Ugly Mailings that Make Millions (1,396 words)
So you tweak that control to keep it working. Add a lift note and boost response by 3 percent. Make a more impressive guarantee and gain another 2 percent. Change the envelope and see a big jump—maybe 10 percent. Utne Reader's envelope variations (about eight versions in 12 years) is a perfect example of the adaptive or tweaking approach.
Another biggie to test is the offer: As Axel Andersson says, "If you want to dramatically increase response, dramatically improve your offer." If one premium works, try two, or three (like Inc. did).
2. The Innovative or "Thinking Outside the Box" Approach. An innovative approach to testing is like throwing out the baby with the bathwater and starting fresh. Where do you begin to look for ideas? Look at successful mailings in markets other than your own. Consider borrowing techniques, formats and/or approaches that may never have been tested before on your target audience.
Mal Warwick proposed this idea several years ago to the fund raiser community when he stated, "Often a close study of a commercial control will reveal a half-dozen or more ideas that fund raisers can replicate with little or no change."
For example, credit card companies, including First USA, began offering premiums when you sign up for their cards. Taking an idea that long-worked in the magazine field, they've adapted it to the crowded credit card market.
Note that there is more risk involved in innovative testing. You spend more to create and design something from scratch...and you've no idea how well it will work (other than your gut instinct and research as to what's worked for other mailers).
The way we've described them here, both the adaptive and innovative approaches to testing fall into the category of "stealing smart," a phrase coined by Dorothy Kerr many years ago.