We (Jeffrey Eisenberg and I) were naïve and full of ourselves; in 2005, when “Call To Action: Secret Formulas To Improve Online Results” hit the major bestselling book lists. In 2006, “Waiting For Your Cat To Bark: Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing” also achieved the lists and we thought we were truly popularizing customer-centric conversion rate optimization. In accomplishing a mean goal we lost sight of the end goal. Client success and the recognition of our peers as conversion rate optimization gurus wasn’t what we really wanted.
As conversion rate optimization gurus perhaps we shouldn’t say that conversion rate is not a reliable key performance metric. It can be a useful diagnostic tool to understand sales, similar to body temperature for understanding overall health. We intended the message to be that CEOs should be accountable for online sales by making sure their teams cooperated, collaborated, became educated, and were focused on meaningful customer-centric metrics. Apparently, that is a message we failed to effectively communicate.
The principles of conversion rate optimization are simple:
- Great brands, products, and experiences naturally generate better conversions.
- There is a hierarchy of optimization.
- There is the conversion trinity to master.
- Understand that conversion is a measure of your ability to put your customers’ wants and needs first; it’s not limited to a landing page.
- Optimization should not be a one-time event or project; it’s an ongoing process.
- Optimizing conversion rates is not exciting; it’s boring, repetitive, detailed, but necessary work, much like general management.
All the rest is commentary!
We are convinced that the 10,000-hour rule, which states that to become an expert you need 10,000 hours of practice, is more of a principle than a rule. Nevertheless, 10,000 hours in conversion rate optimization would mean that an expert today would have been working full time in the discipline for at least five years. We know a small handful of people (we couldn’t fill a bus) who can truly make that claim. Yet, in 2012 the world is full of “conversion rate optimization experts” (just read their Twitter profiles) – after all, as Erasmus said, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”
You may remember “Wax on, wax off!” from the movie “The Karate Kid.” Daniel practiced the fundamentals until he was exhausted, a thing no brand-new-shiny-object-chasing-marketer wants to do. Mistaking unconscious incompetence for unconscious competence is what happens when the consciously incompetent read a few blogs, learn a few tools, experiment a little, have a few successes, and then decide that they know what they are doing.
We work hard at remaining consciously competent. It’s easy to fall into the know-it-all trap, especially when people ask you questions they believe have simple answers. Here is what we are working hard to understand better:
- Every day we practice and refine the fundamentals (see above).
- We keep up with the latest tools, research, and blogs (more human behavior-oriented than CRO).
- We try to understand the ongoing changes in how companies are organized so we can create successful processes for them.
Ten thousand hours isn’t enough for conversion rate optimization because it calls for expertise in so many disciplines. Humility is hard work. We hope you aren’t offended if we remind you, and we beg you to remind us, gently, when we forget.