Direct Mail Testing

You don’t need to spend a fortune on market research. Conducting simple direct mail tests may yield customer insights that help you boost response rates and increase profits. With a few simple steps, you’re on your way to making the power of direct mail work for you.Find a Good Control Piece
A direct mail test simply means you are testing one of the major elements of the mailing against something called the control piece. A control piece in direct mail, like a control in a science experiment, is a known quantity – you know the response rate on that piece. It’s your standard mailer or email. You can use the control piece and the average response rate as your benchmark. It may not be ideal, but it will serve as a yardstick against which your direct mail test can be measured.What Can You Test?
You can test anything in a direct mail test as long as you test just one thing at a time. While there are ways to test multiple elements, the results can be messy to interpret. Testing just one thing at a time ensures clean test results that are easy to measure and read.So take a look at your direct mail piece and pick one of the following items to test. These are what some people call “the big levers” – the big stuff that with one change, can dramatically boost or suppress response rates.Try to test:1. Offer: What are you selling? Can you tweak it to include freebies, or free shipping, or something special?
2. Timing: While timing may seem like a simple thing, a shift in just a few weeks from what you’ve been doing to what you can do can mean a big boost in response rates. Try a different month or simply adjust the mailing by a few weeks.
3. Audience: Your audience is your mailing list in direct mail. Choose very carefully who you send your piece to. A house list or house file is essential to increasing response rates. You can test rented lists against the house file. Typically, house files out perform rented list by 2-1.
4. Design: Design or creative is what gets the envelope opened or the postcard looked at by your customers. It’s the eye candy, the wow factor. Try changing colors, fonts, and headlines to find the sweet spot that can maximize impact.Coding to Tract ResultsSet up a source code on your mailing list and with the printed pieces. Make sure that you assign different codes to the control piece and the variable piece. You can also give each one a unique response phone number, URL, or PO Box. This simple method lets you tally responses into each channel. You’ll know instantly which mailing outperformed the other based on the response channel.Test, Change, Test AgainMost direct marketing managers are compulsive about testing, and for good reason. Direct marketing is the only marketing method that’s highly accountable. You can known instantly what worked and what didn’t and quantify it. Use direct marketing tests to really refine your offer, timing, audience or list, and the creative of your pieces to find out what will maximize response and sales.

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