Product managers should know how to code

"We need the ASAP!" Who of us has not heard this at least once and had beads of sweat on his forehead because he knows exactly that it will not work as soon as possible? Our survival guide will tell you which skills you convince as a conversion manager on the job. Get ready and let's go!

What are the tasks of a conversion manager?

As a conversion manager, you are the control center of the entire CRO team. Strong communication skills are a must-have for team leaders and reporting to the C-Level as well as all other stakeholders. It goes without saying that you always have an overview of all previous tests and understand how to develop successful concepts. You are organized and work goal-oriented and focused, never losing sight of valuable test ideas. You know how to use your knowledge and the methods available to you correctly. And by the way, you control the progress of the project and have an overview of the time and budget.

Avinash Kaushik told us personally what he looks for when he invites someone for an interview:

So a lot is asked of you, isn't it? With our ultimate survival guide for conversion managers you can master these challenges!

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To get to the content that interests you most quickly, use the quick navigation:

  1. Professional competence
  2. Methodological competence
  3. Organizational talent
  4. Planning security
  5. flexibility
  6. Supervisory authority
  7. Stakeholder management
  8. Risk awareness
  9. Leadership
  10. Be a motivator and coach
  11. Be a neo-man and an innovator
  12. Strategic thinking
  13. Willingness to resolve conflicts
  14. Communication skills

☝️Tip: We are always looking for motivated consultants for our konversionsKRAFT team. Become part of our optimizer team!

The ultimate survival guide for conversion managers

A conversion manager needs these 14 skills:

1. Expertise

The basis of your work is the knowledge that you have acquired. Be it through experience via On-the-job training, an apprenticeship or a degree, eLearning or certificate courses. The general project management certificates from the Project Management Institute (PMI), PRINCE2 or IPMA / GPM, but also the Six Sigma certifications are known.

The fact is: Knowledge should not only be proven on paper, but, above all, applied in daily doing.

By the way: If you are looking for an apprenticeship with a certificate that gives you all the practical knowledge about conversion optimization, you will find it on ours Course page More information.

2. Methodological competence

Methodical competence includes a structured way of working, analytical skills and presentation techniques. I don't want to go into the latter at this point.

Nick So, Director of Optimization Strategy at WiderFunnel says:

As a good conversion manager, you are data-driven. You question the hypotheses (“Does the data prove that this is really a weak point?”) And the test results. What deductions can be made from the data for the next steps? For this you need analytical skills to recognize relationships, understand details and keep the "big picture" in mind.

In addition, knowing and using the right methods are essential for efficient and effective work. These bring structure to your everyday life. So let's take a closer look at the methods.

A basic distinction is made between classic and agile project management (conversion management).

In the classic way of thinking, the CRO project has a fixed goal, a defined scope and a fixed budget. At the beginning of the project, the influence on changes (e.g. change requests by stakeholders) is greatest. Once the framework conditions have been defined, later adjustments usually lead to additional work and costs.

Classic or traditional project management is characterized by defined processes and structures.

Standardized systems such as the PMBOK procedure© Guide from the Project Management Institute or the waterfall principle are part of classic project management.

TheWaterfall model is a phase model that is often used in software development. The results from one phase are passed on to the next phase after completion of the work:

In online marketing, work is largely and increasingly agile, which is why we want to focus on this in the following. In agile project management, the scope and budget do not have to be set at the beginning and stakeholders can still exert influence later in the project. We will explain in more detail what this means in terms of implementation using the "Kanban" and "Scrum" methods.

Kanban

Kanban comes from Japanese and means something like card or signal card. It was developed as part of the Toyota production system as a method for the self-organizing control of material flows in manufacturing processes. Kanban is the basis of just-in-time production.

A Kanban board can be used in conversion management to control testing processes. Daily stand-up meetings refer to the tasks and progress on the board and distribute tasks if necessary.

