No one knows for sure if any marketing idea is going to work until they try it, yet many business owners get an idea and implement it. While taking action is an important contributor to success, this approach can be costly.

I recently ran a direct mail campaign for a new product I was launching. I was excited about it. I had thought through all of the details. It looked like a winner to me.

I decided not to worry about testing. It was relatively inexpensive, but the sample was large. I could have easily broken it down into several groups. Each one receiving a different offer. However I was impatient I wanted to get on with it. After all, I had done this many times, I was sure it would work.

Guess what, it bombed! How could I have been so wrong?

I received one of the worst response levels I have ever had. I could have mailed a test to a small sample of the list I used, measured the response and tweaked my mailing for the next round. Now it is too late. I have spent the money and have nothing to show for it. The mailing cost more than I received in orders.

Do this on a large scale and it can break the bank. Especially if you do it often. (Perhaps I qualify as the next Marketing Moron. Don’t forget to send your entries in. See issue #39 Marketing Moron)

So what should I have done. One of the biggest advantages of direct mail is that you can test your offer on a small group of your target prospects. If it works, you can then mail to a larger group and it is reasonable to expect similar results. On the other hand, if your test does poorly, you shouldn’t bother mailing that offer to similar lists.

So, what should you test? Here are two suggestions that can significantly impact your profitability:

1. Test your mailing with and without certain elements. You may find that you get a much better response with one headline versus another, or you may find a mailing without a brochure out-pulls one with a brochure included. Wouldn’t you want to know that before spending the big bucks on mailing a more expensive package?

2. You can try different prices. For example if you are selling seminars, you can offer one group a price of $279 while offering another group $349. You may be surprised to find that the lowest price does not always create the best response.

There are many other elements you can test: your envelope, your offer, your list, response mechanism, personalization…

David Ogilvy on Testing

“The most important word in the vocabulary of advertising is TEST. If you pre-test your product with consumers, and pre-test your advertising, you will do well in the marketplace.”

David Ogilvy