This article will help you:
  • Evaluate your organizational readiness to build an in-house optimization program
  • Decide whether to work with a digital agency or Optimizely Solutions Partner

Optimizely makes it easy to A/B test and personalize your website or mobile app. But building a full-fledged optimization program that advances a data-driven culture at your company is a longer journey -- and challenging work.

Some companies set off right away to build an in-house team. Others consider embarking on the adventure with a partner: an agency that can help with digital marketing, technical execution, and conversion rate optimization (CRO).

Many agencies are experts on the optimization journey. They can build powerful experiments, design a roadmap that generates ROI, or help turn a young program into a center of excellence. Many partners have developed huge libraries of test ideas over the years; they can help identify key opportunities to optimize on your site.

For many companies, partnering with an agency is a winning strategy.

Depending on your needs and level of commitment, a partner can help you:

  • Identify opportunities and create a strategic roadmap for testing and personalization
  • Design and build tests to efficiently answer the questions you’re interested in and ensure that you’re making gains
  • Evaluate your results and leverage insights for further optimization
  • Connect your program to company goals
  • Customize Optimizely to your needs and run more sophisticated tests and campaigns
  • Navigate internal roadmaps and help build a testing culture at your company
  • Accelerate experience optimization at your company

Of course, you can build these skill sets on your own team too. So when should you work with an agency or Solutions Partner and when should you dig into challenges at home?

This article will help you evaluate the best path.

 
Tip:

Optimizely works with a global network of Solutions Partners are who are certified platform and strategic experts. See a list of our three-star Solutions Partners.

If you like, check out this webinar series on powerful test ideas that drive value for your industry vertical. Each is hosted by a three-star Optimizely Solutions Partner.  

Evaluate your organizational readiness

There are many strong arguments for building an in-house optimization program, including fostering a culture of innovation and continuous optimization at your company. We provide tips and toolkits to help you along the way. But integrating optimization into processes across your business units isn’t easy. In many situations, a partner can help.

Start by evaluating your company’s organizational readiness for building a full-fledged program.

Consider the skill sets and resources that you’ll need on your team. How many of these are available to your program -- and dedicated to optimization? You can build your first tests without developer resources, for example, but over time you’ll likely need a developer to help create more sophisticated tests and campaigns and drive a strategic roadmap.

Have your team members worked together before? Do certain team functions live in different parts of the organization? Teams that have developed a strong group dynamic and functional processes will work collaboratively to deliver value through optimization more quickly.

If speed-to-value is important to your company and you aren’t organizationally prepared to launch a full, functional team, consider working with a partner to accelerate your program.

Here are a few additional questions to help you evaluate your organizational readiness.

Program timeline:

  • When do you plan to run your first test?
  • How many tests do you plan to run per month?

Developer resources:

  • Do you have technical resources available to you?
  • Do you have developer resources that are dedicated to testing and personalization?
  • Do you plan to run tests that require technical resources to implement (for example, test lightboxes versus banners, experiment with new modules, or test a search algorithm)?

Strategic experience:

  • Do you have an analyst who can evaluate site performance and identify testing opportunities?
  • Do you have an executive sponsor who will ensure that the optimization plan aligns to the company’s strategic initiatives?
  • Does someone on your team have experience in building an optimization roadmap?
  • Do you have a process in place for documenting tests and campaigns

Depending on your organization's desire for velocity, consider working with a solutions partner.

Work with a Solutions Partner or build a team in-house

Solutions partners have years of industry experience, technical expertise, and provide a wide range of services and packages. Partner with them to solve difficult problems like change management or fostering a data-driven culture, or work with them to overcome strategic or technical hurdles.

Some companies partner with an agency for a limited term. For example, a small program might decide it’s time to develop a more sophisticated roadmap. The team needs better analytics integrations, so it partners with a digital agency. The agency implements the setup and recommends a few additional custom solutions that they know are effective. Now, the program is off to optimize and iterate again -- with a more powerful, customized tool at its fingertips.

Other companies rely on full-service digital agencies to deliver ROI through optimization. Picture a large, traditional corporation that’s jumping into optimization for the first time. Key stakeholders need to focus on the new business model, so their agency develops an optimization strategy and runs the program. Together, the company and agency work to build a business that delivers value to customers.

Signs that you should consider working with a partner

  • You have a strong appetite for velocity and prioritize speed to value
  • Your team doesn’t have all the skill sets needed for your roadmap
  • You need to jump-start a new program and show ROI quickly
  • Your program has hit a plateau (for example, you only build experiments with the Visual Editor, or most of your tests target the same pages on your site)
  • You’re willing to pay for best-in-class consulting and have a professional services culture

Signs that you should build a team in-house:

  • Your company embraces new technologies and is willing to invest in creating an optimization center of excellence
  • You have important skill sets available in your team or company, or you’re willing to build or acquire them
  • Your company has a culture of experimentation and innovation
  • You’re interested in working with Customer Success to build a strong program
  • The digital experience is central to your business

Keep in mind that you can also do both -- build a team internally and work with a solutions partner at the same time. When you partner with an agency, you pay for their expertise and ability to deliver value quickly. They can help you identify the best approach for your program’s needs.

Get off to a great start

Each agency or Solutions Partner is different. Look for a partner whose strengths match the type of service you need the most.

When you interview an agency, share your expectations and what you’d like to accomplish. The more insight you can provide around your goals and needs, the better you’ll be able to evaluate the potential relationship.

 
Note:

Optimizely works with over 50 best-in-class optimization partners. Your account executive will be happy to introduce you to an agency that fits your specific needs.

These questions may help:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • What goals are your top priority?
  • What pain points do you face?
  • If you have an existing program, what’s going well and what’s not working?
  • What would you like to achieve in the next six months?
  • What trends are driving your business?
  • What are your key metrics?

Bring these details to the table to evaluate whether the agency is a good fit. Or, let the agency facilitate an open discovery session to help figure out the best way forward.

Consider geography. Having a partner nearby can facilitate certain tasks such as face-to-face whiteboarding sessions. It can also help protect against the lag in communication that’s introduced by distant time zones.

Define the roles in the partnership. Which parts of the roadmap do you expect to own and which will the agency drive?

Imagine that you’d like to perform ideation and build the roadmap in-house, and you expect the agency to implement experiments and provide results. Many solutions partners specialize in building effective processes and can provide helpful insights to make your roadmap successful. Give them the opportunity to help guide your program. If your needs cohere around a tight skill set such as technical skills, consider hiring a junior developer instead.

What won’t a solutions partner or agency do?

Every agency is different, so you may find that one partner has strengths in a certain type of work but another does not. There are, however, a few areas that commonly cause friction.

To avoid complications, pay attention to the scope of your contract. For example, you’ve hired an agency to optimize your website with Optimizely. Should you ask them to build the Marketo email campaigns that send traffic to the experiences you deliver on the landing page through Optimizely? Perhaps, but you may need take another look at your contract together.

Or, perhaps you’ve hired a solutions partner to help your program with research and results analysis for three months. Eventually, this job will belong to a team member. Can the agency train your team member and walk her through the process at each stage? Agencies will help you grow your program, but some may not have the time to directly mentor an individual.

You can still learn from working closely with the agency and its deliverables. Pay special attention to how they approach different problems. A partner can help your program launch and grow -- and deliver value with velocity.