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You can have the most beautiful website on the internet, but if you can’t convert visitors into paying customers, you might as well close up shop.
That’s where we come in. We’re a consultancy called Conversion Rate Experts, and we’ve pioneered a new approach to increasing revenue for online businesses. We coined the term “Conversion Rate Optimization” (CRO) for our methodology, and the industry subsequently adopted the term. However, as you’ll discover below, our definition of CRO is very different from everyone else’s.
We’re proud that our unique methodology has been adopted by leading companies worldwide, like Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, and Dropbox, plus hundreds of smaller, market-leading companies in over eighty different industries. Both frequently achieve off-the-chart results.
We were one of the first-ever Google-accredited consultancies for Google’s A/B-testing tool. We have visited Google’s offices to suggest improvements to the tool, and to present our conversion strategies to its staff.
Our proprietary methodology is the result of collaboration between a Cambridge PhD scientist and a veteran web marketer. The CRE Methodology™ is not A/B-testing software—it’s a system that enables you to get amazing results from A/B-testing software. It’s an easy-to-implement methodology that’s based on scientific research. It increases profits much more quickly—and reliably—than any single tool or technique could.
The following graph shows a breakdown of what we’ve achieved for our clients:
Here’s how the graph was calculated: For each client that carried out tests, we calculated the measured increase that we achieved for the metric we were targeting. Because some projects were shorter than 12 months and some were longer, we then annualized the figure. Projects that took three months or less were not included. For further information see our Testimonial Protocol.
This document is divided into sections. You can access them by clicking on the topics below (or by scrolling down):
Before you go any further, make sure you’ve already done the following:
Your website’s conversion rate is the percentage of its visitors that take action. When you improve your website’s conversion rate, you get more customers without spending a penny more on advertising.
In addition, you get to spend more on additional visitors—so a small increase in conversion rate can have a surprisingly large effect on your profits. Sophisticated companies—like Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, and Dropbox—invest a lot of resources into improving their websites’ conversion rates.
For a long time, web marketing has been relatively easy. Online businesses have been built using techniques that never would have sufficed in the offline world. Now it’s getting tougher. Companies with poor economics of conversion are struggling to compete.
Here are four reasons why you should be investing in conversion:
The obvious reason to improve your conversion rate is that you want to have more customers without spending a penny more on advertising. But CRO has other, even greater benefits…
Your profit is your revenue minus all your costs:
Profit = Revenue − Costs
When you double your conversion rate, all your costs don’t double:
As a result, your profit increases disproportionately. Sometimes profoundly. That’s because most of the profit from the additional conversions goes straight to your bottom line.
The following diagram shows how a doubling of conversion rate can cause the profit to multiply by four times:
The example above isn’t unusual. In fact, for some companies, a small increase in conversion rate can mean the difference between suffering a loss and making a profit. We encourage you to use a spreadsheet to model how the three benefits of CRO would affect your business, to see how your own profits would be affected by an increase in conversion rate. Most people are surprised by the size of the opportunity their calculations reveal.
Once your conversion rate has increased, you’re more profitable. It pays to sacrifice some of that profit into increasing your advertising bid prices—which can dramatically increase your number of customers. You can outbid your competitors and profitably dominate all the advertising space in your market.
Many of our clients find that CRO unlocks marketing opportunities that were previously prohibitively expensive, allowing them to get loads of new customers.
For startups and small-to-medium sized businesses, CRO is often the catalyst that enables them to start advertising, profitably, in PPC, magazines, newspapers, direct mail, radio, and TV. Clients also become able to pay affiliates more—which wins the affiliates over from their competitors. The principle even applies to SEO: if a company will generate twice as much revenue from the number-one spot, it can afford to spend twice as much to capture it.
This principle is so extreme that many advertising agencies pay us to work on their clients’ websites, because they understand that CRO allows their clients to profitably increase their ad spends. With the right combination of CRO and traffic buying, you can displace competitors for good.
Here’s the best bit: Benefits 1, 2 and 3 are multiplicative. Which means your profit has a power-law relationship to your conversion rate. (That is, your profit is equal to your conversion rate to the power of something—maybe squared, cubed, or even more.)
Looking at the equations from above, you can see why:
Incredibly, that’s not the end of it. As the number of orders grows, economies of scale kick in. These further increase the amount you can afford to spend on getting more customers.
The Power Law of CRO explains why, on the web, “the winner takes all”—or at least “the winner takes most.” Success is so sensitive to conversion rate, even a slight edge over your competitors is enough to snowball into domination. Unfortunately, it works both ways if they have a slight edge over you. There’s an enormous advantage to being in the lead rather than lagging behind. Once you’re ahead, you gain money; if you’re always playing catch-up, you lose money.
