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Thursday, August 21, 2008

One of my colleagues recently asked me, out of all the aspects of marketing including online marketing, marketing strategy, Web 2.0, market research, etc., what was the most important? Without hesitation I replied, "Testing".

Many of my marketing friends might argue and profess that if you don't have the right message, reach the right audience, the right timing, or the right offer, you won't succeed. And to that I say ABSOLUTELY! In fact, those are the very elements of a successful campaign that can be identified through proper testing. So how do you know that your messaging is optimized or that you're reaching your target audience in the most effective way possible? Only proper testing can give you that information.

When someone on my team says that a particular campaign was a success I ask, "how do you know?" The answer often has something to do with metrics around campaign performance. But this information is merely releative. If your click through rate was 20% and your conversion rate was 0.35% for an online campaign, it may have generated a positive return, but is 0.35% the best we could have done? Did we test the campaign to set expectations before full launch?

By testing multiple landing pages, post cards, direct mail packages, keyword campaigns, and other marketing campaigns, you can find what resonates best with your audience and set proper expectations for performance. Once you've established a baseline, continue to test and experiment with different messaging, timing, and offers and compare your results against your baseline. Then, when someone asks you how well your campaign performed, you can say good, bad, or indifferent based on real data.

A great example of this was a recent email marketing campaign completed by my team. They tested 3 subject lines - everything else remainded the same (the list, the email creative, the price, the timing, etc.). During our test, one subject line outperformed the others 3 to 1. Wow! What a difference this made in our overall campaign performance when we sent the email to tens of thousands of potential customers.

Ongoing measurement and testing is essential for marketing success. If you're not testing your marketing campaigns on a continuous basis, you're missing out. Of course, once you establish a solid control (baseline), you'll have a hard time out performing it. In general, you'll only improve your success rate about 10% of the time. But continue to test, test, and test some more and you'll see your knowledge and results increase.


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