The Difficulties of Testing: Why joining the navy might just make you a better online marketer


It’s the time of year when I’m preparing the annual sojourn to Salt Lake City to gather with my fellow digital marketers at the Omniture Summit, and it makes me a bit nostalgic. No, not because I grew up in Utah, or because I miss the cold mountain air (as a former Montana-resident-turned-Florida resident, nothing could be further from my mind), but for my navy days. Years ago, when I was just out of high school, I joined the navy and the first boat I served on was USS SALT LAKE CITY (SSN-716). It’s tough to make a visit to SLC without thinking about these days.

I remember being a scrawny high school kid, band geek, 97 lbs, and hearing over and over that I would never make it through boot camp. By the time I got there, I actually started to believe it myself. But, nine weeks later, I had finished all the trials, gained 25 lbs, and was marching with the rest of my class in the pass-in-review ceremony. I had done it, and (to borrow a popular phrase from that year) thought I was the king of the world.

What does being in boot camp have to do with online marketing?

Navy Boot CampWell, let me say that when you first get to boot camp, your mind does wander to thoughts of quitting and getting back home to a comfortable life where all you really had to worry about was next Friday’s math test. However, you can’t just quit when you get to boot camp; no, they make you persevere. And by the time it’s done, you’re very glad you stuck through the tough times and accomplished something remarkable.

I think that my experience at boot camp can be a lot like the experience we marketers go through when starting to test online, except it’s MUCH easier to quit testing than it is boot camp. There is a large temptation to think that it will just be too much work – first figuring out what to test, designing alternative creative, selecting a testing tool, getting your boss to sign off, then moving mountains to get the IT work prioritized. It’s easy for a marketer to just stick to the status quo and quit the fight before it’s even begun.

Why the mountains are worth moving

I’m not going to deny that testing, like boot camp, has challenges we must persevere through and overcome. But just like boot camp, testing also has significant rewards that we might miss out on if we are jumping ship in fear. Rewards like the incredible feeling of accomplishment when you actually get that first test done, and one of your treatments won! Rewards like knowing you’ve discovered how to stop the leaks in your funnel and contribute directly to your company’s bottom line.

At MarketingExperiments we’re lucky because we get to feel this all the time with our research partners. We get to see our partners grow and establish the culture of testing in their own organizations, which really breathes new life into the old marketing routine that many of us know all too well – “Hey guys, St. Patrick’s day is coming up, let’s trot out all our old shamrock creative and talk about finding a pot of savings at the end of the rainbow.” You won’t ever have that conversation again.

So my message to you is this: don’t give up

The good news is that if a 97lb band geek can experience the reward of surviving boot camp, then there is much hope for the marketer out there starting to online test. You can survive; you can make it.  Just hang in there, don’t give up, and know that the rewards will far outweigh the struggles.

If you are like me and are going to be at the Omniture Summit this year (currently sold-out), consider spending a day with the MarketingExperiments team learning how to optimize your online marketing campaigns. We will be teaching our Landing Page Optimization Workshop during the Omniture University training day in Salt Lake City this year. I’ll be there with the MarketingExperiments team helping your fellow peers learn how they can apply a decade of marketing discoveries to their own campaigns.

Photo provided by: / CC BY 2.0

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