Measurable Growth Marketing Success Requires a “Test and Learn” Approach
By Brock Pernice, Co-Founder and Managing Partner
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Published May 31, 2022
Startups call it “Fail Fast, Fail Often.”
In digital marketing, we call it the “Test and Learn” approach.
Why? Because the best performance in growth marketing comes from innovation. And innovation comes from analyzing the information, testing something new, and changing course in response to the results.
But as much as we all pay lip service to the idea of failing fast, the majority of companies haven’t figured out how to apply this successfully to marketing. While 70% of CEOs expect CMOs to lead revenue growth, studies show that only 20% could actually substantiate their ability to do that.
The solution? We think it’s adopting a rigorous “Test and Learn” approach.
Today, amidst ever-increasing uncertainty, modern marketers must approach their “Test and Learn” philosophy more broadly and take it beyond the conventional testing of campaign creatives and messages. They must rethink operating norms and operating models to pivot to be the growth engines for their enterprises and see a “Test and Learn” approach as a way to build organizational muscle memory to truly build a full funnel growth marketing capacity.
This is the fourth article in a short series on the five keys to success in full-funnel growth marketing:
By the end of this article, you’ll understand what it means to apply a “Test and Learn” to your organization and the positive outcomes you might see through full funnel experimentation.
Have any questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In practice, a “Test and Learn” approach looks like trying something new that we think will work. Then using the data fed back to us by our CRM, web, social, and ad platforms in a real-time and constant fashion to adapt campaign messages or creative assets on the fly to respond to this feedback. The key phrase here is ‘on the fly,’ because being agile means continuously responding to new data as soon as you receive it.
Every marketing organization is operating under unique circumstances, and will therefore have a unique path to transformation. An operating model that is centered on the “Test and Learn” framework is key to ensuring this shift builds on your capabilities and advantages to capture the biggest possible ROI.
While every company’s results will be particular to the company, the four universal pillars form the foundation of this framework:
Foundation No. 1: Testing Process
An organization’s testing process begins with a hypothesis which includes parameters or rules for deciding what kinds of tests are appropriate for resolving different types of questions or to achieve a particular marketing outcome. This process also comes with additional guidelines to support test prioritization, execution, and management.
Foundation No. 2: Learning Process
An organization’s learning process focuses on actionability and decision-making, effectively promoting the results of tests through concrete actions that align business objectives, business growth, operational efficiency, and marketing knowledge.
Foundation No. 3: Test and Learn Culture
A “Test and Learn” culture gives employees permission to explore and experiment, to try something new and fail at it. Putting a cultural emphasis on this approach aligns the team, enforces accountability, leads to investments in process and tools, and drives the desire to maintain a rigorous data driven standard.
Foundation No. 4: Organizational Vision
An organization with a shared vision has an easier time being in alignment and making decisions. With a clear vision for the types of strategic and operational objectives to be tackled and how to mitigate cross-functional conflicts, ideas surface and are acted on faster than ever.
Positive Outcomes From a “Test and Learn” Philosophy
When your marketing and sales teams are aligned around the four principles of a “Test and Learn” Philosophy, they can appropriately support and accelerate each other’s efforts. Across the company, you’ll see this method delivering incredible benefits like the following:
● Aligning expectations. A “Test and Learn” organization sets the tone for how the team approaches their roles, how data is gathered and evaluated, and which market and audience insights are prioritized. With the entire team focused on clear goals, individuals can rally together and help each other adjust to meet new demands.
● Increased accountability. It’s hard to hold just a part of the team accountable for raising the bar on data-driven decisions, but once the new expectations have been set and the team is aligned to the new mission, true accountability and improvement can begin. Eventually, these behaviors become The New Normal and the team settles into this approach.
● Reliable processes and structure: From the beginning, data processes will influence the creation of more effective team structures that should make execution and analysis easier and quicker to accomplish. What started off as “outliers” will become accepted and streamlined. Over time, wrinkles will get ironed out, revealing more effective ways of utilizing a variety of skills and viewpoints across the team.
● The right investment: Marketing leaders will have to allocate the right size of funding to facilitate real change. A “Test and Learn” organization needs training, tools, and potentially a new headcount. In the short term, that might look like new expenses, so marketing leaders will need to justify the activity by championing how the new organization will positively impact the bottom line.
● A shared language: As the “Test and Learn” organization matures, everyone on the team will see how course correction through data-driven experiments and decision analysis provides gains that add up to significant market improvement. The strategic questions that remained mysteries early-on will finally get answered. And marketing team members will share a more concrete language for reasoning about product/service impact, audience preferences, and shifting media engagements.
Stress Testing “Test and Learn” Through Full-Funnel Experiments
With a “Test and Learn” framework in place, organizations can start to take on true full-funnel marketing experiments. These experiments enable marketing leaders to start building a track record of success as they validate and calibrate their data-driven decision making, identify the right data sets required for a given decision, and test transformative ideas for viability and gain valuable insight before fully committing.
A “Test and Learn” approach can lead to not only rapid validation of marketing outcomes, but also sizable savings in time and money. It also helps marketers become more agile — allowing stakeholders to have the information they need to pivot on a dime. This process can be applied to any foundational marketing principles, but it works exceedingly well in these five areas:
Rapid testing can even be applied to a messaging strategy. If you have 10 potential value propositions for your offering, you can measure what your buyers care about most by creating 10 quick Google paid search ads and running them against prominent market keywords.
Launching New Products
A “Test and Learn” approach provides an effective way to forecast market validation. Simple experiment with a straightforward webpage and pointed ads to your new product is a quick way to test whether your market is receptive to your offering.
Beyond market fit, you can also test price points. Quickly put-up multiple landing pages with different prices in an A/B/C test, and then sit back to measure the impact. This allows marketers to assess how high they can push a price before consumers drop off, providing crucial information to fuel future discounts to increase sales during peak periods.
Quickly testing multiple promotions against each other allows marketers to assess the lines between increased sales versus increased profits.
Clearly define what you want to test.
Focus on the S.M.A.R.T. goal concept: Is your goal specific in focus, measurably defined by a small set of KPIs, attainable for your existing resources, relevant with your overall sales or business objectives, and timely in its execution? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” you’ll want to make tweaks before you test.
Test and Learn — and Profit
Regardless of your organization’s stage of maturity, a “Test and Learn” approach can provide you with the blueprint you need to take your marketing to new heights. Carve your own path to transformation by embracing an operating model centered on this framework — and let me know if you have any questions.
Want to assess if your organization is ready to properly use a "Test and Learn" approach? Request a discovery session with TrueVoice Growth Marketing™.
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