Moving On Up: The CRO Maturity Model Parts 3 & 4

Written by Intern - 15 Dec 2016

In an earlier post, we looked at the first two stages of the CRO maturity model. Tim Ash is a world renowned optimiser who, quite literally, wrote the book on conversion rate optimisation (his compendium of testing best practise “Landing Page Optimisation” is one of the most widely respected titles on the topic).

Tim’s maturity model covers 4 stages from un-optimised to advanced and looks at how business culture evolves over the course of the journey.

Stage 1 “Unoptimised” applies to those organisations that have a fragmented approach to digital transformation with no formal process of factoring in customer data into a design change.

Stage 2 “Basic” allows for some occasional tactical conversion projects but there is no structure to the way testing is being managed and no communication channel to tell the business about test winners and losers.

Now it’s time to take the next step up to Stage 3 which Tim Ash calls the Intermediate Stage.

At the intermediate stage, your organisation will have now embraced the principle of site optimisation as a discipline and will now tend to match most or all of the following criteria:

  • There are some dedicated full time optimisation positions. Job titles such as “Conversion Manager” or “Optimisation specialist” are starting to appear on your organisational chart.
  • You will have a platform and a plan in place. You will be regularly using a testing tool and probably will have a business relationship with a tool provider, giving you the ability to run AB and split tests when you want to run them, without having to ask the board.
  • Test results are being given a stricter examination and you will also have moved beyond simple split testing and looking at data in aggregate.
  • Segmentation will have been introduced, so you will be splitting your test data by common segments such as new vs returning visitors or by mobile vs desktop.
  • Results of your experiments are also regularly being fed back to senior executives who understand the benefits of optimisation and are using this data in their own reports.
  • Your programme of testing is now directly informing the overall marketing strategy, rather than decisions being made by a series of opinions from topic expert (those experts are instead using their experience to build and refine test hypotheses and making judgements and planning according to real test data).

If most, or all, of these dynamics sound familiar then congratulate yourselves for being within the Intermediate segment of the CRO maturity model.

Now, here comes the tricky bit; moving up to the advanced stage.

The advanced stage of the CRO maturity model brings a new set of challenges which require a step change in thinking and approach. This is because, at this point, data is supposed to be driving the overall marketing strategy.

  • Increased internal visibility will involve educating your teams and proving the effectiveness of your experiments.
  • Dashboarding should be in real time and highly visible to the business and senior stakeholders. You will probably also need to deliver an education piece to explain the implications of the real time reporting, especially as reporting on unfinished experiments may well be visible.
  • Also be prepared for an increasing amount of pressure on content owners as they are expected to deliver personalised messages to customers in real time.
  • Finally, you may also find yourself occasionally locking horns with internal stakeholders who will perceive that a part of their job role is now within the whim of the optimisation team.

With the intermediate and advanced stages of the maturity model in mind, we have our 5 tips to help you cope with these growing and maturing pains.

1. Manage expectations and be prepared to fail forward

Optimisation is not a cash-cow that can suddenly be milked. VWO research suggests that only 14% of tests generate uplift. This means that the majority are losses or draws, and that’s fine so long as you are learning something. The purpose of optimisation is to introduce a culture that allows you to try out ideas that help you stay ahead of the competition. The more you are innovating, the more likely you are to keep ahead, and it is this message you must lead with when communicating with other areas of the business.

2. Ensure your content is right before you start testing

In order to succeed, any website needs a foundation of great management, brilliant products, inspiring branding, persuasive copywriting and enticing design to attract and keep customers. The purpose of optimisation is to be like an elite coach to all of these high performing departments - benchmarking performance and teasing out incremental gains across a variety of areas. This needs to be communicated throughout your business, preferably via your senior sponsor.

3. Make change safe and secure

Changing processes can be scary and threatening to some staff. Again, moving up to advanced optimisation standards should be about liberating people in your business not intimidating them. Elon Musk has a very good way of explaining how the culture of his Space X organisation is set up to give members of the organisation free rein to try things out: “failure is an option here. If you’re not failing, you’re not innovating enough” – adopting a similar mantra and platform for you optimisation team means they can implement their tests without the added pressure of ensuring that absolutely all of them need to provide an uplift.

4. Be inclusive

Everyone should feel they are contributing to the success of the optimisation programme. An optimisation programme that operates in secret is doomed to failure because high quality ideas from inside and outside the business is the fuel that stokes big test wins. You should make it clear that the whole endeavour is an evolution, not a revolution, and that any stakeholder is at liberty to contribute ideas. However, within this culture of collaboration all ideas ultimately must be filtered consistently through your test prioritisation process.

5. Spend 90% of your budget on humans and 10% on tech.

In 2006, digital marketing thinker Avinash Kaushik declared that for web analytics success businesses should spend 10% of their budget on tools and 90% on tech. We believe this is still true generally in digital marketing and especially in CRO and site optimisation. There are some amazing test platforms out there including Optimizely, Adobe, VWO and many others. Tools are only as good as the expertise that goes into idea generation, visualisation, execution, management and insight and to get the best out of these platforms you need highly trained and motivated individuals.

Follow these guidelines and you will be at the summit of website optimisation. To stay there you will need to keep calm, keep focused, keep innovating and keep learning.

However, if you are struggling to navigate your way around internal blockers and operational silos that may be causing your CRO progression to slow, then get in touch with us to discuss how we have worked with many clients to help them fast track and develop their CRO and testing maturity.

Happy optimising!