Big results are great. You can point to them and say, “That’s what we do, son. We earn money.” But do you know what’s better than a great test? A solid landing page optimization process.
An optimization process is not as sexy as an A/B test, but it always increases results over time. A test only increases results once. How’s that for sexy?
The marketing team at Firstmark Credit Union knows this well. The bank has 11 branches around San Antonio, and its
marketing team went on a full-bore testing rampage last year. The team earned:
- 250% increase in average email conversion rates in 11 months
- 6.9% conversion rate on a recent direct mail campaign that leveraged insights from online tests
“There has been a continuous increase in response rate and converted sales throughout everything we’re doing,” said Fred Hagerman, CMO at Firstmark. “It’s a result of the process.”
We sat down with Hagerman and Mitchell Shaw, Senior Marketing Analyst at Firstmark, to understand how they set up an optimization process that never stops earning results.
Checklist: Marketing Optimization Process
Shaw joined the credit union last year to establish a testing culture in the marketing department.
“One of the first things that I put in place is a campaign checklist,” said Shaw. “Inside that checklist is a very structured approach to building a campaign.”
This checklist is the foundation of the team’s process. It makes sure everyone follows the same steps to create a valid test, and it sets standards so the tests can be accurately compared. This is how the team increases results month after month.
Three important parts of the checklist:
#1. Pre-campaign meeting
The details of a test are first outlined in a kick-off meeting. The team reviews the product being promoted as well as the campaign’s:
- Target audience
- Marketing creative
- Measurement criteria
Shaw is like a life coach when it comes to setting goals. He is adamant that every test have a clear objective, and that the team has a specific question to answer.
“That focus is what ultimately makes you effective,” said Hagerman.
One important point about this meeting: it is scheduled at least two weeks in advance of the launch date.
“You’ve got to get ahead,” said Shaw. “If you try to do this the day before, it’s not going to work. You’re going to miss things and you’re going to rush it out the door. You have to be thoughtful.”
#2. Testing library and standards
When setting up a campaign, the checklist asks the marketers to review older tests. Firstmark documents every test in a ‘blue book,’ and anytime a campaign is planned, the team pulls out the book for ideas and insight.
This helps the team reach new heights by building on older tests. Marketers at other companies often run a test, get a result, and charge into the next one, but that wastes a ton of insight.
Think of it this way: If you wanted to build a staircase to the moon, would you rather build on one staircase, or start a new one every day?
#3. Insights and lessons meeting
After the campaign, the team meets again to:
- Review campaign performance
- Identify strengths and weaknesses
- Brainstorm opportunities for the next tests
A summary of the results are sent to everyone in the marketing department for comment. Later, the summary is sent to stakeholders in other departments.
When Hagerman and Shaw first started testing, there was grumbling about the additional work. But once Shaw setup the checklist and optimization process, results improved and the skeptics did a 180.
“I knew that the process would uncover the opportunities, but not having experience in the financial sector, I couldn’t point to a specific segment or test” that would win everyone’s trust, said Hagerman. “I was committed to the process of testing and I knew it would unearth the results we discovered.”
There you have it: a marketing team that realized the optimization process is more important than the test (even if the test is sexier).
Note: Testing is a forever process. If you stop testing conversions will go down, period. Our CEO, Jon Correll, call’s this constant force: “Website Conversion Gravity”. This “gravity” is constantly pulling down on a site’s conversion rate. The web and people using the web are constantly changing, and if you stop changing (landing page optimization tests), the effect of this gravity increases exponentially over time. So keep testing, measuring and changing, and you will succeed!
Scientist Photo Via zoethustra