How Are You Testing Your Marketing Message?

A customer asks “Why should I buy your X instead of one from your competitor?” What do you say? And, importantly, how do you know that your response is effective?

Experienced salespeople and marketers understand the importance of messaging – how you explain what it is that your product does better than every other product. In a marketplace where a lot of auto parts and accessories seem identical, messaging is key.

But the question is, how do you know your messaging works?

ocean with message in a bottle

Where are your messages and are they reaching your customers?

Examples of Marketing Messages

Let’s say you sell aftermarket wheels online, and that you focus your marketing, advertising, and sales in four areas:

  • Website – People look at your homepage, and what do they see? Are you helping them understand how your company and products stand out?
  • Pay-per-click advertisement – You’re advertising for keywords that you know are valueable, but is your ad text compelling? Are you getting lots of clicks, or getting lots of good clicks that turn into sales?
  • Email Newsletters – You’re either emailing your previous customers or good prospects, which means you’re reinforcing key selling points and trying to get people back to the website to buy. Are you saying something that will get them interested?
  • Incoming phone calls – When a customer calls with a question, is your staff helping the customer understand how your products are different? Do they have a script to work from, and is the script working?

These are just four examples of marketing messaging. If you think about it, you’ve got a message for every type of customer and every marketing medium.

Tools and Methods for Testing Your Marketing Messaging

There are a lot of ways you can test marketing messaging, ranging from simple and inexpensive to comprehensive and time-consuming. If you’re looking for a good place to get started with message testing, here are a few methods to consider.

1. Poll your friends and family. The upside is that this method is cheap and easy, but the downside is you might not get honest or unbiased feedback.

2. Poll your staff and clients. When you choose the people who participate in your poll, you can influence the result. If, for example, you poll all your favorite clients, you can end up with a message that works well for people who already like your products, but not so well for people who are on the fence.

Likewise, when you poll your staff, you might hear what they think you want them to say, rather that what they really feel. So, just like polling friends and family, you have to beware of bias. Still, testing is better than not testing.

If you want to poll staff, clients, friends, and/or family, check out SurveyMonkey. It’s easy to setup and you can conduct a 10 question survey for free. You can also explain that the results are blind, which might help your respondents be a bit more blunt.

Start with some feedback.

3. Run a basic A/B test one transaction at a time. Salespeople often use their own guerrilla methods to test messaging. They may tell half their prospects one version of their pitch, and the other half a different version of their pitch. Over time, they can figure out which pitch works best based on how sales go. The same trick can be repeated by staff answering phones, over the counter sales staff, etc.

While this method isn’t super scientific, it’s not bad if you take the time to log results. Also, it’s important to keep your tests simple…you don’t want to give completely different pitches to half your prospects, as there are too many variables. Just try varying the feature/benefit you lead with, or changing one of your features during your presentation.

Most companies we’ve worked with use a simple paper log – you log when the customer interacted, what version of the pitch they got (a or b), and the result. At the end of the month, you’ll likely have a better understanding of what messages work best on the phone or over the counter. You can then transfer that info to your website, your emails, etc.

4. Do a website A/B test with a third-party testing tool on your website. This is one of the best ways to fly, and it’s easier than ever to complete these tests on your website. You can invest in these tools yourself, or you can hire an agency like ours to help you design and implement testing. We recommend VWO, but Google Optimize is free and has some potential.

The big advantage in using A/B testing tools is that they’re scientific. Unlike the other methods listed, you can be certain about the results you get. The disadvantage is time, cost, and complexity – all the tools are quite capable, but there’s a learning curve for each.

If you setup a basic messaging test on your website’s homepage, you’ll get a good idea about how consumers respond to different verbiage, different features, etc. If you have a lot of traffic, you can test several messages in just a few weeks.

5. Pay for surveys and testing of potential prospects. This is an excellent way to test new messaging, or to do a “reboot” and reconsider all your existing features and benefits. This method is expensive and time consuming, but there are some tools that can help. Google Consumer Surveys is easy to use, and while it isn’t cheap, it’s a heck of a lot more affordable than focus groups and one-on-one interviews.

Summing Up

All too often, marketing gets focused on the nuts and bolts instead of the bigger picture. Marketers spend weeks tweaking website copy and writing search engine optimized HTML title tags, but they don’t put more than an afternoon into deciding which features and benefits are worth promoting.

So, if your company isn’t sure if your messaging works, the solution is to do some testing. We’ve provided some links to some great tools in the article, and of course you can contact us to discuss our CRO services as well.

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