Choosing a conversion optimisation agency is a major businesses decision, here's how to choose the right partner
It’s great that you’ve made the decision to start a Conversion Optimisation programme but the hard part is deciding which agency deserves your investment. So where do you start? This post will give you a few key areas to help with your selection process to ensure you end up with the right partner for successful optimisation.
CIC Chemistry Show by David Carroll. Flickr
Arguably the most important questions are, ‘who are they?’ and ‘can we work with them?’ You are likely to be spending the best part of a year working with your chosen agency, so first and foremost you need to like them as people. Ideally you should arrange to meet with the strategist(s) you’ll primarily be working with, at the pitching stage, as this way you’ll not only get to meet them and see what they are like but also gain an understanding of their skill-set and make sure they complement the resources you already have.
You also need to ask yourself whether the agency truly understands your business and what is unique to you. During the selection process, have they been able to demonstrate clearly that they understand your goals, frustrations and your long term objectives? When writing a brief, it can be a good idea to ask the agency to give ideas of initial solutions to better determine their level of expertise.
Another invaluable way of discerning if a conversion optimisation agency will fit in with your business is their client history. Some agencies have experience working across a wide range of sectors whilst others specialise in one particular area, such as charities. Make sure to read their case studies to better gauge how that particular agency will relate to your business needs.
2. Approach to Work
Does the agency’s process fit in with your workflow? Will they be able to work efficiently with your current resource? Alongside these considerations, you want to distinguish how regularly you will be able to communicate with your chosen conversion optimisation agency. One of the key components to a successful optimisation programme is communication, especially if there are several arms to your business. For peace of mind, make sure you can schedule regular catch-up calls with the agency, as well as being safe in the knowledge that should you call ad hoc, there will be someone to answer your query.
Communication doesn’t have to just be via the phone. There are various project management/communication tools at your disposal (Basecamp, Trello, Skype, to name just a few) which can help establish an easy and clear line of communication. Using tools such as these also promotes transparency and collaboration between the two parties, allowing for a more productive relationship to form.
Something that can help you assess the quality of an agency are their strategic partnerships with well-established tools. There are many testing tools out there such as Optimizely, VWO (Visual Website Optimizer), Qubit and Maymiser. Many established conversion optimisation agencies have experience working with a variety of tools and are known as ‘tool agnostic’. This is something to consider when choosing your agency as you’re more likely to have access to the most appropriate tools for your needs, if the agency has access to a wider range of resources.
In an ideal world, we’d all love to have an endless budget available to us and be able to spend that money exactly where we want, but that’s rarely the case. When approaching agencies, you need to be certain you have the necessary budget available but you should also consider the return on your investment. This is because the main goal of an optimisation programme is to increase revenue, so use previous history of an agency’s testing success to forecast results. Make sure the calculations are realistic and focus on the same goals throughout the programme.
5. Hypothesis Creation
Ideas by Sean MacEntee. Flickr
We are regularly approached by businesses who are already testing but not seeing the results they would expect to see from an optimisation programme. The first question we ask is how they come up with their test ideas. More often than not the answer we get is ‘we saw something similar on a competitor site’ or ‘we looked at our analytics and the data suggested that we test here’.
Whilst it is important to be aware of your competitor’s moves and to incorporate data analysis into your hypotheses, neither alone will provide strong test hypotheses and the likelihood of the test delivering an uplift won’t be very high. When choosing an agency, always make sure they use a variety of sources for ideation, such as heuristic and technical evaluations, data from across the business and analytics.
One of the key sources for ideation is user research. The tests that yield the best results nearly always come consumer insights – after all they are the people you want to influence with your changes.
You can read more on how user research can help generate significant improvements in conversion rates here.
6. Full-service agency Vs. Conversion optimisation agency
Unsurprisingly, there are a large number of full-service digital agencies adopting Conversion Optimisation as a service. There is a definite appeal to having one company take care of your SEO, PPC and CRO, such as easier communication between all arms of your digital marketing but consider this, you wouldn’t let your doctor do your dentistry. Yes, they may have a medical degree but they aren’t specialists in that field. Choosing an agency that specialises in conversion optimisation will ensure you don’t end up just implementing a testing tool on your site and testing button colour – but using it as a gateway to significant growth, to potential culture change and a chance to genuinely put your customers at the very heart of your business strategy.
So, when you do sit down and start looking for a CRO partner and are hit by a flood of potential companies, hopefully this post will help you pick the best agency for you.