6 Principles of Marketing - No. 4 ABT

ABT stand for 'Always Be Testing'.

I used to work for a very fast growth retail business started by a young man who never ceased introducing new ideas into the stores.

Over a period of several years the group went from strength to strength and the founder's accountant would call him every year to tell him how much more profit he was making, in a very traditional industry where many operators were just getting by. The accountant would congratulate him and say “How do you do it? What are you doing to hit these figures year on year?” And the founder's reply “It's not one thing, it's 50 different things.”

Of course not all of the initiatives worked, but in a short period, by continuing to test new ideas and continue with ones that worked and abandon those that didn't, the business founder was able to increase profitability rapidly.

Richard Branson takes a similar approach and not all of his venture have succeeded. But he doesn't regard those that didn't make money as 'failures', just as 'a result'!

Online marketing options make 'Always Be Testing' incredibly easy to do. Sometimes described as 'multi-variate testing' or 'A/B testing', Google AdWords for example allows you to set up multiple different ads and either automatically show the resultant more successful ad more frequently, or rotate the ads evenly so you can see the stats more clearly yourself.

This is nothing new. For many years Readers Digest took the same approach. They had a copywriting team who would write the copy for their monthly sales letter that would go out to hundreds of thousands of people. The letter that was currently pulling the most sales was called the 'control', and the job of the copywriting team was to outperform that letter. 80% of all letters sent would be the control, and 20% would be competing variations.

If any one of those variations outperformed the control, it became the new control. Using this technique over time refined their sales letter so that they were continually increasing their conversion rate, where even a small percentage increase resulted in a huge increase in revenue.

It is especially important to use the ABT approach when you first use an online advertising tool such as Google AdWords or Facebook advertising. You often have to try many different approaches to find the one that works in your space. The good thing about most online advertising (such as Google AdWords) is that it is relatively inexpensive to experiment and you can switch it on and off at will.

Once you have found an advertising medium and method that works at a small level, you can be confident that ramping it up will generate a lot more business for you.

Chris Cardell in the UK goes so far as to say that the day he discovered the power of testing was the day his business took off.

Next time... LSM.

David Bateson