We Are All Marketing Mad ScientistsYou have spoken to your buyer in terms that they find compelling. You have written helpful and authoritative content that has won their trust. Now you look to set the hook with an offer. Your email or Google ad sends them to a landing page. But has it been optimized? This oversight is a common fail.

What’s a pity is that optimizing landing pages and websites is so easy. What’s a crime in ignoring optimization is that it’s so effective. Small changes in color, copy or imagery can have significant impacts. I’m talking, in some cases, double or even triple the conversion rate. Let’s jump in.

Conversion Rate Optimization

Conversion Rate Optimization, or CRO, is not new. I think pretty much all B2B marketers intuitively understand that they want to maximize their conversion rates. Whatever stage of the funnel, higher conversion means a greater yield. Everyone wants more leads and opportunities.

In my experience, while this is widely understood, it is not widely practiced. Most marketers spend at least some time optimizing their emails, especially the subject lines. That’s because email subject line testing is built into marketing automation platforms like Marketo, HubSpot and the rest. Similarly, Google AdWords will tell you exactly how each ad or ad campaign is performing, so it’s easy to optimize (though I feel B2B marketers don’t do enough and overspend on Google by a lot, but that’s the subject for another post). But landing pages? Home pages? It takes extra effort and maybe another piece of software to really measure performance.

There are well known packages that do this – primarily Optimizely, Google Optimize – but also more limited products like Unbounce for landing page testing. The way it works is simple but amazing. You run two versions of your page in parallel. The software automatically splits your traffic so that half the people see one page, and half see the other. When there are enough results to draw a reliable conclusion, the software tells you the winner.

Growth marketers and consumer marketers are all over CRO. B2B? Not so much. And that’s the crime. It’s so easy and relatively inexpensive. A B2B widget usually costs more than a B2C widget, but the CRO software license costs about the same. So, you’d think more B2B marketers would do it. We’ll get to my opinion as to why after a little more on CRO.

Hypothesize. Experiment. Repeat.

A common question from people new to CRO is, So, how do I know what to test? Excellent question. You know your business, so the answer is that you probably have some initial ideas. Busy prospects? Shorter forms. New to a market and need to build confidence? Logos of all your impressive customers. Lots of people doing research on their phones? Responsive pages with less copy to read. You get the idea.

The beauty is that it doesn’t really matter if you are wrong. Come up with a hypothesis and then run the experiment and see how it goes. If it looks like it is seriously tanking conversions, stop the experiment. If it’s working better, keep it running and see. Not all your tests will be huge winners, but every little but counts. Not to get all sciency in a marketing post, but CRO is based on the scientific method, where results are observed from experiments and then conclusions are drawn.

I’ve been doing CRO for three businesses for about six years now and I’ll say I’ve had mostly winning hypotheses. Not that I’m prescient, it’s just that it’s typically pretty obvious what needs to be fixed or what’s frustrating your customers on your site. Occasionally you will get a mega winner. For example, I ran marketing for a website security and optimization service a few years back. We had a typical pricing page with an option to get a customized price quote that fit your business (number of websites, amount of traffic, feature options). The original page had a button that read “Contact Sales.” Well, no offense to all my sales brethren, but most people don’t usually want to talk to a someone trying to sell them something when they are just doing research. Our experiment was to change the button to “Get Quote.” That’s what they really wanted, after all. The results: a 280 percent increase in conversions by just changing two words.

Another interesting thing about CRO is that the customer is always right. No matter how nice a CMO or web designer thinks a page looks, the results speak for themselves. Sometimes ugly wins over beautiful, which I admit I’m conflicted about. But there’s no room for opinion – just facts. You can always try to improve the appearance in a subsequent experiment.

The range of hypotheses is almost infinite. And they can come from anywhere in your organization. You can change button colors and sizes. Change the image in the hero. Vie a product screen shot against a photo of a happy customer. Of course, you can change the offer itself, too. I personally find CRO a lot of fun and look forward to the check-in meetings where we review the results.

B2B and CRO

I don’t know why more B2B marketers don’t do CRO, but I have a few theories. First off, I don’t think they ever learned it. Unless you worked on a high-volume team, it may never have come up. I got to know it from growth marketers in large SaaS businesses.

Another related possibility is that high average selling prices mask the need for more efficiency. This is the flip side of high volume. If you sell stuff for $100,000 you may not need as many deals to hit your number and may be less concerned about optimization.

I asked Chris Neuman, CEO of Cro Metrics and a vendor of mine, his thoughts:

“You can’t get code live on the sites of Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google, or any other high-performance tech company without a successful experiment. These companies don’t do wholesale redesigns; their designers run incremental experiments, and the sites evolve over time. In B2B this practice is less prevalent, so there is still the opportunity to build a structural competitive advantage.

So, while many of us envy the resources of FAANG, we ignore a simple best practice that’s not expensive. I think the real culprit is ignorance. Which is a shame because it is so inexpensive relative to other marketing spends. Depending on the scope of what you do, CRO is typically between $10,000 and $20,000 per month with software and a specialist agency. This is around what an SEO program will cost, and on the lower end of what a B2B marketer would spend monthly on PR.

What really puts it into contrast, however, is comparing it to Google ad spend. This can range widely but say $50,000 to $100,000+ for a decent size startup. Much higher for a bigger public company. Why would you spend $100,000 to bring people to a landing page but $0 to optimize that page? It just doesn’t make sense.

Chris makes another good point about funnel optimization, “Not only can it be used to drive more leads, but you can also design your experiments to drive lead quality up, which is important for B2B since there is real cost in following up on leads.

Thinking back on this series of posts, this CRO fail is just a continuation of the same theme. Prospects want convenience. They want their questions answered quickly. They want what they want, and they want it on their phone in line while waiting to pick up their lunch. B2B marketers get mad when they can’t place an order for a new t-shirt from their phone at Starbucks, but ignore that experience when they build their own pages.

There really is no excuse for it. Ignoring CRO just adds friction to the buyer journey. Something we all know is a no-no but too often ignored.