Direct Response Creative - What to Test First
"To test or not to test?" For direct response professionals, this isn't the question. One of the most important elements of direct response creative that sets it apart from general advertising is testing. Direct response writers and art directors understand and value the opportunity to do creative testing.
These professionals know from experience that sooner or later, response to a control space ad or direct mail package that's been working like gangbusters for months—even years—eventually is going to die.
So you've got to test continually in order to have a new control waiting in the wings.
That means "to test or not to test" simply isn't a consideration. The question is, "What do I test and what do I test first?" Here are some tips to follow.
Review your control package. Make a list of key elements in the offer, format, copy and layout/design. Test the elements that are likely to make the biggest difference in response. Don't test the color of the ink used for the signature on the letter before you test your offer, mailing lists/media, headlines or envelope teaser copy.
Cost alone should not be an issue. Adding a product sample or swatch will increase the cost of the mailing package, but the increased response could more than pay for the extra cost.
Once you have a control ad or mail package, test ways to cut costs. See what it does to overall response, average order size and customer value. If your control mailpiece is an outer envelope, reply envelope, four-page letter, brochure, order form and insert, test a self-mailer. Response will probably drop significantly but it may still meet your marketing objectives while reducing costs.
Understand your objective in testing. Some companies require a 15-percent to 20-percent lift in response for a test to be considered successful.
Test mailing lists; test list segments. Check with your list broker to see what segmentation selections are available. When appropriate, test multi-buyers, hotline names, gift buyers, geographic specific and other segments. You pay more, but it may be the way to make borderline mailing lists work for you.
Target your creative to these list segments.
Don't change your control based on one test. Many companies re-test "winners" at least two or three times before assuming the test results will predict ongoing success.
When in doubt, test it. You can't argue with response ... or lack of it.
Drayton Bird wrote in "Commonsense Direct Marketing":
Testing is the kernel of direct marketing. The truth is that every major direct marketing business that succeeds does so largely by testing—or a run of exceptional luck. Luck is not something to base a business on; if I were you I would try the safer route.
Testing, the safer route to success.