Website testing, analytics, user research etc. is often tackled as a marketing exercise, and when things don’t go according to plan, it is treated as a workflow issue. But the fallacy here is that one assumes that everyone is on board with the idea of website testing, and that everyone knows “clearly” what it will give them in return. That is so not true. Marketing managers will agree with me when I say that often, you’re the only person who really has a clue, while a lot of other stakeholders either don’t care because they think it’s just marketing poking their noses in their business, or they just won’t admit that they don’t know and prefer to just shoot down ideas as being “irrelevant”.
So, if you’re a marketing manager, and you’re fighting to put together a robust website testing process in place (among other things of course), you might want to look at this as an exercise in change management, a mind-game almost – rather than try to implement workflows and process diagrams at the beginning.
So, based on John Kotter’s 8-step change management model, here’s my simplified 5-step change management guide to make website testing a systemic part of your organisation’s core activities.
Step 1: Create a burning platform
Your marketing budget has been frozen or reduced from last year. Or your targets have been increased tremendously. Or you’ve got a smaller team. Or you’re expected to do a zillion other things with the same resources. Bottom line is – you’re expected to hit bigger numbers with the same or less. You might see this, but you’d be surprised as to how many of your peers don’t! Start setting off those alarm bells – within the marketing department and elsewhere in the organisation where you think this might be an issue.
Step 2: Build a guiding coalition
Everyone’s now running around like their pants are on fire. Good job. But you can’t finish this job yourself. You’re going to need the support of influential stakeholders from around the business. Show off your spreadsheets, catch up for a coffee, talk about how your problems are the same as theirs, and how you have a win-win solution for this common problem. Some won’t agree, but others will. And these are the individuals who will go into battle with you.
Step 3: Communicate the vision
You and your guiding coalition need to be on the same page. No problem. You need to have a clear idea of what this will look like and how this will work when your work is done. No problem. BUT. You now need to start tying these visions in with different objectives and goals around the organisation (sales, marketing, IT, product development, editorial, anyone who is affected), and then….you need to talk about it. Relentlessly. Every statement related to website testing will become a PR exercise, till everyone begins to see how this process is going to benefit them. Help them get with the program.
If you’re familiar with the original model, you will see that I cheated here slightly to tweak it to suit this context.
Step 4: Remove obstacles and create shot term wins
I’m cheating here again – these are actually two steps in the original model!
I continue to see this being a problem in organisations even today; in website testing and other areas. People bite off more than they can chew, and with all the good intentions and competence, there’s either a lack of buy-in or a task that is too big to handle effectively, and that results in effort wasted and the whole initiative being shut down.
In the early stages, make some room to get buy-in for small, non-controversial plans that are not likely to raise hell or have huge negative consequences if they are ineffective. Bulldoze through with these plans. Generate some easy wins, even if they are small. Your objective is still an exercise in PR and getting buy-in. When your “opponents” see how easily you generated a 10% improvement in conversions, they will change their minds. Maybe not straightaway, but nobody in their right minds will ignore an improvement in performance.
Step 5: Institutionalise your changes
As your quick wins gain prominence within the company, this is where you start to fine-tune and polish processes, engage with stakeholders to discuss how they can get involved, what they need to do to support this and get more returns for their efforts. At this stage, he individuals you talk to will be in a much better position to understand the symbiotic nature of your efforts and their support.
So, that’s something I wanted to get out of the way for a long time, so there we go.