I’d like to share a few techniques today that will help you more effectively sell good ideas within your organization. You can use these tips to advocate for conversion optimization or any other business improvement.
But first, why do we need “techniques” to “sell” good ideas? Conversion optimization, for instance, should be an easy sell into an organization, right?
How could you not want to gain double and triple-digit conversion rate lifts in your most important business goals? How could you not want to dramatically improve your Return on Ad Spend and Average Revenue Per Visitor? Who wouldn’t want that? Who wouldn’t support it?
Well, the world is not a logical place. Business is not a logical place, as much as people try to create structure and discipline within it.
One of the most impactful teachers I had early in my career was the sales trainer Tom Hopkins. He told me, “People make a purchase emotionally and defend the purchase rationally.” People aren’t purely logical.
That’s why, even within organizations, you don’t just need a spreadsheet with rationale for buying conversion optimization. (Though, that helps, and you can estimate your ROI from conversion optimization here.) You also need to be a persuasive Marketing Optimization Champion.
As a Champion, you must be skilled in the art of organizational politics and persuasion. Fortunately, being this champion is rewarding because, after the dust settles and the emotion has faded, the logic is infallible and the results speak for themselves.
At WiderFunnel, our retainer clients are currently experiencing an ROI range of 400% to 1400%. That’s right, 400% is the bottom end of the spectrum. How many other investments can you make with that kind of a return?
When I released my book, You Should Test That!, I included a chapter with tips on how to be an effective Strategic Marketing Optimization Champion. One reader told me that she’d spent many years acquiring the tactics to be a great corporate marketer, and here I am just giving this knowledge away. So, take this advice for what it’s worth.
How to be a marketing optimization champion
Your company needs you to step up and be an influence for marketing testing.
Fortunately, being your organization’s champion is very rewarding. Marketing testing is one of the most easily provable strategies, and the rationale for it is unassailable. When you stand as an advocate of the data-driven approach, you’ll reap the rewards in your career. Measurement advocates inevitably rise to positions of influence.
nine tips for becoming your organization’s marketing optimization champion:
1. Get senior-level buy-in for testing
No matter how strong your project results are, you’ll face an uphill battle without senior management support. Many of your colleagues look for cues from HiPPOs when deciding what to support, and senior managers probably allocate funding. Suffice it to say, your job will be much easier with their backing.
What is success for your senior decision-makers? Start by finding out how they’re incentivized so you can show how optimization will help them reach their goals. If you can help them look (and get paid) like rock stars, they’ll support your projects and reward you in return.
You can also appeal to the rational support they need by building a business case for testing. With directly measurable results, the case for testing is easy to make. Show the conversion rate lift that other organizations are getting, and estimate the return on investment (ROI) for a testing strategy.
2. Create a tangible opportunity
Get support for testing by creating a tangible problem that testing solves. Gather visitor (dis)satisfaction survey results, show real quotes, and record feedback from real customers. Videos of customer frustration can be powerful motivators. Use Clicktale, Sessioncam or UserTesting.com for recordings.
Sharing case-study examples of companies can be a source of inspiration and motivation, too. Here’s a whole bunch of conversion optimization case studies to start with.
3. Use expert support and insights
Bring in a conversion-optimization expert to tell decision-makers how your website needs to improve. The credibility of a third party like WiderFunnel can carry more weight than internal voices alone, even if were bringing a similar message.
If you can only get a portion of the budget needed for a full engagement, hire the consultant for the initial discovery and planning portion, then use that report to get approval for more budget.
4. Conduct skunkworks tests
If you don’t have senior support at the beginning, you could try an under-the-radar approach. Pick a few target pages with low political visibility to gain some quick wins. Landing pages outside the main website can be good candidates for this. Then, use the winning results from those tests as ammunition in your campaign for support to move on to more important optimization areas.
5. Involve other departments
You’ll need the support of others to get your tests running: it, finance, marketing, branding, and more may present barriers. Save yourself surprises by involving them early.
6. Tie results to revenue
When you present results, don’t just show the improvement in conversion rate or KPIs. Tie the results to revenue to show real cash impact. Percentages are intangible, but everyone relates to cash. What would you rather get: a XX% conversion rate lift, or $500,000 greater profit?
7. Share successes far and wide
Many of WiderFunnel’s clients have used our results analysis presentations to create an internal event in the organization. The champion invites members from throughout the company to see the results of tests, guess the winners, and discuss what was learned. The presentations are a lot of fun, especially for those departments that aren’t normally involved in external communications. Make sure to invite people from all functional areas.
You’ll see several benefits from these meetings. Positive results with statistical certainty are exciting for everyone and create momentum. They educate your colleagues about the process of testing and inspire the organization to support your projects. You’ll be positioned as a leader with ideas that deliver results.
When WiderFunnel runs tests, we hold a vote with everyone involved to guess which one will win. The results presentation could be a good time to award prizes and boost the fun factor.
8. Be a leader
You have a decision to make about what you stand for in your career. Every idea you want to sell depends on the influence you have with colleagues, friends, and clients. The foundation of that influence will be based on what I’ll call soft or hard credibility. Soft credibility is based on your personality, charisma, and personal connections, whereas hard credibility is the data, evidence, and goal alignment that you bring.
Become a thought leader by reading more and sharing more knowledge with your colleagues. Take opportunities to conduct group discussions, distribute summaries of your learning, have lunch with unconvinced team members, and go to conferences.
9. Never give up…
As Winston Churchill said in a famous speech, “…never, never, never, never give up.” testing and optimization are not one-time events. You’ll face opposition, confusing results, and disappointments, but they will melt away when you experience big wins.
The biggest threat to your success is what I call the shiny new thing. There will always be new tools, tactics, and opinions that will tempt you to abandon your testing discipline.
As Chet Holmes said in his book The Ultimate Sales Machine, his “pigheaded discipline and determination” are key to his results. As he says, “Implementation, not ideas, is the key to real success.”
Bonus: 10. …Except when it’s time to move on
Some organizations will never adopt marketing optimization. The culture may be too entrenched in old ways. I cringe when I see companies start on the path of testing and then turn around and redesign their website wholesale without considering the progress and learning they’ve already made.
If you don’t see progress in your data advocacy, you should move on to a company that values it. Companies that don’t test will eventually yield to competitors that do. Life is too short to battle for years as a cultural misfit at companies with outdated thinking.
How do you sell ideas in your company?
Your turn. Add your ideas below!