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  • Writer's pictureDavid A. Schneider

How To Test Sales And Marketing Strategies



In both sales and marketing, one of your main tasks will be to stay ahead of your competitors. As both of these fields quickly evolve and have many moving variables integrated into them, this brings up a certain question:


From the many options you have to sell or market your product, which one will be the right one for you?


The simple answer is that you can’t know what works for your business until you really try it.

In this article we will shine the light on how to test your idea for marketing as well as selling your products. Especially in the digital age, both of these steps should go together and complement each other.

Drawing attention to your product in the first place is just as important as getting the customer to ultimately buy it.


This is why we put both of these fields together here to really analyze the entire sales process, from gathering attention to finally making the sale all in one.

We will show you clear steps to take for testing new strategies and tactics in a repeatable fashion to find the right marketing or sales idea that can potentially transform your business.




Why should you test marketing or sales strategies?

testing marketing and sales strategies
"The Test isn't that scary." The Test:

Why the heck would you want to test such strategies if the outcome is unclear?


Scenario 1: You just started with a new business or product

If you are just starting out with no experience, a new product, or a new business, the answer should be rather obvious.

There are hundreds of ways you can sell your product, and to find out what works best for your business you will have to test the waters carefully. Depending on your results, you can either go ahead with a certain distribution channel or abandon it and try another one.


Without a set of tests, you might settle with a distribution model that is only half as good as it could be and might miss out on huge potential for profits - or you might stick with something that doesn’t work well at all.



Scenario 2: You already have a running business

If you already have an established business, and your marketing and sales are basically working, why should you then think about testing new strategies?

There are several reasons:


Reason 1: The incredible selection of ever-evolving marketing channels available.


First and foremost, look at what happened to sales and marketing in the last decades.

In the 80s, how many channels did you have to advertise your product?

TV, radio, billboards, newspapers, direct marketing… and that was pretty much it.

You had around 5 marketing channels, depending on where you lived and what kind of product you offered.


Now compare it to today's marketing landscape.

How many channels would you guess we have today?

I can’t tell you an exact number, because this number keeps changing every single day.

Look how many new internet platforms arise out of seemingly nowhere, how many new trends come and go constantly, what is “hot” now and how fast it can be forgotten.

At least in the digital space, all of these platforms rely at least partly on advertising revenue.

Guess what that means for you as a marketer? - You're right, you have an abundant choice of where to advertise and how to engage with your audience.



Clearly with such a large selection also comes a burden.

Some of these channels will be better suited for your product than others.

Some might not be a right fit for your target audience at all.


The difficult part is that in the beginning you will probably not have any idea which one is rightly suited for you and which one is not.

You can make an educated guess or observe your competition of course. But these are in the end just assumptions.

You only really know what works and how if you have done it for yourself and have seen real, lasting results.

And to find that out, you will have to test certain strategies and ideas.



Reason 2: Your competition could sneak in


The next thing is that with all these choices in the market, your competitors are not lazy either.

They too will test and try to see what works and what new trends could help them gather attention.

Think about this for a moment:


What if your biggest competitor finds a way to acquire new customers 50% faster than you?

What if they could also do this at only 30% of the costs you have?

How would that affect your position in the market?


Business is never a standstill, and all our digitalization over the last decades has only made things worse when it comes to speed. Constant adaptation and evolvement is the new name of the game in all industries. If you don’t go with the flow, you will be out of the window very soon.


Just look at those few businesses which resisted change by believing “the internet does not work for us”.

Where are these businesses now?

How have their profits been over the last years?

Do they still exist?


Customer expectations and norms tend to evolve as new technologies become adapted by a given market.

It might take longer in some markets than in others, that is for sure.

But sooner or later progress can't be stopped. The internet was just the first wave of change, who knows what will be around as the next big trend.

Maybe products will be sold through virtual reality in a few years? Maybe they will be only virtual at all because we live in the metaverse?

In any way, if you want to stay ahead of your game in your industry you will have to be among those few who adapt first and be at the forefront of where new trends are happening.

But how will you know which trends will matter in your industry or not?

Again, this is where careful testing and experimentation come into play.



Reason 3: You might miss out on a lot of sales


If you run an established business and have found your working marketing channels, you are prepared to run the company with its daily operations.

However, if you want to grow your business (and who doesn’t want to grow their business?), you should not rest on your laurels and be satisfied with just because things merely work as intended.


Maybe there is a new marketing channel out there that could bring you much more customers than your existing ones.

Maybe such a channel just happened to evolve a few months ago, or maybe it will be created a year in the future.

In both circumstances it would be wise to know about it and make use of this channel that could potentially bring millions into your business.


In either case, you again have no real choice but to test new ideas and channels for your products from time to time.

There is no way of telling which options will work for you and which won’t until you really did it and created this channel for your business. The results will then determine clearly what is of use for your products and what was just that - an experiment.

