While we have plenty of conversations around testing, not enough marketers take a holistic approach to the idea of learning through testing. Too often we get caught up in a cycle of testing for testing’s-sake and lose sight of the big picture."
It’s important to approach test planning from the perspective of learning and evolving. Let’s get off that hamster wheel of testing. It’s time to build a Learning Agenda.
A Learning Agenda is a framework that organizes your testing efforts in a way that lets you improve your overall understanding of your customer and/or marketing efforts. It’s a goal-oriented approach to testing that helps you make decisions about future campaigns, and develop better marketing strategies. It guides the marketer in identifying the right tests in order to achieve near and long-term objectives.
The idea is to think strategically about what you’d like to learn. By clarifying the areas where you want to deepen your knowledge, you can design tests that help you do just that.
Here are three key steps to follow when developing a Learning Agenda.
The first step is to make a list of things you want to learn about your customers. Identify everything you want to know and pose it in a question or hypothesis format. Consider the following questions as your jumping-off point:
A great place to start is to reference your marketing goals and determine what knowledge will help you improve specific KPIs. Of course, the list of “Things I Want to Learn” will vary based on company and industry but here are some questions we’ve used to determine testing:
Now that you have a list, the second step is to go through it and vet each question:
At this vetting stage, try to keep your final list of questions/assumptions short – 3 – 5 items at most. This is necessary because there may be more than one way of testing to arrive at a conclusion, or there may be multiple test iterations necessary to get a satisfying answer to each of your learning goals.
Here is a sample of our marketing objectives for 2016:
And here is the list of the questions I’d like to answer. I’ve crossed out the ones that didn’t make the cut, and wrote notes around each one as to why or why not.
Finally, identify the best tests (or surveys) which will answer key questions or confirm major assumptions.
First, reference your marketing calendar to prioritize your tests. Try to find the right content or campaign opportunity that fits the test criteria, not the other way around. This should keep the need for incremental new creative designs to a minimum.
To take the example list above, let’s pick this one and think it through: How can I leverage email to increase traffic to my company’s blog page?
You may want to break this down into more detailed questions that will provide more information:
Then, match the right tests which will best answer the questions:
Tests (in corresponding order):
Once the Learning Agenda is set, it’s time to implement and document by:
The Learning Agenda, if used properly, can be a great way to optimize your strategy.
The idea is to take the test results and map them back to your original questions. Step by step, you are building your knowledge base and gaining a better understanding of your audience. Because this process is focused around a set agenda, you are moving deliberately toward concrete learnings. Over time you will build a playbook of sorts, which houses key insights that inform your strategy.
Good luck and happy learning!