CRO is a virtuous circle. The world’s leading web companies all focus on it—on user experience, conversion flows, network effects, and customer journeys.
Without doing CRO, it’s impossible to win.
Most marketing is based on mere opinions.
We test our improvements, to make sure they really are improvements.
If the test doesn’t produce a winner, you learn from that test and discard the variation. However, when a test wins, you keep the improved version. This process repeats over and over, meaning that only better-performing versions of pages are kept. That way, your conversion rate (and revenue) can only increase.
The last few years has seen the introduction of many new exciting tools that allow you to test different versions of your web pages to see which perform best. You may have heard of A/B testing, split-testing, and multivariate testing (MVT). These methods allow you to rapidly discover which of your marketing ideas is most effective. But these methods don’t tell you what to test.
And, unfortunately, knowing what to test is the most important part.
“What you place upon the statistical framework is what ultimately determines the attractiveness of your test results.”—Roger Longbotham, former Senior Statistician from Amazon
As with all tools, the old saying “Garbage In, Garbage Out” applies. That is, if you put garbage into the tool, it will give you garbage back.
CRO is not A/B-testing, though one of the steps requires that you use some kind of A/B-testing or multivariate-testing software. As you know, we’re big fans of testing, but the hardest part is knowing what to test.
In fact, CRO is not a single tool or technique. Despite what others might tell you, you can’t build a successful website with one tool or technique—just as you couldn’t build your dream home using only a hammer.
CRO is a methodology. It’s a series of simple exercises that take the skill and guesswork out of creating highly profitable websites. Over the past few years, we have tried an enormous number of techniques, some of which were real gems. With The CRE Methodology™, we have pulled together the best ones (along with practical, easy ways to get them done) and added many techniques that we developed ourselves.
So, in summary, The CRE Methodology™ is a series of strategies and activities that allow you to achieve significant increases in profits from your website easily and reliably. You use The CRE Methodology™ in addition to A/B-testing software. The software allows you to carry out tests, and The CRE Methodology™ tells you what to test, by showing you how to create webpages that convert your visitors.
In 2006, we published a quick-start guide to Google’s A/B-testing tool. The following day, Google contacted us and invited us to become one of the first consulting partners for it. At the time, we told them no; our plan was to create the ultimate do-it-yourself course.
But as we began creating that course, we realized that CRO is a huge topic—and that most businesses don’t want endless pages of advice. If you’re like most people, you want to get great results using only those models and techniques that consistently get amazing results.
We have found that many of our clients can safely ignore many techniques and aspects of conversion rate optimization, if we tell them the “vital few” activities that they need to be carrying out:
No wonder so many people say that they are too busy to work on their conversion rate. Or that they don’t have the time, resources, budget, or technical know-how to do it. Many people are just thrashing around in the dark.
By hiring us, you’ll take a shortcut, learn directly from our experience, and get results fast.
Back in 2005, our founders ran the in-house marketing team for a company that generated all of its sales from the web. They initially tried hard to outsource conversion rate optimization. It turned out to be impossible. There were many vendors, but each pushed its own solution:
And so on.
What they wanted was an independent advisor who was effectively “hub” for conversion, had used all of the services, was completely impartial, and knew how to get the best results.
They ended up doing it themselves. As a result, they learned what worked, and developed a system that could be applied to any business.
They built Conversion Rate Experts to be the company that they wished had existed. In doing so, they ignored many of the norms of how consultancies are run. For example, though we may recommend software and services to our clients, we refuse to accept any referral fees from the vendors, because we feel it would conflict with our role as independent advisor. We spend all of our time designing pages that convert—and then we put our necks on the line by insisting that you test our work, to prove that we’ve measurably grown your business. To discover more about our philosophy, take a look at our values, beliefs and quirks.
We believe results are paramount: If we get wins for you, you’ll retain us, and if we don’t, you won’t (and rightly so). So here’s how our company works: We recruit the best conversion experts we can find, we give them a system that we’ve been refining since 2007, and then we insist they spend all of their time getting results. We don’t spend any time schmoozing because we believe you’d prefer us to spend one hundred percent of the time working on growing your business. In fact, we insist on carrying out all of our meetings remotely, to minimize travel time. We’re aware that this isn’t for everyone; some companies, particularly more traditional ones, insist upon in-person collaboration. We tend to find we’re a better fit with tech-savvy, results-oriented companies.
We have designed pages for more top-500 websites than any other company. In doing so, we have identified which activities and competencies are essential if a company is to be world class at conversion.
