Direct mail success is all about testing — lists, offer, creative, and, of course, the product/service itself. While there’s no single formula that applies to all our direct mail consulting clients, Malcolm Decker’s excellent article “How to Test Your Direct Mail” in Target Marketing magazine’s resource section offers some useful guidelines.
Testing for a New Product
Decker differentiates the weight given the various direct mail testing parameters by a product’s life cycle–new product testing; honing success of an existing product; and testing to revive a mature product. For example, his ideal new-product test is mailed to 120,000 names, with the house list providing less than 20% of names mailed, and testing of 15 different lists, three different prices/offers, and three different creative packages. In looking at the relative contributions of testing factors, he notes that even the most well-researched new product can impact results by 30% plus or minus. Mailing lists–ranging from tightly targeted response lists to larger, broader and thus riskier lists–will contribute another plus or minus 30% to success, based on Decker’s experience. Then the price/offer will deliver another 30% up or down. And last, the creative factor for a new product can move the testing needle by another plus or minus 10%. Decker assumes proper timing since the difference between the peak season and the trough in demand is a whopping 40% of response (check Who’s Mailing What! archives and seasonality tables if unsure).
Honing Success and Maturity Challenges
Once marketers have a couple of years of mailing results to help determine price elasticity, list universe, creative preference, premium impacts, etc., Decker notes that the 30-30-30-10 relationship of start-up testing has shifted. The product can’t add much to response unless it is revised. The list universe is substantially explored, so new, more effective list contributions are scarcer; lists now potentially improve results by just 10% up or down. New offer twists, on the other hand, can goose interest in a well-known product by plus or minus 40%, and creative changes in copy and design can help re-position and expand markets for a potential 50% either way. Once a mature product’s proven marketing choices face the challenges of competition or changing tastes and demographics, the key factors shift once more. Testing now may involve a restaged product for widened appeal, which can deliver a 20% shift in either direction. Plus, a restaged product can open up the known list universe to new lists and improved results from existing or marginal lists, for another 20% difference. And a retooled product will require more price/offer testing that can shift results another 30% up or down. Finally, new creative strategy can breathe life into response for a potential 30% gain (or dip).
A Caveat on Formulas
Decker’s exposition is a quick guide for allotting effort and resources in direct mail testing at each stage in a product’s life cycle, but marketers should realize that formulas are sometimes contradicted by market experience, Decker warns. As he notes, the strongest list among 15 may produce 20 times the revenue of the weakest list! New creative can beat a proven control by a 100% bump in response. And no formula applies equally to all product types, from computers to cornflakes. Download the whole article at http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/resource/how-to-test-your-direct-mail/