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When It Comes to Online Marketing, Everyone Should Test

With the tools we have and virtually every American accessing the internet in some form daily, the opportunity to reach more people with more messages is better than it ever has been. However, it can be laced with some pitfalls as well. First, ask yourself what are you trying to accomplish? Sales, awareness, conversions and capturing information are just a few examples but there are more.

No matter how big or how small your online marketing campaign is, the best decision when starting something new is to create a few test campaigns. The ultimate goal is to strengthen what we call your ‘Control’ campaign, that is your primary, best responding campaign(s) to build better-quality response, open new doors of opportunity and of course, increase sales.

There was a time where this advice was best served in print, then direct mail and now online marketing efforts. As a direct response marketing guy who started in the mid-nineties, I can tell you that on-line strategy is not all that different from the days of direct mail (which are far from gone, but that’s a different article). In fact, it is basically direct marketing on steroids!

Some of the areas you can test are creative and types of creative, the price or offer, the search terms, the geography and the online effort or ‘vehicle’ you plan to use such as videos, display, etc. Let’s take a look. Remember budget is a huge factor here as well. You are bidding for placement against your competition. You need to know how much you can afford and when.

CREATIVE:

How do you plan to appeal to passive and active seekers? A series of remarketing ads – ads that follow a user and advertise on other websites such as news sites or social media, general search ads, video? All of these are possible, but are all of them necessary? The more visual your product is the more visual your ads should be. Here is where testing comes in pretty handy!

However, as the owner of an agency that specializes in home contractor services and trade and service marketing, I can tell you that even the most basic visual product such as water quality equipment and softeners needs good, attractive creative. Some concepts work better than others. Customers may not be interested in your pics of the awesome, complicated install job you completed, but they are interested in the lifestyle visual it creates. Better living, healthier lifestyle, etc. Testing here is very valuable as it can set your branding, even your website imagery on a winning path.

PRICE AND OFFER:

If price is going to be a factor or mentioned in your marketing, you might want to try price testing based on the campaign or vehicle. Also, if you are going to change up offers, be sure each potential sale is going to a unique landing page on your website or using a unique phone number, email address, etc.  Important; Be sure your staff is aware of the testing. Creating confusion at this level could cost you a sale.

Also, think about your goals for pricing. You may test a higher price for more revenue, more net profit. It could be a straight price. Or a promotional offer price. Either way, the new price or offer, if an increase, could depress response at first. You will want to evaluate these results carefully.  The increased revenue could wipe out the impact of response loss. After reasonable time, your market will likely adjust to the new higher price as if the increase never happened. Warning, your competition is the x-factor on this. And an online market has a lot of competition!

SEARCH AND GEOGRAPHY:

This is a big one and often the most confusing to business owners. We tend to be so close to our products and services, we lose touch with how a customer searches for us – we often forget to use the laymen’s terms. It is important to know how they are searching for you on-line and how far are you willing to travel to service them. Of course if your business is walk-in customer traffic based, how far are customers willing to go to visit your location?

Keywords and search terms play an important role here. Google has great tools for researching your terms and phrases and making recommendations down to performance, competition and cost. Also, know what should be a broad search term (varying combinations) and exact term (such as a brand name or unique product) and even what you DON’T want in your search terms.

For instance, we have tested water quality campaigns where we use the ‘negative search term’ / phrase (what should exclude us from a search) ‘FREE Water Test’. The client still offers it, but we had better, more qualified responses and higher conversion rates in certain markets. Another example is a chimney cleaning company that used ‘Bees in Chimney’ as a negative term. They don’t want to pay for a click for a customer they can’t service.

When all is said and done, this is a lot to learn. We are a Google Partner and still need to learn the latest and greatest tactics and tools. Here is a GOOD piece of advice: Get professional help on this. With so many other things to do daily in your primary business, how can you be expected to keep up with it? One final warning. Be careful how many of these on-line campaigns you test at one time. Remember, you are bidding against your competition. If you have a limited budget, your results might be tainted by an inability to compete with bigger spenders. While that too is a good test result, it doesn’t tell the whole story

Get good response through good testing.

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