“Too much bullshit content”
This was Peep Laja’s first response to my question “what is holding companies back from growing through conversion optimisation?” for the book “The Growth Strategy That’s Being Ignored“.
Industry pioneer Peep Laja was one of 16 industry thought leaders whom contributed to the book, each sharing what in their experience are the reasons why most businesses around the world aren’t harnessing the growth potential of being experimental and customer centric.
Peep Laja joined the likes of Bryan Eisenberg, Angie Shottmuller, Craig Sullivan, Roger Dooley, Talia Wolf and Chris Goward in contributing to the book, and in this in-depth interview, Peep shares what he sees as the past, present and future of the CRO industry.
Peep founder Conversion XL back in 2010, along with setting up what has been for the last few years the worlds most popular blog, ConversionXL Blog. Peep also runs CXL Live and Elite Camp, and since 2016 has been building what is the world’s most comprehensive and authoritative online training institute, CXL Institute.
Peep is a true industry pioneer, educating and enlightening people and companies around the world. Contained within this 1-hour interview is Peep’s distilled wisdom and plans for maturing the CRO industry.
Whether you are a practitioner, manager or business leader, there are insights within this interview which you will find valuable.
Areas discussed include:
How the CRO industry compares to where the SEO industry was 10 years ago
Getting the right strategy and culture for long term growth
Identifying the most important tools and technology to make intelligent decisions
Investing in the right people and skills integral for growth
The critical importance of establishing a process and methodology for scalable conversion optimisation
A few of the many insights from the interview…
What are your thoughts on the different types of agencies that are jumping on the bandwagon of conversion optimisation?
The immediate impact it is having is that as an agency owner myself I definitely feel a downward push on pricing since there are so many people offering services in this industry, and most of them feel that the way in is to just do it cheaper. The customer is often not savvy enough to distinguish between different agencies. Why pay more? Of course it also means there is an increased competition, so agencies need to do a better job at communicating their unique value proposition.
“…agencies need to do a better job at communicating their unique value proposition.”
What do you think is the general perception of CRO from a client side perspective?
We in the industry have to do a lot more work with the internal perception. The C-level within companies see conversion optimisation as a hack or as a bolt-on, something that you add on later. Its not strategic, its a tactical thing. A strategic view is how we can look at our data and make better business decisions with our data.
We interview people in the UX industry. UX and CRO is almost the same thing, about 80% is the exactly same, we just call it different things. Even people in the UX industry who should know better, the majority of them felt that conversion optimisation was for short term gain, its not a long term perspective thing, which is of course fault. So yes we can’t be happy with the way it is.
“The C-level within companies see conversion optimisation as a hack or as a bolt-on, something that you add on later.”
How many years do you feel we are until it all works out?
I’m thinking 3-5 years perspective. Its so easy to promise mountains and golden rivers. The harsh reality hits you when you have to deliver what you promise. If you fail to deliver again and again and again you have to learn your craft and you have to stop creating false expectations that CRO is like a magic button your press and you get a 300% uplift. All players in the market go through that big time.
“Its so easy to promise mountains and golden rivers.”
What do you think about the content that is out there on conversion optimisation?
The point about content, that is still a huge problem. Alongside conversion optimisation there is the content marketing industry, and there are bloggers who have never optimised a single thing in their lives. They are having to churn out articles on all aspects of digital marketing including conversion optimisation and they just have to make stuff up because they have no experience. So these myths and lies are being propagated and the truth is what is holding the industry back, who do you believe? You don’t know which source are reputable and which sources you should turn to.
“So these myths and lies are being propagated and the truth is what is holding the industry back.”
In your experience are businesses embedding optimisation and test and learn mentality in to their fabric of their business, or is it still a side-show to the big strategic things that the business has always done?
In the majority of the companies its still a sideshow. There are some shining star exceptions but for the most part, most companies don’t have dedicated people on it, its one of the many responsibilities marketing person.
In FTSE 500 companies that I work with, the person that is responsible for conversion optimisation is like 7 steps removed from the CEO, there is no high level champions or lack of, so much to improve here.
“In FTSE 500 companies that I work with, the person that is responsible for conversion optimisation is like 7 steps removed from the CEO.”
What is your experience of silos within some of the bigger businesses you work with?
For sure this is definitely like that. In big businesses, the biggest obstacle to conversion optimisation are structural problems. They might have the people who have a great strategic approach, but maybe the way they have structured its how they have always been
Speed of implementation is critical to be competitive. If its takes you a month to make decisions, start-ups are going to eat you alive because they can make decisions really really fast. Why should legal be interested in conversion optimisation? Why should branding be involved? They have other metrics to think about.
“Speed of implementation is critical to be competitive.”
How can business avoid some of these mistakes to move from tactics to strategy?
The most effective technique I have used to get everyone on board and speed up implementation of optimisation is – we start with qualitative and quantitate research.
We present these results and problems with some ideas of solutions, to a wide body of stakeholders to represent optimisation. Someone from technical, legal, branding ideally the CEO
When we present the problems, what you get is buy-in. Yes these are the problems, you get legal and branding on your side. They understand the problem we are trying to solve. This is critical to the success, so we’re not just adding tasks to peoples to-do lists
“When we present the problems, what you get is buy-in.”
