When I was at my last “real” job, my boss used to tell me that as a business owner his duty was to continuously improve the business by trying new things. Growing a business is a constant cycle of refining your processes until you ultimately end up with a finely-tuned formula for success. It’s a simple philosophy but it works.
Here’s the problem. Although most people will agree with that approach, it’s really hard to stick with in real life.
It’s kind of like “eat right and exercise.” Everyone knows that’s the simple truth behind weight loss, so why are there so many overweight people? The same goes for businesses. If everyone understands the premise behind refining their way towards success, why do so many business owners still struggle to take their company to the next level?
There are two answers to this question.
The first is simply time. We’ve all heard the saying “work on your business, not in your business” right? It’s a great concept: be the visionary that’s leading your business forward, and let your employees do the actual day-to-day delivery of value.
The truth is we business owners have to do both. Most of us work on and in our businesses. We’d love to be able to take a step back and work on my processes but we get sucked into answering phone calls, talking to clients, managing employees, and dealing with the never-ending stream of issues that pop up every day. With so many things demanding our attention, “working on the business” takes a back seat to “business as usual.”
The second answer is complacency. To steal another pearl of wisdom from my former boss “never let good get in the way of great.” That’s exactly what happens with running a business. People get comfortable operating in a certain way or at a certain level, and it takes courage and audacity to try to change something that works well in hopes that you can make it work better.
The Test, Measure, Iterate Guarantee
Nowhere is this idea of continuous improvement more relevant than in the online component of your business. That’s often where it’s the easiest to cost effectively engage potential customers and measure the results. You might be reading this and wondering “OK, I understand that refining my processes is how I’m going to improve, but how do I get started?” Valid point; you wouldn’t start working on your car without having some mechanical knowledge first, so let us drop some online business knowledge on you.
It’s may be an audacious claim, but there’s a guaranteed formula for generating more customers from your website. It’s Test, Measure and Iterate, a proven approach that the best websites use to improve continuously based on evidence from actual customers. Call it TMI if you like (not to be confused with Too Much Information).
First of all you take two options for your business that you can compare (this is called an A/B or split test). For example, should I update the text on the “Buy Now” button? Should I use this long-form sales copy or this shorter one? Should I put a video on the landing page or text? With tools such as Optimizely or Visual Website Optimizer you can easily run multiple versions of the page side by side and compare the results (conversions) based on your existing website traffic.
After enough customers have one through your test you’ll be able to empirically measure the results. It’ll look something like “When we add a product image, 40% more people purchase compared to the version without the image” or “When we changed the headline 20% more visitors signed up for the newsletter”.
Testing and Measuring isn’t enough, you need to be able to quickly implement the changes that worked. From there you go back to beginning of the formula and test the next idea (hypothesis) that you have. The goal is to get to the point where every change that you make on your website is supported by data showing that it improves your conversion rate.
Inevitable Improvement over Time
When you implement TMI and practice it consistently, each of those small improvements start adding up and yield some pretty incredible results. That’s the basis for Conversion Rate Optimization, turning more of the visitors to your website into paying customers. TMI is the best way to skyrocket your ability to do that. If you’re not Testing, Measuring and Iterating on your website and have the time and ability to do you owe it to your business to start now.