Sometimes you don’t seek out Experimentation — but it seeks you

Brian David Hall

A Conversion Conversation with Command Return Solutions’ Brian David Hall

A lot of people feel Experimentation is a dry academic field — but you wouldn’t think so if you spent 5 minutes chatting with Brian, my guest today. He chats about how he stumbled onto a great career as well as how he became a wizard.


Rommil: Hi Brian, how are you?

Brian: Great!

Your LinkedIn profile says you’ve been, “Replacing carousels with static images since 2015™” — what’s the story here?

So there are plenty of examples across the interwebs of experiments that have replaced a homepage hero carousel with a static image and increased conversions.

I’ve run some of those tests myself.

For a lot of CRO strategists, this is part of a quote-unquote playbook, or an example of quote-unquote low hanging fruit.

So I put that as my profile as a nod to fellow practitioners.

It reflects my current priority of meeting and learning from smart people. (When my priority was finding new clients, I had a very vanilla positioning statement on LinkedIn)

Could you tell us how you got into experimentation?

My background was in math and computer science.

I was looking for developer work, and random fate brought a “Senior A/B Test Engineer” role my way.

After a few months of building the tests, I got interested in … everything about the operation. Strategy, prioritization, analytics, client management and sales (I was at an agency).

I was lucky to work with a ton of super smart people, and got to learn all about these topics while working with some awesome brands. (And some brands that failed epically.)

I’ve been at it ever since.

A screenshot from Brian’s LinkedIn Profile

I have to ask. You may have the most amazing title I’ve ever seen. Can you tell me a bit about what you do and how you came up with it?

So, as a consultant you can make up any title you want on LinkedIn.

Currently I list myself as a “Growth Marketing Ninja Hacker Unicorn Wizard,” which is beyond ridiculous.

What I actually do is not much different from any other CRO consultant. Site audits, experimentation, user research, data analysis … a whole slew of background activities that result in recommendations to improve conversions.

I work best with founders and marketing leaders who are humble, curious, and don’t take themselves too seriously. The title is a way to help the “take themselves too seriously” crowd self-select out of my services. (Same idea with the LinkedIn tagline and all the emoji on my website 😁)

“You’re smart, and your guesses are probably better than a coin toss.”

There are many out there in the experimentation field that are probably thinking about doing what you do. Can you share 3 tips that they should know about before starting a sole proprietorship?

  1. Talk to people who are already doing it! Either they’ll be happy to help you or they’re total jerks. (Feel free to reach out to me.)
  2. When you go into business for yourself, you become a sales team of one. If you don’t have sales experience, this can be intimidating. At the very least, make your peace with this VERY IMPORTANT responsibility. Bonus points if you can envision turning sales into something you love doing even more than experimentation.
  3. Charge more.

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In your experience, what are some of the top experimentation platforms entrepreneurs like yourself should get to know?

I have a blog post about this! Here’s the link: https://briandavidhall.com/most-popular-a-b-testing-tools/.

But TL;DR know Google Optimize OR Optimizely. Know both if you can. Layer on AB Tasty and/or VWO as opportunities arise.

If you’re serving enterprise clients exclusively, you probably just need Optimizely or Adobe Target.

“In my experience, personalization is more about what marketers want than what visitors want. It’s probably not the highest impact use of your time.”

How do you decide where to start ab testing?

I have some blog posts about this too! Here’s the most relevant: https://briandavidhall.com/test-prioritization-pages/

TL;DR Start at the page level, ask “How many conversions come through this page per month?” and “How much better do we think we can make it?”

Just noting that the second question there is total guesswork. It’s okay! You’re smart, and your guesses are probably better than a coin toss.

How effective are personalization campaigns? Do they really work? How do you go about running tests here?

LMAO MOAR BLOG POSTS!

TL;DR In my experience, personalization is more about what marketers want than what visitors want. It’s probably not the highest impact use of your time.

That said, any smart person who works hard at it will derive some positive impact from personalization.

THAT said … you can also derive positive impact from an A/A test 😁

Finally, it’s time for the lightning round! Unicorns or Wizards?

Unicorns! For being gender neutral.

Startup or Enterprise?

Startup for me! I can have a bigger impact, more accountability, and generally get more done in less time.

Favorite experimentation tool?

I ❤️ Google Optimize for democratizing experimentation. It’s not strictly speaking an experimentation tool, but I also ❤️ me some Hotjar.

LOL — well I ❤️ed chatting with you today!



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