THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN NEW MEDIA TESTS (AND HOW TO PREVENT IT) PART II

Now where were we? Oh yes, your tests are failing, or at least not showing a path to scale your media as far as your goals require. We’ve identified the mismatch between the deadlines you dictate for your investments before acceptable performance is realized, versus the deadlines you’ve articulated to the audience in your commercials (typically, no deadline). So let’s look at the solution that should allow you to bridge the gap:

The technical term is Tentpole Marketing, and it’s been under our noses all along. You have already seen it and mostly steered clear. You might even dabble in it around Black Friday or on digital channels where you think no one will really notice. Either way, it’s probably not a core part of your growth strategy.

Tentpole Marketing is simply event-driven marketing. It’s about building your marketing calendar around key events throughout the year that gives consumers a good reason to buy at that time. Examples include major gift-giving holidays like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, or Christmas. Consider seasonal or weather-driven events. Product launches, industry events, made-up events, little-known holidays like Work Naked Day (Feb 1), Talk Like Yoda Day (May 21) or Pluto Demoted Day (Aug. 24). Yes, those are real. A little mental exertion can find a reason why one of these infinitely interesting and prevalent events can give you the excuse you need to throw your customers a party.

In Audiolytics™, we prefer the term “Scarcity” and break it down into two primary groupings: Organic Scarcity and Artificial Scarcity.

Organic Scarcity is the obvious stuff. You already know what it is for your business because it’s when everything works better based on pre-existing events in the market. If people are 50% more likely to buy between Thanksgiving and Christmas, then most of your work is done. You just need to plan accordingly.

Artificial Scarcity is a bit trickier. It means that the market has no known reason to buy from you during a fixed period, so you create a reason. That doesn’t mean lie. It often means you have an opportunity to create. To make an event real by speaking it into existence.

I had the great fortune to work with LegalZoom for many years, starting with their first offline campaign in 2004. I take none of the credit because I was simply one of many caretakers to a great idea on top of a great company. The geniuses behind the brand decided to invent, “Start Your Business Month.” There never was one before they decided to give it life. It was masterfully executed. A theme that was motivating around the start of the New Year, when people are poised to venture out but need a little push. A special offer that truly is better than last month’s and the one to come in the month following. A deadline. Not one you keep to yourself, but one you share with the audience. Plus specialized web assets, videos, emails, PR, etc. – all of it designed to amplify the promotion. A fully integrated push around this simple idea – that you have a dream and NOW is the time to pursue it. January is that time for you. LLCs, S-Corps, C-Corps, DBAs and more. Come join the fun and be a part of “National Start Your Business Month,” now through January 31st at LegalZoom.com and get a 20% discount on your free business formation documents when you use promo code, “Launch.”

It was brilliant. Better than that, it worked. Rather than cheapen the brand, it strengthened it by demonstrating an alignment with the felt needs of their customers; small businesses. This concept has helped launch many thousands of companies while being a boon to sales, and a dependable annuity for its stakeholders for more than a decade.

So why doesn’t everyone do this? The common causes for avoidance typically come down to pride and difficulty.

Let’s deal with pride first. It requires humility and acceptance that we may not be the special snowflake who simply announces to the world that we’ve made a better mousetrap and watches the customers stampede through our door. We don’t want to look foolish, desperate, or in a hurry. We’re building a brand for the ages. Quite rationally, we even want to avoid transaction-oriented deal shoppers who are easy come, easy go and don’t always provide the best LTVs. So we avoid the types of conventions that will drive stronger performance by a given deadline, even though deep inside, we know it will work. My advice on this is to test this test model. It does not have to make you look cheap. In fact, who doesn’t love a deal, when there is reason to believe in it. There must be discernment applied to make sure that it matches the brand and remains credible. But these things are not mutually exclusive. It’s generally a lack of persistence and creativity that cause people to tap out before finding the right balance.

The second is difficulty. Changing out landing pages, getting agreement and buy-in on an offer, making it a better offer than you have in some high performing digital channels, changing your ad copy, changing it back, coming up with a theme, protecting the brand, coordinating all of the deadline-driven execution parameters amidst the backdrop of an already crushing workload. You don’t need another battle, and so operate on the hope that all will be well without so drastic a change.

This is not a recommendation that you truly do anything that diminishes the brand. You do not need to tell half-truths. You do not need to compromise your real principles. But can we just be honest with each other for a second? Are you a performance marketer or not? Are you testing new channels expecting that it will hit a sales metric or not? Do you have the budget to plan media buys annually, and without the pressure of tying it directly back to product sales, or not? If everything you are doing is working and you know you’ve got headroom without going there, then by all means, carry on. But if you’re looking to “test new channels” but can only commit for a short period of time to “see if it works” or “has clear potential to work”, then for heaven’s sakes, will you please notify the audience?

In Review, here are the key components for your Tentpole Marketing event:

  1. Purpose – could be artificial or organic. But there must be a reason for the season.
  2. Offer – and a better one than you provide before, after, or elsewhere. Don’t cheat here. Google will rat you out every time.
  3. Deadline – Don’t just have it. TELL THEM. Shout it from the rooftops. Announce the promotion at the top of your ad. Remind them 2-3 times of when the offer will expire.
  4. Support – Do what you can to market around it. Use it to boost your other channels. Digital, Email, Display, Social. Build specific landing pages and let the world know. You will be glad when you see that all boats truly do rise.
  5. Media Flighting – This is a time to hit the gas. Higher frequency than usual. Escalate your frequency even higher the closer you get to the end as the increased repetition will reinforce the perceived urgency in the mind of the audience. Let them know it’s their last chance and remind them vigorously.
  6. Test, Test, Test! You’ve got the wind at your back finally. Now do something with it. Don’t run test media under flaccid circumstances. Use this time to try new channels. If it doesn’t work during your promotion, forget it. This allows you to circumvent the gut-wrenching process of “waiting for the ramp”. When you see the lift in existing channels vs. typical performance, you can project what performance will look like between this and your next promotion and if the media will work without the extra help. Even if it will not, at least you know where to return and you’ve gotten three times further than you would have with your former testing approach.  

So there you have it. A recipe for testing media and for enhancing the media you have.


Interested? I know a firm that would gladly help you map this out.

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