I was asked to write a post that could relate my training for my first Half-Ironman triathlon to my approach to media testing, and initially I struggled to find a concept that didn’t seem like a hackneyed, forced relationship between the two. “A/B Testing Ourselves” and “Optimizing More Than Just Your Ads” seemed to have potential, but I decided they were the sort of cliché, content-farmy titles that would have me bouncing from a blog page before I even got through the whole headline. And if I wouldn’t read it, I certainly didn’t want to write it. Then, on mile 22 of a brick workout (this one: 25 mile bike ride & 5 mile run), I knew I wanted to write about “Why We Test.”
Inspiration hit me during a particularly windy uphill stretch of my ride where I was struggling to maintain proper form. And that test was exactly why I chose that particular ride – I needed to see where my body would fail. I needed the information that would tell me exactly what to work on so I could improve upon my weaknesses. And THAT is why I test – to analyze myself. Exploiting my own faults and then eliminating them is just as important, if not more so, than improving my already acceptable running pace by .5%. That’s not to say we shouldn’t focus on strengths – improvement is, after, all what we’re after. But it’s too easy to fall into the comfortable training trap where you find what you like, get good at what you like, and focus too much time on what you like because you think you can compensate for your weaknesses by practicing really hard at your strengths.
Be it triathlon training or media testing, you can’t win by focusing on your strengths alone. Your weaknesses will be exposed, and you will eventually have to pay for your ill-focused strategy.
How many of you have clients whose annual data that looks like this?
Too often I’ve had clients tell me about their “Peak Periods” and how we should focus all of our time and energy trying to take advantage of those heights. And every time, I respond with a conversation about their valleys. It is often in these valleys where there is the most opportunity to be found. And it is these valleys that are most often ignored in favor of more amicable topics. Just as a great running/biking triathlete might skimp on their swimming, these media clients need to hit the lap pool.
Data can tell us very clearly what we are good at. That is what we media types like to talk about, and that is what clients like to see reports about. But also hidden in that data is something scarier, a clear picture of our weaknesses, and this is where I discover valleys of opportunity. There is nothing more satisfying in the workplace than finding a new ad, a new target, or a new message that makes that valley more shallow. So while many agencies will encourage you to cut spend during your down times, I would encourage you to spend more time, energy, and even money finding out WHY that downtime exists, and how you can make it disappear.
Because if you can make your annual data look like this:
It will allow you to spend less time worrying about peaks and valleys, and more time thinking about hitting your goals, whether it’s a personal record in a race or a profitability record for your business.
See you on the road!
When he isn’t at his desk, you can usually find Tom Garvey running/biking/swimming through Philadelphia. His favorite stomping grounds include Kelly Drive, the Ben Franklin Bridge, and the Wissahickon Trails.