Everyone has an opinion about something: “The copy is too long… The yellow text is too bright…” But in truth, what do opinions really prove?

Whilst they can offer some insight, ultimately opinions say more about the individual than about the subject matter itself. It doesn’t matter what has happened in others past experiences, you should only be concerned with the present: this material, this campaign and this success.

Direct Marketing

There is no quick and easy way to identify a winning formula. The proof, as is so often said, is in the pudding. This means, the only way to discover what marketing medium/copy/material really works, is by testing it.

Direct marketing, unlike most other forms of marketing, can be subjected to accurate testing. Whether you’re sending email shots, posting out brochures or phoning your prospects, the results of your campaign can easily be recorded and analysed.

If a Job’s Worth Doing…

Naturally, there is the temptation to run a few half-hearted tests and then act on the results. Be aware, it’s a false economy. Insubstantial tests will provide insubstantial results. Truthful results are entirely dependent upon accurate and sustained testing.

One Step at a Time

The smallest alteration to your copy or pitch can produce significant changes in your response rate. The current phenomenon of ‘pay per click’ advertising has highlighted the importance of even the smallest details – a capital letter or full stop has been known to dramatically increase or decrease CTR (click through rates) instantaneously. Consequently, it’s essential that only one element is altered during each test (e.g. the wording of the headline, the background colour, the inclusion or exclusion of a covering letter, the timing of the phone call etc). This way you will always know exactly what is being tested. In addition, there must always be a controlled version of the test, which remains unchanged, running alongside and which will serve as a comparison.

Nothing’s Perfect

Every test is prone to errors and it is necessary for you to recognise this. Don’t accept the results of your test blindly, particularly if they fall far from your expectations. Even the most meticulously run tests are subject to seasonal variations, mis-typed results or the varying abilities of those involved in the campaign. If you have any doubts about the reliability of your results, test again. After all, spending your entire marketing budget based upon the outcome of a flawed experiment isn’t going to do you any favours.

The Small Things Matter

As previously mentioned, it’s not just the larger elements of your campaign that can increase response rate. Even the smallest aspects – changing a word or a font size – can affect the success of a campaign. Make the most of your tests by experimenting with as many different variables as possible. What happens to the response rate when you overprint the envelope? Does a more personal introduction over the phone bring greater results?

And Finally…

Tests are the only way to gather concrete evidence about what works and what doesn’t. When conducted correctly they can provide crucial insight into your primary market. Don’t, however, underestimate the fickleness of the results. What is true for one campaign has no weight with another – something proven by many a peeved marketing manager. If your product or your target market changes, the tests need to start all over again. Sound like a lot of hard work? Perhaps, but it depends how far you’re willing to go for success.

Test. Test. Test
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Test. Test. Test
Everyone has an opinion about something: "The copy is too long... The yellow text is too bright..." But in truth, what do opinions really prove?
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