Scientists carry out experiments before presenting their inventions; doctors conduct trials before medication release; cooks taste their dishes before serving; developers test their products before launching; manufacturers try their goods before putting them on the market. No activity and no field will ever be able to exist or have meaning without testing.
Don't put money in your purse without checking it for holes, as the Portuguese proverb says. Surely it goes for everything, as well as advertising. But why is it particularly necessary for advertisers? We are here to make it clear!
What is testing, and why is it worth it?
Firstly, let's turn to a general definition. Testing of advertising campaigns is actually testing of your ad messages to find out whether they're effective enough or not and to get certain data needed for further optimization. That is, you create several variations of your ads and offer them to different audiences and through various channels at the same time; after a while, you get the performance that will show you which options are really effective and which ones are good for nothing. Based on these results, you will easily work out a profitable campaign to launch in the future. The goal is to check the effectiveness of your ads before investing all your budget into them.
Testing is one of the main elements of the overall advertising process. Without testing, your campaign would be like a shot in the dark, and you risk wasting your budget and time. However, being well aware of this importance, many companies don't want to spend on it and run campaigns either by previous experience or by guess and gosh. And in such a case, as practice shows, they never get any return on investments they've made in advertising.
You should keep in mind that there's no universal formula for creating a successful campaign that will work for all offers, in all niches, and in all cases. Additionally, you should understand that testing is essential not only for your first-ever campaigns but also for all further ones. Neither it means that testing refers only to newly-launched products. If you want your advertising to be effective and your investments to pay off, you should always test all your campaigns, whether you are a highly experienced marketer and your brand is well-known and trusted or a newbie with a novelty product. Even the most successful businesses that work with time-proven channels by a long-standing algo do not fully rely on their strategies and keep on testing, for they know perfectly well that there is no permanence in the marketing realm. The thing that works a treat now can become powerless at any moment. And it is testing that prevents you from missing the right moment to notice that your campaign has stopped yielding profit, and you have to take immediate action to remedy the situation. What is more, it is testing that provides answers to such essential questions as:
- Does the channel work?
- Who is your target audience?
- Is your creative attractive enough?
- Does your offer bring enough value?
- What to expect from your campaign?
- How much money to invest in the campaign?
The responses you'll get are necessary both for campaign shaping and decision-making processes. The testing campaign doesn't guarantee sales; it guarantees to set the scene and provide insights into what you should do to properly adjust your advertising process.
What to test and how?
1. Promotion channels
As far as you know, there are a bunch of various channels for promotion, search engines (Google), social media (Facebook, Instagram), e-mail, etc. You never know which one will work well for your product; you can't predict it, choose it by intuition, or by your own preference. You have to check out, there is no other choice!
First of all, you should generate several hypotheses of what channel could bring you maximum requests at a minimum cost. You can start with one channel, launch a test campaign, and see how it performs.
2. Target audience
Advertising without knowing your customers makes no sense. If you don't take into consideration your audience's needs and interests, hoping to target your ads at 'everyone and his dog', then such an effort becomes like an attempt to crack a nut with a steam hammer. You should divide your audience into segments according to a set of common parameters, for instance, demands, GEOs, gender, profession, family status, age, etc. It will help you create a customer profile by identifying their motivations, interests, and intentions. That way, your future ad campaigns will be personalized and highly targeted. We strongly recommend you to test on 'hot' consumers first. That is the ones who are actively searching for your product or service at the moment. They are more likely to perform an intended action; as a result, such testing will take significantly less time.
It is also worthwhile noting that it's necessary to segment the audience according to the device type. The same advert may look differently on desktop and mobile; furthermore, on a computer, it's much easier to hide or remove your ad than on a smartphone; and the campaign will perform worse accordingly. Therefore, when carrying out tests, you should take into account all these factors. One segment shouldn't consist of more than 20K people.
The channel is selected, the audience is identified and segmented; it's about time to fall on creatives. How many adverts to compose? The number of ads directly depends on the segment quantity. For every segment, you have to compose a set of creatives and test them. Some experts suppose that 5-10 ads for one segment might be enough. However, look before you leap, go by your budget amount; otherwise, you spend all resources on testing, and when it comes to launching, you'll happen to be on the rocks.
As to targeted ads, it's a good practice to test various formats (posts, videos, stories, posts with external links to your website or group, etc.). Then you can play around with titles, text variations, and different images. For example, you can build five creatives with different pictures, but with the same text and fetch out a most picked one. Afterward, compose ads with this image, but with text variations and identify the most attractive one. Eventually, you get an appealing creative ready to launch!
As to contextual ads, you should test different placement options and images as well.
4. Value proposition
As far as you know, it's a summary of product benefits formulated in a short, compelling, sound, and action-oriented way. It's also a key component to be tested because this affects customers' further steps, whether they will be hooked on your ad and perform an intended action or pass it by. The value proposition works only if it reaches the targeted audience and if it's aimed at customer demands. So, to create a powerful value proposition, you should compose several variations, experimenting with words, phrasing, styles, language, titles, CTAs, etc. Offer these variations to the same audience segment, and you will see which one resonates the most.
Budget for testing
Experts assert that if you don't have an additional budget for testing, then it's better not to launch anything at all. A very low budget is a risk to waste your resources and get zero results. This is not to say that you have to spend a great deal of money on testing. But what amount of expenses would be enough? Usually, it takes about 10-20% of the total ad campaign budget, depending on the circumstances. Statistically, on average, a small business spends $900-$2000 per month on testing campaigns. In order to estimate your own situation, all you need is to make a simple calculation according to the formula:
Test budget = estimated cost per action * min. number of actions required for significance
Remember, the more you invest in testing, the more information about your audience, traffic, and value you get. These data are worth a lot, they go beyond any price, for they are to form a basis for all your future activities. However, it's crucial not only to gather this info but also to properly analyze it.
How to evaluate the results?
You've worked out variations and launched test campaigns, haven't you? It's only part of the story! What is the next step? It's high time to take a glance at the first performance and measure the results.
There are two main criteria for evaluation here: clickability and number of desired actions. Thus, there are two metrics that should be calculated to check the effectiveness of your test campaign.
CTR (click-through-rate) - a percentage of users who view your ad and click on it. The high CTR shows that your advert attracts a large audience, you can check it by the following formula:
CTR = (total clicks on ad) / (total impressions)
If your advert leads to a great number of clicks, it's awesome, but it's not enough! The goal of an ad is to bring to some actions: a purchase, subscription, registration, request, etc. This can be reflected by CR (conversion rate):
CR = (total number of conversions / total number of leads) * 100
If your CTR is within 5-10% and CR is within 2-5%, it means that your test campaign can be considered effective, and all that is left to do is to set your main campaign to its full extent, investing your advertising budget without fear of wasting it. If you get low CTR and CR, then you should keep on further testing, experiment with different variations, try other channels and audience segments.
It's worth pointing out that there is no need to pivot your strategy right after testing. You can make changes based on data gathered in the process. By trying various options, you'll be able to properly optimize and set your campaign. For instance, excluding an unprofitable traffic source may be enough to get good showings and to avoid wasting budget. Without on-site optimization, your testing will be ineffective and useless, while appropriate modifications in the process will probably lead you to a ready-to-launch campaign.
To sum up, it's senseless to deny the high importance of testing. It will provide you all the necessary insights into market response and what you need to change in order to achieve the intended effects. It will tell you much about your audience and their needs. At last, it'll help you save your budget and show which way is better to follow.