The other day I watched a show that I hadn’t seen for a while called “Emperor’s New Groove.”  The show has a few moments, but I noticed a com­mon pat­tern we can learn from—the pat­tern of the dynamic duo. In this show Yzma is the mas­ter mind who comes up with her strate­gic plots while Kronk is the brawn of the out­fit.  Together they make a force to be reck­oned with, but alone they are noth­ing.  You may have seen this pat­tern in other sto­ries with other char­ac­ters like Vizzini and Fezzik, Robin Hood and Lit­tle John, the Emperor and Darth Vader, or even Pinky and the Brain.  In every case we see the brains and the brawn paired up to exe­cute plans that usu­ally involve tak­ing over the world.

You might say that each web­site is its own lit­tle attempt at tak­ing over the world or at least cap­tur­ing the rev­enue of the tar­get mar­ket of your World Wide Web traf­fic.  In order to accom­plish your design of dig­i­tal space rev­enue dom­i­na­tion you will have to take a hint from some of the most strate­gic char­ac­ters of all time and do as they did.  You have to have suf­fi­cient brains paired with enough brawn to be effective.

THE BRAIN

The brain of test­ing is the strat­egy, but before you think you are good here and skip this sec­tion, let me just say that you don’t have it—a per­fect strat­egy that is.  All of us lead­ers and man­agers want to think we have good strate­gies and since we are eas­ily swayed by our­selves we begin to believe that we do.  We want to think we are smart and that we don’t have biases influ­enc­ing our strat­egy, but the fact is we all do.

Wait,” you are say­ing, “we have great ideas.”  The strat­egy for test­ing and opti­miz­ing is more about dis­ci­pline than good ideas.  Sure you might have some good ideas, but even good ideas will fail with­out the proper dis­ci­pline around exe­cu­tion.  Even the best of com­pa­nies need help with their “strat­egy.”  They need help with how they think about test­ing.  They need help with exe­cut­ing the most effi­cient and most valu­able tests.  They need help learn­ing what is impor­tant to whom.  Even if you are see­ing nice test­ing wins, you can make those even big­ger and more impact­ful to your busi­ness.  Let me ask you one ques­tion and if you give an hon­est answer, you may see that there is more to strat­egy than meets the eye.

  • In the last month, what have you learned about your key cus­tomers through test­ing that has changed the way you do busi­ness with them?

If you can’t rat­tle off some­thing you learned, you may need some help with your strategy.

Let me use one of my clients as an exam­ple.  They have a mantra that goes some­thing like this, “When we are wrong, we win.”  They are work­ing to build a cul­ture and a focus on prov­ing what is valu­able rather than guess­ing what is valu­able.  They don’t do things just because they have always done it that way.   Here are some ways that I have seen clients prove value and prove them­selves wrong:

  1. Always include test expe­ri­ences that chal­lenge stand­ing assumptions
  2. Always open every­thing up to testing
  3. Always have a clear ques­tion and learn­ing for each test
  4. Never put any­thing new on the site with­out test­ing it first
  5. Never tar­get (per­son­al­ize) con­tent to seg­ments that haven’t been proven to be exploitable
  6. Never stop testing

Most of these sim­ple strate­gic state­ments require a lot of dis­ci­pline to exe­cute and most clients don’t do all of these all of the time.  I’ve con­sulted with hun­dreds of com­pa­nies and I have never seen a com­pany with a per­fect strat­egy.  If we are hon­est with our­selves we will see that we can improve the “brain,” our strate­gic approach to testing.

THE BRAWN

The brawn of the test­ing out­fit is the ded­i­cated resources of the team.  Com­pa­nies often have a lack of mus­cles on their team and aren’t able to exe­cute on test­ing because of these resource con­straints.  Suc­cess­ful test­ing com­pa­nies have robust cross-functional teams that are ded­i­cated to testing—meaning they don’t do any­thing else but test.  These com­pa­nies have exec­u­tive level sup­port and buy-in, they have strate­gists that don’t let opin­ions and assump­tions get in the way of learn­ing, they have power users of the tool, they have ded­i­cated tech­ni­cal peo­ple, project man­agers, design­ers, etc.  Basi­cally they have full teams to empower the strategy.

I have also seen com­pa­nies that fail because one per­son has too much brawn.  This hap­pens when you get an exec­u­tive or some other per­son with con­trol over the process, and when they flex they tell every­one what to do and how to do it.  Essen­tially, they cut off the brain (strat­egy) and ride around like the head­less horseman—a body and voice with no brain, only good for scar­ing peo­ple out of their tests.

  • Do you have a full team of ded­i­cated, cross-functional resources?

If you don’t have any gaps in your team, good for you—you are in the minor­ity.  When it comes down to it, there may be just two things that pre­vent good teams from being formed—lack of exec­u­tive buy-in and poor strat­egy.  If your team isn’t what it should be either you haven’t have had a good enough strat­egy to prove the value of test­ing, or you need to let your exec­u­tives see what awe­some­ness you have accom­plished, or both.

SUMMARY

I want noth­ing more for you than to see you con­quer your dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing world.  Once you get your dynamic duo in place with enough brawn to enable the power of your brain, I’m sure your cus­tomers will feel the POW.

Good luck.

Rhett

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