Since I began my journey as a business owner almost a decade ago, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes and learned many lessons. I’ve gained invaluable knowledge on what it’s like to start from scratch and work hard to achieve success. I frequently think back on my early mistakes and find that I can still relate back to them as a successful company trying to find our next breakthrough. Below you’ll learn from my own mistakes starting Standish Salon Goods, an e-commerce company, and what you can do to avoid them.
- Pitfall #1: Implement Your Ideas Without Split Testing
Have you ever had an idea that you thought was so great you wanted to implement it on your website right away? I know I have many times. As the owner or CEO of the company, it’s easy to get our way. Our employees are quick to activate our ideas to keep us happy. Sometimes it works out really well. But sometimes it can actually work against us. In fact, the marketing optimization industry tells us that the majority of tested ideas result in a failure – meaning that most of our ideas work against us and not as we intended. In order to save yourself from the repercussions of implementing an idea that turns out to be negative, you need to split test first. The rigor of split testing has many benefits: it provides a filter for which ideas you are truly committed to, it provides insurance against costly setbacks caused by new designs that don’t work, and it statistically substantiates exactly how great successful ideas are.
- Pitfall #2: Redesign Without Considering Conversion Rate Optimization
Graphic designers are the artists of your agency. They’re great at visualizing a concept and bringing it to life. Many people fail to realize having a great graphic designer doesn’t always mean that their work will result in more sales. The artist needs to be intellectually curious about different design directions, or else they need a conversion analyst to ride shotgun to challenge their work. These skills go hand in hand. The last thing you want is to have a beautifully designed website and a very low conversion rate.
This is why it’s critical to start with a design mockup and make changes based on proven methods to increase conversion rates. Analyze your customer behavior and make changes based on the data, heat maps, other valuable analytics tools. In my book Salon Chairs Don’t Sell Themselves, I give an example of how I increased the conversions of our own website by 900% by replacing a custom design with a $300 template after analyzing a range of data that suggested that we designed a site that was turning people away. As CEOs and/or designers, we’re focused on first impressions of our business that we might be presenting via our homepage. But frequently, that’s not where our visitors are getting their first impression, and our efforts are better directed towards areas of the
site that are preventing conversions — which many times analytics will show that the homepage is not our biggest bottleneck.
- Pitfall #3: Prioritizing Website Changes or Tests Based on Expert Experience
Imagine a scenario when you’re in a brainstorming session and you’ve generated hundreds of ideas for your website. Before implementing the ideas, you asked the most experienced person in the room for their two cents on which ideas will work well and how to prioritize the order of completing the changes. Although you trust this person to make the right calls, they can’t predict a final outcome without factual evidence. This is why testing your ideas is a no brainer. Kissmetrics recently tested this theory at a marketing conference in Chicago. The researcher ran an A/B test on the audience to see how accurately the room full of experts could predict the correct winner. Surprisingly, the majority of marketers in the room failed to pick the winner. A solution for this pitfall is to use an objective and holistic approach for prioritizing and implementing your ideas. In my office we use a numeric system, the Conversion Precedence Framework™, that prioritizes our ideas based on value and potential ROI. This tool gives us the assurance we’re making the right decisions.
- Pitfall #4: Mirror Your Competition’s Strategies
No two businesses are one in the same. Maintaining individuality and uniqueness for your brand is the ultimate reason why someone will choose one over the other. When we see (or assume) that the competition is doing really well, the easy route would be to copy their actions on the assumption you’ll get the same results. This could turn out to be a huge risk because it’s not accurate to assume what your competitors are doing is actually successful or will translate the same way for your business. Ultimately, though, my philosophy is that playing the “me too” game is a recipe for barely keeping up at best. It truly stifles creativity and innovation that is often needed to find bigger breakthroughs.
- Pitfall #5: Ask Your Peers, Friends or Family for Advice
Mean mothers may exist (I have a mental picture in my mind right now of a wire hanger scene from Mommie Dearest, 1981). But our moms are typically really sweet and they never want to hurt our feelings. They can also have a strong bias towards work produced by their children. So, unfortunately, your mom (or family and friends for that matter) do not accurately portray the biases of your actual audience. Factually speaking, only 1% of visitors on most average websites will convert. Asking friends and family for feedback on your website may result in a few ideas but rarely gives deeper insight on why the other 99% of your visitors are choosing to do business with your competitor.
My answer to this is to take the hard route, turn down the accolades of your peers and friends, and talk to would-be clients that didn’t buy from you. These opinions may be hard to hear, but it gives you an actionable list of changes you can make to win over an entirely new audience. Try to engage with these people through your newsletter list, abandoned carts, and online chat exchanges. Additionally, I frequently find that negative feedback on social media provides a plethora of ideas for conversion improvement! For that reason, it can be tough to hear, but it’s also exhilarating to find clear answers to your challenges.
- Pitfall #6: Be Over-Confident In Your Own Ideas
It’s very easy to get wrapped up in your own ideas and opinions. It’s easy for CEOs to get their way because they are the boss and the most powerful decision maker in the company. But it can be the greatest pitfall of all. Every article about CRO and A/B Testing will suggest that the answers reveal themselves after you objectively load the system with concepts that prove or disprove the hypothesis. So, as a CEO, the solution is to be vulnerable, never trust your ideas, and test everything.
Create a culture that gets everyone involved and you’ll find pride in having a team that is vested in the solution – ultimately, this is what puts more money in the bank and determines our own real successes. This approach leads to the easiest path in business and in life because it frees you from having to have ALL of the answers. In fact, with a good team and a good process, you really don’t have to have any of the answers at all.
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