The only way to find out is… you guessed… testing it.



Reason 4: You first want to test the waters for expansion


Some companies want to expand and go into new markets.

Especially if the new market is outside of your home country and involves a different language or culture, the things that are running great at home might result in utter failure in an overseas market.

Too many businesses already have learned this the hard way. It can happen to the small business owner or to the large corporation equally.


Testing can help you to start with certain numbers on a small scale on a new market, and then slowly adjust and increase the necessary times, budget and workload as soon as you see what works.

With a clear testing and measuring approach you will see in a short time what available channels you have to expand and where you would get the highest return on your investment.

New markets can be entered much safer, more predictable and in the worst case only with minimal losses.



Rules for a great experiment

sales experiments
Add some marketing juice here and some salespeople there, and....

When you want to find a new source of revenue and customers, what should you do first?


Finding a new marketing channel or sales methodology that works is essentially an experiment.

Every experiment should therefore also be treated as such with an attitude of curiosity and a willingness to learn from the outcome - even if it might not be what you expected.

Therefore forget your deadlines, quotas and numbers for a moment and focus only on the one thing you want to try and the final results it might get you.



The experiment itself doesn’t have to be overly scientific, but overall it will follow the same approach as any classic scientist would do.

Every experiment first starts with a hypothesis you create. This can be a random thought or idea, for example:

“I believe that Facebook Ads will bring us a constant stream of new leads into our business”.



The next stage is now to test or investigate your hypothesis.

Think of yourself as Sherlock Holmes now.

This is sort of detective work and it will be much more fun if you see it as a playful approach here to learn something new, and not to be under pressure to bring in numbers. At least for a moment.


Now your job will be to find ways you can validate or falsify your hypothesis.

If we look at the example of Facebook Ads, what could be a clever way to see if this assumption is right or wrong?

Well, you could - gasp - actually launch a few Facebook Ads and see how they perform!

Brilliant!

You are on your way to make your first experiment and test a new marketing channel!




Usually, this will give you pretty quickly an idea if this is a marketing channel worth further investigating, or if this is just pouring money down the drain.

As soon as you have enough data, you can then either falify or validate your hypothesis.

In simpler words:

Once you see leads coming into your business, you know you have just found a new marketing channel. Yes, it is actually that simple to evaluate.



In some cases however this first data might not be enough to absolutely determine if the hypothesis is correct or wrong.

For example, if your budget was set too tightly, your marketing campaigns might not even have a chance to perform because you are not supplying them with enough power to actually do their work. The small budget you set compared to competitors in the market willing to pay big money hardly ever delivered your ads, therefore stifling any form of real performance to evaluate.

Have therefore realistic assumptions about your testing and what you can expect from it.

If you only set 10$ as a budget and expect to get 100 highly-targeted leads from it, you will determine every single marketing channel as an utter failure.



In some other cases there might be other data missing.

For example if you test a new selling strategy and you only use it for a certain customer group like a business with more than 200 employees, then you will be missing the data on how this strategy performs for smaller businesses.

Such information can’t be cured by throwing more money at it, which means you will have to also start it with another customer group to see how far reaching this strategy could be.


You have to define for yourself when the data you gathered is enough to determine the experiment as a win or a failure.

In any case, make sure you have taken into account that you will always need a certain number of people to clearly decide if it was a hit or miss. If you only test your strategy on 50 people for example, their behavior might just be plain coincidence.

And coincidence is not a scalable business strategy.


Define your budget

testing marketing strategies
How much are your willing to put at stake?

For most experiments you conduct, especially for marketing strategies, the budget will be a major factor in allowing the circumstances for the experiment to succeed.

For sales experiments, it will be less a certain budget in terms of money but rather in terms of time.

In both cases you should watch this budget closely, since time as well as money are crucially important for any business. Also these will set the allowed limits for your experiments and determine how much effort could potentially be wasted, or when a certain point comes to decide whether it was a success or failure.



Depending on the experiment you conduct, you have to define how much time and money you will allocate to run the experiment.

At one point or another, you will want to see results. And rightfully so.

Now comes the big question:


How do you set a budget, such as the money for a marketing channel or the time for a new sales approach, if you have never done it before and absolutely know not what is awaiting you?



I have to admit, there is no way to be absolutely sure.

But there are certain parameters you can use to start with.

The first will be your own budget you are willing to set for an experiment - in time as well as money. Be realistic again about what you expect.


If one of your other marketing channels is costing you 4.000$ a month to generate a certain number of leads, don’t expect a brand new and unknown channel to work with 200$ after one week and generate double the amount of leads.

Also if your current sales scripts took a year to achieve optimum output with constant re-working on them, don’t expect the new sales tactic to make your revenue explode after the first month using it.


