What makes a great conversion optimisation team

by David Mannheim

posted on: March 17th 2018

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is a complex pursuit that combines multiple disciplines and demands a variety of skillsets - from analysis to creativity, data crunching to communications.

Everything depends on the team. But it’s a tough balance to get right.

Experienced generalists are hard to find and expensive. A specialist’s niche can quickly become a silo.

So how do you build a team that can crack CRO? T-Shaped collaboration.

A DEFINITION

CRO defies easy categorisation. But most optimisers agree it’s about more than measuring bounce rates and minimising checkout funnel abandonment.

CRO is about leads, sales and long-term profitability. Acquisition and retention.

Conversion optimisers focus on achieving a range of key business metrics, of which conversion rate is just one factor. (Anyone can drop their prices to quickly boost conversion rates. It’s also a quick way to go out of business.)

A better definition might be:

Conversion optimisation is the science of enhancing of user experience to maximise lifetime revenue.

THE WHAT AND WHY

Where did this traffic spike come from? Why are users dropping off here? What’s influencing their decisions? How can we improve the experience for everyone?

These questions call for analysis and intuition, backed by quantitative and qualitative data. Then the creativity and practical ability to test hypotheses and implement your insights.

Every site is different. Every user is unique. Each problem requires a tailored solution. You don’t have enough time to test everything. And every test costs something.

How do you deal with that level of variety, complexity and uncertainty?

Rigorous processes and a team that forges actionable insights from raw data.

GENERALISTS ARE RARE

Google Analytics and consumer psychology. Design and data mining. Coding and copywriting.

How often do you see these skills together on a CV? It’s rare to find people that can truly master one area, let alone all of them. Those that do charge accordingly. But similarly, niche subject matter experts are not naturally inclined to such a fluid and multi-disciplinary subject as conversion optimisation.

You need the specialist knowledge that cannot be replicated by generalists – with the the ability to break out of silos and work together towards a shared goal.

THE SOLUTION

T-Shaped collaboration gives you the best of both worlds, in a scalable, affordable package.

T-Shaped individuals are subject matter experts who have a solid working knowledge of other related disciplines.

In a T-Shaped conversion optimisation team, each team member has a broad and ever expanding understanding of CRO, coupled with and a cavernous depth of knowledge in their specialist field.

Like a sports team, everyone has a different role to play but works together seamlessly to increase the score line (or in this case, the bottom line).The model is naturally suited to industries with numerous interlinked disciplines such as marketing and CRO

HOW DO YOU BUILD A TEAM

T-Shaped collaboration is based on the Scrum style of project management within the Agile framework of software development.

Scrum responds to the changing nature of business objectives and the inherent unpredictability of obstacles by establishing a structure to ensure flexibility while retaining focus.

Scrum teams are autonomous, self-contained units. They include members responsible for planning, design, development, testing and delivery. Each close-knit team works towards a clearly defined goal, ensuring everyone is invested in the process and feels responsible for its success.

It’s a lean, efficient way of working, exemplified by digital first businesses like Spotify and Apple that are able not only rapidly to adapt to changing market conditions but to shape them

WHAT TASKS MUST THE TEAM PERFORM

Here’s an in-exhaustive list of the tasks performed by CRO teams:

  • Data mining
  • Data configuration
  • Analytical auditing
  • UX research
  • UX testing
  • UX design
  • User test scenario writing
  • A/B test development
  • Experiment analytics
  • Experiment reporting
  • Forecasting
  • Account handling
  • Project management

There’s quite a lot to do! Most of these tasks are interdependent and shared amongst the team.

UNIFYING QUALITIES

Before we look at unique specialisms, let’s quickly outline the personal qualities everyone shares. Remember that every team member should have a good working knowledge of each other’s specialisms – this is about common traits that make for a great team.

Any conversion optimiser should be:

Inquisitive – without doubt the most important quality for anyone in this industry. Optimisers must thirst for knowledge.

Perceptive – users do not yield their secrets easily. Neither does codebase, or Google… Optimisers must uncover the hidden opportunities in every area in which they work.

Receptive – T-Shaped teams grow through communal knowledge. Optimisers must be open to new ideas.

Persuasive – it’s no good having great ideas if you don’t have faith in them. Optimisers must have the confidence and communication skills to convince others to run with their hypotheses.

Respectful – working together only works with mutual respect. Fortunately this tends to come naturally amongst T-Shaped people.

WHAT DOES THE IDEAL TEAM LOOK LIKE?

The following is a core, scalable team that can be adapted to any business.

ANALYST

Reviews user data and decides what gets tested (and what doesn’t).

Derives actionable insights from quantitative and qualitative data. Combines statistical rigour with intuitive ability to ask the right questions.

Focuses resources on the areas which hold the most potential.

DEVELOPER

Interprets and implements recommendations from the Analyst and other team members.

Builds tests and translates the team’s collective vision into code.

Boasts intimate knowledge of the intricacies of different software platforms and browsers.

USER RESEARCHER

Works closely with clients to guide the optimisation roadmap.

Combines extensive theoretical and practical understanding of user behaviour.

Extracts the most valuable data from users. Knows what to look for and how to test it.

DESIGNER

Presents content in the very best light.

Wields keen creative sense, underpinned by UX principles. Trusts the data and takes the ego out of the design process.

Knows when less is more.

UX DESIGNER

Persuades, entertains and informs – wherever the context demands it.

Tailors tone of voice to different audiences. Doesn’t oversell.

