Entrepreneurs are constantly on the lookout for the next big marketing thing – any new strategy to build awareness, generate new leads and bring in more business.
But getting more out of your marketing may have less to do with adopting new strategies than with getting better results out of what you've already got.
The secret lies in testing.
Testing may not seem like the sexiest approach, but it can be among the most effective way to make your marketing work harder and better. But you can't improve on what you can't measure.
How important is testing your marketing?
I once worked with a client to promote a training class. The first campaign we ran attracted just one registration. It wasn't feasible to host a week-long training class in a hotel for just one registrant, so we had to cancel it.
Rather than make excuses, second-guess why the campaign had failed or just drop it, I decided to duplicate it with a slight change to see if that would make any difference.
This time, I sent out both versions, each to different halves of our mailing list. The result: The initial campaign again did poorly, generating no registrations. The revised one, however, brought 21 requests.
By sending them both out at the same time, we were able to test whether the initial campaign really was a loser, or could be turned into a winner by making a slight change.
Testing brought a bottom-line effect: We went from generating $3,000 in potential revenue (had we not had to cancel the class) to producing $63,000 in actual revenue from a training class for 21 students.
Running tests is easy. Often changing just one variable, and testing it, can have a huge effect on your results.
When considering variables, I look to five major "pillars of testing" that can dramatically improve marketing results.
Test e-mail subject lines
When using e-mail, test different versions of subject lines to determine which words or phrases result in a better "open rate" – the number of times that an e-mail is opened and read.
To test one subject line against another, send an e-mail bearing one subject line to 10 per cent of your mailing list and another e-mail with a different subject line to another 10 per cent. Measure the open rates of each for 24 hours, and then send out the e-mail with the better open rate to the remaining 80 per cent of your mailing list.
Test landing-page headlines
Landing pages are website pages that allow you to collect a visitor's information through a "lead capture" form.
I was never convinced that changing the headline on a landing page could make a big difference – until I tested two different ones on landing pages that contained identical content.
That simple headline change produced a big change in results. And now I always build, and test, two landing pages with identical content but different headlines before settling on the one that I will use for a campaign.
When offering products and services, companies often assume what the price should be, rather than test different price points. But that's a mistake, for you never know what price consumers will see as too high, too low or just right until you test it.
No matter what marketing vehicle you are using – whether e-mail, direct mail, a presentation or a sales call – it's imperative to test different price points to see which number generates the most response. Try similar tactics by splitting up your market and testing different price points before settling on the one that you will offer to your entire market.
Test traditional advertising
Traditional ads don`t get much respect these days because the value they deliver is difficult to measure. Says who?
Instead of buying space for a plain display advertisement, run a direct-response ad, which requires viewers to respond to a call of action.
Whether your objective is to drive more traffic to your website or to generate sales at the end of your campaign, you can measure the number of people who saw your advertisement and took action.
Use this result as a benchmark for future campaigns.
This provides more efficient, and far more effective, marketing impact using a traditional medium such as advertising.
Test blog posts
Everyone seems to have a blog to flog these days, and new posts are created daily, if not multiple times in a day. But how many bloggers are testing the effectiveness of each post?
There are many ways to look at blog posts to evaluate what elicits the best responses. Look at different lengths, calls to action, headlines and even tone. Measure how many times a post has been linked or shared through social media, or how many times a call to action was answered through a click.
When you figure out the variables that give you the most desired results, continue to use them in your approach to blogging.
These are just a few ways to look at integrating testing into your marketing strategies. The whole purpose of testing is to take the conjecture out of marketing – more testing means less guessing. By measuring result, you can adjust – and improve – your marketing methods, and create more predictable and better outcomes.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Ryan Caligiuri is a Winnipeg-based growth strategist who works with companies in hyper-competitive marketplaces that want to increase leads and demand to fill their pipeline, that need help breaking into or taking control of already established markets when there's a need to create more revenue streams, or to become more influential in the marketplace.
Engage with Mr. Caligiuri on Twitter.
Join The Globe's Small Business LinkedIn group to network with other entrepreneurs and to discuss topical issues: http://linkd.in/jWWdzT