Conversion Optimization Program Management

Insights on how to successfully manage a CRO program.

We have come to the last installment of the review series that we have been doing on the Conversion Optimization Course at CXL where we have looked at the various aspects of a conversion optimization program over the last 12 weeks. How to successfully plan and implement the optimization program will be a way to summarize it.

Delivering a successful conversion optimization program involves a whole lot of variables and in this post, we will take a closer look at a few of these aspects and the best practices that have been tried and tested over a period of time.

So let’s get going.

Building a team: There are essentially 2 models for optimization programs namely, centralized model and a distributed model.

In a centralized model, there is a central team with an engagement manager handling a pivotal role of working all the stakeholders. The resources across the various skill sets, be it design, development, testing and even project managers are often pooled.

The distributed model on the other hand is adopted more by technical organizations, especially SaaS companies, as it is by and large a technical practice; also the maturity level needed to collaborate on such projects are on the higher side as well.

The 2 models can indeed coexist within an organization too.

To start with, the team needs to have an in-house generalist who knows the wide range of subject areas and then the specific talents like designers, developers and testers can be hired as you scale up. It is not uncommon to see the whole project outsourced to an agency, though in that scenario, it is imperative that you need to have an engagement manager running the whole show.

It is worth noting that the skills set and the type of personnel that a CRO project needs will depend on the industry though there are some roles that you cannot do without, like a designer, developer and tester.

Program Goals & Tracking Success: It is really important to align the CRO goals with the larger business goals so that the value of the project can be tied directly to the KPIs of the business. So things like revenue targets, lead generation targets, the test win rates etc. should normally be part of the list of initial goals.

The level of output you can expect will largely depend on the kind of team that is built for the program. Unless there is a considerable amount of systemization or automation of processes related to metrics setup, analysis and QA, you should expect 2 to 3 tests a week at best.

Also, the initial results will be based on the maturity of the program, and so you would expect a lot of quick wins and a high percentage of growth for a company that is just starting as compared to those who are at an advanced stage. In fact, having some quick wins that are significant will really help in getting executive support as well as acceptance within the other teams.

On tracking success, the test win rate is quite important to demonstrate progress and it is not sufficient to have just learnings to project even in the early stages. The win rate by the idea source is a good metric to track as well as the speed to execution.

Scaling & Growth: Once the program gets more settled and the volume of tests get bigger, companies do tend to offshore certain aspects of the program like design, coding and testing though there is an ongoing debate about the efficiency of doing it. But what isn’t debatable is to have the engagement manager in-house to closely manage the project to make sure all the different wheels are aligned and moving together. The engagement manager needs to be as close as possible to the key stakeholders to ensure that the objectives and priorities are aligned as well.

What tends to normally happen while companies scale up is focus on quantity and take the eye off the quality which is so very crucial in the larger scheme of things. Agility is another potential casualty in this area that needs to be guarded against.

Documenting knowledge and sharing that with the larger team is also vitally important when scaling up not just to keep everyone abreast with the development of the program, but also for easy reference and onboarding when you get more people to the team.

Building the case for optimization: There are quite number of challenges to overcome in order to build a strong case for optimization within an enterprise like,

  • Creating a space for the optimization program itself and articulating the benefits of the program to the company that is visible and substantial.
  • Taking on the status quo across the teams would often mean that you’re going to cross the accepted team roles which can cause insecurities.
  • Convincing the stakeholders that there is a lot to optimization than the basic stuff that the team is already doing and that testing and optimization is a modern approach to business itself.

A key aspect to this is to build sufficient energy and interest in the program and the optimization team should involve all the teams possible in the various stages of the program.

Communication and education become critical components in this context. Workshops of the methods, psychological principles, mechanics of testing and the general way of how to look at data can come in very handy in evangelising the program. Conducting competitions with the various teams on board is another useful tactic that can be employed and these teams can come up with some really out of the box ideas to test.

Things likes blog posts and newsletters featuring the achievements and cross team involvement are good additions to keep the team engaged and informed about the progress of the project and give them a sense of belonging and build positive anticipation.

Pushing for budget: Given that the CRO when done the right way provides a really good return on investment, campaigning for budget shouldn’t be a big problem. You need to start with a vision for the program, create a plan that is meticulous but flexible at the same time and communicate it well with the wider group.

Communicating results: The need to communicate the progress and results of the optimization program in an effective manner cannot be stressed enough. The fact that the CRO practice is quite technical comes in the way of people understanding the way you report it and so care should be taken to make the technical concepts easily digestible. So you would do well to stay away from industry jargon, use footnotes and annotations in ample measure to explain things, focus on the big picture and try not to get bogged down by the details.

Being a good storyteller will help you a great in communicating results and success.

Tool Stack: Let’s look at some of the key considerations while deciding on the optimal tool stack to implement the optimization program.

A good place to start is to create a tools matrix which describes all the specifics,

  • What tools are needed?
  • Who will be using the tool?
  • What is the value that the tools will bring?

Though there will be a plethora of tools to choose, it is best to start with the customer experience space and so tools for user research and analytics will take precedence.

Often you’ll find that the required tools could be used across different teams and functions and so there will be opportunities to share the cost.

It is quite possible that the company has already invested in technology and you should try and leverage that before looking to invest more. Once you’ve exhausted the usage of existing tools, look for cheaper solutions or freeware at the early stages as there are a lot of really nifty solutions available that will help you get going. Depending on the stage of the program the type of tools needed can be classified as follows.

Early stages (Crawl): Quantitative and qualitative data collection, tag manager, testing tool

Intermediate (Walk): Heat Map, session replays, personalization and visualization, trigger based marketing tools etc.

Advanced (Run): Complex attribution technology, eye tracking, data management platforms, advanced research methods that are based on statistical concepts, machine learning, predictive targeting etc.

Also it is important to involve the teams who will be using the tool in the buying decision so ensure it fits the purpose and also there is no unreasonable long learning curve.

Final Thoughts: The interesting part of the CRO program is that the initial stages of the program where the investment on technology is relatively low, is where you tend to see the biggest changes and as the company matures in its program, the changes become less obvious but become part of the company culture and practice. So start with the right goals in place, get some quick wins to get executive buy-in and build momentum and then step up and scale accordingly. There won’t be bigger heroes than the optimization champions, due to the impact they can create to the business.

So that’s it, folks. Thoroughly enjoyed the course and cannot wait to apply the learnings to my work and make a positive and tangible difference to the businesses.