Beginnings can sometimes be rocky
The start of a new client/agency relationship is always an exciting and yet slightly daunting prospect.
For the agency, even though onboarding processes might be well-practiced, there can always be unexpected hurdles that did not come up in the sales process. For me this once materialised with a brand new client telling me we could not test anything on the website for the next 6 months because they were due an overall redesign.
For the client, especially if it’s their first shot at conversion rate optimisation, they might not know what to expect in terms of internal resources and actions needed on their side. They might also be worried by the very idea of making changes to their website, even more so if top-level management are not supportive.
It’s all about partnership and trust
Just like with any other type of relationship, it’s always best when all concerned parties feel they are getting something positive out of it. It might be a strange thing to have to state out loud, but the role of the CRO agency is to produce a return on investment through tested improvements on the website. It is not to fully redesign the website (that would be for a design/UX agency), to take responsibility for hosting whole processes (that would be for a content management provider) or even to always agree with the client (that would be counterproductive in some cases).
The best client/agency relationships I have ever experienced have been the ones forged out of a true sense of partnership, which often goes hand in hand with trust. In this scenario, everyone has responsibilities they need to fulfil and there is implicit trust in the fact this will happen without friction or coercion. The client shares their knowledge of the website and its quirks, gives precise instructions as to what they want executed, and commits to providing the agency with the materials they need to success (designs, image assets, QA scenarios etc.). In return, the agency commits to visibility in their process, reactivity and regularity of communications to keep the client updated on progress, to delivering according to scope, and to quality and accountability.
If either end of the partnership fails in its duties, the whole CRO programme may be at risk.
Decision-making should be data-driven
One of the expectations that many clients have from CRO agencies is that because they have experience across a whole range of clients and industries, every test carried out should be a winner. But even with experience comes an element of surprise with each new website and audience. Inasmuch as possible, the best way to avoid impactless testing is to back up testing hypotheses with data.
Typically, the first thing a CRO agency will ask of their client is to grant them access to the Google Analytics account for the website, as well as any other insights tools like heatmaps or session recordings. The agency is essentially looking for sources of quantitative and qualitative data that will guide their test recommendations. For example, if it is clear from a client’s Google Analytics data that mobile users constitute the highest order value audience and yet have the highest abandonment rate in the checkout pages, this indicates a potential area of immediate improvement.
Whilst ‘gut feeling’ can sometimes produce good results (particularly on the agency side where CRO history is longer), the first port of call for testing should still be rooted in trackable customer behaviour. That way, you’re dramatically increasing chances of success. Ultimately, changes tested on a website should not be made to please the client, but to help the client’s customers convert better – there can be a large discrepancy between those two goals at times. On the client side, one of the common pitfalls I often encounter is testing something that has no justification in analytics data, but which has been requested by top-level stakeholders out of personal preference/opinion. At that stage, it is the role of the agency to wave a warning flag if they suspect the test might not yield much ROI – but obviously the final decision remains on the client side.
In a nutshell
Clients, don’t forget your CRO agency’s primary purpose is to increase your conversion rate and make you money. They might achieve this in ways that you would not have thought of, and sometimes in ways you personally would not respond to. In the end, the final say rests with your customers and their clicks, and this is the only yardstick you should measure your relationship against.