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Clients always want to know “what works.” Don’t we all?! Marketers need to realize that while winning (i.e., successful) executions don’t necessarily translate across clients, sound strategy does.

This is usually in response to the question: What’s keeping you up at night? Knowing how to best drive your business forward will certainly help you sleep better. Even if you’re doing reasonably well, there’s always cause for concern over what happens when those good times change. What will work for me next quarter or next year?

The “Secret” To Learning “What Works”

Ok, so it’s really not a “secret.” We all know how to uncover what works – we just need to keep reminding ourselves of the importance of maintaining laser focus on always including one critical element in our annual marketing plans: testing. The idea may not be sexy, but the benefits it can bring to your brand — and your bottom line — certainly are.

Further, to find out “what works” requires a commitment to rigorous, ongoing testing. This takes guts, discipline, and a willingness to retain a testing mindset — and budget allocation — no matter what.

Why the Big Deal? What’s in it for me if I Do Test Consistently?

In short, you get to uncover how to grow your business profitably. (If you’re not interested in building a larger, stronger brand — and making more money at the same time — you can stop reading now. It’s OK. You won’t hurt my feelings.)

Especially in the digital realm, testing is fast and inexpensive. Clients who don’t consistently test in digital channels are missing a low-cost opportunity to drive their business ahead. Testing will yield a wealth of actionable learning, uncovering effective ways to:

  • Deliver brand promise messaging;
  • Generate leads; and
  • Enable and enhance engagement (building relationships, nurturing customer retention, providing useful and relevant information).

Importantly, testing will reveal methods for reducing overall cost per sale and cost per acquisition.

As a prime example in the digital marketing space, Delta Dental was a client that was committed to ongoing testing with DMW. We ran all kinds of tests: tactics, channels, messaging, you name it. All as part of a well-designed testing protocol – our test designs always included tracking and measurement all the way through to final conversion. Because, after all is said and done, that’s what it is all about: identifying the most cost-effective ways to drive improved revenue growth.

5 Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Testing

1. How long does it take to test?

Not long at all, especially when using digital tactics. So, if you’re worried about slowing down a project timeline or jeopardizing a key launch date (e.g., the opening of the Medicare Annual Election Period, or AEP), rest easy. Setting up a test campaign in Google Analytics or Facebook is quick. And you’ll start to accumulate results to analyze almost immediately. So, unlike direct mail, where waiting for test results to come in and be assessed may take weeks, you can get a read on digital testing in days, if not hours. You’ll end up with truly actionable insights … insights that can then be extended not only to other digital channels and tactics, but to offline marketing efforts as well. Your commitment to testing thus pays multiple dividends.

2. Does testing add much to the campaign budget/cost?

This is the beauty of digital testing. There really isn’t any incremental cost. You’ve already committed a digital media budget. Test campaigns can be carved out of the total spend. Same with creative assets – build a full portfolio of test components (e.g., headlines, copy content, CTA options, and images) and executions and let the media platform algorithms help you zero-in on the “best of the best.”

One budget planning consideration – for ongoing digital campaigns, refresh your creative assets at least quarterly. This will ensure you are consistently testing and learning throughout the year.

3. When is it OK to drop my current control from testing?

Well, the short answer is never. (Unless of course you’re a “Who needs data?!” marketer … but then, you’re not really a marketer, you’re just a gambler.) Keep the control ad in the test mix to maintain a proven benchmark for comparison. If the control gets dropped from the test design, how will you know when/if you’ve beaten it?

Look, it’s the control for a reason. You invested valuable marketing dollars to establish it as the control. Maximize your control’s ROI by keeping it in the mix so that it proves either that (1) it is the reigning and future champ, or (2) it is time to crown a new champ. Keep in mind you never replace a control execution on a whim. Hard data should drive the decision – not a “gut feeling” or a change in the head of the Marketing team.

4. Is there value in recycling an execution, even if it didn’t beat the control previously?

Yes, you should feel comfortable with retesting, as long as the key message is still relevant. Remember, market conditions change, environmental factors come and go, and the competitive landscape shifts. Now could be the time that a previous execution gets new-found traction with your target prospect.

But … don’t try to resuscitate a loser. Just because you fell in love with an execution, doesn’t mean a big chunk of your target audience will. If a message — or an entire digital channel — isn’t working, put it out of its misery. Kill it off, and redirect the digital media spend to another execution or channel. Be smart about how you spend. Continuously optimize your digital spend based on what the KPIs tell you is working with your prospects.

5. How do I balance Learning vs. Leads?

Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas’ Oscar-winning role in Wall Street) was right: “Greed is good.”

It is perfectly OK to have a marketing mindset of “I don’t want to spend money, I want to make money.” Testing, done properly, isn’t a cost. Instead, it is an investment in overall marketing efficiency that can pay consistently huge dividends.

At DMW we like to say “earn as you learn.” You’re putting executions into the marketplace that will generate real leads. And these leads ultimately become converted sales. This isn’t “What do my prospects think about my brand?” research. And while that information ultimately may become valuable to you at some point in the future, it ain’t making the cash register (or the Call Center phones) ring now. That is what true direct response marketers want to know from disciplined digital testing: How do we generate sales cost-effectively right now?

Following the DMW model, digital testing will generate revenue. It will also help you answer some questions about marketing ROI. There is another benefit to digital testing: its results translate to offline channels. If you target correctly and identify relevant messaging and content that works in the digital space, you then have a head start on creating effective executions in direct mail, print, and DRTV.

As You Test and Analyze, Be Prepared to Act

Bonus tip: As direct marketers are fond of saying, “Act now!” Keep in mind that whatever results you get from your digital testing, you have to act on them immediately because things change. So test, analyze, optimize, and — perhaps most importantly — repeat. If you commit to rigorous, ongoing testing your brand’s bottom line will thank you.

Let us know how we can help you step up your results by incorporating testing into your marketing campaigns. We’d love to help you earn as you learn!