When Ruud asked me to write about process I thought he was asking me to write about the process we follow when completing conversion optimization projects. Of course, I should have looked more carefully at the two really great articles he included as examples; a week ago, when I first started to sit down to write this post, I carefully read Donnas process of content creation and Davids daily productivity tips. One thing came to my mind, oh boy what did I get myself into! So, welcome to what I call an organized chaos.
My day starts very routinely with spending few moments with my daughter and son in the morning and dropping them off to school. The drive between school and work usually helps me plan my day and outlinethe major tasks I have to complete. The first order of business at the office involves pouring myself a big cup of coffee. Then I am ready to get things going.
We like to kick things off in the office with a standing 10 minute daily status meeting. This is usually done around our whiteboard area which has every team members schedule in two week intervals. We also have a section of the whiteboard dedicated to next steps and a section dedicated to issues (yes the whiteboard is huge).
The goal of the daily status meeting is to give my partner Ayat and I a good understanding of where any of our projects (internal or external) stands. These meetings are not designed for us to resolve issues or make decisions. They are designed for quick updates. If a team member has any blocking issues, then the daily status meeting is the time we learn about them.
Usually, these status meeting might result in scheduling a couple more meeting to resolve issues that we must address. As a general rule, a status update from a team member should not take more than two minutes to complete.
I am addicted to email, but then who isnt? Before I move to any other activity in my day, I spend time going through my email and either responding to emails if they do not require more than couple of minutes or flagging them for later review if they require further analysis.
I use a simple system to classify incoming or outgoing emails following the GTD system and copying them to @action or @waiting folders. This simple system helps me keep track of any tasks I have to complete.
Software development review
During the last 10 years, I have used endless number of tools to manage software projects. At this point, I decided that the most effective way to manage these projects is by following an agile methodology.
For our projects, development takes place in two week cycles. That makes managing requirements, development and release a lot easier.
We traditionally use Microsoft project to track the schedules of software development. However, I have been relying on Google docs lately to communicate plans and schedule with our development team.
Lesson learned: find what works best for you team, make sure it is efficient and just use it.
While I am not involved in the day to day running of conversion rate optimization projects, I generally review any new landing page design or optimization recommendations we deliver to clients before they are sent out. My job is to question these recommendations, their impact on conversion rate and if there is a better way to focus them further.
By being the last line of defense, I can make sure the recommendations will meet the high level of quality our clients should expect from us. Many of our team members find my comments harsh sometimes. I am told that I am difficult to please. If you manage a team, these are good comments to hear! You shouldnt be a jerk all the time, but being a jerk here and there helps. It will push your team to go above and beyond.
How does a typical optimization process review take place?
When completing an optimization review, there are several things that take place.
One of the most important items in conversion rate optimization projects is creating an optimization road map.
The road map outlines what areas or screens should be optimized first, general focus points in these areas and the expected improvements from optimization work. Our new conversion optimization software, Pii, automates much of this process by monitoring the analytics of client websites and providing us with an initial list we can work from. However, conversion analysts will still have to go through the list and validate it. By doing so, they are ensuring the software output is logical. They are also able to provide our development team with feedback to fine tune Pii.
How to optimize?
If you give a conversion optimization consultant a landing page or a website, they can most likely give you hundreds of things you can improve upon. While this is great, there is no way to guarantee which of these improvements will actually produce increases in conversion rate. This is a serious problem that many conversion companies face.
To deal with this specific problem we rely heavily on the conversion framework that allows us to evaluate any landing page or process in a website from 350 different angles. By following a concrete methodology, we are able to deliver consistent results.
My optimization review usually rely on the conversion framework and involve a discussion with the optimization analysts to make sure we agree on the value of the recommendation we are about to deliver.
If you run any type of SEM company, you know that your consultants are your most valuable assets. While I believe in that, this presents a serious problem for companies that are trying to grow. Your most valuable assets become your bottleneck on any project. Also, delivering results will vary from consultant to the next. That can be another issue that hinders your growth.
The best way to limit the impact of the human element is by producing a framework and a methodology to your consulting practice. So, a good chunk of my day is spent on thinking about our processes and how to streamline the optimization work.
I am always looking for ways to use software in the optimization process. I do not think software will replace consultants but it can definitely guide their work.
I am usually on the phone helping optimization team present our solutions to different prospects a couple of times during the day. The process of discovering different problems companies deal with intrigues me.
My role during these introductory calls is to discover whether our solution will help these prospects or not. Last thing you want to do is to sign someone up for your services while you know that you cannot help them.
Also, as a general rule, I try to minimize the number of RFPs we respond to. I find that responding to a generic RFP that was sent to 10 different companies is a waste of time. If a company is interested in our services, then we have our own process to determine if it makes sense for us to work together or not. We usually estimate that 70% of the companies we talk to are not ideal candidates for conversion optimization work.