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Click 2012: 5 Smart Ways to Balance The Emotional Side of Data in Testing

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First, let me admit how spoiled I was at Click 2012.  My very first Click Summit, held at the Hudson hotel in NYC, surrounded by brilliant conversion experts.  Really?!

Whether it was socializing during one of the networking hours in the fabulous Library Bar, meeting with clients over dinner at Landmarc or diligently taking notes during the inspiring conversations that dominated Click – I was surrounded by experts that have the same passion for testing that I do.  It was a huge learning experience for me, and it was FUN!  (Who knew conferences could be fun?)  I already find myself getting excited for Click 2013!

At Brooks Bell, we find incredible value in sharing knowledge.

That being said, I have carefully selected one inspiring takeaway from Click that I’d like to share with you.

I walked away with this learning from one of our conversation sessions titled, “Spreading Insights Throughout the Organization and into the Executive Suite.”  This conversation went far beyond the tactical part of spreading knowledge.  The moderator and attendees were candid and excited to share their insights, so this session was packed with great information.

This particular takeaway blends data with the human element, which is a dynamic that we all balance in some way – whether we realize it or not.

For conversion experts, it can be difficult to think of data as being emotional.  Data simply gives us the facts – no preconceived notions, personal preferences or hidden agendas.   Data tells us a truth that we aren’t able to capture from any other source.  It’s anything but emotional.  Not only do we appreciate and value this – we depend on it.

The truth is that throughout testing organizations, data does have the potential to be emotional.  It is a constant struggle for optimization teams to balance this interesting dynamic.  It has political roots, so we have to play two roles.  We must be the analytical conversion expert that we truly are, but we must also be conscientious of the way other members of our organization perceive testing – and do our part to create an environment where testing is welcome, valued and even sought after.

When building or nurturing a testing culture, it’s important to consider the fact that data will likely disprove marketing decisions that were based upon someone’s intuition.  That’s where it gets personal.  Testing can also be threatening to individuals that were not included in the planning process, which can create a biased view that is aimed at disproving the data.  It can be a very fine line.  So you can see why some drama could ensue.

But don’t give up!  It’s way too important to forge ahead.  Here are five tips that were shared with the group at Click that can help your organization embrace testing:

Develop a culture of testing assumptions.

Be “that guy” that is known for saying, “That would be a great test!”  Use this when marketing ideas are being tossed around or when you encounter something that the organization has always assumed to be true.  Testing finally provides marketers with the valuable ability to truly monitor the effectiveness of their efforts.  Staying on top of testing opportunities shows your colleagues that testing is a tool that can provide answers and that you no longer need to base decisions on hunches.

Create a parallel path with decision-making.

Instead of disproving marketing decisions after they were made and creating an angry mob of marketers, help use the data to make decisions.  It is important for data to begin driving decisions, but this takes time.  Take any opportunity to get ahead of the game by providing marketers with preliminary data that will set them up for success.  Taking a proactive approach will ensure better decisions being made in your organization, and will make everyone look good.

Be on your testing A-game.

Some individuals may distrust testing.  Ensure that you are on your testing A-game to help turn them in to believers.  Develop an effective, repeatable process that ensures that you are testing the right things, at the right time, in the right way.  It is also important to tie your testing into company initiatives.  The end goal is to improve the efforts of your organization, so make sure that your testing is always aimed at achieving that goal.

Share information.

Share your wins – and losses.  The awesome part of testing is that you get tangible results.  Not all marketing efforts can be tracked and analyzed with such precision.  This is exciting stuff!  Be sure to transfer knowledge throughout your organization to help them get excited about testing, too.  Share what you’ve learned and share some of your assumptions that were wrong.  Try different ways to share the information so that you can find a format that works best for your organization (giant binders of overwhelming data, quick and digestible PPT decks, slideshows put to music, etc.).

Walk the line.

Understand that we are the conversion experts in our organization, but we must also embrace the fact that we are the mouthpiece of testing in our organization.  We have a lot of power in determining how testing is viewed.  Walk the line of being a conversion expert, while being a testing advocate in your company that is aware of the political pressures at play.

The beauty of an event like the Click Summit is that it is an intimate setting with brilliant conversion experts, all experiencing the same types of victories and hardships.  And what’s more – candidly talking about it!  I have a notebook full of important takeaways that I will continue to reflect on.  If you haven’t been able to attend the Click Summit, I suggest making it a priority in 2013.  After all, you don’t know what you don’t know – and the conversion experts are Click are talking!

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