Interested in setting up your own conversion marketing laboratory? Run your own secret science experiments? Brian Massey, the Conversion Scientist, will tell you how.

Sometimes it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission

Warning: this information will make you a more successful marketer, but may also put your immediate job in jeopardy.

To be a true hero, you must have two things:

  1. An arch nemesis
  2. A secret

Unfortunately for those of us in marketing, our nemesis is often the organization in which we work; that Dilbert inspired, plodding structure full of people that think they know how to market. Such a beast is often resistant to our most powerful weapons, such as positive results.

The best way to defeat such a daunting foe is through patience and stealth. As marketers, we must build our strength, our knowledge and our skills.

How to set up your conversion marketing laboratory.

How to set up your conversion marketing laboratory.

Your Secret Conversion Marketing Laboratory

I propose that you consider building your own secret conversion marketing laboratory, your own Xanadu. This is the place you go to explore new marketing strategies and ask questions that others may not have the guts to ask.

Questions like:

  • What if we used more copy on our landing pages?
  • What if we tried an interesting headline?
  • Would audio or video increase our conversion rates?
  • Will social media work in our business?

These are the questions that take time to sell internally, especially when you don’t have the data. These are the concepts that IT is designed to thwart. It’s time to unshackle yourself. Build your own conversion laboratory.

Rules of Engagement

Now, as heroes, we want to do good in the world. This means doing no harm to our organization’s brand. We don’t want to work against our organizations already plodding attempts to communicate.

We want to minimize cost – most of us aren’t Bruce Wayne – and maximize automation. This will make our time in the lab most productive.

I cover all of the guidelines in my Search Engine Land column Setting Up Your Own Conversion Lab, Part 1.

Why Do We Need A Conversion Marketing Laboratory?

Because conversion marketing is a momentum game. It requires trying things to find out what works best. It requires rapid question-test-analyze-question cycles. And sometimes we have to test unintuitive assumptions to understand our audience.

Without the lab, there are blocks to momentum.

IT has their gatekeepers that slow our testing cycles. Management wonders why we aren’t writing a press release or blog post.

While most marketing departments think they know best, our lab lets our visitors tell us what they want. This is powerful knowledge. There are some big wins to be found in the lab, especially at the beginning.

The Secret Conversion Laboratory

Your secret conversion lab should be set up with a few best practices to be successful.

Consistent measurement trumps accurate measurement. Conversion marketing means making decisions based on data. Analytics provide that data.

We aren’t interested in an analytics implementation that is accurate down to the visitor. Instead, we want analytics that are sufficiently correlated to reality.

This is scientist-speak for “when things change, our measurement changes by about the same amount.” When more people visit, our metric “visits” goes up by about the same percentage. It mirrors reality.

Don’t waste your precious time trying to get accuracy in measurement. Good enough is good enough.

Most analytics systems are easy to set up, or are competently integrated into most of the online services you’ll be using in your lab.

Equipment cost must be “under the expense line”. The secret lab is, by design, not going to be a budget line item. That defeats the purpose.

Instead, you need to select tools that are free or cheap enough to purchase and implement without going through the budget process. They need to be expensible.

Avoid IT obstacles. The equipment you use in your conversion lab must not require IT resources to set up and use. IT is too often a bottleneck.

We will be selecting tools that almost any marketer can use. With a little practice and some training videos, you will be able to implement almost any test you can imagine.

It should be highly automated. We must get our marketing duties done with excellence, so our conversion lab can’t take a large chunk of our precious time. If you’re off in the lab for hours at a time, people will begin to wonder. It draws attention.

We will be looking for tools that automate the lab, and solutions that collect and aggregate data for us.

Your efforts should not harm the live web site. Our goal is to become better at marketing for our companies. As such, we should do no harm. Our lab should not:

  • Violate company brand guidelines
  • Compete with corporate sites on the search engines
  • Take significant financial chances
  • Violate compliance requirements in regulated industries
  • Circumvent or disregard your company’s privacy and permission policies

Basically, we want to do small tests, learning things we can use to help the company sell more and dominate online.

Beakers, Bunsen Burners and Mass Spectrometers

We are fortunate to have many of the tools needed in our lab available for free or at low cost.

You will need tools to:

  • Create and host content of many types.
  • Put measurement equipment in place
  • Heat up your experiments with traffic sources
  • Select the right content management system to host your experiments

Cape and tights are not required

It may be tempting the done a hero’s uniform once you begin to feel the power of what you learn in your lab. Honestly, It’s best to stay under the radar.

Let us know which tools you find in your lab in the comments, and please share any interesting results you get from your experiments.

Read on if you are interested in learning how to build your own conversion optimization team or contact us for a free consultation.

Originally published on the Search Engine Journal

Brian Massey
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