Why you need CRO culture in your business to achieve quicker growth

Rich Chapman, Head of Experimentation,

CRO and experimentation have grown in stature over the last decade, from being the unknown digital discipline to an ‘must-have’ in your online marketing strategy. We are now in a world where if you’re not running experimentation campaigns then you are falling behind your competitors. Standing still, really means going backwards.

A CRO and experimentation mind set

A lot of businesses are still slow on the uptake of CRO and experimentation, with a nervousness of “does it really work though?”, “will it give me ROI?” and a perception that you can turn it on like a tap for instant success and positive test results. The understanding of it can still be foggy, but is clearing. 

An early roadblock is the realisation of the amount of change needed to happen in a business before CRO and experimentation be successful. This change lies with people and how it will impact their current ways of working. Once a key stakeholder in a business understands CRO and the potential experimentation has, a battle begins in that organisation to implement CRO and a shift in culture. This means one difficult thing humans (in general!) don’t like, change, which brings resistance.

But change is good, right?

Imagine you have been a developer, designer, or a strategic marketing lead with a strong say on the website at a company for the last 3-4 years or longer. Then a team member or agency suggests testing everything before it goes live to all traffic on your website. How do you feel? Safer in your role? Or suddenly under a microscope with your ideas scrutinised where before, what you say goes. This line of thinking would make anyone resistant to change or feel threatened. This means as CROs we have a job on our hands to convince the relevant stake holders that it is suddenly ok to fail.

An experimentation led way of thinking and running website strategy means a change in thinking and approach. It is an acceptance of failure. As CROs, we like to experiment to learn not only what works best for a business’s users and customers but also, what doesn’t. This means failing so we can discover what doesn’t work.

Why is failing good?

Over time businesses utilising experimentation build a database of failed experiments and ideas that their customers didn’t respond well to. This is kept for future reference. The database acts as an insurance policy for when those same ideas come up in the future, for example, from a new starter or different team member. You’ve already tried it, and can prove it didn’t work with the data, stopping that negative effect on your website in its tracks before it got anywhere near a developer, saving your conversion rate.

However, shooting down an employee’s idea can leave a sour taste in a team member’s mouth; they worked hard on that idea and it got them nowhere. So CRO culture does not come without a negative side. But this doesn’t mean creativity should be put on hold. Ideas should still be encouraged to boost the creativity which experimentation thrives on. No idea is a bad idea, until the data says it is.

The experimentation mindset can be a culture shock to organisations, especially those with an autocratic leadership.

The HIPPOs don’t like it

This brings us to the HIPPOs - for the uninitiated, this is The Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. At the top of an organisation’s hierarchy are the key decision makers and stakeholders with the purse strings. Here we find a similar story and sometimes a harder battle to convince them CRO is good for customers and the business. People with power in an organisation, especially when they have built said organisation, often don’t like releasing it. The message of “we need to fail to learn” is not always pleasantly received, as CRO culture can be very alien to this way of thinking. And why not? They have likely built a business over many years based on their decision making, guidance and strategy. Who are we to come in and say, “no, you can’t change your website based on your gut feel or opinion anymore”. I was once told by an MD of a large online retailer:

Why can’t I think of an idea when I’m in the shower in the morning for the website and then come in and change it?”

That’s a tough conversation for anyone wanting to embed experimentation as a way of working, to say ‘sorry but no. You don’t know if your idea will have a good or negative effect on your business’.

We can train people on technology easily and we can introduce new processes easily. But changing people’s thinking patterns and habits is more difficult.

So how do we move past this?

By creating a culture of creativity, thinking and safety. There are three key things that need to happen for experimentation to succeed and give it greatest impact:

Encourage creativity 

No idea is a bad idea, but they must be tested. This ensures all stakeholders still get a say on the website and its progression. This also helps those with the final say have a voice rather than just the analysts and strategists.

Create a culture of safety 

It is ok to fail tests – in fact we encourage it so we can learn. Space X are the best example of this recently. They spent billions testing and failing to build a rocket that could return to Earth, so they could save billions in the future and open space travel again for the USA. This was driven by their culture of ‘it is ok to fail as long as we learn and go again’.

Record and review 

By logging each experiment you win or lose you can create a database of failures and successes. This data acts as both a guide to what really works for your business and customers, and a guide to what doesn’t. This means those bad ideas never get deployed permanently to your users and cause a negative impact.

Set up for CRO success

CRO success is very reliant on culture within a business. If key stakeholders within a business are not willing to fail to learn, or to allow change based on results and not opinion, then experimentation campaigns will end prematurely.

In my experience, the overall benefits of CRO and experimentation easily outweigh any pain at the beginning of a campaign or when installing experimentation culture into an organisation. But it can be a tough road to get there and requires persistence and patience. That said, I am seeing green shoots of businesses coming to agencies now with a positive view on CRO in some areas and want our help to convince the rest of their business. 

Think you might be ready to start your CRO and experimentation journey? Get in touch to make the first step today.

Rich Chapman, Head of Experimentation

"I'm building the CRO and experimentation service offering for 26 and MSQ's clients, providing a best in class service through strategy, technology and people. I have over a decade of experience in digital marketing from SEO, web development and analytics, now specializing in CRO and experimentation."

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