test me, i dare you

Remember how excited you were about testing sitting around the conference table?  Yea I know, now it’s real work but a little elbow grease will yield good, actionable results so stick it out.

At this point you have a good feel for what your assumptions are…will the blue CTA win out?  Will the text-only email perform better than an image-heavy version? Take bets and make some guesses.  The only way to find out is to let it go then sit back and wait.  Here comes the least popular thing you can tell a marketer…one test doesn’t give you all the answers.  You want to drive results right?  This is all about conversions and what does best so you have to know whether or not you have significant results.  No, it’s not as simple as saying email A got an 8% open rate and email B got a 9% open rate so BOOM email B worked!  It’s a little more than that.  Some marketers are lucky enough to work with statisticians on staff, but that’s a rarity.  So how do you decide something is significant?  Math of course (scary, I know).    In textbook terms you need to run significance testing.  Good news, there are calculators online for that!  Bad news, you still have to know things to be able to use them effectively.  So before I point you to the calculator here’s what you need to know:

Low Confidence Level is defined as being in the range of 90-95% while High Confidence Levels are defined as 95-99%+. If you plan to conduct multiple tests or have low traffic, go with the Low level. If you have high traffic or “significant business value flowing” through the page, go with the High Confidence level.How do I know this you ask?  Because I love to read and I spent some time reading a great book on Landing Page Optimization.  It’s a well written book for those who want lots of detail on Landing Page optimization, definitely recommend it, however for your “Cliff Notes” version of testing all you need to know is whether you are going with Low or High confidence.   The place to use this new found knowledge?  Well this handy calculator of course!
So what happens if you are testing email and run the results through the calculator, and GASP! your results aren’t significant??  Run your test again!  No, I don’t mean email the same people with the same stuff all over again…not unless you want to make your audience angry.  What I mean is develop a new email that tests the same hypothesis and send it to the same folks again. Don’t be afraid to retest your assumptions and even known results over time.  Your audience changes and so do the things that cause them to react, so don’t be afraid to revisit old tests to see how things change.
What if you aren’t testing email, what if you’re building a fabulous landing page and need to do some testing there, how do you determine significance if you don’t have fancy schmancy software to help you out? Well you can read all about it here on this great post by Hubspot where they even have a handy spreadsheet to use in calculations.

easy as a…b…multivariate?

The scene: a small conference room full of marketers, the problem, one of them wants to “test” things.  Everyone smiles, nods, knows it needs to happen and then walks away happy no real plan in place and no idea what the plan should even be.   Where do you go from here and what do you do with it all?

Start off by adopting a framework for testing and a methodology.  This is a step all too often skipped.  Think back to the days of elementary school science fairs…scientific method anyone?

  • Formulate a question – What are you testing?
  • Develop a hypothesis – Which if the items being tested will be well received?
  • Predict the results – Make some assumptions
  • Perform your test – Do work!
  • Analyze the results – Measure, measure, measure

First, decide what kind of test you are going to do, here are a few options for you:

A/B or Split testing: This involves two versions of the same thing (be it a web page, email, asset, etc.), the plan is to divert half of your test subjects to one version of the asset and half to the other.  In this scenario you make a single change in the two versions, variations could be as simple as changing the color of something, placement of a call to action, font being used, day of the week an emails is sent, the possibilities are endless.

Multivariate testing:  The process that allows testing of multiple variations in the same test.  In a mutivariate scenario you make many different changes in an attempt to find the biggest impact the fastest across your experiment.

The important thing to know here, if you are doing mutivariate testing on a landing page/web property you will need substantial traffic to find real answers.

Next, set up your test.  Depending on what tools you are using you can go crazy at this stage.  If you are running web tests there are literally tons of great software tools available to test with from Google’s own testing tools available through Google Analytics to KISSMetrics to Optimizely or even native apps inside Marketing Automation Platforms.  If you are running an email test you might need to build out some programming inside your automation platform but at this stage in the game you have to put all the pieces together inside the technology.

Where do you go from here?  Wait and see..that’s up next.

How well do you really generate leads?

I am in a transitional phase right now, moving from one agency to another.  It’s exciting and fun but also has caused me to reflect on what I’ve accomplished with my current clients and where there is room for growth still (for me and them).  One of the topics that comes back to me over and over again is Lead Generation, when I first got into B2B marketing this phrase was the term, everyone was a Lead Generation expert, every agency and vendor did “lead generation” and therefore could make you better at it too.   My issue isn’t so much that I feel it’s a buzzword (it is) or with what it is intended to mean but more so what it doesn’t actually meant.  For every success story out in the marketplace of a company who is doing all of the right things there are four or five quietly sitting on the sidelines wishing they could join the ranks of modern marketing.

A recent study by B2B “2013 Lead Generation: Optimum Techniques for Managing Lead Generation Campaigns” bares testimony to the same sentiments, according to the study 55% of marketers only think of their lead generation efforts are average and that the means by which they measure their success remains relatively unsophisticated, 76% say their definition of a lead is a prospect asking for contact.    What happened to lead scoring?  What happened to nurturing your contacts through the buying cycle and speaking to their needs at the time it matters most?  Is it unattainable to believe in these ideals or is it just to hard to align sales to the idea of quality over quantity?

I know it has fallen out of favor to talk about marketing and sales alignment but that is the heart of the problem.  Understanding how leads are managed by sales, expectations of velocity through sales stages and the messaging sales uses to bring home the deal will help marketers better understand how their story helps drive the process home.  Having a unified definition of a lead is a great starting point.  Does sales really feel like any working email address that gets submitted when someone wants to read a whitepaper is an indication someone is ready to buy?  Not likely, now I am sure there are a few choice whitepapers that sales feels are stronger than others (hint hint: score those higher) but in general it is likely that they view a person reading a single asset as only moderately interesting.  Why not leverage the expensive and powerful automation technologies to hand them prioritized leads instead of just leads, or better yet the all important “hot” lead.  Gathering sales leaders and marketing leaders together to create a portrait of the idea lead can start the conversation towards a more aligned team and a more productive lead scoring model.

Start simple, the key to not being part of the 55% of marketers who feel like their efforts are “average” is aligning with your sales team.

one more blog?

Over the last eight years I have taken up the mantel of corporate blogging on occasion, writing about things ranging from salesforce.com tips and tricks to data hygiene to marketing automation to marketing in general but always for others.   I have decided to change that, fair warning, I have strong opinions and few filters but I intend to use this as a vehicle for exploring marketing technology as it exists today, where it could go and what can (and should) be done with it.