Most of your A/B tests are a complete waste of time.
That’s right, they don’t do you any good.
Why? Well, picking random tests seldom leads to fantastic results.
And this comes from what KINDs of tests you’re doing.
With A/B testing and optimization, most people think of headlines, button colors, and layouts. And in the process, we completely miss a much more important kind of testing.
Are You Optimizing Locally or Globally?
You’re using a set of strategies, frameworks, and assumptions to grow your business. This is the structure of your marketing funnel, your target market, and your positioning. Each of these forces you into a set of constraints.
No matter how many colors you test on your buttons, you won’t be able to break free from these constraints. Any optimization that you do will get you closer to the local maxima. It’s the maximum results you could possibly get from the main constraints you’ve already chosen.
Even if you optimize every last piece of your marketing funnel, you’ll never be able to break through the local maxima.
Early this year, we ran countless tests on our webinars at KISSmetrics. Signup flows, calls to action, copy, offering recordings, it all got tested. Here’s a few things we learned:
- Telling people that there WON’T be a recording of your webinar boosts attendance by 50%. You’ll get about a third of your registrants to show up.
- Even with a short signup form, you can boost signups by breaking it into multiple steps. Ask for just an email on step 1 and then load a second version with the other fields you need (even if it’s just a name). Once people commit a little bit, they’ll be much more inclined to follow through.
Insights like these helped us find the local maxima when it came to webinars.
But there might be an even better way to get people interested in our product. Maybe webinars aren’t the most efficient method, maybe we need to revamp our positioning, or maybe we need to completely rethink how we nurture our audience. Standard A/B tests won’t ever answer these questions.
Instead, we need to look for the global maxima.
Finding the Global Maxima
The global maxima is the single best outcome you could possibly achieve regardless of where you’re starting from. Brand positioning, target markets, the main benefits of your product, channels, viral loops, and lead generation strategies, move you closer to the global maxima. Or they might move you further away and limit your results event more. Bigger rewards come with bigger risks.
You’ll want to be careful when pursuing global maximas.
In normal A/B testing, you can usually just follow the data. Version B won? Great! Let’s use it.
Data gets a LOT fuzzier when you’re trying to test for global maximas.
Why? A new strategy typically doesn’t perform as well in the short term as what you’re doing currently.
Let’s say you decide to test a new target market. It’s going to take some time to figure out how to reach that new group of customers before you even know whether or not it’s a viable plan. In the meantime, you’ll see a dip in revenue while you get everything up and running.
You might have a real winner in the long term but in the short term, it won’t look nearly as good as your current approach.
At the end of the day, you probably won’t find THE global maxima. But you should be looking for one that’s pretty good. Once you’ve found a good model to build a business off of, then you can drill down and optimize for the local maxima.
Changing Your Optimization Process
Core aspects of your marketing like these help you move closer to the global maxima:
- Best channels for customer acquisition
- The structure of your marketing funnel
You’ll need to be testing major changes and giving each test the time it needs to get enough data. Come up with radical tests and look for completely different approaches. Small tweaks won’t help you here. Go big.
Once you’ve found your marketing global maxima, then start A/B testing the typical stuff like:
- Landing pages
- Home pages
Most marketers get trapped into optimizing for the local maxima without ever testing their global maxima.
Each and every time you run an A/B test (or any test for that matter), ask yourself if you’re testing a local maxima or a global maxima. And if you’re still trying to figure out the core model for your marketing team, you’ll need to test completely different ideas in order to find that global maxima.
About the Author: Lars Lofgren is the Growth Manager at KISSmetrics and his experiences include:
- Digital marketing consultant that has delivered incredible results like doubling the conversion rate of e-commerce sites and building sales pages with a 70% click through rates for small to large size businesses
- Guest Lecturing at the University of Colorado at Boulder
- Running online marketing at American Alpine Club and KISSmetrics