Testing, The Dirty Dozen (1,848 words)
By Shawn D. Morris
No direct marketer worth his or her salt will say that he or she has never made a mistake. Experienced direct marketers will tell you that a disciplined testing regimen is an integral part of a well-constructed direct response strategy. Although initial success may be possible without it, sustaining that success is not.
The advantage of constructing, conducting and observing hundreds of tests over the course of a career is that there's as much to learn from the mistakes as the wins. Here are a dozen dirty mistakes to learn from and avoid—compiled from the experience of many, including myself.
Mistake #1: The Temptation to Tinker
The temptation to tinker is powerful. Many individuals, often those with a bit less experience, think they can distinguish better creative from poorer and will go to great lengths to edit copy, modify graphics, eliminate elements or (heaven forbid) change a letter's serif font to a more "contemporary" sans serif font.
Unfortunately, the end result is often that the flow, integrity and effectiveness of the piece is compromised. The only exceptions to this are:
> if the creative simply is not direct response oriented;
> if the cost elements are just too expensive; and
> if the legal or regulatory folks emphatically nix the concept or any element of the package.
Mistake #2: Not Enough Testing or Worse ... Not Testing at All
This is the most unforgivable and grievous one of all. Consider the true case of a large, well-established direct mailer that had not conducted any tests—media, creative, offer—over the course of several years. In fact, even over the past 10 years its total testing log was woefully sparse. Despite this, the company was doing well, making strong profits but, you guessed it, had seen steadily eroding marketing efficiencies. The existing package control was producing lesser but still adequate results.