Test and measure your way to profitable digital products
One in a series of Executive Insights looking at the challenges and opportunities for publishers in 2012.
Are you looking for a way to guarantee increased audience size, engagement and revenue around your digital products? The classic advice on serving the needs of your audience is to simply ask them what they need. While this is in some ways simplistic, it can be the basis for an effective digital media strategy in the year ahead by following these three steps:
Create a process of iteration
Too many digital initiatives bank on the success of “a great idea.” A strategy is devised, funded, and resources are allocated to develop and support it, all building up to the big launch. Regardless of whether it’s an online event or a paid product, someone is making a bet whereby the project will either meet its numbers or fail.
Instead of a big bet, try a different approach. Test ideas in small and safe ways. Find ways to get data and insight early that will help you adjust the strategy and increase the likelihood of success. In fact, you should constantly be testing ideas in order to optimize them.
Many B2B publishers have found success with online events and webinars, but quickly go from 0 to 60, saturating the potential market for growth. Can your brand sustain promoting and running three webinars per week to the same audience?
The same saturation happens in email marketing. Many companies send dozens of emails to their audience – newsletters, promotions, updates – that quickly result in email fatigue.
When you find something that works, instead of just copying it and subjecting your audience to more of it, why not optimize what you are already doing? So if you find that a webinar is giving you 100 registrants and $5,000, instead of running three more webinars in the same week, why not optimize that one webinar to achieve the growth you need?
Besides the inherent growth, this process helps you understand why something works and what levers you can pull to turn a good idea into a great idea.
Always be testing
Use A/B and multivariate testing to constantly improve your products and services. This helps you move beyond trends and “best practices” that provide a diminishing return on investment as time moves on. Instead of waiting to hear about some great idea that everyone else is jumping on, test what works for you.
Test everything: headlines, segments of your list, ways of promoting it, images, different layouts and colors, etc. For example, if you’re promoting a big online event for later in the year, test which marketing channels deliver more conversions; which headlines drive more traffic; which page layouts lead more people to the registration button; whether that button should be called ”register now” or ”join us”; what color that button should be; etc.
When you find something that works, continue testing it. Get the qualitative data that proves that one strategy works. I am a big believer in gut instinct. But sometimes, having data to support a strategy helps you feel more confident about your gut.
Use the data quickly
You can get lost in web analytics. We have more data than ever before, but oftentimes, we don’t know what to do with it. The trick is to use data in a way that drives decisions. When you look at metrics, you should be able to define a single action you can take based on what the data tells you.
Data should equal action.
Luckily, there are a variety of tools at your disposal to do this. Some examples:
- Testing services such as Optimizely and Visual Website Optimizer.
- Using Google ads and Facebook ads to determine which headlines, copy and images drive more clicks and specific actions.
- Leveraging funnel visualization in a web analytics package such as Google Analytics.
- Using UTM tracking code in your web links that are shared on different channels.
The result is a process whereby you are constantly learning what works and what doesn’t. This allows you to move quickly to optimize your product and service offerings to ensure growth.
Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia.com, which helps publishers and writers build their online communities and find positive return on investment in engaging their audiences. Dan previously spent a decade at Reed Business Information as Director of Content Strategy & Development.