Small Thoughts

Lift Off #18 – Testing is Better Than Guessing

Podcast Notes:

“Perhaps one time in fifty, a guess might be right. But fifty times in fifty an actual test tells you what to do and avoid.” – Claude Hopkins, My Life in Advertising.

Claude talks a lot about the guess work that brands do with their advertising. He scorns the typical, “by our brand and not theirs” message. He strongly advocates testing advertising ideas out on smaller markets before spending too much money on one tactic.

In the digital world, this is so easy to do. A/B testing headlines, web pages, landing pages, email subject lines, calls to action and PPC ad copy is built into most services. You don’t have to wander blindly through the fog of cyber content, hoping that your headline or image will catch on.

Claude Hopkins was successful in marketing because he knew what people wanted. While other companies were promoting their technical prowess, Claude appealed to the base desires of his customers. But sometimes those desire weren’t apparent. Sometimes he was contracted to advertise a new product and he would perform simple, small market tests to gain greater understanding of his customers.

Regardless of whether the product was new or a cultural icon, Claude would often pick an average city and test out his advertising ideas there first. Depending on the results, he would scale up distribution or cut off the project.

Testing was simple back then and it just might be even easier now. I’m not just talking about analytics software. Claude would get market insight by asking customers their opinion. In his day, you would have to mail out samples, paying postage for the mail out and for their replies. Now, if you have an email list, a Facebook page, and Twitter following, or LinkedIn Connections, it’s absolutely free to solicit your market’s opinions.

Analytics software will help you track customer behaviour and interaction with your brand. That is extremely valuable because behaviour speaks louder than words. But often analytics data is left up to interpretation. Asking the customer direct questions leaves little room for guessing.

What kind of testing can you incorporate into your marketing that will sharpen your edge and extend your reach?

  • What does your marketing process look like? Are the creative elements of your campaigns educated guesses or tested concepts?
  • What questions would you ask on a survey to unlock your customer’s desires?
  • Where would you test your concepts first?
  • Who is your most profitable persona?
  • How will you scale up your advertising if it proves successful?
  • Are you ready to dump a concept if it is rejected in the testing?

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