It’s not a straightforward road winning support for CRO! Here are 4 hard truths and advice on how to handle each of them to win the support you need:
1) Getting the first approval is the hardest part
The reason why is because it’s new! New means unknown, and that generally scares people. That fear often leads to rejection. This is not CRO-specific, this is about people.
With CRO specifically, it's a relatively new discipline itself. A lot of senior stakeholders or C-suite level people haven't got hands-on personal experience and that only makes that fear of the unknown stronger. They don't know the ins and outs of it and understandably that puts them on edge. So how do you overcome the fact it’s unknown?
Educate about the CRO process
The more detail that you can provide the more that you can get across about the principles and processes that you're going to be adopting, the team members involved, it will start to lift the curtain on this and something that is perceived as unknown starts to become slightly, at least more known as you start talking about it.
Recognise risks and how CRO mitigates them
There is no point denying that there is risk. Any change incurs risk, any investment incurs risk. So don't deny that it exists, recognise it and then talk about the mitigations that you offer within that.
CRO by its very nature mitigates risks because everything that you're doing is being put through research and testing. There are not that many, if any, other disciplines that offer as many mitigations as this does. This is your opportunity to bring those up and try to offset some of that fear.
The value of CRO
You will gain knowledge and understanding of your customers, prospective customers and visitors. The better your organisation can understand them, the more effective that you will be in serving them. And that is what CRO is really about.
That value piece is the greatest counterbalance that you have for the fear of the unknown. Nothing comes without a certain amount of trepidation, especially when it is entirely new. But what really helps to offset that is to say, but look at what it could do for us. You're just trying to get somebody over the line to give you the chance to prove what you say it can deliver.
2) You only get one shot
Most organisations, particularly larger ones, budget annually. So perhaps the more accurate description is you get one shot a year.
If you have a go and you don't get approval for it, best case scenario, you get another shot in twelve months time. So when you get that shot, you take it and you make the absolute best of it!
How can you do that?
Do your homework and go in prepared
Understand who it is that is going to be making the decision, or at least involved in the decision. What do they care about, what are their goals, what are the objectives that they or their teams have in mind? And how much of that can you use as part of your discussion to get them to see why this isn't just a thing for you, it's a thing for them as well?
Start small with CRO
The less you ask for, the easier it is to take that risk on you and what you're trying to do.
So what are the minimum viable resources that you need in order to do this?
- A tool - to deliver the different experiences and tests that you want to run. That tool should be costing you hundreds, not thousands. Keep as much of the budget and resources that you have to put into the people that will be using it, because they are really the ones that will drive the value here.
- People - ideally 3 - someone with a logical, analytical brain to help plan and analyse the tests that you have. Someone technical who can build those tests, and ideally, a third person with a good eye who's there to QA your test, and make sure that everything that you build is robust.
- These should be fractional resources initially - whether in-house or external however, there should be at least one person with previous experience; you’ll learn a lot as you go, but that experience helps with getting over some of the initial hurdles and that helps you make a faster start than you might do otherwise, which in terms of keeping that early stage support, is really important.
Set out how you will review your progress
That doesn't just mean reporting the results of your test - whether it won or lost or revenue improvements. It means setting out:
- What you’ve learned and how that can be applied in other areas of the org
- How your programme is supporting strategic departmental and business goals
- Why testing is so important to validate thinking when so many ideas don’t hit the mark first time around
You want to offer control and a reversible decision. This could look like: in three months' time, we will review this together and if you don't like it, if you're not happy with what's been achieved, you can change your mind and we can go back on it and we cannot continue.
This buys you time to deliver the value that you believe is there.
3) Short term convincers ≠ long term support
Just delivering more money is not enough. It might be enough to get senior people to back what you want initially, but it will not be enough to keep that support long-term.
And the reason for that is that it turns CRO into a substitute product, a marketing channel. And if you position it that way, then you're effectively saying it is acquisition marketing and therefore we can distribute and redistribute as appropriate.
So how do you go beyond the money and get to the things that will provide the longer-term support that your CRO programme will need?
Buy yourself time to sell the wider CRO vision
You want a direct ROI that buys you the time to sell the bigger vision. People are going to expect that and should expect that, but it is a very small part of the picture. So think about how you’re going to generate that direct ROI initially but know what you're doing that for. You're doing it so that you can have the time to sell the wider vision of what is capable.
Hint at ways to use what you will learn across the org
When you get the results of your research and of your testing, it's important to talk about the ways that those could be used in other areas. These are the compound impacts that you expect your programme to have.
Out of everything that we learn, how might that impact how we deal with customer support? How might it impact how we deal with our acquisition marketing or our retention marketing or even our product design?
All of those things you have an opportunity to influence because what you are focusing on in your testing is understanding people - understanding your potential customers, understanding the visitors to your site. Those are the same visitors and customers who interact with other parts of your process, not just the one that is the transactional aspect.
You won't be able to say exactly what these things will be at this point, but you can certainly hint at the ways that that learning could be applied in other areas.
Testing reduces risk
The bigger the organisation that you work in, the more important risk mitigation and risk reduction is. The larger that organisation, the more they have to lose. They may already hold a fairly dominant position or at least a strong position in terms of market share. They would like to grow it, no doubt, but what they want to ensure more than anything is that it doesn't reduce and that they don't go backwards and that is where the risk mitigation aspect comes in. It isn't making money, but it's certainly saving money.
4) Winning support is a continuous process
Winning support for CRO is a continuous process because budgets will always need justification.
Assuming that most organisations budget on an annual basis at least once a year, you will have to go into bat for why you should at least keep the budget that you had last year.
Beyond that, if you have started small you may well want more sophistication so that you can have more impact. If you want that, you're going to need more budget and that's going to require more justification.
Understanding and accepting that the winning support is a continuous and ongoing process will stop you sort of getting that shock towards the end of the year when you realise you've effectively been defunded for the following year. So how do we do that? How do we become irreplaceable?
CRO is not a substitute
It is vitally important to get across that no marketing channel can provide what CRO provides.
The insights that you can get from how customers are interacting, how people are using the site, what they like, what they don't like, what they value, what they don't value - they cannot be gotten from marketing channels.
It needs to be done on a comparative basis and it needs to be done on-site and that is what helps you to avoid that substitute label.
Communicate the value of CRO daily
And that is an everyday thing. It's making sure that everyone knows the rigour of the process that you go through. They will need to understand the results that you've got, the gains that you've made, the savings that you've got, but also what you've learned and how that is being spread around the organisation.
CRO and strategic alignment
How well aligned are you to organisational-wide goals? This is what stops you being seen as an add-on tactic, as something that is turned on and off when the conversion rate of the site drops below a certain level.
That strategic element is a critical one. If you miss this, a few negative tests and people start asking questions, that support will disappear quite rapidly. It is about getting into this concept that what you are doing is aligned to those goals and it is fuelling the wider growth of the business.