An AdWords Fable

The King Seeks an Heir

Once upon a time there was a king who had three daughters. As he was nearing retirement age and had spent his entire reign commissioning ballads about his greatness and generosity, he had not done much succession planning, and now had become somewhat desperate.

Which daughter should he choose to rule the land after him?

He decided to set his three daughters a task – whichever of them performed it best would win his undying admiration and the chance to move into the best room in the castle after he lit out for Boca Raton.

Here was the task he set: 

"In 4 weeks, bring me the sweetest peach in all the land."

The Daughters Search for Peaches

The eldest daughter, who was far too busy Facebooking to spend time searching all the land for a damn peach, waited 3.95 weeks and then ran to a nearby orchard, plucked a peach from the lowest branch of the nearest tree, and ran back up to the throne room for the royal tasting.

The middle daughter, who had a little more time on her hands since she was into Twitter, spent the four weeks tasting the peaches in all the local orchards. When she found the sweetest orchard, she tasted the peaches from the different trees, discovered the sweetest peach tree, and grabbed a peach from the lowest branch, and ran back up to the throne room for the royal tasting.

The youngest daughter, who knew from reading her fairy tales that she was expected to win and felt pressure to live up to expectations, spent the first week traveling up and down the kingdom, tasting random samples of peaches from each of the four peach-growing regions.

Once she determined that the southeastern region had, on average, the sweetest peaches, she spent the second week sampling each of the orchards of that region. 

Upon discovering that the Happy Peach orchard consistently produced the sweetest peaches in the southeast, she spent the third week tasting randomly selected peaches from each of the trees in this orchard.

When she had pinpointed the sweetest tree in the orchard, she spent the final week tasting peaches from the different branches of that tree. On the last day, she plucked the biggest, juiciest-looking peach from the winning branch and carefully brought it to the throne room for the royal tasting.

Which daughter would you put your money on?

What does this have to do with AdWords?

You may not care much about fictitious princesses and peaches, but I'm guessing you care a great deal about your business. So here's the question: which princess are you when it comes to testing the messages in your ads?

Which Princess are You?

Roughly 90% of business owners are the oldest princess. They write one ad, hoist it up the AdWords flagpole to see who salutes, and then think they're done with the process of ad creation. These are the people who often complain that online marketing doesn't work, that AdWords is just another scam, and that I should be cooked like a turkey for getting people's hopes up.

Another 9% of business owners are the middle princess. They understand the importance of testing, and they may be diligently testing all the time, but they're stuck in a rut that severely limits the improvements they can make. Instead of testing vastly different concepts, they're thinking of new ways to say "free shipping" and experimenting with commas and semi-colons and capitalization. 

At first, these tests can pay off, but over time, this attention to minutiae at the expense of big ideas leads to stagnation.

Only 1% of business owners (disclaimer: I'm making all these numbers up for dramatic effect; I have no idea what the true percentages are) are the youngest princess. Testing in a logical, methodical way. Virtually guaranteed to find, if not the sweetest peach or most appealing ad in all the land, at least one very near the top spot.

The youngest princess business owners are not afraid to wander far afield from their comfort zones. They don't rest on assumptions about who their customer is, what they want, why they want it, and how they want it. They research, make guesses, and test those guesses in a hierarchical fashion.

How to Test in AdWords

At Camp Checkmate, we spend one and a half days coming up with new ads, new landing pages, new headlines, new answers to objections, and new ways to appeal to our Ideal Customer. And if we just left it at that, everyone would go home happy. After all, they've totally busted through their creative rut, and they now have deep insight into their market.

But they don't really know how these new ideas will stack up against each other, and against their controls. Unlike other marketing media, where you can spend months and tens of thousands of dollars before you know if you have a sweet peach or a dud, in AdWords you can test quickly and cheaply.

That's why the last Camp Checkmate exercise gives campers a testing action plan: a framework for putting their ads into that optimizes the chances of finding the very best, most profitable ad.

1. Start with the Region

 In AdWords, the region is the Who. Who is searching for your keyword? Of that group, Who is your Ideal Customer?  Until you know your ideal customer, it's just silly to start fine-tuning language and offers.

2. Narrow in on the Orchard

The AdWord orchard is the What. What does your Ideal Customer want at the moment of search? A product? A service? A DIY manual? A review? Guidance and hand-holding? General information? A place to vent? Notice that the What will change as your Ideal Customer goes through the sales cycle. Don't think about What they want ultimately, but What they want right now, at the exact moment of this particular search.

3. Choose a Tree

 The AdWords tree is the Why. Why do they want What they want? Why are they searching? To solve a problem, or take advantage of an opportunity? To redeem themselves? To prove themselves worthy? To win love? To stop a feeling like frustration or confusion?

4. Select a Branch

The AdWords branch is the How. How do they want it? What are the features of the offer? Free shipping? In horizontal stripes? E-course or PDF download?

More Camp Checkmate Education – at Zero Cost

As part of my promotion for Camp Checkmate Chicago on June 10-11, 2010, I'm giving away much of my best training material. If you haven't yet signed up for the zero-cost pre-Camp Checkmate training series, you can still get in on the fun by clicking here.

You'll get Checkmate lessons in your inbox, and invitations to live training sessions and coaching calls. The deal is, I'm counting on the fact that enough people will say, "Wow, this free stuff is so good, I'd better go to Camp Checkmate where it's bound to be even better."

If you opt in right away, you'll have time to register for any of this week's live Checkmate webinars. There's one today, tomorrow, Thursday, and Friday – and on Friday April 30 the early bird pricing for Camp Checkmate flies away for the summer.

Hope to see you at Camp!

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2 Comments. Leave a comment or send a Trackback.
  1. #1 • Gorka Garmendia said on April 29 2010:

    Hi Howie
    A brilliant, briliant post.  Do you mind if I translate it into Spanish and send it to my AdWords newsletter subscribers? Of course, in your name and with links to the original text.
    Gorka Garmendia
    Barcelona, Spain

  2. #2 • Dan Mytelka said on April 29 2010:

    I'm afraid that I must be the stepson.  I go off and pick a likely candidate peach and then spend the next four weeks stewing it in a sugar solution to make it as sweet as possible.  Moral: You have only so much control over what you start with, so you may be better served in making the most of it rather than spending all of your time hoping that there's elusive perfection somewhere out there.