How CRO mature is your company

GrowthBy Mariana Bonanomi

We have helped many companies to increase conversion rates by optimizing user experience in the past years, and we have found businesses at different maturity levels in CRO.

Most customers use CRO tactics to optimize only specific parts of the user journey, usually the acquisition phase. They often focus on increasing a landing page's conversions or optimizing only one single stage of the funnel.

This used to be a common mindset a few years ago. Most marketing agencies would base their CRO consulting models on it. Meanwhile, the market evolved, and the user journey became much more complex. Thoroughly analyzing that journey is essential now instead of only looking at one funnel stage.

Adopting such a mindset allows us to invest in CRO correctly. And by that, we mean using tactics and strategies which deliver the largest ROI, the largest LTV, and use the smallest CAC possible. No money left on the table!

Recent technological improvements fed by the pandemic revealed the disparity between beginners and digitally mature companies.

Next, we'll discuss the four stages of maturity in CRO. Our goal is to help you determine which CRO maturity stage your company is in and have a clear view of what next steps are suitable for your current development stage.

Stage 1: understanding the importance of CRO

Many companies worldwide know inbound marketing and the importance of generating website traffic. However, as weird as it may seem, many haven't yet realized that it is also important to optimize that traffic to boost lead generation.

This is particularly frequent among smaller and starting companies that haven't established well-structured marketing and growth teams. Even when those companies have a relatively advanced knowledge on funnel and performance strategies and have already invested in paid media and content creation, traffic increase is still the primary goal at this stage.

Optimizing new aspects of the site for increasing conversion rates is frequently brought about by an experienced marketer. However, the C-level team is likely to have other concerns at that moment and might not place its bets on such initiatives. If this is your case, we believe benchmarks may help you create awareness of the importance of CRO. Your job will be much easier if they know what to expect from CRO results.

At such early awareness stages, we commonly see professionals venture into running some AB tests and implementing simple personalizations with basic free tools. Besides generating data that will show unexplored opportunities of working with CRO, these experiments also help estimate the time and team investments required to create a new working field.

We could also say that, at this stage, most companies still work with static content on the website and use simple analytic tools without systematic and frequent reports to cover all properties. Therefore, content adjustments are often made with no KPI follow-up or any accurate assessment of the users' needs.

By the end of this stage, professionals leading such initiatives realize that the data must be well structured to consider the whole user context.

Stage 2: using the right tools and hiring the right people

Through the benchmarks we mentioned earlier, it becomes easy to see the ROI increases businesses could achieve through optimizing. So, most companies don't stay long in the awareness stage.

Companies that reach the second stage are often already showing promising results in SEO, media, and inbound marketing in general. However, as we said, even with increased traffic, conversion rates are still low, and many of the acquired leads aren't qualified. This is when the importance of early tests and personalizations emerges.

This is the stage in which the team learns best practices and what to do (and not to) while testing and personalizing website content. Segmentation here is still basic and usually based only on current users' sessions or a few demographic data.

Gradually, it becomes clear that more than generalist marketing professionals are necessary for performing advanced segmentation and having a constantly optimized website. And that's not necessarily due to any lack of skills or maturity on those professionals' sides, but because jobs pile up and none of the managed areas - content, media, and CRO - actually performs well.

Here results of the first tests begin to show and thoroughly impact the business results. It's time to claim more budget and look for more specialized consultants, professionals, and tools.

Tools

Those who venture into testing usually start with basic AB testing tools, like Google Optimize, or even with features available on landing page development tools (Hubspot, Unbounce, Instapage, etc.). However, those tools' drawbacks appear as soon as the testing hypotheses grow more complex and segmentation gets more advanced.

Consultants and professionals

Using tools that help create, follow up and analyze experiments is a time-demanding task. This is why the need for at least one in-house CRO exclusive professional emerges at this stage.

Some companies end up creating teams that carry not only one CRO specialist but also tech people to ensure speed and focus for optimizations. And even then, this turns out costlier than expected, as developers' backlogs and time delays begin to block even tiny website changes.

Consulting firms are also welcome at this time. They can help introduce an optimization mindset into the company.

From here on, we may say that we have entered the consolidation stage.

Stage 3: consolidating the experimentation culture

CRO professionals who enter this stage already use CMS platforms that enable dynamic content, segmented tests with personalization, and multivariate tests.

Segmentation rules are better structured here, and the team can take entire users' histories into account before they test hypotheses and create personalized experiences. This has become possible at this point because users' profiles are better structured and include multiple sessions and behavioral data. This is also when the need for concentrating data in one single spot gets clearer since it enables real-time and individualized interactions with each user.

Beyond these technical matters, there is yet an important aspect to consider: the users' journey. The company that hires an in-house professional realizes that CRO is not simply an acquisition channel. It is actually a culture that works better when included in marketing, product, and growth. The CRO team should exist horizontally within the organization and be one of the few to own a comprehensive view of that journey.

At this stage, the CRO professional becomes responsible not only for creating the strategy and operating the tools but also for advocating the concept within the team so that the optimization strategy gets integrated with other areas. The most evident proof that this is working can be verified in the organization's daily life when this person needs to be absent for a few days or goes on vacation. If the optimization wheel keeps spinning, it means that others also became owners of that process.

To educate the company and the team on the importance of CRO, this professional must own a set of skills that goes beyond technical aspects. They must communicate well and frequently be the middle-person both between the teams (marketing and product, marketing and technology, etc.), and between the company and the consulting agency.

Creating a culture doesn't happen overnight, so companies may spend some time at this stage. However, even during consolidation, many companies can already see great results that impact the whole business. The C-level team now understands that CRO tactics and strategies are critical for growth.

This perception attracts investments that allow purchasing still more robust technology, which enables winning test variants to be automatically deployed. The technology team must be less involved in optimization processes and is free to focus on what really matters: the core product or service.

At the end of this stage, people systematically plan optimization in line with other areas' planings, which ensures required resources along the development of each test or personalization.

Stage 4: scaling the CRO culture

The evangelization work is endless and must be constant. Nevertheless, at this point, most of the company is already aware of the potential benefits for the whole business conveyed by optimization. At this stage, tests and personalizations are performed constantly at every part of the user's journey, from acquisition and recurrence to retention and engagement.

Therefore, the head of CRO looks not only into metrics like conversion, clicks, and visits but also into the LTV. The whole business is now analyzed to understand metrics that go far beyond what minor front-end changes in your website mean to the user's experience.

CRO metrics now include rates related to calls, sales or demo requests, and rates for trials that turned into clients, clients that generate upsell/cross-sell, and client Life Time Value. Marketing, product, and growth became CRO driven.

Segmentation and audience analysis techniques, such as cohort and RFM analysis, are no longer new and are constantly used to turn data into the best allies for assertive decision-making. For this to happen, data needs to be centralized, thoroughly analyzed, and frequently fed into progressive profiles and users' histories. This allows accessing every user's entire context quickly and practically.

At this point, the team uses personalizations and tests to generate leads, provide a good user experience, and lever marketing conceptual fields, such as positioning and messaging.

All this becomes possible as soon as the company can build a horizontal and specialized CRO team that is not simply a performance team appendix.

Conclusion

There will always be companies at many CRO maturity levels in the market. Understanding your company's stage is fundamental to know the next steps. Such an understanding includes organizational as well as cultural and technological business layers.

We will be happy to help if you still feel you can't point out your company's maturity level after reading this text. Just call us!

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