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How to fail at Conversion Rate Optimization: Have lots of money and no product/market fit


If you’re a funded startup with a budget, you can find an agency to “do CRO” on your website.

And that agency will have a hard working strategist who will do everything s/he can to improve your conversion rate.

Even if no one has bought your product, and no one is buying your product.

Once upon a time I was that plucky agency strategist, working with a startup that sold revolutionary WiFi-enabled kitchen appliances to health-conscious rich people.

Well, they sold a few. Mostly to celebrities and friends of the founders.

They had a strong hunch as to what was wrong, though. Their checkout funnel was long; it involved choosing flavors, setting up a delivery schedule, and spending close to $1000.

Most likely the problem was in that funnel. Were the steps out of order? Should there be more trust signals? Would a conversational approach perform better than plain old forms?

It’s what they brought us in to test, and we tested it. Nobody bought the thing, either way.

So we moved up the funnel. Could we get more homepage visitors to the Learn More page?

✅ Yes.

Could we get more Learn More page visitors to click through to checkout?

✅ Yes.

Did anybody buy the thing?

👎 Nope.

The startup eventually shut down operations. Over a dozen successful A/B tests did not come anywhere close to saving the business. We never should have bothered.

When you invest in website Conversion Rate Optimization, you’re assuming - or hoping - that there are visitors to your website who would buy, but currently aren’t.

One data point that strengthens this assumption is having people who are already buying.

If nobody’s buying, the assumption that some website tweaks will change that fact is … a bold one.

And while you can find somebody to test the assumption for you, you’ll learn a lot more by talking to actual human beings. They’ll give you priceless qualitative feedback, like “LOL there’s no f**king way I’d spend $1000 on that thing.”

The more you know 💫


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© 2022 Brian David Hall