When it comes to testing new marketing tactics, B2B marketers often find themselves in one of two camps:
- Chasing the new, shiny object. (Their motto: Let’s innovate, innovate, innovate!)
- Maintaining the status quo. (Their motto: We don’t mess with what’s working.)
Whichever camp you currently find yourself in, chances are high that you’re intrigued by what the other has to offer. The chasers are fearless innovators who are eager to test any new platform, media type, or strategy—and the keepers of the status quo are methodical budget managers who have proven tactics and processes on lockdown.
However, we’d suggest finding a middle (camp)ground: Testing strategically. (Your motto: I test to add to my success.)
Our rationale is simple: Too much chasing can cause you to lose focus on winning tactics or switch gears without giving a new tactic the proper testing time. And maintaining your commitment “tried-and-true” isn’t wise in the evolving digital landscape; what works today may not work tomorrow. You need to regularly test strategically to keep up with the changing needs and preferences of your target audience.
Testing strategically will not only help you accurately measure the effectiveness of new tactics, but also ensure you aren’t blowing your budget (or your reputation) on an unsuccessful test.
Regardless to your current approach to testing, start with this six-step framework to give your team a rhythm and process for testing new B2B marketing tactics.
A Six-Step Framework for Strategically Testing New B2B Marketing Tactics
Step 1: Follow the 80/20 Rule
Dedicate 80% of your marketing budget and resources to tactics you know work based on past performance and historical data and use the other 20% to place a SMART bet on something new.
This mix gives you enough budget to give your pilot a chance at success, but ensures you’re got the lion’s share of your budget working for you to drive ROI. If you (or your boss) is a keeper of the status quo, this balance should help you both feel comfortable in the fact that you’ll have core tactics working for you.
But there’s an important thing to note here: Don’t assume that 20% of the budget will drive 20% of your results. Remember, this is a test, so use it to set a benchmark and set goals around that 80% driving 100% of your results. If you’re not able to do that, then it might make sense to look at a smaller testing budget or a different tactical mix.
Step 2: Document How Your Test Maps to Your Overall Strategy
Like any other tactic, a documented marketing strategy that maps into your overall strategy is key to the success of your pilot. The approach should include the objective(s), target audience, tactics, and KPIs that make sense for your business, industry, and so on.
Documenting your approach is a great time to check in and see if this is the right test for your brand. For example, while Instagram for B2B brands is a rising trend, if you’re looking to drive more leads, then it may not be the right tactic to test.
If you can, validate whether your target audience is using a new platform or consuming media in a new format. After all, tactics that work really well for some brands may fail for others because their target audience isn’t interacting in that space or in the same way.
In terms of goal setting, you may choose to use this test as a benchmark. Or you can elect to set goals based on a similar tactic or test you’ve run previously. Regardless of which road you take, document the decision as part of your approach. This will help set appropriate expectations with your team and help you better determine whether a tactic was successful.
Step 3: Research and Consult with an Expert
If you are testing a new tactic, in order to really understand the effectiveness, it’s important to have the best execution possible. For example, if you’re trying a new advertising platform, advice and case studies from experts can help guide your approach to setting up targeting, media types, messaging, and so on.
If you’re making a larger investment, consider partnering with an experienced agency or consultant. Agencies and consultants are typically the first to test new media types and tactics. For example, influencer marketing is rising in adoption in the B2B, but few brands have the bandwidth or the experience to build a successful campaign from scratch. However, an experienced B2B influencer marketing agency will have the expertise and connections can help you nail your pilot.
In addition, if you tested a tactic one or two years ago and determined it to be ineffective, do some research and consider testing again. Whether your target audience is slower to adopt new formats or refinements have taken place, you may be missing out on a new opportunity if you’re not open to all possibilities.
Step 4: Create a Plan of Attack
Right after you’ve documented your strategy, create a plan that includes the steps, timeline, communication channels, resources and milestones for launch, optimization, and measurement. It’s easy to miss steps when you’re testing something new. If the test is complex, get the team together to brainstorm process based on their expertise.
However, as detailed as your plan is, you’ll probably miss something. So, build in some flexibility in your timeline and a solid communication platform to ensure your team can adapt to the unexpected.
Step 5: Give Yourself Time to Optimize
Despite all your planning and research, there will almost certainly be opportunities to optimize and improve the performance of your pilot.
If you’ve ever launched a new blog, podcast, or social channel, you know it can take a while for performance to build. For any new destination, we’d recommend at least four to six months of testing. During this time frame, you’re looking to:
- Test within your test. Piloting video? Try different topics, formats (e.g. talking head, motion graphics, or live interviews), destinations, and promotional tactics.
- Identify high-flyers. As you’re monitoring results, identify which variations and combinations work the best and do more of that.
- Look for a steady improvement in performance. Typically, we recommend pulling the plug on a test if after two or three rounds of optimization if you see little or no improvement in performance.
Measuring and optimizing over time, will give you the most accurate measure of effectiveness of a test, and ensure you’re not passing on a potentially impactful tactic.
Step 6: Schedule a Retrospective
Retrospectives can be a really impactful tool when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of a test. At the start of your test, schedule a retrospective based on your planned timing for wrap. Invite all key stakeholders who worked on or were impacted by the results of the test.
Plan to discuss:
- Results: How did the results compare to goals or benchmarks? What variations worked best? What didn’t work?
- Process: How was the workflow for planning, execution, reporting and optimization? What improvements can be made for this specific workflow?
- Next Steps: Do you plan to continue this tactic? Try another test with new variations? Expand to another business line or team?
The retrospective can be an easy step to miss, especially if you’re already on to the next shiny object. It can be easy just to expand or close a test without much discussion. But it’s an important step to share information with your entire team and apply learnings to your next test. It can also be an opportunity to iterate on your testing process.
Ready to Start Testing New Marketing Tactics?
We all know it’s important to keep evolving our digital mix, in order to continue to reach and nurture our prospects. Creating a framework for how you approach and execute on test will ensure you are able to truly measure the effectiveness of every test.
Don’t have the personal bandwidth, budget, or internal resources to test something new? Working with an agency that can adapt to your changing needs could be the ticket.