Testing Mind Map Series: How to Think Like a CRO Pro (Part 41)

Gerda Vogt-Thomas
July 17, 2023 ·

Interview with Gerda Vogt-Thomas

Gerda Vogt-Thomas, co-founder of Koalatative, is our guest today. From her beginnings at CXL agency (now Speero) to her current success as a business owner, Gerda’s journey is a testament to the power of hands-on learning, a data-driven mindset, and the courage to ask “dumb” questions.

Her definition of CRO is refreshingly pragmatic: “CRO = common sense + context”. And her advice to anyone starting out? Set up a robust analytics infrastructure, surround yourself with a team of skilled individuals, and don’t buy into the idea that pricier tools will give you better results.

Let’s dive in…

Gerda, tell us about yourself. What inspired you to get into testing & optimization?

That actually happened very organically for me. I studied business and marketing in university and shortly after graduating realized I understood nothing about marketing in the real world because school teaches you textbooks from the 60s but the real world had moved on to the internet. So I decided I need to get an entry-level job in digital marketing somewhere where I can learn quickly and do more interesting things. Luckily around the same time my path crossed with the CXL agency (now Speero) and they hired me for a junior-level position. From there I just got more and more interested in different CRO and research activities and eventually went out to start my own business.

How many years have you been optimizing for?

For some reason, this question reminded me of when I was in high school and Instagram started to become a thing. For the first time in my life, I randomly came across an app that would hook up to your account and tell you the best times to post based on when your followers were the most active. My adolescent mind was blown. You mean to tell me, you can use data to make an informed decision and get more likes on your selfies? Sign me up.

In all seriousness, I started working in CRO in late 2017 so a bit over 5 years now.

What’s the one resource you recommend to aspiring testers & optimizers?

I’ve always been a fan of learning by doing. I think most successful CRO people who have gone out and built something of their own have started out in someone else’s agency. If you’re serious about this career and you want to learn a lot quickly then there’s really no better environment than an agency. You don’t have to worry about spreading yourself thin getting leads and enough work or being stuck working on one endless project in-house. You get to learn about a lot of different industries, tech stacks, and how people operate online. Truly try to find a place where you’re the dumbest one in the room, surrounded by people who can teach you something. Take initiative, ask dumb questions, offer to do more than you’re asked, and watch your growth accelerate within a couple of years.

If you want to take a course then I haven’t really seen anything comparable to the CXL stuff on the market.

The thing with high-quality courses is though that if they’re not covered by your employer and you’re still an aspiring tester, then this can get expensive fast and unfortunately it can be out of reach for a lot of people. If this is your case and you also can’t find an internship or an entry-level position where you could learn, then just start doing things on your own. Seriously, there are a ton of free content, Slack groups, etc available that give out all of this information for nothing. You just need to find a way to apply it and play around with it. Start a website about anything. You as an aspiring tester even. Put some free testing and research tools on the website and learn how they work. Start posting about it on social media, even if you’re not good at it. It will take time but eventually, people will chime in, and you’ll have more conversations with other practitioners and accelerate your learning and possible work opportunities that way.

Answer in 5 words or less: What is the discipline of optimization to you?

CRO = common sense + context

What are the top 3 things people MUST understand before they start optimizing?

  1. Having a solid analytics setup that your team knows how to actually use is not a nice to have, it will make or break your optimization program.

  2. Nobody achieves anything alone. Whether you work in-house, in an agency, or as a freelancer you need a team or network of people with varied skills that want to work together to achieve real results. Not to mention that the analytics side of things has gotten insanely more complicated compared to a couple of years ago. You need dedicated people to work on specific areas of your program, CRO is not a one-man gig.

  3. Just because a tool is expensive doesn’t mean it will be good or help you do your job better.

How do you treat qualitative & quantitative data to minimize bias?

Before diving into all of the research data that the company has already collected and/or launching new research efforts it’s good to try to go through the entire UX flow and see how easy it actually is to reach the conversion.

After you listen to the team’s explanations on why things may be clunky or are the way they are, it’s easy to start sympathizing and explain all the bad UX away to insert “whatever complication” here. None of the internal politics or lack of resources will matter to the website visitors who aren’t able to interact with your site in a meaningful way.

After identifying those no-brainer problem areas, you can dive into the qualitative and quantitative research and see which issues you should prioritize the most based on additional evidence.

What is the most annoying optimization myth you wish would go away?

That you can just run the same AB test or copy whatever your competitor did and see the same level of success.

CRO Expert Profile Gerda Vogt-Thomas

Download the infographic above and add it to your swipe file for a little inspiration when you’re feeling stuck!

Our thanks go out to Gerda for taking part in this interview! To our lovely readers, we hope you found the insights useful and encourage you to apply them in your own optimization efforts.

Don’t forget to check back twice a month for more enlightening interviews! And if you haven’t already, check out our past interviews with CRO pros Gursimran Gujral, Haley Carpenter, Rishi Rawat, Sina Fak, Eden Bidani, Jakub Linowski, Shiva Manjunath, Deborah O’Malley, Andra Baragan, Rich Page, Ruben de Boer, Abi Hough, Alex Birkett, John Ostrowski, Ryan Levander, Ryan Thomas, Bhavik Patel, Siobhan Solberg, Tim Mehta, Rommil Santiago, Steph Le Prevost, Nils Koppelmann, Danielle Schwolow, Kevin Szpak, Marianne Stjernvall, Christoph Böcker, Max Bradley, Samuel Hess, Riccardo Vandra, Lukas Petrauskas, Gabriela Florea, Sean Clanchy, Ryan Webb, Tracy Laranjo, Lucia van den Brink, LeAnn Reyes, Lucrezia Platé, Daniel Jones, May Chin, and our latest with Kyle Hearnshaw.

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Originally published July 17, 2023 - Updated April 01, 2024
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Carmen Apostu
Carmen Apostu In her role as Head of Content at Convert, Carmen is dedicated to delivering top-notch content that people can’t help but read through. Connect with Carmen on LinkedIn for any inquiries or requests.

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