Brings content marketing knowledge along with affinity for design and user experience.

OPTIMISATION STRATEGIST

Lives and breathes T-Shaped collaboration. Gives the team vision and coordinates activity.

Combines broad conversion optimisation expertise with client liaison and project management skills.

Gets the most out of everyone and keeps an eye on profit margins.

DIGITAL ACCOUNT MANAGER

As a team grows it pays to create dedicated Project Management and Account Handling roles to plan and allocate resources, manage client expectations, assess productivity and produce reports.

This frees up individual team members and allows the Optimisation Lead in particular to focus on strategy.

MARKETING SPECIALIST

Dedicated marketing specialists can advise on pricing strategy and offers, while keeping the team on top of new techniques and tools. They can also liaise with clients to coordinate optimisation efforts with offline activities.

The team can embed individual marketing specialisms as and when required e.g.: email marketing, paid search, SEO.

USER PSYCHOLOGIST

Consumer psychologists, economists and other professionals that seek to understand human behaviour have a lot to contribute to the field conversion optimisation.

At User Conversion we set aside time for all our team to delve into our extensive library of textbooks and bring back valuable insights.

Your Stakeholders

If you’re managing an agency team, remember T-Shaped collaboration extends to all client stakeholders.

And of course there’s the users. Naturally they’re at the heart of the process, from the raw data to supervised testing sessions.

CRO works best when users and businesses work together, so it’s helpful to see users as part of the team, rather than simply data to be analysed and exploited.

A TYPICAL WORKFLOW

The Analyst reviews the data and decides what to test (and in what order). Often they will consult with various members of the team to get as many perspectives as possible before determining which ideas to progress.

The User Researcher collaborates with the client and feeds in additional user based insights.

Taking their lead from the Analyst, the Copywriter, Designer and User Researcher determine how the tests will appear, working with the Developer to ensure what they produce is practical.

The Designer applies creativity, with data driven sensibility, to realise the Analyst’s instructions and tweak where required.

The Developer refines and builds the tests to ensure they record the required metrics, while ensuring each test is optimised for the relevant software and platform(s). The Developer manages the tests and shares results with the Analyst.

The Analyst interprets the test results, consulting with the team where necessary to decide what was successful and what requires further testing. The process then repeats, moving on to different areas in order of priority.

The Optimisation Lead works closely with everyone to coordinate delivery and communicate with the client/product owner. They can take over QA-ing or coding duties, and delegate marketing, project management and account handling to new/existing team members as required.

This is a simple overview. You can see the process in more detail here.

BENEFITS OF "T-SHAPED"

FLEXIBILITY

A T-Shaped team is resilient and adaptable. Because every member has a good grasp of each other’s specialisms they can step into the breach when a task temporarily demands all of someone’s attention.

FOCUS

Compact Scrum teams work towards a clearly defined objective. Everyone knows their role and can see a direct correlation between their actions and the success of the team.

SCALABILITY

An initial team of 5-8 people can be quickly upscaled by doubling up on specialists and adding new roles as required (or creating a similar team to focus on another project). Because everyone has a defined specialism this avoids the risk of conflict in growing teams and startups where individuals often have vague roles.

CREATIVITY

Inspiration happens when you put the right heads together. A team of experts with interlinked but unique specialisms is a melting pot for fresh thinking and creative problem solving.

EFFICIENCY

T-Shaped experts can plough through their specialisms faster than generalists, while communicating seamlessly with colleagues who are already up to speed (and capable of informed and constructive criticism). Everyone talks each other’s language. No silos. No straying deadlines.

EXPERTISE

Generalists don’t have the time to devote to excellence in any one subject area. But T-Shaped optimisers can continue to extend their specific field of knowledge while developing a deeper understanding of the ultimate goal.

COHESION

Experts respect experts. A positive, empowering culture is much easier to achieve when everyone is recognised as a master of their subject and shares a hunger to learn from others.

SUMMARY

Conversion optimisation is a young science. The rules are not set in stone. Yet even though there’s still so much left to discover, there remains a temptation to copy others.

Perhaps this is precisely because conversion optimisation is so new. People are desperate for any evidence of what works. So they search for the promise of the ‘quick fix’, the repeatable answer.

Except there is no template. The industry has evolved beyond simple tweaks.

There is nothing inherently wrong with learning from others. This is what underpins T-Shaped collaboration. But there’s a difference between taking inspiration and blindly following.

Users are not stupid. They get wise to the same old tricks and homogenised journeys.

If there’s a ‘best practice’ for conversion optimisation it’s this: be wary of ‘best practice’.

At User Conversion, we’re particularly aware that everything we do now can have a significant impact on how the industry develops. It’s an exciting opportunity but there’s a lot at stake. The team has to be right.

To create real revenue opportunities we need creative, data driven insights.

We value people who follow the opportunities wherever they lie, without getting lost down rabbit holes or aimless blue sky thinking. This calls for a individuals that can quickly process new information, formulate a hunch and prove it together.

That’s why T-Shaped collaboration is the optimum answer.

Takeaways

  • Processes determine outcomes. Let your structure dictate how you work, not vice versa.
  • Establish a core, scalable team. Double up where required.
  • Ensure everyone shares the same values as well as a wider knowledge of CRO
  • Give team members space to learn and apply their knowledge
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David Mannheim

David is an experienced conversion optimiser and has worked across a series of core optimisation disciplines including web analytics, user experience and AB & MVT testing.

What makes a great conversion optimisation team

by David Mannheim Time to read: <1 min