blog post | marketing

How to use micro-testing in your marketing programs

Jarret Fleagle Team Photo
Jarrett FleagleDirector of Business Development

How do you know if your idea is a good one?

Well, most times, you don’t. You just try it.

Incorporating micro-testing into your day-to-day marketing is key to sustained growth and innovation. Only through those tests can you learn what truly resonates with customers, identify new customer segments, and maximize your ROI.

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But what do you test, and how do you test it?

David Drotos joined Performance Marketing Insiders to give his take on micro-testing, a strategy that benefitted his extensive, successful career in insurance and credit many times over.

Today, he’s a VP of marketing at Equity Trust Company and continues to use experimentation to optimize paid media and brand awareness. Below, we’ll share some of the highlights from the conversation, explaining how to leverage micro-testing to boost your marketing programs’ success.

What is micro-testing?

When you put too many variables in the market — whether it’s an ad unit, an audience, a CTA, a media channel — you set yourself up for results that are precisely inaccurate. It’s going to be tough to get to a statistically significant conclusion.

For instance, say you are running two tests. Test A tests new creative, a new audience, and a new call to action. Test B has control creative, a slightly different audience, and a call to action. Those tests have too many variables to calculate statistically significant differences within the results.

Micro-testing eliminates that fuzziness in the data by iterating rapidly on small changes. Tests should be clean and pure. And you can test multiple things so long as they are isolated. For example, you might A/B test different creative. You might test two different calls to action. And you may also test two colors of a button.

Focusing on one thing at a time helps you get to a more accurate conclusion faster.

How do you know what to test?

Creative is likely one of the biggest things you’ll want to test.

But that only works if you can start with the best audience — the results of your testing need to be aligned with your target customer.

Look at your customer list and ask:

  • Who are the best customers?
  • Which customers have the highest lifetime value?
  • Who do you want more of, and how do you find them?
  • How can you easily identify them?

Then, think about what kind of content would resonate with that audience. For instance, David currently works at a self-directed IRA company called Equity Trust. His team knows that people have lost up to 20% of their portfolio in the stock market. Showing prospects that they can consistently beat those numbers with an Equity Trust retirement account is a huge focus.

It’s all about removing the components that will negatively impact your ROAS. And the quicker you can get to stats and a conclusion, the better your marketing efforts will be.

What channels should you test?

You’ll want to test the creative you develop on various channels. What works on TikTok isn’t necessarily going to work on LinkedIn.

If you’re going after more mid-funnel leads, you might want to try YouTube or TikTok. David mentioned that his team is leveraging their own in-house education experts to build compelling video content.

Depending on your demographic, another underrated channel is direct mail. If the population you’re targeting is a little older, they’re more likely to respond.

There are even some new platforms like LeadPost and Postie that attempt to identify certain anonymous users and target them with direct mail based on addresses listed in public records.

The users who have interacted with some of your online content are a pretty hot audience. Enrolling them in a follow-up direct mail campaign can have significant ROI. Again, the key is to find winning audiences and export them across your channels.

Monitoring KPIs

Your tests should be aimed at improving something. So think about:

  • Where are you headed in the next 90 days? In the next year?
  • What are your main KPIs?
  • What is your CAC?
  • What return are you actually getting for your media spend?

A lot of companies spend a lot on digital marketing. And usually, your lowest cost per lead campaigns don’t have the highest return. Online to offline conversion tracking and continuous measurement is key to getting real bang for your buck.

Another thing to keep in mind is that brand awareness is critical. You can’t live off paid search or pay-per-click if folks don’t already have high intent. They need to have already searched for your brand or something related to it.

The likelihood of those people becoming leads and following through to become an account is much higher than someone who doesn’t even know what your product or service is or does. But that requires a level of brand awareness.

David shared that at Equity Trust, they’ve been testing spending more on middle-funnel. In the first 90 days of doing that, the team saw much higher clickthrough rates, lower CPCs, and more branded impressions.

Testing to justify spend is particularly important if you’re dealing with a lighter budget. And it can help you get more creative:

“Sometimes the folks who have less to spend have to be more creative and have to be really more judicious and how they spend their dollars and where they spend them.”

Another way David’s team is maximizing their budget is by using influencers. There are a lot of people that operate in the real estate investing world, and hosting events with those influencers has dramatically upped their social presence and brand awareness.

There are other tools at your disposal, too. BrightEdge, an SEO platform, helps you figure out exactly which pages of your website to update and how to optimize your reach. Some of their plans even come with an SEO coach to help teams get into the groove of things.

Be mindful of regulations

Some industries are far more regulated than others, and it’s paramount that you comply with those rules. But there are still clever ways to reach your ideal customer.

For example, David’s team cannot provide investment advice. But they can educate their audience, giving them examples of what other customers have done using Equity Trust and adding a disclaimer on everything.

An example of micro-testing

Taking a different approach and testing it first can really pay off.

David shared an example of a test that stood out during his time at TransUnion. He and his team were creating marketing solutions for insurance companies.

One of the products they developed was called “in-market audiences,” which would help their clients zero in on patterns of behavior highly correlated with someone shopping for insurance.

Normally, the time from an event to an impression takes two weeks. But to TransUnion’s insurance clients, that felt like a lifetime.

So David and his team thought about ways to condense this process. By testing their product, they could help their clients run their tests much faster, too.

They partnered with Facebook to marry up in-market consumers to impressions, shortening the time to results to only 24 hours. The first time they ran a test for their guinea pig insurance client, the results were phenomenal. The quality of their audiences increased dramatically because they were then only targeting folks who had searched for insurance just 24 hours prior.

He then tested the same strategy with direct mail. A piece of mail goes out after an event. Marrying the offline intent signal with a digital ad impression and looking at the corresponding effect on response rates was huge.

You could apply this methodology to other businesses, too. Thinking about what kinds of intent signals you can test. For instance, in auto insurance, an intent signal may be an address change, a new mortgage, or an application for an auto loan. Building and testing audiences based on those characteristics can be extremely powerful.

Fail fast to grow fast

Too often, people let great get in the way of good. We overthink things instead of actually doing them. Failing fast teaches you the lessons you need to facilitate growth.

Micro-testing can apply to so many areas of marketing. And taking advantage of it early and often can help your results (and your career) skyrocket.

To hear more about David’s path to success, listen to his episode on Performance Marketing Insiders. And if you want more secrets to digital marketing, please join us at our monthly Growth Clinic.

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