Who Are the Top 1% Marketers?

As a marketer, knowing who to follow and learn from can be incredibly challenging. With a seemingly endless amount of content and marketing experts to sort through, it’s not always easy knowing whether someone has demonstrated the ability to ‘walk the walk.’ Having a large social media following doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a great marketer. […]

The post Who Are the Top 1% Marketers? appeared first on CXL.

As a marketer, knowing who to follow and learn from can be incredibly challenging. With a seemingly endless amount of content and marketing experts to sort through, it’s not always easy knowing whether someone has demonstrated the ability to ‘walk the walk.’

Having a large social media following doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a great marketer. And if you Google “top marketers,” and you’ll often find the same lists of the same names, you probably already know.  

Even worse, many of those top lists aren’t inclusive, leaving many objectively great marketers unseen. 

At CXL, we wanted to work to build an authoritative marketers database that wasn’t based on superficial metrics, or simply rehashing the big names of today. 

We wanted to go beyond a one and done list and to create an evergreen resource for marketers to find experts in specific areas of marketing.

For this project we had a few specific goals. 

1. Highlight and showcase the best marketers period—not just the ‘big names’ or those with a large following.

2. Cut through the noise by directly asking our marketing peers who they learn the most from. 

3. Create the go to resource for marketers to reference so they can know exactly who they can connect and learn from for specific marketing advice. 

Today we’re excited to share our Top Marketers Database, and explain our process for how it all came together. 

Who are the top 1% of marketers?

Before we share how we went about putting this list together, we should note that there are some limitations of our process. By design, you may not see some of the house-hold names of marketing that you might expect (and perhaps rightfully deserve to be on the list.) 

At CXL, we’re huge fans of shipping an MVP and working to improve it over time, and that’s exactly what we did with this project. Over time we expect the collection of marketers to continue to grow and we’ll update the list as responses continue to roll in. Additionally, we also plan on building out the ability to sort marketers by their specific area of expertise. 

For an individual to make version 1 of our list, we required that they receive 2+ votes from their peers. Our intention behind this, was to prevent individuals making the cut simply because their friends voted them in.

That of course, means that some qualified individuals may not be listed (yet.)

Our process for finding the best marketers 

To kick off this project, we first started with a list of some 50 marketers who we subjectively believed to be world class: experts well known for their advanced knowledge in SEO, digital psychology, analytics, content, branding, and CRO.

This initial list included CXL contributors, course instructors, and other marketing colleagues we’ve worked with first hand. We did our best to ensure that the initial seed list of marketers was as diverse as possible.

From that list, we then sent out a short email which read as follows:

Outreach email.

As we noted in our initial outreach email:

The goal of the project is to help new(er) marketers pay attention to the smartest people, and we’re developing that list by following the trail—asking smart marketers to name other smart marketers, then asking those marketers to name a few more, and so on.

Here’s how it looked in action: 

marketers.

From the responses, we then collected the names of those mentioned, and tallied how many votes each individual received. Reaching out to just shy of 500 people, we received 343 votes. 

On average, 1 in every 4 people we reached out to ended up filling out the survey, adding more names to the list, allowing us to continue to do outreach based on their responses. 

Survey results.
The total number of votes were inclusive (i.e. of the 57 people that received 2 votes, 21 of them received 3 votes, 9 received 4, and 5 received 5.)

From the names compiled, we then spent time collecting their social media profiles as well as other information such as their company and or website. In future updates, we hope to list their specific area of expertise as well as title.

We suspect as we continue to do more outreach, that many more of the names listed will move up the rankings and present an accurate picture of who the best marketers are. 

Conclusion

Ultimately, this project started out as a way to scratch our own itch. We wanted an easy way to quickly know who we should be following to keep up to date with what’s working (and not) in marketing. 

There are thousands of incredibly smart marketers and practitioners whose voices aren’t always heard and our goal is to help amplify those who are the best at their craft.

We invite you to check out the first version of our marketers database here

The post Who Are the Top 1% Marketers? appeared first on CXL.

How to Use Your PPC Campaigns as A Prospecting Tool for SEO

When launching a digital brand, PPC can be a great way to immediately break into a new market and start generating website traffic. But with rising CPCs and unmitigated click fraud, PPC can also get really expensive quickly. Even the most skilled digital marketers can struggle to run profitable Google Ads campaigns. For this reason, […]

The post How to Use Your PPC Campaigns as A Prospecting Tool for SEO appeared first on CXL.

When launching a digital brand, PPC can be a great way to immediately break into a new market and start generating website traffic. But with rising CPCs and unmitigated click fraud, PPC can also get really expensive quickly. Even the most skilled digital marketers can struggle to run profitable Google Ads campaigns.

For this reason, getting more out of your PPC spend is not just about properly optimizing; it’s about using all of that PPC data to shape a smarter SEO strategy. In this article, I’ll break down how to use your Google Ads campaigns as prospecting tools for SEO. 

Why PPC is an effective short term strategy, but SEO is the long game.

With PPC, it’s critical to remember that you’re in essence “renting” visits to your website in the short-term. 

Brands that rely heavily on revenue from paid than organic search are only one crisis away from having their business turn upside down. The moment you stop paying for search ads is the moment your traffic dries up.

You can certainly jumpstart traffic with paid search, but if you’re on a budget this strategy can be difficult to maintain.

Unlike PPC, organic SEO allows brands to earn that same traffic without paying, and if done correctly, continue to benefit over time. That doesn’t mean Google Ads can’t be a valuable part of your marketing strategy, but putting all your eggs in one basket can come back to haunt you.

Depending on the competition and the rate at which you build your site authority, seeing the rewards of SEO can take months. That’s why PPC is one of my favorite ways to quickly start testing out digital strategy and sales processes. 

To prospect well, you need to properly optimize your Google Ads campaign

Before we look at how PPC campaigns can help with SEO, it’s critical to ensure you’re already optimizing your PPC campaigns first. 

There is a lot that goes into optimizing Google Ads campaigns, here are some 

1) Take an iterative approach

Most likely, your first campaign will not be profitable. But an unprofitable campaign can still give you loads of information about your set of keyword targets, bid amounts, ad formats, and the details you need to improve the effectiveness of your campaigns .

For example, if your ad is being triggered for irrelevant search terms or generating the wrong types of clicks, add those terms to your negative keyword list. If your ads are earning impressions but not clicks, revise your ad copy and work towards making them more relevant. 

In terms of the ideal length of a PPC campaign, I recommend you have enough monthly budget to acquire at least a few hundred clicks (you need enough conversions to calculate a statistically significant conversion rate.) In my experience three months of PPC budget is enough time to iterate your optimizations and prospect for SEO. 

Make small adjustments, monitor your results, then implement new changes accordingly. 

2) Use single keyword ad groups

Many PPC managers agree that one of the best optimization practices is single keyword ad groups. Yes, it takes more work for your marketing teams, but pages with the most relevant ad copy will generally improve click-through-rate and conversions. 

