Growth Hacks: 5 Reasons Why Experimentation Programs Fail

Growth Hacks: 5 Reasons Why Experimentation Programs Fail

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5 Reasons Why Experimentation Programs Fail

And how to overcome them!

Most well-known companies like Amazon, Meta, Netflix, and Shopify attribute a great part of their success to their experimentation programs, including the kind and number of experiments they are running at any given time to deliver better product experiences. And of course, everyone else wants to drink from the same source.

But building and running a successful experimentation program is no easy task, and there are many twists and turns to it that can keep you from reaching your goals. Here are a few of the most common mistakes we see in experimentation programs, and how to overcome them.

  1. Lack of Strategy

The first step in building a healthy experimentation program is setting what goals or business problems your squad is hoping to improve. It is setting the rules of the game.

Without a clear North Star Metric and supporting objectives your team most certainly will lose focus and bring in poor results. Making your goals quantifiable and clear will help keep your team engaged, and is fundamental to showing your progress to all stakeholders. To learn about how to organize your team’s KPIs, check this article.

Who owns each business objective is also an important factor for the success of your squads’ efforts. Is each squad trying to solve a different challenge, or is your team responsible for making improvements across multiple touchpoints? Companies choose different ways to organize squads and responsibilities, here is how Etsy did, if you want some inspiration.

  1. Lack of a Process

If you have defined where you want to go, but you don’t know how to take your team there, then you are doomed to fail. Creating a process and a single source of truth for everyone working in experimentation is a necessary milestone for a successful experimentation program.

The “Where is the…?” saga starts when your team doesn’t have a place to check what the goals they are supposed to achieve are, where to suggest experimentation ideas, where to check what has been tested before, where to access data from multiple customer touchpoints, and so on. The key here is standardizing the process.

Even if your team can somehow come up with lots of ideas that actually matter for your bottom line, then you need a clear process to prioritize your experiments. There are several prioritization frameworks out there, so choose the one that fits your business, and make sure your team knows how to use the same criteria.

It is the Head of Growth’s responsibility to establish rituals to make sure everyone is aware of the experimentation sprint. How often should your team meet, and what format to structure your meeting if the topic of this article you might find helpful: The 4-Steps Framework for an Effective Growth Meeting.

  1. Lack of Data

Trustworthy data is king when it comes to experimentation. Having access to good data to base your experimentation hypothesis and measure the impact of your initiatives can make or break your organization’s growth.

Your team will need to tap into a myriad of data such as sales history, CRM, behavioral data, web analytics, a/b testing results, and more, and it is just really easy to have people looking at inconsistent data.

Unfortunately, having companies working with unreliable data is something that we see all too often. A close second mistake is how often we see teams who have access to a ton of data but don’t know how to turn it into information, who don’t know how to come up with the right questions, and dig important answers from their data. Investing, training, or hiring data-savvy team members pays off when it comes to experimentation.

Good data also requires a tool stack to collect it, as mentioned, experimentation requires data to fuel insights, a/b testing tools, marketing automation tools, data integration tools, etc — and that comes with a price tag. Of course, you can start small with the information you have, but as your company grows, you can make much better bets, and gain approval for your projects when you have data on your side.

  1. Failing to Share Learnings

Have you ever had someone suggest something you tested a couple of months ago? That is a sign your team is not aware of your past initiatives, and how they performed. Most likely, other stakeholders don’t know about the wins in your program either.

Celebrating wins is a huge part of building your team morale, and keeping c-level buy-in. Especially because most experiments will fail. That does not mean failure should not be swept under a rug, what is needed is an understanding that even if an experiment did not yield the result you expected, it was still a win: it brought in a new learning. Instead of banishing your “failed” experiment to a “done” column and forgetting it for all eternity, why not use it to investigate what can be done better?

Reporting your learnings and having an updated base is the blood that will keep your experimentation alive. It will help in onboarding new members, and in perfecting your experimentation program over time.

  1. Lack of C-Level Buy-In

If your director or CEO does not see the value of experimentation, then your efforts might be short-lived. Having the person calling the shots to be passionate about experimentation can make a huge difference in how much resources experimentation gets. That means human resources, training, tools.

Doing your homework with the steps above, like setting goals, organizing a process, having your tests and progress backed by data, and evangelizing your learnings can go a long way in building and keeping your c-level approval. Start small until you have some wins to show. We recently invited a few heads of growth to talk about how they deal with getting c-level buy-in. If you are facing this challenge, it’s worth the read.

Are you ready to avoid all these mistakes? Then check out Experiments, our experimentation management tool, with all the steps you need to build an experimentation program that flows.


5 Reasons Why Experimentation Programs Fail was originally published in Growth Hackers on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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