In engineering, you'd probably prototype and test a product before investing in expensive tooling.
Likewise, in marketing you want to avoid wasting large sums of money on activities that don't pay off. When trying any new marketing activity, it's always best to start small and scale up.
In the book 'Lean Startup', Eric Ries talks about building a minimum viable product (MVP). Think of your marketing in the same way - start with a minimum viable marketing operation (which is your prototype) and then expand on it. If you need a piece of marketing to fill a gap, then start with something that works and fulfils your basic requirements and build on it later.
Your prototype marketing activity should be used to test three different things.
I've already blogged about the assumptions you have to make in your marketing. Your marketing activity prototype is where you start to test these assumptions.
Sometimes it becomes obvious that an assumption is incorrect. At other times it can take much more investigation.
2. Messaging and copy
The headlines and messaging that generate the best results are often not the ones you expect.
It's crucial to remember that, even if you are exactly like your target audience, you won't respond to your company's messaging in exactly the same way as prospective customers.
You already know your products and services inside and out. You're already "sold" on the idea. But your prospects are not. Therefore, they'll hear your messages from a different perspective and may respond differently. Not always of course, but don't assume they'll think what you think.
3. Think about the next step
A common mistake when testing a marketing activity is to assume that the failure of an activity was due only to the activity itself. Sometimes it isn't.
Sometimes the reason the activity didn't work is actually because the step AFTERWARDS is ineffective.
This is why it's important to put a number of measures in place around an activity so that you will spot where the process is falling short.
Other factors to consider
As any statistician will testify, too small a sample can yield skewed and inaccurate results. Think about what you need to learn from your marketing prototype and consider the minimum size of campaign needed to give representative results.
As far as possible, take a scientific approach: systematically changing only one variable at a time. This is especially important when testing digital marketing techniques such as social media advertising and pay-per-click (PPC).
What if the activity is not as effective as expected?
You've already calculated your break-even point in "model your marketing" above. As you execute your marketing activity, regularly check your progress towards this target to make sure you’re on track. If it’s looking like you’re not going to hit your target, make changes early to minimise any losses.
Should you extend the campaign? Do you need to tweak up your messaging?
Be careful not to send good money after bad: always go back to the numbers and work out if any extra investment is going to be worth it. It may be better to cut your losses and learn from it.
What if the activity is too successful?
Once you’ve put something out there, it can sometimes be difficult to withdraw it. However, if you are taking regular measurements at each stage (as I’ll explain in my next blog) of the buying process then you will be able to predict any spikes in demand before they happen. Effective prediction means you can increase operations capacity so that your customer experience does not suffer.
Celebrate the bugs
In my graduate robotics job, I (with almost everyone else in our small team) would be called in to user-test our robots' software before it went out to clients. My boss, the MD, was usually the last to be called up for this job so most of the software bugs should have been found by the time it got to him. Yet somehow he always managed to find more and when he did, he'd punch the air and celebrate the fact he'd found one.
I remember asking him why he was so happy to have found a bug in the software and he answered, "There are always bugs in software, no matter how hard you try to eliminate them. But I've found one and we'll fix it, so that means there'll be one less bug when we send it to our client."
I try to take this attitude with marketing. Of course you will check and test everything before you launch it or send it out to prospects. However, a typo or broken link will always inevitably slip through the net sooner or later. It's inevitable, as you scale up your marketing. But when someone comes back pointing out your error, fix it and celebrate – that's one less bug in your marketing now!
If you want to start implementing this process in your business to see robust, sustainable sales results, I'd love to help you. I usually start with a free 30-minute consulting call, like a "test drive", so you can see what I'm like to work with. Then we'd talk about what you want to achieve in your business and see if I'm the right person to help you.
If this sounds interesting, please drop me a line. I'd love to see if I can help.
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