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How long should you test a marketing idea before giving up?

Table of ContentsUpdated Mar 27, 2015


That dirty ‘M’ word.

How dare they not warn you of it in design school.

“Do good work” — they say.

“Create a great portfolio” — they say.

“Look after your clients” — they say.

And supposedly, the money will take care of itself.

Yeah, right! I’m calling BS.

  • I’m a good designer.
  • I bend over backwards for my clients and then do a triple somersault in midair.
  • And I have a pretty damn fine portfolio of work too.

But I learnt many years ago that if I want to really grow my business so that I can support my team (and their families), do good in my community and reach my own personal level of success?

Then doing good work alone is not enough.

You gotta MARKET like crazy. And hustle. And push. And FAIL.

OVER and OVER and OVER again!

But fail good. Then fail better. And better again. Until you get so damn good at failing, you land at success with style and flair — and with far less gaping wounds on your beaten and bruised ego.

Let me rewind for a sec to my first 5 years of business…

I cringe at the thought of the marketing tactics I’ve tried. (I actually just felt a surge of hot blood rush up my neck thinking about them) — they were complete doozies.

I’ve tried everything. If there was a Guinness World Record for tacky, try-hard marketing tactics, you would see my mug on that page — bowing my head in shame, I assure you.

Here’s a snapshot…

  • In my second year of business I sponsored a football club who came last — 7 years in a row. How did I miss that? Der!
  • After that I baked cookies by the truckload and hand delivered them in pretty packaging (that took me HOURS by hand to make — that’s economical!) to random shop owners who I thought might buy a website. And after 6 months? I’d sold one website.
  • Another time I sponsored a business expo and fed green cocktails (my brand colour at the time) to everyone who came to visit my stand because I thought if I got them a bit tipsy, they’d want to do business with me and pull out their cheque book. So completely targeted, right? No need to explain how that one went! Brand awareness? Maybe. Sales? Zip.
  • Another time (and this is probably my lowest moment) on the advice of my business coach I sent out a can of SPAM ham via snail mail to a heap of web developers with some stupid joke about not wanting to spam their inbox but I had something important I wanted to talk about…I can’t even remember the specifics but let’s just say it was BAD. Cringe-worthy BAD. Did it work? I got one partner who ended up staying with me for years, so I guess it wasn’t all for nothing — but certainly one of my more laughable memories of my climb to the top, that’s for sure.

Fast forward to today and let’s just say… things are still messy but in a more graceful way.

I do things better.

I got smart about failure.

I didn’t just learn from my mistakes.

I embraced my mistakes.

Failure is not something to be afraid of.

Failure is simply a guidepost to lead us in the right direction.

It’s part of the process. The journey. The lesson. And it’s absolutely mandatory for obtaining feedback and catapulting ourselves (and our beloved businesses) into success.

In fact, since learning the Lean and Agile methodologies for the new website software I’m currently building, I’ve learnt that you can reverse engineer what they call the Feedback Loop for incredible results in your marketing.

Here’s an example…

Last week I sent out a St Patrick’s Day promotion via email and made $20k in 4 days — off just one email. One email that took me 2 hours to write and send. BAM! Twenty grand!

The Feedback Loop says to build something first, then measure its positive or negative effect once releasing it out into the wild… then of course learn from it.

For example (and this is a super basic explanation) if you add a feature to a product  and has a positive impact on sales, usability, revenue etc, then keep it. If not, either scrap it and move on or look to see how you can improve it to make it worthy of its spot in your software, so that you don’t end up with some bloated product with a ton of features no one uses.


But what if we flip that on its head and Learn first?

Then Measure.

THEN Build.

What normally happens is you panic because you have no money and your current projects are coming to an end so you dive in head first, completely blind, and start throwing what little money you have at every fandangle marketing trick out there hoping like crazy something works.

And nothing sticks.

You become completely disheartened. You feel like an idiot. And you go in for a round of beating yourself up over how stupid you are for not being able to figure it out. 🙁

I call this the ‘spraying and praying’ method (which I’m sure I invented) and if you want to get smart about marketing, I don’t recommend it. Save yourself the torchure.

So here’s what I mean with reverse engineering the Feedback Loop…



  1. Firstly, get laser focussed on who you want to target. Be as specific as you can.
  2. Define exactly what problem/s you solve for your ideal client. What keeps them up at night?
  3. Don’t make assumptions, actually talk to them one-on-one. Do your research.
  4. Hone in on exactly what solution you’re going to offer to take that pain away.
  5. This could completely transform your business, believe me, it’s super powerful.


The problem with most of us is that we don’t clearly define what success actually is — and that can be on all levels of our being — not just business. So before you go and spend up big on the latest Facebook ad hacks trying to find the cool clients, first work out what metrics will classify it as a success for you.

  1. Is it two conversions or 20?
  2. Is it $500 or $5,000 in sales?
  3. Is it one new client or one years worth of clients?
  4. What do you need to call it a success?
  5. How much time are you prepared to spend? And what do you want in return?


Now here’s where you work out what you need to build in order to obtain the metrics (or goals) you’ve set for yourself.

  1. What’s the best way to reach your audience with this particular campaign? What channel are you going to use?
  2. How long will it take? Can you leverage off anything you’ve already created to save time?
  3. What will it cost?
  4. How can you experiment? Should you test it on a sample first? (This is why I LOVE email!)
  5. What’s your timeframe to measure success?

So to illustrate a Lean approach using my St Paddy’s Day sale, here’s what I did.



I asked myself a few questions…

  • What is the burning problem most people have with their website?
  • What’s their big hurdle?
  • What’s stopping them from going live or investing in a new website with me?

Answer: Uploading their website content.

So then I thought…

  • What could we do for them that would take that massive, PIA headache away?

