Changing the culture of an organization is a tall order. But evolution is essential, especially in a digital world where change seems to be the only constant.
At Blue State Digital, testing, iteration, optimization, and change are built into our culture — and as a member of our Analytics team, it’s particularly near and dear to me. The internet is full of articles, tools, tips, and calculators that are geared towards making testing easy and accessible (I have plenty of them bookmarked). They are useless, however, if your organization doesn’t have a culture that actively encourages and values testing and experimentation.
What is a testing culture?
A true testing culture starts with a willingness to experiment and challenge the status quo. Every team member should feel empowered to propose new approaches — and have the means to test, assess, and implement them.
Digital communications is a fantastic playground for experimentation — with a huge number of tools available to track response rates in real time and deliver valuable insights rapidly. This goes beyond A/B testing. With a testing culture in place, you can run long-term experiments, pilot new campaigns, and propose new techniques that challenge established norms.
What are the benefits of a testing culture?
A culture of testing is necessary for an organization to innovate and remain relevant. Individuals’ relationships with brands and organizations (particularly through digital channels) are evolving as rapidly as the technologies that they use. Established norms are rapidly falling by the wayside and brands cannot rely on past best practices.
By fostering an experimental mindset among its staff, an organization will be more adaptive to these changing circumstances, more responsive to its audiences, and ultimately more likely to achieve its strategic goals.
How do you build a testing culture?
Here are my top 7 tips for transforming your organization into one in which experimentation is encouraged and celebrated:
- Implement from the top down: A true shift towards a culture of testing must start with leadership. In my experience, the biggest barrier to this shift is not a lack of tools. It is a lack of capacity to experiment and a lack of freedom to fail. Both of these barriers can be overcome through investment, commitment, and clear communication from leadership.
- Build into all planning: Testing must become a fundamental part of the planning process for all projects, rather than as an after-thought or optional add-on, as it so frequently is.
- Share the responsibility: Testing should not just be the responsibility of the Analytics or Insights team. While we may be best placed to design experiments and analyze the results, often the best hypotheses and research questions come from other team members.
- Provide the tools: There are a vast number of tools available for all digital channels, including free or low-cost options, that can give teams the freedom to experiment. These tools cover everything from web optimizations, to free training materials — even community mobilization and fundraising platforms with email tools that feature A/B testing functionality. Investing the time and effort into these tools — installing the tools on your websites, distributing the resources, training colleagues — ensures your teams have everything they need to act on this culture shift being driven by leadership.
- Apply statistical rigor: It doesn’t require a statistics degree to interpret the results of an A/B test. However, assessing a test result requires a solid understanding of the concept of statistical significance. This ensures you’re not making unjustified conclusions.
- Communicate results: It’s vital for the results of tests and experiments to be shared widely around your teams, regardless of whether the test generated statistically significant results. In my experience, the best way to get everyone bought into the testing process is to communicate results on a regular basis. This can be done as part of weekly meetings, monthly reports, or even in real time over Slack. Quick hint: turning the testing process into a game is a great way to get everyone on board. Ask your teams to vote on which test variation won to get everyone thinking about their audience and the content.
- Test and re-test: Experiments don’t tell you what will work forever. Rather, they give you winners in that moment. A difference in performance could be driven purely by the novelty effect. As user behaviors change, it’s important to revisit previous tests to ensure that assumptions about your audience hold true.
These steps may not seem dramatic, but their impact can be. As you embrace a culture of testing, not only will your creative and strategy become more effective, but you’ll find that your teams are more invested, smarter, and better prepared to tackle whatever challenge comes their way.
Want to foster a testing culture at your organization? We can help with that — let’s chat.