How to conduct better marketing experiments


Most entrepreneurs wish they had a better understanding of marketing. With better marketing, you can get more visibility for your brand, more paying customers, and you can achieve growth at a faster rate.

But for an outsider with limited experience, marketing is a nebulous, complex, and intimidating field. Marketers look like magicians today, able to see amazing results simply by following their intuitions.

Actually, this is not the case. The best performing marketing strategies are not the result of magic or intuition. Instead, they are the end result of harsh science experiments, repeated over and over again.

How are marketing experiments so powerful? And what is the correct way to use them to boost your marketing campaigns?

Why Marketing Experiments Matter

Let’s start by explaining why marketing experiments are so important. Done right, they can shape the entire future of your company’s marketing.

  • Customer data and information. First, marketing experiments give you access to a large amount of data. Below you will learn more about your target audience and how they respond to different images, different prints, and different platforms. Over time, you will come to understand them better, and as a result, you will be able to create better messages for them.
  • Incremental improvements. Experiments also allow you to make gradual improvements to your marketing strategy. With each new test, you will learn a little more about your brand, your audience, the platforms available to the public, or even your competition, and with that information, you can create better ads and better messages.
  • Evidence and cost-benefit analysis. Marketing experiments give you the opportunity to collect data that you can use to analyze and test the costs and benefits of all your marketing approaches. This could be valuable in justifying your position to an employer, demonstrating results to investors, or simply honing your own approach to increasing your return on investment (ROI).

There are many ways to approach marketing experiments. Still, one of the most common is the typical “AB test,” in which you create two slightly different versions of a landing page, ad, or other pieces of marketing collateral.

These two different versions are labeled “A” and “B”, then tested in a live environment. Once you figure out which version gets the most traffic or conversions, you can use these lessons to refine your approach and run more AB tests to collect even more data.

Realistically, you shouldn’t feel limited by the AB test formula. Any quiz you take to learn more about your brand, your audience, and its potential impact can be valuable.

Here’s how to run even better marketing experiments.

Use the right tools

To get started, you need to use the right tools. Good marketing experiment tools tend to share a few traits, such as:

  • Accessibility. It should be easy to find and start using this tool. You shouldn’t have to build something new from scratch.
  • Intuitiveness. It should also be intuitive to use the tool effectively. It shouldn’t take weeks of training to learn how to perform an experiment.
  • Sturdiness. You’ll want a number of features that make it easy and simple to run the experiments you want. WYSIWYG editors and drag and drop mechanics, and access to multiple experimental variables are key.
  • Transparency and manipulation of data. You’ll also want full and unimpeded access to the data you’ve collected throughout this campaign, and you should be able to manipulate this data however you see fit in the form of interactive charts and graphs.

Fortunately, most of the major marketing and advertising platforms realize the importance of experimentation and offer built-in tools to help marketers conduct better testing. So for example, if you are running a PPC ad campaign, you will have access to tools that allows you to rotate ads, measure customer interactions, and ultimately learn enough to create better campaigns in the future.

Follow the scientific method

Marketing experiments are a kind of small-scale science experiment, so if you want to see better results, you need to follow a flexible scientific method.

For instance:

  • Create a hypothesis. Start by defining your current opinion and perspective. How do you think this experiment is going to go? For example, do you think a red button will convert more people than a green button?
  • Run tests. Next, design an experiment to test your hypothesis. For example, if you are testing the difference between the colors of the green and red buttons, consider creating two nearly identical versions of your landing pages. The only difference is the color of the button and the sending of traffic to both.
  • Observe and analyze the data. Then collect the data and see if your hypothesis is true.
  • Form new conclusions. Regardless of whether you prove your hypothesis correct or incorrect, you will likely learn something new in the process.

Key in the sample size

Sample size is one of the most important variables to get right in the field of marketing experimentation. With too few people in your sample, you won’t be able to draw meaningful conclusions about the general population. But on the other hand, with too many people, you will end up wasting time and money unnecessarily.

Keep an open mind

You may have ideas about what exactly your brand is and how it should be marketed and in some ways this solid consistency is a good thing. But if you want to get the best possible results from your marketing experiments, you need to keep a more open mind. Experiments are great for testing new controversial ideas and challenging long-standing assumptions; Make the most of it by being willing to try new and interesting things.

Compare apples to apples

When conducting marketing experiments, you will need to compare apples to apples. In other words, you will need to ensure that your experimental conditions do not introduce secondary and tertiary variables that may confuse your causal link. For example, let’s say you are testing a green button with a red button, but your green button is active in the morning and your red button is active at night. Of course, the red button test wins, but is it because the button was red or because the test was at night?

Control your tests for the following variables, at a minimum, and try to isolate a single variable for your test:

  • Weather. When are you conducting this experiment?
  • Audience. Who are the people being tested?
  • Sample size. Do you use roughly the same sample size for each test?
  • Other variables. Try to filter out other variables as much as possible and focus your AB experiment on a single differentiating variable.

The closer you can compare your different marketing experiments, the closer you are to a “perfect” strategy.

Filter cognitive biases

Cognitive biases affect us all, distorting our perceptions and making it difficult to form neutral conclusions. Here are just a few of the ways you can fight prejudice:

  • Introspective. How do you deal with this problem? Are your feelings leading you in a particular direction?
  • Look at various data sets. One test may not be enough. Try searching for multiple data sets, especially if you can find a few from other experimenters, before reaching a conclusion.
  • Identify your underlying assumptions. For example, you may have a built-in assumption that one particular marketing strategy will be better than all the others. These can lead you to biased and false conclusions.
  • Try to prove yourself wrong. Confirmation bias makes it easy to prove you’re right. Instead, look for evidence to show that you are wrong. You may be surprised what you find.
  • Work in team. Intellectual diversity can help you identify gaps in your own thinking, and fresh perspectives are always a good thing.

With better marketing experiments in place, your marketing and advertising results are sure to increase over time. You will have access to a more reliable flow of data, you will have more freedom to experiment with new techniques and approaches, and sooner or later you will find the perfect formula to convert your target audience.

Image credit: anthony shkraba; pexels; Thank you!

Timothy carter

Revenue Director

Timothy Carter is the chief revenue officer for the Seattle digital marketing agency. SEO.co, DEV.co AND PPC.co. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO and digital marketing leading, developing and expanding sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and drive the growth of websites and sales teams. When he’s not working, Tim enjoys playing a few rounds of disc golf, running, and spending time with his wife and family on the beach, preferably in Hawaii with a cup of Kona coffee. Follow him on Twitter @TimothyCarter


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