How to test your marketing plan | Channel Testing, Important Metrics, Funnel Models

An interview with Dave Anderson Marketing Leader with 20 years’ success in technology, digital media and music industries.

DAVE ANDERSON: My name is Dave Anderson and I help technology companies to grow. Been a B2B marketer for most of my career. So I specialize in helping companies see where their opportunities are. I’ve worked primarily with tech throughout my career. Typically, maybe people pass the early start up stage where they’re just starting to ramp up growth and they’re trying to make their marketing efforts more effective.

B2BNXT: What differentiates you from competition?

DAVE ANDERSON: Yeah, one thing I think that differentiates is a real strategic approach to channel testing. So not coming in with preconceived ideas about your space or your industry and saying, “Hey, for this type of client, this is the channel that’s going to win. Here’s what you need to do.” And sort of saying that in an interim meeting. And instead, I think what’s really important is to have a good discovery process and learn what’s unique about your company, the stage you’re at, the resources you have to commit to growth. And then also what’s unique about your space? Are there people out there creating killer content? Do competitors already have great SEO or not? And what are they not doing to grow that you can do well?

B2BNXT: How else do you help guide businesses forward?

DAVE ANDERSON: I worked with a company a while back that came to me and said, “Okay, well, what’s the most important metric? What’s the most important metric from all companies?” And I read a thing on this article and it says this is the metric. And so, I was able to engage and show that actually for you and for the stage of your lead funnel, ROI, for example, isn’t the metric you start with. It’s the metric we aspire to get to over the period of, say, six months. So in that case, we practiced our blocking and tackling, got good at lead acquisition, got good at finding and targeting more high quality leads. And then we were sort of able to pivot into those kinds of metrics the CEO had in mind from the beginning.

B2BNXT: How do you choose between quality and quantity?

DAVE ANDERSON: I have a thing that I’m about to put out, which is called The Lead Funnel Maturity Model. And it basically says that, yeah, in the early stage of a lead funnel, you’re just starting something up. You’re starting to spend money. You’re starting to acquire leads and give them to salespeople. You’re probably going to be in a quantity phase where the most important metrics are going to be quantity oriented. And then as you get good at the mechanics of how do we respond to these leads, how do we tag them, it’s going to be very important to go through sort of a quality phase where regardless of what the taxonomy of leads in your organization, whether you have a thing called marketing qualified leads or sales qualified leads. Whatever it’s called, the important thing is that you have some quality controls where you’re saying, “Okay, are we getting more of the types that we need? Are we getting people in the right segments? Are we getting the right roles in the organization as leads?” And then you’ve reached sort of a quality phase. So yeah, it’s really important to get good at both, but not necessarily at the same time. Your business needs to focus, your marketing effort needs to focus, and then also understand where it needs to mature to the next level and take on new metrics.

B2BNXT: What is your #1 tactic for driving growth?

DAVE ANDERSON: Number one tactic would be channel testing. So I could come in with hypotheses and say, “Here’s how I think you’re going to grow.” But I think as part of that open minded perspective, we’re going to want to test things against each other. And sometimes the great idea that the marketing consultant brings in might not be the winner. So one has to be open minded enough to say, “We’re going to test these different things and find what works,” and then really leverage those. So channel testing is key. That includes having more than one channel. Probably having several. Having geeky things like statistical significance. Make sure you have enough of certain types of results so you can draw conclusions and then focus your efforts.

B2BNXT: How do you test different channels?

DAVE ANDERSON: Yeah, I think it’s important in the original test design to be looking and saying, “How many people do we need in this sale or in this segment in order for it to be significant? And how long is that going to take? Do we need to invest disproportionally in this one segment and how long is it going to take?” So it is important to, yeah, monitor what you’re getting and maybe steering the investment so that your test can catch up in a certain segment. It’s part of the plan that’s presented. And a client can sign off on the plan, change the plan, but you have a phase up front where you’re saying, “Here’s what we’re going to do. Here’s why we’re doing this approach. And it’s to find the best results for you.” And that includes investing a small amount of resources in some things that won’t work so that later on you know the answers and you can put your resources in the right direction.

B2BNXT: What’s a lesson you learned from this past year?

DAVE ANDERSON: It’s important to keep up on new channels and it’s also important to watch what’s happening and to have metrics that help you sense things like channel fatigue. I’ve seen situations where one channel where a company was really winning in one channel for a period of time and trouncing their competitors. And then their competitors noticed this and started investing in their channel. And in a place like, say, SEM or AdWords, once competitive bidding starts to ratchet up the price of the lead, then you might be in a situation where that channel is not even cost effective anymore. And so you want to catch things like that early on and invest in new channels. And in this case, we went heavy into content marketing and webinars to sort of replace both form the quantity and quality perspective. And it’s also, it’s like diversifying. What if you had an investment portfolio with only one type of stock? Well, you’ve got a $50 million company that’s not diversified if you’re relying on one channel and not testing others.

