A Winning Test
What's the best way to get inside a prospect's mind? There are surveys, focus groups, market research and customer service centers to collect information about an audience, but sometimes basic direct mail testing is the most straightforward and profitable way to find out which approaches work best.
After mailing a #10 letter package for nearly a decade, Green America, (formerly Co-op America), a nonprofit consumer organization promoting environmental sustainability, finally found a test package in March that obliterated the fatiguing control.
Kelly Spring, marketing and development director for the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, describes its constituency as readers and likens membership to a subscription. For that reason, Spring says publication lists tend to work better for Green America's acquisitions than lists from other progressive organizations. The new test package, most recently sent in November and January, works because it provides a deeper look into the editorial benefits members stand to gain, including a newsletter, a quarterly magazine, a green directory and other information-based premiums.
Unlike the previous #10 control with a four-page letter and reply, the test travels in a 6? x 9? kraft outer with a laundry list of teasers on the front indicating the great amount of information enclosed, including recycling tips, home detoxification tips and a helpful grocery shopping wallet card. "We've arrived at a time when people want to learn how to go green, and before they even open this package, it tells them that we're going to give them those answers," Spring enthuses.
Once inside the package, pages spill out in many colors and trim sizes. "We thought that if it didn't look uniform, the effect would be that you'd notice how many things were in there, and it would feel like you had gotten something of value," Spring comments. Included in the mailing are a four-page letter, preview of the Real Green newsletter with article snippets, a recycling tips insert, a toxin alert buckslip with tips relating to a back-end premium, grocery shopping wallet card, reply form with a full list of benefits and premiums, and finally, a BRE (Archive code #601-173196-0811).
The package has been mailed five times, in March, June, September, November and January. Just because Spring has arrived at a winning package, that doesn't mean the testing is over. Using small test panels of 15,000 each within its list of 250,000 prospects, the organization tested multiple elements. "We tested elements of this [new] package in the [old] control, like the wallet card and the letter ... and then we tested taking out each of the inserts to see if any of the inserts were unnecessary so we could get the costs of the package down a little," Spring says. Between the November and January drops, there is a new Johnson box test, a test between typed versus handwritten postscripts, as well as the addition of handwritten underlines in the letter, and a brown paper bag-style carrier.
So far the results have been excellent. Spring says the mailing met her goals of 0.84 percent response and a $23.50 average gift every time it dropped. In March alone, it received a 1.26 percent response rate and an average gift of $24.39. "It's done just about that well in every mailing since, so this package is exceeding our goals. And it has raised the bar for next year," Spring notes. The mailing was especially successful with lapsed donors, dating back to 2003, and other marginal lists that had been unresponsive for years.
To weather the current economic downturn, Green America plans to make four acquisition drops instead of five next year. "That keeps our lettershop and merge/purge costs down, because, given the success of the package, we didn't want to cut quantity," Spring explains. She plans to keep the package in the mix for as long as it pulls a healthy response. "In this economy, if we are able to keep this package at 1 percent or above, I will be so thrilled," Spring exclaims. She even pictures future versions tailored to the current climate, with new teasers like "Living Green on a Budget" on the outer's front.