The Beginner’s Guide to Experimental Marketing

Trying new things is the only way your business will keep growing

Tassia Agatowski
Nov 10 · 6 min read
Six test tubes caught in sunlight, reflecting their colours in a rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.
Six test tubes caught in sunlight, reflecting their colours in a rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.
Photo by Joyce McCown on Unsplash

“That’s the way we’ve always done it.”

Those are the words that kill businesses.

You can’t expect to grow if you keep doing exactly the same thing, particularly with your marketing.

I’m reminded of the famous saying: “Crazy is doing the same thing time and time again, and expecting different results.”

You need to experiment with your marketing, take risks and try new things, in order to grow.

That means that, sometimes, your experiments may not work in the way that you want them to.

But that doesn’t mean that they’re not useful — you can still learn about what does and doesn’t work for your business.

There are no failures, only lessons.

Don’t Jump Straight In

It can be tempting to try everything at once. You’ve just read an awesome article about all the different ways you can promote your product and your business (stop, you’re making me blush), and you want to try it all to see what works.

It’s great that you’re keen, and that you show that much of an interest in whether your business succeeds. It’s a clear sign that you’re doing the right thing.

But you need to try each thing methodically.

Try new marketing techniques and methods individually, then try different combinations.

It might be that video marketing doesn’t work on its own for you, but when coupled with a social media campaign, it brings in lots of new leads and sales.

Set Your Objectives

With each experimentation, you should determine what you actually want to achieve.

This helps guide exactly what you’re experimenting, and what a successful test looks like.

For example, you might be testing to see whether exhibiting at a trade show works for you.

The first thing you do should be to set your objectives: what’s the purpose of this experimentation?

Are you exhibiting to get new leads, make sales at the trade show, or as a brand awareness exercise?

Next, you need to know how you will measure your objective: by the number of badges scanned of those who visit your stand, the number of orders placed, the number of conversations you have, the number of people who post photographs of your stand or use your hashtag, the list goes on.

You can set more than one objective, but when trying out something new, it can be more effective to have just one clear objective. That way, you can more easily determine which elements of your experiment worked towards that objective, and which need tweaking.

I’ve said it time and time again: in marketing, you should always set yourself objectives — otherwise, you won’t know what success is.

Plus, you can use those objectives as targets for future experiments, and better gauge what to expect with each marketing effort.

A/B Testing

Alright, I admit it — I’m a little addicted to A/B testing.

I tend to use it for email marketing campaigns, but I have used it across as many forms of marketing as I possibly can.

If you’re not sure what A/B testing (otherwise known as split testing or bucket testing) is, here’s a quick run-down:

A/B testing is where you take an element of something and try two different versions, sent (or sold/shown) to an audience, which is split so each half (chosen randomly) sees one of the different versions.

It’s particularly useful, as you can tweak even the smallest elements of your marketing to see what performs best for your audience.

Here are a few different ways you can try out A/B testing:

Marketing emails are sent through an email marketing platform like MailChimp, Constant Contact, or Campaign Monitor, which all have built-in A/B testing capacity (you usually set what your objective is, then the platform sends the A/B versions to a percentage of your mailing list, then automatically selects the ‘winner’ after a set amount of time, and sends that winner to the rest of your mailing list):

  • Try having written numbers versus numerical in your subject line, then see which one has the highest open rate — eg. “12 ways you can style short hair” versus “Twelve ways you can style short hair.” Traditionally speaking, in marketing, numerical formats tend to work better, particularly in subject lines and headers, but it’s worth testing for your brand.
  • Try using customers’ first names in your subject line versus their surname — eg. “Joan, we’ve got some exclusive offers just for you” versus “Ms. Smith, we’ve got some exclusive offers just for you.”
  • Test using images instead of words in your email content — eg. listing the companies that use your product versus using their company logos.
  • Experiment with different offers in your email content — eg. 50% off code versus ‘buy one, get one free’ code.
  • Try using gifs and images in your email content — eg. using a gif banner at the top of the email versus a static image banner.
  • Test different phrasings of your CTAs (calls-to-action) in the body of the email.

Experimenting with your website content is usually possible, depending on which web host you’re using (this can be more of a premium feature).

  • Try the same offer with two different banner designs on your homepage, to see which design performs better, then use the differences between them to drive the designs for your future campaigns.
  • Promote different products on the homepage of your website.
  • Try different layouts of products under your product list page — all product thumbnail images the same size; some larger, with more of a ‘collage’ feel to the page; carousel images; images that change when you hover the mouse over; there are so many different changes you can do!
  • Test different CTA (calls-to-action) on your site.
  • Experiment with pop-up forms

I’m not a huge fan of direct mail campaigns as a consumer. I don’t think they work as well as they once did, and they’re comparatively expensive to digital marketing efforts. Plus they’re not great for the environment.

However, you can experiment with different designs and offers in your direct mail campaigns.

I love hosting webinars and can’t wait to experiment with them more in the future.

Try switching up the format of your webinar — or even the script, if you use one — to see what works better to achieve the objective of the webinar.

Most social media platforms offer this capacity.

  • Try different copy for adverts, and different lengths of content, to see what works well.
  • Use different images for your advert, or even experiment with gifs, carousel images, or videos.
  • Test different ways to phrase the CTA in your advert.

As with experimenting in your marketing in general, it’s important not to change too much between your different variations, otherwise, you won’t be able to determine which element(s) are more successful.

So if you’re sending an email campaign and using A/B testing, don’t change the entire body content of your email, adding images to one version, changing the copy and the CTAs — you won’t know which element of that works best.

Use A/B testing often. There’s nothing to stop you from A/B testing all the time, with lots of different, small variations, so you can continue to see what works well for your brand.

I hope this has inspired you to go out and experiment more with your marketing.

Remember: your business can’t grow if you keep doing the same things.

If you’re a business owner who’s keen to grow and succeed, download my free PDF: 23 Ways to Promote Your Product.

Better Marketing

Advice & case studies

Tassia Agatowski

Written by

Co-founder of Night Sky Creative • Marketer • Advocate for equal rights and sustainable living • Feminist • Poet • General geek

Better Marketing

Advice & case studies

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