Don’t Test Marketing Ideas, Test Customer Hypotheses

How the largest medical social media network increased conversion by 197%.

Sermo, the largest medical social media network, faced a challenge of wildly volatile conversion rates with each send in its email campaign. Multiple ideas had been tested to try to achieve a steady increase in performance. But it wasn't until those ideas were transformed into hypotheses that the problem was able to be diagnosed, and the network achieved a 197% increase in conversion.

In the video below, Flint McGlaughlin explains how you can move past simply testing marketing ideas to actually testing customer hypotheses.

"Performance like this is not captured by getting random ideas and trying them. Testing should be a compounding capture of wisdom ..."

— Flint McGlaughlin, CEO and Managing Director, MECLABS Institute

Understanding your customer versus testing ideas

By transforming ideas into hypotheses, we orient our test to learn about our customer rather than merely trying out an idea. An idea says “this might work,” but a hypothesis asks what the consumer wants and why. “The goal of testing is not simply to get a lift, but to get a learning … Because with that learning, you can map the mind of your prospective customer and create a model that predicts behavior,” Flint explains in the video. Ultimately, our understanding of the customer is what powers the efficiency and efficacy of our testing and optimization.

In the Sermo experiment explained in the video above, we started by analyzing all data and trends to build a rich customer theory articulating what we knew about consumers and what we needed to test. The strategy shifted from simply trying their own ideas about which content would get a response, to methodically testing hypotheses about which content had the broadest appeal to their target audience. In doing so, the test produced learnings that laid groundwork and direction for future testing.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Testing should begin with developing your best customer theory: articulating your best understanding of 1) who is your customer, and 2) why they behave the way they do.
  2. Shift the emphasis of your testing and optimization from achieving quick performance lifts to gaining a deeper, lasting understanding of your customer and how to communicate with them.
  3. Transform your ideas into hypotheses by articulating a clear “because” statement, providing a rationale to predict how consumers will respond and why.


We have created a 60-page guide that contains 21 tools and concepts, and it outlines the unique methodology we have used to test across more than 20,000+ sales/marketing paths. You can download the guide for free here: A Model of Your Customer’s Mind

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