What can marketers learn from bakers?

Spend any time on Pinterest and you've probably come across 'the ultimate guide to chocolate chip cookies' (from blogger Handle the Heat), which shows how small variations to a recipe affect the end result.  While the magical deliciousness of chocolate is certainly partly responsible for the 190,000+ pins the post has received, it's also proof of the great marketing conundrum; we all like things just the way we like them.


Businesses should also taste test

Businesses can use the same method when it comes to gaining a better understanding of their customers and improving response rates through a technique known as A/B testing, 

A/B testing can be used to assess the appeal of communications like direct mail, digital marketing activities like banner ads, eDMs, website design and more by changing one variable at a time and measuring the impact. 

By testing the performance of variations simultaneously against a control, the most successful version can be selected and used to optimise the performance of marketing, both online and offline.

This can be a very cost effective way of making the most of the marketing that you're already conducting - traffic which is hitting your site through search, or a regular eNewsletter. Services like MailChimp and Google Analytics offer A/B testing as a feature, or you could use a specialist provider like Visual Website Optimiser or Optimisely.


So what can we learn from the search for the ultimate chocolate chip cookie?

  • Start with a 'classic' recipe.  By following basic best practice you will start with a communication which should already perform well. This acts as your control, which you aim to improve on.
  • Consider a range of variables to test - what ingredients, techniques, tools and timing could affect results? Depending on your communication variables can include the visual (headlines, calls-to-action, images or page design), timing (particularly for eDMs), attitudinal (privacy concerns, effort to complete contact forms) or the promotional (pricing, benefits or special offers).
  • Ensure you test a large enough volume to ensure reliability of results (one of the reasons you'd never bake just a single biscuit!) 
  • Make sure your tests are conducted under the same conditions and at the same time to minimise the risk that another factor influences the results.

In summary, different 'recipes' will appeal to different customers. By altering each ingredient of your offer and comparing results, you can refine your communication based on popularity, and see improvements in conversion rate and ROI.