Adwords Account.
Single Keyword AdGroup Structure (Image source: LinkGraph)

I find the SKAG campaign structure to be incredibly helpful, and it uses only one keyword per ad group (rather than one ad group targeting multiple keywords). SKAGs make it easier to determine which keywords will perform well or not for SEO because:

  • The SKAGs with the highest CTRs and conversions will likely be winning SEO keywords
  • SKAGs help uncover relevant search terms that are worth targeting organically
  • SKAGs make split testing easier (the next optimization step) and can help you identify the most effective headlines and descriptions that you can utilize on SEO-driven pages.

3) Write highly-targeted ad copy and utilize A/B testing

If you’re structuring your campaigns properly and using SKAGs, you can create unique text ads for each target keyword in an ad group. With the Google Ads built-in A/B testing feature, you can also test out different headlines or descriptions to see which performs better. 

With the “Optimize,” ad rotation setting, ad served get weighted toward the ad that statistically appears to perform better. To run a proper A/B test, you need to have a clearly defined variant that you are testing, as well as two sets of ad copy that are unique enough to produce different results. In the below example, the description is the variant being tested, and the data shows that the B variant performed better (despite far fewer impressions).

Ad tests.
Example of Google Ads A/B testing feature

One of the most common pitfalls of A/B testing is that advertisers test out too many variants making it difficult to determine why one ad performed better over another. For this reason, it’s important to only test one variant at a time. 

4) Use a Google Ads bid simulator to determine the price you’re willing to pay

A bid strategy will ultimately play a big part of paying less for better clicks in PPC campaigns. There are benefits and drawbacks to manual and automatic bidding, but both require advertisers to determine appropriate keyword bids for their highest-value keywords—marketing effectively is hard work!

The Google Ads bid simulator is a great tool for finding this magic number. Many digital marketers often set their max bids too high and end up overpaying for clicks.

Google Ads bid simulator.
Google Ads bid simulator for the keyword “kitchen curtains.” 

The degree of the curve can help you determine an appropriate price to set your max bid amount. Where the curve flattens off shows where increasing your bid will only result in minimal traffic increases. 

In the above example, if you increase CPC from $1.41 to $3.00, the marginal cost-per-click for the incremental traffic is over two times more expensive for only 7% more impressions. I would bid $1.07 – $1.41 here. 

5) Optimize your landing pages for conversion

The work of PPC doesn’t end after the click. Although some brands run PPC campaigns just for brand awareness, performance-based campaigns are easier to measure, and in my opinion, conversions should be the ultimate goal of paying for your clicks. This means your  PPC landing pages need to be designed to be efficient mouse traps. Check out CXL’s guide on how to build high converting landing pages to help ensure your landing pages are optmized. 

How to use PPC Campaigns to Prospect your SEO strategy 

Once you’ve optimized your Google Ads campaigns and start buying clicks, you will begin collecting loads of data not only about whether your PPC campaign structure is effective, but whether or not you can redeploy it in SEO. 

PPC campaigns can help digital marketers simultaneously test out three things: 1) keyword targeting, 2) traffic quality, and 3) their website’s conversion funnel.

1) Use PPC to identify the high-value keywords for which your website can realistically rank 

One of the most advantageous elements of a PPC campaign is it helps digital marketers test out certain keywords before designing an SEO strategy around ranking organically for them. 

The Search Terms Report is the best place to go to get information about your keyword targeting. 

Example of a Google Ads Search Terms Report

It’s important to remember that your Google Ads are not only triggered for the search phrases or words that you add to your campaign, even if you use “Exact Match.” 

So be sure to review your search terms report to see the various phrases your ads are being triggered for and utilize that data. 

There will likely be many search terms that are generating clicks that weren’t originally on your radar. This report will also give you a broader sense of the long-tail keyword variants that present SEO opportunities, because those keywords are often less competitive to rank for (but still have high search intent). You can then create new landing pages or blog posts that are optimized for those long-tail phrases.

The search terms that generate quality clicks help establish that those keywords are likely worth targeting in SEO. If you find search terms in this report that are not relevant to your products or services but your ads are showing up, there is likely something off with your keyword targeting. 

There are of course many possibilities for this, but the most common errors are that your keywords are either too broad or they are multi-intent keywords that bring traffic that is not necessarily in the sales funnel. To correct this, add those keywords with less relevance to a negative keyword list.

The cost-per-conversion of your Google Ads can also help you understand the potential long-term economic value of ranking organically for certain keywords. 

Google Ads cost per conversion metrics.
Google Ads cost-per-conversion metrics

If it would cost hundreds to thousands of dollars to generate clicks in a PPC campaign, but you can find a way to get that same traffic to perpetuity from organic rankings, you can make significant headway in improving the overall ROI of your marketing spend. 

SEO has a wonderful way of drastically lowering cost-per-acquisition over time. Once you understand which search phrases have the potential to bring clicks and customers, you can optimize your website to rank for those same keywords and get the same traffic (but this time, for free.)

2) Understand traffic quality and the economic value of clicks

The second major benefit of PPC is that you can use their campaigns to prospect the economic quality of the traffic that comes with specific keywords. 

What makes traffic have economic value? If it enters your conversion funnel. 

Naturally, Google charges advertisers more money when the data shows that the keyword is more likely to result in conversions for your business. But any well-seasoned digital marketer will tell you that high CPCs don’t always directly translate into quality traffic. 

If a user clicks on your search ad and doesn’t enter the conversion funnel on your website, you’ve essentially paid for nothing. The consequences can be deadly: Low-quality traffic (whether from click fraud or improper keyword targeting), higher cost-per-conversions, lower Quality Scores, and higher CPCs in the long run. So the best place to understand the traffic quality of those keywords targets is by using Google Analytics

Another essential step in optimized PPC campaigns is setting up proper tracking (this is especially important for B2Bs where marketing attribution is already pretty tricky.) If you’re not doing so already, it’s critical to  link your Google Ads account with Google Analytics so you see exactly what your site’s visitors are doing once they arrive on your website via a paid click.

Here are some of the Google Analytics metrics that provide insight into the quality of your PPC clicks. Remember, bad keyword targeting and irrelevant ad messaging is bound to return low-quality clicks (but that’s on you). 

  • Geographic Location: Traffic from certain geographic areas can mean site visitors with smaller budgets or less buying power. To understand buying power even more, you can use geo-targeting to segment audiences in their PPC campaigns by region and compare conversion rates and economic value. When it comes to applying this to your SEO strategy, although some keywords may have high global search volume, it doesn’t guarantee the traffic will have strong buying intent.
  • Desktop vs. Mobile: In general, mobile has a lower conversion rate for most products and brings wildly different traffic than desktop. A poorly designed mobile version of your site may prevent qualified users from entering your conversion funnel, but if a lot of your PPC clicks are coming from desktop but are not converting, it could be a sign of low-quality traffic with less buying intent. 
Desktop vs mobile.
Desktop versus mobile conversion rates tracked in Google Analytics. (Image Source: Hallam)
  • Exit Rate: This metric represents the rate at which people leave your website on specific pages. If your exit rate is high on those pages that have lead capture forms, pricing information, or checkout pages, it’s likely that traffic is not ready to convert or make a purchase and should be categorized as low-quality.
Exit rate metrics on Google Analytics
Exit rate metrics on Google Analytics

Low-quality traffic can destroy your PPC campaigns, with organic SEO there’s more room for error. Even if it is easy to rank for a specific keyword organically, Google doesn’t consider site traffic in its ranking algorithm. Although that low-quality traffic might have brand awareness value, the SEO value is little to none.

