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The process of acquiring customers for your business is a long road with many exits, several roadblocks, and a few strategically-placed billboards that advertise your company and its products along the way. At one end of the road are potential customers who don’t know that your company exists yet. In order to become a satisfied customer, they need to start down your road, become aware of your business through advertising, and not get stuck in any roadblocks along the way or take an exit off in the direction of another company before they reach their destination: your business. You have the ability to control how your advertising affects customers and can learn how to identify and eliminate road blocks as they appear by testing your marketing material.

Knowing your target market will allow you to provide better content and more user-friendly options, increasing your chances of turning your website visitors into your customers. When designing the marketing for your business, it is not always clear which components of your marketing material will do better than variations of that same piece of marketing material. You may ask yourself: should your call-to-action button color be blue or orange? Should you include a video tour of your product on the landing page? Will charging $9.97 produce more sales than charging $10? You can make sure that you get the right answers to these questions by running a split-test, sometimes called an A/B test.

A split-test is the process of showing a random half of your users one style, layout, and content and the other half a version of the original with one or more modifications. Over a period of time, you can review the data and determine which version performs better. For example, say you want to determine whether or not changing the text on an email opt-in button from, “Subscribe Now” to, “Sign-Up Now (Free)” will increase opt-in rates to an email list. You would alternate the button text between every other visitor who sees the opt-in form. After you get enough sign-ups for the result of the test to be statically significant, for instance, after 200 total sign-ups, you would see which of the two versions of the button got higher opt-in rates. If you showed, “Subscribe Now” to 2,500 visitors and got 90 sign-ups and, “Sign-Up Now (Free)” to another set of 2,500 visitors and got 110 sign-ups, you would know that, “Sign-Up Now (Free)” is the optimal text to use on your opt-in form because its opt-in rates are 22% better than the original text.

After reviewing the results from that first test, you could test any number of other parts of your opt-in form: the positioning of the opt-in form, the heading, the copy, what information you collect, the font, or the colors you are using. Imagine that you did a series of ten different tests to find your optimal opt-in button. As you review your data, you see that seven of them showed no significant difference, but three of them improved opt-in rates by 15%. Your discovery would not be a cumulative benefit of those three successful tests: 45% = (15% + 15% + 15%). The benefits of split-tests are multiplicative. By improving opt-in rates 15% three different times, your sign-up rate would actually improve by 52% (1.15 * 1.15 * 1.15).

What Should You Test?

You can test just about anything on your website to determine whether or not changing it will increase the rate at which your customers sign-up. You should certainly spend a lot of time testing your value proposition. What do my customers get for their money? What features and benefits will encourage them to buy? Ideally, you will be running split tests at every step of the journey that your potential customers take to find out what drives them to your website and keeps them there. However, you will want to test out the following as a start:

  • Your value proposition
  • A variety of different traffic sources
  • The initial ad-copy that sends a user to your registration page
  • The landing page
  • Your auto-responder series
  • Marketing emails used for communicating with prospects
  • The sales page: the headline and marketing copy, font, color, layout
  • Call-to-action button: text, size, location, color, number of buttons
  • Order Form: type and amount of information
  • Pricing: one-time vs. recurring, discounts, final cost, payment methods

After a while, you will start to see diminishing returns on your tests and many tests simply will not work as well as the copy you already have, but the few tests that do perform well will make a significant difference in your business and help you create your optimal approach to keeping your customers. If you are looking for an extensive list of different things you can split-test, Optimizely, a website optimization software company, has recently published a list of 71 different things you can split test on your website.6

How to Test: Tools for Split-Testing

You might be thinking: well, that sounds great, but I have no idea how to run a split test. In the past, you had to hire a software developer to implement split tests on your website and track the results. Fortunately, there are now software tools like Optimizely (www.optimizely.com) and Visual Website Optimizer (www.visualwebsiteoptimizer.com) that make setting up split-tests on your website dead simple. Optimizely and Visual Website Optimizer provide point-and-click tools that will allow you to create variations of your website, automatically serve them to different users, and track the results to see which variation produces your desired outcome.

Split Testing in Action

When I first started my investment newsletter business, I had a single opt-in box at the bottom of each article and was getting between 500 and 800 visitors per month depending on traffic. After running three years of tests on the various opt-in mechanisms I use to collect email addresses on my website, I am now regularly getting 5,000 to 8,000 email sign-ups per month. Granted, the amount of web-traffic I am getting has increased by 250%, but the opt-in rate to my newsletter has increased by more than 400% since I first started collecting email addresses. That means there are four times as many people getting my free email newsletter, four times as many people receiving marketing material for my company’s premium products, four times as many people ending up on one of my landing pages, and four times as many people buying products and services from my company. And that turns into four times as much revenue for my business. That is real money.

Action Steps:

  • Setup split-testing software on your website
  • Identify ten different components of your customer acquisition process to test over several months
  • Start your first split test today!