If you were to compare the most successful optimization programs side-by-side, odds are you’d notice a lot of similarities.

In my job, I speak with a lot of companies about their testing and targeting efforts and have gathered an extensive amount of feedback on the common ingredients that make optimization programs a success.

These companies succeed because they’ve established strong collaboration within the organization, have the right tools for the job, and have a well-designed communication infrastructure. 

While none of these things are necessarily ‘secrets,’ companies must take the time to put a proper structure in place with cross-functional optimization expertise, business knowledge, IT, testing, brand communications, and marketing savvy to continually improve the customer experience through an efficient, collaborative workflow.

There with, here are four best practices from companies running very successful optimization programs:

Identify and prioritize opportunities

Evaluate each opportunity for improving visitor acquisition, engagement, conversion, campaign performance, and the optimization of the customer experience across websites, pages, completion forms, etc. to identify and prioritize the opportunities that maximize impact while minimizing effort.

Focus first on opportunities with the most potential benefits compared with the effort involved and that are most aligned with your business strategy.

This will create quick wins in terms of evangelizing ROI within your organization, as well as providing valuable insights into the next best steps to take for continued success and exponential growth in your program.

Your business and marketing colleagues should work with the optimization experts and analysts to identify underperforming elements, and the business person must play an active role in planning and completing the improvement project.

Test design and deployment 

Begin with brainstorming hypotheses that may compel your key segments or visitor populations to convert at a higher rate at key touch points based upon analytics and other data.

Look at the numbers to help decide what could potentially improve the underperforming element. Is it words, images, placement, navigation, rules, or altering a combination of these elements together?

Utilize your creative talent, user experience designers, IT, and quality assurance team in discussing potential changes. Based on the hypotheses, optimization specialists should create multiple variations of the element to show to customers via A/B tests (or multivariate tests, if multiple variations of multiple elements should be tested simultaneously).

Randomly assign page visitors to see a particular version and then compare their behavior: Did version A or B produce higher conversion? A critical stage often overlooked is filtering your test population results by your key segments, to identify their distinct preferences in comparison to the total population.

They might prefer something different, and not identifying their preferences could lead to potentially delivering the wrong version of content to a particular sub-group of your population.

Segments can be identified in your optimization tool or within analytics through several effective methods. If the results are inconclusive, or the performance is not significantly improved, your team should design a new set of versions to test.

Testing may also reveal that the area under examination does not have a significant impact on visitor behavior, and therefore your team resources are better spent elsewhere.

Manage tests, and analyze and communicate test results

Who is your optimization specialist? Typically it’s the testing project manager who tracks the status of dozens or hundreds of test opportunities, which are published to the whole company or organization.

While business staff may check the real-time status of the tests that interest them, the optimization specialist should prepare and publish a weekly summary of current tests and results. This will allow the team to discuss the outcome of tests in terms of the impact on business goals.

Which version increased customer engagement, or revenue, or enrollment? What are the key takeaways from the test? Whatever the outcome of an individual test, take the time to summarize and communicate the lessons of the test.

There is as much to be learned from test losers as test winners. Requesting test ideas or input from other department members can be an effective way to evangelize your efforts and increase visibility in terms of your impact your efforts are making.

Communicate program results

An optimization program will fail unless it can demonstrate business performance improvement to prove its budget and power, even with a strong executive sponsor. It is critical to produce credible results from your optimization efforts and share them with the organization.

Optimization means change, and as we all know, change is often resisted. Defend your programs by calculating and communicating the value and return on investment based upon the data within your results.

The most successful companies have built models to estimate the impact of the program on their business. Since such models vary widely among organizations, work with your executive sponsor and the finance team to create a model that fits your organization’s needs.

An important step, in terms of the ROI your project and evangelize, is also to account for the natural standard deviation, or the possibility of variance, within your results based on trends and other changing factors. Finally, don’t forget to share big wins across the company, so learnings can be generalized and broadly applied.

Does your company have what it takes to implement a successful optimization program?

Yes, of course it does. If you’re just starting to plan, this will give you a framework for how to approach your project.

For those who’ve already deployed an optimization program but want to improve results, utilize these tips from those companies that have realized success and take your program to the next level.