As if there was a point in internet history when banner advertisements started to disappear. Yeah, right.. If anything, banner ads and online advertisements are more prevalent than ever. We have more internet users than ever, and more forms of online advertising than ever. How many of you have skipped a YouTube video ad? How many of you use ad blocking software? How many of you have clicked “X” on…
Like with any type of marketing, SaaS marketing is all about understanding your customers. If you don’t know your audience like you know yourself, you might as well pack your bags and choose another career. That’s how crucial it is. But sometimes, you can know your audience super well, and you just get…stuck. It’s happened to even the best of businesses. Your product development, marketing, and launch could all be on point, and everything could still go belly up. Maybe you’re only getting a few sales, so you get demotivated. Is your product really good after all? Could you be…
It makes sense: Results are promising, they’re easy to sell, they encourage you to imagine yourself in that person’s shoes, and to imagine those results at your company.
At WiderFunnel, we obsess about results. That’s why our clients continue to be our clients, because we consistently deliver profitable ‘A-ha!’ moments in the form of insights and revenue lift. In the end, results are what matter, right?
The effort it takes to get great results is less sexy. But it’s what separates the good from the great.
Humans appreciate ease. People love the promise of the silver bullet. We are prone to the cognitive shortcut called Satisficing, which gives us sub-optimal results. It’s difficult for people to push through to the best result.
This is why best practices, tool-centric strategies, ‘expert’ opinions, and 10-steps-to-guaranteed-success blog posts will always be popular.
Satisficing is a cognitive heuristic that encourages a person to stop considering alternatives when they’ve found one that meets the lowest acceptable criteria. It’s why people buy a product when they don’t feel like the additional effort searching for a better alternative is worth the exerting. It can actually be an effective method for optimizing all costs, if it’s done consciously.
The reality is that you reap what you sow: The best results come from a solid foundation. You’ve heard me talk about process and framework thinking as being crucial to getting great marketing results…
…and today, I’m going to talk about another pillar for success: building a high performance marketing team.
Want to join a high-performance marketing team?
A team where you are challenged to do your very best every day, surrounded by super talented and passionate people? WiderFunnel is hiring for several positions, and you should apply. What are you waiting for?
The people who you hire are at the core of what you can achieve. If you want to achieve growth, you have to build a high-performance team. I have spent the last 10 years building the WiderFunnel team; they are a group of experts who deliver consistently amazing results for our clients.
If you have no team, you have no business. People often overlook that simple fact. We want to say it’s the ideas, marketing, sales, etc. that are the number one priority. But in order to achieve any results in any of these areas, you need a solid team.
Most companies today have created some form of a mission or vision statement, and company values. But I’d argue that most don’t use them to really define what their company does.
Without a shared belief in the types of decisions and behaviors you won’t accept, you’ll accept anything. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.
If you have a clear purpose that is written, repeated, and used for decision-making, you’ll be more likely to attract and retain people that resonate together. When people resonate, the added energy from the coherence multiplies their effect.
Strong core values are a proven way of finding people that resonate with each other. At WiderFunnel, five values sit at the core of our company identity. This is who we are.
We created these values as a team to reflect how we work.
These values are embedded into everything we do. They are integral to our hiring decisions, reviewed during onboarding, called out in our weekly team shoutouts, and used to decide on client fit.
Often, companies will grow to a certain number of employees, realize that their company culture is waning, and then scramble to define their identity. But, by then it may be too late.
If you don’t intentionally build the culture you want, the culture you don’t want will create itself.
So, start by identifying your purpose and the values you’ll live by. And, build all of your decisions on that foundation.
Build the structure
So, you are happy with your team ‘why’, and have begun the hiring process. How do you maintain a satisfied, productive, and high-performing marketing team?
The best frameworks simplify difficult decisions, focus attention on the right pieces of data, and align team members on the salient criteria.
How to get the right butts in the right seats
For the first couple years at WiderFunnel, I struggled with our hiring failure rate. It was painful to hire and train promising people only to see them flame out in disappointment.
I knew there had to be a better process for improving our success rate. When I found the Topgrading book back in 2009, it gave me the tools I needed to separate the gold from the quartz in those mountains.
The Topgrading process incorporates very specific questions that are meant to reveal whether someone is an A-player, a B-player, a C-player, etc. The secret is in the exact wording of the questions and steps in the process to reveal insights about the candidate.
There’s also a newer and more approachable (i.e. shorter) book that describes the process, called Who.
We have tweaked the framework slightly to fit our needs, but the premise is to filter out the B-players and C-players, and to only engage with A-players. The process looks a little something like this:
Screening call (Conducted by HR)
In-person in-depth “Topgrading” interview (HR)
In-person culture interview (Team Lead)
Team interview (Team)
Only the most promising candidates make it through to meet with a team leader.
On top of the interview process, we use a lightweight work-style behavior and motivation profiling tool called Predictive Index.
This allows us to create behavior profiles for each position, to identify what behaviors define success in any position. I call it “lightweight” because it only takes a few minutes for a candidate to fill out, but the insights it reveals are stunning.
Once a candidate has passed their Topgrading interview, they fill out a quick Predictive Index quiz, which shows us a their natural behavioral patterns and motivations.
This tells us whether the person will naturally be a great fit for that position. If a candidate doesn’t ‘fit’ the profile, we don’t necessarily remove them from consideration. But, we know which questions to ask to ensure we are creating a position that person will be happy with.
Because WiderFunnel is a data-focused marketing agency (as I hope yours is a data-focused marketing team), we also require most candidates to complete various technical tests.
Yes, it takes effort to hire the right people
If this sounds intense, that’s because it is. But it’s worth it!
There is a lot at stake when you are talking about a person’s job and livelihood (not to mention the well-being of your business), and these upfront processes will help you get the right personalities on your team from the outset.
