For years, I’ve been searching for better and better ways to explain what it is that I do as a Conversion Optimization specialist, and to encapsulate the value I bring to marketing organizations.
I’ve heard that you should be able to explain your job to your grandparents. Anyone who works in new media, web, or technology knows how challenging this can be!
For those in the web industry, I could easily argue that Conversion Optimization is a sub-skill of User Experience (UX) design. I’m constantly experimenting with, and trying to improve, the experiences that users have on websites so that they’ll be more likely to buy, become a lead, etc.
But, that last paragraph is useless when you’re explaining Optimization to your grandparents, or even to marketing executives that have lived most of their lives in the years “B.I.” (Before Internet).
So, in this post, I’m proposing a new metaphor that I’ll be testing in the near future with grandparents, clients, and maybe even strangers at dinner parties!
Drum roll, please…
Conversion Optimization specialists are Marketing Mediators.
Why are we mediators? The simple answer is: “Because we mediate.” But, what do we mediate when it comes to marketing? We mediate equitable solutions between marketers and prospects. I really like a sentence in Wikipedia about business mediation:
A business mediator is a neutral mediator that is engaged between two business parties that have required the services of the other and are deadlocked in an acrimonious debate.
Let’s unpack that sentence:
- between two business parties
- deadlocked in acrimonious debate
Neutrality – Despite being on the payroll of the Marketing Organization, the Conversion Optimization specialist must remain amazingly neutral. Go too far on the Marketing side of the spectrum, and you’re designing landing pages that shout like infomercial personalities. Go too far on the “user centered design” side of the spectrum, and you have sites that are extremely pleasant and easy to use, but that make no money and go out of business.
Between two business parties – Conversion Optimization specialists mediate between the business and the prospect. Both are parties that could potentially engage in business together, right? While a traditional mediator would be known about by both parties, Marketing Mediators are doing their work in the background, invisible to the prospect. They are analyzing data, conducting heuristic evaluations, and designing experiments. The aim of all that activity is to design an experience that is the most “equitable” solution between the two parties.
Deadlocked in acrimonious debate – Businesses would of course prefer that you fork over all your cash, while prospects would prefer that businesses give me everything, right now, at top quality, for free. I can’t think of many debates more “acrimonious” than that! It’s no wonder that the average conversion rate is < 5%. The skill of the Optimization specialist is to find an experience that allows the prospect to accomplish some of their goals while allowing the business to accomplish some of theirs. There are tradeoffs and negotiations; they’re just unspoken.
A Real World Example
Let’s apply this to a real world scenario: a prospect clicks on a paid search ad and lands on your site. They want to know about things like security, credibility, choice, quality, peace of mind, and generally whether you can deliver on the value your ad indicated. It’s a lot to ask, but that’s how consumers are these days, so we’ll just have to get used to it!
As the site/business marketer, you want the prospect to convert; to take whatever primary call to action you put in front of them. You want them to do this immediately, without taxing your company’s human resources. You want them to tell all their friends so they will also come and convert on your site without you having to increase your marketing budget. See? You ask a lot, too!
Does your landing page give the prospect everything they ask for? So much so that they’ll convert on the first visit? Not likely. This is where the negotiation starts, because your site and your prospect are at an impasse.
Like other conversations that require a mediator, it’s often difficult to decide what you’re willing to give up; how much you’re willing to budge. Mediators are skilled at getting both parties to give a little in order to reach agreement. Since you’re not sure what you’re willing to offer the prospect, and you’re not even sure what the prospect is demanding in exchange, you call in a Marketing Mediator.
The Conversion Optimization specialist looks at your site data for patterns of consumer behavior in regards to not converting. She/he looks at the design and content of your landing page to make educated guesses about what is missing and what is most important to your prospect. Then, they design a series of live experiments to find the optimal balance where more of your prospects convert, and you only have to make small “concessions” in order to get this business improvement.
Sound good? Work with one of us! We are hanging out as independent consultants, on the staffs of agencies, and increasingly in-house at medium to large companies.
What do you think of this metaphor? Does it accurately describe the value of conversion optimization? Is it simple enough? Comments welcome.
Well, said Brendan. Especially the last paragraph regarding how CRO is about “looking for what isn’t working [missing] and making small concessions”. Every click and conversion (micro or macro) is a “transaction” between the visitor and the business [site] that only occurs when the visitor feels like they are getting more than than they are giving (aka value).