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Could a Small Change Double Your Website's Success?

I lost a bet with my wife this morning. She and I had wagered which of two offers would draw a better response rate to a research survey I'm about to conduct. Before launching the survey invitation to my entire list, I took 200 people and tested two rewards for filling out the survey: a $20 Amazon gift card vs. an executive summary of the survey results.

The gift cards would obviously cost me $20 each while the executive summary would be free for me to produce. Perhaps because of the relative cost, I assumed the more expensive option would perform the best; whereas my wife picked the executive summary. Here are the response rates:

  • Executive summary: 17.6%
  • Amazon gift card: 13%
The results just serve to remind me that: a) My wife is always right; and b) It's a good idea to test marketing ideas -- no matter how well you think you know your audience.

When testing your marketing ideas, there are three basic variables you need to get right:

  1. Your medium
  2. Your offer
  3. Your creative
The golden rule of testing is to test only one thing at a time so you can draw a definitive conclusion at the end of the test.

Testing Your Medium
The first thing you want to know is what medium works best for you. If you advertise on the radio, run the same ad, in the same city, in the same time slot, but assign a different phone number in the call-to-action so you can tell which station performs the best.

For my website, I use Google Analytics (it's free) to track where my users come from. Here are my top three traffic sources (according to number of visits) last month:

  • Direct/None: 1,780
  • Google/organic: 602
  • 221
"Direct/none" corresponds with the people who typed my website address into their browser. My second best traffic source is "Google/organic," which is mostly people searching for "built to sell" and finding my site. Amazingly, number three is a guest post I wrote for Tim Ferriss's blog almost three months ago; this single post continues to be one of my best traffic generators even though I write three to four new articles a week. Now I know that, along with improving my Google organic search performance, I should also offer to write more guest posts for high-profile bloggers like Tim.

Before you make decisions about where to invest your marketing resources, first test which medium pulls in the most traffic.

Testing Your Offer
The next step in refining your marketing is to test your offer. Recently I asked Dr. Karl Blanks and Ben Jesson, the co-founders of Conversion Rate Experts, to give me some suggestions for improving the performance of the site that promotes my new book. Karl and Ben are the conversion-rate gurus and have worked with brands like Google and Sony, so I knew I was in good hands.

Karl and Ben first suggested I change the offer on my website. I was offering a free e-book in exchange for "opting in" (providing me with an email address and permission to send emails in the future). They told me that was a mistake and argued that people who go to my site are looking for information on my book; so getting an offer for a different book (even though it was free) was a disconnect.

Karl and Ben suggested changing my offer to a free chapter of "Built to Sell." Below is a bar chart plotting actual book sales by week. You can see that the week after I made that one change, my sell-through doubled.

Testing Your Creative
The last thing to test is your creative. If you use direct mail, this would be the letter you write to your prospects. Again, you want to test only one variable at a time, which makes testing online so much easier than in other media.

Most email marketing platforms (I use aWeber, but there are many) will allow you to run what is called an "A/B split test," which means you can test two different letters head to head. Again, you want to ensure everything else is the same (offer and medium) and just test the messaging.

As entrepreneurs, we pride ourselves on knowing our market. But I know for me, this recent round of tests was a good reminder of how much more valuable some objective testing can be compared to just "gut feel."

Just curious -- what have been the most surprising results from the marketing tests you've run?

You can download a free chapter of John Warrillow's new book, "Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You."

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