3) Test whether your landing pages are well-designed to convert

PPC campaigns also provide the opportunity to test your website’s conversion funnel. With Google Ads conversion tracking, you can get a great sense of whether your landing pages are pulling their weight and guiding users toward the desired conversion action. 

To set up conversion tracking, you need to select which conversion actions you want to track. For ecommerce companies you’ll likely want to track when a user adds items to their shopping cart. For B2B or B2C brand (where the next step in the sales funnel isn’t necessarily a purchase) you may want to track actions like lead form submissions, downloads, or demo bookings.

Example of conversion actions that can be tracked in a Google Ads campaign.
Example of conversion actions that can be tracked in a Google Ads campaign

If certain conversion actions are significantly higher with your PPC campaigns, your landing pages that rank well will likely benefit from harnessing similar CTAs, lead capture forms, or design elements.

Traditionally, specialized PPC landing pages look much different than SEO-driven landing pages. With PPC, landing pages usually present users with a more obnoxious call to action, limit the content depth on the page, or sometimes even remove the nav bar to prevent users from browsing through the website. 

Illustration of a landing page designed for SEO and one designed for PPC (Image Source: TempleToaster)

These design elements can often conflict with what it takes to get a landing page to rank organically (e.g. In-depth content, breadcrumbs, external links, information architecture, rich media, etc.) 

Use your PPC campaigns to test out different landing page design elements or conversion-optimized practices and identify what works best. Some ideas include:

  • Number and placement of of CTAs;
  • Design elements like fonts, colors, size of buttons, etc;
  • Conversion-optimized features like sticky bars;
  • Removal of navigation menu.

You can also send PPC clicks to landing pages that already have strong keyword rankings, or you know have ranking potential, to test whether your conversion journey will translate for users who arrive to your website organically.

Conclusion 

PPC campaigns can be a great way to generate clicks in the short term, but are also incredibly helpful in improving your overall SEO strategy as well.

Though coming at a cost, PPC campaigns provide incredible amounts of valuable data about keyword targets, traffic, and whether your website is or isn’t conversion optimized. 

Here are the key takeaways to execute a SEO prospecting process with your PPC campaigns.

  • Use your PPC campaigns to identify the highest value keywords for your SEO strategy— keywords that get impressions, clicks, and bring quality traffic to your website.
  • Prospect traffic quality by linking your Google Ads campaigns with your Google Analytics account. Look at the data to help you determine buying intent, such as geographic location, traffic by device type, and exit rate.
  • Use Google Ads conversion traffic to test and iterate on your website’s conversion funnel. Incorporate the conversion-optimized design elements that worked in your PPC campaigns to your SEO-driven pages. Or, send PPC traffic to your SEO-driven pages to test the conversion journey.

The post How to Use Your PPC Campaigns as A Prospecting Tool for SEO appeared first on CXL.

Single-Page Forms vs. Multi-Page Forms

Should you use a single page or multiple pages for your form? Many designers have wondered which approach provides the better user experience. But the answer might not be so cut and dried. There are advantages and disadvantages to both that you need to…

Should you use a single page or multiple pages for your form? Many designers have wondered which approach provides the better user experience. But the answer might not be so cut and dried. There are advantages and disadvantages to both that you need to know. Deciding which is best depends on your form’s data fields […]

The post Single-Page Forms vs. Multi-Page Forms first appeared on UX Movement.

Budgeting for CRO: Why You Need To Set Aside a Budget and How To Create One

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is still under-prioritized at many companies and is often the last, sometimes even neglected, marketing investment. However, omitting CRO from your marketing strategy means you’re assuming that acquiring new users is more geared to ROI as compared to maximizing your existing base – whereas, in reality, your user base is already…

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is still under-prioritized at many companies and is often the last, sometimes even neglected, marketing investment. However, omitting CRO from your marketing strategy means you’re assuming that acquiring new users is more geared to ROI as compared to maximizing your existing base – whereas, in reality, your user base is already available for conversion to actual revenue.

Even though the outcome of SEO and Pay-per-click ads can be quantified more easily, and the true impact of CRO only shows over time, CRO should be prioritized. This is because not optimizing your website could eventually push back your SEO and PPC efforts too. If you cannot convert your visitors into customers, you are not doing justice to your brand and traffic spend. Without CRO, you also run the risk of focusing on vanity metrics and lose money due to lost opportunities and conversions. Besides, your decision-making around website updates, if not conversion-focused, can end up costing the company too. 

Rutger Kühr, Head of CRO at Pricewise, says,“CRO is not just about getting the golden nugget of a 20% uplift, but also about preventing bad ideas from going live”.

Rutger believes that while it could work differently for different companies, without CRO, any change in eCommerce is basically a gamble.

Despite this, many companies still do not set aside money specifically for CRO. Also, those starting to understand its importance might not know how to budget for it. If they spend on CRO at all, the funds are likely to be drawn from a shared marketing pot. Having worked with thousands of brands, at VWO, we’ve realized that many companies struggle to transition from this shared budget, where CRO is not a priority. Hence, we want to demystify the CRO budgeting process for you.

Accelerate Your Growth With VWO

In this guide, we share our findings providing an actionable framework with real-world insights.

Budgeting for CRO

What are the benefits of creating a dedicated CRO budget?

Budgeting for CRO generally means you are looking at either hiring an agency or investing in bringing CRO in-house. 

Here are some common benefits of creating a separate CRO budget:

  • You can hire dedicated staff or an agency to run tests. Dedicated staff can coordinate with other departments allowing for a CRO strategy that aligns better with overall goals.  
  • If you have the budget to hire a dedicated CRO Manager, you can create a robust CRO testing roadmap.
  • You are not fighting for funding against other marketing functions.

“To us, it’s just as important to spend on CRO as it is to spend on our advertising or our creatives”, says Harry Cederbaum of Twillory eCommerce company. 

Rutger from Pricewise puts forth the perspective of flexibility to this. Though a staunch advocate of CRO, he does not agree on attaching a specific number to it.

“If you put aside a fixed amount for CRO, you’re probably missing out on potential opportunities outside of that amount”, he says. 

What constitutes the budget for CRO?

Here are four of the main categories that you must consider within your CRO budget:

Human capital

Human capital is likely to be the highest cost as a proportion of your budget. Human capital costs include the cost of your existing staff spending time on, or any new team members hired, to meet your CRO objectives. It also includes fees for external consultants or agency teams, if you’re using them. 

