3 New Direct Mail Tricks for Old Testing Rules
Every professional manager in direct marketing knows there are only two sacrosanct rules: Rule No. 1, test everything; Rule No. 2, see Rule No. 1.
I started out on the management side some 40 years ago and got acquainted with the bricks and mortar of testing before the advent of chi-square analysis: A "reliable" winner in tests of 10,000 or more pieces of mail, or A/B splits of national magazines, had to pull more orders than double the square root of the "loser." Thus, 121 was deemed to be a reliable winner over 100 in an A/B split of 10,000 pieces.
As consistency was found in winning performances, "rules" sprang up. We shared our rules with Wunderman, Rapp & Collins, and our other agencies, and they shared theirs with us.
When I switched to the creative side, I met Dick Benson. He was a consultant to many top publishers and, at the same time, a direct marketing entrepreneur. He ultimately would become publisher of the largest circulation newsletter in America.
Every direct marketing entrepreneur, manager, copywriter and consultant—even before the days of Claude Hopkins, J.K. Lasser, John Caples and Max Sackheim — had their own rules, "secrets" or "discovered truths." Benson tested, modified and codified those rules that applied specifically to direct mail, especially in publishing, making them his own, and added others that came out of his client work and newsletter business. The result is Benson's "Rules of Thumb," which he published in "Secrets of Successful Direct Mail" (NTC Business Books, 1987). He cautioned, "Nothing works all the time, but ignore any of these rules at your own peril."
RULE No. 1: A credit or 'bill me' offer will improve results by 50 percent or more.
The 50 percent improvement assumes that the control offer is cash with order. Prescott Kelly, publisher of the Children's Writer newsletter and self-improvement books, says 50 percent is within reach in a preexisting relationship. Copywriter Peggy Greenawalt sees "bill me" and credit card packages as important, "but [publication] clients now insist on higher net response and up-front cash using voucher packages."