For the mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sional, build­ing the foun­da­tion for and grow­ing a dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing pro­gram can be a dif­fi­cult under­tak­ing. Often, the hard­est part of the process, beyond devel­op­ing effec­tive test design and under­stand­ing the cor­re­la­tions between your data, can be orga­ni­za­tional in nature. Low fund­ing, lack of inter­nal buy-in, and mis­per­cep­tions about mar­ket­ing con­tent test­ing and opti­miza­tion can cre­ate road­blocks when try­ing to build opti­miza­tion into your dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing strategy.

How do today’s mar­keters move past these obsta­cles to suc­cess­fully cre­ate a solid foun­da­tion and incre­men­tal growth in their pro­gram? In a recent series of dis­cus­sions with users of the Adobe Tar­get solu­tion, we explored just that. Mar­keters from numer­ous com­pa­nies of var­i­ous sizes shared their sto­ries of suc­cess and fail­ure, impart­ing knowl­edge and best prac­tices on how to get buy-in for their respec­tive opti­miza­tion pro­grams. Below are a few of the tips they discussed.

Set Real­is­tic Goals

A recur­ring theme involved the set­ting of real­is­tic goals and man­ag­ing expec­ta­tions. Although test­ing can be a pow­er­ful tool in deter­min­ing the most effec­tive redesign ele­ments, start­ing your pro­gram with the goal of over­haul­ing your entire online pres­ence cre­ates a stag­ger­ing amount of work and can quickly set up the effort for failure.

Devel­op­ing hypothe­ses focused on a clear con­ver­sion event and key per­for­mance indi­ca­tors, and sup­ported by pre­vi­ous results or ana­lyt­ics, you cre­ate an achiev­able result that can be real­ized in a rel­a­tively short amount of time. This lets you quickly show pos­i­tive results from your activ­i­ties, which in turn shows the poten­tial ROI from your pro­gram and encour­ages stake­hold­ers within the com­pany to adopt your program.

When set­ting goals for your test, it’s impor­tant to ask your­self sev­eral ques­tions: What exactly is your objec­tive (i.e., what do you want to deter­mine from the results), and how you will mea­sure whether you have met it? It’s impor­tant to keep in mind that the accu­racy of your results relies on how well you can iden­tify out­liers and other fac­tors that can skew your data.

Under­stand­ing these basic con­cepts will allow you to use the results of your ini­tial endeav­ors to guide the design and deploy­ment of sub­se­quent tests. The ulti­mate goal is a feed­back loop in which pre­vi­ous suc­cesses are com­bined with new ideas to con­tin­u­ally jus­tify, expand, and increase con­ver­sion from your dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing efforts across your dig­i­tal properties.

Learn How to “Fail”

For every expe­ri­ence or piece of con­tent that is iden­ti­fied as being a “win­ner” from your test­ing pro­gram, there are many other pieces of con­tent that “lose” or do not have a pos­i­tive influ­ence on your con­ver­sion goals. It is crit­i­cal to under­stand and pro­mote the con­cept that fail­ures are also suc­cesses. Con­tent that “loses” pro­vides valu­able insight into the pref­er­ences of a diverse pop­u­la­tion of vis­i­tors to allow for more accu­rate future test hypothe­ses and tar­get­ing, as well as pro­vid­ing time and cost sav­ings by avoid­ing cre­ative con­tent  that is not opti­mal to your visitor’s expe­ri­ence. Mar­keters today will also “test to learn,” which involves tar­get­ing a spe­cific sub­seg­ment of your mar­ket with par­tic­u­lar con­tent to try out new con­cepts or to build deeper knowl­edge across your con­sumer base.

Although the over­all goal is to increase rev­enue, it takes time to gain a full under­stand­ing of the mar­ket­place. Find­ing what doesn’t work is just as impor­tant as find­ing what does, which means that all tests and con­tent pro­vide insight into how the com­pany can improve the effec­tive­ness of its mar­ket­ing. A truly suc­cess­ful mar­ket­ing pro­gram is built upon par­tic­i­pa­tion across the orga­ni­za­tion, and build­ing aware­ness of the value of all aspects of the tests can reduce inter­nal pushback.

Evan­ge­lize Your Wins

One of the most impor­tant things to do in the begin­ning stages of a test­ing and opti­miza­tion pro­gram is to pro­mote the program’s suc­cesses. Send peri­odic emails or newslet­ters that iden­tify these suc­cesses. Engage depart­ment man­agers in peri­odic con­ver­sa­tions about new test oppor­tu­ni­ties in their areas. Iden­tify depart­men­tal evan­ge­lists who will par­tic­i­pate reg­u­larly in a train­ing pro­gram and who will then train oth­ers in their depart­ment and pro­mote par­tic­i­pa­tion from their group.

Not every­one in the com­pany will be delighted with what may seem like increased scrutiny of their work. Many design­ers and con­tent gen­er­a­tors feel threat­ened know­ing that the effec­tive­ness of their con­tent will be rated. This is where it is impor­tant to reward test ideas that are par­tic­u­larly inno­v­a­tive or effec­tive. Finally, pro­mote the pro­gram by expos­ing test results and invit­ing peo­ple across your orga­ni­za­tion into the mar­ket­ing cloud for reg­u­lar updates on tests that mat­ter most to them.

Chal­lenge Convention

Sig­nif­i­cant advances have been made in the way busi­nesses can build cus­tomer knowl­edge from dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing. It is impor­tant to ques­tion com­mon and tra­di­tional assump­tions about how mar­ket­ing should be done. Many com­pa­nies have long-held beliefs, or “gut instincts,” on who their cus­tomers are, what types of mar­ket­ing they respond to, and how that rela­tion­ship should be tested. Chal­lenge those beliefs through process and analy­sis and con­stantly refine how you mar­ket based on your results.

By exper­i­ment­ing with new ways of engag­ing cus­tomers, you can gain unique per­spec­tives on what types of con­tent they do or do not respond to. The more you test, the more you’ll learn, and test­ing on the edges of cus­tomer seg­ments can pro­vide under­stand­ing of cross-market buy­ers or other elu­sive sub­seg­ments of your mar­ket­place. Deep knowl­edge of your cus­tomer base is crit­i­cal, and can only be built by push­ing the lim­its of your test­ing and fil­ter­ing your results by top level or more gran­u­lar seg­ments for iden­ti­fy­ing dis­tinct pref­er­ences, even within a sin­gle test. By run­ning these tests and under­stand­ing the vari­a­tion in results by seg­ment you can gain a com­plete under­stand­ing of the mar­ket­place and deliver expo­nen­tial growth in terms of con­ver­sion and rev­enue lift.

Art and Science

Imple­ment­ing an effec­tive dig­i­tal opti­miza­tion pro­gram is a mar­riage of art and sci­ence. The art lies in the fact that mar­ket­ing is based on peo­ple and their pref­er­ences. These things are in no way defined, or even sta­ble. The mar­ket­place shifts con­stantly, and know­ing what type of mar­ket­ing is most effec­tive on any given day is not easy. The sci­ence is in the data. Regard­less of what some­one might think res­onates with a group, or sub­group, of your cus­tomer set, accu­rate tar­get­ing and test­ing of your con­tent will tell you what works and what doesn’t. So what works for you? What obsta­cles have you expe­ri­enced and over­come in your efforts to imple­ment tar­geted mar­ket­ing?