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Wednesday, Mar. 9, 2011 at 11:04 am

The Tortoise and the Hare: Lessons for CRO

By Whitney Wilding
March 9th, 2011

You are probably familiar with the childhood story of the tortoise and the hare. As the story goes, the tortoise challenges the hare to a race after the hare’s continual bragging about his own speed. However, in the end, it’s the slow and steady tortoise that actually wins the race. It may seem unclear as to how this has anything to do with the topics that we typically cover on the Grok, but this fable has more bearing on conversion rate optimization and efforts to make your website better than most people realize.

In a competitive online marketing world, getting ahead of the competition can definitely be viewed as a race to the finish line. FutureNow strongly advocates testing as a customer-centric, data-driven way to make your website better.  But your attitude toward testing could make a fool or a champion of you.

Sure, we all love that one golden test in which the variation beats the original hands down and your conversion rate quadruples! Looking back at our allegory, this is where our friend, the hare, would take a break to skip around the meadow, all the while tooting his horn at his success. But we all know how the story ends…he was congratulating himself before the race was actually completed! That brings us back to how our most successful clients view testing and CRO for their sites. While our best clients certainly move quickly, like the hare, and don’t obsess over having a “perfect” solution before launching a test, they definitely don’t stop to gloat when a test is successful. They realize, like the tortoise, that stopping before the race is over is counter-productive… and they also come to realize, through months of continuous testing and gain-upon-gain, that the CRO race is never really over!

The beauty of this approach is that the numbers themselves speak very elegantly to the point. My colleague, Brendan Regan, did a fantastic job of illustrating this in his article, The Power of Compounding Conversion Rate Increases. Let’s take a closer look at Brendan’s example.  Click to enlarge the image.

This chart shows two competitors who each ran an initial test with the same results (the data point just above Test 1). However, one company stopped testing (the red line), while the other continued testing, with smaller but continual gains (the blue line). The red line stays static after initially doubling the conversion rate, but the blue line more than doubles a second time! These results were achieved by pushing forward to make incremental gains with continuous testing.  So, which one would you rather be?  Although we all love to have the swiftness of the hare in our optimization efforts, sometimes, it’s the determination and steadiness of the tortoise that really affects our results.  Contact us to find out how we can help you change your attitude toward testing and get results like these.

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Comments (9)

  1. I think the steady approach should be used everywhere. It applies to life as well as strategic marketing but being able to take that step back and being able to home in on each part of a strategy is an art that cannot be taught and comes with experience. Thanks for this post, I love the hare and tortoise story, reminds me of school

  2. We need to keep up with the market closely if we want to stay ahead. The world has changes a lot since internet was used. We have to continue to do trial and error test and trouble shoot often to outdo our competitors.

  3. The same is true in so many aspects in life. The other way I’ve heard this idea being phrased is “instant gratification oriented” and “delayed gratification oriented”. The latter almost always beats the former.

  4. I am new to optimization and just realizing that as for everything in life you must be persistent, especially here. More time past more experience I gain and slowly starting to separate good thing from bad. This story is nice example about patience and effort. Thanks.

  5. Definitely, always need to be testing. Claude Hopkins said way back in the early 1900′s.

    Don’t know where I heard the maxim, but it’s true here… “If you’re not consistently failing in your marketing, then you’re not testing enough.”

    Also, things goes well with the attitude that the first incarnation of any marketing campaign is going to be as “bad as it gets.” From there it’s only up,up,up – thanks to testing and making small improvements over time.

    Great stuff!

  6. The trial and error test and trouble shoot often is the best thing to outdo our competitors.

  7. The world has changes a lot since internet was used. We have to continue to do trial and error test and trouble shoot often to outdo our competitors

  8. Right. To be too fast can’t work all the time. Sometimes, Slow can also won or may derive better results.

  9. Slow and steady is a time tested proven strategy. Need proof? Look at nature. Water is an incredible force that will remove any obstacle and generally it does it slowly over time. CRO is no different just be consistent and creative; you too will overcome any obstacle.

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