4 Tips for Testing Direct Mail Tweaks Online

4 Mar

Originally Published in Target Marketing’s Tipline E-Newsletter
by Britt Brouse
Jun 4, 2008

As direct mail marketers continue to build their e-mail files and online presence, the Web becomes a viable channel to test certain tweaks, which don’t always make it into the mailstream. Licinda Mytych, marketing manager for Agora Publishing’s International Living, began testing direct mail ideas online about four years ago and sees it as an excellent way to get inexpensive results before investing in direct mail.

“We have to be smart about it—online and direct mail are totally different markets—so you’re not going to put all of your eggs in one basket and devote yourself entirely to online marketing. It will help you read indicators. And then you can test direct mail, and you can do it in a smarter, more cost-effective way,” she explains. The tips below outline some examples of how to bolster your mail program with digital tests.

1. Use Lists to Your Advantage
Lists can make or break your online tests. “We’ve found that lists that work great in the mail don’t often work great online and vice versa,” Mytych says. The differences in response between lists can be dramatic. “For us, it’s the difference between paid and unpaid recipients. We test to our free e-letter subscribers first, and that is a world of difference compared to testing to paid, direct mail-sold names,” she explains. Mytych suggests controlling this variable by finding or renting paid direct mail files that also contain e-mail addresses.

2. Stick to Copy Tests
Design is not the focus of Mytych’s online testing because HTML allows for so much more color and graphics than print, at almost no added cost. Copy, however, is very simple to test—especially in the subject line—which, like an outer envelope, has a limited amount of time and space to either get a reader engaged or drive a message into the trash. To generate the most effective subject lines, Mytych advises following the four U’s: “Always ask yourself if your subject line is urgent, unique, useful and ultra-specific” she says.

3. Vary Your Premium
Online is a good place to test new topics or content for editorial premiums, and new premiums altogether for promotional items. International Living also tests the positioning of the premium within its offer. “We’re talking right now about testing multiple premiums with our two-year subscription offer to get people to convert to the two-year over the one-year sign-up. If that works, then I’m going to want to put that out in the mail as a possible test,” Mytych describes.

4. Fine-Tune Your Offer
“Right now our testing involves delving into getting the best offer that’s going to appeal to the target and to evolve the package. That’s why we do a lot of testing online,” Mytych shares. She recently tested one- and two-year subscription offers at a higher price per issue versus an auto-renewal subscription offer at a lower price per issue. “We’ve been able to test into a lower price point and also test which auto-renewal offers worked the best,” Mytych says. The auto-renewal at a lower price point won online, and it currently has control status in the mail.

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