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Digital Marketing Tests for SMBs: Why Channel Testing is More Worthwhile than A/B or Multivariate Testing

Let’s face it…

Investing digital marketing dollars towards multiple channels can be costly – especially for SMBs (small to medium sized businesses) who have limited budgets. The landscape for engaging and interacting with customers is evolving everyday and the question will always remain: where is my target audience and how can I effectively reach them for the lowest possible cost per acquisition (CPA)? There’s a short answer to that question: they’re searching online. Boom. End blog here. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple! The word “online” is such a nebulous, antiquated term these days. My goal for this post isn’t to necessarily redefine the word but to demonstrate how to more effectively utilize your [online] digital marketing budget.

Throughout this post, I’ll provide quantifiable data and use cases from current clients for why it’s important to find that perfect channel rather than use valuable time researching and executing costly A/B and multivariate tests within channels that simply aren’t performing.

The Primary Digital Channels

To start, here’s a list of the primary digital marketing channels and the cost associated with managing each channel from low, medium, to high:

  • Social Media: low
  • Email Marketing: low
  • SMS/MMS (text message) Marketing: low
  • Blogging: medium
  • Landing Page Optimization: medium
  • SEO/SEM: medium
  • Influencer Outreach: medium
  • Video (YouTube, Vimeo): high
  • Digital Media (Pandora, etc.): high
  • PPC, Display, Remarketing: high
  • Website Design and Optimization: high
  • CRO: high

As a quick disclaimer, because the word mobile is not mentioned anywhere within those 12 channels, it is assumed that each channel will be optimized for the mobile experience. If you’re reading this and your website, emails, and landing pages are not mobile optimized, stop reading and get started on that now. We’re only nine days away from Google updating their search algorithm. Not sure what I’m talking about? Click below.

Client Use Case: Lead Generation Strategy

When thinking about lead gen, which channel(s) come to mind? Ultimately, any channel could act as a lead generation tool – or at a minimum assist in a conversion. For the sake of this client in particular, the first channel we focused on back in 2014 was website design and optimization. Your website is the nucleus of your overall marketing strategy because in the event that someone wants to learn more about you, the website will be the place to do it. Unless of course they use an online reputation resource, which is a whole other story… I digress.

Once the website (we’ll call it redesign) was complete, we began blogging to build keyword rich content to increase the amount of indexed pages for the website and then repurposed the content on LinkedIn. Using a monthly ad budget of $250 for sponsored posts on LinkedIn, each weekly blog was posted on LinkedIn and allocated a small budget to promote. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the client is B2B. As a “value added” service, we also curated the blog on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ – organic, not paid. Though we saw an increase in traffic, the blogs did not drive any new leads.

We continued the blogging, LinkedIn strategy for three months. Within each blog, I would do CTA testing. I spent hours creating buttons and drafting persuasive copy to reel people in — to no avail. I tested and adjusted the ad targeting in LinkedIn — also to no avail. I spent hours digging through Google Analytics data and researching keywords to create blogs focused on topics people were actually searching for. Do you get the idea? I spent an inordinate amount of time researching, testing, and refining a strategy that flat out wasn’t working. We went back to the client and simply said, “Look. We aren’t saying that blogging is a bad strategy – it’s just not the right one for what you’re trying to achieve – which are leads.” Our recommendation was to change things up and allocate the ad budget to a PPC campaign. We went over what the new strategy would be and explained that we have a higher likelihood of getting your brand in front of the right people who are searching for your services.

Nine Days into the PPC Campaign

So obviously we didn’t just flip a switch and start a PPC campaign. Over the course of two weeks towards the end of March, we did additional keyword research to target the right keywords for the campaign. We also had to create a whole new landing page from scratch! Using unbounce, it was easy and did not require a developer to get involved. I created a separate sub-domain, dropped in Google Analytics tracking code, created a new conversion goal, and we were on our way! I built out the campaign in AdWords and by April 1st, we were ready to turn it on.

Nine days in, nothing. Just a bunch of impressions, a few clicks, but no conversions. Which is fine! PPC campaigns take time but when you’re quality scores are not great it’s easy to deduce why conversions aren’t happening. I decided not to mess with ad copy, keywords, or targeting just yet. Instead, I signed up for a webinar which was titled: 10 A/B Tests to Use on Your PPC Landing Pages. It was kismet. While I was watching on the ninth day of the campaign, in parallel, I was making a B version of the landing page. I utilized some of the tips and tricks they were suggesting and when I was done making the B version of the landing page, I pushed it live. Then, BAM! The next day we got our first conversion on the B variant. Needless to say I made the B version the primary variant to populate simply because I have more confidence in it’s conversion abilities.

Key Takeaways

The best case scenario is to have enough budget to be able to spread across all channels. Unfortunately, that’s usually not feasible for SMB clients. Obviously it helps when clients come to the table already believers in the power of digital marketing and advertising. If they happen to be tech laggards or have been allocating their budget to more traditional forms of advertising, then it will be more difficult to utilize marketing dollars for digital until it’s actually proven that it “works.”

If you’re limited to one or two channels, plan on running multiple campaigns within those channels and test, retarget, refine, and repeat. But if you’re not seeing results, rather than continue testing, propose a change. Be bold if you have to! If you feel confidently that utilizing other channels is the best option, be forthcoming with you plan and execute. If the channel or channels you’ve selected are also not performing, suggest another change. Don’t beat a dead horse with something that isn’t generating results. Every campaign you are in charge of has goals and KPIs. If they are repeatedly not being met, be sure to let the client know and pitch/present your new plan of action. Taking that initiative will (in most cases) never hurt you. You may get some push back but go confidently in the direction of your digital marketing plans – I think Thoreau said something similar to that…

Have a Difference in Opinion? Let’s Talk about it!

Some people might not agree with this approach: And that is completely fine! We want to hear from you and your experience with A/B, multivariate, and channel testing. If you’d like to set up sometime to hash this out, feel free to give us a call at 317-207-0195. Or, to get the process started online, simply click the button below to submit an online form. We’ll follow up with you shortly to schedule a call – maybe even over coffee or drinks!