CRO Hero: Sam Clarke, Director of Growth Marketing at Placester

by Juliana Casale

Last updated on June 20th, 2018

CRO Heroes

Admittedly, Conversion Rate Optimization is not the most sexy term in the marketing world – but if you’ve ever run an A/B test where the variant won by a landslide, or made a website design change that led to a significant increase in product purchases, you know firsthand how exciting and powerful CRO can be in action.

Marketers who specialize in conversion rate optimization are often a rare mix of analytical and creative; tactical, and intuitive. They need to get inside a customer’s head, but they also need to dive deep into data.

Often, CRO professionals are tasked with:

  • Reducing friction in the user experience
  • Maximizing existing traffic
  • Mapping creative changes to internal success metrics

Though they frequently make small improvements, the impact on the revenue of a small business or large corporation over time can really add up.

To shed some light on the fascinating world of conversion rate optimization and the people who live in it, we are debuting a brand new blog series: CRO Heroes!

Today We’re Talking CRO Strategy With One of the Greats

To kick things off, we interviewed Sam Clarke, Director of Growth Marketing at Placester – an all in one business platform for real estate professionals.

Sam Clarke

CE: Sam, how did you first learn or hear about Conversion Rate Optimization as a marketing strategy?

Back in 2012, I was fortunate enough to join a small software company that was pretty progressive when it came to digital marketing. My manager at the time was running small A/B tests on our marketing site using the conversion optimization platform VWO (It’s come a loooong way since then).

We experimented with changing the color of our free trial button, and adding a reviews badge to above the fold on our homepage.

an all-in-one business platform for real estate professionals

When I saw how impactful these tiny tweaks were to our overall funnel performance, I knew this was going to be something I needed to bring into my marketing arsenal.

To me, it made perfect sense to try and boost the conversion rates on an existing website before spending a lot of time and energy driving traffic.

CE: Walk us through a typical CRO project. How do you identify an opportunity, implement your idea, know how long to run the test for, and analyze the outcome? What are your next steps once you have the results?

A typical CRO project for me is running an A/B test. I usually start by identifying a page that is closest to the conversion point as possible. For example, I would start with a Request A Demo page. Keep in mind that you want to make sure that the page you are A/B testing gets a decent amount of traffic.

The less the traffic, the longer you’ll need to run the test.

After that, I would look at the existing conversion rate on the page and see if it’s something I think I could improve. Typically, I’ll consult my network to understand what they are seeing for conversion rates on similar pages. This usually helps me analyze just how much upside there is.

After that, I will install a heat mapping tool like Crazy Egg to see what people are interacting with on the page:

  • Are they interacting with our number 1 call to action on the page?
  • Or are they abandoning the page before they get there?

At this point I bring in a designer to help me come up with a new variation. It might be as simple as changing a green button to red to make the call-to-action pop more, or it could be an entire redesign of the page to get the form above the fold. The trick is to agree on the improvement that will take you the least amount of time to implement.

Remember: The longer you take to get the test up, the longer it’s going to take to get the results.

After I come up with a design I will load the test into a tool like VWO or Optimizely.

What’s great about these tools is they now offer the functionality to manipulate the CSS right on the page itself; changing button copy or text can be done right from within the tool. However, if it’s a full redesign of the page, you will need to do something called a split URL test where 50% of the traffic sees one URL and 50% of the traffic sees the other.

CRO tracking tip

An important note when setting up your test: Choose one primary call-to-action to track.

Don’t get obsessed with monitoring a bunch of small goal completions. For instance, if the objective of your pricing page is to get people to the demo page, make the primary goal the demo clicks. This helps you stay hyper-focused.

After the test setup, I’ll let the test run for as long as it takes to get to statistical significance. This is usually at least a month if there’s a decent amount of traffic to that page you are testing.

A helpful tip is track the conversion rates of each page week-by-week. If they are consistently reporting the same conversion week over week, it’s usually safe to declare a winner.

After that, you full scale the winner. Typically you use your A/B testing tool to send 100% of the traffic to the winning variation while your developer builds the new design out on the actual page.

CE: What’s a common CRO challenge you’ve observed? Have you come up with any solutions or workarounds?

I find that a lot of times with A/B tests, people try to hit home runs. They do a full redesign of a page and then run a split A/B test. This takes a lot of resources to do because you are spending a great deal of money and time on designing and building the test. Instead, hit singles.

Try changing the button color of your primary call to action, or swapping out your H1 to a more eye-catching phrase.

These tests you can literally get live in 2 hours and if you do a lot of them back to back to back, you end up scoring more runs in the same time it would take you to test a full redesign.

CE: What CRO experiment have you been the most proud of, and why?

Recently at Placester we ran what I call a “Buy Now” test. At the time we actually didn’t support a self-service modal, but I wanted to see if that offer would resonate with our audience.

I also thought that even if it didn’t resonate, introducing a buy now button on the site would subconsciously get more people to submit our request a demo form (because people usually take the path of least commitment).

All we did was add a buy now button next to our request a demo button in our header navigation bar. And then we built a simple buy now form that alerted the sales team when someone wanted to buy our product right away.

CRO Pro tip

This tiny little change not only increased our request demo submissions, but we also got an insane amount of buy now submissions.

In total, we increased our MQL rate 135%. Something so simple led to a ton more business for our sales team to work.

CE: Can you share the name of one company who really impresses you in the growth marketing space?

A company I think that does growth marketing really well is Wistia. I think of them as the industry experts when it comes to video for businesses. That has a lot to do with the brand they have created and the knowledge they give away for free. You land on their website and instantly it’s a company you want to work with.

I also like their freemium model. They give away their product to anyone just getting started in video marketing and once you’re hooked, that’s when you have to pay. The model is very sticky.

CRO specialist nomination

Do you have a suggestion on who we should spotlight next? Drop a comment below and let us know!

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Juliana Casale

Juliana is the Head of Marketing at Crazy Egg, working remotely out of Boston. She loves content, social media, flavored seltzer and craft beer. You can follow her on Twitter @attackofthetext.

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