Know what to test —and successfully

Now that you’re ready to test, it’s time to decide what to test.

But there are some pitfalls to testing as well. So, in this post, we’ll also take a look at some of the most common pitfalls and also how they can be mitigated.

What should you test?

I have used this handy table for years to talk to clients about testing because it really provided clarity on the kinds of tests that will potentially provide impactful results.

Everyone wants to test subject lines. It’s easy to do and the results come quickly. And getting more people to open and click your emails IS IMPORTANT. However, these types of message tests, once pushed through the entire funnel have much less impact on revenue than say determining what kinds of offers that work best with your target audience.  

Here’s a quick overview of each dimension outlined above:

  • Sources – identify the sources of new contacts and leads that have the most buying power and/or most potential to act
  • Targeting – Test to determine the target accounts that are most likely to be purchasers
  • Offer – Determine which types of offers work best to drive opportunities
  • Channel – Test to find out the optimal channel mix
  • Timing/Frequency – testing to see what days/times of the week work best; also test to determine frequency of communications that work best
  • Messaging – determining which specific messages generate the highest response/conversion
  • Creative – finding the format that generates highest response

Many marketers are surprised to see where they get the most lift from testing. I tell clients to first spend their testing time in the top four dimensions: sources, targeting, offer and channel. Determining the right kind of offer for your prospect during a specific part of the buyer’s journey is going to increase performance a lot more than testing different email templates.

Pitfall 1: Not creating repeatable results

From the list above, you can see that there are so many things that you can test – email vs. telemarketing (channel), white papers vs. webinars (offer), companies with over $500 million in revenue vs. companies with less than $500million (targeting). The list of testing possibilities—and combinations of things you could test—is seemingly endless.

The problem with many tests I have seen is that they don’t give the marketing team results that they can use to make future decisions. For example, subject line testing is very popular. And in most situations, we can get statistically significant results. But what have we learned? In most cases, we have learned that this particular subject line performed better on this particular day with this particular set of contacts. And unless this is an on-going nurture program where we are going to be sending similar kinds of contacts the exact same email in the future, we have not learned anything we can use.

You aren’t  able to tease out which factor made the real difference in the winning outcome. Was it the use of a particular word? Was it a sentiment or overall feeling the subject gave recipients? You just don’t know.

Pitfall 2: Not testing long enough or big enough

If you test a new feature on your site for three days and see lots of activity around it, you may take this as a good sign. And it is a good sign, but it doesn’t definitely mean that your new feature is a home run. Be sure to test for long enough to get a statistically relevant sample size and to cancel out other variables like day-of-the-week.

You can consider your test a success when and only when you have enough data to really see how a new functionality, tool, offer, etc. is impacting business results. So don’t be overly anxious to declare a winner!

Good luck out there!

 When done well, testing can offer insights and data that allow you to make decisions (maybe to change something; maybe to not change something) that will drive measurable business results. Just be intentional about what it is you are testing and ask whether the results of your test will matter (because with statistically insignificant results, you run the risk of making poor decisions).

And, as I’ve mentioned before in my last post, if you can’t track your funnel now, you shouldn’t test. Instead, get your measurement infrastructure shaped up first.

How are your testing efforts going? I’d love to hear about any challenges (and successes!) that you’re having.

Is Weak Content Slowing Down Your Lead-Gen Efforts?

I’d like to welcome a guest blogger, Paul Gustafon from TDA Group. TDA Group is the premier B2B content marketing for high tech. TDA Group plans, creates, and manages content marketing programs that help maximize the return on marketing investments—and accelerate sales.

 

Congratulations, marketer.

You’ve implemented your shiny new marketing automation (Marketo, Pardot, HubSpot, or some similar tool). As part of the demand-gen effort, you’ve built personas for the purchasers and influencers involved in your buyer’s journey. You’ve created lead-generation campaigns and assets to capture and incubate leads. As a result, you’ve captured some marketing-qualified leads, and have even transferred some sales-ready leads to your sales team.

But something is amiss.

Your marketing engine just isn’t living up to expectations. Sure, you’re doing A/B testing on the creative, and seeing some performance improvements. But overall, the opportunity pipeline should be much bigger, and more actual sales should be closing much sooner. The marketing engine isn’t firing on all cylinders. Management is not happy.

