Dr. John Woods is one of our fantastic speakers at Conversion Elite in July. John started his career as a scientist but then caught the marketing bug, setting up his own company back in 2000.  John is now a director of Sharp Ahead and will be sharing his tips on working with B2B sites where there are high value conversions but low number of sales.

1) Your presentation about panning for gold is very interesting, how would you first go about optimising a website where there are high value conversions? Would the client be more risk averse as there is such a lot more money at stake?

“You are right that clients tend to be risk averse about changing things. And because the volume of transactions is often very small, it can take a long time to know whether a change has been successful.
John Woods

In a lot of our projects we rely very heavily on best practice rather than quantitative optimisation. It is important that we can explain to the client WHY certain best practices work – for example, why it (usually) helps to show a prominent phone number on a landing page – to give the client the confidence to make the changes that we recommend.

The good thing is that in many of our projects, we’re starting from a low base. For example many clients are still using their website rather than dedicated landing pages for lead generation campaigns. So as soon as we encourage them to take the first baby steps in CRO we start to see a big difference in results. That gives the client confidence to do more.

2) What do you think has been the biggest change in Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) in 2016 and why?

I think CRO is starting to become more mainstream. It is moving from a niche specialism into a skill that every generalist digital marketer needs to have. For example, employers are starting to look for CRO expertise in job descriptions for more general roles. And more and more agency briefs are looking for CRO to be built in as part of a bigger project (such as a site replatform), rather than standalone CRO projects. I expect this trend to continue and I think this is a good thing: having some expertise in CRO can help anyone to become a better all-round marketer. But there will still be a role for CRO specialists – it’s not realistic for every marketer to become a state-of-the-art CRO expert.

3) What three areas do you like best about working in CRO and why?

Fundamentally I’m an entrepreneur and I like to see a business growing and being successful. So what really gives me a buzz is the way that CRO can drive business growth – our projects really make a difference to our clients’ commercial success, and it’s easy to see the direct connection between our work and the uplift in results.

4) How would you recommend a junior/grad to start in CRO or even someone who would like to have a career change?

It’s difficult to go directly into CRO as a first role. They say you can’t learn to play poker unless you play for enough money to matter, and CRO is kinda the same – there’s no better way to learn CRO than to actually optimise something where there is real money at stake! Perhaps set up a small ecommerce site of your own and try to make it work.

CRO isn’t for everyone and you need to be realistic about whether you have the blend of qualities that it takes to be a good CRO. I think to be a good conversion rate optimiser you need to be an all-rounder. Experience and understanding of lots of areas, and specialist in a few (that ‘T’ shaped type you often talk about). The fundamentals though are to have an understanding of human behaviour, and data analysis. It’s important to be numerate and to have an analytical mindset – not just specific tools like Google Analytics (though that’s certainly useful!), but fundamentals like understanding how to handle data in Excel.


5)  What do you think will be the biggest change in 2017 in CRO? For example will we see a shift from people working in Search to CRO?

I think CRO will continue to become more and more mainstream, and as a skill that is commercially in demand it will certainly draw in practitioners from adjacent fields. That’s a good thing, but the industry will have to be careful – if people jump on the CRO bandwagon without the skills and experience needed to succeed we will see a backlash. I’d be interested to see some form of professional body and certifications for CROs, like the DAA has done for the digital analytics industry.”

Thank you John for being interviewed on Conversion Elite, we can’t wait to see you next month !