Firing Bullets in Marketing

Just recently, I finished reading (or rather, listening to a recording of) a fantastic book called “Great by Choice” by Jim Collins. In it, he discusses an idea that has helped multiple large corporations become icons of their industries: First, fire bullets. Then fire cannonballs.
He paints the picture of being aboard a warship from the times of Master and Commander. Imagine that you’ve come upon an enemy ship that you must sink, but you only have one barrel of powder left. You can either use the lion’s share of your powder on a cannonball up front and hope you have enough left for a follow-up shot, or you can fire a series of bullets first to get your trajectory dialed in before you fire the cannonball.
The same can be said of using Pay-Per-Click to dial in your marketing offers before you go all out on a massive campaign.

Bullets vs. Cannonballs

Bullets are small things that can be tested out quickly
 and with low amount of effort or resources to see if they “hit.” When applied to PPC, you have an ability to test out what matters most to people. Is it a dollar amount? Is it a percentage discount? Features of your service? Benefits? The name?
Google AdWords is a perfect place to test out your theories for finding new customers. Within an ad campaign, your marketing manager has the ability to rotate through ads so that each offer shows up evenly across the board. In that way, you can gauge how your customers react to it, rather than how Google thinks it will do.
After you’ve tested a good number of “bullets” in your campaign, then you can start shooting “cannonballs” – highly effective, large effort campaigns that really move the needle.
In other words, if you’re unsure what offer you’re going to make in your fall/winter mailer out to customers (a cannonball), you can make a calculated and more precise shot.

What I Would Do

In testing out different offers in AdWords, the important thing to keep in mind is that you want to test things one change at a time. In other words, don’t test the headline on one ad against the description on another one because you don’t necessarily know what drove your action.
For instance:
As compared to:

Compare the two ads against each other over a week or two to see how often it gets placed and clicked on. Then try the winner against another version of the ad. Continue until you really get it dialed in.

Once you’ve done this a few times, you should have a good idea of what offer will resonate most with your customers before firing a “cannonball” offer to blow your competition out of the water!

Big Takeaway:

Any time you get to test something in miniature before you go at it full bore, it’s a good opportunity to get creative and use data to back your decision.
  1. Test out “bullet” campaigns or offers using a 1 to 1 comparison model to see what works best for your business.
  2. Work with your vendor to program the tests correctly.
  3. Correlate your data and use it to create your “cannonball” campaign via mail, social media, or other forms of advertising.

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