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The Hamster Wheel of Conversion Rate Optimization

Look, I know what it feels like to be on a hamster wheel.

It happens at companies who see value in a certain area, marshal resources, and move forward in that direction.

By the time they get moving, it’s been 18 months since that original decision…

Career gambits have been made by leaders who fought naysayers and would-be initiative killers…

Political capital has been spent…

And sunk costs have mounted in the organizational effort to go capture that value.

And when the treasure trove the organization is pursuing turns out to be not quite so rich as they had supposed…

That’s when the hamster wheel begins.

Because unwinding the initiative takes just as long as its creation…

And that’s if the leaders have the will act with integrity.

In most cases, the leaders don’t have the integrity to say “this was a mistake.” There are people whose jobs are dependent on this thing now…

There are budgets allocated, and it seems like somehow, this thing could be made to succeed.

But those who are in the middle of the initiative…

In the thick of thin things, it turns out…

They know the truth. They’re on a hamster wheel. This thing isn’t going anywhere…

And neither are they.

What Does This Have To Do With Conversion Rate Optimization?

Look – I’m not saying that optimization, personalization, and that ilk are not good things to do.

They’re great.

But they have to be employed in the right way.

Nobody wants to exist for the purpose of continuously tweaking a few low-performing pages…

To achieve the desired outcome 3% of the time instead of 2%.

That’s not the road to fame and glory.

Incidentally, it’s not the road to meaningful gains for the company either. Let’s get real here. It’s not.

I know, I know…

If you have 100 pages each with 1,000 visitors per month, and you convert 0.5% more of those visitors on each page, that’s 500 more leads each month!

The math is tantalizing, but it’s a pipe dream. (And will you grant me a little vocabulary indulgence? I have an even better word for this false hope: It’s a chimera.)

Why Is This A Chimera?

First of all, how many people and resources does it take, working constantly, to achieve these extra leads? That’s expensive.

As pages are spent and traffic goes to more relevant ones, the overhead of optimizing for small gains becomes significant.

And how valuable are these leads? Are we really generating 500 additional sales-ready leads? Or are we just working for an extra point on the lead score in the majority of cases?

If someone takes the required action because the button is a different color…

Does that really translate to a lead that’s suddenly ready to jump into your world with both feet? Probably not.

Here’s the problem: Most optimization is focused on the wrong stage.

Or, should we say … the wrong page?

The Story of Misapplied Optimization

Imagine you’re working on a storybook…

And the goal is to make it the best story ever.

And you’re tasked with page 132. And so you work and you work on page 132.

And you get it perfect.

Readers love it … In a vacuum.

But what you don’t realize – what you can’t realize, seeing nothing but this one page…

Is that after all of your optimization of page 132…

The transition from page 131 no longer makes sense, and the transition to page 133 is actually highly inappropriate now.

Unintentionally, of course. You’ve spoken to the people optimizing page 131 and 133…

Cross-functional meetings, you know…

Lots of them. But it’s not the same as if you were writing the entire book yourself.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you should simply take over the entire book yourself…

That’s a big job.

What you need to do instead…

Is write a short story.

From start to finish.

You need to test the elements that the readers respond to.

What do they want from your story? And how do you have to tell the story to satisfy them?

Through what channels do you need to distribute the story to reach the readers in the greatest numbers,

And in the most receptive state of mind?

Once you’ve found how to craft the short story, you can then scale it up into a full-length novel.

Written this way, your novel will be a masterpiece. A blockbuster.

Unlike that novel that was written piecemeal, out of sequence, by a team of writers with blinders on.