Similar to investing in risky stocks or other assets where the outcome is actually impossible to predict, the money and time set aside for an experiment should be seen as a loss at first.

Meaning if you plan to set aside 10.000$ for an experiment, don’t expect to see these 10.000$ again.

Sounds a little rough, but it will help you a great deal to proceed even when the results are not as you expected.

If you assume that everything will go wrong and all your time and money is already gone anyway, you are not biased to stop the experiment in the middle of the road because you are afraid to lose your money.


Remember: it is an experiment - we have no idea about the outcome in the beginning!

This also includes the scenario where you lose it all, and this is intentional.

We want to evaluate our hypothesis and not generate a return on investment.

This mindset is crucial to adopt, even if you are born a sales talent or need to grow your business fast.




To define the budget correctly, look at your current results you are getting in your business:


How much effort are you putting in currently in the channel you already have and what would the experiment need to be able to show similar results?

With your current sales methodology, how many calls do you make until you get one customer? How long does it usually take?

Or with your current marketing channels, how much money do you spend to generate how many leads?


These current numbers will be the best starting point to determine a clear goal and budget for your experiment. Keep in mind however, that some marketing might need more budget in another channel and your sales cycles might take longer or shorter with a new sales strategy.

Nevertheless it will give you an estimate of what you can expect with your products and current position in the market.

Starting from this estimate you can set the guidelines for the experiments in terms of time and money that will be allocated to it.


If this limit is reached, you then can still decide to move further with the experiment because maybe you are seeing some serious potential that has just not really unfolded yet.

Equally it is also possible that you will stop an experiment you have set up right in the middle because you have clearly determined that this is the wrong way to go for your company.

The limits for time and money will help you to get a better feeling if what you are doing makes sense or not, compared to the results of your already existing marketing and sales tactics.



Embrace failure


In our society we are indoctrinated since school that making a failure is bad.

It will cause you trouble, your parents will be mad at you, and your worth as a person drops if you make them.

This is total B.S. and please try your best to absolutely abandon such thoughts once and for all from your life!

Because from now on, making failure is fun, will get you to learn something new, and be a necessary step on the way to success.

(if you are an entrepreneur, please indoctrinate this mindset as good as possible)



For all experiments, be it for sales tactics or marketing channels, your outcome will be absolutely unsure at the start.

This is what an experiment is, you don’t know what will come out in the end - which is why we conduct the experiment in the first place.

We have never walked this road before, don’t know what is up ahead or how we should react to it.


For this reason you can count on most of your experiments to fail in most business environments.

Some will fail completely, others will be stopped mid-course because you can already say with certainty that it won’t bring the desired results.

And some of them might really bring you the breakthrough for your business you have waited for so long.

Depending on what type of experiment you conduct and how well you do it, you should expect around 90% of your experiments to fail.

Yes, that is a 9 out of 10 failure rate.



If your ratios look better, congratulations. Time to celebrate your performance.

But this is the norm for most businesses, and it is also similar to the Pareto Principle where 80% of your results will come from just 20% of your activities.

As the outcomes are so unpredictable, you could imagine it more like investing in stocks.

And just like in investing, one winner is worth enough to cover for 9 losers by far!


That means your efforts are not lost 90% of the time, because every failed experiment leads you closer to the final one that will move your business forward.

The failed experiments are your way to the one which will bring the results you desired.

Many people get discouraged by the thought that most of what they work on will result in a failure, but remember the mindset we discussed earlier:

You are doing detective work, and have to follow with curiosity to find the answer to your hypothesis.



Therefore to conduct successful experiments, and ideally lots of them because you want to find many new ways to sell and market your product, you will have to see failure as a chance in disguise.

A failed experiment shows you a way your hypothesis does not work, that is it.

Thomas Edison the world-famous inventor of the light bulb himself has failed more than 10.000 times in experiments to create the electric light bulb we know and use today.

His attitude to failing more than 10k times?

He allegedly said: “I have not failed 10.000 times, I have only found more than 10.000 ways not to invent the electric light bulb.


It is hard to imagine the incredible personal costs of time and money he had to invest in this project. After more than 10k total failures he still soldiered on and ultimately created the electric light bulb and changed the world forever.

The right attitude kept him going.

And if you have the right mindset, it will also keep you going until you find the right way to market and sell your product.



Is failure embraced in your company culture or punished?

If you are testing marketing or sales strategies you should be aware that failure will definitely happen sooner or later.

The question is not if some of your experiments fail, but how many of them will fail and how you will react to that situation.

It is easily possible that along this path you also lose a significant amount of money and have not seen any results yet, after let’s say 7 experiments.

Stopping now will guarantee that all of these efforts so far were absolutely wasted.

Maybe the 8th experiment might give you the right answer you were looking for, but maybe also the 9th or 10th or 11th.


The only way to find out: keep going!

And to do that, you will have to have the right attitude about failing.