The columns backlog, conception, design, implementation, quality assurance, testing map the workflow from left to right. The lines are then filled with tests (e.g. by category or product area). All necessary data such as duration or golive date are noted on the cards. Now we can also make a reference to the Japanese word for signal card.

The advantages of Kanban:

Each task represents one card. Once a processor has done his or her card, he can pull a new one from the backlog. There is no idling. At the same time, this means that the management effort is reduced through self-organization and the execution of the tasks, the processing speed, increases.

Maximum values ​​are defined for the columns. If there are only limited design resources, a card can only be pushed if the maximum value is not exceeded. These values ​​can be set in hours. Let us assume that there are 24 hours available and there are already cards with a total of 18 hours in the "Design" column. Then another card with 8h would exceed the value of 24h. The card can therefore only be transferred to the design when 8 hours are available again.

The advantage here is that you avoid overload because no more tasks run up than can be processed.

The disadvantages of Kanban:

The system is quite rigid and forces users to adhere to rules and conventions. It must be ensured that it is well received in the team and that everyone abides by the rules. These are, for example, the maximum number of hours per column, filling the cards with relevant information, pulling the cards from the backlog when idle, etc.

The effort estimates on the cards must be available and correct so that the column limit can be observed. Changes that occur during the process are difficult to map.

The throughput times can be reduced, but cannot be seen at first glance. They must be calculated using the start and end dates on the card. Monitoring can therefore be quite tedious.

At konversionsKRAFT we have mapped our testing workflow with Trello. Relevant team members are added to the cards (one test per card) and all important framework conditions for the test are noted. The test status can be seen in the respective column where the ticket is located.

From “in conception” to “test completed” you always have an overview of the status and workload of the individual phase. It can be seen immediately, for example, if 10 tests are “ready for development” and you only have 2 developers, that you have to prioritize because not all tests can be processed immediately. If you do not have the opportunity to outsource tests to other resources, keyword outsourcing, then there will be delays.

If you want to learn more about which project management tools are suitable for your optimization project, then I can recommend my article 5 project management tools that every conversion optimizer should know.

Scrum

The agile method SCRUM compensates for the disadvantages that the Kanban system brings with it.

Complex projects are therefore usually carried out in an agile manner according to Scrum, since the framework conditions only arise in the course of the project and you cannot estimate the effort at the beginning. This is known as "Rolling planning" (Rolling Wave Planning). The processes are iterative.

Agile conversion management therefore usually means working with the SCRUM methodology.

SCRUM offers a framework with the help of which one can address complex, adaptive tasks or problems and at the same time derive the greatest possible value from them. A project does not have to be planned from start to finish, but takes place in 2 to 4 week sprint phases.

From the bulging product backlog, individual tasks are recorded as part of the next sprint and thus migrate to the sprint backlog. After the sprint (30 days in the example), a new end or partial product is created. During the sprint there are daily meetings to compare the current progress, so-called daily scrum meetings.

There are six roles in SCRUM: the Scrum Master, the Product Owner, the Development Team as well as the User, Customer and Manager. The first three form the “Scrum Team”, while the other three are to be understood as external roles.

In addition to implementing Scrum, the Scrum Master is responsible for compliance with the rules. He supports the team in self-organization and creates good working conditions.

The product owner conveys the product vision and is responsible for the success of the project. He is responsible for the requirements, the backlog and customer communication. The team receives regular feedback from him.

As the name suggests, the development team is responsible for the development of the product and its quality. The requirements from the backlog are implemented by the development team.

With the external roles, the customer is the client who finances the project. In consultation with the product owner, he can assess the development status and give feedback. The customer can also be a user.

Users are the users who will use the product. Your feedback is therefore very important and should be incorporated into the development.

As the last role in Scrum, management ensures that the required resources are available and that the projects in the company can be carried out according to Scrum.

