I recently joined Optimizely as the Head of Content. Having been on the advertising agency side of the universe, experimentation to date, had not been de rigeur for me. The bulk of my career has been as a ‘creative’ where ideas can over-index on ‘coolness’ vs. effectiveness, so the rigor and discipline of experimentation is both inspiring and refreshing.
Moving Beyond Marketing: Optimization Across the Enterprise
To many, Optimizely’s origin story is well known. Successful A/B testing in the Obama campaign set off a light bulb for founders Dan Siroker and Pete Koomen to create a software solution to help companies optimize their web experiences for their customers. But as Optimizely and the ecosystems around it have matured, the company and its products have become more about enabling an experimentation mindset, engaging across the whole of the enterprise with both web and client-side developers, and PMs while still serving the needs of the modern marketer. This serves to increase the digital competitiveness of those companies that engage.
Optimizely sits at the middle of so many vital conversations in today’s world of digital marketing, product development, and commerce. Success means not simply giving all these different parties the tools to experiment with their products but also forcing them to develop a common language to discuss the ideas and hypotheses behind the experiments they are planning. It is this intra-company communication that can lead to greater team collaboration and cross-enterprise idea pollination. Thinking about how to improve your product or experience, the business reasoning behind it, and having a plan to execute against it levels all playing fields and moves subjective decisions into the land of objectivity.
How do you get to Peak Performance? Practice. Practice. Practice.
The reality of digital has always been the constancy of change, and while it is impossible to know what is coming next, Optimizely in both practice and theory offers a toolkit for not simply managing that change, but potentially getting ahead of it.
“If you have a hammer, you see nails everywhere,” is often said of how people glom on to marketing and product development trends. And while there are contrarian views out there that experimentation is not a one-size-fits-all solution for everybody, from my perspective experimentation in today’s world can be seen to be as vital a language to be fluent in as the code it sits upon. Whether you are a strategist, developer, marketer, or C-suite Executive, the premise and promise of experimentation is excellent for both hard (read: technical) and soft (people) skills.
You need not be a data scientist to begin diving deep into the world of experimentation, the one criteria needed is a curiosity to discover what may work best, and a willingness to be rigorous in your exploration of your ideas.The practice of experimenting allows you to take a new look at your audience or perhaps segment it in a different way, or test out a pricing structure that you are convinced can generate more revenue. Developing the ability to formulate a hypothesis, implement it, and learn from it is invaluable, moreover it allows a multitude of invested parties to share their ideas and an open, regulated forum for testing them.
Another way to think of the company benefits to be found with an experimentation mindset is that the practice of it is in some ways a data-driven way to promote diversity of thought. By inviting multiple parties to come forth with their ideas for product and website improvement you have a higher probability of developing one that will stick. And, more importantly by being able to test these ideas, discover what does work with your audience you have not only improved the customer experience but the experience of working together.