Building an in-house team (it is unrealistic to combine all required skills into a single role) usually costs a lot more than outsourcing your CRO program to an agency. If you do opt for building a team of experts, you would ideally need at least one specialist each in the area of project management, strategy, UX design, data science, and front-end development. Even a conservative estimate of the team’s total compensation would fall at nearly half a million dollars annually(1).

Hiring a digital marketing agency to run your CRO program can cost you in the range of $3k/month up to $9k/month. If you choose to get a freelance CRO practitioner on-board, you tend to pay them $10/hour to $400/hour, depending on the level of expertise. The other alternative is hiring a specialized CRO firm – the top ones can cost you around $16k/month, but you can also find some of the smaller ones charging approx. $3k/month to $5k/month(2).

Tool cost

Tool Cost

Alongside staff costs, you’ll also need to consider the cost of any tools or equipment you need. Tool costs will depend on the providers you use and the features you require.

On average, companies spend nearly $2,000 a month on CRO tools(3). The tools available in the market can be evaluated based on your requirements at each stage of the CRO journey – research, hypothesis, prioritization, testing, and learning. If you’re a beginner in CRO, there are free tools with basic features that can give you a headstart. Depending on your level of CRO maturity, you can also choose a single, integrated tool for all your optimization needs.  

Harry from Twillory explains how decisions around acquiring a new tool are based on reviews in their company. 

“If we are considering a new tool like VWO, for instance, we have a review for whether we want to invest in it. We are a bootstrapped company and don’t have VC money to spend, so our decisions are usually based on reviews”, he says.

Opportunity cost

Opportunity cost refers to revenue lost as a result of the choices not made. 

CRO helps you identify the best call-to-action (CTA). In the period when your website runs with the lower performing CTA, you are incurring an opportunity cost. 

For example, if you decide to use CTA Option 1, you lose the potential sales you would have gained using CTA Option 2. If Option 1 is less successful, you have incurred an opportunity cost during the period CTA 1 was run. 

Once a winning variation is identified, it takes time to deploy it on the website. There is a cost associated with the time lapse between testing and implementing a winning idea.  What you need to bear in mind though, is that A/B testing is an important part of the CRO process. What it essentially does is prevents you from making changes to your website that don’t improve conversions and implementing ideas that could potentially damage conversions.

Request a demo with VWO and start A/B testing your website for improved conversions.

Experimentation regret

During any test, one version will perform better than the other, however small or sizable this difference may be. If the variation performs better than the control, the overall performance of your website will be better than the status quo. Experimentation regret, on the other hand, is if the variation happens to perform worse than the status quo, therefore resulting in an overall decreased website performance. 

When you create your CRO budget, aim to strike a balance between highlighting potential issues and focusing on the potential benefits.

Does a CRO budget fit into your current needs?

How A CRO Budget Fits In Your Current Needs

Before you go any further, consider whether a budget is right for your needs at this time. 

According to Rohit Dey, Optimization Consultant & Sales Head North America at VWO, clients start thinking about budgeting for a CRO service when typically one of these two things happen:

  1. They’ve started acquiring traffic through paid mediums and they understand the composition of this traffic along with the conversion rate for each of these traffic mediums. Now they want to see an ROI on it.
  2. They are reiterating their design philosophy i.e. taking major design decisions that they need to validate and make sure that they impact conversion rates positively. 

Rohit also believes that a lot of organisations are realizing that analytics, by itself, is not enough.

“Analytics gives the answer to ‘what is the problem on your website’, but does not explain the ‘why’ of it. Getting to the solution for the problem requires a hypothesis, which in turn needs research and data. Organizations look for CRO services for this”, he says.

How to prepare your CRO budget

How to prepare your CRO budget

If you’re preparing a budget for CRO activities, it means you’re convinced that these activities will impact your bottom line positively. But you need to convince your management on this too (more on how to do this in the coming sections). If everyone is on-board with the idea that the resources required are worth the end-goal, budgeting should be a smooth process for you. 

Start with calculating your lead value. If your average lead value is $5, and you’re generating 5,000 leads every month, you know you can set aside less than or equal to approx. $25,000 for setting up CRO tools, and a team. As your lead value increases, you can consider increasing your CRO budget too. Likewise, if an A/B testing tool costs less than the lead amount it generates, you can go ahead and purchase it. 

Rutger from Pricewise says, “It depends on the tool you’re using and where you’re storing results. For instance, client-side testing can be done in-house with developers but would be more expensive for us than using a tool”.

There could be some tools and talent already within your organization that you could maximize for CRO. It’s a good idea to scope the projected use of these in your budget. 

Set conversion goals in your budget that circle back to quantifiable, profitable returns for your company. Calculate your present conversion rate to determine a baseline and set benchmarks for the tests you’re committing to in your budget. 

According to Alan at ClickThrough Marketing, it typically takes 10-14 months to see a good ROI and actionable learnings from CRO experiments. So you’d want to start with an annual budget that allows you sufficient time to test your ideas and analyze the outcomes.  

Based on your specific reason for investing in CRO, you can create a budget and build a CRO test-case that aligns with your goals.

What you need to be mindful of is that demonstrating value early on in your CRO journey is very important. Without that, getting a budget sanctioned in the future may not be possible. To get early results, make sure you scope for and focus on experiments that don’t require a lot of development work or occur on low-traffic pages, hence slowing down your testing velocity. VWO’s Bayesian-powered stats engine, SmartStats, enables you to conclude tests faster and more accurately.

Take a free trial with VWO to improve your testing velocity.

How to decide if you should use an agency or an in-house team

Should You Use An Agency Or Build An In House Team?

One of the most significant decisions you will make as you draw up your budget is whether to hire a CRO agency or manage your campaign in-house, and the right choice will depend on your company and your needs. There are numerous considerations. 

First, consider the skills and capacity within your existing marketing team. How much do they know about CRO? Companies with a strong marketing team that already understand CRO might consider directing existing staff time towards the process rather than hiring a new person or bringing in an agency.  However, this may not be a good idea in the long-term. The skills needed for nailing CRO are wide and deep, and many marketing teams might not have the required knowledge of say, statistics, psychology, or user research. The question then would be if you’re willing to spend considerable time to upskill your existing pool of resources, or use an agency. 

You can start with a smaller budget focusing on those low-cost, high-reward options we mentioned earlier. Just keep in mind that CRO can fail if you don’t have the right person for it in-house. Something as simple as not knowing when to conclude a test can damage your position to get further buy-in for CRO from the management. 

Also, hiring is expensive. As mentioned before, putting together even a small team of specialists would cost more than what many companies, particularly smaller businesses can afford. 

For this reason, it may make more sense for small businesses and newer companies to start out by working with an agency. 

Here are some of the benefits of working with an agency: 

  • Shorter project-initiation times. Hiring a new team member and getting started can take weeks or months, whereas a project with an agency can be initiated in a matter of days. 
  • Greater flexibility.
  • Smaller upfront budget commitment.
  • Shorter-term financial burden.
  • Strategic experience in experimentation and building a testing culture so you get the ROI needed to convince stakeholders.
  • A wide range of expertise in different areas that would prove very expensive to achieve in-house.
  • An unbiased approach to conducting research. 