The development of the product vision is the first step of a Scrum-controlled project. It will be specified in the further course. The product owner creates the backlog based on the vision and prioritizes the individual tasks. At the beginning of each sprint phase, the development team decides which and how many topics from the backlog can be processed in the sprint. These result in the sprint backlog. At the end of the sprint, there is a review meeting with the stakeholders, in which they can check the status and, if necessary, express change requests. This is followed by a retrospective, another meeting, in which the cooperation in the last sprint is analyzed and, if necessary, improvements are derived.

In addition to the three meetings already mentioned (sprint planning, review and retrospective), there is also the daily scrum meeting. This provides an overview of what which team member is working on and how it is progressing. This means that changes or problems can be responded to at short notice.

The advantages of Scrum:

The stakeholders can intervene in the process every 2 to 4 weeks at the latest and adapt the requirements and change them for the next sprint.

The process is iterative and allows team members to work creatively.

Daily meetings enable short feedback loops and continuous process improvement.

The disadvantages of Scrum:

Anyone who cannot estimate the budget and timeline at the beginning runs the risk of the project becoming a cost grave and becoming more and more expensive. The ROI calculation may then no longer look satisfactory.

The large number of meetings can lead to overhead and lower productivity.

Short-term inclusion of topics from the Product Backlog is not possible. Only what is defined in the Sprint Backlog is processed.

At konversionsKRAFT we work for the development of the Iridion product based on Scrum. First there was the vision to create a workflow management tool especially for conversion optimization, as the tools available on the market did not meet our needs. Little by little, new features are being defined together with the users that make Iridion an all-in-one solution for the CRO process. Our product backlog can be found on the phone in our feature request voting:

In practice, individual elements from Scrum are often used and not copied from a template. The supreme discipline is to select the methods that are suitable for you, your team and company and to use them efficiently. And if you come to the conclusion that a combination of Scrum and Kanban should make sense, in which you take advantage of both models, then you can also fall back on "Scrumban".

John Ekman, known as Chief Conversionista, says:

3. Organizational skills

As a conversion manager, processes offer you a framework that does not have to be fixed, but in which you can also move flexibly. In order for everything to run smoothly, you need a strong organizational talent. You always have important dates in view. You have the agenda ready and every meeting participant does their part to ensure an efficient appointment. You know who is currently working on what, you can set up a team and know which skills your optimization team needs to have.

How you can convince your boss and get your own CRO team, my colleague Gabriel Beck explains in the following article: With these numbers you get your own CRO team.

And if you want to learn more about the roles that an optimization project needs, I can recommend this video: Conversion Whiteboard 8: The perfect conversion optimization team.

4. Planning security

You are a planning genius if you manage to achieve realistic goals and targets with the right steps on budget and on time. Controlling the individual aspects is usually not that easy. If it has to be done quickly, it can be quite expensive, because you may have to commission external resources, or it can be that errors creep in through a fast implementation and the quality suffers as a result.

On the other hand, if you want a high quality, it will be more expensive because tests and quality assurance take longer. In addition, you are not that fast.

What comes out when you want it to be as inexpensive as possible, you can already guess: The quality suffers because you save on features in your test concept and QA, errors creep in, require rework and your "weakened" test concept does not bring an uplift . And you weren't really quick with the procedure either.

As a conversion manager, try to always keep the 3 aspects in balance and find the "golden mean" for yourself.

A roadmap visualizes your planning and shows the steps you will take to achieve your goal. Think about which tasks need to be completed first and which will follow. Are there any tasks that can possibly be processed in parallel? Which tasks require input from external resources? When do you need feedback from the stakeholders? All of this should be reflected in your roadmap.

5. Flexibility

At first glance, this point may appear to be a contradiction to the previously mentioned point of your planning genius. But it is not. Because the only thing that you can count on are changes in the project. Plan for change! They shouldn't surprise you.

Every conversion manager must be able to react flexibly to new requirements, feedback or change requests and, if necessary, adapt the planning. If you are good, you have already planned longer feedback and correction loops. And when you are better, nothing surprises you anymore. 😉

So include buffers for voting loops in your roadmap.

