We have to go back to the basics. I gave a sem­i­nar on Tues­day about opti­miza­tion to a group of mar­keters in Los Ange­les, and it really opened my eyes to the cur­rent state of online site mar­ket­ing today. While it was a great, inter­ac­tive ses­sion, the slide that got the most nod­ding heads was the one that listed the chal­lenges mar­keters face with just get­ting con­tent up on the site today. Many peo­ple took notes when we talked about dif­fer­ent test­ing ideas, ways in which you can break your audi­ence up into impact­ful seg­ments, and the suc­cesses that our cus­tomers have enjoyed them­selves through using Test&Target. But the most telling point came when I asked peo­ple to raise their hand if they hadn’t started test­ing yet, but would be start­ing within the next year. No one raised their hand.

Hit­ting a Roadblock

It was hard to get peo­ple to talk about the rea­sons why dur­ing our ses­sion, but I spoke to these mar­keters after­wards, and the over­rid­ing sense I got was that they were com­pletely hand­cuffed and road­blocked by processes and pol­i­tics. No one felt like they actu­ally owned the site they were sup­posed to be mar­ket­ing on. Chang­ing con­tent on the site, let alone test­ing it, felt like an insur­mount­able challenge.

I real­ized that I could show as many exam­ples of bad land­ing page expe­ri­ences, wasted oppor­tu­ni­ties for test­ing and tar­get­ing, and case study suc­cesses as I wanted, but the prob­lem these mar­keters faced was not a lack of belief in test­ing — it was the inabil­ity to sell this belief up the chain. With that in mind, I want to help arm you with an arse­nal of rea­sons why your com­pany can’t afford to delay test­ing another year.

1) Test­ing Dri­ves Results

ZeroDash1 con­ducted an inde­pen­dent study at the eMet­rics show in San Fran­cisco this year, and one of the key ques­tions they asked was whether mar­keters who were test­ing thought it was worth it. Take a look at the results. (Note: this sur­vey was not solicited by Omni­ture in any way)

92% saw pos­i­tive ROI! How many other ini­tia­tives can you say that about? It also makes me really proud to point out that 54% of those who say they “can’t live with­out it” use Omni­ture Test&Target. As part of a com­pany that has been evan­ge­liz­ing test­ing for the last 5 years, it’s incred­i­bly reward­ing to see affir­ma­tion of the orig­i­nal bet that Offermatica’s founders made — to make a prod­uct designed for mar­keters, not sta­tis­ti­cians or IT.

2) Opti­miz­ing On-Site Increases Off-site ROAS

I recently sur­veyed the web to see the state of land­ing pages today. What I found was that com­pa­nies are still miss­ing out on so many oppor­tu­ni­ties to increase rel­e­vancy and engage­ment on their sites. I’m only going to show one exam­ple here, but it cer­tainly reflects the major­ity of pages I visited.

Note the ad at the top of the page. It’s a timely ad con­sid­er­ing we all have sav­ings on the mind these days. Here’s the page I landed on when I clicked through.

Was that what you were expect­ing? I was look­ing for more sale infor­ma­tion, a pre­view of those thou­sands of items, the hun­dreds in sav­ings. Instead, I got sent to the light­ing page. Do I think that Design Within Reach’s mar­ket­ing team thought the light­ing page was the best place to send this traf­fic? Nope. I think the media mar­keters prob­a­bly weren’t talk­ing to the site mar­keters, and even if they were, the site mar­keters prob­a­bly couldn’t change any­thing about the page or put up a new sale pre­view page in time. This exam­ple rep­re­sents a huge missed oppor­tu­nity though. Imag­ine the dif­fer­ence in bounce rate if a user had landed on a sale pre­view page instead.

3) Hope is Not a Strategy

In the same ZeroDash1 sur­vey con­ducted at eMet­rics, mar­keters were asked whether their pre-test hypothe­ses were always cor­rect. “100% of sur­vey respon­dents admit that their pre test hypothe­ses are not always cor­rect.” 100% means not one sin­gle per­son can say he or she has always been right. Even though it sounds like a no-brainer, it means that any­body who is not test­ing today has been wrong at least once about a new idea or design that’s been pushed out to pro­duc­tion. Test­ing allows you to under­stand whether your ideas actu­ally impact your suc­cess met­rics and then make data-driven deci­sions instead of hope-driven leaps of faith.

