Strategy: Tested and Proven
Direct marketing, regardless of channel, in so many ways is a scientific endeavor. Direct marketing strategists strive to isolate the drivers of better response rates, open rates, clickthrough percentages and conversion. The mathematical and scientific nature of direct marketing lends itself, more than any other marketing discipline, to experimentation. And we call that experimentation "testing."
But the term testing is used loosely. Some marketers contend putting two different pieces of creative in the mail at the same time and monitoring the resulting response equates to testing. And it does - if those marketers take the time to build a plan and execute it precisely to understand a specific answer to a specific question. The challenge is many direct marketers today stop short of building good, valid and reliable tests.
The Strategy of Testing
All good tests start at the same place: a good test strategy. Having a clearly defined outcome - a specific question to be answered - is the best place to start a test. For example, going beyond, "which version will work best?" to, "which version will produce the greatest lift per offer dollar?" is critical. You must know where you're going before you begin the trip, and your test should be established to answer the question you intended to ask, lest you sit with mountains of data at the end and nothing with which to make a decision.
Test the Big Things First, the Details Last
Because testing is such an expensive venture, you often get the most bang for your marketing buck by focusing early testing efforts on "the big things," those aspects of the program that have the greatest and most immediate impact.
* Creative. Creative tests are often among the most popular to conduct, typically in an effort to increase response rates. With catalogers, cover testing is by far the most regularly conducted because it's relatively inexpensive to test cover treatments, and the impact of getting it right can make a significant impact on performance, particularly response rates. Catalogers also test page count to determine the trade-off between response rates (typically higher with more pages) and costs (also typically higher with more pages).