Optimise your conversion optimisation workshops

by David Mannheim

posted on: March 16th 2017

We start every client engagement with two things:

  1. We become a customer. Whether it’s a stuffed teddy or a cruise (we particularly enjoy those!), we buy from our clients and experience them as a customer would
  2. We organise an initial optimisation workshop

At the beginning of every client engagement, it’s vital to huddle up, dig deep, and elicit discussion. Whether you’re an agency working with a client, or an in-house optimisation team yourself, there’s no substitution for getting people round a table in an initial optimisation workshop.


“Workshops take time”
“Workshops take important people out of the business”
“Workshops are subjective”

True, true and true. Also true:

  • Workshops save time
  • Workshops make people more important to the business
  • Workshops launch objective enquiry

Workshops are essential to understanding users and therefore essential to conversion rate optimisation (CRO). They are the first step to unlocking valuable insights into a business, its markets, and its users – usually in that order.

Why? Debunking assumptions begins with listening to people in the business. Proving hunches means deciding which ones to test. Workshops are a structured way to gather opinions and identify the most fruitful routes for further investigation.

The relatively modest investment of time is repaid handsomely down the line when the real work starts.

We’ve run a lot of initial optimisation workshops in our time – nigh on 50. This is what we’ve learnt and how you can apply our experience to your own optimisation process.


Conversion rate optimisation is a team sport. There’s always too much to know, too many plays and too many permutations. It’s pretty daunting for one person, but can be exhilarating when you work together.

Form a huddle and dig in.


Workshops are a joint effort between subject matter experts (optimisation, user experience etc) and product and business experts (customer services, product owners, CEO etc). T-Shaped collaboration at its finest.

Keep the team small (we prefer 5-8). But make it broad. Include as many perspectives, responsibilities and hierarchies as possible. You want a good snapshot of the business.

A typical workshop team might look like this:

  • User Experience Manager
  • Developer
  • C-suite/ owner/manager (CEO/MD, CFO, CTO etc)
  • Customer Services

It’s really all about the product owners at this stage. The optimisation and user experience (UX) people are there to give structure to the session and ask the right questions. It’s a focus group, but for an internal team, which should be bread and butter for any UX’er or CRO’er.

We always recommend to get someone from customer services. How often do businesses sit with their customer services team and ask them the top three questions they get asked by customers, or the strangest product question that day? This gleans so much insight.


If analytics extract the value from a client’s user data, workshops extract the gold in the client’s team.

Put the right people in the room and start digging. Unexpected insights have a habit of poking up while you’re ticking off the essentials.

Everyone has something to contribute. Even if it’s not that important.

Identifying the less pressing stuff means you can confidently prioritise the most important actions.


Start as you mean to go on. Workshops are an opportunity to establish a friendly and productive working relationship from day one.

Which is just as well, because conversion rate optimisation is a long-term commitment.

Users are complex creatures. They take time to understand and have a tendency to defy expectations. That’s why optimisation is a continuous process (and why we insist on six month minimum initial contracts for all clients).


“How can this be improved?” That tantalising and infuriating notion of perfection.
Conversion Rate Optimisation is about iterative and incremental efficiency improvements and therefore asking this question in whatever capacity will assist the entire process.

Workshops initiate a culture of continuous enquiry. They are not about immediate answers so much as creating an environment where everyone embraces unknowns as opportunities.

They are invigorating. The best optimisation teams share an infectious enthusiasm. A sense of urgency to learn everything, to try the next thing, to understand the user. Internal teams always respond well to individuals willing to match their own passion and energy for the business. And the funny thing is, give them the opportunity to demonstrate value and initiative and they will provide.


If half a day in a comfortable room with hot drinks and doughnuts sounds like too much commitment, spare a thought for the optimisers who spend feverish hours scrutinising everything in their pursuit of the optimal solution.


An optimisation workshop is the prelude to the main event: understanding users (and what a big and continuous event this is).

The initial session will inform what to do next. Often it reveals more questions than answers. So from here, it should highlight both core opportunities and, indeed, gaps in knowledge. Following this, optimisers will be looking at structuring subsequent user interviews, user surveys and user testing, all validated by an analytics audit… usually.



Often, we undertake a small analytics audit to better understand the wider landscape of the client.

This will help us to understand basic, top level indicators such as top landing pages by sessions and performance, equally the top exit page, the overall funnel and user flow of the site, popular user journeys – and so on and so forth.

Going in with an open mind and waiting to learn more about the business we’ll be spending a long time with is essential.


The objectives of each initial optimisation workshop are usually similar:

  • Gain an initial understanding of the business from the eyes of the internal team
  • Establish if there are certain user personas that are predefined within the business
  • Uncover any golden nugget pieces of insight that have not been discovered or exploited

However, there may be smaller nuance-based questions specific to the business. Examples might include: “what was the decision behind [X functionality on the website]”.


Keep it cosy. Choose a comfortable environment with no distractions. We’d say phones off, but you often need them to access the mobile site.

We evangelise the Sprint approach of Scrum Agile working, focussing on specifics in short bursts. Each session lasts for 2-4 hours, with the odd break. And a steady supply of refreshments (essential).

A light touch works best. The goal is to elicit as much information from the team as possible by asking the right questions. Often the team will have the various solutions or insights you need to play with – you just need to be clever enough to extract them.

tim-stewart tim-stewart-2

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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.

Optimise your conversion optimisation workshops

by David Mannheim Time to read: <1 min