Test with Purpose

July 3, 2012 by Matt Jeter


Make your Digital Marketing Tests a Learning Experience

You’ve done your homework. You have defined goals, developed brand strategies, performed competitive research, identified your target audiences, etc… It’s all there. You get the right people in the room for strategy sessions. The brainstorming is fast and furious with meaningful breakthroughs popping up like lightening crashes followed by meticulous documentation. You continue with project schedules that are aggressive yet doable and flawless creative briefs.

Now what?

You have surrounded yourself with talented copywriters, creative designers and expert web developers. An engagement strategy is devised and you pass the torch, trusting that the vision and guidelines that were previously scripted are executed with precision.

Time to pump the brakes.

Do you have a testing strategy in place? Maybe you plan a battery of tests including paid search ad experiments, web page split testing, email subject line tests, social media tracking and customer reviews. You have your analytics in place and you are ready to “test, measure and refine” your campaign.

These types of tests are important when measuring the effectiveness of your various marketing tactics but be careful not to get caught up in testing for the sake of testing. Be sure to clearly define your test objectives when designing your test plan. Are you testing in order to optimize your campaign for conversions? Maybe you are testing to measure brand awareness through multiple campaigns. Whatever your objectives, stay focused and define your key metrics that can measure different aspects of your marketing campaigns with your goals in mind.

Let’s look at paid search advertising as an example. You have done your keyword research, created a landing page on your website and defined a conversion. You test a series of search ads to determine the ads that achieve the highest conversion rate and acceptable cost per click. Scouring through your analytics reports you learn that the ad copy most aligned with your keyword and the landing page is the most effective. This is hardly a learning experience.

Be careful not to confuse optimization with testing as this can lead to making assumptions about your target audience. A good test design should be focused on the cognitive needs of the target audience rather than what we “like” or “think” will work. Campaign optimization is important but without a rigid test plan you can potentially miss out on a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the successes and failures of your marketing tactics.

A few tips:

  1. Establish clear learning objectives
    Maintain your own “checks and balances” to ensure your test is aligned with those objectives.
  2. Test early and often
    Don’t spend too much time trying to perfect your design or get your copy just right. Let your test data speak for itself and make your refinements based on measurable response from your target audience.
  3. Establish a stable test environment
    At the close of your test you need to be confident that the results were achieved under fair test conditions.
  4. Minimize your test variables
    By testing multiple variables at once, it is difficult to determine how to attribute your results.
  5. Map it out
    A visual representation of your test strategy is a great way to find any weaknesses in your test design.
  6. Complete your test plan before you begin optimizing and refining
    Once you begin acting on test results, you run the risk of compromising fair test conditions.

In today’s economic environment, optimizing marketing dollars is more important than ever. Creative ideas and sound marketing plans need to be held accountable by measurable results. A well constructed test plan can get you there.

Matt Jeter
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Director of Digital Engagement at GRA | MATR

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