In addition, absences and possible illness-related absences should be taken into account. Depending on the size of the project, it is best to create redundancies here so that a colleague can take over at any time.

6th supervisory authority

Even if there will be changes in your CRO project, and there definitely will be, decisions are always made with a view to schedule, scope and costs.

As soon as you get feedback from the stakeholders, which reads "Can't we still ... / I would like to have ... / Is that still possible ...", the alarm bells should ring for you. “Special requests” not only often cost more money, they also have to be reassessed.This will most likely cause delays. That doesn't mean that you should block such requests immediately. First, question the background, where the wish comes from, so that you can evaluate it better. Then check the possibilities, possible alternatives and the effects on scope, costs and the schedule.

As a conversion manager, you always have an eye on the progress of the project, even outside of change requests. You check important key performance indicators (KPIs) regularly. In addition to the budget and the degree of completion, this can also be customer and team satisfaction.

7. Stakeholder Management

People are different and therefore have different needs. In professional life, for example, these are requirements for control, security, involvement or trust.

Anyone who has a strong need for control wants to be informed about every step. Depending on the fast pace of the project, control is provided by a weekly jour fixe or a written update, for example by email.

Those who love security are willing to take little risk. Your test concepts run the risk of being weakened by restrictions and you can be less creative and try little new.

The solution can be so-called Smoke tests Offer. Functionalities are indicated for the user without actually providing them. A new feature is offered purely visually and the interest of the user is measured by interaction (e.g. clicking on the element). The user should then be given a good reason why this option is not available. If the feature is of great interest, you can use it to calculate a business case and check whether the implementation costs would be worthwhile.

If you want to learn more about smoke tests, I recommend the article Smoke Tests - What Product Managers Need to Know.

If you want to be involved in concepts and decisions, you should give them the chance as far as possible. Take up his test ideas and question them. Is there a database for this that leads to the idea being tested or is it just a gut decision? Evaluate the hypothesis according to effort and impact and place it in the testing roadmap. Then develop the concept together to make it even better.

It is clear that in reality it often does not look like the ideal situation described. Try to work on it anyway and learn to accept that sometimes the “hippo” decides and outvotes you as the conversion manager.

You can find out more about prioritizing hypotheses here: Prioritize yourself richly - how to choose test ideas correctly or in an entertaining video conversion whiteboard 5: The correct prioritization of hypotheses.

The big goal of stakeholder management is to satisfy all parties by responding to their individual requirements and needs. The question that arises is how do I do this?

  1. Start by listing all possible stakeholders.
  2. Through interviews and research, find out which interest groups or persons still exist and expand the list.
  3. Fill in the list with the needs.
  4. Think about how the individual stakeholders could react in different situations in order to be able to better plan their "influencing".
  5. Sort all stakeholders into a matrix and rate them according to their interest in and influence on the project.
  6. You should always include stakeholders with a high level of interest and influence in decisions.
  7. You should always satisfy stakeholders with low interest and high influence.
  8. You should always inform stakeholders with high interest and low influence.
  9. You should monitor stakeholders with low interest and low influence.

Once you have created the stakeholder matrix, you can use it accordingly to address the individual parties with the right communication channels, the right content, the right level of detail and the right frequency. You will feel picked up and understood. The project status is always clear and transparent.

8. Risk awareness

The word “risk” was mentioned in the previous point. As a good conversion manager, you always have an eye on possible risks in the project. To identify and evaluate the risks, you can proceed as described in the point of stakeholder management. List all known risks, find out more through discussions with project participants and arrange them in a matrix. This can look like this, for example:

You should watch high risks with special attention and regularly. If there is an opportunity to counteract the occurrence of the risk, then you should consider this and develop ways in which you can avoid or minimize the risk. Is it possible to transfer the risk to a third party? This can be the case, for example, if software is required for the project, but you are not sure whether your team can program it to their satisfaction in time and budget. It may be safer to buy a third-party solution and develop it further if necessary.

