What are the benefits of bringing in a conversion rate optimisation consultant?
Many organisations are hiring conversion rate optimisation specialists to set up CRO programmes, but what are the benefits of bringing in a conversion rate optimisation consultant or agency? Many companies find that their CRO programmes fail to deliver the benefits they expect and so here are nine reasons why you should use a conversion rate optimisation consultant or agency.
1. Strategy First:
A good conversion rate optimisation consultant will insist that you have a clear strategy in place before you spend time and money on tactical changes that will only deliver short-term benefits. They will prioritise strategy over tactics as they appreciate the importance of having a compelling value proposition and a good understanding of your audience. A good CRO consultant should for example ensure your strategy is consistent with the common decision style of your market.
Many strategists wrongly assume that customers make independent, considered choices, based upon the qualities of the product or service. This ignores the evidence that many decisions are based upon the behaviour of others or are heavily influenced by cognitive biases. Indeed, research indicates that most of our decisions are made by our fast, intuitive brain (see System 1) rather than our slow, deliberative brain (see System 2). Further, few decisions are made in isolation from what other people are doing or perceived to be doing (Herd, Mark Earls, 2007).
Unless you understand the most common decision style in your market you cannot set an appropriate marketing strategy. Markets dominated by following expertise require very different marketing strategies than those where people are faced with many similar products that require being top of mind. For more details see my post on what is the most effective strategy for innovation.
2. Consultants Are Allowed To Challenge The Status Quo:
Have you ever noticed that before a meeting colleagues can sometimes be really critical about an idea or policy that is about to be discussed. Some will suggest that they raise their concerns with the HIPPO (highest paid person’s opinion). However, as soon as the meeting begins and the HIPPO speaks there is lots of support and smiles from everyone in the meeting. It’s as if the discussion before the meeting never happened.
This occurs because organisational culture often discourages dissent. Everyone is expected to be “can do people” and see negative implications as “challenges”. Disagreeing with the HIPPO can therefore seriously damage your career prospects. The HIPPO is partly to blame because they frequently become too attached to their own ideas (the IKEA effect) and don’t seek independent validation to check how effective the idea is going to be.
A CRO consultant has the advantage that they have normally been bought in to challenge the status quo. They are expected to identify areas for improvement in both how decisions are made and how success is measured. Further, everyone knows that they have been hired by a HIPPO and so they usually get good levels of co-operation. They can also claim to be independent and so are less likely to be politically motivated.
3. They Are Not Emotionally Attached To New Designs:
Andre Morys at Web Arts suggests that most A/B test results are a lie because client-side CRO specialists are too emotionally attached to their own ideas. They naturally base most of their test hypothesis on their own perceptions of what is broken with the website (see confirmation bias) and are too quick to stop tests if they see an uplift.
CRO consultants better understand the dangers of basing test ideas on their own opinions and best practice. Every website is unique, with its own unique set of visitors and so best practice is no guarantee of success. An experienced CRO consultant will recommend that A/B testing is based upon real insights from user research, voice of the customer feedback, customer analytics. They also have the advantage that they can evaluate the website more objectively as they have not invested any effort in determining how the site currently looks.
4. They Can Evaluate A Site From A More Objective Perspective:
When you deal with the same website day after day you become accustomed to how it looks and only notice the same problems. It reminds me of the story of the blind men who were asked to explain what an elephant looks like. As each blind man touched a separate part of the elephant they each had a different opinion of what it looked like. When we work too closely on something we begin to act like a blind person, we have to solve a problem that we cannot see.
This is partly because our brains automatically filter out unimportant details. This is called selective filtering or selective attention and prevents our brains from being overloaded with stimuli and allows us to focus on what our brain decides is most important. This is why people are automatically drawn to movement as from an evolutionary perspective this could signify danger. The more familiar we become with our environment the more we are prone to selective attention and we find that we only see what we expect to see.
