Monday, June 11, 2007

Hit Often, And For Average

“I am open to the guidance of synchronicity, and do not let expectations hinder my path.” ~ the Dalai Lama
I'd like to end our discussion on testing by examining two important points. They are really more theoretical than practical but may just be more important in the long term than the previous hands-on procedures we discussed.

Let us begin with expectations. One of the mistakes young marketers make is to not manage expectations.

Often marketers understand the concepts I've discussed, and have gone off to start testing. Then to my dismay, after one or two tests, they stop.


Perhaps the testing was too much work... or the tests resulted in no changes so they just gave up. Bad, bad marketer.

It's true that many tests turn out to be duds. Really... many times you have a good idea, you implement it, and you don't see any change in the response. Guess what?

That's OK. It's normal.

A good marketer must be patient... and try again. And most importantly, make sure your team understands it's OK if a test bombs.

The fact is most tests produce null results.

This is often true because, in most cases, your current marketing control represents years of thoughtful improvement, as such many new alternatives won't test better. They won't beat the control.

AND the more successes your testing program obtains, the harder it becomes to move the needle. This is absolutely normal.

On the other hand, if you have never tested... you may hit some big Home Runs from the very first tests. You might even quadruple the control. Of course if that happens... it means you never really had a control to start with and that was probably some really bad copy you had been using.

But it's all good... just be happy it's gone. And celebrate the fact your conversion will now be going up AND you now have a real control. YEA TEAM!

Oh, ...and don't expect that next test to achieve the same results. With a real control you won't. But keep trying.

If you can't beat your control does that mean you stop testing?

No way... should the difficulty of hitting Home Runs every at bat stop you from stepping up to the plate?

Not at all. If your tests have a .300 average - you're in the big leagues.
Don't ever stop. You can always improve. Like hitting the curve ball... if it was easy everyone would be Barry Bonds!

So when is the best time to test?

Ah... right now.

Seriously, if you don't have a control or you've had the same successful control for years...the time to test is now. A common mistake is to delay testing new concepts because "our control is still working."

By this reasoning, you wouldn't test new concepts until the control takes a dive. Yikes... too late. That's a disaster for cash flow. Instead, test from strength, not weakness.

I've seen too many companies have sales dry up because of lack of copy. They should have planned ahead and had new copy ready, and tested before the old control lost it's legs.

Don't be that marketer.

So in review... keep testing even if you don't see Home Runs. (As a side note: if you don't see the results you expected... review the test itself. Is it big enough? Is it statistically valid?) AND test all the time. Don't wait. When you have a control is the time to start.

Lastly, I'd like you to remember that every mailing, and every page is an opportunity to test... and all your copy, where ever you use it, can always be made better.

Just because your results are strong today doesn't mean they'll be strong tomorrow. In fact I can virtually guarantee it's not going to be as strong tomorrow... so you better find something else.

And if some blow hard executive says, "Well what's the cost of all this testing?"

Respond by saying...

"What is the cost of not testing our online strategy"?

Tell him...

"We are testing to track customer behavior... replacing hunches with science. Testing gives us the numbers to see if we are wasting our time and money. It will allow us to improve our conversion rate and acquire subs at a lower CPA, thus improving our ROI. It more than pays for itself, time and time again."

Oh, and do it in a nice way. ;-D

I'll end my soapbox with two more quotes. Keep testing.

“I know half of my advertising budget is wasted.
I just don’t know which half.”

~ John Wannamaker
“Nearly every test will in time bring back the entire cost.”
~ Claude Hopkins