Internet Marketing and Quality Assurance

Ian Lurie

Effective management of risk is one of the keys to successful internet marketing. But that doesn’t mean eliminating risk. Rather, it means balancing risk and the need for flexibility.

Good quality assurance (QA) is essential to successful online marketing. Just look at Washington Mutual’s recent woes, and you’ll see why. But QA can also cost an agency agility, efficiency and morale.

So how do you reconcile QA’s requirements (process, care, testing) with the requirements of internet marketing (adaptation, responsiveness, experimentation)?

Risk management definition highlighted in green

I’ve had a QA team at my agency for about two years now, and I think we’ve finally come close to striking the right balance. The key lies in thinking of QA not as a testing department, but instead as a source of risk management expertise. We no longer lean on our QA folks to be the gatekeepers of all things quality. That put far too much pressure on them, created tension between our creative teams and QA, and slowed us down. Rather, we work with QA to assess how risky it would be to launch a web site, a change to a web site, or some other creative with no testing, some testing or a complete top-to-bottom review.

Project owners and QA staff now work together to balance the need for fast deployment against the risk of more or less testing. If launching a change is low-risk, and the potential failure would cause minimal harm, the project owner can bypass much of our QA process. If the change is complex and high-risk, and a failure would cause great harm to the campaign or the client, then a complete QA review is a given.

In between lies the trickier territory: Low-risk, severe harm and high-risk, minimal harm changes lead to discussions between QA and project owners (and sometimes require a deciding vote by yours truly).

My hope is that a year from now we can change the name of Quality Assurance to Risk Management. All marketing entails risk.

Ignoring the risk is foolish.

Following a rigid process with no exceptions is equally foolish.

Effective management of that risk – intelligent, informed decisions that mitigate risk while maintaining flexibility – is the key to success.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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