Is your marketing working?
Ahh…the age-old question from CFOs everywhere: are you spending your marketing budget as efficiently and effectively as possible? Hopefully, you said “yes”…
…but, how can you be sure?
The strategy for successful marketing is simple: test, analyze, optimize, repeat.
That’s right: stop doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Use our testing process and find out which of your marketing efforts is most successful.
Step 1: Test your marketing
Unlike your high school chemistry exams, this kind of testing is fun…and valuable to showing your success as a marketer and your contribution to the growth of your company!
At a basic level, testing will tell you if your marketing is working or if your content, design or channel strategy need adjustments. Testing can also tell you about your buyer’s behaviors as they engage (or not!) with your content. Optimizing based on your test results will help you bring in higher quality leads, increase the number of closed deals...and impress your CFO at your next marketing budget meeting. You, overachiever, you!
Let’s look at three main ways to test your marketing.
Testing User Experience
Your user, aka your buyer persona, is numero uno. The better they respond to your marketing, the more likely they are to convert into sales downstream. It’s impossible to know if they’re more likely to click a blue CTA button or a red CTA button…so, we test.
- Call-to-Action Wording: Test different action verbs in your CTAs. Try adding “free” or “now.” Or, use different action words based on where your prospects are in their buyer’s journey: “Compare Prices” or “Request Demo” vs. “Buy Now.”
- Call-to-Action Placement: Try above- and below-the-fold, left vs. right, or maybe even keep it static on the screen. Smartphones have changed the way we consume content. It used to be that above the fold was key placement, but users now have a tendency to immediately scroll like they do on their phones and tablets. Test both and go with what works for you.
- Call-to-Action Design: The design possibilities are endless! Be mindful of the buyer’s journey and what their intent is based on where they are in the sales funnel. CTA buttons should be eye catching without being obnoxious.
- Landing Pages: Test different versions of your go-to landing page template…maybe a shorter form or a different header image. Higher conversions, low bounce rates and longer times on site suggest a better user experience. Continue to convert more leads using elements from winning templates in future landing page design.
- Offers: If your service costs $400, then “25% off” and “$100 off” equal the same dollar amount…but testing both could prove that one appeals more to your persona.
Testing Different Mediums, Placements & Demos
Where art thou, buyer persona? The marketplace is competitive, and you want to make sure your marketing message is actually being heard by your buyer persona! Here are some testing approaches to make sure you’re catching them.
- Mediums: Mediums are the broad categories of marketing: print, social media, email, direct mail, TV, radio, digital, to name a few. All come at various price points and levels of efficiency. Many companies are embracing the power of the Internet and investing their marketing dollars into online mediums. If your company is behind the times, give a social test a try!
- Placements: Where are you promoting your marketing within a medium? Within social, you can promote a new blog article on both LinkedIn and Facebook to see where your buyer persona is most likely to find you. Are you getting more clicks and views on one versus the other? If so, you can narrow in on that audience and continue to engage them as they move through their buyer’s journey.
- Demographic: Your buyer persona is your ideal customer. But, as your business grows, explore marketing to your “fringe audience”—those buyers outside of your typical demographic who could still be considered highly qualified leads...and maybe future buyer personas! For example…perhaps you traditionally market to your buyer persona, Small Business Owner Sam. After a few years of growth, you’re now looking to land some bigger clients, but marketing to the CEO of a large corporation may not be the most effective strategy. Instead you decide to market to Director of Operations Danny. Danny and Sam have different needs, schedules and interests, and therefore, your marketing message and strategy will need to be adjusted.
- Interest-based: Test different content topics to see what your prospects engage with. Look at indicators such as likes, shares and leads generated from social networking sites to see what resonates.
- Geographic: Technology makes it easy to expand your reach. So, if you’re only marketing regionally, try expanding to a different time zone. Or, target your marketing in cities you’ll be travelling to for trade shows. (For instance, we’re Cleveland-based, but headed to Ft. Lauderdale for IT Expo…Florida B2B tech companies need our help, too!)
Testing Methods of Collecting Information
More data means more insights! And tying back to the user experience we talked about above, people will respond differently to different formats. It all relates the their buyer’s journey and how ready (or not ready) they are to interact with you.
- Web Forms: It’s believed that shorter forms are better. But, depending on your buyer, where they are in their journey and what your offer is, you should test language, optional vs. required fields and number of fields to determine what type of form your audience will actually fill out!
- Dropdown Menus: Dropdowns are a great, quick way to gather information. They’re also a good way to test original traffic source vs. assists. For example, you might use a landing page exclusively for your paid search ads. Since it’s likely that you have multiple campaigns running at the same time--PPC, display, social ads--use a dropdown menu to find out how a particular lead heard about you. If 30% select “Referred by Current Customer” you can reasonably assume that some of the paid search traffic should actually be attributed to referrals.
