The important thing about "test and learn" isn't the testing part.
It's the learning.
In business in general, and marketing in particular, it can be easy to forget this; it's exciting to try new things and see what happens.
But it's a problem when well-intentioned people say they're doing something as a "test" and don't take the time to understand what they're trying to achieve; you can't know if your test was successful if you haven't pre-defined what success looks like, and if you "fail" without understanding what that means you won't be able to prevent it from happening again.
"Let's just do it and see if it works" is "trial and error".
"Let's test this hypothesis and let the results inform our actions" is "test and learn".
It's a subtle but very important difference.
And while we're on the subject of "testing and learning"... this is my 500th blog post.
I began my blog in January 2020 primarily because I like to write, and I know that writing is like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it becomes.
But I also wanted to "test and learn" a few things:
Would anybody be interested in what I had to say? Could I earn an audience?
Would a dedicated audience motivate me to write consistently enough to achieve a big milestone (like 500 blog posts, for instance) in a reasonable amount of time?
What type of style, tone, and content would work best?
Could I figure out a way to monetize my writing efforts, either by showcasing my expertise in a way that attracted new consulting and advising opportunities or by generating income directly from my blog?
And over the past three years, I've learned the answers to these questions are, in order:
Yes! I have a small but mighty group of followers who have welcomed me into their inbox three times each week for the past three years. (Thank you!) And they aren't just getting my emails, they're opening them: my average email "open rate" for the past year is 47.2%... which is astoundingly high compared to these benchmarks. I know the reason I don't have more subscribers is that my content hasn't been focused on just one area... but I'm going to work on that. (Keep reading...)
YES! There have been many times in the past few years where, if I had been keeping a personal journal instead of publishing my content on the internet, I'd have definitely skipped a writing session. But knowing my "small but mighty" group of followers was looking forward to getting my next post in their inbox pushed me to keep writing. And except for a planned (and announced) six-week hiatus I took in the summer of 2022 to recharge, I've kept up my "three a week" pace for three years straight. How did I hit a 500-post milestone? One post at a time.
I still don't know. I've tried a variety of formats, styles, content lengths, and topics over the years. Based on the posts that have earned the most page visits and the comments people have emailed me, I know people like my authentic, personal stories and my candid, whimsical tone. But as for the type of content people enjoy, there doesn't seem to be any consistency at all. Some readers clearly like my marketing deep-dives, others appreciate my entertaining ADdicted features, and a few enjoy my personal stories best. So where should I focus my writing? That's still not conclusive.
Not yet. I've toyed with the idea of setting up a paywall and charging for my content, but that would mean I'd have to commit to delivering consistently insightful and actionable articles on a regular basis... and I'm not ready for that level of commitment. For now, I'm fine with using my blog to improve my writing and showcase my thinking, trusting my reputation as a "thinker" will be remembered should interesting opportunities for paid consulting, advising, and speaking engagements come up.
I've learned a few general lessons about writing a blog too... but that's for another post.
So where do we go from here?
I've decided to discontinue my thrice-a-week newsletter and email my subscribers only on Monday mornings. This will accomplish two big things for me:
It removes the incredible pressure to publish something three times every week, which has occasionally led to my publishing posts I feel are "just okay". I strive for excellence with everything I publish, but that's sometimes difficult to do consistently when writing so often. It's often said that "less is more". We'll find out if that's true.
It frees up some time for some other exciting creative collaborations I'm working on right now, which I'll announce via blog posts in the coming weeks.
So from now on, dpThoughts will publish a deep-dive ("dpDive"?) on a marketing issue every weekend, and that post will arrive in subscriber inboxes every Monday morning.
I may still write other pieces of content throughout the week, and if I do, those will appear below the deep dive... just keep scrolling if you're interested in more!
And if you do want to hear from me more than just once a week, here's what you can do:
Follow me on LinkedIn, if you don't already do so; I post more often than I publish.
Sign up for Social Digest and choose me as a Creator you'd like to follow. If you don't trust LinkedIn's algorithm to show you all of my content (and personally, I wouldn't), Social Digest is a free way to get a daily summary of everything your favourite creators post to LinkedIn so you'll never miss an interesting insight.
Become a member of my website, using the "Login" button that now appears at the top right corner of my blog's homepage. It's free, and you'll get a notice as soon as I publish anything so you can read it right away instead of having to wait for Monday.
And lastly, don't forget to encourage your friends to do all of the above. (Sharing is caring!)
Thank you for your ongoing support of me and my writing.
And here's to the next 500 blog posts... even if it might take me a little longer to get there.