Update 5/17/11: Internet Marketer Ian Fernando launched a product called Split Pistons based on this case study! There is an interview with me and Ian as part of the marketing behind the product, asking further questions about this case study!
Split testing is extremely important. I’m going to explain to you why it’s so important, using a real life example with a homeless man.
I’m going to show you that there’s always a way to be testing something else, never settle for the industry norm, no matter what you are doing.
Realistically this is BARELY split testing, this is only scratching the surface as to how far you should go in your efforts. You could be testing many many more variations on top of the single change I’m showing you in the below examples. But, the article is to get the point across that you should be doing it in the first place, rather than going in depth about it with my volunteer, Kevin.
So, let’s go through an example of an experiment that I did with Keith, a homeless man. First, realize this… This experiment improved this mans earnings by over 100% over several days thanks to me and on top of that I paid him to let me take pictures (which he was very happy about being featured in a blog article online, especially after I explained exactly what I was doing). I truly believe it was not so much about the actual sign in this case and people would have been donating anyways if he REALLY got their attention in some other way (obviously the cardboard wasn’t working) because he was a really cool guy with a great story once I actually talked to him. Nonetheless, on to the story…
As you can see in the first picture, he was using a very standard “I’m homeless, help me” sign with no major call to action. Just bullets of what is wrong with him. The biggest call to action on this sign is “Hi, I’m Keith” which is not really a call to action, and isn’t anything that would really motivate many people to come over on. So, that’s the biggest flaws in his banner.
The next problem was that his cup (goal) of what he wanted people to do , was tucked between his sign between that and his leg and was not very inviting. This would be like putting an opt-in form or buy button on the footer of a lengthy website tucked in the corner blended with the website colors so you can barely see it, etc. You need to call action to what you want someone to do, not tuck it away in the corner.
So now we move on to a split test. The first thing we always do is make slight modifications to what we already have. In this case it wasn’t practical to change the copy on his banner, so we decided to at least make the goal of what he wanted people to do at least a little more appealing, so we asked him to pick up the cup and try that for a while. This didn’t help his conversions much at all.
Next, we’re going to do an actual split test by comparing the results of another choice with the results and information that we already have about how well his current setup works (not very well).
What we did here was quite different than what most homeless people would do. We focused on a different angle. We already have the “I’m homeless, help me” stigma attached to people that are sitting on the side of the street with a cup, so we don’t necessary need to make that a prominent part of our banner. The next big difference is that we changed colors and went from cardboard to white to spark the interest of people walking by instead of automatically having negative associations that they have with cardboard and homeless people. We want this to look like a new age homeless man who is really trying to make it work for himself. The biggest difference, is that we are now introducing a bribe. We are basically saying “hey I’m homeless, help me, donate to help feed my family and pay my medical bills… but not only that, if you donate right now I’ll give you a free squirt of hand sanitizer”. This can be applied to list building and all sorts of other aspects of Internet Marketing almost as is (don’t try to bribe people to complete offers though, just bribe them to get on your email list). One solid strategy of building a list is that you get people looking at your opt-in form then give them something for free aka a bribe to get them to pull the trigger and fill out the opt-in form for your email list.
By the way, this experiment wasn’t just for shits and giggles, the homeless man started to draw a crowd VERY quickly on this busy street and people were genuinely intrigued by the fact that a homeless man was giving away free hand sanitizer for donations to help his family/medical bills. I talked to a few people walking by on the street and asked them what was going on (playing stupid) and they were saying how there was this “genius” homeless man who they were happy to give money to because he was showing that he must be sober and really trying to make things happen based on his cool concept. In fact, this may have even have made the local news.
Moral of the story, always be split testing and trying different minor tweaks on your landing pages to try to increase conversions. Things as little as colors can play a major factor. I wrote in black as if a homeless man wrote the sign) then I added an “out of place” kind of irrational element to the equation by using a red cup. In affect, what it did was create a buzz of the people walking by and got them talking about it and debating where he got the cup and if it was a joke or if he was a genius.
P.S. This BARELY touches the surface of how far you can go with your split tests. The next avenue to explore would to be see how many different variations of the 2nd sign we can do (with the copy moved around and the product switched/moved around etc – there would be many more tests from that point).
P.S.S. This is a visual example from real life that’s meant to show you, hopefully you weren’t offended by it. If you were then you got the wrong message out of this. The homeless man, Keith, was proud and happy to do it. I may bring him in for an interview and do a video on him. He really has an amazing life story. I’d like to feature him in something that can potentially help others avoid his unfortunate situation and put some more money in his pocket to get back on track with his life.
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