When it comes to campaign budgeting and planning, the typical approach is to use the methods that have produced success in the past. The challenge with this approach is that it is rear-facing. With digital changing at such a rapid rate, sticking with what worked in the past means you aren’t prepared for the future. Not to worry. All is not lost! Adjusting your approach and investing in educated budget testing at the onset will allow you to create better campaigns with stronger results, and being willing to embrace options that push you outside of your comfort zone will ensure you are well-positioned for the future. Here are four key practices to keep in mind when planning budgets and testing: 
  • Invest in campaign learnings. Investing in creative learnings that are centered around the channel, placements, and the full marketing funnel will help you build the best experience for users. Whether it’s making changes to tactics, audience strategies, or channels, you have the capability to map out your brand’s future by investing in research prior to committing to the changes. Site links and ad copy tests are easy and inexpensive, however, they provide minimal impact to your business. We have found that although testing new platforms is more expensive, not only will this allow you to get ahead of the game, you’ll also likely see an increase in engagement, traffic, and assisted revenue. 
 
  • Revisit “failures.”  Just because something didn’t work out as planned, it’s not a lost cause. It is always worth revisiting previous tests and opportunities both to learn from past mistakes and to help inspire ideas moving forward. Take Instagram Stories. Three years ago, Stories was an obscure ad format available through Facebook, offering very little impact on conversion rate. Now, Stories is a major component of most media plans. So, take a moment to consider which past failures can now become wins.
 
  • Test early and often.  Many digital marketers tend to be gun shy about testing because we can’t guarantee X% ROI or something silly like that. The challenge with that mindset is that it prevents progress. The truth is, the sooner and more often you toss your hat into the testing ring, the better chance you have at moving your organization forward. Think of it like this: If you only invest in things that another brand has proven to be successful, then you are 1) always playing catch up to that brand, and 2) at best, can only perform at the same level as that brand. While there will always be risks in testing, they tend to feel much larger than they actually are, and although those risks tend to be some amount of dollars and sweat/effort, the benefits tend to be significantly more impactful.
 
  • Get uncomfortable.  A great negotiation is where both parties walk away pleased, but a little uncomfortable. The exact same thing applies to media planning. If you walk away having sandbagged the numbers, you might feel short term comfort, but you will absolutely feel long term pain as your business or team lags behind (just look at the multitude of retail closures for brands that refused to try something new!) On the other hand, if you walk away feeling stressed beyond belief because the plan is so outrageous, that’s not healthy either. Instead, aim for a plan that both you and your counterpart (e.g. finance, merch, the CEO, etc.) feel pushes you out of your comfort zone, but that you are energized about accomplishing. 
Feeling ready to try something new? Good. Don’t wait for your competitor to dip their toes in the water before getting yours wet. Examine past failures, learn from them, and propel yourself forward.

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