The Dynamic Duo of Testing
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 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:
- Always include test experiences that challenge standing assumptions
- Always open everything up to testing
- Always have a clear question and learning for each test
- Never put anything new on the site without testing it first
- Never target (personalize) content to segments that haven’t been proven to be exploitable
- 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 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.
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.