Not only does hiring the right people save you a lot of money on mis-hires, but a team of A-players wants us to hire more A-players. Someone who can’t match the pace of the team’s thinking and work is frustrating to everyone else. A team of stallions doesn’t invite ponies to their party.
Our team members are proud of the day they pass their 90-day probationary period and receive their full fledged WiderFunnel team jacket. They know they have joined an elite team.
Keep people at the center
All this talk about A-players, stringent hiring processes, and the cost of mis-hires may sound like people are just cost items. But, that is the opposite of how I see our people. And that wouldn’t be the best way to create any high functioning team.
Your team members don’t leave their personal lives at the door when they enter your workplace. They are whole people and all areas of their lives affect how they show up in their day.
I’m a long-time member of Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO) and other similar mastermind groups. At EO, I belong to a small forum group of entrepreneurs who meet monthly to discuss the best and worst things that are happening in our businesses and personal lives. I have learned how important it is to have people I trust that can relate to my experiences. In that forum, I have also learned how tightly business and personal life are intertwined.
A few years ago, I brought some of EO’s perspectives into WiderFunnel’s team. It began as part of our Friday afternoon happy hour, where everyone shares their weekly “Awesomes” with the rest of the team.
At 4:00pm every Friday, we stop working, pour a few beers, and every team member shares a professional awesome and a personal awesome from that week. It’s contagious: If you’ve had a rough week, hearing 25 “Awesome’s” is a pretty cool pick-me-up.
Building on my insight from EO, I also encouraged people to share if they have a weekly “Awful” and the result was powerful. The laughter and tears shared within this forum of support encourage our team to be Real with each other.
I am a firm believer that all people want is to be heard, and to be loved. Companies often act like this doesn’t translate into the professional realm, that it only lives in the personal realm. And that is, I think, the number one mistake a lot of companies make.
– Victoria Petriw
It’s important to create structures that help meet your team’s needs.
How often do each of your team members get a check-in with their boss? As you might have guessed by now, I’m going to recommend a structured process for regular check-ins.
A few years ago, we implemented the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), based on Gino Wickman’s book Traction, which shows a structure for communicating throughout the company. Part of that system defines a regular check-in rhythm.
Some companies take an ad hoc or “as needed” approach to meetings, but I’ve found that team members often feel neglected if they aren’t regularly scheduled.
If you are not checking in with the people on your team, regularly, you should rethink your management strategy. We ensure that each WiderFunnel team member has, at the very least, a monthly check-in with their team lead.
These check-ins are a space for personal and professional review, for project updates, and value-based feedback. Are your team members being heard? Do they feel appreciated and successful?
In tough times, real, 1-on-1 conversation can solve emerging issues before they become real problems.
To make sure your team as a whole is jiving, you need to facilitate the right meetings at the right times.
Within the Traction system, we’ve set up daily huddles, weekly working meetings, quarterly priority-setting meetings, and annual planning meetings within each team. This creates a consistent rhythm and flow of information for the entire company.
This system helps us make sure that the projects each individual is working on come to fruition.
Many of our meetings are recurring, but they all have a specific ‘why’. No one here has time to waste, and each meeting has a purpose, agenda, and priorities.
– Agnes Tseng
I encourage you to look at your meeting schedule and ask yourself whether each meeting is intentional? Does it have a clear purpose? If not, it may be worth your while to test a system like Traction.
A culture of personal ownership
The Dilbert era is over, for big and small companies alike. People want to love where they work. So, how do you make your team attractive to A-players? And how do you retain your A-players?
Do you need more perks? Beer on Fridays? Exotic company retreats? Company bowling night? It can feel overwhelming to keep up with the perks some companies offer. And last week’s perks are today’s entitlement.
Some time ago, we decided to change how WiderFunnel-ers view company culture. In the past, the task of planning fun, culture-stimulating social activities fell to the Operations team.
But it began to feel like team members were sitting back, waiting for Operations to deliver happiness. And if they didn’t like what was happening, morale waned.
It felt like everyone was sitting around the dinner table waiting to be served, expecting ‘culture’ to be provided on a silver platter. But culture is like happiness: You can’t inject it into a company. It has to live in each individual.
– Victoria Petriw
So, we decided to shift the perspective. We encouraged team members to contribute to company culture and activities. Now, we have a WiderFun initiative where we have team-planned monthly fun-tivities, and the change is palpable.
From events like WiderFunnel-themed jeopardy, to WiderFun-lympics, to spontaneous game nights and jam sessions, I have seen the team commit to creating the culture they want to work in. And, they love it even more because they’ve had a part in creating it. (Which, by the way is a great example of the IKEA Effect cognitive bias.)
The IKEA Effect says that people are more likely to love something if they’ve had a part in creating it. I’m no longer surprised when my daughters most-raved-about meals are the ones that they’ve helped cook.
Rather than taking a top-down approach to culture, challenge your team to own it!
What does this mean for your bottom-line?
A happy, smart, engaged team wants to deliver great work. Structures and frameworks like the ones I’ve shared are a starting point. You may find others that work for you, but the principle is the same.
When you have put rigorous thought into building a well-oiled machine, when individuals are in the right jobs, in the right culture, you will see the effects in your bottom-line.
So, now it’s your turn.
What do you do to build and maintain a high-performing marketing team? How does your company create, maintain and enhance culture? Add your comments below.
And, if you know someone you think would be a great fit for our team, please send them our way. WiderFunnel is hiring!
Seven years ago, VWO was created with the aim to make marketers’ lives simpler. With its easy-to-use visual editor, it helped marketers focus on their main job (to increase conversions), than to chase the elusive IT team to get that A/B test running.
In these seven years, searches for A/B testing have gone through the roof, more than a dozen similar tools have entered the market, and A/B testing is now an integral part of marketing. VWO has been used to run some 700,000 tests, optimize close to six billion experiences and generate more revenue for businesses across industries and countries.
