Back in 2010 (ok, so it was only 4 weeks ago) I blogged about why CRO deserves a line item in your 2011 budget.Â But just how much should you budget for quality direction?Â Are there â€śhiddenâ€ť costs you should be aware of?Â Â Choosing something on your site to test, running that test, and then moving on to the next item may sound simple, but there are all kinds of things that can happen along the way to derail you.Â To be successful you need to ensure that you have the right combination of mindset, organizational structure, and budget.
So you spent an entire year working on your CMO, CTO, and CEO to convince them that the mish-mash, willy-nilly marketing approach wasnâ€™t working, and that you needed an accountable approach for making your website better.Â That time investment in company leadership came in quite handy when you shifted your focus to cleaning up the slew of organizational barriers to CRO success, since those main players greased the wheels with other key company staff to help you overcome those.Â Now, after a year and a half, you can finally say that your company as a wholeâ€¦
Company mindset?Â Check.Â Organizational barriers?Â Check.Â But do you really want to screw it all up with your unrealistic budget expectations?
Budgeting for Conversion Rate Optimization is an essential step in your strategy to make your website and marketing better. Your budget has to cover optimization for the full range of marketing you are doing, and the hidden costs of optimization, or it will failâ€¦ and take you down with it. Any CRO program comes with both direct costs and indirect costs, and estimating those is not always as easy as it seems.
The main cost people think of when they are considering doing CRO is the cost of getting expert conversion advice.Â The primary factor underpinning what you should budget for comprehensive Conversion Rate Optimization advice is how much marketing you have to optimize.Â There are several factors to consider when it comes to determining the scale of your current marketing:
1) Number of marketing channels youâ€™re playing in at any one time â€“ Think about the channels you engage in and make a running count of them.Â Your website counts as one.Â SEO efforts, PPC or Social Media each count as one.Â Higher numbers here mean more conversion pathways (the click-by-click path your visitors follow, all the way from search engine results to landing page, to the cart or â€ścontact usâ€ť form) to optimize. Your bottom line reflects the sum of all these little conversion rates.Â The more of them you have to impact, the more work will be involved.Â Thatâ€™s more time and effort for analysts, and an increase in the direct cost you can expect to pay for CRO insight or guidance.
2) Speed/frequency at which you shift marketing focus – Within each channel category you listed, tally up the number of campaigns you run on a monthly basis.Â You can use this information in two waysâ€¦. 1) By comparing the total number of campaigns you do each month in one channel versus the total number you do in another channel, you can get some sense for where your current marketing focus is; 2) By totaling the number of campaigns across all channels, and then dividing by the total number of channels, you can get some sense for how quickly you shift your marketing focus as a whole.Â The higher the numbers in either one of these areas, the more budget you will need to invest in CRO. Optimization efforts will need to keep pace with your marketing speed. Why?Â You guessed it:Â Quicker marketing pace means more conversion pathways to juggle, more data to analyze, and more time and energy for your analysts.
3) Current monthly marketing budget â€“ This is possibly my favorite of all the factors.Â The longer weâ€™re in the business, the stronger my belief that this may be the single biggest predictor of what you need to spend on CRO to do the job right.Â Why?Â Because all those other factors on the list cost you something, whether itâ€™s a line item on your budget or rolled into your companyâ€™s operating expenses, and that cost is proportional to the scale of your existing marketing efforts.Â If you spend $40k/month on PPC, what does that get you?Â It gets you a whole lot of keywords (ie. more conversion pathways) or some pretty competitive keywords (ie. trickier optimization of conversion pathways).Â Is it reasonable to expect that expert advice about how to optimize those conversion pathways will cost you $1,000/month?Â Thatâ€™s only 2.5% of your PPC budget; include salaries of internal staff or consultants, and that percentage goes down even further.Â That amount of money isnâ€™t really on par with the scope of marketing you have going on.Â Ditto for all the money you pay to your advertising agency for the ads they generate for you.Â Whatâ€™s more realistic?Â Budget somewhere around 10% of your current monthly marketing spend for CRO. Again, donâ€™t forget about the â€śhiddenâ€ť costs of all the things you do internally, like salaries for dedicated marketing, copywriting, design and development staff.
Now you have something to think about when it comes to how to account for the direct costs involved in your CRO program.Â Crunch those numbers this evening, and get a sense for what you should be paying for comprehensive CRO advice.Â Tomorrow, in Part 2 of this article, we’ll cover other costs you should be prepared for when doing CRO, and the ramifications of not budgeting accordingly…