12 fast direct mail tests for cheapskates

cheap direct mail testsSo you want to boost your direct mail response? Okay, just start shoveling money into a few dozen tests and …

What’s that? You don’t have a big budget for all the testing you’d love to do? You don’t have time to run a bunch of tests? No problem.

One of the great things about direct mail is that, with just a little ingenuity, you can test quickly and on the cheap to improve your results.

Here are 12 quick and easy testing ideas for cheapskates:

Change your outer envelope. A new color or a different size may be all it takes to get people to take a second look at a package they’ve seen too many times. You can also try switching from a teaser envelope to a plain one or vice versa. And faux express envelopes are often worth a test.

Test a new letter. It can be an all-new letter from scratch. Or a longer version of your current letter with more detail. Or a shorter version with less detail. Or a modified version with a new spin on the headlines and opening paragraphs.

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The Importance of Being Trivial

mail pouch barnDo you like the title of this article? I stole it from chapter 3 of The Art of Readable Writing by Rudolf Flesch.

Back in the 40s and 50s, Flesch was hailed as the guru of clear, direct writing. His advice remains powerful and relevant today.

When Flesch recommended being “trivial,” he meant you should use details to energize your writing. That requires researching your subject and sharing specifics with your reader to create vivid mental images.

I can illustrate this simple idea with the following two descriptions.

Version 1:
I drove from Virginia to Ohio. In no hurry, I took the back roads to enjoy the scenery. Along the way, I saw a bunch of those old Mail Pouch barns. You see barns anytime you pass through rural areas, but the Mail Pouch barns are famous.

They started as ordinary barns, but painters transformed them into advertisements. They offered to paint the whole barn if the farmer agreed to an advertisement on the side. Few farmers could resist. At one point there were Mail Pouch barns along many roads in several states.

Version 2:
I drove my old Ford F-10 from Roanoke, Virginia to Chillocothe, Ohio. In no hurry, I avoided the busy interstate and took the back roads to enjoy the colorful Fall leaves. Along the way, I saw at least 20 of those old Mail Pouch barns. You see barns anytime you pass through rural areas, but many of the Mail Pouch barns are listed as National Historic Landmarks.

They started as ordinary barns, but from 1890 to 1992 painters working for the West Virginia Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco company transformed them into roadside advertisements. “Mr. Farmer,” they would say, “If you let me paint a Mail Pouch advertisement on the side of your barn, I’ll paint the rest of your barn for free.”

Few farmers could resist. At one point there were 20,000 Mail Pouch barns along the roads across 22 states urging drivers to “Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco.”

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