Very few companies are already “firing on all cylinders.” We work with you to identify the gaps in your competencies, then we bring you up to world class by doing one (or both) of the following:
We don’t do shoot-from-the-hip guessing; we have a well-defined, systematic process for increasing conversion rates. Our approach is so different from the conventional approach that we decided we needed a new name for it. We chose CRO, a term that has subsequently become adopted by the rest of the industry. However, our definition of CRO is still significantly different from everyone else’s (most people now use it to mean just “conversion”). Here’s what we mean by CRO:
Many new clients start out with the expectation that our consultants will arrive at the first meeting with a list of things to test. We intentionally don’t look for improvements on your site at this stage of the process. Here are a few reasons why:
1. We need to find out which parts of your business are underperforming and why. Most clients come to us with a preconceived idea of what should be worked on. Ironically, the opportunities usually lie elsewhere—in their blind spots. First, we discuss your strategy and vision for the business. We seek to determine the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will ensure you meet your goals. This is important to us because it’s paramount that our team’s goals be aligned with yours.
2. We don’t know yet why people aren’t converting. At this point, we also don’t know why your visitors aren’t converting, so any suggestions we made would be theoretical rather than based on evidence. From our experience, evidence-based recommendations are much more likely to give breakthrough results than glib “best practice” ones.
3. We need to experience your business as a customer with a “fresh pair of eyes.” It is important to have customer empathy and to understand the thought processes your visitors are going through. If we start looking at your website from a marketer’s perspective, it removes that fresh pair of eyes advantage. So, one of the first things we do with all our projects is to become the customer.
It’s impossible to critique a website without knowing from where its visitors are coming, on which landing pages they arrive, and how they navigate around the site.
We take a bird’s-eye view of your business, identifying the areas that appear to hold the greatest opportunity.
We will seek to understand your entire conversion funnel, starting with the initial ad impression where someone first encounters your business and finishing with the thank-you page and beyond (there’s often a lot of opportunity in optimizing post-sale events such as referral programs, up-sells, and email marketing). To sketch your conversion funnel, we map out every action that a prospect has to take to become your customer.
We aim to work on the areas of your business that will have the biggest impact on your goals. We also prioritize our efforts on parts of your business that are easiest to make changes to.
The best way to visualize this process is by thinking about blocked arteries and missing links. Just as an artery in your body is the highway that carries large volumes of blood, an artery in your business is a high-volume pathway that leads to sales. Once we have identified your business’s arteries, we search for blockages in them—that is, aspects of them that are underperforming.
Missing links are parts of your conversion funnel that have not been created yet, such as these:
We don’t guess what the blockages are; we find out. Typically this comes down to a very quick research project. The research is aimed at understanding the people that are coming to your website, and their intentions.
The key question is “Why aren’t visitors converting?”
The answer typically comes from research in these core areas:
1. Understanding different visitor types and intentions.
2. Identifying user-experience problems.
3. Gathering and understanding visitors’ objections.
This may sound like a lot of work, but it all happens within the first few weeks of the project. We can do this because the research is so focused on the one action we want to improve, based on the analysis of your conversion funnel.
1. Understanding different visitor types and intentions.
It doesn’t matter how good your website or product is if you’re asking the wrong people to do the wrong thing at the wrong time—which is why we start with an understanding of your different visitor types and visitor intentions. The process typically revolves around your web analytics platform and customer database.
We’ll seek to understand your different traffic sources, and how they behave:
Understanding these different visitors will give us a solid idea of how to organize your conversion funnel, so we’re showing the right content, with the right call-to-action, to the right visitors, at the right time in their buying journey.
2. Identifying user-experience problems.
All websites have some visitors who don’t convert simply because something prevents them from doing so; they’re willing but unable:
We use a wide range of tools and techniques to identify user-experience issues, and then we design tests to overcome problems.
3. Gathering and understanding visitors’ objections.
Next, we’ll seek to understand why most of your visitors aren’t persuaded. Those people, however, come and go without a trace! How do you know what they wanted? How do you know what would have persuaded them to take action?
If you owned a real-life bricks-and-mortar store, this would be easy: You’d hear their objections. You’d be able to ask questions. You’d hear what they muttered as they headed for the door.
Capturing the voice of the customer is more difficult with the web, but it can be done. We’ll start by recommending appropriate feedback mechanisms for capturing the most common objections. We’ll then gather, record, and analyze the feedback.
We call this the Objection/Counter-Objection (O/CO) approach; we identify (not guess) your customers’ objections and then develop strong counter-objections.
No business exists in a vacuum. We study your marketplace—for example, your competitors, any expert commentators, and what your customers are saying in social media and on review sites—and then we explore possibilities for improving your positioning by building upon your company’s core strengths.
Also, because we’ve had an unusually varied experience in terms of markets and geography, we are in a good position to transfer winning strategies from other industries into your business. Your biggest problems may have already been solved by a company in another country or vertical market.