To say we are happy and humbled would be an understatement. But what will not be an understatement is to say that we have never felt more committed towards making our customers successful.
In the last one year, we have spent a lot of time looking at data. We have spent a lot of time looking at our most successful customers to figure out what is it they are doing that makes them successful.
And we have found that the businesses getting the most success out of A/B testing are the ones following a scientific process. These businesses clearly define what numbers they are trying to move, identify areas that can be improved, step into the shoes of their visitors to understand their pain-points, run A/B tests based on evidence and are incredibly zen about a few losses on the way.
Marketing might be driving the optimization process, but the culture of optimization seeps through every department in these organizations. The focus is on analyzing results, sharing insights and delivering better user experience all around. A/B testing is not just a hack or a seasonal marketing tactic, it’s an year-round commitment towards a ‘user-first’ philosophy.
These businesses understandably have to depend on multiple tools and products to continuously run this scientific process. They often use one tool to track the bottomline, another to prioritize and chart out the testing plan, another to observe visitor actions and yet another to run A/B tests. Getting multiple tools to work for one single process comes with its own complexities. To get real insights from that pool of data is another challenge.
We at VWO have not merely been observing all this. We have used all these observations in building the new VWO.
The new VWO will enable businesses to run all parts of this scientific process through one platform. The seamless connectivity of data will ensure businesses don’t lose track of the user story at any point of the process, putting unprecedented power in the hands of marketers.
VWO – The first Connected Conversion Optimization Platform
Right from tracking metrics, analyzing visitor actions, creating testing plan to running A/B tests, the new VWO will help marketers do everything optimization at one place, one point. To get a sneak peek into what is coming up, check out vwo.com/evolution.
Every organization abides by a set of values and beliefs, which prompts the culture within the organization. This organizational culture can be seen as the way in which its members relate to each other, their work, and the outside world in comparison to other organizations.
So what type of cultural values should an enterprise invest in to be successful?
What Type of Organizational Culture to Adopt?
Company owners and decision-makers should invest in a culture of innovation and optimization during their business lifecycle.
Innovation, as they say, is the hallmark of entrepreneurship. In the early stages of development of a company, creative ideas and innovation alone bestow promising results. After that stage is crossed and you find a product-market fit comes the need for optimization. This is because when a product is reaching maturity, it needs to sustain itself and still keep earning profits.
Why to Adopt a Culture of Optimization?
Optimization, by dictionary meaning, is “an act, process, or methodology of making something (as a design, system, or decision) as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible.”
For a mature and well-run product organization, the concept of optimization should be applied to every business process to gain optimal benefits. Whether it is your team, funnel, or website that you’re optimizing, you can be sure of making a bigger bang for the buck.
For instance, by optimizing your website, you can get more conversions for the same number of visitors. By optimizing your team, you can grow manifold the productivity and output of the same team members, and so on.
A culture of optimization is geared toward incremental, consistent, and risk-free improvements coordinated across company’s platforms to meet executive targets.
Tim Eyre, COO of a renowned digital marketing agency Big Leap, aptly puts it thus:
“Establishing a culture of optimization really starts with having an attitude of never being satisfied. For us, it means that we believe we can always improve the results we provide for our clients, whether through content pieces, paid search optimizations, or website optimization, including a heavy dose of conversion rate optimization. We strive for excellence in our work, and we have found that one of the quickest ways of approaching excellence is through testing”.
Now that we’ve established the importance of having a culture of optimization, let’s look at how to incorporate it within your organization:
How to Incorporate a Culture of Optimization
Before you begin optimizing your business processes, it is imperative to take stock of the current standing. You need to assess how you are placed currently and set benchmarks for improvements accordingly.
A good optimization program would be rooted in in-depth data and research of what we are optimizing and for which end goals. When your employees start questioning subjectivity and validate their decisions with both data and insight, it ultimately makes your organization a more efficient one.
“To facilitate a culture of testing, every aspect of an operation must have a unique data point that can be optimized against. We firmly believe that all areas of an organization, from personnel, to processes, to traffic and content, need to have a core KPI that can be measured for future improvement. Doing so creates a deeper level of accountability and a more proactive culture for experimentation and trying new approaches to do better.”
Get Top Management Buy-In
Like a waterfall, culture too flows from the top to the bottom. To inculcate a healthy culture of experimenting and optimizing, it is imperative that the top management complies.
If the top management is on the same page, it’ll realize the need for optimization and allocate sufficient budget for it. This will make it easier to execute any optimization program.
The idea of optimization can be sold to the top management by highlighting its key benefits. You can show how the returns on efforts outweigh the investment, and strengthen your pitch. Here are some key ways to influence your top management:
“If you want to incorporate a culture of Optimization, you need to allow and encourage anyone to challenge or at least question the data or ask how you could test an idea. But when someone says or asks something, be sure to ask them to back up their claim with data. They need to be able to validate any of their claims or thoughts, or at least give reasons for them.”
To make it motivating and straightforward for the team members, you should also take time to establish rules and incentives up-front.
You can also start a weekly ritual like a meeting or a report, something that will both analyze the progress of your optimization program and encourage its prosperity.
Invest in the Right Tools
To unroll the culture of optimization, you’d also be required to invest in the right tools. Having a tool in place can channelize and simplify your efforts manifold. Now the type of tool you should invest in depends on your optimization activity.
This time around, we got an opportunity to interview the Founder and CEO of PRWD, Paul Rouke. PRWD is a leading UK-based conversion optimization agency and has worked with some big clients such as Moss Bros, Bensons for Beds, and Schuh.
Paul Rouke, Founder and CEO of leading UK-based agency PRWD
Paul provides actionable insights for agencies who are pitching a CRO program to their clients and ways to run it efficiently, as well as tips for enterprises to hire a good CRO agency.
