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How to make the most of experimentation culture

Being open to experimentation can have serious benefits for your business. Read this article to find out the why experimentation culture is vital for success

This September our Insights team headed to Brighton to attend Measurefest, a fringe event of BrightonSEO that focuses on analytics, big data and conversion rate optimisation. One of the main talks of interest was from Stephen Pavlovich, CEO of Conversion.com. He explored the concept of ‘experimentation culture’ and how it can be used to help drive company performance. Read below to find out how marketing executives can benefit from this innovative approach.

What is experimentation culture?

Experimentation culture is the concept that every element within a company – especially those relating to products or services – is open to experimentation and that the framework of the organisation is built to support it. The culture relies on everyone embracing experimentation, not just an individual using small amounts of free time to work on a siloed side project. Solely looking to find quick and easy fixes for problems is becoming all too common and rather than championing a longer process of solution-finding that could reap far more successful results, businesses are often opting for the easier alternative.

Focus on the culture of experimentation culture

According to Forrester, companies that experiment can grow up to eight times faster – undoubtedly a desirable outcome! But for experimentation culture to truly work, you need to establish an infrastructure that helps the process, not hinders it. It’s not just about structure, it’s about culture (it is in the name). Pavlovich argued that there is far more to it than having the most tools or traffic volumes; the main requirement is having the right attitude. If a firm is willing to experiment and is not afraid of failure, then it could find conclusions that it would never have reached by conforming to the status quo.

So, the fear of failure within companies must be addressed, but how can CMOs take the lead on this within their business? One way is to ask fellow executives, “If you could A/B test anything, what would it be?”, and only accepting answers that can make a radical change. Having a good understanding of what is seen as important across the C-suite and what can make a difference to them will only lead to this attitude filtering down throughout the business. By empowering your teams to work on novel ideas and identifying areas for improvement, you also can generate momentum throughout other aspects of your business while gaining buy-in from your peers.

Stay focused

Despite how vital it is to generate this drive and enthusiasm, do not get carried away. These decisions should not be taken lightly. The launch of an A/B test should be considered and grounded – clear goals from the experiment need to be outlined in advance.

Don’t try to make people care about your tests – instead, test what they care about

There is no point in building up the courage to conduct A/B testing if you’re not going to give it some welly. Experimentation relies on risk. Let’s be honest, A/B tests for only minor changes are hardly going to make ground-breaking advances. If you are testing something that has no risk on your revenue or user conversion – well, why are you testing it in the first place? Solely conducting safety checks, small tweaks and ‘band-aid testing’ is not embracing experimentation culture. Tests must be launched on important aspects of your operations and you must be willing to cover all the elements. Yes, this increases the risk, but it also increases the potential gain. This is why you should understand what is vital to the business, to make the experiment worthwhile. As Pavlovich said, “don’t try to make people care about your tests – instead, test what they care about.”

Embrace the risk of failure

Failure has led to some remarkable inventions. Without experimenting with wallpaper textures and housing insulation, bubble wrap would never have been invented. Without testing 5,271 prototypes, James Dyson would have never launched his hugely successful vacuum cleaner. Experimentation culture will inevitably lead to some failures, but it is important to see this as a necessary part of the process.

The best way to mitigate the risks associated with failure is to keep abreast of the experiment – don’t just check on its status six months down the line. This way you can pull it as soon as you realise it was unsuccessful or implement the positive results and secure the benefits as soon as viably possible.

Think beyond CRO

Remember, you can apply this strategy to more than just the conversion stage. Experimentation culture can be applied to anything measurable – if there is a means of measuring a test’s success rate, the approach can exist. If your priority is not currently a conversion-specific metric, you can still implement experimentation culture elsewhere, for example: increasing time visitors spend reading your content or lowering your site bounce rate.

As an example from here at Further, we conducted a trial to compare organic and paid social media performance. To compare the ROI on organic and paid social media posts, we monitored the engagement rate of three posts – one that had done well, one that hadn’t and one with average performance. After boosting the articles, we saw engagement increase by as much as 9,150% and cost per engagement fall to £0.05. This experiment helped us better understand how to incorporate paid social media into content marketing promotional strategies and deliver better value for our clients.

The thinking that A/B testing is merely optional needs to be eliminated; the approach is fundamental to success. However, to succeed, you mustn’t use experimentation culture to validate existing decisions – it must be used for progression.

Ultimately, experimentation is exciting, it’s rewarding and CMOs needs to embrace it to make an impact on their organisations.

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