A Memo to the Lone Rangers of Experimentation

Use your expertise to drive impact while growing your career

Are You a Lone Ranger of Experimentation?  

Are you the sole person at your company who uses an A/B testing & CRO tool such as Optimizely, Adobe Test & Target, VWO or Google Optimize?

Do people call you either:

  • a jack-of-all-trades regarding project management, user experience, marketing analytics and content management?
  • OR a “technologist”, even though you work in marketing?

Chances are if you answered yes to the above, you’re a Lone Ranger of Experimentation responsible for trying to get the most out of your testing platform — with limited help — to drive impact to your business across your digital properties. 

The Challenge:

Wearing lots of hats is nothing new, people across all disciplines experience this. However, as the sole person driving experimentation internally, there is a lot to juggle. Most likely you are providing  support across various business owners throughout the company: product teams, revenue management, sales, marketing, operations, etc as it relates to launching test. There is likely no shortage of ideas on how you can help them or what they want to test.  That’s a good thing.  But there are also likely to be opportunity gaps that nobody is owning.  It might be in improving the user experience of the checkout flow on your app– making improvements to your deployment processes–to surfacing customer service knowledge, in context on your site, so that customers are happier and more likely to convert. This can also include gaps on the operational side of testing such as program management, backlog creation & curation, test performance analysis and reporting, etc.  It’s hard to enforce processes across all of these functions when you are a Lone Ranger.

Do you feel you have the juice internally to tackle the opportunities that you see?   

Are you trapped as a solo practitioner because there is no budget to expand or team members available to help support you?

Does your manager share your frustration but not understand the nuts and bolts of what you do?

Does your business simply not fully grasp the importance experimentation can have on driving bottom-line impact to your business (e.g. conversions, retention, etc.) and what is required for you to successfully do that?

Here are some ideas about how to both help your company and hopefully your career throughout this journey!

Strategies for taking experimentation to the next level:
  • Redefine your space
    • Is your role defined (formally or informally) as responsible for conversion rate optimization?  Start using the more comprehensive term “experimentation” instead.  This frees you to apply your skills to a broader set of KPI’s.  If you are not yet working with customer satisfaction metrics this may be a good place to start.  Hard metrics like the number of inbound requests and softer metrics like NPS are great candidates for experimentation.
  • Align with IT
    • Are you leveraging your experimentation platform to test new technical releases?   Do project managers and/or product leaders know who you are?  See if you can find an ally or two who isn’t afraid to test new releases when they are introduced.  This can be a big cultural shift for a lot of organizations. Not everyone is open to learning that the new feature they just delivered doesn’t deliver the benefit that was expected.  Proving the value of testing to the IT team can unlock resources, including budget.
  • Line up resources 
    • Experimentation requires the coordination of several diverse skills: data analysis, project management, creative design, technology & content creation.  It’s a lot to pull together if you don’t have a dedicated budget. Many Lone Rangers we’ve met are able to handle a portion of these roles themselves, but nobody is good at everything.  Do you have internal resources that may have bandwidth? A talented creative designer may be able to give you versions for creative testing as part of their existing scope of work.  Does your company already have an agency with some of these skills on retainer?  Will a business owner in your organization free up a small budget for a test that they care about?  Are there former employees who now work as consultants you can leverage to get work done quickly?
  • Use incremental lift to claim virgin territory in your performance appraisal
    • Most companies do not yet have specific financial goals attributed to experimentation.  Develop solid KPI’s that show the incremental revenue lift associated with experiments.  This may not be easy.  For example, in the car rental business the ecommerce experience captures reservations– which may or may not lead to revenue.  In our tests we would capture reservation numbers for each segment of an A/B test.  Then once the rentals were complete a couple of months later we would compare the conversion rates and amount spent. This methodology took a while to develop, but gave us more confidence in the financial impact of our experiments.  Every industry will have its own quirks, and even within the same company you will find differences in what people believe is actual impact.  
    • Use the performance of your experiments over the past year to create a revenue baseline.  Get your manager to shoot at and buy into the methodology.  Now add 20% to your baseline and ask your manager to make this revenue part of your goals for next year.  Include in your appraisal an estimate of the resources you need to achieve the goal.
  • Evangelize
    • It’s surprising how much time it takes to socialize new capabilities.  Send everyone who worked with you the results of each test, good, bad or inconclusive.   Lobby to have your results included in internal newsletters — chances are your HR team is always desperate for content to send out.  Ask for meetings with leaders in the departments that care about the KPI’s you are addressing and use the opportunity to both share results and build up your backlog of new ideas to test.

Ultimately — you do not want to remain a Lone Ranger of Experimentation forever.  Whether you build a team around you or leverage other resources, your job will be more rewarding if you can find ways to influence more direct business impact (e.g. revenue, customer loyalty, etc) while helping the rest of your organization understand the importance of experimentation through measurable results.  This is a recipe for success in elevating yourself and showcasing the value you bring to your business