Test iteration for growth hacking is an excellent way to measure product and business process success. Here are six helpful examples of test iteration in action.
Companies in virtually all industries can use test iteration to improve various aspects of their business, especially product development. By taking a slow and steady approach that involves many small changes that are tested and analyzed over time, startups can measure the effectiveness and success of their products with more precision and control.
In the context of early-stage SaaS startups, test iteration can be used for a variety of use cases. It can be used to improve SaaS products, business processes, marketing campaigns, user experience, and much more.
In this guide, we’ll break down the basics of test iteration for SaaS startups and cover six tangible examples of test iteration in action. Let’s start by breaking down the test iteration process on a basic level.
Understanding the basics of test iteration for growth hacking
Test iteration typically follows a set timeline. This timeline involves determining your goal KPI, analyzing your current situation, considering improvements, prioritizing changes based on probability of success, and testing. Before we get into this timeline, let’s break down what test iteration is.
What is test iteration?
Iterative testing refers to the process of making small and gradual changes to a product or business process based on a wealth of different insights, from testing results to overall user feedback. These changes are tested against predefined metrics. Test iteration is a common practice for user experience and interfaces for software and applications, but it can also be used for product management and marketing as well.
There are many benefits to iterative testing. Startups can test their UI/UX quite easily with smaller teams. It’s also an excellent process to use for identifying product issues early on in the pre-prototype stages. Just as well, iterative testing makes it possible to gain better insights into how a product can be improved with little in the way of resources. The result is a better product that continuously improves over time through ongoing iterative testing. The insights that startups can gain from iterative testing are extremely beneficial for long-term growth.
0. Determine your goal KPI
Before you begin iterative testing, you’ll need to determine what your goal KPI is. You can do this by examining your general pain points and goals. Are you trying to generate sales, kick up your sales or just have 50 meaningful interviews? Do you want to improve your Net Promoter Score and improve the overall customer experience? Perhaps you want to acquire more five-star reviews, 5 great customer logos, 5 authority PR logos or just increase your revenue.
No matter the KPI, iterative testing is more effective when you have a KPI goal in mind, so you can apply relevant testing techniques to your product or business process.
1. Analyze your current situation
What state is your product in now? What stage of development are you in? What resources do you have on hand for testing, such as access to user feedback? This is where the real testing comes into play. Analyze your current situation and your most prominent pain points before you move on to the next step.
2. Consider how to make it better
Create a hypothesis on how to make your current situation better. For example: After analyzing your current situation through iterative testing insights from your user base’s feedback, you’ve determined that the navigation system of your application is difficult to use, but you don’t have many insights into what the main problem is. Consider how to make your navigation better by brainstorming different small changes you could make, such as increasing the font size, improving the link hierarchy, using a more UX-friendly design, etc.
3. Prioritize by probability
Once you have a decent list of potential changes to make, it’s time to prioritize them by probability. This will serve as your change timeline. After each change is implemented and tested, you can move on to the next change down the line. Again, iterative testing is all about making little changes slowly over time to effectively test how well they work.
Prioritize your changes by things like resource effectiveness, scalability, and success probability. Consider your goal KPI in this stage. Are you trying to focus on product growth and sales in the long term (to impress your investor)? If so, it may be wise to prioritize your changes by how well they can scale.
4. Test it!
We’re finally at the testing stage, and it’s a fairly self-explanatory process. You’ll simply implement the small change you’ve chosen to start with in the last step. After implementation, you can deliver your product to your customer base or to a specified group designated for iterative testing and feedback. This is where you will gain the most insights into your product.
For example: You’ve decided to implement a change in the overall design of your app’s navigation according to complaints from user feedback. This change was simply to make relevant links brighter and more eye-catching. After implementing the update to your userbase, you receive feedback from your users that the navigation is much easier to use, but still isn’t quite as user-friendly as similar apps. From here, it’s time to do the entire test iteration cycle over again. This time, you keep the change you’ve implemented and instead implement the next change on your priority list.
And then you’ll do it again, and again, and again…
Now that we understand how test iteration works on a basic level, let’s explore six major examples of test iteration specifically for growth hacking.
6 examples of test iteration for growth hacking
Marketing test iteration example 1: post timing
Social media marketing is a huge part of any marketing campaign in virtually any industry. For SaaS startups, social media can be massively helpful for increasing brand awareness, gaining the trust of consumers, finding stakeholders and investors, and much more.
However, developing the right strategy for a social media marketing campaign can be tricky. If you post too often, you could overwhelm or annoy your followers. Just as well, posting constantly will likely result in poor content creation or curation. If you post barely at all, your followers won’t have much of an incentive to follow you and you run the risk of appearing inactive.
The solution to this problem is to use test iterating to identify the right processes for post timing. Consider what days of the week your followers engage with your content the most, as well as the general hours that they interact. You can identify these key days and timeframes through analytics platforms, many of wish are built directly into the social media platform. You might find that your users are more interested in engaging with your content early Monday morning after a weekend without checking up on social media, or on Friday evenings after finally finishing their work.
