Testing is an important part of marketing. Whether you’re testing new offers, new prices, new copy, or new ads, you should always be testing to try to improve performance. Anyone who has read this blog in the past knows what a strong proponent I am of continual testing. But today I wanted to address a common question I see with regard to testing.

There are two ways to test, and most marketers are familiar with one or the other, but not both. And a good testing plan requires a little bit of each.

The Clean Slate Test is any test where you are testing something entirely different from the original, or control. This is often where you want to start when you are just starting to test. Try something brand new, so far outside the existing strategy, to see if you can make a drastic impact on performance.

The Clean Slate Test often requires a new set of eyes to pull off. If you and your team are the people trying to come up with a clean slate test, you often don’t see all of the possibilities. You’re limited by how close you are to the existing material. Maybe you even helped put that together. So trying to come up with something brand new from scratch is next to impossible. This is where it can help to bring on a marketing agency, a consultant, conduct surveys and/or focus groups.

The Revisions Test usually comes next, where you make small changes to the winning version of something to see if you can incrementally increase performance. Changing the color of a page, the headline, the image, etc. can have a big impact on performance. And all too often, marketers follow up a clean slate test with another clean slate test without trying to make smaller changes.

A good testing strategy combines both methods. Start with a clean slate, find a winner, then make revisions. There are only so many revisions you can make until it’s time for another clean slate test. And the cycle continues. Change, test, change, test.