A 7-Step Method to Beat Your Direct Mail Control
If you use direct mail, one of your biggest challenges is beating a control in a head-to-head test. Most people use the "potshot" method, trying random formats, offers or creative approaches, then crossing their fingers and praying for a winner.
There's nothing wrong with testing a wide variety of ideas, but it doesn't have to be a random process.
Here's my 7-step procedure, based on proven problem-solving methods. It works for any medium, including direct mail, prints ads and broadcast spots. It doesn't guarantee a winner, but it does guarantee a logical and well-ordered method that can get you to a winner a little faster.
1. DEFINE your problem
Formulate every control-beating effort as a problem to be solved. Put the problem in writing. Be specific. If your company thrives on sales leads and good leads have dried up, your problem is a lack of good leads. Write "The problem is our current direct mail package is not generating enough qualified leads for our salespeople." Without a specific problem, you'll never arrive at a specific solution.
Even if your control performs well, and you simply want to beat it, you should formulate a problem statement, such as "The problem is that while our control generates 1.4% response and is profitable, we want to increase response to at least 1.8%."
2. EXPLORE your resources
Gather information about your problem. Collect samples, promotional literature, press releases, competitor information, memos, testimonials, articles and reviews, marketing reports, everything. Read and ask questions. But don't make any creative decisions yet.
3. ANALYZE your control
Look at the control by itself and in context with all past tests. How does it measure up creatively? Look for fundamental problems. Run a diagnostic check against proven principles and techniques.
Then look at the numbers — response rates, conversions, ROI, cost per customer, etc. Arrange tests chronologically or by response. Do you see a pattern? What has worked and what has not? Why?