Testing in an enterprise is truly a team sport.
If a testing program was a football team, its lead would be the QB. They can set the tone and direction, but without the support of a good offensive line, they’ll be scrambling to get any real results.
To get a good “offensive line” in your company, you’ll need to get buy-in from the right people.
Lean technology companies can rapidly test with as few as one person, but in a large corporation, knowing how to navigate the organization is just as important as understanding proper statistical power.
The first step is knowing how to sell optimization. People have plenty of natural barriers to optimization practices, so you’ll have to address them up front and make doing this work a no-brainer.
Here are some of the best selling points you can use:
1. Emphasize it’s about finding answers together
Testing is a process to finding answers to your business problems in a scientific way.
Rationally, that makes perfect sense, but few people think this way. Most have been trained to think they must have answers, have been rewarded when they were right, and punished when they were wrong.
Sell testing as a relief to this stress: none of us have the answers, but all of us have great ideas. All of those ideas are equal and we can follow this process to solve them together. No more HiPPOs.
2. It’s not more work
Words like “optimization” and “experiments” sound complicated and hard.
Everyone is already overloaded and wants to avoid extra complexity. Optimization doesn’t have to be difficult, though, especially in the beginning.
Website and email A/B testing tools make it dead simple to run tests and handle the calculations that trip people up in the beginning. You’ll eventually want to increase the complexity for bigger results and answers to tougher business questions, but to get off the ground and find quick wins, it’s remarkably easy.
As the leader of an optimization initiative, you need to make it as easy as possible to get started with the right tools and systems. Get these testing tools in place so it’s easy. Create things like test checklists and other reference materials that make the process easy to follow.
You should also shoulder the load and do as much as you can in the beginning. Once results start coming in and people see the value, they’ll naturally get more involved and interested in the legwork. Numbers talk. Once you have them, you can focus on building out the conversion optimization team and asking for a greater investment in the program.
3. It reduces your risk
Testing seems risky to people. What if the new thing we try doesn’t work? What if we miss out on sales directing traffic to a failed variation? New things are always scary and feel dangerous. Emphasize that while it may feel that way, optimization actually reduces your risk.
There’s the famous business joke of investing in employees:
CFO asks CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and they leave us?”
CEO: “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”
Optimization works the same way. Sure, something may seem to work fine now, but what if there’s something that could sell three times better you don’t know about? The opportunity cost is massive.
The best companies are constantly reinventing and finding better ways to do things. If they aren’t moving forward, they are going backwards. Optimization is the best way to do this. It rapidly evaluates ideas before you spend valuable time and money on them. It finds problems before they cost you.
The real risk is in not knowing what works and doesn’t before it’s too late.
Also, clarify that you can start small. You don’t have to do a 50/50 split of traffic to your site with 500k visitors if that makes people queasy. Do a small sliver of that traffic they feel comfortable using. Tests can start small and get started on the path to greater findings.
4. Emphasize tangible outcomes, not optimization itself
People don’t really care about optimization. They care about the results optimization can bring, so speak in that language.
Testing isn’t about improving open rates by x%, it’s about generating more good leads for your funnel. Or more products sold. Or more revenue.
They don’t care about conversion rates, they care about the extra profit that brings in. Always be mindful of the language you use when describing optimization’s value. The classic marketing adage is selling benefits, not features. Do the same here.
5. The greatest innovators follow this process
Everyone gets excited by innovation. How many companies are trying to sell themselves on “fast-paced startup” cultures? Optimization is a chance to practice what you preach.
Ask any group of people in your company what the most innovative companies in the world are and everyone will say Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. Guess what every one of those does? They test and optimize.
Every great inventor and innovator in history has had a process of experimentation that led to massive breakthroughs. If you want to be one of the best, this isn’t something that’s just nice to have. It’s essential.
Once you’ve prepared your selling points, it’s time to bring them to the right people.
Funnily enough, the first step is actually not needing to use those selling points.
6. Start with the people that need the least convincing and make them your pilot program
In a big organization, there are many teams and departments you can work with on optimization. See who’s already interested, the least skeptical, and ready to work on it right away. Focus on teams you have rapport with and that like to try new things. You don’t have to spend energy selling everyone on doing this. You just have to find the ones willing and ready to go and make them your pilot group.
It’s also important to focus on teams you know can get stuff done. Pay attention to who expresses interest but doesn’t ever get around to doing the work to complete a test. In the beginning, you need quick wins, so don’t get held up on teams or projects that don’t move. Interest doesn’t always lead to action.
7. Get a sponsor from the top
You’ll need an influencer in the organization to really get the off the ground. They’ll legitimize the effort and have the ability to push through barriers that block you.
Again, focus on someone you, or someone else you know well, has rapport with and that supports trying new things. Use the tactics above to emphasize the benefits. Most importantly, lay out how you can start this small with low risk and effort. Find smaller tests for quick wins. Find easy ways to begin testing big assumptions.
Find problems they already have and demonstrate how optimization can find their solution. Report back your findings with hard numbers, especially ones relevant to their performance metrics, and you’ll have full buy-in at the top.
Follow these steps and you’ll have the cultural building blocks for an optimization program. In summary, here are my tips:
- Emphasize that it it’s a way to find answer together.
- Make it known that it’s not more work.
- Sell the fact that it is risk mitigation.
- Emphasize tangible outcomes, not optimization itself.
- Remind people the most innovative companies do experimentation.
- Start with the people that need the least convincing and make them your pilot program.
- Get a sponsor from the top.
Optimization is a collaborative process, and by understanding your selling points, finding a willing team to pilot test the initiative with, and getting some sponsorship from influencers in the company, you’ll have the foundation you need.
What about you – any tips or hacks you’ve used to get organizational buy-in for CRO? This is more of an art than a science, so I’d love to hear any tactics used successfully.