Introduction to CRO
1) How important is Conversion Optimization in comparison with traffic acquisition efforts (PPC, Social, and others)?
Conversion Optimization, I think, is absolutely crucial. Many companies/agencies haven’t yet realized the importance of CRO and haven’t invested in this area. Alternately, companies that invest in this area have a better return on the acquisition spend.
It’s understandable that digital agencies, media agencies, and search agencies are all looking to offer conversion optimization to their clients, as it is a popular and high growth area. But my advice to any agency that wishes to take up CRO as its offering would be to take it seriously.
Agencies should make a commitment to practice CRO intelligently by putting the right people and processes in place.
This is because most large enterprises have a fixed mindset. They always do things in a certain way, and it is extremely difficult to change the culture within these large enterprises. For them, it’s mostly about acquisition and driving traffic to the digital experiences rather than converting those visitors. There is a significant mindset shift that needs to take place with these large enterprises to recognize the importance of truly becoming customer-centric.
For that, first, they need to invest in really understanding the behavior of visitors, customers, and potential customers. Next, they need to change the culture within their organization, that is, embrace a “test and learn” mentality.
3) How can the CRO agencies lead to a cultural transformation in large organizations?
I think to influence the culture, an agency needs to change the mindset of decision-makers within the business.
Because ultimately, it’s these people who are running the business and making the strategic decisions on where to invest money. If they don’t have any real understanding and appreciation of intelligent conversion optimization, then they won’t put the resources behind it.
One of the effective ways through which we have delivered the start of this cultural change within large enterprises is by doing a detailed research on their website’s visitors. After we have the video evidence (or visitor recordings) of people using their website, then we give these videos to the decision-makers of the business. By watching these, the decision-makers realize all the issues, challenges, and barriers that the consumers are having on their digital experience. This works as a huge wake-up call for them.
The agencies should also be able to make them realize that they really do need to start becoming customer-centric and why it is important.
4) What factors do enterprises look at before hiring a CRO agency?
In terms of enterprise businesses, ultimately it’s a few things that they’re looking for.
First, they’re looking for credibility and specialization. They want to know about the track record of the agency and how they have been working in the industry with similar competitors or businesses over the last few years.
They’re also looking for the visibility of the agency as well. They want to know if it is a black box-type agency where they don’t know what they do, or is it a collaborative and transparent process that the agency is delivering.
In addition, companies are also looking for a clearly defined process and methodology behind the optimization program.
On top of that, particularly for international and enterprise clients, typically what we’re finding is that they’re looking for agencies with international capabilities because they’ve not just got the UK presence to optimize, they’ve probably also got Germany, France, US, and other countries. The big enterprises, if they’re looking to work on a global scale, are more often than not looking for ways to have more of a global optimization program, ideally delivered through one central agency.
Kickstarting a CRO Program
5) What are the things you need in place from the client’s end before starting a CRO program?
I think first of all it’s the key to have someone from the client’s business to lead the responsibility and be the the champion and internal leader for conversion optimization. Without this person, as an agency, we can do great work and try making an impact in the business, but ultimately, we’ll be limited with our impact on the business.
What also is needed from the client’s side is an openness to think differently. Going back to the “cultural transformation” part, the business needs to be willing to start to become truly customer-centric. It needs to have the mindset changed to be thinking of more iterative ways of improvement rather than maybe doing a full website redesign (that takes months) and then waiting for the next redesign till anything major happens.
A whole mindset change that conversion optimization isn’t just about iterative testing with buttons, headlines, or using the WYSIWYG editor from the testing platform, but much more than that. It ultimately allows businesses to help test their value proposition, to help test their perception with their customers, and to test introducing some new feature or functionality. So the willingness and open-mindedness to think differently is pivotal.
6) What is the composition of a CRO team in a full-service agency?
We have a multidisciplinary team with people who can work across different disciplines and different areas. The composition of a CRO team needs to be a full suite of people. In no particular order, you’d need:
Strategist: Someone who can think about or work on a strategy and a long-term optimization program for the growth of the business.
User Research Specialist: Someone who can conduct and moderate user research.
User Experience Design Specialist: Someone who can remove egotism from the design, and put their design concepts in a test and learn environment to see whether or not their new designs have a positive influence in user behavior.
Copywriting Expert: Someone who has a background in copywriting, persuasion, and psychology.
Development resources: Both front-end and back-end developers
Project Management: Someone who can coordinate and prioritize the entire process of CRO.
Data Analyst: Someone who knows the importance of data and can configure and improve the configurations of google analytics.
In the end, all these people should work together so that there is complete clarity and accountability of the tests that we want to run and the impact they’re having on user behavior—both from qualitative and quantitative perspectives.
7) Which tools do you think are essential for CRO?
I’ll start with a tool that comes absolutely free and one that companies most often than not fail to recognize the importance of. It’s not a classic tool that you may be thinking about, but it’s the tool called people’s brains. Companies often invest in the tools and technology for optimization, but fail to invest in the right people to run these tools.
If we were to talk about the classic tools or the actual technology to do conversion optimization, of course, there is the analytics platform, like GA, not just in place but correctly configured. Correctly configuring the analytics tool is the key here, as it is one thing having the tool and another to have it configured properly.
Then obviously you will need a testing tool. There are a range of tools available, but companies need to make a smart choice. They need to focus on getting the right process and people in place with a tool that facilitates testing rather than jumping into the enterprise level tools with the advanced features and functionality. One should always get a tool that facilitates quick testing which is also powerful and scalable.
From the budget that you would have invested in an enterprise level tool, you should look to invest in a tool that provides continuous feedback on user behavior via session recordings, feedbacks, and so on. To really power your CRO programme, you can align such a tool with a remote user testing tool such as whatusersdo.
