Direct Mail: Testing 1,2,3

Does your nonprofit organization have a direct mail fundraising program?  Are you testing consistently in your program?

If you’re like a lot of organizations, you might not be sure when you should test,  what kinds of things you should or shouldn’t test, or even what metrics to measure.  Here are some simple thoughts on testing that I hope help you improve your program.

When is the best time for testing?
Always!  Each time you mail, you should be testing something.  You don’t have to test multiple variables with each mailing.  And it doesn’t have to be a major test each time.  But you should be learning something new with each mailing you send out.

Test things that make a difference
By that, I mean, test important things.  Don’t test inconsequential factors that won’t have a signficant impact on your results.  For my money, the first place I’d test is audience – who the people are receiving your solicitations.  If you can refine your audience through segmentation or modeling, you can potentially reduce your marketing expenses and increase your results.  In acquisition, list testing can also have a big impact on your results.  Testing different list categories could open up entirely new audiences for your organization, and testing different selects of lists can improve ROI and lower your cost per donor.   

After audience tests, I’d focus next on offer tests – what it is you’re asking the reader to do, and what their action will accomplish.  You may find a new offer that doubles the performance of your current control offer.

Also test things like package formats (#10 package vs. a 6×9 or 9×12; 6-page letter vs. 1-page, etc.), gift array, teaser copy, four color vs. black and white, inclusion or exclusion of a package component (i.e., a buckslip, bounceback, premium item), etc. 

And if you haven’t done so yet, you need to be testing single channel vs. mult-channel campaigns.  That is, test the performance of direct mail, vs. combined direct mail/e-mail, and/or direct mail/telemarketing.  Multi-channel fundraising campaigns almost always deliver better results than single channel results. 

Don’t waste your time on tests like these
The tests above all have the potential to seriously improve your results.  But not all tests are created equal.  Don’t waste your time on things like font tests, signature colors, or where on the reply device you ask for an e-mail address.  These variables are so minor that they won’t significantly increase performance.

Important test metrics
The goal with any test (aside from just learning what works better than the contro) is improving performance.  This means you need to track several different metrics to figure out whether your test beats your control, and if so, if the test performance was strong enough to warrant becoming your new control.

You should measure Return on Investment (ROI), Cost Per Dollar Raised (CPDR), Cost Per Donor (CPD) and Net Yield Per Donor (NYPD).  In addition to those standard metrics, you’ll also want to track the number of additional responses you’ll need to offset any increase in costs from the test.  Jump on over to Roy Jones Reports for more on direct mail test metrics.

Understand your testing environment
If you were in the mail with a test when the market crashed a few years back, or the day Hurricane Katrina made landfall, or when the towers fell on 9/11, I’d bet the results of any tests would be suspect.  Don’t blindly trust results of any tests that are impacted by phenominal environmental issues like these.  The same could be said for any locally relevant issues.  Several yeas ago I was working for an organization whose Chairman was indicted just a few days after a mail drop.  The Chairman’s arrest made national news, and was covered nonstop for more than a month.  Their direct marketing programs were seriously impacted by this situation.  Any tests that were in the market would look like serious failures – but could easily have fallen victim to the overal negative environment.  In situations like this, it’s worth re-testing.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply to Kevin Davis Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

17 thoughts on “Direct Mail: Testing 1,2,3

  1. Thanks for the tips you have provided here. Moreover, I believe usually there are some factors that really keep your motor insurance premium all the way down. One is, to think about buying automobiles that are from the good directory of car insurance providers. Cars which might be expensive will be more at risk of being stolen. Aside from that insurance is also in accordance with the value of your truck, so the more expensive it is, then the higher your premium you pay.

  2. Great article. I think sometimes businesses have too high of expectations right out of the gate. You can’t expect every marketing plan to be a one hit wonder. You need to test and improve each time.

  3. Hello! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of volunteers and
    starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche.
    Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on.
    You have done a outstanding job!

  4. Hi I am so grateful I found your blog page, I really found you by mistake, while I was looking on Bing for something
    else, Nonetheless I am here now and would just like to say thank you
    for a marvelous post and a all round enjoyable blog (I also love the theme/design), I
    don?t have time to read through it all at the moment but I have book-marked it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will
    be back to read a lot more, Please do keep up the superb b.

  5. This is the right site for anybody who really wants to find
    out about this topic. You understand a whole lot its almost tough to argue with
    you (not that I actually would want to…HaHa). You certainly put a
    fresh spin on a subject that has been discussed for a long
    time. Wonderful stuff, just excellent!

  6. Whats up very cool website!! Guy .. Beautiful ..
    Amazing .. I’ll bookmark your website and take the feeds additionally…I am glad to seek out
    so many useful information right here within the post, we need
    develop extra techniques in this regard, thank you for sharing.

  7. Aw, this was an exceptionally nice post. Taking the time and
    actual effort to make a really good article…

    but what can I say… I hesitate a whole lot and never seem to get nearly anything done.

  8. Hiya, I am really glad I’ve found this information. Today bloggers publish just
    about gossips and net and this is actually frustrating.
    A good web site with exciting content, that’s what I need.
    Thank you for keeping this web-site, I will be visiting
    it. Do you do newsletters? Can’t find it.