Marketers are constantly looking for new and creative ways to boost customer acquisition, engagement and sales. That’s where the process of conversion rate optimization (CRO) comes in -- the practice of transforming website visitors into first-time customers and first-time customers into lifelong buyers.

With subtle changes to images, call-to-action (CTA) buttons, and even word choice in promotional offers, conversion rate optimization specialists are often able to make dramatic changes to their websites. But sometimes, these website experiments fall flat -- producing no results at all and leaving marketers wondering what’s wrong.

The following thread on illustrates an applied example of this concept -- a marketer tested, wrote about, and recommended a great idea. Another marketer tested the same idea and wasn’t able to achieve the same results:

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So what happened? The short answer is that there probably wasn’t anything wrong with the experiment or idea; rather, the ‘copy hack’ in question just wasn’t the right fit for Matt Gratt’s particular marketing campaign.

The even shorter answer is that there are many more marketing myths than realities out there. It’s easy to assume that something is going to work because it’s an awesome idea. But there’s often more to the story -- which you can uncover by avoiding the following CRO myths.

Myth: Conversion Optimization Is About Testing Word Choices, Color, and Images
Reality: Conversion Optimization Is a Process of Deep, Creative Experimentation

CRO is a field driven by experimentation, and marketers are always looking for new ideas to test. There are hundreds of blog posts and websites devoted to website testing ideas, so marketers are never at a loss for campaigns to run and ideas to try.

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Many marketers assume that they can replicate these ‘tried’ and ‘proven’ experiments -- which is true to an extent, as it’s valuable to learn from others’ lessons, best practices, and mistakes. It’s the collective wisdom of today’s top UX and marketing experts who can tell us that statistically, there are certain button colors that are better than others -- or that photos of one gender tend to perform better in A/B tests than others.

But there's more to the story.

The trends you come across aren’t universal -- often, they fail to capture the nuances between business models and audience types. While a green button may work better for some audiences, your audience may have a high proportion of people who respond more favorability to to purple. Who knows -- the fact is that it’s arbitrary.

The GrowthHackers thread from above re-emphasizes how important it is, whenever running a website experiment, to start with the unique needs of your audience. As hard as it will be to do, you need to ignore everything you’ve learned and approach your audience from the mindset of a perpetual beginner. Best practices should tell you how to think -- but you should rely on your audience to teach you what to think.

Myth: Numbers Trump Stories
Reality: Stories Are Critical to Your Process

Marketers are obsessed with numbers. Teams are often united around one key performance indicator (KPI) -- and devote their full attention to it. This type of focus is a good thing, but if you’re too buried in data, you’ll risk your ability to maintain a complete view of the full audience picture.

Behind every important data point -- pageviews, time on site, bounce rates, and ‘add-to-cart’ click -- there is an important user story behind it. That’s why, in your marketing efforts, it’s important to maintain a balance between in-depth quantitative analysis and equally in-depth qualitative research. While tools like Google Analytics tell you what happened customer conversations and web surveys will tell you why.

Numbers and stories are equally important. Make sure to prioritize both as part of your marketing team’s decision-making framework. Let your customers power your conversion optimization experiments.

Myth: You Need to Optimize Website Elements
Reality: You Need to Optimize Your Value Proposition

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many exit-intent pop-up windows you’re running or what your website button colors are. Your brand needs to communicate a memorable and lasting value proposition that makes people want to buy your product or service.

Many marketers focus heavily on the tactical side to CRO -- such as running A/B test on website elements -- but often don’t realize that experimentation is a means to an end. If people don’t love what your brand has to offer -- and you’re unable to reach the right audience -- your A/B tests and website experiments will be worthless.

At the heart of your CRO strategy is your value proposition. Focus every website experiment around the opportunity to make that value proposition -- and connection between your brand and your customer base -- as clear and compelling as possible.

Final Thoughts

CRO is a marketing force of nature. It’s a powerful way to influence results for your business -- however, your marketing team needs to take a step back and start the optimization process by listening to what your customers want and need. Please chime in with your thoughts. How has CRO helped your business grow? What advice would you like to share with fellow marketers?