But sometimes there are also risks that would cost too much if you wanted to avoid them. You just have to accept these risks and set aside the appropriate budget for the risk to occur.

Low risks require little attention. However, it should be checked regularly whether the assessment of the risk is still up-to-date or whether it may become more relevant after all.

There can also be positive risks in the project that can be classified as opportunities. There is always an opportunity when a benefit is achieved through the occurrence of the risks. In this case, care should be taken to ensure that it definitely occurs, or at least the probability of occurrence should be increased to a point where it is worthwhile.

Of course, there are also unforeseen risks that are unknown at the time of the analysis. You should always reserve a buffer in the budget for these risks.

Try to proactively avoid negative risks and allow positive risks to materialize.

9. Leadership

As a conversion manager, you are Manager. You lead a team and lead it to success. Leadership is an essential skill that either lies dormant within you or needs to be trained.

Taking the lead means being able to consolidate and make decisions. Taking disciplinary action, firing from the team, and recruiting new members to the team may also be part of your responsibilities.

As a manager you have a role model function and you decide which leadership style you use. In the end, what counts is team satisfaction, performance, project success or other metrics by which you are measured. But be aware: Without your team, you are nothing!

10. Be a motivator and coach

Leading also means being a motivator and coach at the same time. You will only be successful as a conversion manager if you manage to inspire your team, make new challenges appealing to them and encourage them to perform at their best.

Soft skills or emotional intelligence are frequently used terms in this area.

Soft skills include personal, social and methodological skills. In contrast to hard skills, soft skills cannot be easily verified and verified with a certificate. The greatest professional competence is of no use to you if you are not able to act as a team leader in a socially competent manner. Social skills include:

  • empathy - You should be able to empathize with others and have empathy
  • Knowledge of human nature - With your experience you will also develop knowledge of why people behave the way they do
  • Teamwork - You should not only be able to lead a team, but also be able to work in one

When we asked Bryan Eisenberg what makes a good conversion manager, he replied:

As a management position, you have a mentor role. Pass on your knowledge and do not keep it to yourself if it is relevant to other colleagues. Your team will thank you. Conduct regular feedback meetings and give constructive feedback. Make reviews and lessons learned meetings an integral part of your work and ensure continuous improvement.

11. Be a neo-man and an innovator

Of course, you can only be a motivator if you are convinced of an idea yourself. A good conversion manager is thirsty for knowledge, questions, analyzes and takes new, innovative and creative ideas from the whole. Be the pioneer for new hypotheses yourself.

Nick So sees it like this:

For you as a conversion manager, the wheel must not stand still; it is about constantly improving yourself, your team, your projects and your website.

Two scenarios are shown in the picture: Growth with a 5% or 25% annual conversion rate increase. I don't think I need to mention that the goal should be the green bars with a 25% increase ;-).

12. Strategic thinking

Always question everything critically, why it was done the way it was done. As a conversion manager, you are also a strategist and can always calculate a business case to convince the decision-makers of new ideas. Be a change manager.

Here is another statement by Stephen Pavlovich on the subject:

Our growth canvas model shows how you systematically ensure more growth. Analyzes for testing are firmly anchored in the corporate strategy. A pool of qualitative and quantitative methods is used for this. With the right prioritization, the backlog creates exactly the optimization strategy that ensures more growth. We explain the model in detail in the article Growth Canvas - or: why milk is at the bottom.

This is where your personal skills come into play: Because it requires a high level of commitment and self-discipline to always stay on the ball and think strategically. Since critical questioning can often run into headwinds, you should also be resilient and deal with criticism in a self-reflective manner, which leads us to the next point.

