June 14th, 2013/Optimization and Split Testing/By /

Optimization and Split Testing: Persist or Pivot: Deciding What to do With a Failing Campaign

One of the biggest frustations in business is figuring out what to do when your ideas are failing. When things aren’t going your way, are you suppose to persist and attempt to keep improving, or take your losses and move to a potentially better idea?

Instagram actually started off as a checkin app similar to Foursquare. They realized it wasn’t a great idea, and pivoted to a photo sharing app. It later sold to Facebook for $1billion. On the other hand there’s plenty of stories where the person persisted despite multiple failures until they actually made it. Colonel Sanders got rejected 1009 times before a restaurant wanted to sell his chicken.

As an internet marketer, I experience this feeling all the time when it comes to campaigns. I’m constantly launching new campaigns and I have to decide if one’s a loser, or if it just needs a lot of polishing before turning into a diamond. This can be painful if you don’t have the cashflow to sustain the losses, and if you don’t have enough experience to know how to optimize a campaign into a winner.

The most common mistake I’ve seen newbies make is they don’t try to learn how to get better at optimizing a campaign. They pivot too much. They’ll spend a few days setting up a campaign and finally launching it. It’s losing money so they switch to another offer hoping it works. The same thing happens again. They’re constantly chasing that bright shiny object. The problem is they’re relying on luck, rather than trying to improve their skill. Just make an effort to improve your funnel. The road to profitability is relentless tracking and testing. 

If you’re looking for some formulas or rules then I can’t really help you. I’ve heard some people try set some rules with “If you don’t make a certain amount of money by 15 x CPA, then quit the campaign.” The problem with that approach is well, every campaign’s different.

I prefer to show you some of the variables that goes through my mind when I’m evaluating campaigns. Remember that this is a skill. The more experience you have, the better you can tell whether to persist or to pivot.

Variables

Others Are Making It Work  

In the first half of the century everyone believe that running a mile in under 4 minutes was physically impossible. Roger Bannister proved everyone wrong when he accomplished that in 1954. John Landy did it 46 days laters. Many more were able to break achieve that in the upcoming years? As far as I know, there wasn’t some breakthrough inn human evolution or running technique. It was all mental.

If you see someone accomplishing something, it gives you a mental boost knowing that it can be done. Looking at top offer reports from networks, I know a campaign can be a winner because it’s high on their revenue list.

Sometimes I do mini-masterminds to launch new campaigns.

Ex. 3 guys launch at the same time in the same vertical. If all 3 of us are failing, that lets me know the campaign kinda sucks. However if even one of us is profitable, that will push the other two to keep optimizing knowing that this campaign is doable. There’s a lot of money out there and I have an abundance mentality. I don’t want helping others out because I’ll get the same treatment in return.

The Potential

The bigger the volume potential, the more money I’m willing to lose before I quit. I’m not spending weeks to optimize a campaign that only has the potential to make $100 a day. How big is the demographic and what is your potential revenue? The bigger the reward means the more risk I’m willing to take.

What Variables Are Left to Test

There are a LOT of ways to optimize a campaign

  • bids
  • angles
  • images (pictures, headlines, call to actions, etc.)
  • landing pages (style, headlines, landing page tricks)
  • placements
  • targeting
  • offers (different offers, going direct, getting a higher payout)
  • etc.

If I’m -50% ROI and I haven’t tested anything, that’s good. It tells me that the campaign at least converts and the only way to go is up. However I’ve applied most of my optimization strategies and there’s not much left I can do, then it’s probably time to move on.

Reverse Engineering the Competition

This is for if you’re breaking into an established niche. If a competitor is advertising everywhere for weeks, it’s safe to assume that that are profitable. It’s pretty transparent what their landing pages, ads, offers, and some of their traffic sources are. You can guesstimate bids, payouts, etc.

You can use all this information to form a model of a profitable competitor, and compare his funnel to yours. Where is he stronger than you, and where can you improve over him?

Cashflow

Imagine you have a campaign that’s making around $1,000 profit a day. It’s not a big deal if you launch a new campaign and it’s losing $200 a day because you’re still up $800.

However, what if you have no money coming in? Losing $200 a day then can be tough because you start making your decisions based on emotions / fear compared to data and logic.

My point is the higher your cashflow is, the more risks you can afford to take. So if you’re making good money, you should get aggressive and take risks. If you have a profitable campaign then work harder. Don’t go on vacation. Don’t go buy a fancy car. Don’t go popping bottles every night (unless you invite me out ^_^). Seize the momentum. 

Setting a Budget Beforehand

You get can get emotional when a campaign’s not going too well. I started dabbling in mobile marketing in early 2012 but never fully committed to it. I decided to set a budget beforehand where I told myself I had to spend $5k within the next 4 weeks.

After losing $2,500 I felt like it was time to pivot and change courses. I couldn’t though because I already made a plan and committed to it. A few days later I stumbled onto a campaign that ended up making 6 figures profits. If I let my emotions affect me, then I wouldn’t have found that campaign.

The Beauty of Internet Marketing

You know what I love about internet marketing? The speed. If I have a campaign idea, I can tell if it’s good or not within a matter of days. Compare that to traditional businesses.

If you want to open a restaurant you need to get loan, lease a property for years, buy expensive equipment, etc. What happens if the idea sucks and you’re not getting any customers? You’re stuck. You could spend years trying to get the restaurant profitable and your dreams never comes to fruition.

Work faster and embrace failure.