Post-Olympic Depression Syndrome May Be Similar to Successful Conversion Optimization Testing Breakthroughs

4 min. read | Last updated: December 7th, 2017

As I write this, the Vancouver 2010 Games are wrapping up. By the time I complete writing this blog post, right here in Vancouver, we will know whether Canada or the USA holds Olympic gold. Unable not to multitask, watching the game has me thinking about what happens next…

What happens after an athlete works so hard; is so focused; devotes his or her entire life and being to the one moment when they win Olympic gold… Then what?

Many athletes train for years, reach the apex of their careers during the Olympics and then crash. After the peak of competition is over and the highs of winning, commercial endorsements, sponsors, and the excitement dies down, according to experts, depression sets in. This is known as post-competition depression.

Is this the same as what sometimes happens after getting a breakthrough improvement on the website conversion rate?

OK, this idea isn’t as crazy as it sounds. But let me back up first.

Many athletes spend years preparing for a narrow window of opportunity such as the Olympics. Intense preparation, daily practice and adjusting life to meet the sport’s needs dominate the athlete’s life. Then, after the Olympics, the elite athlete often loses her or his sense of purpose – often experiencing depression if unprepared for the transition.

For example, in a recent interview, Victoria Pendleton (who was part of a Great Britain track cycling team that dominated the velodrome in Beijing, won the Olympic gold medal in the women’s sprint track cycling event) said “You have all this build-up for one day, and when it’s over, it’s: ‘Oh, is that it?’ You’re relieved but kind of sad and numb. It’s over.” The pressure is enormous. “People think it’s hard when you lose,” she said. “But it’s almost easier to come second because you have something to aim for when you finish. When you win, you suddenly feel lost.”

Failing to meet a goal most certainly is disappointing, writes coach Dean Henbert. And it is absolutely normal to have an emotional reaction to that. “When an elite athlete fails at a goal, they tend to pick themselves up and continue the fight after a very short time. Even in the case of epic failures, we have all seen renewed focus and energy to either persist and attack once again that race goal or to fervently pursue OTHER goals.” Contrast that to the successful endeavour. The elite athlete labors a lifetime to get to the Olympics. Suddenly it’s race day. All the preparation pays off. You did it!

And now what?

Such a reaction is natural, according to Mark Bawden, the lead performance psychologist at the English Institute of Sport. “To win an Olympic gold is a life-changing moment, but then there is a crash back to reality,” he said. “It can be as powerful an experience to come down from success as coping with adversity.”

So why am I thinking this has anything at all to do with Conversion Optimization?

First, let me say this: Marketers who move beyond the well-travelled path and embrace conversion optimization and other metrics-driven marketing strategies are elite marketers. Like elite athletes, they spend years preparing well thought out and executed marketing strategies and tactics. They know, as well as any expert knows, that stellar results call for practice and focus and the mastering of skills. It takes 10000 hours of practice. There are no shortcuts.

When these elite marketers do not get the results they seek; they refocus and try again. And again and again.

However, sometimes in our work we see that, after a wildly successful breakthrough, elite marketers in companies engaged in improving their online conversion rate stop altogether. After all their thought-leadership, their work and their push towards excellence on the website, nothing. No more tests. That’s it.

I have often wondered why that was – until today.

It now seems to me that these elite marketers are not seeing conversion optimization correctly: they see breakthroughs in conversion lift as their Olympic event. That is, the test is a one-time event. As a result, once a breakthrough conversion rate lift is attained there is no more to strive for. The Gold, so to speak, has been won.

But Conversion Optimization isn’t like an Olympic event at all.

Instead, Conversion Optimization is an ongoing strategy, perhaps more like a marathon (if I absolutely must continue with the sports analogies). Conversion Optimization is a strategy which sees the website as a capital asset that has to be improved. Again and again. Because customers change. Because products and value propositions change. And because the competitive landscape continually changes.

How to re-focus Conversion Optimization thinking to “strategy”?

Interestingly enough, the research on post-competition depression in elite athletes says that the person who is most likely to experience this is more often than not, the first-timer and that, a major reason for the loss and lack of motivation is that the elite athlete forgets to set the next goal.

In other words, inexperience and lack of goal-setting will do you in.

So, as an elite marketer, you need to remember that purpose and goals focus our behavior and thoughts.

You have won Gold. Now do it again.

PS. Yes, Canada won Olympic Gold in Hockey (and this blog post took me longer to write than the seven minutes and 40 seconds into the extra period that it took Crosby to score)


Chris Goward

Founder & CEO

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