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How are you doing? Ask the customer

01 Aug 2010

One of my lasting memories from this year’s Webstock conference was the repeated message that to gain respect and word-of-mouth exposure from the right people in social media, start-ups need to get their product up and out there – even if it’s only partially completed – and then open the door to feedback from users.

That user feedback then needs to be observed and acted on. By taking this sort of strategy to launch a product, it creates a two-way communication window and forms a lasting connection with the user. Creating this sort of iterative approach takes courage. You need a strong understanding of your site’s metrics and monitoring platform, and the confidence to help you cope with the inevitable knockers (by the way, nothing shuts down a hater faster than a constructive response).

This discussion about iteration is not exclusive to just website user experiences. It can also be used with online advertising to help businesses manage the risks of over-investing in promotional ideas that simply don’t engage with the target audiences. Here’s how to create a test environment for your online advertising messages:

1. Add Google Analytics code to your site. Other metric platforms can also work, but for this testing approach you’ll need to have a direct connection between your ad clicks and site actions, so Google is a good place to start. See

2. Set up a Google AdWords account, so you can personally manage all your online ads across the Google Display Network and Search results. See

3. Create a mix of text and display ads with slightly different messages, sizes, colours and imagery. I always start by identifying the benefits people will receive from the product on offer, and use those to lever clicks and engagement.

4. In Google AdWords, select some sites where your ads will feature. Choose a few target audiences that you feel will connect with your product and figure out the sites they visit. You may know this from prior experience or you could profile the sites based on core demographics. Google also has tools that can help you here. 

5. Then watch what’s going on. Follow what works. Remove what’s not working. Make a few new changes, run the ads some more and repeat. Simple really. Pretty quickly you’ll be seeing engaged visits to your site. You’ll also be gaining a clear understanding of what it costs to get people to buy your product or service.