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Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010 at 9:49 am

Want to Dip a Toe in CRO Waters?… Just Shoot Yourself in the Foot.

By Marijayne Bushey
November 2nd, 2010

ToeInWaterBIGIf I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “We’d like to start with something small and see how it goes before making a bigger commitment.” While this might seem like a logical approach, it’s actually setting yourself up for failure. Furthermore, it puts you dangerously close to being put off conversion rate optimization (CRO) forever; a scary thought considering CRO, when practiced continuously, is one of the most effective weapons in your armory for the battle against marketing (and overall business) mediocrity. Statements like these belie the fact that your company has not yet adopted a culture of optimization.

Conversion Rate Optimization: an all or nothing venture?

So if the goal of conversion rate optimization is to make your marketing better (the same investment you make today returns higher percentages of results tomorrow), the only way you could possibly be put off course is if it flat out doesn’t make your marketing better, right?  Wrong!  How on earth is it possible that CRO could be working, and you could still want to stop?  If you aren’t committed to optimizing your marketing efforts on a global level, and start with a small effort to test the waters, what likely will result is:

1. You probably won’t feel the impact – Let’s say you have a website and you have several different efforts (Social Media, PPC, SEO, and Email Marketing) aimed at driving potential customers to it. Within each of those efforts, you have a variety of campaigns going on, all working symbiotically to secure you more business than any one of the parts does. Together, those efforts drive visitors to your website. But each effort, and each campaign within it, delivers a particular experience to your visitors from the very first click, all the way through to the sale/lead. You may have anywhere from 4 to 20+ unique experiences aimed at various segments of visitors! And that scenario doesn’t even account for the fact that there are 4 distinct communication styles visitors exhibit, each one playing out differently within the context of your marketing efforts!

A good CRO program will evaluate each of those experiences separately. Your overall improvement is the sum of all parts in much the same way that your overall traffic is the sum of all contributors. Then it stands to reason (we have witnessed it) that even with some big gains in that one area you optimize, the other under-performing efforts will dampen the impact on your overall conversion rate.

2. You may not get positive ROI – To get return on investment for your CRO efforts, the total cost of doing CRO must be less than the additional revenue generated by any increases in your conversion rate.

If you push the example in item #1 a step further, plugging the sales increase you get into an ROI calculation, it’s easy to imagine how achieving only small increases in the conversion rate would put a company in danger of not seeing ROI on the efforts, although huge amounts of traffic, or high price points and big margins, can sometimes close the gap. While it may cost more, the increased cost of an all-in approach often delivers disproportionately more bang for the buck, and tips the equation in favor of Positive ROI.

3. You could be put off taking a global approach – If you don’t feel the impact of CRO, and you don’t see good ROI on your efforts, who would blame you for coming to the conclusion that CRO isn’t worth pursuing on a larger scale?  We would, that’s who!  A global, data-driven, processed approach to optimizing marketing efforts stands to increase your conversion rate by 20% or more within the matter of a few months.

Looking at a tiny subset of your total traffic and click-streams produces unpredictable results that may or may not be a predictor of future success. By limiting focus to such an extent, you may unwittingly remove some of the biggest holes and highest priority fixes from your range of vision… so if you’re put off the trail by less than impressive results in your initial focus, you’ll never realize those potential increases.

What to do instead

Commit wholeheartedly or not at all. Develop an open, honest discourse with any Jumping into water BIGcompany you may be considering to help you in your effort, and allow the experts to set the bar for what a wholehearted approach to conversion rate optimization entails under your current circumstances. If you are not in a position to commit wholeheartedly today, define the terms of such a commitment and state the criteria for when you will be ready.

Once you get started, maintain momentum for CRO by understanding how the moving parts of your combined marketing efforts work together, focusing only on the gains you are making in the areas you are optimizing, and allowing your wins there to generate the momentum necessary to keep going. Keep meticulous records about the click-streams you are working on, the goals and KPIs at each step along them, and how the improvements you make add up over time. But the best way to keep decision-makers on board is to tie any improvement to a revenue value.

Push back on naysayers of a wholehearted CRO attack by doing some modeling to demonstrate how much additional revenue the company would make if conversion went up by 10%, 20% or 50%. If the modeling doesn’t show strong ROI, or only shows strong ROI with much larger increases in conversion, then maybe you shouldn’t be considering CRO at all. If it does show awesome ROI, then go all in. Reach out and let us help you model wins if you don’t know where to begin or aren’t sure if your potential wins are big enough.

Have thoughts about this?  Tell us about them. Tweet it to your followers and invite them to read and comment.

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Comments (9)

  1. [...] one that caught my interest is Marijayne Bushey’s article, Want to Dip a Toe in CRO Waters?… Just Shoot Yourself in the Foot. The point she makes about CRO being an all or nothing pursuit is dead on – and one that is [...]

  2. For me, ROI is of the highest priority on those web marketing investments that IMHO do not create word of mouth results. Many are disguised as such in order to increase sales, when in essence do nothing but cost the advertiser.

  3. Internet marketing, creating in my humble opinion by word of mouth effect. Many of them are dressed as such to growth sales, but most do nothing, but the cost of advertising.

  4. Good article. Well written and informative.
    I have noticed that my clients who give the “start small line” dont realize the climate of contemporary internet marketing. A good way of getting past this is comparing the cost effectiveness of new media ads compared to old school print, tv and radio ads.
    To capitalize on new media marketing campaigns, clients need to abandon their core understanding of ROI in marketing.

  5. CRO is strange. Obvious improvements have resulted in significantly lower conversion rates for our store, with no explanation. A/B split tests are probably the best way to proceed.

  6. All techniques of marketing are very valid ….

  7. indeed the goal of conversion rate optimization is to make your marketing better, however its relevant now days is in question mark regarding its effects.

  8. I completely in unison with you that the basis of any good CRO initiative is Testing, Testing, Testing!!! Continuously testing unique experiences across different site components and elements can help you discover clear and actionable insights, as well as give you a great starting point to springboard from. However, I don’t agree that a company should relentlessly pursue CRO, even if the results prove to be unprofitable. In order for a CRO initiative to be worthwhile, especially for small businesses, positive ROI has to be established and maintained. Maybe a lot of bigger companies can afford to lose money short-term if achieving profitability is apart of the larger, long term plan. However, most small businesses cannot.

  9. @ecommerce optimization – We agree with you 100%. Any effort you put into your business (CRO or otherwise) should be held accountable for positive ROI. Before we agree to take on a client, we find it helpful to crunch some numbers together to project how various potential increases in conversion rate will impact a business’s bottom line. If we don’t see a WOW! factor in the potential to generate revenue, or if it will take a really big increase in conversion to get the WOW! factor, we address our concerns head-on with the client.

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Mj has been proselytizing the merits of customer-centric, data-driven, continuous Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) for FutureNow since 2007.

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