13. Willingness to resolve conflicts

You have already learned that not everything goes according to plan. There are occasional conflicts when working with team members and superiors. It is important that you learn to assess them correctly. Can they have a negative impact on the collaboration and thus the success of the project? If so, then you should definitely act.

Observe, question and discuss the conflict closely with those affected. Sometimes it is also a good idea to have a one-on-one interview first. Under no circumstances should you address conflicts in a large team group and thus run the risk of exposing individual team members. Act calmly and carefully. Here, too, be a coach and mediator and mediate between the parties in order to find the cause and solution.

If there is a personal conflict between both parties and it is not possible to clear it aside, check whether you can delimit the areas of responsibility of both parties so that there are as few or no intersections as possible, but the project work is still guaranteed is.

A distinction is made between different conflict solutions: avoiding conflicts, giving in to conflicts, making compromises, forcing conflict solutions or working together to resolve a conflict.

As a conversion manager, select the appropriate conflict resolution strategy.

14. Communication skills

Many of the previous points can be found in this last point: communication skills. Communication is the be-all and end-all in conversion management, the key that opens doors for you or keeps them locked. Communication is a sensitive topic and is often misunderstood. There may be a "noise" and your information will be misinterpreted.

The transmitter-receiver model is shown schematically here. The sender composes a message (encodes it) and transmits it to the recipient using a medium. It can happen that the recipient incorrectly decodes (decodes) the message (in the picture the “disturbance”). The feedback message can also be misunderstood. (Graphic based on source)

Especially in written communication, misunderstandings can often arise, as you cannot underline what is written with facial expressions, gestures and eye contact. Smileys in e-mails are therefore used again and again. However, these should only be used if you already know the other person well.

If possible, direct communication is therefore preferable. The short way to the next office often saves questions, ambiguities or mistakes and also gives the opportunity to small talk to strengthen the personal relationship.

Misunderstandings can often be cleared up quickly on the phone or in a web meeting. You decide which communication channel you choose. However, pay attention to the requirements of the stakeholders. If your engineer can work best in a concentrated manner, there is little point in tearing them out of the coding every 5 minutes unless it concerns their current work. Better formulate your request by email and he can process it if he has time.

Furthermore, communication between the team members themselves, i.e. who reports to whom, should always be clear. This also includes the "escalation" of a topic.

As you have already seen, the urgency of a matter influences the choice of communication channel. Nevertheless, it should be noted that some information must be recorded in writing. This includes releases of any kind (offers, concepts, test starts).

As a conversion manager, you spend most of your time communicating. So use them carefully and consciously. Because as diverse as it can be, as diverse are the possibilities and stumbling blocks. If your team is spread over locations or even set up internationally, you will also have to consider intercultural aspects.

Conclusion

As a conversion manager, you are an “egg-laying woolly milk pig”. You have to be able to do a lot, but you can use your talents to cover up any deficits. 😉 It's all about the mix and having all the skills on paper is not yet a silver bullet for success. It depends on how they are used, keyword: soft skills.

Answering the question of what constitutes good conversion management is like trying to list all ranking factors in the Google index. There are many criteria that are essential for success. But there are also individual secret ingredients, because every project takes place under different framework conditions.

☝️P.S .: If you want to learn the skills of a conversion manager. We are looking for Junior Conversion Managers and Senior Conversion Managers for our growing team of optimizers!

Further articles

https://www.konversionskraft.de/conversion-optimierung/growth-canvas.html

https://www.konversionskraft.de/conversion-optimierung/smoke-tests-alles-was-produktmanager-wissen-muessen.html

https://www.konversionskraft.de/strategy/priorisier-dich-reich-wie-du-testideen-richtig-auswaehlst.html

https://www.konversionskraft.de/conversion-whiteboard/conversion-whiteboard-episode-5-hypothesen-priorisierung.html

https://www.konversionskraft.de/strategy/warum-du-kein-cro-team-hast.html

https://www.konversionskraft.de/conversion-whiteboard/conversion-optimierungs-team.html