When it comes to successful marketing, it’s never a case of taking a set-and-forget approach. The most effective campaigns are those that are closely monitored, tested, tailored and optimised to ensure maximum impact.
You only have to look at some of the world’s largest companies to see how important this process is for increasing sales and boosting revenue. For example, travel company Expedia is understood to be testing as many as 50 different versions of its website at any one time, while retail giant, Amazon, is constantly testing up to 250 variables on its home page. Interestingly, Facebook has so many concurrent tests underway that it created a release system that allows them to be enabled and disabled in real time.
In each of these cases, the companies are testing with a clear purpose: to improve their customer’s experience. A key testing methodology that businesses can implement is ‘The Four C’s of Testing’:
• Channel: This area of testing focuses on the communication channels used to reach existing and prospective customers. It looks at factors such as engagement and the cadence of communication. For example, your company may have a time-sensitive offer and need to communicate with prospects and existing customers using a channel in which you know they are active. Testing to ensure the correct channel is being used is vital.
• Campaign: You could be faced with the challenge of high bounce rates, low open rates or high click throughs but low conversion rates from an email campaign. Testing here should focus on email validation to ensure delivery, subject line testing to improve click through rates, and landing page tests to improve conversion levels.
• Content: The sole purpose of content is ongoing engagement and so testing for effectiveness is vital. Constantly test the call to action (CTA), personalisation and use dynamic content to be more relevant to your prospects.
• Customer: Different customers act differently. Testing here involves tailoring campaigns based on customer profiles and past behaviour to ensure new campaigns are hitting the mark.
There are three key methods for undertaking effective testing of marketing campaigns. Each has its benefits and can deliver valuable insights that will allow the campaign to be tailored for maximum impact.
The methods are:
• A/B testing: where two variants of a campaign or specific materials are created and given to two different test groups. It might be as simple as a changed subject line in an email or as complex as a differently designed website. The variant that scores more highly is then rolled out to a wider group.
• Multivariate testing is a bit like A/B testing on steroids. In this testing approach, multiple variables are changed and offered to different groups. After thorough testing, the combination of variables that works best is the adopted for the campaign.
• Hold-out groups involves testing marketing materials on a random sample of prospects who have not responded to previous communications. Changes in their behaviour are then compared with those who did respond.
Common pitfalls of testing
Experience shows that there are some common areas in which testing programs can come unstuck. Most of these stem from the gap that exists between the purpose of testing and the results that are expected from the campaign.
To close this gap, it’s important to start with a clear purpose and then create a hypothesis for the testing. You then test the new design or materials while carefully collecting and analysing data to determine the test results. In this way, the gap can be closed and the effectiveness of the testing can be assured.
Remember, for testing to be effective:
• Always have a plan with a purpose
• Remember that failure is inevitable – this is why you test
• Testing is evolutionary not transformational
• Fresh ideas can come from other people too, so always be open to suggestions
• Testing is about improvement, so whatever you do … don’t stop!