Failure is not a roadblock, it is part of your journey.

Failing means you are exactly on your right track, because after all we expect most of these to fail - this is what experiments do.



Make sure that within your organization the corporate culture does not punish people involved in such projects if they bring in one crashed marketing project after another.

Mistakes are part of this amazing journey and will only get you one step closer to finding the right strategy that might just transform your business completely.


Failure will in fact lead you on the way to finding your new, successful sales or marketing strategy. Thus make sure that failure is not only allowed to make, but even celebrated and seen as a step in the right direction.

From enough failure you will finally find the right way to go for you, in testing sour sales and marketing as well as in life.

Embracing failure is therefore crucial in making your tests a success ultimately.



Know your outcome

test sales strategies
Know what you want, and find a way to get it.

As you have already defined your budget in the sense of time and money you are willing to put up into the experiment, and have also made sure that failures are seen as progress and not mistakes, now it is time to define your desired outcome.



This is the major target you are searching for, the main reason why any experiment should be conducted at all and a new marketing or sales strategy is necessary in the first place.

Dig a little deeper here than obvious.

Sure you want to sell more with that new marketing tactic, sure you are looking for more revenue when you make a new sales strategy.

But what is the underlying, larger objective? What is the vision for this project and beyond?


For example:

We are looking for a way to improve our conversions by 50% at least.

We are looking for a way to reduce customer turnover by at least 30%.

We are looking for a way to make our sales cycle 20% shorter and help people to better understand our product.

Etc.



If the outcome is clear, defining and setting the right parameters for your experiment will become so much easier and more obvious.

If your goal is to make the sale cycle faster, then you can ask the question for every single action you take if this will help to make the sales cycle faster or not.

It is that simple.


With a clearly understandable objective, you now can measure with every step along the way if it is leading in the right direction or not.

Asking if this serves your major target or not will make many steps along the process obvious, and get you results often much faster.


Thus every detail in the experiment can be observed with that larger objective in mind.

You will always get a sense if this is serving the main objective right now or not.

If it is not clearly of necessary benefit to the larger project, you can abandon the part of the experiment right now or at least give it a decent course correction.


Maybe you will also learn fast that certain steps are not favorable for the desired outcome, while in other cases you will see that your experiment is working in the right direction.

If the outcome is clear and understandable for all people involved in the process, it will guide you as a sort of barometer through the entire experiment from start to finish as you can always measure if what currently happens serves the larger objective or not.




Change your approach


What should you do if something doesn’t work right away?

If the larger goal for example would be to increase lead generation by 30%, but you just tested a new marketing channel and it failed.

If your outcome was clearly defined, you acknowledge that failure is an essential learning part along this way and have falsified your experiment in this case, then it is time to look for another way.



One marketing channel just failed to work for you, but there are dozens more available that you can test.

If you know the direction you want to go, but the road is blocked, then simply find another route to get there.

This is another essential component of effective testing and measuring - if Plan A doesn’t work, simply look for a Plan B.


If your ad copy wasn’t right, try another one.

If your sales script just tanked, go for another one.

If the new sales methodology scares customers away, look for the next.


This is what marketing and sales success ultimately is all about, you test and experiment different thoughts and ideas and measure how they perform.

If you have a clear way to measure your results, you can then go on to really look for what is working and what is not.

All you need to do is to repeat this process, until it delivers you a winner.



It might feel frustrating sometimes if you have several missed shots in a row, but here is a hint:

A winner always shows up sooner or later.


In particular online marketing strategies can easily be tested and adjusted by starting with a small budget and then gradually increasing the ad spend as you see the desired results, or abandon it if you see it does not lead to your ultimate goal.

Gradually adjust and test always one part of the entire concept after the other, such as the images you work with or the ad copy you use.

Just because this special setup you were running didn’t work, doesn’t mean it will never work with another setup.

It is important to always make just one change at a time, give it time to perform and again measure the results.

Never change multiple things at a time as this will blur out what really the action was that brought you the final result.



Ultimately if you follow these steps, you can test as many new marketing and sales strategies as your set budget allows for it.

Over the long run, the rewards you reap from this process can be tremendous and might really give you a step forward compared to your competitors.



To sum this article up, here are the important steps again:


  1. See tests for new sales and marketing strategies as an experiment. Be curious to investigate and learn.

  2. Set a clearly defined budget for the time and money that will be available for running this experiment.

  3. See failure as a necessary part to ultimately find the solution that will work for you.

  4. Know the larger goal you want to achieve with this new strategy. If the results are off track but can serve the larger target you want to achieve in your business, you can still proceed. If on the other hand you know it is going in the wrong direction, you can abandon it right away.

  5. Change your approach possibly multiple times until the desired outcome can either be achieved or the experiment is definitely falsified.

  6. Repeat until you have found the new strategies in sales and marketing that will work for you!


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