Q&A on running good direct marketing tests

direct marketing testsTesting is at the core of direct marketing. It’s what makes direct marketing scientific and accountable.

Unlike mass market advertising, nearly every decision in direct marketing is (or should be) made by the results on a calculator.

But after working in this industry for many years, I’ve discovered that most people have a hard time wrapping their head around even the most basic testing concepts.

So let’s run through a few of these ideas in the form of question and answer.

Q: What’s the first step in any test?
A: Good testing starts with careful thinking. Before you rush into a test, take out a pen and paper and write down the answers to a few basic questions: Why am I testing? What are my objectives? What do I hope to learn? What questions do I want answered?

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Occam’s Razor: 16 obvious ways to connect with consumers

Occam's RazorWhile wading through some of the more erudite (i.e. stuffy, jargon-laden, hard to read) periodicals at the local library, I ran across an old copy of the Journal of Advertising Research from way back in 1997.

The title: “To Whom Do Advertising Creatives Write? An Inferential Answer.” The premise: Carry out an experiment to see if creative personnel have difficulty making a connection to their audience.

The result: They do.

The authors selected a group of creatives and a group of TV viewers. They showed each group television commercials and asked them to respond “personally” to those ads through a questionnaire.

In a nutshell, these agency creative people could not respond personally to the ads, only “professionally.” Their responses “very closely paralleled those of the other advertising professionals who judge advertising awards.”

And the authors concluded that even though the creatives’ job was to “translate strategy into (a) meaningful message,” they did not in fact communicate with consumers, but with other advertising people.

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Divide and conquer to boost direct mail results

divide and conquer direct mailDivide et impera is a Latin saying that translates to divide and rule or, more commonly, divide and conquer.

While the term generally refers to political maneuvering or military strategy, I use it when talking about direct mail envelope packages.

Here’s why …

I see far too many direct mail packages that include pieces randomly, with each piece carrying the same information. The brochure will seem to be an illustrated version of the letter. An insert will make the same points as the brochure. The lift letter will repeat the offer in the same words as all the other pieces.

It makes you wonder why the mailer chose an envelope package format in the first place. Why pay to have all those pieces printed, folded, inserted, and mailed when they all do the same thing?

Each element of a direct mail package has its own purpose and its own strengths.

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Garden club sticks to proven direct mail format

proven direct mailMost experienced direct mailers know that a direct mail package generally outperforms other formats.

The National Home Gardening Club certainly knows that and have been using a big, colorful envelope package for years.

Because I’m an avid gardener, I’ve received this package many times. It arrived in a green and yellow 6” x 11.5” envelope with two windows, one for the address and one to show my name printed on the membership card inside.

I love the teaser: “We’re looking for people to test gardening tools (and keep them free!).” The back of the envelope shows several possible tools and says I have to do a scratch off inside to find out which I’ll get.

Inside, I find a huge, 4-page, 10.5” x 15” letter with a pack of seeds and a pack of plant food glued to the top of the letter. This is a crackerjack technique because it does so much.

It adds bulk to the package, makes a sound when the seeds move, draws my eye to the letter, covers the Johnson box to create curiosity, and stimulates involvement as I remove the seed packs. Wow!

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