I ended last week with a drive to Adobe’s new Opti­miza­tion Matu­rity Model, an inter­ac­tive tool designed to bench­mark your orga­ni­za­tion against oth­ers, assess­ing its sophis­ti­ca­tion across six core dimen­sions: cul­ture, strat­egy, exe­cu­tion, lead­er­ship, orga­ni­za­tion, and reach. When fac­tored together, these weighted dimen­sions paint a com­pre­hen­sive pic­ture of your organization’s test­ing and opti­miza­tion matu­rity. The higher the score, the more embed­ded these essen­tial best prac­tices are within your dig­i­tal ini­tia­tives and, likely, the greater the ROI you’re expe­ri­enc­ing from your efforts.

Like I said in part 5 of this series, most orga­ni­za­tions fall some­where in the first three stages: inci­den­tal, expanded, and dis­ci­plined. But don’t think of this as a prob­lem. The ceiling’s high, and there’s plenty of room for your brand to grow and plenty more you can achieve in terms of engage­ment and, of course, profitability.

Got your score­card in hand? Let’s head down the matu­rity path.

Com­pany A Wants to Expand

Com­pany A is test­ing, but mostly when their mar­ket­ing man­ager Bob has a “good feel­ing” about some­thing. Maybe con­sumers will like the blue ad bet­ter than the red, or an email with a funny sub­ject line more than an infor­ma­tive one. Bob tests, but beyond the guy he runs into at lunch, no one’s involved, and there’s no align­ment with greater busi­ness objec­tives. Bob’s test­ing to test—and that’s per­fectly fine at the inci­den­tal level. But it’s time to expand.

Step 1: Talk, talk, and talk some more. Get col­leagues and supe­ri­ors excited and be the evan­ge­list for test­ing and opti­miza­tion. Did blue really out­per­form red? Did the edgier call to action yield a higher click­through rate? Shout it from the rooftops, Bob!

Step 2: Bob’s got the excite­ment, which he now needs to chan­nel into fur­ther action and, hope­fully, an opti­miza­tion roadmap he can sell to his stake­hold­ers. Com­pany A stake­hold­ers should be involved in the eval­u­a­tion and con­ver­sion stages to cre­ate the deep con­nec­tion that dri­ves future support.

Step 3: Oh, and about those stake­hold­ers? Now would be a great time to ask them to throw out some test­ing ideas of their own. Just keep fan­ning the own­er­ship flames … but it’s up to you to help them pri­or­i­tize. It’s your job to make sure they know the dif­fer­ence between KPIs and mere FYIs.

Step 4: Mea­sure and share, share and mea­sure. Share suc­cesses stake­hold­ers helped cre­ate and share what moved the nee­dle, with real data that all busi­ness units can dive in to. Be sure to mea­sure the aver­age and cumu­la­tive rev­enue lift as a result of what is matur­ing into an opti­miza­tion program.

Result: Com­pany A grad­u­ates to the expanded level, marked by greater orga­ni­za­tional enthu­si­asm and sup­port for opti­miza­tion efforts and less of an ad hoc approach to the process.

Expanded, But It’s Time to Get Disciplined

Startup X tosses “opti­miza­tion” and “per­son­al­iza­tion” around, and they’re cer­tainly on the radar of Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Direc­tor Janet. But she’s in a mar­ket­ing vac­uum of sorts, rolling out her stealthy ini­tia­tives as she sees fit and shar­ing some of her suc­cesses with management—getting an occa­sional “Great job!” email in response. It’s time for startup X to get disciplined.

Step 1: Janet needs to step back and deter­mine the “who” of it all. Who can be tapped for test­ing and opti­miza­tion work in this resource-limited envi­ron­ment? Will it be their only task, or will they com­bine it other line-of-biz respon­si­bil­i­ties? Like­wise, can Janet carve out ded­i­cated time and incentives—and can her superiors?

Step 2: Once estab­lished, Janet needs to orga­nize her team (dot­ted line or oth­er­wise) and processes, while ensur­ing she’s got the buy-in she needs for suc­cess. Two-way com­mu­ni­ca­tion is key.

