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Testing Your Mail Campaign

Mar 08, 2010

Direct Mail Best Practices: Testing Your Mail Campaign

“Direct mail advertisers can measure the results of their mailings to the dollar.  This makes it possible for them to test everything they do.  In direct mail, testing is the name of the game.”
    – David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising

Master direct marketer David Ogilvy was famously a numbers man – he devoured market research, statistics, and analysis.  And he tested.  To this day, smart direct marketers test the results of their campaigns, and use what they learn from those tests to improve their marketing – and boost their response rates.

The inaugural edition of the Direct Marketing Association’s Best Practices report showed that most direct marketers (85.4%) do test.  16.3% test extensively.

Why test

While most direct marketers (and all of the most successful ones) do test their direct mail campaigns, nearly a quarter (23.3%) of small companies don’t test their direct mail at all.  That means if you’re a smaller firm, and you do test your direct mail, you’ve got a competitive advantage over your peers. 

Because by testing, you’re learning what works and what doesn’t in your direct mail.  If you’re constantly testing, you can be constantly improving (as they say, “There’s always room for improvement”).  In other words, by testing you’re getting maximum value out of your direct mail marketing dollars.

What to test

Direct mail is such an amazing marketing tool because it is so easily measurable – unlike most other kinds of marketing, with direct mail you can easily and accurately ascertain the elements of your campaign that worked to generate response, and the elements that didn’t.

In testing, everything’s game, though there are some elements of your direct mail that are most easily and effectively measured.  The Direct Marketing Association reports that 76% of direct mail testers test creative (graphics and copy) and 58.7% test segmentation strategies (how you split your list to target particular prospects).  43.1% test frequency of contact (what happens to your response if you mail more, or less, often) and 40.8% test price (lower is not always better).

As David Ogilvy teaches us, the number of elements you can test in any given campaign depends really on your budget.  You can only test one element at a time (if you test different prices and different headlines at the same time, you won’t know whether it was the price or the headline that changed response). 

Your best bet is to start with the low-hanging fruit: test the creative elements (for example, the headline or P.S.) against your control first.  If your revised mailer generates the best response, then it becomes the control.  If your timeframe and budget allow, pick another piece of low-hanging fruit: test, for example, your offer.  You can keep moving down the list, repeating the process as long as you like.

When asked when the best time to test direct mail, direct marketer Dean Rieck replied, “Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. Always. You should be testing something with every mailing. Otherwise you're wasting valuable opportunities to learn and, therefore, cut costs and boost profits.”

How to set up a test and measure your response

In the 11th step of the 12 Steps to Direct Mail Success you’ll learn about how to set up a sequential test and a split test, and how to measure your results.  You can wait until August when we run the 11th Step: Test, Measure, Repeat or you can request the white paper (complete with all 12 steps) now, by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Click2Mail makes testing your direct mail strategies easy.  Here’s how:
• Because we have no minimum quantity requirements (print as few as one piece) you can test your mail campaign even if your list is small.
• Our variable data printing process allows you to test different elements (a different offer, for example) within the same mailing.
• We rent lists with a minimum requirement of just 100 records, which makes it incredibly cost-effective for you to test different lists.
• We offer discounts starting with just 100 mail pieces – so you can qualify for a discount even with a relatively small test mailing.
• You can schedule your mailings up to 180 days in advance, so you sit down at the computer once and set up a series of test campaigns and don’t have to think about it again.

The most successful direct mailers test.  With Click2Mail, you can be one of them.