Test and Learn: Take a Direct Approach.

by Barb Cote on September 30, 2010

Barb Cote

Barb Coté

Below is a movie of my son on his skateboard demonstrating the technique of “Test and Learn.” There are many parallels between Nick, as he learns to street skate, and me, practicing the art of multi-segment marketing.

1.)   In order to learn, you have to take risks.

Multi-segment marketing is complex. Is it as complex as a pop shove-it into a frontside noseslide? I have no idea.

Multi-segment marketing requires planning and a long-term commitment to the process. You need to establish test metrics, and practice careful auditing throughout the entire process. Testing increases complexity. It increases your cost per contact.  Not every test is a success. Failures can be costly (or painful).

Nick tells me that skaters have to learn how to fall and not get hurt. They jump down a set of 12 stairs, grind the hand rail, flip their board around and then expect to land on it and roll safely away. That only happens sometimes.

When you set up your test matrix, figure out ahead of time what you can afford to risk without jeopardizing the critical returns that will allow you to afford the next campaign.

2.)   In order to learn, you have to be patient.

Success does not happen on the first try — usually. Progress is slow. Think about creating a test matrix. List all the things you might be able to improve and put each item in its own segment of the matrix.

If you look carefully at your best customers, you may see some similar characteristics. Are many of them Moms or over 65? How could you tailor your message to better meet their needs? If they drive 80% of your revenue, improving the messages that speak to the needs of that segment will greatly improve your ROI.

What should you test?

  • Copy:  style, approach, length
  • Graphics:  format, layout, design, type, colors, images, size
  • Interactive devices:  buttons, stickers, animations, tears and folds
  • Elements:  brochures, liftnotes, BREs, P-URLS, surveys, landing pages
  • Audience:  lists, segments within lists
  • Recency and frequency
  • Offers
  • Expiration dates
  • Sweeps and contests
  • Product:  packaging, bundling
  • Guarantees and warranties
  • Testimonials and Spokespeople
  • Channel:  mail, email, web, mobile, TV, radio, outdoor, print, social, guerilla
  • Multichannel mix

I watch Nick get frustrated when he struggles to learn a new trick.  He sits down and fumes for a while, but he always gets up and tries again.

“The hard part about testing is that there is no ‘right answer’ because the target is always moving. The things that delight customers go in and out of fashion and all you are doing by testing is trying to catch and ride that wave.”

John Wall (www.theshow.com)

3.)   You will learn … over time.

My son goes away to a skateboarding camp for 2 weeks a year. During that time he does nothing but skateboard ALL DAY LONG. The camp is designed with all the best equipment — ramps, stair sets, bowls, half-pipes. He has full access to all the equipment all the time, unlike the rest of the year when he is constantly told, “skating is not allowed here.”  When he returns home, he can show me all the new tricks he has learned, and he is REALLY tired and sits around doing nothing for about a week.

When you have the opportunity for concentrated testing, i.e., conjoint tests or successive email campaigns, you can make great progress in a shorter amount of time.  But a direct mail campaign usually takes weeks, since deploying and getting a response take a lot longer. I learn with every campaign.

When you follow the process over a long period of time, it is very satisfying to see how much progress you can make in the big areas like lowering your cost per acquisition or increasing the lifetime value of your customers.

About the Author:

Barb Coté serves as the Creative Director at database marketing company SIGMA Marketing Group. Connect with Barb on  or follow her on .

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lani Kee, Mind Mapping Techniques October 5, 2010 at 2:31 am

Aloha Barb, ouch that look bone crunching experience, but it’s true if he gave up he would’ve never known his next step to accomplishments. Enjoyed your post and great list to get thru our hurdles. Thanks for sharing! Lanikee.com

PS…come by and visit me and share a sweet comment. The benefits are sharing is caring. Mahalo! :)

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