Are Marketers Playing Chutes and Ladders?

Chutes & Ladders Game | Hasbro

Do you remember the game Chutes and Ladders? You’d take a spin, and if you were lucky enough to land on a spot with a shortcut, you’d get to climb up a ladder to advance in the game. But in the next turn, you could easily land on a chute and end up back where you started—or worse, fall even further behind.

These days, the game of marketing can be just as random as this childhood game. Even though marketers have access to more prospect data than ever before, it’s still a mystery whether any particular campaign is going to be a hit (ladder) or a miss (chute).

While the advent of marketing automation software has given marketers the ability to segment prospects into organized lists, test offers, and deliver more relevant content offers to each segment, unfortunately, it hasn’t eliminated the guessing games altogether. Because even with marketing automation, how do you know which segments to put people in? What prospect criteria should you segment by, and which content actually resonates best with prospects in those segments? The software only helps with the delivery and execution—not all the decision making.

To take an educated guess at the answers to all of these questions, many marketers rely on A/B testing to prove or disprove their hypotheses (especially if they’ve science in their bones). According to eConsultancy’s 2012 Email Marketing Industry Census, 66% of email marketers test subject lines regularly, and 44% test for the optimal time and day to send their emails. Marketing Sherpa also ran a similar survey last fall, finding that 72% of marketers test email subject lines, 61% test message content, and 50% test layout, images, and CTAs.

We are awash in analytics.

But even with all of that data at our fingertips, A/B testing still doesn’t deliver the answers. For example, have you ever run an A/B test with one result far outweighing the alternative, only to have your “optimized” campaign drop off in performance a few weeks or months later? Me too. It’s because what you thought was the differentiating factor (maybe a subject line with the word “Free” in it) might have made a big difference to one segment, while another segment actually preferred the alternative. Which part of your house list wants the freebie offer and which part thinks you’re a spammer?

Humans don’t know the answer… just like we don’t know if we’re going to land on a chute or a ladder with the next spin. Even if we had unlimited resources to uncover all of the public information about our prospects— their social media profiles, search history, online photos, company website, bio, etc.—we wouldn’t be able to organize it and make sense of it all in order to make fully-informed marketing decisions.

Are we doomed to a perpetual game of Chutes & Ladders?

Fortunately- no. Machines can find the shortcuts for us. While marketers aren’t capable of identifying how messages might interact with all of their infinite segment variations, machines (more specifically, computers looking at big data) can. They can even help you identify new segments and opportunities you didn’t know you had.

For example, a Mintigo client came to us with the presumption that Salesforce users would be more likely to buy their product. With the help of machines, we were able to test that hypothesis and come up with an even better segment: not only were Salesforce users likely to use their product, but Salesforce users who were also invested in content marketing, social marketing, and who ran JQUERY on their website (a group we’ll call “Advanced Digital Marketers”) were 15 times more likely to buy than others.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had that level of prospect insight to save us from landing on the next chute? Learn more about predictive marketing can find these hidden segments for you and identify “ladders” for your business in our ebook: Why Modern B2B Marketers Need Predictive Marketing.

It’s your spin!

Image Credit: “Chutes and Ladders Game” | Hasbro

[ebook] Why B2B Marketers Need Predictive Marketing

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Tony Yang


Tony is the VP of Demand Generation and Marketing Operations at Mintigo. As a data-driven marketer with deep experience in the B2B, SaaS, and enterprise software space, Tony’s career includes marketing leadership roles at several early stage SaaS startups as well as at large enterprises such as IBM. He has been recognized by his peers in the B2B marketing community as a thought leader and influencer, including being named as one of "2016 Top 40 Demand Marketing Game Changers" by (Heinz Marketing & Integrate), "Top 40 ABM Superhero" (by Terminus), and "Top 50 Most Influential People at Marketo Summit 2016" (by Heinz Marketing). Tony holds an MBA from the University of Southern California, a Masters in MIS from Keller Graduate School of Management, and BA degrees in both Economics and Chinese Studies from the University of California, San Diego. His interests include all things related to inbound marketing, growth hacking, and USC Trojans Football.