From copy to design, I’m afraid the days of relying on your gut instinct for what reads well, and what looks good, are drawing to a close. According to figures, an incredible 80 percent of CEOs admit they do not really trust the work done by marketers. It isn’t that 80% of marketers aren’t good enough, but as a collective, we’re simply not good enough at proving our own value. And that’s a problem.

To become a marketing scientist doesn’t need to entail handing everything over to artificial intelligence, or spending months of research (and precious budget) on every decision. But if you aren’t using quality data and insight across the marketing mix, then you’re probably falling behind your competitors.

You’re most likely already comfortable with testing email subject lines, and experimenting with copy on your paid search. But do you know what imagery resonates best with your audience? Which tone of voice drives purchases or enquiries? Do your website product or service pages remain the same all year round while you focus on the top of your funnel?

These are all opportunities for you to exploit experimentation, leading to better decision making and increased business revenue without finding thousands more users.

If you find yourself debating what copy works best, or what imagery to use, then consider experimenting. If you disagree with colleagues about the best way to move forward: put your wits against theirs in a test. Your marketing will be all the better for it.

Garbage in, garbage out

If you haven’t come across it, Garbage In Garbage Out (or GIGO) is a computing term warning that decisions made on flawed data will give flawed results. Marketing is no different.

Before your next campaign, ask yourself: have you really taken the time to understand your audience? Aside from their price point, do you really know what motivates them? Do they want to look good in front of their boss? Are they looking to buy your product because it’s a status symbol, or because it’s reliable?

Usually, to save time, we often make decisions on these based on gut instinct, or perhaps what the sales team tells us. We always hope to come back to these kinds of questions but, in reality, the day-to-day takes over. Without a solid understanding of your audience, the decisions you make could easily be “garbage” or - at the very least - you could be missing out on making creative decisions that drive more revenue without even realising it.

Max Wiggins, Insight and Innovation Lead at the insights agency VERJ, part of the LAB Group of agencies states: “People tend to believe that we act rationally. In reality, however, we are often predictably irrational and do things for reasons we’re not always consciously aware of.

“The goal of psychology in marketing is to understand these motivations. 

“By accessing the right data, we can build a clearer understanding of audiences and develop experiences suited to their more genuine drivers.”  

Are you interested in what drives you? Take our questionnaire to discover more about your values and motives.

Experimenting for SMEs

The biggest barrier that stops most companies from experimenting more often is the idea that it’s only for the Amazons and Apples of this world. These days, that simply isn’t true. We work with a wide variety of companies, B2B, B2C, big and small, helping them to make the most of their website and to make their decision-making as data-led and scientific as possible.

We’ve found that even niche B2B businesses, reliant on a handful of contact form leads a month, can benefit from experimentation. It may not be as clear cut and simple as with an eCommerce website - and the data may take slightly longer to accrue - but we still find ways to push their performance higher with well-informed testing.

Three easy experiments you could be undertaking right now include:

  1. Page structure: does reduced scroll on key landing pages drive more conversions?
  2. Different lead messaging: if you currently prioritise pricing, for example, in your messaging - how does starting with a problem/solution or customer service message perform in comparison?
  3. Add a human touch: do you have any images of your team on key pages? Experiment with adding a human touch to see if users are more encouraged to enquire.

A great example of a fairly simple test - and one that shows the disproportionate impact they can have - is from Game when selling a new version of SimCity. They were running an offer of $20 off a customer’s next purchase if they pre-ordered the game. A simple A/B test showed 33% of users to the same page but without the offer present at all (a third version of the page changed how the offer was displayed). Despite the assumption that money off would drive more conversions, the version with no offer at all drove a shocking 43.4% more purchases.

The most important takeaway from this test is to challenge your assumptions. When was the last time a scientist published a paper that said: “common sense dictates this should work”? You should be doing the same with your marketing, even when you’re confident.

Introducing psychology into your marketing

A lot of the traditional elements of marketing rely on psychology. If you’re hoping for improved brand awareness, then you’re hoping to influence people’s memory. If you want them to buy something online, you’re hoping to evoke excitement and feelings of security on your website.

That doesn’t mean you need to be Stephen Pinker to be an effective marketer, but an understanding of how your user’s brains work can be hugely beneficial. Take your personas, for example. You might understand your audience’s age and proof-point, but do you understand how they’re feeling when they interact with you? Perhaps they’re nervous as they don’t fully understand how your services work - that’s important to know for your messaging. Or perhaps their purchase is more about their desire to stand out from the crowd than whether they can get it delivered quickly. How could you improve your adverts based on that?

On a deeper level, we advise our clients on the use of nudge theory in their marketing. With its roots in behavioural science and behavioural economics, nudge theory involves making subtle changes to your marketing to influence the user to take the action you want them to without making it more difficult to undertake different actions. It can completely transform the results you’re seeing from your messaging through to the UX on your website.

Even the biggest brands with highly tested messaging can benefit from psychology in their marketing. Take KFC in Australia; they wanted to increase sales of their $1 fries beyond what the offer itself was generating. They played with three psychological concepts: loss aversion (“I don’t want to miss out”), reciprocity (people are naturally inclined to return a favour) and value payoff (limiting the offer in order to create exclusivity).

By experimenting with psychology in their messaging, KFC improved sales by 56% without changing their offer at all.

Embrace testing for your own career

Experimentation is a good idea for all sorts of business reasons. But be selfish for a moment: wouldn’t you like to be able to show your boss, the board, whoever holds the purse strings, exactly how much more money your genius has brought them? Testing isolates variables, giving you precisely how many more purchases or leads you or your team have generated.

Take this example: 

You believe that your users aren’t responding to your messaging. Perhaps you think it’s too technical, or it doesn’t resonate with their needs. Often these kinds of discussions become your opinion over someone else’s. But set up an A/B test on a key product page, replacing your usual introductory text with your own, and in a few days or weeks (depending on your traffic), you could be in a position to show the board that your copywriting has a tangible impact on their pockets with more users clicking through to purchase.

The next time budget cuts come around, or that big promotion is on the horizon, wouldn’t it be helpful to have that data to hand?

So don’t think that science has to be boring, fusty, or uncreative. And don’t hold yourself back because testing is for the corporate elite. Put on your white coat, and put your data where your mouth is; you’ll be fascinated to find out how much value your marketing team is bringing, maybe without even realising it.

Want to learn more about how to leverage human insights to enhance customer experience and drive new leads? Get in touch.

This blog was originally published via The Drum on the 15th of February 2022.


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