“I remember exactly where I was when…”

You know you’re remembering a pivotal moment when you don’t just remember when an event happened…  Or the basic details of it…

But instead you can say exactly where you were when it occurred.

Well, that’s the case with today’s revelation.

I was on a lunch break at my old job, working for the IT training publisher in Oregon.  I was in my car, parked in the parking lot.  I could show you exactly where — at least within a 2- or 3-parking-space range.

I was sitting in my car, on the phone with my very first copywriting client and now professional friend, David Bullock.

I don’t remember anything else we were talking about in that conversation — we had quite a few.

But I do remember this.  I remember sitting there, in my car, listening to David as he broke this down.

He said…

“Roy, in the word START, you can figure out exactly what you need to do next in any marketing campaign…”

His promise was bold.

No matter where you were in a marketing campaign, you could use START — as an acronym — as a way to tell you not just what to do next, but where that would lead, and so on…

And because it loops, you can actually use it as a guiding principle to productively and consistently optimize all your marketing campaigns.

Here’s David Bullock’s START acronym…

Strategy

Tactics

Action

Results

Test

In that acronym, you have the entire cycle of running and optimizing your marketing campaigns…

Strategy

All good marketing campaigns start with strategy.

What do you want to do?  What are you looking to accomplish?  How have other people tried to accomplish a similar goal before, and what results did they get?

What are the best practices you can apply to this situation?  What are the measurable results we’re going to use to determine success or failure?

Who is our target market?  What media do they consume, that we can use to reach them?  What messages are they most likely to respond to?

Here’s where you ask and answer all the big-picture questions that define the parameters of your campaign.

Tactics

Once you have the big-picture strategy, you have to come up with a plan of attack.  What specific steps can you implement that will fulfill your strategy, and that presumably should get you the results that you want?

Lay it all out.  What are all the moving pieces?  Where do resources need to be invested?  What talent needs to be leveraged?

You know what media you want to use, now lay out exactly how you’re going to use it.  If you’re building a funnel, what are all the steps?  And so on…

Action

You know your big-picture strategy and your specific tactics, now it’s time to put them into action.

Create the copy.  Design the promotion.  Build the website.  Create the email campaigns.

Do all the work required to get your campaign out into the world, and in front of your target market.

While this is the brunt of the work, at this point it’s pretty much color-by-numbers because you’ve laid out what each piece needs to do in the previous steps.  It’s just a matter of getting it done.

Results

Once you put your campaign out into the world, it will generate results.

They may be great, they may be dismal.  No matter what they are, you need to be tracking them.

It’s surprisingly rare in the general business world for a business or marketing department to know the specific numbers behind all the elements of their campaign.  They may have a somewhat-informed gut impression of how the campaign is doing, but that may or may not be accurate.

This is foolish and inexcusable, especially because modern tech allows for the tracking of nearly every metric possible, including open rates, impressions, link clicks, web page views, cart actions, abandons, orders, value-per-order, upsell conversion, and so on.

While those stats aren’t available to all media (e.g. direct mail, which has much fewer trackable metrics), you should know the numbers on every action item in the campaign if possible.

Test

Once you know your numbers, it’s time to contemplate what would improve them.

In your strategy and tactics, you made a number of assumptions.  These might be about the market targeted.  They might be about the media used.  They might be about the message you used at different points in the campaign.

All of these are testable — and many of them can have a huge impact on results.

Determine the strategy for the next phase of your campaign by looking at what you can test for the biggest impact.

…  And, repeat!

Once your campaign has been through the START process once, you’re just getting started.

I was talking to a top copywriter a while back, and he was lamenting his more entrepreneurial, “mom and pop” clients…

“I created a campaign for them, and the first time they ran it, it broke even.  And now they’re killing the campaign.  They’re going to quit using it,” he told me.

“I’ve been around the block enough times to know it’s rare as hens’ teeth to break even on your first time through a campaign — and that it’s actually a good thing.  It means the market has a ton of potential, and with some tweaking we should be able to start making $2 or $3 for every $1 they spend.”

“But they’re not going to do it.  Instead, they’re going to let the whole campaign die of neglect, with no further attempts to make it profitable.”

Once you have a campaign in place, you can often increase its profitability by leaps and bounds with a few well-designed tests.

And so you take what you learn the first time out, and go back to the beginning of the START process again.  Keep tweaking, testing, and optimizing until you reach a point of diminishing returns — where you’re unable to boost results through more testing.

This is a breakthrough!

David is a very sharp marketer.  Also, a brilliant engineer.  He’s the guy I learned Taguchi multivariate testing from.  (He was Perry Marshall’s Taguchi guru back in the day — that’s how I found him.)

He knows all about optimization, testing, and how to improve marketing response.

This one acronym — START — perfectly captures his thinking about the marketing process, and tells you exactly what to do next, no matter where you are in any marketing campaign.

Brilliant!

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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