Putting Direct Mail To The Test

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Not testing your direct mail is like buying a hat without your head.

Businesses waste tons of money on ill-fitting, ineffective direct mail. Maybe the direct mail is unattractive. Perhaps the message is murky. Maybe a photo is off putting. So before you spend thousands on a direct mailer, test your ideas. Here are some tips for testing:

Test two concepts

Create two direct mail pieces with the same goal in mind but with different approaches. Let’s say you are raising money for a homeless shelter. You could create two fundraising letters. Letter A could tell the story of how one client was helped by the shelter. It would include photos of the client. Letter B could be more general, telling the story of the shelter’s work through facts and figures. It might include some charts and graphs. If you operate a retail store, your two mailers might test different offers to measure which has the most appeal to your customers.

Make your test big enough

To be accurate, a test has to be fairly sizable. In other words, you can’t mail 100 of each of two different postcards and get enough responses to know which worked best. We recommend a total mailing of 5,000; in other words, mail 2,500 of each of your test direct mail pieces.

Test similar audiences

Make sure your two test pieces go to audiences that are similar. Studies show that people who live in the same neighborhood tend to have similar habits, beliefs and values. So, if you are testing two different postcards, don’t send Postcard A to people in the suburbs and Postcard B to people who live downtown. Send both of your test postcards to one geographic area, where you can be sure your recipients are similar in terms of income levels, education, interests. Alternate addresses so that one person gets Postcard A while their next-door neighbor gets Postcard B.

Check out our resource “Five Strengths of Direct Mail” to learn more about direct mail.


Bill Nichols

October 13, 2014

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