A necessary evil, as far as most businesses are concerned -- testing and measuring your results is actually the single most effective way to consistently increase sales. In fact, the most successful direct marketers are the ones that relentlessly test absolutely everything to do with the marketing of their business – and then evolve their strategy in line with the results.
How to get started:
1. Only test one thing at a time
Some people make the mistake of trying to test too many things at once. For instance doing a promotion, finding that it is unsuccessful, and then coming up with a totally different promotion and comparing it to the original. The best case outcome in this scenario is that the business owner will find which type of ad works best for them – but they won’t know why. Was it the format, timing, headline, content, delivery, target group..? The mystery remains.
A better idea is to test just one element at a time, in order to really nail the winning formula for your business. For example, if you use letterbox drops, you might like to measure which months they are most effective in. To do this, you will need to distribute the same flyer multiple times throughout the year. If you change design, copy or offer elements of the flyer during the testing period you will be unable to distinguish the market’s reaction to these factors from the timing of your delivery, and therefore will be unable to capitalise on the knowledge of when your market is most receptive in the future.
2. Never Assume
The people you want to engage are the only ones who can tell you how they want to engage. Sure, there are stats and studies, but every group of people is unique, and if you really want to connect -- you need to remember that.
3. Just because you’re sick of your ad, it doesn’t mean your audience is!
A famous letter selling Wall Street Journal subscriptions ran unbeaten for 12 years and earned the Wall Street journal $1 billion in sales. You can probably think of a few ads you’ve seen over the years that have been recycled for years. It’s a fact that people need to see an ad at least 6 or 7 times before they’ll act on it.
4. Include measuring tools in your ads and marketing to make your life easier
Testing and measuring doesn’t have to be a headache – you can make it simple by doing things like asking callers to quote a promotional code – then you’ll know exactly what prompted their enquiry. Or if you want to know what month your coupons are most successful in but don’t want the hassle of designing a new one each month, you could have them printed in 12 different colours and distribute one each month. That way, you’ll find out both which month had the biggest uptake and how long the offers are taking to be claimed – another valuable piece of data for your marketing formula.
5. Compare apples with apples (or you might get a lemon!)
If you’re going to run your ad in two separate publications, you’ll need to do it at the same time. If you were to run the two ads a month apart, and one significantly outperforms the other, it will appear that you’ve found a winner.. or have you? Timing plays a big part, and can really throw your results.
The same applies to mail-outs. If you’re going to test two versions of copy to a direct mail list, make sure you use a sample of the list that is alphabetically segmented or totally randomly segmented. Don't split test the campaign by postcode – you’ll be segmenting your audience by demographics, and will receive skewed results.
The bottom-line : keep your testing simple, and take the time to do it right. Find your winning formula, and keep using it for as long as it passes your continued testing! And last but not least, make sure your testing is based on two comparable items.
To Your Success!