This approach can also be used for newsletters, email marketing, organic lead generation, social media outreach and cold calls as well.
Marketing test iteration example 2: CTA
Your call to action or CTA is one of the most important aspects of your SaaS company’s website. There’s really no point to marketing unless you give your target audience and viewers tangible, clear, beneficial, valuable, and brief instructions on what you want them to do. If your call to action is weak or too wordy, it won’t be successful in generating leads and conversions.
Iterative testing is a great solution for finding the right CTA. It’s also a fairly simple form of iterative testing. Simply track how many clicks or taps you get on a particular CTA link on one of your least active landing pages. You might not have many options in the way of feedback, due to the nature of landing pages. Your best bet is to identify how many clicks and taps you get on a CTA, tweak different parts of the copy, and then measure how many clicks and taps you get in a week-long period after the change is published.
The changes you make can differ significantly. Maybe the handful of words on your CTA link could be changed. Maybe the volume of copy for the landing page could be changed. Regardless, be sure to implement small changes bit by bit and measure your conversions over the span of a week.
Sales test iteration example 1: SimCity 5
Here’s a real-world example of sales test iteration to consider. The media company behind the Sims games, Electronic Arts (EA), wanted to release a new version of one of the company’s most beloved games. EA wanted to ensure that the game would capitalize on previous versions’ theme of building cities, which was very popular with users in the past. EA relied on iterative testing to ensure the sales page for the game was perfect.
The goal was to improve sales and maximize revenue from the game the moment it was released in addition to pre-sale purchases. A major change that the company made was to make it possible to buy and download the game instantly from their sales page, as CDs are close to going extinct. This provided more convenience to customers and cost less money in the long run for EA. The results were successful.
However, it was the testing of tiny changes that influenced their conversions the most. EA started with a control version of the game’s preorder page. This testing page offered a percentage discount on future purchases for every consumer that ordered SimCity 5. The variation page removed this initiative.
Surprisingly, testing concluded that more consumers were pre-ordering on the variation page. This was likely due to the fact that many fans of the game weren’t interested in a discount on future games, as they were focused mainly on the SimCity game. This is a great example of why startups should use iterative testing instead of making assumptions about their target audience.
Sales test iteration example 2: features
When developing a product as a SaaS company, much of the focus might end up being on packing as many features as possible into a product. Depending on the use case or purpose behind your application, this might be a good example of where iterative testing could prove otherwise. Remember: You should never assume anything about your target audience or customer base, especially when it comes to user experience.
Let’s say you develop an app that compiles recipes. Through testing, you’ve determined that your userbase enjoys the responsive mobile-friendly nature of the app, which can be used on kitchen tablets with ease. However, much of the feedback you’ve received through app markets notes that the app is a little too simple and not as visually pleasing as other similar apps.
Through testing, you might have the knee-jerk reaction to simply pack as many additional features as possible into the app. Rather than simply offering a search platform and database of recipes, you begin to pack the app with videos, games, and other not-so-necessary features. Changing too much will result in wildly differing accounts in your feedback.
Instead of making this mistake, you could simply start by identifying what could get you the most sales. Feedback establishes that the app is too simplistic. So, one change to consider would be to use more visually-stunning photography and a condensed sped-up video on each recipe uploaded to the platform. By making this small change, you can measure the reactions of your customer base.
Customer Success test iteration example 1: starting small
A customer success model is key to identifying your product or service’s pain points in terms of customer experience. This is important in all industries, but for a service-based industry like SaaS, it’s one of the most important things to focus on throughout every step of your development.
Defining, testing, and iterating new customer success processes can be an effective way to experiment with your application’s UX. One example of implementing such a process is to take a multi-level testing approach.
Let’s consider this example. You’ve created an application that is still in the prototyping stage. This app is a sleep app that compiles different podcasts, music, and scientifically proven audio that promotes sleep. The app also has tracking capabilities to help users identify their sleeping patterns and when they enter REM sleep, making it ideal for smartwatches. Instead of rolling out your iteration changes to your entire userbase (which is likely non-existent at this stage of development), start by testing your changes in incubation. From there, collect feedback and implement additional changes to be tested by your customer success managers. Once more small changes have been tweaked with the expertise of your team, you can then put out your prototype or beta application to your entire customer base.
Customer Success test iteration example 2: contract renewal
Contract and subscription renewals are a big part of SaaS business models. They are also directly tied to customer success and iteration. However, developing a good strategy for convincing your customer base to renew their contracts can be very tricky. This is where iterative testing comes in.
Let’s say your company decides to run a renewal incubation program. The goal is to test a pre-renewal workflow for a specified group of customers who had contracts that were coming up on renewal for the end of Q4. You can use iterative testing by sending out renewal notifications via email on a 90-day, 60-day, and 30-day basis ahead of the actual membership expiration. By sending out emails at different frequencies, you can use your analytical tools to determine how many users decided to renew based on the email they received. This is a small resource-light way to use iterative testing to identify the right frequency of contact that suits your customer base.