In addition, what we’ve continued to do at PRWD is one-to-one moderated research. This isn’t a tool in itself, but a technique to understand behavior and facilitate a wide range of iterative, innovative, and strategic testing.
8) Do you have a documented CRO process? What is the CRO process you follow?
Over the years, we have continued to refine our methodology just by the very nature of working in this industry. Although I can’t share our complete process, our basic methodology is a growth methodology, which has its foundations in getting these four pillars right:
Strategy and Culture
Tools and Technology
People and Skills
Process and Methodology
A good CRO strategy involves going beyond developing some hypothesis and running some tests, but developing an intelligent methodology instead.
9) What are the common mistakes in CRO that enterprises/agencies often end up making?
The biggest mistake enterprises make is to jump into conversion optimization too quickly.
The mindset of not doing any CRO to investing in the best tool (because it has the credibility, client base, feature list), is often an enterprise business’s biggest mistake. Commonly, this decision doesn’t yield them any impact or value (not knowing how to get the most from their expensive tool), and this often results in the decision to reduce the budget for optimization, thinking that CRO isn’t for them due to the poor results they have. It is a vicious, and damaging, cycle.
For agencies, thinking that CRO is easy and would be just one of the services in their arsenal is their biggest flaw. It requires dedication and upskilling to be able to provide sustainable and effective CRO, and the agencies who are excellent at CRO are the ones who take it seriously and invest in intelligent optimization.
10) How do you analyze the results of a CRO campaign? How do you share the same with the clients?
Primarily, the core performance when running a test/campaign whether it is iterative, innovative, or strategic is looking at the primary growth metrics of the business. It cannot only be about increasing the revenue but also about increasing profitability.
Gathering any real understanding on the quality or the credibility of the test you want to run can be termed as vanity metrics. This can help if you want to make a volume-based approach and only think about how many tests we can do in a month or an year.
What I much more advocate is the sanity metrics in conversion optimization—alongside measuring the impact, month-to-month conversion rate, and how to influence it. It also measures the percentage of success rate and qualitative insights from people.
11) When you face a number of failed A/B tests, how do you still convince clients that CRO delivers results?
First, when an agency speaks to a client and starts working with them, they should talk about a cultural change and focus on influencing business change and mindset. From a business point of view, the business leaders and the decision-makers who are looking for an investment in conversion optimization need to understand and appreciate that every test is not going to be a success. So if they are not set up for that and are expecting everything to be a success, then it’s a failure of the agency for not educating the client in the right way.
For this case, if we run 10 tests and 8 of them fail, then the first thing I will do is look at the people who were responsible for developing the hypothesis for these tests.
Unless you’re an extremely mature business with a high velocity of tests, the reason for failure will most likely begin and end with the hypothesis.
The likely cause could be that there wasn’t an intelligent thought behind the tests, or maybe the design execution or persuasion wasn’t in place. A failure of a test (or several) does not mean that CRO can’t deliver results.
What do you Think?
Have any thoughts or suggestions on this interview or on how agencies should work with enterprise clients in general? Do share with your thoughts in the comments below.
TL;DR: This is the story of how we partnered with HD Supply to help them implement a customized optimization program, enhancing their user experience and ultimately increasing their conversions. Read the full conversion optimization case study here.
A partnership is born
Our partnership with HD Supply Facilities Maintenance (who we’ll refer to as ‘HD Supply’) began back in 2012. The relationship began with a long courtship process, and in the end, the testing partnership that blossomed between our teams was a thing of beauty.
HD Supply is a supplier of maintenance, repair, operations (MRO), and property marketing products. They serve multifamily, hospitality, and commercial properties as well as healthcare, and government facilities.
This is the tale of how a giant retailer and a conversion optimization agency joined forces to the benefit of all: client, agency and customers.
A new optimization case study
This new case study looks at the initial challenges that HD Supply faced and how we were able to integrate with them and address those challenges as a team, establishing a true testing partnership.
Together, we tackled a common testing cliché, disproved the idea that Amazon knows best and discovered surprising insights about HD Supply’s customers.
A star-crossed meeting
When Nathan Turnbull, Senior Manager, e-Commerce & Digital Marketing at HD Supply met WiderFunnel Founder & CEO Chris Goward back in 2012, he was looking to improve HD Supply’s overall go-to market strategy.
Little did he know, he would find the solution to his problem sitting next to him at lunch at an online marketing conference. When Nathan heard about WiderFunnel’s great work in conversion rate optimization, he knew that this was the business ally he’d been looking for.
The search bar cliché
One of our early tests with HD Supply focused on the size of the search bar. There was definite skepticism toward this test. Increasing the size of the search bar is often considered a testing cliché.
The assumption in the optimization world is that visitors who use search already know what they want, that they arrive with the intent to search, and thus adjusting the search bar shouldn’t have a cause-and-effect impact on conversion rates. But we pushed ahead none-the-less, discovering unexpected results.
The ‘best practice’ trap
At one point, an HD Supply executive decided to make changes to their search bar based on ‘best practices’ they’d gleaned from Amazon. But, as a WiderFunnel client, they’d been primed to respond to a good idea with “You should test that!”.
The data confirmed that just because something works for Amazon, doesn’t mean it’ll work for your company.
Unique customer insights
In a series of tests on HD Supply’s homepage, a curious insight was revealed: their users seemed to respond more to text and information than to imagery. We conducted another series of tests aimed at validating this insight…the results revealed a customer tendency that HD Supply was able to address across their entire business.
The science of partnership
A few months into the relationship, HD Supply was all-in. They were rapidly building out their internal optimization team, they were pitching their own test ideas and running their own tests. We credit several of WiderFunnel’s consistent process requirements for the partnership’s success, including weekly meetings and extensive collaboration.
