“The Power Law of CRO”—and why it means CRO is the most important activity for your business

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Published: September 2020

Moz founder Rand Fishkin calls conversion rate optimization (CRO) “the most important marketing activity.” But many companies still don’t appreciate the economic multipliers that make it so surprisingly profitable. In this article, you’ll discover the three benefits of CRO that can drive your company into an economic “virtuous circle” of growth.

Benefit 1: The obvious one—CRO gets you more customers, free

The obvious reason to improve your conversion rate is that you want more customers without having to spend a penny more on advertising.

Your revenue is equal to…

  • your number of visitors multiplied by…
  • your conversion rate (the percentage of your visitors that turn into customers) multiplied by…
  • the lifetime customer spend (the amount that each of them spends with you):
virtuous-circle-portrait.jpg
Benefit 1: Doubling your conversion rate doubles your revenue.

So if you double your conversion rate, you double your revenue. (Whenever we say “double” in this article, it’s to make the examples easy to understand. But, as you’ll see, even a small increase can result in one heck of an office party. We highly recommend you carry out the calculations for your own business. They can be eye-opening.)

But CRO has other, even better benefits…

Benefit 2: Your profit is even more sensitive to your conversion rate than your revenue is

Your profit is your revenue minus all your costs:

Profit = RevenueCosts

When you double your conversion rate, all your costs don’t double:

  • Your variable costs do double (by definition). This includes all costs that scale in proportion to the number of units sold, including the cost of goods sold, the costs of direct labor, distribution, and customer support.
  • But your ad costs remain the same.
  • And your fixed costs stay the same (by definition).

As a result, your profit increases disproportionately. Sometimes profoundly. The following diagram shows how a doubling of conversion rate can cause the profit to multiply by four times:

Your-profit-is-surprisingly-sensitive-to-conversion-rate-Copy.jpg
Benefit 2: An increase in conversion rate has a disproportionate effect on profit.

The effect can be even greater. For some companies, a small increase in conversion rate can mean the difference between suffering a loss and making a profit.

Benefit 3 (an even more exciting one): CRO opens up floods of traffic

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.

Benefit 1 × Benefit 2 × Benefit 3 = The Power Law of CRO

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:

power-law-of-CRO.jpg
The Power Law of CRO, which explains why so many of our clients have won awards for fast growth.

Of course, the multipliers depend on the financials of the business. You can see how your own profits would be affected by an increase in conversion rate by modeling different scenarios in a spreadsheet.

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.

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.

Why it’s imperative to focus on CRO now

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
—Chinese proverb.

The first-mover advantage

As long as you have a higher profit-per-visitor than your competitors do, then every day you’ll have a slight unfair economic advantage over them.

The wider you make that gap, the faster you accelerate ahead. That gap becomes a moat that makes your business robust against competitors’ attacks.

If your competitors aren’t focusing on CRO already, they will be soon, because the market will keep getting more competitive.

Every day you’re ahead, you have an unfair advantage—the wind is in your sails. Every day you are behind, you have an unfair disadvantage—you’re playing catch-up.

The difference depends on how soon you start, and how fast you move.

You-only-keep-your-successes.jpg
With iterative testing, your profits can only go up—because you keep only the winners.

Does your business depend on free traffic?

If your web business depends on free traffic from search engines or social media sites, you’ll get the following additional benefits:

1. Because CRO enables you to profitably advertise in different media, your business will become much more stable. You’ll no longer be hooked on free traffic and no longer at the whim of a search engine algorithm change.

Here’s an example from our work with money.co.uk

“Our increased conversion rate quickly led to an increase in traffic from our paid advertising, SEO, and email marketing. We were able to enter new markets that had previously been too expensive for us. We have also been able to expand into TV advertising.”

2. CRO will make your website customer-centric, so your customers will like you more and stay with you for longer. It also means other websites are more likely to link to yours.

Here’s an example from our work with Rand Fishkin and Moz

“I didn’t even realize how valuable CRO was…but I do now. I understand that CRO, at its best and broadest, is useful from both a product and a user experience perspective. It helps you understand your audience’s intent, behavior, and preferences.”

Why CRO is a great career choice

In our experience, the best career strategy is to (1) Create more value. CRO allows you to reliably do this, and then (2) Prove you’ve done so. A/B testing allows you to do this.

As such, CRO makes for a fantastic career choice. There’s a serious shortage of people who have proof that they can grow businesses. Amazingly, most people’s résumés have no quantifiable evidence that they have ever created value. Thanks to CRO, many of our clients, followers, and team members have incredibly impressive success stories on their résumés.

Plus, if you’re anything like us, you’ll find it endlessly fascinating.

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