While we’ve all bought into the mantra “test and learn,” sometimes it can be hard to know exactly when and what to test.
For us here at Modo Modo Agency, we develop a lot of B2B messaging and communications. Strategic messaging, campaign messaging, internal messaging—you name it, we’ve written it. But clients can sometimes forget to budget in necessary time and resources to pressure test those messages before they hit the ground running.
For that reason, we thought we’d take a step back and talk about how (and when) to complement your messaging development with some testing and market research.
When does message testing happen?
For us, there are two primary ways we think of message testing:
- Discovery & Hypothesis Generation—To inform components or testing hypotheses ahead of developing the full message
- Validation & Refinement—To inform selection or refinement of your messages once developed
Before you put pen to paper, understand whether a conflict, misbelief, or dynamic is driving the need for new messaging. To uncover and dig into that friction, it helps to include pre-testing during discovery. This can pressure test your working hypotheses or insights that will inform your key messaging strategy.
More commonly, testing happens once you’ve firmed up your messaging. This helps validate whether the communication accomplishes its intended goal(s). You’re often working with your target audiences (customers or prospects) to test things like comprehension, differentiation, believability, persuasiveness, etc.
And refinement testing doesn’t stop once you launch your campaign. It may take different forms, such as campaign optimization or feedback loops, but the idea is to continue learning. Never underestimate the value of real-world A/B testing. This helps surface disconnects between what a respondent says/believes is important and how they actually interact or become motivated to take the next step.
But what are the best methods for messaging testing?
Depending on your objectives, some engagements call for a formal testing process. But, some quick, lower-investment options can also get you rich insight. Here are a few message testing examples:
- Send Out a Survey—This is often relatively quick to set up and easy to administer. The challenge here is providing the right incentive for your targets to participate. While easy, audiences are asked to participate in a lot of surveys. Keep it short and make the incentive clear upfront. You will likely need to prioritize what measures are most important to test.
- Bring It to Your Next (Friendly) Customer Meeting—your customers know best, and your trusted relationships want to give you feedback. It can be a great way to bring them into the fold and get some valuable reactions from those who know your solution best.
- Schedule Focus Groups—These can be especially helpful during the explorative stage. This is a more traditional research method and requires a trained moderator.
- In-Depth 1-on-1 Interviews—Often the most intensive form of testing, these can be rich in qualitative insight and are valuable when the audience is very particular or the subject matter is very complex.
- Get Feedback During a Tradeshow—If you need quick access to people in your industry, look no further than an industry gathering. Grabbing a couple of minutes in someone’s day is easier because they are in an open frame of mind and away from the distractions of their immediate work environment.
- Phone (or email) a friend—Be careful here because friends may not be your target audience. Talking to (the right) someone who isn’t mired in the day-to-day of the campaign may be the gut reaction you need to keep moving.
Once you’ve gotten through testing, you need to interpret the findings in aggregate and determine how to incorporate them – and which messages/ideas to leave on the cutting room floor. Summarizing the results often requires going back to the original objective and hypothesis you were looking to evaluate. But the juice is worth the squeeze to capture those findings, as they can be a source of truth in the future as well.
As mentioned earlier, continue to test and refine in real-world settings—in your emails, banner ads, home page hero, etc. There will always be opportunities to tighten and polish your message—and to continue evolving it in step with changing customer needs.
Go forth, and measure! (And then cut)
In summary, don’t base communications on your assumptions alone. It is crucial to gather some evidence along the way. And a good agency can help you do just that.
All in all, we believe implementing some testing best practices makes your marketing & media campaigns more likely to be successful.