Justin, who is chief editor and evangelist at a WhichTestWon.com, was explaining why testing your online campaigns, landing pages, forms, website, and so on can't be an every-now-and-again thing. Testing, instead, must be iterative and ongoing.
Unfortunately, that's not how testing happens at most companies, because they lack a testing culture.
According to the Justin, the cornerstone of a testing culture is curiosity.
"You have to have a team of people who are always kind of curious as to the underlying reasons for what's going on on your website and how you can make it better," he said.
Such curiosity will drive people to peel back layers, identify problems, and propose possible solutions. Because those possible solutions need to tested in turn, and because some of them will not work out, Justin also insists that you need to redefine failure.
Your organization's approach to failure can't be, in Justin's words, "You made this assumption; you were wrong; you failed."
Rather than pointing fingers or blaming people for being wrong, an organization with a true testing culture will see the results of any test not as a win or a loss but as critical information that can be used for the next iteration of tests.
"As long as you build up [your tests] properly, you do your due diligence and you create [your] hypothesis based off of your analytics and your other findings," Justin explained, "you're still going to get some learnings out of that failure."
"So then," he went on, "you can take that failure and that information, log it, and then push that into your next hypothesis, into your next understanding for that test."
Be willing to change
The last element of a testing culture may be the most difficult for most companies to embrace: You need to be willing to change what you're doing based on what the test data is telling you.
"You have to be able to push for this kind of pragmatism within the workplace," Justin said, so that people are "not married to their work" and are willing to ditch it if testing shows that it is misguided.
That is "actually much harder to do than it is to say," Justin admits, "because people will be invested in the stuff that they've done on their own website."
'The losing version is still live!'
Sadly, Justin has see this nonpragmatic dynamic play out again and again. He will highlight a test on his site and then in the comments someone will point out that the losing version is still the live version.
It's s curious phenomenon he says, "Even though we have the numbers that say, 'This is performing better—far better,' the higher ups still said 'no' and refuse to make it live."
"It's really unbelievable," he opines, "how people can spit in the face of data and these results."
Leave your ego at the door
When you come right down to it, if people are unwilling to change or to act on the results of conclusive tests, Justin said, "it's mainly because of their ego."
My question to those who let their egos get in the way of improved performance, and those who "spit in the face of data," is this: What's better—asserting your will, even though you've been proven wrong, or seeing better results for your business?
How you answer that question is a pretty good indicator of whether a testing culture will ever have a fighting chance in your organization.
If you would like hear my entire conversation with Justin, you may listen or download the podcast above. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
Published on March 6, 2013
Justin Rondeau, chief evangelist and editor of WhichTestWon, the top weekly publication in conversion optimization.
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