B2BNXT: What’s a good strategy towards creating content?

DAVE ANDERSON: One of the first things to look at in a new space or an opportunity is to say, “Okay, well, what are the competitors doing in terms of content? Is their content good? Who is the audience and what type of content did they need to be successful at their jobs?” To be heroes within their companies. And then if nobody is providing that content, then you have a big opportunity. Or even channel wise. If people are providing it in dry blogging, well, has anybody done it in video? And so delivering what the target audience needs in their careers is a great approach.

B2BNXT: What’s a mistake you see people making?

DAVE ANDERSON: Well, one thing is copying the big guys in your space. Doing the same tactic. You might be in a situation where economically spending the same amount, the organization doesn’t have the throughput to make that channel profitable. So copying instead of testing is one mistake that I see a lot. And then being distracted by the shiny object. New channels can be great if you’re there first and you exploit them well. But a new channel might not even be priced appropriately. The company that’s selling this advertising in this new channel, they may have priced things too high. And by getting in early on that channel, you may learn that it’s not cost effective for you or anyone else. So always testing, and always thinking with an open mind, and also having multiple lines in the water when you’re fishing.

In B2B marketing, I think people often forget that B2B targets are people, and they have motivations, and they have careers they’re trying to succeed in, and jobs they’d like to be easier that are hard. And so part of winning in B2B marketing is understand those targets. Understanding those targets in terms of who they are, and what they read, and what would make their lives easier. And in that sense, B2B isn’t that much different than B2C, except you’re not just trying to look cool when you go to school when you buy a pair of sneakers. You’re trying to maybe bring great content into your company. Maybe having a ready-made slide deck from the webinar that you can borrow some ideas and slides that really speak to your organization and using that content. So yeah, understanding your target in terms of what is the persona is really key.

B2BNXT: What’s an upcoming trend you’re excited about?

DAVE ANDERSON: I think in 2019, we’re going to see companies that have strategic marketing plans, that are well-researched, and that are testing and measuring things properly, and executing well are going to be successful. And non-diversified marketing efforts that are not tested and measured properly, executed well won’t be able to keep up. And so, it might not be new, but it’s a great place to spend effort is to have a great plan.

B2BNXT: How can you be consistent with content delivery and creation?

DAVE ANDERSON: Yeah, what’s important to have a good content calendar and understand how the blog post fits into your other media that you have available and that includes, of course, social, and website, the speaking engagements that you might have with your company, and video assets that are being created. But one really important thing is for blogging is to have a sharing plan before you publish a post. And to say, “Yeah, we have our site, and we have a certain audience that’s going to come to that site, and people are going to follow our social channels.” But who else needs to be seeing this and how are we going to reach them? Oftentimes, that might be guest blogging on another channel, or sharing somewhere else, or already having influencers that know what’s coming and are going to share it. Because your own social properties might have limited reach. It’s tech and it’s online. And you can do it on a computer and you can click send. But ultimately, you have to know and connect to people in order to get your story out.

B2BNXT: What’s your take on video as part of a marketing strategy?

DAVE ANDERSON: Video content is being done in an ad hawk way in a lot of companies. And I see a real need for services that can be provided to make it easier to create killer video content. There’s been an era of content marketing where content has replaced some other focus. But people have gotten better at these other channels and video. Usually you might have a skillset and your in-house art director, somebody who can edit video and shoot. But oftentimes not, so I’ve been approaching this through a network of freelancers. But always looking for better solutions to execute on video content.

B2BNXT: What’s your favorite business book?

DAVE ANDERSON: Favorite business book for me would still be “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. And it’s been out for some number of years, but what I like about it is it has some non-intuitive things to say, which is that thoughtful leadership works. That going against the grain in your space can win and help you succeed in the long-term. And then having discipline in the organization. Having simple metrics the company can organize around is going to make every effort more effective, whether it’s the overall company or whether it’s a marketing dimension plan. And having simple metrics that people know they’re trying to drive. Not being too distracted by shiny objects, by what’s happening in the space, what other people are doing. But really focusing on excellence in your team.

Dave Anderson

Kosta BoardStudios.com

Founder of Board Studios Inc, an animation production agency that helps B2B companies simplify and communicate more effectively. Specializing in B2B makes a big difference because we know what information your clients need, what works and what doesn’t. B2B communications can be very different than B2C, so if you get your video explainer from a B2C agency you may not get the results you deserve.

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