Test Driven Development in Agile Marketing

test-driven-development-lifecycleSoftware developers have long been discussing this concept of Test-driven Development, or TDD.  It’s been around (by this name anyway) since 2003. Effectively developers used to code in silos.  They’d build stuff to spec and send it off to the testers, who had to figure out how to use it, break it and create recommendations to fix it.  Then round and round it went. This strikes me as a real pain in the ass – and the developers agreed. So they learned how to build the test into the development itself.  Instead of building an end-to-end solution and then testing it, they built it in smaller pieces, or “batches”, and tested as they went.

And all the marketers say, “so what?”


I would argue we do the same stupid thing.  We build out campaigns, events, graphics and messaging and then ship it out into the market to see what floats.  Then we all pat ourselves on the back when we get one piece that has a 2% CTR, even though we have no clue why or how to replicate it.  But hey – at least it wasn’t 0.02% CTR so let’s throw a party! Who cares if we could have gotten 5%? It’s not like anyone knows what “good” means anyway.

I’ve worked in so many marketing departments that create a flow for the company to make requests, requiring detailed campaign briefs to be fully built out before the request can be processed.  And that’s fine. It forces your internal customers to think about and define what they actually want.  

But what about the campaigns you do yourself?  Do you hold yourself to a higher standard? Agile marketers do.

Agile marketing teams ask themselves the same questions software developers did 15 years ago – “Could we build testing into the way we build our campaigns, collateral and systems before we sink a bunch of time into a finished product?”

But how do you do that?  Personally, I like to augment the campaign brief by adding in the scientific method, turning campaigns into experiments.  And I commit capacity to experiment design, defining “done” as a fully written document outlining the design and experiment (ie. test).

Scientific-MethodHere’s a sample format:

  • Abstract/Executive Summary
    • Research Background
    • Purpose
    • Scope
    • Results
    • Conclusions
  • Hypothesis
  • Experiment
    • Variables
    • Segments
    • Experiment Design
      • Channel 1
      • Channel 2
      • Channel 3
      • Documentation and Data Flow
    • Timeline
    • Budget
  • Data
  • Analyze
  • Report

In the software development world Test-Driven Design was ensuring software worked as planned.  For Agile marketers, this means delivering measurable and predictable value to the market. Your job is to build lead flows and ensure the right value is getting to the right segments.  By treating every initiative in this manner, you can achieve higher predictability with results.

What’s more – you’re eliminating ambiguity and misalignment with leadership.  It’s in writing. They approved it. No one can say they didn’t understand the plan or the desired outcomes.  

Imagine this conversation:

Random Boss: “Why are the CTRs so low?!  It must be Facebook. I told you that was a bad channel for B2B.”  

You: “If you reference back to the campaign brief, we actually tested this messaging across multiple channels, keeping the segment and images constant.  The CTR was low across all channels, which is dashboarded here. Our next variable is imagery. We’ve selected these 4 completely different images to see which design drives higher engagement.  This test is scheduled to launch in the next sprint.”

Random Boss: “Are we wasting all our clicks on these tests?!”

You: “No, we kept the budget small for testing to make sure we don’t saturate the market with the wrong message.  Then when we’re confident we’ve got the right combination, we’ll hit the market hard. This should lead to much better campaign performance.”

Random Boss: “Won’t all this testing slow down the launch?”

You: “It will take longer to launch the full campaign, but it’s going to save us a ton of rework later, so we don’t have to pause everything once we’ve launched.  Plus we can use what we learn to improve future campaigns.”

Random Boss: “Can you send me a link to that dashboard?  This is really good work.”

That’s Test-Driven Development!  Try it. You’ll love it.

Have your own experience with Test-Driven Development in Agile Marketing?  Want to brainstorm how to apply TDD to other areas of marketing? Comment below.

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