Brian Kurtz on DM Testing in Hard Times
A solid control. A perfect pitch. A piece that’s pleasing prospects. Got it? Congrats. Now beat it.
Not as in “get out of town,” but instead getting back to work at making that effort even better. That should be the job of every direct marketer using the mail, especially in these hardscrabble, competitive times—but many go the opposite direction and pause their testing operations, or they never tested much in the first place.
One prominent marketer who believes that testing is essential for direct mail success is Brian Kurtz, executive vice president at Stamford, Conn.–based Boardroom Inc. It publishes Bottom Line/Personal, one of the largest consumer newsletters in the country, as well as books and five other newsletters.
Ethan Boldt: Why is testing such a good idea, even in an economic slump?
Brian Kurtz: Testing is critical. I grew up under the tutelage of Dick Benson, the well-known direct mail consultant. One of his basic tenets was that mailers don’t test enough, and another corollary to that is [from] Gordon Grossman, who is convinced that mailers often test the wrong things. He has an expression, “Don’t make tiny tests.” It’s even more important today to understand that because the cost of a test panel is so much more expensive after this last postal increase.
But it is absolutely essential to test all the time. A couple of things that we probably use as sort of a motivator for testing is an expression that the control is your enemy. Marty Edelston, our founder, always says, “The King is dead! Long live the King!” So the day we get a new control is the day we need to start figuring out how we’re going to beat it.
I don’t think the economic times should affect what you do. I think the best package is the best package. I think with the tough times, you have more pressure to get breakthroughs and do dynamic testing.