By: Neil Sniffen

Date: January 25, 2017

Buzzwords in digital are like pop music. They are the hot, new thing one moment only to become cliché and a source of ridicule the next. From Disruption to Delight, there is a laundry list of cringeworthy buzzwords.

Much has been said and blustered over when it comes to website optimization. But unlike its digital buzzword compatriots, it has maintained a steady popularity over the past five years. The reason? It works.

A proven technique

Optimization is a proven technique for your digital marketing toolbox and should be one of your primary tools. Unlike other digital buzzwords, optimization doesn’t seek to make a splash, it seeks to continually improve, continually impress, and continually convert customers on your company’s website.

This all begs the question, why aren’t more companies embracing a culture of digital optimization? For most, it’s a hard transition. It requires a small amount of risk and a new course. Companies that are accustomed to the biennial website redesign (or digital program overhaul) are often resistant to changing a pattern that has, for the most part, worked. While this is occasionally an effective gamble for making massive improvements, it ignores the present while always betting on a better future.

Optimization is a proven technique for your digital marketing toolbox and should be one of your primary tools.

Optimization changes this paradigm. Instead of always gambling on a better future, it makes systematic changes that pay off now and in the future. It is also a cost-effective way to create dramatic results on your company’s digital properties.

The ease of implementing a culture of optimization depends largely upon how risk averse your company is. Companies that operate like large battleships don’t turn so easily, so your process for reorienting the culture will be slower and more deliberate. Companies that are more willing to take risks are already ripe for optimization (if it hasn’t been fully adopted already). Regardless here are three things to embrace in your optimization adoption process:

Adopting a culture of optimization

Try and fail
This concept is a holdover from the internet startup culture. It requires taking risks, failing, learning from those failures, and moving on quickly. While this is often scoffed at as thoughtless risk-taking, it is actually thoughtful experimentation.

If every endeavor was approached without an inherent risk of failure, nothing would ever improve or move forward. Unfortunately, this is how many businesses operate. Ford and GMC nearly drove themselves into oblivion by producing the same cars and trucks even when the market had clearly moved on toward more innovative companies willing to take engineering and design risks. It wasn’t until they adopted a willingness to try and fail that they were able to recover and be relevant to consumers again.

Be purposeful
Creating a culture of optimization isn’t about wild disregard for market forces or reality. There needs to be a purpose and strategy behind each decision and experiment. Blindly experimenting may result in massive success, but so can purchasing a lottery ticket.

The more purpose-driven approach to optimization provides direction and focus for experimentation. Trying and failing (or succeeding) follows a prescribed course and produces results that can be repeated across all marketing channels. While it still requires taking risks, the rewards for taking those risks can be reaped multiple times over as winning ideas are spread across the company, innovating processes and marketing messages and tactics.

Always move forward
Optimization is about progress and moving forward. Often a website launch or an email campaign is a best first guess on what will work. The pattern in the past has been to launch a new digital program, watch it succeed or fail, then redesign and relaunch the digital program again. While this moves the program forward, it doesn’t take an active role in optimizing the existing program. Rather it postpones any improvement for a massive gamble on the next redesign.

The alternative path is to continually move forward with purpose. Purposefully experiment on the existing digital program to discover what works and what doesn’t. Rather than waiting for the next redesign, you take an active role in continuously improving existing digital programs. This is cost effective and an efficient use of your time that can produce a return often multiple times the investment.

Always moving forward requires you to admit that you don’t exactly know what will work and for your company to accept the unknown as an opportunity rather than a hindrance. Once you and your company are freed from business as usual, adopting optimization becomes obvious.

Optimization changes the paradigm.

The movement will not wait

Whether your company is ready to adopt optimization today or not, the movement is already well underway. Companies are reaping the benefits of continually optimized and improved programs while companies who are waiting let their programs whither untested and underperforming. Companies from Netflix to Sony, Citrix to Hotwire are already using optimization to improve their digital properties without the expense of continually redesigning their entire programs. The question is, at what point will you join in?