Online Market Testing That Can Save You Time and Money

“Marketing is not an event, but a process. … It has a beginning, a middle, but never an end, for it is a process. You improve it, perfect it, change it, even pause it. But you never stop it completely.” – Jay Conrad Levinson

Here’s a way to test your new product, concept, or headline by putting your marketing toe in the water before jumping in: Use Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads on search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN, or other networks such as Kanoodle, Quigo, or Miva.

PPC ads – keyword-oriented ads that charge the advertiser a small fee each time a visitor clicks on them – give you a great way to gauge general consumer sentiment. It is fast, easy to track, and cost effective. Success can be measured by the number of clicks and conversions generated.

Simply stated, a “click” is when a consumer responds to your ad by clicking on it to get more information. The ad typically redirects the user to a “landing page” for a promo, special offer, or order form. A “conversion” is when that same user takes the next step and follows through by taking the action you want them to take. It could be purchasing your product, requesting more information, or signing up for a free report.

To run a PPC test, create several PPC ads for your product and make sure they all run during the same time period. Each ad should take a different approach. For example, one could tie into something that’s in the news, and focus on facts and the features of your product. Another one could be more obviously promotional, and tap into your prospect’s emotions and need for a solution to a problem.

After two to three weeks, see which ad generated the most clicks and conversions. That’s the ad you will base your marketing campaign on.

If your click rate is high but your conversion rate is low, most likely your PPC ad is appealing enough to get users to click for more information – but your landing page copy is not attractive enough to move them to make a purchase. If that’s the case, you should test your price point, guarantee, offer, and other elements of the copy on your landing page that may be keeping users from taking that next step.

If your click rate is low, either your PPC ad is ineffective or your product itself is of little interest to the general public. Retest both of these elements by refining and clarifying your ad headline and copy to go after the exact audience you’re targeting. For example, if you’re going after widget buyers, have widgets in your headline and subhead, along with a benefit: “Free insider report on Widgets. Learn the best and worst Widgets of 2007. Download now!”

If your click rate and conversion rate are both high, that tells you that you may have a winning product on your hands. At this point, you should continue testing by expanding on your best-performing ad with a mini-rollout. For example, if you had tested your ad on just one PPC channel, such as Google, you would “roll it out” to other PPC channels, such as Yahoo, AOL, or MSN.

Testing on Google or another PPC platform allows you to gauge general market interest in any given topic or product. PPC ads run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and appear all over the country. You can’t get a more objective, diverse audience than that.

Keep in mind that if you are testing a new concept only on your internal list of customer names, the results may be skewed. That’s because your audience has already bought into your philosophy. Loyal customers will likely purchase anything you have to sell. But if you plan on reaching external lists to gain market share, testing on a broad platform like Google allows for greater insight and more impartial results. This eliminates bias and gives you a good idea of how widespread interest in your product really is.

In addition, PPC testing is a bargain. Depending on the keywords you choose, each click will cost you an average of 10 cents to $1 (though popular keywords could go for as much as $50 per click).

So before you spend a lot of time and money (on printing, production, and list rental costs) to put a promotion in the mail, test your concept online with PPC ads first.

[Ed. Note: Wendy Montes de Oca, ETR’s new VP of Marketing and Business Development, has over 15 years of experience in law, financial services, and marketing.Enjoy the success you’ve always wanted with ETR’s Direct Marketing Quick-Start Kit. This 4-CD program is the most effective, quickest, and least expensive way to move you toward financial independence.]