At last week’s Conversion Conference West, I attended an interesting panel discussion, moderated by our own Howard Kaplan, called “Large Company Optimization from the Trenches.” In it, representatives from larger companies (Blue Shield of California, Symantec, Mattel, Inc., and RealNetworks) shared the struggles and successes of trying to build an optimization practice within a corporate structure. They all talked in part about how they had to “build bridges” to other departments in the company (e.g. Sales, IT, Legal, etc.) in order to successfully optimize their marketing efforts.
The panelists didn’t come out and say it, but I feel that marketers who want to reap the rewards of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) at their companies need to build the all-important bridge to the Information Technology (IT) department in order to be successful. Time and time again we’ve seen clients stumble because the Marketing group tried to do CRO without laying the proper foundation with the IT organization. And they wonder why tests take so long to implement? Why usability issues can’t be fixed more quickly?
Think about the mandates that IT folks are generally given: security, speed, redundancy, Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, etc. But testing in a continuous fashion to gradually increase conversion rates and get better ROI on Marketing’s investments? “Never heard of it.”
If you want to really get rolling with Optimization in your larger company, ask yourself and your colleagues if you’ve done the due diligence to understand IT’s world–what are their charters? what is their code deployment schedule and process? what are their KPIs? And most importantly, who is your testing champion within IT? This doesn’t have to be the CTO, and probably shouldn’t be. If you don’t know the name of this mid-level “champion,” now would be a good time to pause your ‘campaign’ to start an Optimization practice and go adopt a “seek to understand” mentality for a week or two.
Don’t worry, I wouldn’t scold you about this topic without providing our pointers for how to remedy the situation These come from my own observances from FutureNow’s client work as well as a few late night discussions with Conversion Conference speakers and attendees (Thanks for the refreshments, Tim Ash!).
Ways to find your testing “champion” in IT:
Tip #1: Send a few emails into the IT organization asking a technical question about testing and/or experimentation. Note who responds and how they respond.
Tip #2: Invite lots of IT folks to a “lunch and learn” about marketing optimization. See who shows up, who asks questions, and who participates.
Tip #3: Ping your project managers. They work across the whole organization, including IT, and they may point you to IT people who are fascinated by controlling variables and calculating standard deviation. These IT people may be your champion(s)!
Tip #4: Find out who in IT helped set up and customize your web analytics software. If they’re “data heads,” they’ll likely also be interested in experimentation.
Once you’ve found your champion, nurture the relationship and start asking for insights about the CTO or other IT leadership. What do they know about optimization? How do they feel about Marketing? Maybe you can even have your new friend in IT make a few introductions. Drop his or her name when you start talking to the CTO about testing software, e.g. “Well, Jane and I were talking about testing the other day, and she said that to work with our shopping cart, the testing software would probably have to be server-side.” You get the picture
We’d love to hear from readers on this topic. Drop us a comment if you’ve struggled with/against IT in your Optimization efforts, or if you have any tips to add about building bridges from Marketing to IT. If you’ve recently started to clear these types of hurdles, and want to jump-start your Optimization efforts with folks who are arguably the best in the ‘biz, ask us how »