Each of our clients has had elements within its business that would have been highly persuasive to its prospects but that the prospects never saw. The key is to identify all of these persuasion assets and then present them to the prospects at the right time in the buying process. Sometimes, the challenge lies in creating a wish list of persuasive assets that the company needs to acquire.
It’s a myth that you can transform a business by making “meek tweaks”; extraordinary improvements come from extraordinary ideas. We take all of the ideas we’ve generated from the research and prioritize those big, bold, targeted ones that will grow your business in the shortest time. Bold changes give you more profit, and you get quicker, larger returns (it’s a statistics thing). And they’re usually more fun. If you carry out “meek tweaking,” on the other hand, your tests seldom reach significance, you get disheartened, and, most upsettingly of all, you lose the commitment of your colleagues.
After collating all the ideas, we prioritize them based on three simple metrics:
1. How likely is it to double your conversion rate? Asking this question helps to ensure that we’re prioritizing the big opportunities. Bigger, bolder tests are given a higher priority; meek tweaks are demoted.
2. How easy it is to implement the test? We’re looking for the quick wins with the biggest financial impact, so changes that are easy to implement are given a higher priority.
3. Has this idea worked before? Once you’re testing, you’ll quickly start learning what your visitors respond to. Every test we develop is documented so that we can review and prioritize ideas that are inspired by winning tests.
At this stage, we create the content that we’ll be testing.
Note that novices usually begin at this stage. They base their designs on guesswork and so-called “best practices,” and then they get disheartened when their tests fail. Our experience has shown that the significant wins come from basing the new content upon insights that were gleaned from the previous six steps.
First, we’ll create a wireframe of the new page (or page element). The wireframe will be designed to be more persuasive, more believable, and more user-friendly than the existing version. Though we don’t take responsibility for every word of copy on your website, we do focus on critical copy elements such as the headline, introductory paragraphs, and calls-to-action. We’ll carry out several usability tests on the wireframe and discuss the test results in detail with you and your team. With most of our clients, we work with the client’s existing copywriters and graphic designers.
Some clients require more support, though, and in such cases, we do the graphic design, copywriting, and usability testing ourselves. For more information, ask us about our Full-Service Program.
There are many software platforms for tracking and testing, each of which has its own benefits. If you don’t already have one in place, we’ll offer you some suggestions based on your needs. We do not profit from selling or recommending software. We’re 100% vendor neutral and use the tools that are best for your business.
Once the split testing platform is in place, we’ll run through and verify that everything is set up properly. Then, for each split test, we follow a procedure that ensures that all team members understand what the test is, why we’re running it, how it fits into the site, how it aligns with the business goals, and how we’ll measure success. These experiment plans create a valuable archive of your business’s evolution.
Once a test is started, the software takes over. All split testing software automatically calculates when one version of the page has generated significantly more conversions, from a statistics perspective, than the others. At this point, you can end the test and promote the winning version to be your new “control.”
Diversifying your customer acquisition channels gives your business more stability. Your increased conversion rate will mean you can profitably invest more in advertising channels, such as SEO, PPC, social media, affiliate marketing, and offline media. If desired, we can recommend how you can use the improvements to acquire more customers.
We’ll also help you to explore how you can implement the insights from your winning experiments in other parts of your marketing funnel; e.g.:
The CRE Methodology™ process is iterative; subsequent experimental plans will be based on the outcome of the previous experiments. Each improvement builds upon the success of the previous ones. Each time the conversion rate is increased, it becomes increasingly difficult for competitors to compete. Also, as your conversion rate grows, more opportunities present themselves. After each split test, it’s important to “zoom out” and look at the whole conversion funnel again, to determine which part of the business we should focus on next.
Your CRO project is carried out by the following people:
If, after the first six weeks, you aren’t absolutely delighted with what we’ve done for your business, we’ll happily return your money, promptly and in full. No questions asked.
And here’s our second (perhaps stronger) reassurance:
We want to work with you only if we believe you’ll get great results. Our success so far has come entirely from extremely positive word of mouth, and we plan to keep it that way. We want to add your success story to the rapidly growing page of testimonials on our website, so we’ll accept you only if we believe you’ll be able to provide us with an amazing case study. That’s why we asked you to complete our fact-finding survey: Before we decide to take you on, we can assess your business’s potential for growth.
Since we began, demand for our services has outstripped supply. We work only on projects we’re excited about and believe have a great chance of breakthrough success. You should find reassurance in the fact that we’ll work with you only if we believe we can get great results for you.
Here are some of the things that we’ll require from you (not all of them are essential, so ask us if you’re unsure):
If you don’t already have some of the third-party tools we need, we’ll ask you to open paid accounts. Ask us if you need more information about this.
In addition to what’s described above, some of our clients like us to take on additional responsibilities for things like graphic design, usability testing, and copywriting. Contact us if you’d like more information about this.