About a month or so ago, I had a conversation with an industry friend and Bing Ads Evangelist John Gagnon (@jmgagnon) that went something like this:
J: Hey Lisa – Are you growth hacking at Point It?
L: What the hell is that? The latest management consultant buzzword?
J: Yeah, something like that…. No seriously, are you?
L: If you mean whether we test a lot, why yes, yes we do. And have been for years….
I must have been living in my PPC cave for the past year or so, because I hadn’t really heard much of this phrase until the last couple of months, and now I see it EVERYWHERE. Everybody seems to be talking about it. More than your average wikipedia result on the SERP. Lots of blogs about what it is, blogs about GH tools, webinars, and even a growthhackers.com website that compiles trending news for an interested community.
From my very basic understanding of this phrase, I see it as focused and turnkey testing and use of tools by digital marketers to identify opportunities to move the needle. It’s taking those test and tool learnings and being able to apply them in ways that can scale your business and provide “hockey stick” growth but doing it in such a way that is similar to the frenzied, thirsty pace that thrives in startups. I worked for dot.com in the glory days and went through an IPO so I know from personal experience what this feels like, to prove your valuation and nail down all processes and operations for the VC firms and bankers. It’s both incredibly rewarding and incredibly exhausting. Call me sentimental, but I still have the hockey stick we received as holiday gifts one year. I still have the hammer too we received a different year.
I’ve always been proud of our testing and nimbleness at Point It. We embrace betas of all search engines; we want to be part of them when they make sense and help the engines figure out new features that will be valuable to advertisers. It’s also kind of fun to be in the early adopters group and breaks up the monotony of doing PPC for a long time. But when I look back at the last year, I cannot remember a time when I have used the following words so much in paid search conversations on a daily basis: tests, trials, testing plan, testing matrix, pilots, UI demo, betas, alphas, bakeoffs, dynamic, automated, scripts versions v1, v2, v3, v4….etc. , MoM/YoY growth, scalable, social response, content marketing, viral, engagement.
What I’m talking about is more than your standard best practices for PPC testing. It’s more than ad copy, keywords, bids, and campaign settings.
Here’s a few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t test too many things at one time. If you start to forget people’s names of all the new contacts you are working with, that is an indication you are testing too many new things.
- Try as much as you can to isolate the testing arenas and stay in those boundaries. Don’t stray off course.
- Have clear start and end dates and metrics for evaluation.
- Before starting, define what you would consider a winner, loser, or need for further testing.
- Even if you don’t have a clear attribution model, know that all of it impacts each other. Nothing operates in a vacuum. And no one channel probably deserves as much credit as what they are claiming, including paid search.
- Take notes on all the qualitative issues. Is it a PITA? Is it too much work for the benefit? How’s customer service, responsiveness, understanding your needs and listening by support teams? And most importantly, is it scalable?
- Don’t be afraid to test because not all tests win over the control. Instead of seeing it as “we blew a lot of time and money on that one”, see it as we learned X and will take that learning to structure future tests.
- Set realistic expectations. If you have an already large, complex and sophisticated paid search program, moving the needle can mean only double digit growth, but that’s still great and worth energetically pursuing. If your paid search program is young and in the early stages, you can achieve triple+ digit growth. If you do, please share your tricks/tools.
What about you? Are you growth hacking?