Turn Testing into a Game: One of the Most Effective Ways to Create a Testing Culture

I have spent 5 years trying to convince clients to test and what I have learned is that creating a testing culture is a grassroots movement. It doesn’t happen from a company-wide memo and it simply can’t exist or be sustainable until everyone begins to adopt a mindset of continuous optimization.

A company may have any number of reasons why they aren’t testing, but often I find one underlying issue that you’ll need to overcome: Everyone is wrong some of the time.

Why do we hate to test? Because it hurts when we’re wrong. And let’s face it; our bosses are paying for our expertise, and for wins. Unfortunately, testing proves or disproves a hypothesis. Sure, you can drastically reduce the risk of being wrong with the more research and effort that goes into each hypothesis, but the risk is always there, and sometimes the bottom–line is that you’re going to lose.

Hey! Losing (sometimes) is okay. Yep, I said it: losing sometimes is okay. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure or bad at your job. It means there’s something else going on that you’ll need to discover. No one on earth can be right all the time, and it’s better to make a smart marketing decision (win or lose) than a blind one where you just sit back and hope for the best.

The secret is to make a game out of it. One of the most effective ways that I have found to create a testing culture is to make a game out of it. An example of one site doing just that is www.whichtestwon.com. People love to play “guess the winner”, and the results of the game can help reinforce that we’re not always right in our assumptions about our visitors.

Using this concept, I created a way for my clients to do this within their organizations. It didn’t just act as a good promotional tool, but also engaged different people in the company that wouldn’t have otherwise seen our testing efforts.

How you can get started:

The bad news is there isn’t a ready-made solution (or at least I haven’t found it) out there to do what I’m about to describe. However, if you have a good developer, the tool isn’t that hard to create and has provided a great deal of benefit within my optimization programs.

1. Send an email out within your organization when a new test goes live. This should describe what you’re testing, provide a link to where your voting platform is set up and encourage your recipients to vote on the creative they think will win. Be sure to set up the right access levels to protect any information that may be confidential.

Tip: If you’re having a hard time getting users to engage with your voting platform, try an incentive. A $25 Amazon gift card or free lunch to someone who voted correctly is a nice reward for three minutes of their time.

2. Have a voting platform that houses your background information, what you’re testing and provides a way for users to vote for the creative they believe will win. If you do take advantage of the incentive, make sure to provide a field for users to identify themselves before they vote.

3. Once they have voted, thank them for playing and let them know that you’ll follow up with the results once the test has finished. The confirmation page should also provide the following:

  • The current voting results. I would encourage you to show percentages instead of raw numbers to avoid displaying low activity in the beginning of a test.
  • Give users a chance to comment. If possible, allow your users to comment on the different creatives. This will encourage involvement and hopefully create a competitive, yet collaborative environment.

4. Send them an email once your test has ended with the results (and winner of your Amazon gift card if you offered an incentive). This step is crucial because it’s where your colleagues’ thoughts and beliefs are challenged. Along with the winning creative, be sure to share the possible impact the test could have on the bottom-line of the business. At this point, it stops being a “my thoughts against yours” argument, and allows your customers a voice. This is the power of testing.

How to go above and beyond:

The voting platform should engage your organization, but it will also become an optimization archive that you can refer back to. If you want to take this concept a step further, I would suggest setting up a dashboard section that monitors the program’s success and allows users easy access to past tests and insights.

Once you have shown your colleagues that it’s okay to lose, show them how to win.

Just because it’s okay to lose sometimes, doesn’t mean you should be aimlessly testing your ideas. After you have broken down the emotional barrier of failure (my new favorite saying), show your colleagues how they can begin crafting good hypotheses with qualitative and quantitative data directly from your customers.

Remember, a good idea can come from anywhere, but first you’ll need to show your colleagues the power of testing, that it’s okay to be wrong, and then how to create good hypotheses that are worth testing on your customers.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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