In Praise of Testing

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If you’re still wincing over the thought of high school or college testing, you can relax. I’m not talking about that type of testing. I’m talking about testing that means that you can maximize your return on investment from marketing efforts. The kind of testing that puts money in your pocket, not the kind of testing that keeps you up at night, worried about the grade you’re going to get.

Testing is a time-honored method of making sure your direct mail investment will pay off. Classic direct mail testing involves getting a mailing list of a prospective public (like pediatricians, hairdressers, chemists, auto mechanics or any other group with similar characteristics) and sending mail only to a small segment of the list. This test segment would be split into parts. Each part would get its own test mailer. The mailers would be alike except for one major feature. It could be the headline. It could be the color. It could be the product photo or the model holding the product.

Since direct mail involves some sort of response (phone call for more information, send in a coupon, call to order), the responses from each section of the list could be compared. And the winning mailer would then be sent out to the entire list. Maybe the entire list is 300,000 names. A test mailer might go to 20,000. So the winning piece goes to the remaining 280,000.

Testing Updated

That’s the history. But now, so much marketing communication is zinging through cyberspace. Testing takes on a whole new look.

Google Analytics and similar services provide you with much faster feedback on changes in your marketing message than you were ever able to get from direct mail. Google Analytics is defined like this: “Google Analytics is a free service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about the visitors to a website.” You can learn more about Google Analytics here: http://www.google.com/analytics/learn/index.html.

You can actually see and compare the statistics for each feature on your website when you learn how to use these tools. They are fairly simple but there is a learning curve.

How it Could Work for You

Suppose you design your home page to add navigation buttons to features you think your customers want. Let’s say you have a restaurant. You add these buttons:

Our Menu

Our Hours

Our Awards

Our Staff

Our Location

You can monitor which of these buttons get the most clicks through Google Analytics.

So after a week, you look at your statistics and you see that 30% of your visitors click on Our Location and the other 70% click on Our Menu. Well, you can safely lose the awards and staff buttons and maybe just tuck the hours information into the menu pages.

So the second week, you try out:

Breakfast Menu

Lunch Menu

Dinner Menu

Our Location

At the end of the week, you see that 10% click on Breakfast Menu, 40% click on Lunch Menu, 20% click on Dinner Menu and that same 30% click on Our Location!

You’re now meeting people’s needs better!

The next week, you get a wild idea and you add a fifth button. Now it’s:

ORDER ONLINE

Breakfast Menu

Lunch Menu

Dinner Menu

Our Location

When you get a flurry of clicks on ORDER ONLINE, you now realize that this is the service people really want! They look forward to being able to place an order online and not be rushed when they eat-in and don’t have to wait for a to-go order. 

This is the Twenty-First Century version of direct mail testing! Faster, cheaper, deeper. If you rely on your website (and there’s not many companies that don’t) then these tools can help you develop a site that parallels your visitors’ needs faster, meaning they find what they need and can make a purchase from you that much faster.

Stefan Schaefer