Focus Group of One

If you’re sending your marketing campaigns without benefit of A/B or multi-variant testing—most companies admit to fewer than five tests per month—you are effectively acting as a focus group of one. You are assuming all of your constituents feel the same way about your campaign as you do. Big mistake.

If you’re sending your marketing campaigns without benefit of A/B or multi-variant testing—most companies admit to fewer than five tests per month—you are effectively acting as a focus group of one. You are assuming all of your constituents feel the same way about your campaign as you do. Big mistake.

Most of us have a least a bit of familiarity with A/B testing and have integrated it into some of our deployments. Testing subject line A against subject line B is likely the most common test, but with A/B testing you can go so much further—both simple and complex—for instance:

  • Best time of day for sending each of your email types (e.g., newsletter, offers)
  • Best day for sending each type of email
  • Frequency of sending each type of email
  • Length of subject line
  • Personalization within the subject line
  • Personalization within the message
  • Squeeze page vs. landing page
  • Conversion lift when video, demo or meeting booking are included
  • Diagnosing content errors
  • Challenging long-held behavior assumptions
  • Calls to action
  • Color
  • Format and design
  • Writing style (casual, conversational, sensational, business)
  • From name and email address (business vs. personal)

A/B and multi-variant testing enable you to learn what makes your prospects, leads, subscribers and customers tick. When you adopt a consistent testing process, your accumulative results will provide you with the knowledge to implement dramatic changes producing a measurable impact across campaigns, landing pages, websites and all other inbound and outbound initiatives.

We have a client whose singular call to action in every email is to discount their product, and each offer is more valuable than the last. When I asked how well this worked, they admitted, the bigger the discount, the more they sold. When pressed, however, they could not tell me the ROI of this approach. Sure, they sold more widgets, but at the discount level they offered, they also made far less profit.

I suggested an A/B-laden drip campaign offering no discounts, and instead providing links to testimonials, case studies, demos of their product, book-a-meeting links, and other inbound content. In this way, we were changing their position from asking for the business to earning the business. While I admit this usually lengthens the sales cycle, it also means money is not being left on the table unnecessarily.

For this client, the change in approach was simply too dramatic and they found they couldn’t stick with it long enough to gather the data needed to make long-term business decisions. The limited of data they were able to collect in the first few emails did show, however, an inbound approach deserved strong consideration by their organization.

Not all A/B testing need be this dramatic—we could have started them off with a less-committed approach. My takeaway was: You don’t have to learn it all now; A/B testing can be integrated in a small way. Whether you go all out or an occasional test, A/B data is useless if you do not set measurable goals. Measurable goals mean you will establish:

  • Required return on investment
  • Vehicle (email, direct mail, other)
  • What to test
  • Audience
  • Time frame
  • Testing protocol
  • How to integrate what you’ve learned into future campaigns

If your email application does not support A/B testing, you can use a more automated approach. Simply create two versions of your marketing campaign and divide your list randomly in half—unless, of course, what you’re testing is something within your list, such as gender or locale.

I often am in search of information well beyond opens, clicks and visits, so I turn to Email on Acid for email heat maps and Crazy Egg for landing page and website heat maps. While these are effective on live pages and campaigns, it’s not required you deploy A/B testing to a live audience. Testing can be just as effective with a small focus group, just be sure it’s not a focus group of one.

Collaborating With Sales for Sales

I presented the Bottoms-Up Marketing webinar a couple weeks ago, and following the event found the same question had been submitted by a number of attendees. The question? How does a marketer get sales to follow up with leads? I came away feeling I had done a poor job of helping the audience to understand, it’s not

I presented the Bottoms-Up Marketing webinar a couple weeks ago, and following the event found the same question had been submitted by a number of attendees. The question? How does a marketer get sales to follow up with leads? I came away feeling I had done a poor job of helping the audience to understand, it’s not, “how do you get sales to do what you want?” it’s “how do you give sales something they want to work with?”

The premise of bottom-up marketing is that we marketers are only half the equation. Yes, our skills and expertise are critical to the campaign design and architecting process. But for the sales funnel requiring a closer, we must turn to the experience of our sales and CSR teams to understand the traditional process our business has used to convert leads to customers.

When a marketer asks the question, “How do I make sales do their job?” I immediately know this is an organization where marketing and closers are firmly pitted against one another and conversations and collaboration are a thing of the past—if they ever were. It’s a terrible question and says much about how you see yourself and your department in the sales funnel. If this is you, prepare yourself for a chewing out.

Resolution of discourse comes only where there is conversation and compromise.

Identifying prospects and warming leads without the input of the very people who close those leads is like writing a script without considering the audience. Oh sure, you can do it, but how many people from your audience will buy a ticket to your next event if you write only for yourself?

We marketers know better than to act as an audience (focus group) of one. Our job is to develop content for our mass audience. The people within our business with the best understanding of our audience is the closing team. Our closers, be that sales, CSRs, or another department, has a front-row seat to what our customers need, want, and require, and you would do well to pay attention.

Stop wondering how you can manipulate your sales team and start involving them.

At the very beginning—when you are brainstorming your next campaign—start at the bottom of the sales funnel by meeting with your closers to get their insight on crafting a digitized version of their warming process. You will not be able to duplicate all of their functions—and as they are people who bring unique personalities to the closing process, you shouldn’t try—but ask your sales team about resources and processes and contribute where you can. Move the easy rocks—use nurture emails to provide instantaneous responses for form completions while setting the stage for a sales call, provide links to videos, enroll them in a demo—do the rote work that capitalizes on your automated-campaign processes.

Our closers excel in so many areas we marketers guess, struggle, test and analyze—all in a never-ending effort to learn more about:

  • Finding prospects
  • Distilling prospects to leads
  • Determining which leads are qualified leads
  • Nurturing leads through the sales funnel
  • Converting leads to customers

Take the short cut. Your closers already have a great deal of this insight and are usually willing to impart at least some of it to you.

Look at it from their point of view: If you were in sales and the marketing department was delivering you qualified/hot leads, wouldn’t you rather process those than start anew with a cold call? Of course you would. So do they.

So how do you make the closers do their job and close the sales you give them? Invite them to participate—from the bottom up.