3. Just start, then use results to make your case.
Most people are quick to stop you before you get started, but hesitant to get in the way if you’re moving. Especially if you can show data. Once you just try something with your test, and you have data from your measurement tools, you can make the case that your test is worthwhile.
How we did it:
On the first day of launching the “When You Work At A Nonprofit blog,” we received 115 views. On the second day: 3,000 views; third day: 96,000 views; fourth day: 115,000 views. Since we added the newsletter sign-up, over 5,000 people have signed up. I doubt anyone would argue with results like that.
4. If it doesn’t work, that’s okay too.
A test is just that — a test. Sometimes it will work, sometimes it won’t. That’s actually the goal here: it’s called “failing fast.” Try a test to see if it will work before spending real time and money. It is always better to fail quickly after a 30-day test using free or low-cost tools, than to invest months and significant expense.
The important part is to decide what’s failing. To some organizations, 100 email list signups is a success; to others, that’s not worth the time it takes to maintain the test. Failure is determined by whether the cost of your time is worth the benefit afforded by the test. Use your best judgment to determine what’s failing and what’s a thumbs up.
How we did it:
For another project we started, Lean Impact, we originally planned a telesummit: a one-day online summit featuring thought leaders in the Lean for Social Good space. We were testing whether people were interested enough in the topic to pay $20 for an educational experience. We secured six non-paid speakers, set up a free page on Lean Impact, created a graphic to advertise the site on the Lean Impact homepage (Cost: 1 hour for hired designer), used the free event marketing platform Eventbrite to sell tickets, and planned to use Google Hangouts On Air, a free videoconferencing platform, to host the online event. Total cost: Web Designer, $125 for one hour
Only four people bought tickets. As a result, we reached out to potential participants to ask why they didn’t buy tickets, and we learned that people needed in-person interaction with Lean Impact first before paying for something online. We quickly cancelled the telesummit and planned three in-person events in New York, DC and San Francisco. Each event garnered over 500 attendees.
Even though no one bought tickets originally, the test was a success. We failed fast. Instead of contracting with a venue, signing catering contracts, using a complex event ticketing service, and paying speakers, we spent $125 and had our answer in 60 days.
5. Never stop testing.
If your test takes off, that’s the ultimate thumbs-up. But the success of a test is not the end goal. If your initial test works, take the next step towards a new test. For example, if X number of people from the test opt in to a newsletter, will they then open a newsletter targeted directly at them? If X people participate in a Facebook contest, will they then donate if a landing page has messaging specifically targeted towards contest participants? Think about each step as a test.
When everything is a test, you’re able to get things up and running faster. You can see results more quickly. You’re less invested in the results, positive or negative. You know when to call off the test and move on to something else. And you can try new and better things.
Leah Neaderthal is the Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Start Somewhere, which uses design and technology to help social good organizations look incredible online. Leah is the co-creator of the popular “When You Work At A Nonprofit” Tumblr blog, and she is the Co-Founder of Lean Impact, the community of people and organizations using Lean Startup principles for social good. A version of this post originally appeared on Medium.
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