Working with a CRO agency can cost anything from $5,000 to $16,000 per month as mentioned earlier, depending on your project’s size, complexity, and the velocity of testing you opt for. 

Another option for companies is to start their CRO journey with an agency and transition in-house when the timing is right. Agencies are equipped to help companies build and run an in-house program. Also, your CRO program does not end when your contract with the agency ends, it makes sense to use the agency when extra resources are needed or for help to resolve specific challenges. Therefore, the options need not necessarily be mutually exclusive. 

Here are some benefits of bringing CRO in-house: 

  • An in-house team will be focused solely on your business, as opposed to having multiple clients. 
  • An in-house team can work out more cost-effectively if you are dedicated to CRO as a permanent business function. 
  • In-house staff can get to know your business best. 
  • Stronger opportunities for collaboration between teams. 

The team associated with each business unit works closely together to share best practices, monitor progress, and fix anything that isn’t working. With CRO specialists entrenched in the company, they can operate in an agile fashion, planning on a month-to-month basis with an eye on the long-term goals and overall KPIs.

An in-house CRO team can be structured around 3 models depending on your company size, CRO budget, and metrics: centralized, decentralized, and center of excellence (COE). Centralized teams focus on developing long-term optimization strategies and have localized expertise within the team. Decentralized teams have responsibilities distributed among team members across departments. The COE model utilizes a combination of centralized and decentralized approaches. Each model has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, so figuring out which one works best for you is important. 

One final aspect that you might consider as you make your decision around hiring is your average order value. 

Alan at Clickthrough says, “if the average order value for a website is high, then [an agency’s] capability to get that return on investment is much greater”.

Creating a proposal and making a compelling case for CRO

Before you begin constructing your proposal, there is some critical information you will need to gather. 

  1. What is the current conversion rate on your website and how is it being measured?
  2. How does your company currently define conversion? Which important actions is it aiming for visitors to perform?
  3. What is your maturity level compared to others in your segment? 
  4. Which tools do you currently use to manage your website and analyze its performance?
  5. Who are the important stakeholders, and who are the people you need to liaise with on an ongoing basis for the CRO program to work effectively?

Once you have this information in place, create a proposal that incorporates the following:

  1. Your explanation of what CRO means and how it will improve the business. 
  2. Your conversion goals and how you will measure them. 
  3. The process you will follow to achieve the goal in terms of audit, action, and reporting. 
  4. The existing resources that you will need access to; both tools and talent.
  5. The cost of planned CRO activities bundled in an easy-to-consume package.
  6. The expected outcome and ROI.

If you’re bent towards hiring an agency, you will most likely receive such a proposal from their side. If you’re considering CRO in-house, you will need to create one. 

In either case, each of the proposal elements should focus on the company’s benefit. The proposal should clearly articulate how the CRO goal of getting more visitors into the sales funnel will be achieved.  Rohit from VWO explains that an agency’s focus during the proposal stage is to help the client understand that CRO is a process, it would take 6-12 months for a successful CRO program to yield results, and what a projected uplift in conversion rate would mean for the client in terms of say, gross sales or number of leads.

Request a proposal from the experts at VWO Services and leverage VWO’s insights, testing, and deploying features.

“We focus on the ROI, and then justify the investment in the CRO program. We also focus on learnings – we don’t say every experiment will be a winner but there will be a learning in each experiment”, Rohit says.

As a follow up to the proposal, many companies also present a business case to the senior management highlighting specific financial details of the budget. For instance, considering your current traffic and conversion rate, how much an X% increase in a particular metric could drive in terms of revenue, how it could make paid campaigns more profitable, or allow you to spend an additional X amount of money into ads to scale your business.

Navigating the proposal process

The proposal process is likely to include the following steps: 

  • Generating buy-in from relevant team members. 
  • Getting support from the Head of Marketing (or equivalent). 
  • Running test-cases and gathering data. 
  • Creating your proposed budget. 
  • Presenting your proposal to the Board or C-suite. 
  • Answering questions about your proposed project. You’ll need to show you have thought through the possible risks and taken steps to manage them. 
  • Possibly refining your proposal or providing more information, if required. 

If you use a financial justification for CRO, present specific numbers and robust data at every stage of the process to support your case.

“Associate CRO to one lever in the organization – whether it’s UX, financial, or operational. Explain what an un-optimized form means for say, an insurance provider. What does the loss of conversion look like in terms of revenue loss?”, Rohit from VWO explains.

Often, focusing on the negative can get you the buy-in you need. You could stress on something like – CRO will get you a 10% uplift (which is very tough to predict in the first place) – or you could show how bad UX will create a negative brand image. The latter could prove to be more effective.

How to design an initial test case that builds buy-in

Test Case For CRO

A test case is a set of actions designed to prove a hypothesis – in this case, that CRO matters and is worth the investment. Your test-case should be low risk and high reward. In other words, the investment cost in time or money should be minimal, while the outcome will help either decrease cost or increase earnings.

You will need to design a simple experiment and establish a framework of trackable KPIs to demonstrate the outcome. Focusing on compound annual earnings when measuring success can help. In other words, how much additional revenue are you likely to generate for the next year based on the results of a successful test?

For example, let’s imagine that you design a test case based on changing the layout of your sales page to improve the customer experience. Now let’s further imagine that this change brings in a 5% increase in conversion rate. That number might sound small, but project it out over the next one year. What does that small increase in conversion rate mean in terms of annual revenue?

A great test-case should have the following characteristics: 

  • Low cost – both in terms of the financial cost and time.
  • Easy to implement.
  • Easy to replicate or re-run if necessary.
  • Controlled for other variables. For example, don’t run your CRO test on Black Friday when your revenue increase can be easily attributed to the sale instead of your CRO efforts.
  • In addition, you should consider the long-term potential (or lack thereof) for a test and result. Alan at Clickthrough told us about a test he ran using the “dark mode” on Apple’s iOS system. Though the initial results were promising, he noted that they likely wouldn’t last. “Those results are likely to be short lived because dark mode was a trend”, Alan says.  

There are numerous test-cases you could run, but the important thing is to start with research or user insights and identify the low-hanging fruits. Based on your observations, you could formulate a hypothesis around some of the examples mentioned below : 

  • Changing the wording, color, or placement of your call to action. For example, in one test VWO ran for a client, a simple change to the CTA button yielded a 62% increase in conversions
  • Improving product image quality. 
  • Adding customer reviews or testimonials to your sales page. 

If you ensure your test case meets all the criteria we outlined above (low cost, easy to implement, easy to re-run if necessary, and controlled for external variables) and is based on user insights gained from research tools like heatmaps, you’ll ensure that you present a results-oriented and detailed case for CRO budgeting. If this sounds tricky, you can always get in touch with our experts at VWO for a detailed audit of your website.

Common problems that might sink your budget (and how to avoid them)

With any project, things can go wrong. If you’re the person in charge of the project, the blame will land at your feet. The best way to avoid this is to be aware of the areas that could cause your CRO project to go over-budget or identify tests that might fail and mitigate those risks.