With businesses you work with, where do you feel they are from being product-led to customer-led?
Why do you exist? There are various answers to this, quite often they haven’t really been asking this, they have just been doing what they do. They are typically product-led and not customer-led, but the companies that hire us are smarter than the average business as they realise conversion optimisation is based on research and data. They want to be customer-led but don’t know what to do about it
Being product-led is just the status quo.
“…the companies that hire us are smarter than the average business as they realise conversion optimisation is based on research and data.”
How important is Conversion Optimisation in the continued success of businesses today?
The competition in every industry is going to increase in the next few years, because of the number of start-ups entering every industry, along with the consolidation, mergers, acquisitions. These companies can all invest in the bigger technology. Small businesses that are hungrier than you. If you are in the middle its tough. The same thing was true 5 years ago. You need to focus on lowering your cost of acquisition, you need to be increasing your customer retention, whether is SAAS to ecommerce. All of this stuff is achieved through conversion optimisation. If you want your company to be around for years and years you need to invest in conversion optimisation.
“If you want your company to be around for years and years you need to invest in conversion optimisation.”
What are the important 1st steps that a business should be putting in place?
First thing you need to measure everything that users are doing on your website. It is ridiculous how this is so lacking in overwhelming majority of websites. Most companies are just measuring the final conversion, the sign-up, the purchase.
If you don’t know what people are doing on your website, how can you optimise? How often do you gather information from buyers and would be buyers about your offering? Why would they buy from? If you are not seeking that information its hard to make optimisation decisions. With quantitative and qualitative data, you are just guessing, and guessing is not a good strategy. Start with the question, what is the answer we want to know, then establish the question. Then you need to understand how to use the data. If you have the data are you understand what the problems are, how big they are, and what you need to do – and fixing them is optimisation.
“If you don’t know what people are doing on your website, how can you optimise?”
Adding more tools but without people in place?
Its mostly about people skills, people just don’t have the skills, and management doesn’t know how to hire people with the right skills or how to train people to get the skills. I’ve seen cases where people have invested like $250k in the IBM Analytics suite, which was too difficult to use and no-one in the company could use it. That was an annual license, after 1 year they switched to Google Analytics 360 for $150k. Yes you want the next shiny toy but the basics aren’t in place to take advantage of it.
Process and Methodology how important is this?
I think it is critical in so many ways. Its critical for starting a new optimisation programme. Without a process, framework or structure, what is the long term vision, what are doing here, what is coming next? Otherwise its just a series of random hacks. It needs structure.
It is absolutely critical that we have a long term view of what we are doing and where are we going, particularly for selling to those higher up. Having a model helps you sell the idea. It helps you organise your activities so its as efficient as it could be. It is invaluable for training people. People come and go in your team. How do you teach them? You can give them a list of tactics but that would take forever. You teach them the process, step by step, how it all fits together. If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process you don’t know what you are doing.
“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process you don’t know what you are doing.”
What tools for yourself make up the CRO starter kit?
The most critical is web analytics like GA, free and the most popular in the world, combined with Google Tag Manager
Then we need some tool to survey our audience I really like TypeForm, there is Google Forms which is free. Then I like polling tool, asking visitors questions, finding our their intent and identify friction. Mousetracking and heatmaps. I tend to like HotJar for that. As well as form analytics tools like Formissimo.
How do you typically measure and demonstrate the success of your optimisation programmes?
I think it different if you are an agency compared to in-house. If you are an agency you need to be able to show on paper, you paid us this much and we delivered you this much. Your win rate, your relative up-lift per test. There is no way around that type of basic math. There are other benefits, as an agency, your role is like paradoxical. Your goal should become to be not needed. The part of every engagement is knowledge transfer, that is all included when it comes to up. Its very hard to put a dollar on teaching someone to fish.We don’t have a perfect answer for this.
“Its very hard to put a dollar on teaching someone to fish.”
What is motivating you and what are the key things you doing?
What is motivating me the most is seeing people go through the aha moments – some of these eureka moments, from people who have been doing testing for many years. How I contribute to these moments, I run 2 conferences, Conversion XL Live, and Elite Camp in Estonia, then we have the CXL Institute. 2 types of programmes, self study programme, anyone can sign up and learn at their own pace. Then we do live online courses, think of it. Only 10% of business books are ever finished. To make time for learning, there is always something more important.
“….these eureka moments, from people who have been doing testing for many years.”
What do you see as the future of the CRO industry?
The clear trend here is that tools are getting better and better, its getting much easier to do our job, either tools collecting data or machines doing some of our job. Unfortunately, most of these tools are going to be pretty expensive. Its not like humans are going to be replaced by machines anytime soon, but its coming, its coming.
“Its not like humans are going to be replaced by machines anytime soon, but its coming…”
- Book – The Growth Strategy That’s Being Ignored
- Blog – ConversionXL
- Training Institute – ConversionXL Institute
- Audit – Free CRO Maturity Audit