Take a second to think about what these three scenarios have in common:
- You need more subscribers to sign up for your email list.
- You need more of that list to click-through the links and convert into customers.
- Your landing page isn’t driving the kind of traffic it should (and you don’t know why).
If you guessed that all three can be solved with the same solution, you guessed right.
And that solution is a conversion rate optimization (CRO) expert.
Getting one of these specialized masters of marketing on your side can transform your list-building campaigns, make your landing pages thrive, and uplift your bottom line.
But they’re not easy to find — more on that in a moment — and they’re not cheap to hire.
Which is where this article comes in. Today, we’ll talk about five ways you can cut out the middleman and become a CRO expert on your own.
Let’s start by talking about what someone specializing in CRO does.
What does a CRO expert do?
The problem with finding a CRO expert to bring onto your team is that conversion rate optimization isn’t the clearest field to define, and plenty of CRO experts don’t have it in their job title.
A CRO expert might be found with job titles such as digital marketer, search engine marketer, growth marketer or manager, process design engineer, and so many more.
But no matter what their official title is, all CRO experts perform the same function. They specialize in generating the maximum number of conversions, whether that’s for sales or list building. Their task is to keep losses down to a minimum and push profits to the maximum.
They also tend to work across teams, mingling with designers and marketers alike. Data from experiments, like A/B tests, is a critical part of their daily process and used to inform their decisions.
When you get down to it, everything a CRO expert does is about creating optimal user flows and smoothing the path to conversion for customers.
And that’s great news because no matter what your background is, there are a variety of techniques you can use to count yourself among the CRO experts and start improving conversions.
Here are just five of them.
5 ways to become a CRO expert
Because CRO experts come from a plethora of specialties and perform multiple marketing functions for businesses, today’s list has been compiled to help you get started with becoming a CRO expert as quickly as possible — even if you’ve never heard of CRO until today.
(It could happen!)
1. Study user experience methodologies
CRO and user experience (UX) are rapidly becoming two sides of the same process.
Users are more likely to take the desired action — conversion — when they have an easy, frictionless user experience. Leveraging strong design principles as part of your conversion paths increases your chances of success on every metric.
Additionally, understanding the principles and methods in user research, as well as the testing methods typically employed, helps illuminate how users behave and think during conversion.
Or, less pleasantly but still critically, when they aren’t converting.
So if you’re trying to get your feet wet with CRO or just want a keener understanding of how users operate on your website, take the path less trodden and look into UX methodologies. Specific areas to study include usability, multi-device design, and user interface (UI) heuristics.
The Nielsen-Norman Group and Interaction Design Foundation are both great resources for this.
But if you want to take studying user behavior to the next level, there’s no better method than the next tip.
2. Review session replays
Creating user flows to conversion requires understanding the users in question.
You could use social media and demographic analytics, but both provide secondary data about the individual and not their behaviors.
And while qualitative data like that has its place, it also has several weaknesses. Everything you learn from qualitative data is inherently based on assumptions — especially if you aren’t having direct conversations with your users.
Assumptions, as you’re probably aware, are easy to invalidate. Too easy.
That’s where session replays come in. These are actual replays of real users taking action on your website in a natural environment.
So instead of top-level data about conversion rates, you can actually see how the conversions take place — or don’t. You have hard, replayable information about the specific steps users take as they browse.
Note that although heatmaps provide this data as well, they aren’t as robust as session replays.
So start with UX methodologies, then apply what you learn from there when you’re studying session replays. Better yet, combine it with heatmaps to take your learning — and actionable insights — even higher.
Just make sure you have the best tools in your arsenal to make the most of what you learn.
3. Use a flexible tool
98% of marketers say they need a technology that doesn’t require technical skills to run. Excel doesn’t fit into that by a long shot. 63% of the same group said flexibility is their biggest must-have for a piece of marketing technology.
So what tools should you use, if not spreadsheets?
With obvious asides about bias, Freshmarketer can fit any budget and audience size, scaling with your business or client.
Results from A/B tests are easy to understand, actionable, and never require you to run complicated formulas. It’s perfect for someone without a lot of technical know-how or time to waste learning it. Why not get started for free today?
And, while you’re learning the (easy) ropes, have the rest of your team try it out with you. It may expedite your learning process more than you think.
4. Teach everyone on your team
Here’s a surprising fact:
To learn how to do something quickly and well, you need to teach other people how to do it. Learning by teaching is one of the most data-backed strategies used in education, and it works in CRO, too.
Teaching everyone on your team also ensures your goals are aligned between members and departments.
If your service team understands how and why you’re creating a specific conversion path, they can empathize and provide more tailored support for real-life users. Salespeople can guide prospects through the same paths as they were intended to be used, as well.
Aligning marketing and sales isn’t just good for communication in your organization and learning: it also leads to higher customer retention rates and as much as 209% more revenue.
Teach department representatives or team members about the key performance indicators (KPIs) you’re using to track your CRO, your goals, your testing methods and results, and your strategies.
The result will be better cohesion and faster learning.
Now, for the final tip today, it may seem like an obvious one, but it’s the most important one.
5. Test and iterate
Do you remember when you learned to ride a bike?
Did you read a bunch of books about how bikes work and study diagrams?
Or did you finally get on a bike one day, check your training wheels and helmet, and start pedaling?
It was the latter, right?
Learning about CRO requires the same approach. You can (and should) study as much as you can, but there’s no substitute for direct experience. If you want to be a CRO expert, you have to get into the field and conduct tests like one.
And then keep conducting those tests, iterating on them. Iteration can improve your conversions by 130%.
As a bonus, it also provides you with the opportunity to learn from your past mistakes and track your growth empirically.
The more you measure, learn, and implement, the more optimized your site will become. So keep doing it. Create a CRO loop where you’re always hunting down the next tweak and opportunity.
And yes, you might make mistakes. You’re only human.
But Seth Godin has a saying that works well for this: “The cost of doing wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing.”
Inaction can hurt your conversion rates just as much as fumbling. But fumbling, unlike inaction, has the potential to become mastery, and that mastery over CRO means better business and faster sales.
That’s the point, isn’t it?
Even if today is the first time you’ve heard of CRO, you can start optimizing like the best of them with the right approach.
Begin by studying UX. While it’s typically thought of as the field of designers, UX and CRO are two sides of the same conversion-boosting coin, and understanding one will increase your appreciation — and skill — with the other.
Go further than just reading about user behavior, though. Study it, too. Session replays are a great, easy way to watch how real users interact with your website. While spreadsheets have a place in marketing, the modern marketer needs more flexibility and usability from their toolset than what Excel offers. Make sure yours provides that.
Teach your team members what you learn and what you do. It’ll help you learn faster and keep everyone on the same page.
Finally, hit the pavement and start testing. If you want to be a CRO expert, you can’t stop at thinking like one.
You have to act like one, too.