Answer: We could do it for them for a discounted rate OR we could do it for free.

I liked the idea of doing it free rather than just sending out a random “Save 20% off your website’ style promotion because I’d rather add value than discount price, so I did my numbers…


  • How much does this retail for? $795 for 5 pages.
  • How much does this really cost me? About $300
  • What is the perceived value? (Think emotionally how they’d feel if you took that massive 300-pound elephant off their back and just took care of it all for them.) $HUGE!
  • What can I spend to get a sale (and a client for life)? $400-$500
  • Can I afford to give away $300 in labour to get the sale? Yes
  • How long is it going to take me to create the campaign? An hour, maybe two max
  • How many sales would I need to make to make it a success? At least two at $3k each

Okay, so I’ve worked out that I’m prepared to spend two hours on creating a campaign and I want at least two website sales from it to call it a success.


  • What the best way to get to my audience fast? Email
  • What will it cost? 2 hours of my time
  • Should I run a test campaign to a sample of 500? No, I don’t have time with this offer
  • Can I leverage anything I’ve created before? Yes, a similar email template I saved
  • What’s my timeframe for success? I wanted to make it time sensitive, so I sent it out Tuesday and made the cut-off date for the offer at 5pm Friday.

Here’s the actual email I wrote if you’re curious…

Good auld St Paddy is smilin’ down on ya today me friend as we’re launchin’ a super St Patrick’s Day SALE fur one grand week only.

Invest your lucky charms in any Web123 website package and not only will ya make ya competitors green with envy and your bottom line bustin’ outta ya back pocket — but we’ll also upload ya web content entirely FREE mate. And when we upload, you can be sure to be sure, we optimise!

Get down to the to pub ‘n knock back a few pints of the black stuff whilst our not so Irish designer’s do the hard work fur ya. We’ll weave our magical leprechaun powers to transform your website into a reliable lead machine for ya just like me pot o’gold — in record time – for FREE!

But hurry, with only 5 spots available, this crazy offer worth $795 in cold hard coin will be snapped up fast!

To be one of the lucky five, call 1800 932 123 now for more information or shoot me an email by reply.

Offer ends 5pm Frideey, 20 March 2015. Don’t miss out me friend!

As you can tell, I had a bit of fun writing the email. (It also helped that a Scottish lad just joined our team to help me understand the Irish language a wee bit better.)

And the verdict?

I sent it out to about 6,000 people consisting of clients and prospects.

Emails started flowing about an hour after I’d sent it. A few hours after that, the phone started ringing. We had past prospects coming out of the woodwork we’d quoted over a year ago and the deal was the clincher for them to finally give us the green light.

In total we received 13 responses.

Of those 13 responses, six ended up investing with us. (Two of our sales guys closed a deal at the same time on Friday arvo making it six instead of our limit of five.)

We sold:

  • 2 x $2k websites
  • 1 x $3k website
  • 2 x $4k websites, and
  • 1 x $5k website

…taking our total to a neat $20,000 in sales. For 2 hours of work!! I would have been happy with two sales — six made my week!

So how long should you test your marketing ideas before giving up?

The answer?

Go to your metrics at step two, Measure. How long are you prepared to spend in order to make a return on your investment — and what is that return to be for it to be a success?

On Facebook, that might look like a few days and $100, Adwords might be a month and $1000, networking might be 6 months and 20 hours of your time, and blogging might be a year with 100+ hours of your time.

For the record, it took me a good year to see any substantial results from email marketing but now that I can pretty much send an email and know that I can make money, I’d say it’s been worth it.

Just make sure you Learn and Measure BEFORE you get busy on tactics around your business idea (Build).

Now I know what you’re thinking…

But you’ve been doing this for years Bianca.

But I don’t have a list.

But I can’t write like you.

But I don’t know where to start.

But but but…

You CAN totally do this. You can.

As Art Williams said in his famous 80s speech… “Just do it!”

This stuff works.

I helped one of my resellers with an email campaign a few months ago and he only had 60 people on his list. He got 5 responses for a free website audit which then resulted in 3 website sales — off a list of just 60!

For my 12 Days of Christmas promotion in December which was 12 emails over 12 days (pretty creative huh?) I had a goal of making $20k in sales and I smashed it out of the park landing just over $32k once we closed the doors — it was an amazing feeling and all from email!!

But I might dissect and share that campaign with you another day — I know you’re itching to get cracking now on making that dirty ‘M’ word your new best friend.

Remember, we all have to start somewhere.

And there’s no point comparing your chapter one to someone else’s chapter 20.

(Must I remind you of my SPAM ham campaign?)

So I dare you to just try.

But try smarter. Fail harder. Fail with intelligence. Then fail better again.

Now go practice some marketing kung-fu!

What marketing have you tried that has worked? Or not worked so well? Sound off in the comments. Your story could help a designer on the other side of the world who really needs a hand right now and wouldn’t that just make your day? Over to you…


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Profile Image: Bianca Board

Written by Bianca Board

Staff at

Bianca is the co-founder of Web123, Australia’s small business web specialists. Bianca is passionate about reinventing web design for small business. 

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  1. Thanks for the post, Bianca! Was a nice little kick in the behind to get going on some well thought out tactics.

    I too can relate to the painful marketing memories from the beginning of our business 🙂

  2. Nancy cartmell says:

    Really great post and thinks are very foreword…

  3. Jerome tanibata says:

    Bianca!! Thank you for such a great article. Very helpful how you break it down and provide the details of action needed. Also very interesting to hear your results. You’re an inspiration!

  4. Awesome!! Great stuff here!

  5. Chaten Parmar says:

    Great article, great strategy and great tone! I can certainly relate to making some major marketing mistakes during my first years.