HD Supply has now adopted WiderFunnel’s optimization process as their own strategy and continues to build on that expertise with their internal, iterative program. It’s a partnership that’s been a true win, win, win for everyone.
The partnership with WiderFunnel was crucial to the success of our conversion rate optimization (CRO) efforts. While we had the knowledge and expertise related to our industry and customers’ needs, WiderFunnel are the knowledge experts in A/B testing and optimization, able to enhance the user experience to ultimately increase our conversions.
You’ve learned about the benefits of conversion rate optimization and you’re ready to take the plunge.
If you’re like most marketers entering the CRO game, you’ve probably got one question on your mind: Where the heck do I start?
When WiderFunnel launched in 2007, CRO was a foreign concept. Today, “conversion optimization”, “CRO”, “growth hacking”, “lean enterprise”, “growth optimization”, and “optimization strategy” are all buzzwords in the marketing world.
Most companies understand the importance of optimization (and the negative impact of missing this train).
But, as one of WiderFunnel employee pointed out in a moment of Twitter-truth: “CRO is a beast.”
. @Optimizely#optichat — don’t… partner with a specialized conversion optimization strategy first. CRO is a beast.
To help you avoid just such a disaster, this post outlines the most important foundational elements of a successful CRO program. Each is vital to the long-term survival of your company’s optimization strategy.
1. The culture fit
Data are everyone’s business. Forward-looking companies are integrating data into their day-to-day operations. They are placing data at the heart of almost all important decisions.
Avinash Kaushik coined the term HiPPO (highest-paid person’s opinion) on his blog in 2006 and Chris Goward expanded on this idea in his book You Should Test That! to include the Black Turtleneck opinion.
Both caution against marketing that relies on an opinion rather than on data. It doesn’t matter if that opinion comes from the top down (as with the HiPPO) or is backed by many years of experience (as with the Black Turtleneck): opinion-based marketing will always lose out to data-driven marketing.
Why? Because, as conversion copy pro Joanna Wiebe points out, “your best messages don’t come from inside your head.” Your prospects will tell you exactly how to sell to them, if you’ll simply listen.
From surveys to analytics, click maps to questionnaires, your company must celebrate and embrace data in order to implement and grow a working CRO program.
But don’t take our word for it. Let the data speak for itself.
In 2014, as stated in Forbes, Aberdeen reported that data-driven organizations experience a 27% year-over-year increase in revenue, compared to 7% for other organizations.
The numbers don’t lie.
Humility is key
One of the scariest things about testing? Your tests could reveal that you are wrong.
You may think clever copy and and a beautiful UI are what your visitors want (because why would they want anything else??), only to discover that what they really want is super simple language and a basic design.
Organizational humility is a must when venturing into conversion rate optimization. You’ve got to take ego out of the equation, you’ve got to relegate your seasoned ‘gut’ to the back of the room and listen to what your visitors are telling you.
A bruised ego isn’t nearly as painful when your conversion rates are soaring; be brave enough to let the data lead the way.
Note: We’re not telling you to disregard your gut instinct when it comes to testing, but rather to test without anxiety around the outcome. A losing test, if structured properly, should always provide winning insights.
2. Senior-level support
For a CRO program to be successful, your entire organization must be on board with testing, from the very top, down.
No matter how compelling your results are, you’ll face an uphill battle if you don’t have senior-level support. HiPPO’s can be a powerful force. Many of your co-workers will look to this person for cues as to what to support.
These upper-level managers also control the purse-strings and decide where to allocate your precious marketing resources.
Because conversion rate optimization requires a lot of effort and resources, it can be difficult to convince a skeptical higher-up to back the idea. So, you’ve got to speak their language.
Find out how your senior-level managers are incentivized so you can show how optimization will help them reach their goals. If you can help them look (and get paid) like rock stars, they’ll support your projects and reward you in return.
Along with appealing to their wants, appeal to their rational side: build a business case for testing. With directly measurable results, the case for testing is easy to make. Show the conversion rate lift that other organizations are getting, and estimate the return on investment (ROI) for a testing strategy.
You’ve got the will, you’ve got the support, but do you have the resources? While anybody can test, an effective CRO program requires the following:
The basics: traffic and budget
The higher the traffic to your website, the quicker your tests will complete. It’s possible to test with as few as 1,000 visitors per month, but you’ve gotta be prepared for your test to take a very long time to reach statistical significance.
While a long-running test is better than no test at all, you may not see a big or immediate impact. If you receive fewer than 30,000 monthly visitors to a page, you may want to start with something very simple.
As for budget, if you have a higher-traffic site, you should have more revenue to justify the added investment in creating more frequent tests. Higher traffic + higher revenue = more frequent tests & more rapid ROI.
A proper testing tool
If you’re new to A/B testing, you’ll want to purchase a testing tool. These tools are generally a pretty big investment, but if you want to test properly, a reliable tool is a necessity.
Optimization is hard: technical skills and expertise are required to run even the simplest of tests, which is why you need a platform.
While a quality tool will save you tons of headaches, it won’t eliminate the need for one or several strategy-oriented minds. You’ll need to make sure you have at least one person on your team who can spearhead your conversion rate optimization program.
You can glean some skills from several great resources, but the best way to learn is to start testing with an open mind and build your test archive. It may take some time and patience, but always continue to read, learn and test.
If you don’t have the time to teach yourself CRO, get an expert in the door to help you lay the groundwork.
4. A proven process
Best practices are easy to digest and they have a supposedly high success rate. After all, it’s hard to argue with ‘10 tricks that’ll make you millions’.
But, best practices will disappoint you because your business is unique — what works for Amazon may not work for you.
Instead of tips and tricks, you should adopt a process, a framework for your CRO strategy.
Our framework, the Infinity Optimization Process was developed after nearly a decade of testing. It’s a continuous cycle wherein two phases feed each other: the Explore phase and the Validate phase.
