What CRO Professionals Do That Separates Them from Amateurs

What CRO Professionals Do That Separates Them from Amateurs

by Jared Smith May 11, 2016

In the strictest sense of the word, a professional earns the majority of their livelihood from their craft. The amateur has another job. But there are also a few specific differences in how a professional CRO approaches the job.

The amateur comes up with a test, either because they can’t decide which solution will work better, or maybe they found an interesting idea that they want to test out. The amateur then goes about figuring out how to implement the test. Whether it requires dev, copy, or design. Whether it will be directly on the site and measured via analytics or delivered through a 3rd party testing suite. They run the test. They pick a winner. They move on to the next test.

The amateur is generally unorganized in their testing plans. If they do maintain a list of future tests, they are generally organized by the pages or parts of the website that they affect. The amateur seldom has a useful test history.

The professional CRO has a system. Every test goes through the framework of the system every time. Why? Because, the framework guarantees the test is successful.

This doesn’t mean that every variation the professional CRO tests is a winner. In fact, most tests don’t win. The difference is, the professional CRO doesn’t measure success by wins/losses in their tests. I’ve been known to run tests that I expect to fail.

When a professional CRO has an idea to test, they work backwards to the theory behind the test. Why do we expect this test to work? You see, most tests actually fall into one of a few categories.

  • User Interface – Intuitive and easy to use.
  • User Experience – Riding in the back of a bus next to a big smelly guy sucks, but riding in the back of a Rolls Royce doesn’t.
  • Communication – Copy and Persuasion fall into this category.
  • Design – I like to call this “style.” We are familiar with our own personal style. Websites have style too.
  • Functionality – Does it work.

Theories often generate additional test ideas in both the same category and other categories because theories go beyond a simple test. They are the basis for understanding your customers and how they react to your website.

If your website is a maze, your customer is a mouse, and a sale happens when the mouse finds the cheese… You may currently be using a carrot and wondering why the mouse isn’t jumping over walls to get to your carrot.


A test here would be to try cheese or peanut butter instead of your current carrot. No doubt you will find which one, the carrot, cheese, or peanut butter works best. But you need to look deeper into the theory of why would the cheese and peanut butter work better.

If your theory is that “smelly” food is a bigger attraction, you can go beyond this simple test. You can try a more smelly cheese, or food that is beginning to ferment. It also teaches you something you didn’t know about your mouse: he likes smelly food… or at least the added smell helps him find his way through the maze. (Another theory to test?)

When a professional CRO puts together a test plan, it is centered around the theories and assumptions about your customers.

Along the same vain, your test history should detail the tests that were performed but the real value is how it informed your theories and assumptions. By reading your test history, a complete stranger should be able to get a picture of who your customers are and what they respond to.

We take it a step further and maintain an ever changing Buyer Persona. This is not the same Buyer Persona that your marketing team maintains (though they work great together). Marketing focuses on identifying the buyer and solving their problem. Our Buyer Personas focus on what buyers care about and motivates them to take action. Like a playbook of best practices specifically for your customers.

To paraphrase Seth Godin –

An amateur bread baker [without a rigorous process] sometimes, ends up with a great loaf of bread.

A professional baker [who’s business is based on a rigorous process] creates bread that is worth buying, every day.

Reference: Rigor

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