TrueSense Marketing  ●  2/23/2018

To Test or Not to Test: That Isn’t the Question

You've likely learned a lot about direct marketing over the course of your career.  The best lessons don’t come from textbooks or conferences, but from failure in practice.  But, what if there was a way to reduce failure while increasing learning?  It’s called testing, and we recommend it. 

What is testing, and why do we do it?

For direct mail, testing is when you send two (or more) versions of a package (envelope, letter, reply device, etc.), mail them equally to separate lists, and then analyze the results to determine the impact of your changes.  In your digital efforts, you can test email subject lines or image types in your social media posts.  There are different variables you can test in every direct-response fundraising channel.

We test because it lessens the risk of loss, and teaches us more about our efforts. Sometimes, tests can really show results that are unexpected!

Two examples of direct-response fundraising testing

One of our clients insisted that we throw our control mailing out the window to test a new concept that the Director of Development at the area command was sure would be successful — even though that control mailing had previously been successful.  As the agency partner, we kindly and appropriately focused the client's attention on the revenue at stake, and the opportunity to learn something.  We tested the new idea against the control package.  It failed … badly.  Because of that experience, the client is now an advocate that testing is the best way to learn more about your marketing efforts and how to engage your donors.

Another example involves a change in font.  Yes, font.  On a recent package, we tested a handwritten font on the outer envelope teaser versus a standard font teaser.  This was the only element that was changed.  The handwriting was the current control, while the more standard font was requested by the client.  This may seem like a small preference change that would be unlikely to really affect revenue, right?  The results showed that donors who received the handwritten teaser on the envelope responded 11 percent more than those who didn’t have the handwriting!  Keep in mind that this was a sustaining-gift appeal as well. So that 11 percent increase will compound over time as donors fulfill their long-term support. Can you imagine the financial implications if that 11 percent had been lost from all the donors mailed, and not just the testing audience?

You can’t afford not to test

It’s hard sometimes to stick to this mentality.  It means occasionally mailing something that you don’t prefer, or going against your gut.  But, you must remember the results are what really matter, and they equal a lot more knowledge about your donors and their behaviors. Here at TrueSense, we are always testing — even with our extremely successful packages. We want to learn more about why they work, and what aspects we can adapt to make you even more successful in your fundraising efforts!

Have an idea of something you want to test?  Talk to your Account Director, and they will help you find opportunities in your schedule to try out your ideas while minimizing risk.


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