Some of the most common budget-sinking problems you should be aware of are:

  • Delays. Preventable delays are the biggest cause of project overspend. 
  • Testing ideas that are based on gut rather than user data; which is likely to lead to failed experiments.
  • Incorrect prioritization of hypotheses i.e. the high impact ideas are not tested first.
  • Lack of patience to see the first (and regular) “successful” tests.
  • Inability to interpret test results correctly, so you don’t know what to do with them – implement or take learnings
  • Incomplete buy-in/support from management/relevant teams you want resources from.

The best way to manage these strategies is to have a clear plan and be aware of what you want to achieve. For instance, you can avoid delays by creating a clear and realistic timeline for the project, with numerous smaller deadlines and check-in points along the way. 

In addition, when an experiment fails, or you don’t see the results you wanted, ensure you take the time to learn from them. Every failure teaches you something that will enable you to increase revenue, improve customer experience, or streamline your processes next time. 

Experiment the right way with VWO. Take a free trial to leverage all available features

How to strategically scale your CRO program and increase your budget

CRO is still undervalued in many companies, with senior executives preferring to use their budget for traffic acquisition rather than increasing conversions. To overcome this, you need to demonstrate the value CRO can add. Low-risk, high-reward tests, and a strong project proposal and budget, are the tools that will allow you to do this. 

The trick to a scalable strategy is to build a company culture that values experimentation and sees the value in CRO. 

You need to be forewarned with the knowledge that CRO investments tend to go down the path of diminishing returns if not treated wisely. A boost from 1% conversion rate to 2% will generally cost less than a boost from 2% to 4%. You then need to adapt your strategy as your website gets optimized – test bolder ideas and test more broadly throughout the business.

As Alan from Clickthrough Marketing says, “CRO is not cheap, but if you do it well, it pays more dividends than you can hope for. You need to be open-minded and think long-term”.

Build A Culture Of Experimentation With Vwo

A Guide to Facebook Brand Lift Testing for eCommerce & Lead Generation

Wondering what a Facebook Brand Lift Study can do for your eCommerce campaigns? We walk you through how they work, the pros and cons, and more.

Social media has become a big player in the world of PPC advertising. However, when you’re a paid social marketer, it can be challenging to quantify your campaign results into overall business outcomes. 

Unfortunately, an impression (or even a click) is not an assurance of brand awareness. People can click ads or visit the landing page — but forget the brand after they close the window. 

So, how can you quantify the effect advertising is having on how people remember and perceive your brand? Furthermore, how can we, as paid social marketers, communicate to our clients that our ad campaigns are driving brand awareness? 

Facebook gave us an answer: the Facebook Brand Lift Study.

What is a Facebook Brand Lift Study?

Facebook Brand Lift Studies (also known as Brand Lift Tests) allow advertisers to measure brand awareness and favorability with a statistical degree of reliability. By serving up questions to a select audience, a brand lift test shows you exactly how effective your awareness campaigns have been — including whether it’s time to step up your game. 

Facebook’s tests allow paid social marketers to conduct randomized control trials (RCT) to test for incremental lift. Unlike traditional A/B tests (which allow for testing one variable against another), RCT testing allows us to deduce an actual lift in results and the effectiveness of campaigns overall.

Running a Facebook Brand Lift Study can help answer questions your eCommerce business has difficulty quantifying, from “How well does my target audience remember my brand?” to “How do people feel about my brand?” These insights are invaluable not only for paid advertising but also for your company overall. 

No more hoping and guessing — just real numbers and results. It’s a paid social advertiser’s dream (with a few caveats, but more on that later).

How to Measure Your Brand Lift on Facebook

So, how does a Facebook Brand Lift Study work?

If you want to run a brand lift test, the first thing you’ll need to do is contact your Facebook representative. While the test is free to create, there may be campaign budget requirements to get it all started.

Like with any good test methodology, a Facebook Brand Lift Study involves two groups: test and control. Your chosen audience is randomly divided into these two groups to ensure that the results of the test aren’t skewed from outside factors. Ads are delivered to the test group, and then both the test and control groups are served with a short, one-question poll. Each poll consists of a question and a selection of multiple-choice answers. 

You can choose from a variety of questions, depending on what metric you’re most interested in. A few examples:

  1. “Have you seen (your brand)’s new product line?” (Answers: Yes, No) 
  2. “Which of the following brands have you heard of?” (Answers: Competitor 1, your brand, Competitor 2, Competitor 3)
  3. “What is your opinion of (your brand)?” (Answers: “I like it”, “I neither like nor dislike it”, “I dislike it”, or “I am not familiar with this brand”)

Facebook calculates the brand lift percentage by comparing the results of the test and control groups. (You can also choose to measure conversion lift during this test if you’re already tracking conversions through your campaigns.)

Look at the difference in the percentage of people who gave the desired response in the test group and the control group, and you’ll see the direct effect of your campaign. You’ll then want to compare this brand lift to average results within your vertical or industry to ensure the most accurate comparison.

(It’s important to run this test for at least 14 days to give it a sufficient time period to gather insights. After the threshold of 100 responses has been collected, you will begin to see near real-time incrementality reporting in your Facebook Ads Manager.

Using Your Test Results to Optimize Your Campaigns

Once you have the results from your test, use this information to take your digital marketing efforts to the next level. Use your data either as an indicator that your PPC strategy is getting the right results or, if the results aren’t what you hoped for, as a sign that it’s time to course-correct! 

Asking specific brand lift questions can help you investigate exactly which part of your campaign is failing to resonate with your audience. Then, you can test a new strategy, running your test later to see how your levels may have changed.

Here are two examples:

1. Evaluating a Product Rollout

Let’s say your company has just launched a new product line. In an effort to gain brand recognition, you launch a Facebook Reach campaign. 

Ads Manager tells you that your campaign was seen by 200,000 people. However, when your brand lift study asks your audience “Have you seen (your brand)’s new product line?”, there’s no statistically significant difference between your test and control group. 

This is a big red flag — and a sign that it could be time to change your ad creative

Your potential next steps: testing new imagery and ad copy.

2. Reevaluating Your Marketing Funnel

Your company has been running an extensive ad campaign focused on generating transactions. However, when your brand lift study asks “Will you buy from (your brand) the next time you go shopping for (your product)?”, there is no statistically significant difference between your test and control group. 

There are many potential causes to investigate here, but your first step might be to examine the marketing funnel you used for this ad campaign. People from a cold audience (those who are unfamiliar with your brand) are less likely to respond well to lower-funnel calls-to-action, like making transactions. 

Consider creating a full-funnel approach (like Inflow’s “See, Think, Do” strategy). Start with brand awareness and move down the funnel, generating engagement at every step. By the time the customer is presented with the option to buy, they are familiar with your product and more likely to convert.

Pros and Cons of Facebook Brand Lift Studies for eCommerce Sites

While helpful, Facebook Brand Lift Tests aren’t ideal for every business and campaign. Before you start running tests, consider the following pros and cons.