Put another way, opti­miz­ing your site enables you to fail fast. One of the mar­keters in our ses­sion said that some of his most sig­nif­i­cant test results are those that show him which ideas don’t suc­ceed. To know that some­thing doesn’t work on your site allows you to put that debate to bed and move on to the other ideas on the list.

4) Time is of the Essence

The win­dow of time to get a head start on the com­pe­ti­tion is clos­ing quickly. 69% of mar­keters who have not already begun test­ing plan on imple­ment­ing it within the next year.

If you look at the com­pa­nies who are pro­duc­ing the most inno­v­a­tive prod­ucts and sites, you’ll notice they all have one thing in com­mon — they are ahead of the curve. When Ama­zon cre­ated a retail site, they didn’t wait until their com­peti­tors fig­ured out that whole per­son­al­iza­tion thing first. When South­west Air­lines came up with a new way to ticket and board peo­ple, they didn’t wait to see whether the process would fail in another airline’s hands first.

Opti­miz­ing your site is a way to inno­vate. Under­stand­ing how your cus­tomers react to con­tent and lay­out and design gives you a huge advan­tage. Link­ing their off­site expe­ri­ences with their onsite expe­ri­ences allows you to reach out across mul­ti­ple chan­nels. That inte­gra­tion is not only an oppor­tu­nity to increase rev­enue and con­ver­sion, but also a way to present a cohe­sive mes­sage about your brand.

I have a very suc­cess­ful cus­tomer who I’ve been try­ing to get out to con­fer­ences to talk about the stel­lar test results he’s seen and the ways in which he went about installing a test­ing cul­ture at his com­pany. He’s hes­i­tant to talk about any­thing related to his opti­miza­tion efforts though. He real­izes he’s found a com­pet­i­tive edge at a time when there are few edges to be found, and now is the time for him to exploit it for all it’s worth.

5) Arm Your­self With Data

You prob­a­bly have ana­lyt­ics run­ning on your site today that can help you iden­tify prob­lem areas, places where your vis­i­tors are bounc­ing at a high rate or click­ing away from the pur­chase path. Think about what you could test in those areas to improve your suc­cess met­rics, and then bring both the data and the cor­re­lat­ing ideas with you.

Have you con­sid­ered seg­ment­ing your audi­ence as well? Make the case for tar­get­ing large seg­ments intel­li­gently. The seg­ments that I would rec­om­mend exam­in­ing include traf­fic source (email, PPC, organic search, ban­ner ads, etc), search queries (branded vs. non-branded), time of day (work hours vs. non-work hours), day of week (week­day vs. week­end), and loy­alty (new vs. return vs. past pur­chase his­tory). Bring data that is spe­cific to your com­pany, your busi­ness, and your competitors.

Lastly, bring case stud­ies that show other com­pa­nies deriv­ing value from test­ing and tar­get­ing on their sites. If you need any inspi­ra­tion, check out Omni­ture Test&Target’s own repos­i­tory. Here are a few spe­cific Test&Target ones to check out:

Imple­ment­ing a new cul­ture of test­ing and data-driven decision-making does require changes in your orga­ni­za­tion, there’s just no way around it. It doesn’t hap­pen overnight and it doesn’t hap­pen with­out some­one to enthu­si­as­ti­cally sup­port it, prefer­ably some­one high up on the food chain. But let’s also rec­og­nize that while change can be scary and polit­i­cal, it is also nec­es­sary for any com­pany try­ing to keep up online today. And hey, the goal is not to keep up, the goal is to win. We’ve seen many of our opti­miza­tion cham­pi­ons go on to be rec­og­nized as rock stars within their com­pa­nies, peo­ple who can point to data and attribute annu­al­ized gains in the mil­lions back to their spe­cific test­ing efforts. Is that some­thing you can say about your­self today?