A conversion rate optimisation consultant has the benefit of looking at a site from with a fresh perspective and should have fewer preconceptions of what to expect. A good CRO consultant will also value involving a diverse range of people to help evaluate a site (see heuristic evaluation). They will also recommend usability research and customer feedback to provide a more unbiased view of the site.
5. Focus On Conversion Rather Than Traffic:
Many organisations are too focused on getting more traffic to their sites rather than first fixing their conversion rate. This can be extremely wasteful as a low conversion rate will reduce the benefit you obtain from sending more visitors to your site. A conversion rate optimisation consultant will ensure you give priority to fixing your conversion journeys and improving your conversion rate. One this has been achieved you can afford to spend money on traffic with the confidence that it will give a good return on investment.
6. Measure To Improve:
Client-side CRO specialists can struggle to get the resources or the credit they deserve because they can’t always prove the benefits they deliver. A good conversion rate optimisation consultant will help ensure you have a documented CRO strategy with clear objectives and goals. They will also insist that you have metrics that are closely aligned to your objectives and help you analyse data to identify the true value derived from meeting your goals.
7. Provide Extra Resources & Expertise:
As an ex-CRO manager at a large gaming company I understand fully that a lot of the time you are not optimising your site, but instead are attending meetings, doing admin, giving management updates and dealing with ad-hoc requests. This means that most client-side CRO specialists may only spend 20% of their time setting up and running A/B tests.
This means that client-side specialists often struggle to find time for more strategic thinking and may be spending too much time on low-payoff tasks. A conversion rate optimisation consultant can provide the extra resource needed to take a step back and ensure you give priority to higher payoff work. They can also help improve processes and provide new insights into how to improve your CRO programme. As the saying goes “two heads are better than one”.
8. Focus On What Moves The Needle:
When you are an employee you often have conflicting objectives (e.g. keep the HIPPO happy with their latest ‘big idea’ vs fix boring stuff that is broken). Unfortunately few people get promoted for fixing shit but managers do have a tendency to develop new ‘innovative’ features that nobody actually wants because it may get them promoted.
However, a conversion rate optimisation consultant is employed to focus on what can deliver the most benefits to the customer and organisation in a sustainable way. This means they will ensure the priority is given to a few objectives that can generate the biggest payoff. As CRO expert Craig Sullivan points out that if you want to have the most impact on your customer experience and increase revenues you are best giving priority to fixing broken stuff and improving usability first.
9. Innovation rarely comes from your own sector:
Many companies spend too much time copying their competitors even though they may not know what the f*** they are doing either. Benchmarking yourself with competitors will simply destroy value because you end up with almost identical sites and so it reduces differentiation. This can happen because client-side CRO specialists are constantly being asked about what competitors are doing and may not have the time to look outside their own sector.
A conversion rate optimisation consultant has the advantage that they have a wealth of experience from many different sectors and are not tied to an individual brand. They understand that most innovation comes from outside your own sector. This is especially the case with start-ups in emerging sectors as they don’t have to deal with the constraints imposed by brand values, legacy systems and organisational politics that often kill creativity and innovation in established brands.
There are of course clear benefits to having an in-house CRO specialist. However, it is also important to understand that one person cannot achieve everything on their own. A good conversion rate optimisation consultant can provide the additional resource and expertise to help accelerate your CRO programme and ensure you prioritise the things that will truly move the needle and impact on the bottom line.
They have the advantage that they can look at your site and your processes with a fresh pair of eyes and lack the preconceived ideas that client-side employees often suffer from. By bringing experience from other sectors they can also help you innovate more effectively and avoid the tendency to reduce differentiation by copying from your competitors.
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- About the author: Neal provides digital marketing optimisation consultancy services and has worked for brands such as Deezer.com, Foxybingo.com, Very.co.uk, partypoker.com and Bgo.com. He uses a variety of techniques, including web analytics, personas, customer journey analysis and customer feedback to improve a website’s conversion rate.
- Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on CXL and Usabilla.com. As an ex-market research and insight manager he also had posts published on the GreenBook Blog research website. If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to email@example.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @conversionupl, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.