Pros: 

Facebook Brand Lift studies provide statistically significant information on how your paid social campaigns are impacting your business directly. Individual campaign performance is great, but these brand lift studies show how those campaigns are (or aren’t) raising your brand awareness.

You can get answers to specific, big-picture questions — “Do people recognize my brand?” — and tactical questions — “How well do my ads resonate with my customers?” In short, you can understand your digital brand equity in a much clearer and concise way.

Cons: 

There’s one clear disadvantage to running a Facebook Brand Lift Test, and it’s the reason why our strategists hesitate to implement them for our clients.

To run a clean study, all other Facebook campaigns must be turned off during the test duration.

It makes sense: Any other form of paid advertising could be shown to your control group during the test, contaminating your results. But, with Facebook’s recommendations to run the test for at least 14 days, pausing your other campaigns for that long risks a huge loss.

Turning off your current campaigns (especially those that are performing well) creates an opportunity cost, losing any sales that would have been generated during that time period. 

In addition, pausing your campaigns disrupts the Facebook algorithm. When you decide to restart your campaigns, they will reset back to “learning” phase. You likely won’t see the same performance as you did pre-pause, and it may take some time to get back to those levels.

Should You Run a Facebook Brand Lift Study?

Ultimately, you’ll need to evaluate a few things before you decide to run a Facebook Brand Lift Test:

  • Your expertise with Facebook advertising
  • Your current campaigns and their performance
  • The cost ratio of pausing campaigns for brand lift insights

If you’re new to Facebook advertising:

If you or your client are unsure about the effectiveness of Facebook advertising (either because you’ve never used it or have attempted only a few campaigns), give a Facebook Brand Lift Test a shot. It can be a great way to test the waters, and you can use your results as proof of concept to justify the monetary investment of more extensive advertising campaigns.

If you’re currently running Facebook ads, but are unsure of the value of your results:

Not sure you or your client are getting the value needed from Facebook advertising? A brand lift study could give the results you’re looking for.

Remember, the biggest downside here is that you will lose campaign data and potential revenue for the test’s duration. However, the information gained could be quite valuable for both the campaign (Are people responding to your current ad copy and creative?) and your overall marketing strategy (Is there a different marketing platform that would provide you a better return?).

If you’re a seasoned paid social veteran or Facebook guru:

Since you’ve been running campaigns for a while, you probably already know the answer here.

The results of a Facebook Brand Lift Study might not be worth the loss of the campaign data, especially if you have proper UTM tagging and properly set multiple-attribution. You’re likely better off continuing your campaigns as-is and exploring other options for analyzing your brand awareness lift.

Conclusion

We won’t deny the usefulness of Facebook Brand Lift Studies, especially for those who are new to the Facebook advertising space. Such clear evidence of brand awareness lift is difficult to come by. But the potential disadvantages of lost revenue and campaign data can be too risky for many.

In our experience, brand lift tests are just one way to capture and analyze performance data. Depending on your situation, there can be less disruptive methods to gain performance insights, such as:

  • Proper UTM tagging: UTM tags will allow you to see Facebook campaign data and compare it across platforms and sites in Google Analytics. 
  • “Social proof”: Monitor the engagement (likes, shares, comments) on your ads. If people are engaging with your ads, it’s an indication that your audience and creative is properly aligned.
  • CPM and CTR: A low CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions) and a high CTR (click-through rate) are both good indicators of ad copy and creative that is engaging to your chosen audience.

If you’re unsure of whether Facebook Brand Lift Studies are right for your campaigns, or you want to improve your paid social campaigns in other ways, our strategists are always happy to chat. Contact our team anytime to request a free, customized proposal for your paid social needs.

The Importance of User Testing – 5 Tips to Conduct It on a Low Budget

When it comes to key mobile application statistics, Buildfire says the Apple Store has 1.96 million applications while Google Play Store boasts around 2.87 million downloadable apps. With all the competition, simply building a software or an applicatio…

When it comes to key mobile application statistics, Buildfire says the Apple Store has 1.96 million applications while Google Play Store boasts around 2.87 million downloadable apps. With all the competition, simply building a software or an application is not enough. And this is true not just with apps, but also with website development and […]

The post The Importance of User Testing – 5 Tips to Conduct It on a Low Budget first appeared on Loop11.

Product Innovation: How To Build Products Your Customers Love

How do you go from good to great? How do you remain relevant as your competition continues to gain more market share? As the technology and business landscape continues to shift rapidly, companies that embrace innovation will have a clear advantage over those who don’t.  As with most things in marketing and business, product innovation […]

The post Product Innovation: How To Build Products Your Customers Love appeared first on CXL.

How do you go from good to great? How do you remain relevant as your competition continues to gain more market share? As the technology and business landscape continues to shift rapidly, companies that embrace innovation will have a clear advantage over those who don’t. 

As with most things in marketing and business, product innovation isn’t something that happens from a few meetings or putting together a polished slide deck. From who you hire to holding your team accountable for certain OKRs, innovation requires buy-in from your entire organization. 

In this article, I’ll share what product innovation is, why it matters, and how to build a company culture where innovation is the standard. 

What is product innovation? 

When you hear the word innovation, what immediately comes to mind? 

Do you think of companies like Amazon and Google? Does product innovation refer to creating entirely new products or improving previous offerings? 

At the most basic level, product innovation is the process of developing and marketing a new or improved product to solve your customer’s problems. 

In The Innovation Delusion: How Our Obsession with the New Has Disrupted the Work That Matters Most, authors Lee Vinsel and Andrew L. Russel have a more direct take: 

“Innovation, at its core, is change that can be measured because it generates profits.” 

No matter how great your product or service is now, innovation is critical for continuing to serve your customers based on their current needs and desires and avoiding becoming an afterthought. 

The challenges of innovation 

To be innovative, you have to experiment. If you want to have more inventions, you need to do more experiments per week, per month, per year, per decade. It’s that simple. You cannot invent without experimenting, and here’s the other thing about experiments, lots of them fail. If you know it’s gonna work in advance; it is not an experiment.

– Jeff Bezos

Despite most businesses understanding the importance of innovation, it remains challenging to do. According to a McKinsey Global Innovation Survey, “although 84% of executives agree that innovation is important to growth strategy, only 6% are satisfied with innovation performance.”   

In another study, “only one-third of U.K. business leaders said they were innovating successfully enough to generate revenue or measurable growth; only a quarter of boards of directors make innovation a priority, and 40% of leaders reject disruptive ideas because of a fear of failure.”

Many organizations claim innovation is a priority, but their high-level strategy and day-to-day operations say otherwise. For larger organizations especially, getting buy-in for innovation initiatives can be tricky. 

And yet, you can’t expect to create a culture of experimentation if your employees are too afraid to speak up and share their ideas. You can’t build a culture of innovation if failure is treated as something to be ashamed about. 

Innovation, by its very nature, carries risk. That said, in my many years of experience working with companies all over the world, the cost of not innovating comes at a hefty price.

