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Monday, Nov. 22, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Marketing Improvement Is a Moving Target; Good CRO Flexes With You.

By Marijayne Bushey
November 22nd, 2010

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about some of the factors that differentiate Usability from Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). They are two unique practices, each one valid in its own right, and progressive steps in a business’s quest to make their website and marketing efforts better. Any attempt to make your website better starts by coming up with a prioritized list of focal points unique to you, based on trends you see in your own data set, and allowing that list of focal points to re-prioritize fluidly based on regularly timed dives into your data.  That’s a strength that tends to be particular to Conversion Rate Optimization.

Good CRO Has Flexibility of Focus (Re-Cap)

Maintaining a data-driven focus throughout an ongoing program to make your website better means the biggest revenue opportunities are discovered as they arise, and get bumped to the top of your list, allowing you to adapt to the ever changing online business environment. If you’re torn about two or three problem areas uncovered by your data, you can prioritize them by running the numbers on what a 10% lift in conversion at each point would mean for your bottom line. In that same post, I alluded to, but didn’t expand upon, the idea that a good CRO program also is adaptable to changing business goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Some of you picked up on that, and prodded me to get on it! So, without further ado…

Good CRO Adapts to Changing Business Goals and KPIs

If you want to make your website better as quickly as possible, make sure you engage in a conversion rate optimization program that allows flexibility to change with your changing business priorities over time. What does that mean? Isn’t our unflinching primary goal in business to make money? Well, yes… typically it is. But think about how your company generates revenue, in terms of your sales process, seasonal patterns you see in your business, and even just how many marketing initiatives you make and how quickly you shift focus from one to another.  There are a few main factors you need to consider when first trying to figure out how your business goals and key performance indicators shift from day to day…

Your Revenue Sources

Ask whether or not there are multiple ways you drive revenue for your business, and if one revenue generator is a higher priority than another.  Think about where it makes the most sense to focus first, being sure to consider how the two revenue sources may impact one another.

Calendar Year Highs and Lows

Think about whether or not seasonality plays a part in sales patterns in your business, and recognize how that impacts your goals, your ability to focus on certain aspects of your marketing and areas of your website, or even the time demands those fluctuations put on your staff. Do product categories fluctuate with the weather, or with various holidays? Is your development team burdened at certain times of the year, so that you should avoid tasks that require their involvement during those times?  Are certain areas of the site on lock-down during a high season? Does your focus shift from information resources for existing users to new user enrollment around certain industry calendars?

Your Sales Process

Consider your strategy for building customer commitment to your products or services, and how you develop visitors from prospect, to customer, to bigger spender, to repeat customer, etc. Think about how that increasing commitment is reflected in the actions your prospects take on your site. Ask where it makes the most sense to focus first, and formulate a plan for moving forward from there, recognizing the goals and KPIs for your improvement strategy change with your shifting focus.

Your Evolving Marketing Strategy

Don’t discount the way your overall marketing strategy affects your goals and KPIs. Most companies realize that a big initiative such as launching a second website, demands a shift in goals and KPIs. Even basic changes to your marketing strategy, such as launching a new email campaign, initiating pay-per-click efforts, or starting work on SEO, mean that your conversion rate optimization goals shift slightly.

Marketing Improvement is a Moving Target

If you’re involved in a continuous effort to make your website and marketing efforts better, it’s important to recognize that your business goals and KPIs are a moving target, and equally important to engage in a marketing improvement strategy that can account for that. An important first step is to ask yourself a few questions about how your company drives revenue, whether or not there are calendar patterns in the company’s revenue, and what marketing plans are on the table for the next 3-6 months. Give some thought to what stage of maturity the company is in today, and how these factors might change as you grow. Have you experienced other factors that caused your business goals and the KPIs that measure them to shift?  Post a comment to tell us about them.

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Comments (14)

  1. When I was doing heavy affiliate marketing KPI for me personally has usually been total revenue (commission sales) and the difference between the cost it took to obtain those sales vs total income.

    In the niche I was working in, it was common knowledge that summer months were slow, we called it the “summer slow down” and things would generally pick up after the slow period.

  2. As our company starts to shift focus to international goals, although the company is well established domestically, it’s like starting from scratch. We have to redefine, in almost each new country, what our KPIs and goals will be.

  3. Another great post, thanks Mj. I think the key point here is the revenue sources. If Product A brings more to the business than Product B, but Product B has better search engine rankings than A, then your focus should be on Product A in terms of search and conversion optimisation. So many people will focus their efforts converting those visitors that come to a site via well ranked keywords – but if those keywords don’t bring in much money, then what’s the point…

  4. Every business, follow these steps are necessary. I usually monitoring CRO on both High and low of calenders on year.

  5. This is well written advice and makes some good points, the only thing I might add is if you say your going to do something, stick to it lol !

  6. So easy to get caught up in a downward trend and forget that it was exactly the same last year.. all too often people look at the small picture.. when the really need to look at the picture as a large

  7. Hi! It’s my first time to hear about CRO, KPIs, and all the data analysis they involve. From what I’ve read, they do seem to be important if you’re serious about maximally converting your website readers, and also if you want to maximize your staff without overburdening them.

    My concern right now is that typical startup entrepreneurs would need to hire somebody else to do all this analysis for them — wouldn’t they. And that would, of course, mean extra expense.

    So I was wondering, is there a specific point in one’s company growth where the analysis of these data becomes imperative, and when is the benefit marginal?

  8. @Anders – great observations and questions! It definitely is a balancing act, as you rightly suggest. It is important to look at your data, and try to improve upon what you have, no matter how big you are. As soon as you have a website, it’s a good idea to start tracking what’s going on. There are traffic thresholds for doing formal testing. We’ve written about that and some of the tools you can use to help you figure out what those are, as well as how to do CRO if you don’t yet get those levels of traffic. Really it is all about scale, and recognizing that any budget you put towards a marketing effort (web site, PPC, email, social media, etc), requires some similar budget to be allocated toward the optimization of that effort. As you grow and expand your marketing efforts, your budget for CRO should grow accordingly. But you are correct, this warrants further explanation. I’ll see what can be done about getting a post up about this topic in the near future. ;-)

  9. Really good questions for us to consider. We are about to re-design our website and we are very keen to get a much cleaner design that follows the transaction process and funnels vistors through the sales process. It will be an interesting challenge to see how people interact with the site.

  10. Great article, I agree with you. I think the key point here is the income sources. What the point of having multiple sites but it didn’t convert well…

  11. Our business is very seasonal and I can relate to this article in regards to the moving targets. Fantastic article.

  12. My concern right now is that typical startup entrepreneurs would need to hire somebody else to do all this analysis for them — wouldn’t they. And that would, of course, mean extra expense.

  13. @emmy – there is an expense either way: even if you do it yourself there is the opportunity cost for the number of hours you put into CRO instead of other work for the company. If you’re really good at it, that’s fantastic! But sometimes, you get better ROI from going to someone who deals with this kind of thing every day. :-) Any time you have efforts though, you should be budgeting for improving them because little changes over time add up. More on how to budget for CRO in another post….

  14. I’m lost. What is a good example of a conversion rate optimisation program?

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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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