So where’s the problem?

Start with personas. If your personas are based on opinion rather than fact, you should revisit them after reading this post by our partner, Ardath Albee.

But let’s assume your personas are solid, research-based representations of buyers and influencers and they accurately describe which informational needs are most relevant at each stage of the journey. If so, your content may not be getting the job done. Maybe you’ve got the right assets, but the wrong timing. Or maybe you have the wrong assets altogether.

It’s time for a tune-up. You need a lead-gen content audit.

What does a lead-gen content audit accomplish?

A lead-gen content audit can evaluate how well your content serves the informational needs of your personas at each stage of the journey, identify content gaps, and flag areas where you can repurpose existing content to accelerate the journey.

A prerequisite for a lead-gen content audit is crisp messaging for each persona. By “crisp messaging,” we mean a clear marketing positioning statement, an understandable value proposition, and differentiating claims and proof points. Creating assets without thinking through the messaging for each persona is putting the cart before the horse. Your target audience won’t respond to assets or offers that are not tuned to relevant pain points or interests. In those situations, you may need to refresh your content to better support your story and meet the needs of individual personas.

There are a myriad of ways poor content execution can gum up your marketing automation system. We see some companies struggling with this part of the puzzle because the people creating content aren’t in touch with the folks running campaigns. In some companies, these people are split into separate organizations that compete internally for headcount, influence, and budget.

Not an ideal situation.

What goes into a lead-gen content audit? 

When TDA conducts a lead-gen content audit, we collect and discuss your personas, explore the information needs of your highest priority audiences, and examine the buyer journey as implemented in your campaigns. We also review messaging by persona, and help select the content assets to be included in the inventory for the audit.

The size of the inventory can be broad or narrow, depending on your specific situation and budget. The inventory can include web pages, emails, videos, and other content used in your marketing automation system, as well as assets used by your sales team or business partners.

Experience suggests the effort required to find a golden needle in a haystack full of all of your old assets is rarely rewarded. While a light review of a large inventory can identify background materials for new assets, more frequently it results in a list of content that should be retired.

For each asset included in the inventory, TDA editors evaluate the content against specific criteria that includes how well the asset supports the messaging you defined for each persona, where in the buyer’s journey the asset will be most effective, which segments it best serves, which messages it delivers, and so forth. The evaluation also identifies gaps where assets are not available and areas where assets are being misused.

This information becomes key to prioritizing and focusing your marketing spend on content that’s most needed to reach your audiences. It’s also critical for building an editorial calendar so you can plan and execute content that best supports the journey as defined in the marketing automation system.

Using off-target, unfocused, sub-optimized, or misdirected content in your lead-gen initiatives is akin to putting cooking oil in your car’s gas tank. The car may run, but not well. You may start down the highway while all looks good until suddenly the engine starts sputtering and spewing smoke. Think of us as the experts, the diagnosticians and mechanics who can help you tune your content marketing engine for a high level of effectiveness. Stop in, and we’ll check that warning light.

Let’s Talk

Language of Business

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Revenating marketing by speaking the language of business

In the past few years, Marketing has gotten really focused on metrics, right?

We’ve all reported on all the great things we’re doing. For example, 600 people registered for a conference; page views have increased by 30% YOY; our email open rates have doubled. It’s been exciting to finally be able to quantify all the hard work that marketing teams do.

All these metrics provide great information. We use them everyday to optimize our programs and measure the success of our efforts. But, the truth is that the C-suite doesn’t care. I hope that isn’t too harsh. But they just don’t care about website visits and email click rates as much as you do. What they care about is pipeline and revenue. And when you bring activity metrics to the executive table, you seem not only out of touch with what the business cares about but you also invite them into nuanced discussions about marketing that they may not be qualified to have.

But don’t fear – with the right measurement infrastructure in place, you can connect the hard work of your marketing team to the numbers executives truly care about. And in the process, you’ll learn to speak the language of business, helping your marketing efforts resonate with your leadership.

Where do you begin?

