Direct Selling: Testing Makes Perfect
Direct marketing 101, lesson one: Test the big things first. And few things are bigger than creative formats.
But you don't want to test new formats solely on principle. Author Stephen R. Covey said it best in his book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People": Habit two-begin with the end in mind. In format testing, you must begin with an understanding of what you are attempting to learn or prove, as well as an understanding of what you will do with the results of your test - before you start.
If you are testing formats for new customer acquisition, you are likely looking for the format that delivers the greatest overall response rates, as well as the lowest possible acquisition cost. Retailers may look for the piece that produces the most store traffic, e-tailers may look for site visits and B-to-B marketers could look for leads. The point is, you must have the questions you are trying to answer framed before you can build the means to learn what you need to know.
Cracking Source Codes
After asking, "What do you want to know?" the second question to ask is, "How are you going to learn?" The industry is in a tough spot these days for one reason: The customer controls the buying process, and as a result, we are at his or her mercy every time we want to create and execute a test. Why? Source codes.
Source code tracking is the fundamental "must" in direct marketing testing. Dedicate time to strategizing how you plan to capture responses in advance of any design concept. Coupon codes, promotion codes, special landing pages, unique toll-free phone numbers, unique P.O. boxes, retail barcodes and matchback processing all can be employed to improve tracking as much as possible.
Creating a Good Format Test
A good test isolates as many variables as possible so conclusions can be drawn regarding the effect of the "one thing" you are trying to test.