When marketers design websites, draft emails and write calls to action, they often create by intuition. But rather than relying on creative assumptions, strong marketers put their best ideas to the test. Split-testing or a/b testing direct mail marketing content is the only way to truly know what will make people convert.
While a/b testing direct mail may take a few more steps than split-testing digital marketing, it is just as important. You can use a/b testing to guide your direct mail decisions and improve campaign results. It will just take a little planning.
In this post, we’re going to walk you through 3 ways to split-test direct mail. (You can find out exactly how to run a direct mail a/b test using Inkit here.)
3 Direct Mail Split-Test Ideas
Running effective a/b experimentation on direct mail doesn’t have to be very complicated. Here are a few ways to split-test your next direct mail campaign.
A/B Direct Mail Test #1: Single variable split-test
This is what most people think of when talking about split-tests. In a single variable direct mail test, you create one mailer, duplicate it, and edit one item on the b-copy. In this type of split-test, everything except for the test variable needs to remain identical. You then randomize and split your mailing list so that one version goes to half your audience and the other version to the other half. In most cases, a single variable direct mail test is the ideal method because it makes it very clear why your audience reacted a certain way. If you were to test two completely different postcards, on the contrary, which elements inspired action would not be evident.
When deciding which variable to split-test in direct mail, consider:
- Different offers, such as a discount + free shipping vs. greater total discount amount or a discount vs. a sign-on bonus or free gift
- Different presentations of the same offer, such as different expressions of the same discount (such as dollars off vs. percent saved), call-to-action copy, headline copy and design
- Various direct mail formats (marketing postcard sizes)
Source: Ron Rowland
A/B Direct Mail Test #2: Existing/prior campaign control group test
In this type of test, your “A” mailer is one that you have sent before. You will create a new “B” postcard to test against it. “B” can be completely different than A, with many variables, or you may still decide to test a single variable for better clarity in results. Like in the previous test method, you would split your direct mail list in half, sending one group the control postcard and one group the new postcard. This is a method to continually improve an on-going direct mail campaign.
Pro tip: if you automate direct mail using triggers, consider running a control test from time to time to in order consistently enhance campaign performance as your audience changes and grows.
Here are a few ideas for direct mail control group tests:
- Altered redemption periods (will you receive better or worse conversion with a longer or shorter redemption period?)
- Images (photographs vs. graphics is a common one)
- Color scheme
- CTA verbiage
- The timing or trigger
A/B Direct Mail Test #3: Testing the medium
This style of a/b test is perhaps the best way to answer the question: is direct mail worth it?
Many people reading this blog are e-commerce marketers who work primarily in digital channels. You might just need to know whether, and how much, direct mail will boost your digital campaigns. In this type of test, you’re not really split-testing direct mail pieces. You’re split-testing two digital campaigns, one that includes direct mail and one that doesn’t.
In a direct mail medium test, your entire audience would receive the digital elements of a campaign sequence. But you would edit the workflow for half of your audience so that they also receive a postcard, or another piece of direct mail. Then, compare how the inclusion of direct mail effected campaign performance. When evaluating results, look not only at response rates and conversion, but also total ROI (since direct mail isn’t free to send) and the impact to engagement.
Another way to test direct mail as a medium is to move an email promotion into direct mail format, as NatureBox did using Inkit’s direct mail software.
How to Track Direct Mail A/B Test Results
In order to run effective direct mail tests, of course you need a way to measure and track campaign performance. There are several ways to track direct mail results, including:
- Unique URL: Create a unique landing page for each test version.
- Unique discount code: Use a unique discount code for each postcard test copy.
- Unique text shortcode: Write a special SMS shortcode as your CTA for each version.
- Unique QR code: Use a different QR code for each iteration.
- Unique phone number: While this is not as common with digitally-integrated postcard campaigns, this is another tracking option that may work depending on the nature of your campaign.
Automate Direct Mail to Continually Test and Improve Postcards
One of the great things about modern direct mail is that you have an opportunity to continually learn about your customers and add this information to your database without running formal split-tests.
Wait? Wasn’t this entire post about the benefits of direct mail split-tests?
Yes, it was. And we still think running a/b split-tests on your direct mail is key. However, when you automate direct mail using a platform like Inkit in lockstep with your CRM, in a way you are always testing direct mail. When you automate direct mail (triggering it from your CRM and syncing campaign performance), you will have your finger on the pulse of your customers and can continue to refine direct mail campaigns based on consumer actions every day.
Got any questions about making direct mail A/B testing or direct mail automation work for your business? Contact us today. We’re always happy to help find solutions!