Here’s a step-by-step approach that will strengthen your business acumen and make you a stronger marketer.

 Step 1: Track your company’s overall revenue goals.

It always surprises me when I talk to members of the marketing team and they can’t tell me how the quarter is going from a sales perspective. Are people panicking in the last weeks? Are folks riding high because meeting quota is a done deal? Even worse, some marketers don’t even know what the sales goals are for the quarter!

Make sure that everyone on your team learns the revenue goals each quarter and give time in regular staff meetings to discussing how the company is doing overall. Marketing cannot consider itself a separate entity. And, the closer marketing is tied to the business goals, the smarter marketing looks.

Beyond pipeline and revenue, your team should be well-versed on any other big company goals. Is the CEO talking about adding new logos this year? How many? How are we doing so far? Is the Product team doing a big push to improve the product to retain more customers? What is the current churn rate? What is the goal and how are we doing? Marketers should be able to respond to these kinds of questions.

Note: If things are not going well, marketing will likely be called upon to step up their efforts to support company goals. It is always best to see the early warning signs yourself and prepare to react.

Step 2: Stop reporting on all these metrics

Keep tracking all those activity metrics – they are important! Your marketing team needs to deeply understand the intricate details of how your campaigns are working. And flagging some odd open rate or decrease in website visits could bring to light some operational issue that needs to be addressed. So make sure you are all reviewing and analyzing as much data as possible. …just don’t flood your cross-functional partners with all these numbers.

If you start reporting all your marketing activity metrics to all stakeholders, you may pigeonhole yourself. Expectations will be set and your CEO or CFO will expect growth within each area during every reporting cycle.   …and that may not be the right thing to do from a marketing perspective.

This invites unnecessary questions about the marketing mix, strategy and spend. It’s a distraction that could leave you explaining why you transferred $50K from your SEO budget to your paid media budget. What you did was right for the business, but the short-term drop in website views will alarm upper management if they’re used to seeing growth there every month.

So, you might be thinking: “If I am not reporting on activity metrics, what should I report on?”  Glad you asked.

Step 3: Build the infrastructure to report the right numbers. 

Unfortunately, one of the main reasons that we report on activity metrics is that they are easy to gather. Need to know how many registrations for your webinar? Simple. Just check the number in in your webinar platform. Want to know how many people clicked on your newsletter? A quick glance at a simple dashboard in your marketing automation platform. But actually connecting your programs to opportunities and revenue? That is much more difficult.

If your marketing automation platform is properly syncing information to Salesforce, the easiest number to get is a campaign influence report from SFDC. Unfortunately there are issues with using this kind of report. See my post on Attribution models to better understand the limitations with influence reporting from SFDC.

Lead source/First Touch reporting is a little better, if limited. This type of reporting generally requires some set-up and management in your marketing automation platform to work properly but it is usually attainable for most teams with the most basic infrastructure in place. With this, you can report to the organization on what marketing activities are best at delivering new contacts that turn into opportunities.

But you miss the influence of all the other marketing touchpoints. And with many prospect’s engaging in between 8 and 12 programs throughout their buyer’s journey, this leaves out a lot and could call into question by executives some of your most critical programs, like nurturing.

To truly show the results of marketing, you need use some type of multi-touch attribution model. (again, see my previous post on attribution models). And while some marketing automation platforms can partially achieve this, in most situations you are going to need to add an analytics tool to your marketing tech stack to achieve maximum visibility into your program performance.

But not only are you looking at a big chunk of budget for a new tool, you also are going to have a heavy lift in terms of building out your technical infrastructure and business processes to support this new reporting tool. Revenate Marketing has a track record of implementing these kinds of processes and tools and can help your organization too. Contact us for more information.

Bottom line – Speak the language of your business.

Today’s marketers have more numbers swirling around than ever before. Data helps, but it can also leave you reporting on everything under the sun—diluting the contributions you’re making to the bottom line. Come into meetings prepared to discuss the role that marketing plays in driving revenue with clear suggestions of where and how it can be done. And the more you can call out specific deals that were sourced or influenced by big marketing efforts, the better off you will be.

Anything else you would include? What other metrics matter to your business? I would love to hear from you.