Data-collection informs the Explore phase and is centered around our framework for understanding customers’ conversion barriers and persuasion opportunities — the LIFT Model™.
Early in my digital marketing career I came across this model [the LIFT model], which has provided the basis for virtually every conversion rate optimisation change I’ve made ever since.
Whether or not you decide to use this particular process, you should use a framework when laying the foundations for you conversion rate optimization program.
Tips will expire, what works well today may not work well tomorrow, but a framework will provide you with a stable way of approaching and resolving problems in the long-term.
CRO is not a one-time project. There isn’t a moment when you’ll find that your site is optimized. It’s an ongoing process and needs a structured framework behind it.
5. Leverage a specialist agency
Ok, you’re convinced that you need an optimization program. You’ve decided to allocate budget and resources to conversion rate optimization, knowing that it has been shown to get higher returns than other marketing priorities.
Conversion optimization takes a lot of work, coordination, development, design, and strategy. Operating your CRO team well requires deft handling and experience.
Without an experienced team you could easily find yourself spinning your wheels, testing weak hypotheses, going over-budget, losing focus of core business functions, missing your CRO deadlines and, after all of that, not seeing results.
Leveraging a specialist agency means that you put the burden of designing, launching, running and analyzing your experiments on the shoulders of a team that, in our case, has almost a decade of CRO experience.
In time, as you are able to hone your own strategy skills, this reliance will become a thriving partnership where ideas are exchanged and fresh hypotheses are constantly in the mix.
You’ll have built your own company-specific testing archive, while also gaining access to industry-wide test results: the best of both worlds.
For a more detailed look at how you can build your own successful and scalable CRO program, check out the guide below.
So, the other day, my 10-year-old daughter says to me, “Daddy, why do all the books you read say ‘Leadership’ on the front? Why is that all you read about?”
“Well,” I say, “leadership is one of the topics I’m learning more about this year.”
“But, why do you need to read books about it?” she continues, “Shouldn’t you be your own kind of leader? Why do you need to copy what other people say?”
My first thought: Who has been sneaking into the house and teaching this kid to be so smart?
My second thought: I hope she never stops asking questions like that.
My third thought: She’s right. Learning shouldn’t be an exercise in copying what’s worked for others. Their truths are only true for them. And my experiences and learning may only apply to my situation. I could meticulously copy the habits, attitudes and actions of Steve Jobs and end up a colossal failure. His leadership methods are probably not going to work for me.
On the other hand, there is huge value in learning what has worked for others, and in taking inspiration to find your own way.
That’s why Steve Jobs is part of my personal mentor wall, along with Edison, Ghandi, Picasso, Hitchens, Jim Carrey (for his vision and drive, not necessarily all his movies). Each one of them reminds me of a certain characteristic I want to remind myself of.
Each of them are multi-dimensional people and could inspire many different qualities, but they particularly inspired me in these areas:
Persistence – Thomas Edison
Influence – Mahatma Ghandi
Expression – Pablo Picasso
Intelligence – Christopher Hitchens
Vision – Jim Carrey
Boldness – Steve Jobs
Inspiration is a start and is important. The learning I gain from others is especially useful when they’ve assembled their knowledge into practical frameworks. Frameworks make their particular insights applicable to other situations.
What do you get from learning how others have solved problems?
Inspiration. The more stories I discover about successful people, the more encouragement I feel that anything can be overcome.
Frameworks for thinking about the challenges you’re facing. Thinking about problems from differing perspectives, and using different frameworks, teaches your brain to explore all possibilities.
Discipline. Even though my kids think of “discipline” as a negative word, it’s clearly necessary for long-term success. Learning new frameworks stretches my mind and keeps it focused on the problems at hand, allowing the focused concentration time needed for my mind’s goal-striving mechanism (or as Maxwell Maltz refers to it in Psycho-Cybernetics, the Servo Mechanism) to lock onto a problem and seek a solution.
Great frameworks separate the pro from the amateur
People often ask me what makes WiderFunnel different than other optimization agencies. I was actually just asked that question again today.
And, while there are many possible answers: great clients, amazing team, high-performance culture, awesome results, years of experience, deep test archives, etc, one aspect stands out.
I made an important decision when we began as a purely Conversion Rate Optimization agency back in 2007. I decided that we would focus on developing framework thinking rather than assembling lists of tips and tricks.
To do that, we needed to learn what actually works through A/B testing, which meant that WiderFunnel would only take projects we could learn from by A/B testing everything.
This was the more difficult path than others have taken, but one I believed would produce better results and knowledge in the long term.
And it has worked.
We’ve run more tests than anyone and developed a more refined and robust process because we’ve focused on refining the process, not just on selling opinions. Selling opinions is easy. Testing and refining our own frameworks is hard.
You can use framework thinking in your work too
I love Sean Johnson’s article about using framework thinking. It’s a reminder that giving an opinion is easy; finding a list of tips and tricks to answer your question is easy. But, finding a framework to help you answer your question is more robust. It gives you an answer that doesn’t expire when one of the variables changes.
Search for frameworks to help you answer your questions and you’ll find a path to continued improvement.
Conversion optimization frameworks
In your conversion optimization work, you’ll likely need to answer questions such as:
Where should I test?
What should I test?
How does my audience perceive my product?
To answer questions like those (and more), WiderFunnel has developed frameworks to use within our optimization process. You can adopt and adapt these frameworks in your CRO work too.
What is your most important value proposition to test?
Try brainstorming with the points of difference (PODs), points of parity (POPs), and points of irrelevance (POIs).
The evolution of the best optimization process
As we continue to optimize high volume businesses, WiderFunnel’s process itself is also constantly being reviewed and optimized. We run quarterly projects with our whole team, called “focus areas”, to evolve how we operate to continuously add more value.
As a result, we now have a new process model to share! It’s called the Infinity Optimization Process™.
