The science of test/control in marketing measurement

Marketing measurement means more than tracking opens, clicks and returned business reply cards. That information is great for measuring customer engagement, but many senior executives expect further evidence that a company’s investment in marketing is truly making an impact on sales. Using a control group allows for a high degree of confidence in your ability to associate marketing engagement with actual sales lift.

What is a Control Group?

A control is a group of targets who will be held out of promotional activity. The control should be a solid representation of your full target audience in terms of customer segments, geography and history of receiving promotions. We’re looking to measure the incremental sales lift that occurs with the test group who does receive your promotion, compared to the control group. If the control is similar to the test, you can be confident that the incremental sales lift is attributable to your promotional activity.

Why It’s Worth Holding Out Potential Sales

The size of the control group is typically between 5 and 10 percent of the full target population. While it’s difficult to imagine holding out some of your current customers or prospects from a promotion, your apprehension should turn to pride when you can assertively tell your boss that spending $300,000 on the last campaign generated $930,000 in incremental sales for a 3.1:1 return on investment.

The test and control is used to isolate various impactful components of marketing, such as:

  • Impact of a single tactic on sales
  • Incremental lift of multiple channels or ideal mix of channels
  • Use of personalized messaging or the sequence of messages
  • Identification of the ideal number of tactics to influence prospect behavior
  • Effectiveness of Various Calls to Action

Working Backwards

If a control group has not been held for a campaign, it is possible to “back into” a control group by identifying a subset of customers who did not receive your promotion because you didn’t have their email or physical address. This approach is not as rigorous as a pre-determined control group, but will work in a pinch to measure sales lift post campaign.

One way or another, test/control is absolutely crucial to effective measurement of marketing tactics. Click here to learn more about how Measurement Mojo can help ensure that your campaign efforts are connected to results.