[Video] Testing Your Way to the Truth

In this short (4:25 minute) video, Shane Sparks explains how schools can break away from third party lead generators and the long-term benefits of split-testing.

Recorded at the 11th Annual Pacific Institute’s Best Practices and Business Conference in April 2014.

Shane discusses how fundamental your product offering is and the consequences of giving marketing to 3rd parties. Marketing is about “testing your way to the truth”, Shane shows some neat examples of split testing, including a 20% improvement conversion rate just by changing the color of a button on a call-to-action form.

Transcript

My opinion is we’re at the end of about a 10 or 15 year marketing experiment that has failed for the crucibles, and what we’ve done is we had really taken away responsibility. We had to market our own businesses and given that to third party people in the form of lead generation, and the result of it, the consequence for our sector is we’ve commoditized our businesses, we’ve commoditized our schools. As a result, the result of that is that we’ve had a product erosion, which sucks.

The good news is that the path to prosperity and the path to improving our station in our marketing starts with product. It’s the systems, the people, it’s the experience we deliver, it’s fulfilling the promise of creating a transformational experience for the students that attended our schools.

Fundamentally the question we all have to ask ourselves about our businesses is, fundamentally, do we have something worth buying? Is it worth it for somebody to invest their time and their money in our enterprise and do we deliver on the promises that we make in our marketing? Fundamentally this is about product. Can we deliver on what we promise in our marketing or is it just lip service? Is it just words that somebody wrote in a board room or an ad agency wrote on a whiteboard somewhere?

That’s the challenge we have, product, and product extends from how you first engage prospects, that lead generation stage, and that extends all the way through the admissions process, the delivery of our programs, the job placements, externships, the career services part through graduation and continuing education with our graduates. When we nail it, when we hit product right, when we do it right what happens is that an abundance of new opportunities come to us because we succeed on social media, we increase our referrals, we establish our brands as a premier place that people want to go. It’s an attraction strategy. What’s awesome about it is that it comes from fundamentally doing the right thing so your people can get behind having an exceptional organization.

Marketing doesn’t have to be that hard. It’s basically psychology and math. It’s responding to the unique wiring that we have as human beings. I’ll give you an example of that. We have a client where we’re testing an advertising campaign. It’s landing pages, and we’ve been testing three different photos–they’re all very similar–that advertise the program. What we found is that one photo in particular of these three resulted in a 50% higher conversion rate, so people were 50% more likely to take action, and all that changed in the ad was this one little photo. So the math and the lesson on that is that when we find the thing that is psychologically resonant with somebody, when we find that, and assuming that we’re measuring it so that we can actually know that this is an improvement, we create a permanent result. We’ve permanently created an innovation that we can use for years to come. So fundamentally marketing is just about testing your way to the truth.

Another example would be on, most businesses have some kind of sign-up form, so there’s something that is “fill this form out and click a button.” After a number of tests we found that having a button that was red vs. Blue created a 20%, it was actually a 19.65% lift in conversion rates. We created almost a 20% improvement and all we changed was the color of the button and so when you do the ROI on that, it costs, well, nothing really or maybe a $100 to get somebody to make a red button, but the return on that is permanent. That’s a permanent 20% improvement in conversion rate, and the only way you find it is through testing.