In the coming weeks, I will provide a more detailed explanation of this next generation of WiderFunnel’s system and how it will continue to deliver the best optimization results in the industry. Make sure you’re subscribed to the blog to get the updates on where we’re leading.
Why does my 2-year-old iPhone battery die in 3 hours? Why are household appliances built with such poor quality these days?
Remember your parents’ washing machine? It lasted for decades. Today, they barely last 5 years. And don’t even think about repairing them. It’s cheaper to replace the whole thing.
In some industries, quality seems to have gone out of style.
That’s a problem I hear marketers complain about in their digital agencies too. How many times have you been disappointed? You should expect high quality service from your partners and agencies, but it’s not the norm.
Fortunately, delivering a quality service still makes a positive difference to clients.
WiderFunnel turned seven years old a few weeks ago and it’s made me think about what makes us different. I think one of the biggest differences is quality, in addition to the insights gained from thousands of tests, the unique System that consistently delivers great results, and our awesome CEO. (Just kidding about that last bit!)
I’m always so proud when I hear about our team over-delivering on expectations. That’s why our clients say things like this, from the President of a consumer marketing company:
“WiderFunnel was extremely well organized, articulate and mindful of our team’s resources. They executed perfectly, never missed a deadline and had impeccable follow-up. We’re looking forward to launching the next test!”
And, from this Manager at Intel:
“It’s a pleasure working with all of you and we are thrilled with the results!”
I usually talk about marketing optimization strategies on this blog, and will again in the next post. Today, though, I’d like to share some insights about the company doing all this great work to give you a better perspective on our approach and maybe inspire some thoughts about your own company and career.
Today, the question is: what makes WiderFunnel tick?
Why creating a happy team of a-players is my top priority as CEO
Now, I can hear the critics getting ready to add their comments.
“How can our team be more important than our clients?”
“Aren’t clients always the number one priority?”
“What about profit? Are you running a charity, Chris?”
Well, here’s the thing: delivering success for our clients is why we’re in business. And, we’re in business to pay our bills and a little more besides.
But, as CEO, I can’t serve all our clients on my own. The way I can serve them best is to make sure our team is coached, engaged and fired up to serve our clients. The time and investment I put into our team is my highest leverage activity.
The time and investment I put into our team is my highest leverage activity
Our co-created purpose pulls us together
A few months ago, I decided the original vision, mission and values I had written for the company were no longer best. I don’t want a top-down dictation of who we are. I thought if we could encapsulate the culture we have now, we’ll always be a great place to work.
So, our core team went up a mountain (literally!) to co-create our foundational beliefs. I was so proud of the honest, challenging conversations we had to find the words that truly drive us.
An inspiring experience helped create our values
It also always helps to have a little fun along the way…
Work hard play hard
Here’s what we agreed to as our values, which I’m still super excited about. It really reflects who we are.
Our Values guide or work
We give clients profitable “Aha!” moments every day.
To uncover mountains of cash and copious knowledge for high-octane organizations using evidence-based marketing.
We’ve created some pretty cool weekly and daily habits to keep these alive too. These aren’t just wall-hanging decorations. I overhear the team referring to them in conversations daily. It’s awesome.
Special events help build team cohesion
I’ve realized now that some of WiderFunnel’s most productive times have been outside of the office.
some of WiderFunnel’s most productive times have been outside of the office
We recently upped the ante again with our first annual summit to end our fiscal year. This time, I took the team on a four-day adventure in Las Vegas!
What goes in Vegas…
Now, I’ll tell you that I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from it. It seemed like a good idea theoretically, but when it came the day to leave, I was nervous. I’d never been on a trip like this with co-workers.
But it was awesome. We had a great time with plenty of fun, inspiration, and productive planning sessions.
I know you’ll all want to know what happened, so here are some photos. At least, those that were allowed out of Vegas
A few of the team members boarding the flight
Inspirational experiences build team cohesion
I even came out ahead in winnings
I hope we never get to big to do fun things like this. And, if you’re in a position to consider something like this at your company, you should. If you wonder how it could work for you, feel free to add your comments and questions below.
What our team says about culture
And, don’t just take my word for it. Here’s what a few of our team members said about the culture we’re building. When asked,
How do WiderFunnel’s values influence your life at work?
“They reaffirm that I work for a company I trust. And so I am motivated and grateful to devote all my energy into my work here.” - Victoria “Vicky”
“The assembled team here at WiderFunnel doesn’t just play lip-service to company values; it’s in every action we take, every strategy session, every document and every meeting. The values help shape our actions and in turn our actions are what cause such great results.
Everyone in this office is motivated to lift WiderFunnel to new heights, the company values are what helps us work in unison.” - Mike “Newfie”
“I feel more motivated thinking about them because when I consciously apply them, I feel good about myself (even in personal settings).” - Claire “Clairette”
How do you feel the Vegas Summit experience has contributed to our team happiness and success?
“It gave the opportunity for us to get to know people we don’t normally work with – and what great people they are!” - Monica
“I think an experience like the Vegas Summit does help attract and retain A-players. I feel like sharing that kind of experience, where we’re practically living with each other, would keep away those individuals who don’t share the same values, or feel the same way about WiderFunnel.” - Megan
How would you describe the working culture at WiderFunnel now?
“Dynamic and beautiful. It’s a constant evolution and one that I feel blessed to be a part of moving forward.” - Mike “Newfie”
“Hard working. Fast paced, flexible decision making (opposed to corporations with large hierarchy nets), collaborative/supportive and fun.” - Jacqueline
What does this mean for our clients?
Most importantly, a happy, smart, engaged team wants to deliver great work for clients. Each one of us takes our work personally and aims to over-deliver. When we accept a new client, we will only do so if we believe we can get great results for them, and we’re committed to working at it until we do.