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What Do You Test?

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Jerry Heisler
The famous merchant, John Wannamaker, once made the comment, “I know half of my advertising is wasted but I’ll be darned if I know which half”. The direct marketer doesn’t have that problem. He doesn’t have to guess. He tests and gets the answer. One of the major advantages of direct mail advertising is the fact that it is easy to test. With a mailing of 5000 pieces or less, an advertiser can learn for himself what approach produces the most business rather than having to guess.

On the other hand, what to test often becomes a concern. Among the elements most commonly tested are:

  • Price
  • Options for payment
  • Offers
  • Premiums
  • Mailing formats
  • Copy
  • Timing

For example, a mailer might prepare two identical postcard mailers with the only difference…the price. By evaluating the results it should be fairly simple to find out which price produced the most orders. If there was no discernible difference then the advertiser would probably want to roll out the mailing at the higher price.
When testing it’s important to remember that only one thing should be tested at a time. In the above example, only price was tested. What if the mailer decided to have two variables in his mailing, two different prices and two different offers? He could then count his orders to see which package brought in the most business. The problem arises in being able to determine WHAT element caused the change in response…the price or the offer.

Don’t waste time and money testing things that are not likely to produce a major difference. These would include such esoteric things as paper color, type of mailing label, commemorative postage stamps and the like. While numerous mailers have tested these kinds of things and some have, indeed found a difference, to the average mailer testing the major items outlined above should be your first area of concern.

One of the greatest attributes that advertising mail offers is the opportunity for you to learn by testing. Make good use of tests and you will increase the number of responses.