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First-Time Testing for Small to Medium Businesses

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Anticipation surrounds testing something that has never been tested before.  It’s full of opportunity, all test ideas are on the table and you often get to uncover user behavior that has been speculated about but never actually proven.  This type of uncharted territory is full of excitement!  However, it also brings its share of challenges…

Unchartered Territory- Mars

To start, there are technical and consumer behavior learning curves that have to take place.  Testing tools are being implemented for the first time, marketers and developers are working closer together than ever and initial test strategy will be influenced by assumptions. Issues will come up along the way, but expecting these challenges out of the gate is essential to starting off on the right foot.

If your small- to medium-sized organization is new to testing, or if you are beginning to test a new funnel, you may have experienced one of these challenges first hand while implementing tools like Visual Website Optimizer and Optimizely.  I’d like to share five simple tips from a marketer’s perspective to make the process of testing the untested a little easier.

  1. Marketers and developers, unite!  I can’t stress the importance of marketers and developers getting on the same page and making the commitment to build a testing program.  Get the core team aligned and ensure that everyone understands the role that they’ll play.  Regular meetings and open communication are key.  And you’ll also want to…
  1. Start early in the process.  Marketers should be involved with the developers and technical implementation team in the early stages to get familiar with the setup and can understand the functionality and limitations.  By working together from the beginning, marketers and developers can work step-by-step together in a way that will positively impact the testing program.
  1. Develop a disciplined testing program.  It’s often tempting to dive in to testing without restraint.  Change this, move that, update this, swap that!  Do all the things we’ve been itching to do before testing was an option.  However, it’s very important to approach testing in a clean and disciplined manner.

If a big overhaul is what you have in mind, begin with an A/B test.  After that, continue to optimize using element tests.  It is important to tie any results to specific learnings that you can implement long-term.

  1. Validate test strategy.  If you are asked, “Why did you choose to proceed with that specific test?” it is important that you can answer it confidently.  This is a great exercise to perform, even if it’s just internal dialogue.

If you are just getting started, you may not have a lot of data about the page at your fingertips.  If you have click data, product data, customer service surveys  – use it.  Testing is most successful when data driven decisions are made.

If data isn’t available at this stage, consult outside sources for validation.  Get in the trenches by talking to the customers/users.  Find out about their experience on your site, what their pain points are, why they like your product/service, etc.  Conduct usability tests to help narrow the area of focus.  Data will begin to come in once you start testing, but this is a great way to validate your test strategy from the start.

  1. Document the process.  Getting your testing program to run smoothly may take time.  Be sure to document the process you’ve used and audit that process after each test.  You’ll likely find things that you could do differently, questions you could ask sooner and ways to streamline things.  The testing process must be repeatable, so document the journey and make changes that will allow you to test more efficiently.

Creating a successful testing program can be one of the most rewarding things that an organization can do.  There may be some bumps along the way, but with good preparation, constant review and continuous adjustments to the process – you’re well on your way to a program that will be a huge asset!

Brought to you by Suzi Tripp and Jeremy Jordan!