Step 3: Some­one or some­thing hold­ing up your progress? Remove them. Okay, not lit­er­ally. But kick that think­ing to the curb. Some­times all it takes is a lit­tle re-education or quick “101” to turn that “nay” into a “yay.”

Step 4: Suc­cess! And because the company’s still in lean-and-mean mode, Janet, there should be no issue dis­sem­i­nat­ing the pos­i­tive news across all cor­ners of startup X. Raise a glass to the victories—together.

Result: Startup X can get to the dis­ci­plined level, even with lim­ited resources. How­ever, to break through that bar­rier they need to not only fol­low these steps, but Janet has to get her dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing ducks in a row. Use the info emerg­ing from these tests to make data-driven deci­sions as the com­pany grows and expands efforts.

Be Strate­gic

Brick-and-click Q is pretty good at test­ing and opti­miza­tion. Deci­sions are data dri­ven based on tests per­for­mance ana­lyt­ics man­ager Dave is run­ning much of the time. He’s doing well, see­ing the ben­e­fits of grow­ing Q’s opti­miza­tion maturity—but how?

Step 1: Dave needs to get in line with the company’s over­ar­ch­ing objec­tives. No sur­prise, this aptly named cat­e­gory is all about being strate­gi­cally aligned. This is a great oppor­tu­nity for Dave and his team to gain vis­i­bil­ity, share knowl­edge, and com­mu­ni­cate oppor­tu­ni­ties across the business.

Step 2: Sell exec­u­tive lead­er­ship on the growth and expan­sion of opti­miza­tion efforts. Dave’s got tons of wins under his belt, and noth­ing speaks louder than num­bers. Now comes the evan­ge­liz­ing. He hits every cor­ner office and board­room, tout­ing the value in real terms, and help­ing man­age­ment see beyond the low­est hang­ing test­ing fruit.

Step 3: Although Dave’s using test­ing data to inform upcom­ing ini­tia­tives, those same reports need to wield even greater power across brick-and-click Q. A long-term roadmap should be drawn (with all of those great stake­hold­ers weigh­ing in!), and incen­tives and goals need to come into alignment.

Step 4: Stop! Through his con­ver­sa­tions, Dave dis­cov­ers some com­pet­ing inter­nal goals, ini­tia­tives, and resources. Fear not, this is com­mon and not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing. By now, Dave and his team are well-respected test­ing pros, and rather than feel­ing threat­ened, busi­ness teams across the orga­ni­za­tion are wel­com­ing the input and, nat­u­rally, throw­ing in their support—and budgets.

Step 5: To build on this momen­tum and ensure future align­ment from start to fin­ish, Dave cre­ates a steer­ing com­mit­tee com­prised of cross-departmental deci­sion mak­ers. This group can help pri­or­i­tize test­ing, ensure con­sis­tent eval­u­a­tions, and review met­rics from var­i­ous perspectives.

Result: If Dave and his team are work­ing with a few busi­ness units to tap into opti­miza­tion tech­nol­ogy and best prac­tices, imple­ment­ing more struc­tured, more sophis­ti­cated, and more diverse approaches to test­ing and optimization—think A/B and mul­ti­vari­ate test­ing, seg­men­ta­tion, auto­mated, and rules-based behav­ioral targeting—then he’s steered his orga­ni­za­tion into the strate­gic align­ment level.

The embed­ded stage comes next. Here, opti­miza­tion lead­er­ship spreads and expands through­out all facets of the orga­ni­za­tion, guid­ing all ele­ments of deci­sion mak­ing, deliv­ery, and strat­egy. But keep in mind, it’s not about get­ting to the embed­ded level—or any spe­cific level for that mat­ter. It’s about max­i­miz­ing what you’ve got and reach­ing for that next level. Many Adobe part­ners fall squarely in the expanded and dis­ci­plined stages and stay there—lucratively—for months or even years.

Orga­ni­za­tional shifts take time, com­pre­hen­sive buy-in, and a level of com­mit­ment that sim­ply may not be real­is­tic. This exer­cise is more about tak­ing a step back, under­stand­ing where you are and where you could be—and see­ing clear-cut steps to get there.