Here are some of my key takeaways on how to build a culture of innovation as well as build products and services your customers love. 

1. Avoid catastrophic failure 

When it comes to innovation, knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to get right. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen companies make in their quest for innovation is not taking into account the worst-case scenario. 

The upside of innovation can be a game-changer for your business, but not at the risk of damaging your brand permanently. 

As I shared in my talk Test & Learn Community, author Nassim Taleb argues that it’s just as important to guard against catastrophic events (black swans) than it is to make incremental improvements.

Just as buying insurance can never generate ROI, validation experiments will not result in more money directly but does provide a safety net against business catastrophe. 

While there are many examples of product innovation gone wrong, Netflix’s decision to spin off into another company called Qwikster nearly a decade ago continues to be talked about in many business circles today.  

It turns out, two companies, two logins, and two billing accounts were something their customers did not want or need.

As CEO Reed Hastings noted at the time:

It is clear that for many of our members, two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs… This means no change: one website, one account, one password… in other words, no Qwikster.

Another example I’ve discussed in the past, is the redesign Snapchat rolled out a few years ago. 

Here’s what TechCrunch had to say at the time:

Snapchat’s redesign was a disaster. It cratered ad views and revenue and led Snapchat’s user count to actually shrink in March. That’s why CEO Evan Spiegel just announced a big reversal of the redesign’s worst part.

While both Netflix and Snapchat were able to avoid true disaster (at the cost of millions of dollars and lousy PR) for startups and smaller companies, a wrong move could lead to a situation that puts them out of business.

That isn’t to say, innovation is not worth the risk, but avoid experiments that may lead to irreparable harm. 

2. Have a clear goal for innovation in mind

While virtually everyone business can benefit from innovation, innovation for the sake of innovation is a losing strategy. Yes, it’s important to continue to improve and enhance your products and services, but without a clear why, you’re at a significant disadvantage from the start. 

As I wrote previously on CXL about running marketing experiments, getting clear about your resources and goals for your experiments is critical:

Is it feasible? It’s true that experimentation should not be confined to rigid business goals. However, it’s important to consider the budget, resources, and potential metrics that might be affected negatively by a failed test in advance.

The first consideration in feasibility is practicality. How will you accomplish this test? What sort of resources and manpower would you need to execute it on the ground?

I’ve found the 5 Whys framework to be helpful for getting clarity on your customer’s most significant pain points and challenges to determine opportunities for innovation. 

In my course on product innovation, I give the example of how we used this framework at Convoy

Why: Experimentation Platform doesn’t provide tools for analysis. 
Why: The Platform doesn’t know what metrics or algorithms are used in an experiment.
Why: Metrics definitions and algorithms are not standardized and are not generic. 
Why: The variety of metrics and algorithms used at Convoy are varied and change often. 
Why: Convoy is a two-sided marketplace with small data. Typical Tests don’t work.

An innovation strategy without a clear goal is not a sustainable and repeatable process and can lead you down a road that costs you both time and money.

3. Put your customers first

Any successful product innovation strategy should always start with your customer. It may be tempting to launch a new product based solely on what your data says, but without talking with your customers, you risk investing in an unnecessary flop. 

I always recommend starting with asking whether or not your customers want your proposed initiative.

The first thing we should always ask before launching a new experimental business initiative is: Does the customer want this?

If the customer isn’t interested in what you’re offering, then it doesn’t matter whether or not your testing program has the budget to roll out a test to 500 stores nationwide; it’s going to be a waste of money.

There are many methods that help in understanding whether a product or service is wanted or not, but for now, we will just focus on two. The first is easy- Talk to your customers. Ask them what changes they would like to see or whether an additional feature would help their buying experience.

While talking with your customers won’t guarantee they like or respond positively to your experiments, it does give you valuable insight that will increase your chances of success. 

As the book Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice puts it:

Most innovative products were conceived, developed, and launched into the market with a clear understanding of how these products would help consumers make the progress they were struggling to achieve.

That work led to our theory of disruptive innovation, which explains the phenomenon by which an innovation transforms an existing market or sector by introducing simplicity, convenience, accessibility, and affordability where complication and high cost have become the status quo—eventually completely redefining the industry.

By only guessing about what your customers may or may not want, your innovation strategy is almost certain to fail. 

4. Create a culture of experimentation 

Creating an innovative product once can certainly help you grow your business, but building a repeatable process is what’s going to continue to allow you to remain miles ahead of your competition.  

That starts with building an organization that values and incentives your team to take innovation seriously. Generally speaking, all the most innovative ideas at the world’s smartest companies come from immersed professionals understanding the opportunities in their space and being encouraged to take risks. 

Creating a culture where your employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas (and taking risks) is an essential part of innovation at scale. 

Having clear OKRs and North Star goals can help you and your team stay aligned on the big picture while also allowing the freedom for employees to test or run with their ideas.

Your employees should feel comfortable in running their clearly defined experiments with the knowledge you’ll back them up should it fail.

Yes, hold your team accountable, but at the same time, allowing your employees to own their experiments and support them through the process can rapidly increase company-wide innovation. 

As Sean Ellis author of Hacking Growth shared:

For me, the main thing that creates a culture of experimentation is committing to a testing cadence and sharing results. In the beginning, you may need to be patient to generate results. But I’ve never seen a company run 10+ highly considered tests and not achieve a meaningful improvement. Wins drive buy-in, and buy-in accelerates testing momentum.

So for me, the most important first step is committing to a weekly experiment release schedule. Stick with it for at least a month. Sharing results will drive more company-wide participation. Over time you’ll find that the whole process is pretty addictive. But it requires a commitment and perseverance in the beginning.

Conclusion

There’s no way around it; product innovation is incredibly difficult. That said, because it’s so challenging, companies that can innovate consistently are the ones who will remain the industry leaders for years to come. Here are the major takeaways:

  1. Avoid catastrophic failure: Innovation is great (and essential), but not at the risk of making a mistake you can’t recover from. 
  2. Successful product innovation starts with having a clear goal (and objective in mind); without having a detailed strategy in place, you’ll struggle to innovate consistently.
  3. Innovation starts and ends with your customers. You can make assumptions about what your customers want and need, but without talking with them and understanding their pain points, those assumptions are just a guess. 
  4. Product innovation is not a one-off process; to continue to reap the benefits of innovation, it’s critical you build innovation into your organization’s culture. 

The post Product Innovation: How To Build Products Your Customers Love appeared first on CXL.

Porkbun: How a .design Domain Name Can Boost Your Career

Are you hoping to build your client base and boost your work opportunities? If you’re not seeing the results you’d like, it may be time to spruce up your personal website or digital portfolio. From freelancers to design firms, maintaining a professiona…

Are you hoping to build your client base and boost your work opportunities? If you’re not seeing the results you’d like, it may be time to spruce up your personal website or digital portfolio. From freelancers to design firms, maintaining a professional online presence is a crucial step in building your brand and showcasing your […]

The post Porkbun: How a .design Domain Name Can Boost Your Career first appeared on UX Movement.