ABT: Always Be Testing

Sales teams often have the letters ABC plastered somewhere next to their weekly leader boards and top salesman photo. It stands for Always Be Closing and it’s a motto that keeps sales people laser focused on their goals. Marketing teams should have a similar motto: ABT – Always be testing.

Lately I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot more testing on the performance of webpages and apps. One thing always holds true. Nobody knows what’s best – which is why it’s always important to test things.

This point cannot be more clear. If your head of marketing, lead designer, or CEO could peer into the minds of potential customers and knew the most effective way to sell to them, then they would probably be living on a beach somewhere. The fact that they keep coming into work by car instead of helicopter is enough evidence to show that they don’t have all the answers.

One of the things that gets under my skin about marketing is the focus on branding and brand related marketing. Reading a book about branding is like taking a walk back in time to the 1980s. It’s difficult to find good recent examples of successful brand marketing because more and more companies are discovering that it’s simply not effective. With more technology to play with it has become easier to track the performance of marketing efforts. TV ads can be tested in different regions. Web banners can be split tested daily to find the most effective ad copy.

You know what tends to happen when tested and accountable marketing comes into play? The clever catch phrases disappear, gimmicky websites get toned down and focused, and communication becomes more direct.

I recently heard a pitch from a brand marketing consultant who tried hard to impress upon us the importance of a good tagline as the basis for all marketing. It was not very good advise. One of the examples he used was Avis and their famous “We try harder” tagline. It was claimed to be a tagline that helped grow the business a lot. Question is if taglines are that important why aren’t they presented up front in current marketing.

“We Try Harder” shows up as a footnote on Avis’ current website – barely noticeable. It’s not important enough or effective enough to use on their adwords copy. If taglines were good marketing they would be more prominent in current advertising.

I have tested a lot of marketing ideas over the years, and there are constantly surprises and unexpected winners. I would however never claim to know the best approach – The best approach changes year to year. The experience you get from testing gives you a pretty good place to start from for future tests.

When your business income is at stake Always Be Testing. Never trust the status quo, and don’t trust your copywriter to give you optimal sales copy (why buy one sales page when you can buy two for twice the price). Test every assumption. ABT.