- Pop-ups/Slide-ins: These sneaky little suckers can be enabled throughout your site. A/B test to find out if your visitors are more likely to convert from a pop-up that covers the majority of the screen, from a slide-in the comes in from the side of the page…or if they’re so annoyed that they flat out leave the page! At any rate, adjust based on dominant behaviors.
Step 2: Analyze your data
Before you run any test, determine how you will analyze your data once it’s completed. Though this can be done many ways, we’re sharing three main approaches we use to show success.
Lift Over Baseline
Let’s say you’ve recently redesigned your website. Now, you want to see if your efforts have been successful. How do you find out?
First, record your baseline—metric data from before your new site went live. Next, compare your baseline metrics to those you collected after the new site went live. Remember: data collection takes time, so give it time to work. Eventually, you’ll be able to compare month-over-month performance (and later, year-over-year) to give context to your data and take seasonal trends into account.
When you subtract your baseline from the post-launch number of weekly visitors you get your incremental number of visits as a result of your redesign and SEO efforts. This means that redesigning your website and implementing SEO lead to an additional 784 visitors to your site that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Nice work!
Control vs. Test
Now let’s say you’ve launched two landing pages simultaneously to run an A/B test on CTA wording. Landing Page A says “Compare Prices” while Landing Page B says “Request Demo.”
Serve each page randomly (usually 50/50) to visitors who click to that page. And run the test long enough to gain statistical significance–the likelihood that your results are reliable and did not occur from an error or a fluke–usually a few weeks to a few months depending on the volume of traffic, leads, etc.
If you’re not a statistician, no worries. Tools, like Kissmetrics’ A/B Significance Test, can easily help determine when your test has reached statistical significance. When the test is complete, compare results.
Your winner will have a higher click-through rate (CTR) and/or higher lead capture. This version should become the control for your next test.
Test vs. Test
When a control doesn’t exist yet, test any variable (button color, form length, headline, etc.) head-to-head. Whichever version “wins” (A or B) that will become your control for your next test.
Step 3: Optimize your content, design or strategy
Don’t ignore the learnings from your tests. The sooner you implement changes based on what you’ve learned, the sooner you improve your users’ experience as they move through their journey (and improve your opportunities to convert visitors to customers!).
Now that you’ve completed a few successful tests, you’re excited to run out and test every other page element (creative, copy, CTA location, the whole nine)…great idea, right?
WRONG! Pick one variable to test at a time. And, keep in mind that external factors may impact your buyer persona’s decisions as well. Every lever you pull has the potential to affect your data.
Find the right time
Launching a campaign at the wrong time can lead to merky results and inconclusive data. To avoid a disaster, pay attention to trends in the marketplace, upcoming events or holidays and your customer’s fiscal calendar.
Keeping up with these factors can also help you spot opportunity. Did the company you’ve been trying to win business with all year just announce they will be opening a new office in Texas? You may want to think about a PPC campaign test targeting that region.
Mind your marketing and media mix
A successful marketing strategy is typically complex in nature. You may have traditional tactics like TV or radio ads running alongside inbound tactics like PPC, display, email or social media focused on attracting leads to your website.
Marketing has become quite muddy (and challenging for marketers), as buyers are getting hit with messaging from many angles. Someone might hear an advertisement on a podcast and then do a Google search for that product online during their lunch break and organically click to the website. How can you be certain which marketing campaign drove a particular customer and accurately account for those marketing dollars? It’s nearly impossible.
You can, however, make educated assumptions based on the data you collect and apply that knowledge to your next campaign.
Step 4: Repeat!
Many factors, like seasonality and fiscal year start and end, can impact how people respond to messaging, content, offers, and user experience. As marketers, it’s important to be agile and adjust to what’s working.
Find a cadence
Always be testing (ABT!). Set aside about 10%-20% of your marketing efforts for testing. Once a winner is determined, bring on a challenger. Continue this process to hone in on what really works for your buyer…and your business.
Re-test if necessary
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! Consider factors that may have affected your results. Did your landing page test launch without a hitch, or did one have a link directing users to a 404 error for three days of of testing? Whoops!
If there was a factor that may have caused inconclusive results, give it a second try under different conditions.
Document your findings
The worst way to start a marketing brainstorm session is, “what did we do last season that really worked?” Only to be followed up with, “I can’t remember.” Record your successes and failures. This will help you build stronger strategies with historical insight.
You’re in control
Providing a seamless online experience that meets your customers needs and helps them through their buyer’s journey is key to a successful, comprehensive marketing strategy. In order to stay in tune with what their needs are and measure the effectiveness of your marketing, just remember: test, analyze, optimize, repeat. Go out and prove yourself!