Direct Marketing Essentials – Test the Waters of Your Marketing Campaign

Testing is one of the most important aspects of any direct marketing campaign. In fact, if you are not testing then you are NOT in the business of direct marketing.

But if you don’t know what you should be testing, or perhaps you don’t understand the real benefits involved, or if you think it costs too much, then it’s time to overcome these hurdles and make testing part of your second nature.

Read on for my crash course in direct marketing testing….

What is testing exactly?

Testing involves measuring and tracking different elements within your marketing campaign in order to improve the balance your revenue while reducing your costs.

Testing should be a continual process as you seek to find the most cost effective means of getting a sale from your target market.

If you think testing is the same as research then you are mistaken. Testing is very different to research for a number of reasons:

It’s Real! The major advantage is that you get to test buyer behaviour in everyday situations. Research on the other hand is based on what people say they do, or perhaps would do. Because of the inaccuracies which arise because of this, market research is better at defining objectives when you don’t know much about your target market.

It’s easy and simple. Any direct marketer or business owner can perform simple tests. Minor tweaks to your sales letter copy, or envelope, or even the font you use could be the difference between a profitable campaign, and one that fails to make any return on your investment.

It’s low cost. Testing helps you obtain important market information. You could pay hundreds, or even thousands of dollars for a third party to conduct a focus group or you could make simple changes to help minimise finical risk

What do I test?

There are many different aspects of your campaign which you can test. But the AIM of testing is to always establish what performs best and then stick with it. The one that works becomes your CONTROL. Then you should aim to continually beat it.

Remember that you should test only two variables at a time. It is better to test two things and do it well rather than ten badly.

Furthermore, with everything that your testing it is important to consider only those parts of the direct marketing campaign that will make a difference. Here are some good testing vehicles and elements to consider for your next direct marketing campaign:

Media vehicles

Newspapers: Test newspapers against each other. i.e. The Sydney Morning Herald against The Age

  • Magazines: Magazines such as Woman’s Day vs. New Idea. Or you could test an insert compared with a Full-page ad.
  • Direct Mail: Long sales letter vs. Short sales letter. You could also try different formats and inclusions.
  • Mailing Lists: Test your current customer list with a new list sourced from a list broker, or association that matches your customer profile. A good measure of thumb is to test 10% before marketing to the entire list. Remember to roll out the campaign immediately after the test to benefit from the current market conditions.
  • Telemarketing: Scripts vs. Free Conversation. Inbound vs. Outbound.
  • Internet: Email vs. Search Engine Marketing

Key elements within the message

  • Offer: FREE information vs. conditional offer (i.e. buy before the end of the month and get a free set of steak knives) vs. entry into a competition.
  • Mailing Dates: weekday vs. weekend. The middle of the month vs. the end of the month.
  • Creative: different graphics for each target market vs. without graphics.
  • Copywriting: Long copy vs. short copy. Test different headlines. Bold, capitalise and use quotation marks where necessary.

Track your test results

On a final note it is really important to track and store your testing results. This can be done in a number of ways depending on the vehicle used, but the essential ingredients are to include the date and the relevant publication.

For example, if you’re advertising in New Idea in the October 2010 publication, you might like to use NI1010.

But if you’re testing different offers or creative then you need to develop a coding system for controls and test packs. This could be achieved by using A/B split tests such as NI10A and NI1010B accordingly.

If you’re using telemarketing to test different print media, remember to train your telesales consultants to ask where they saw the original advertisement.

At the end of the day is absolutely imperative to store all information on a database for every communication so you can accurately establish results. If you don’t do this then you can’t make meaningful decisions or draw proper conclusions about the effectiveness of your marketing.

If you’re a small business then I’d start to get to know Excel intimately or find a CRM system that you can tailor for your specific requirements.

On that note, stay tuned until my next blog.


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