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How to Keep Your DM Creative Fresh and Your Results Strong

Oct 9, 2014 12:06:58 PM

If you’re lucky enough to have a strong control, in any medium, by all means keep using it. You may be tired of it—but as long as it delivers great results, don’t mess with a winner

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge it. Test, test, test is the holy mantra of direct marketing and the only way to generate continuous improvements in ROI. But what to test? It depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Here are two ways to keep your DM creative fresh and your results strong

Tweak your control.

Small changes can drive incremental lift in response and/or reduction in cost, and help extend the life of a control showing the first signs of fatigue.  

Break out a small segment of your control and test different headlines or images. Try adding icons. See how a plain white envelope works. If your direct mail package includes a small brochure or insert, remove it—or add one to showcase a particular benefit or deadline. The possibilities are endless and relatively inexpensive.

The marketer of a leading skin care product completely changed the look and feel of a mailer by adding new images. Its very promotional self-mailer to customers, announcing a sale with a huge 50% OFF headline and some product images, is very successful. To better reflect the brand and align with other marketing materials, a test version adds a hero image of lovely models with beautiful skin—keeping the original headlines, copy and product shots

Whether or not the new test wins, the company can’t lose. If the test results fall short of the control, the company at least comes away with new knowledge. If it ties or comes close to the original, the company can use both as rotating controls, extending the life of each package. And if the test beats the original by a significant margin, the company has a strong new control.

Test something dramatically different.

It takes more than tweaks to deliver breakthrough results; test creative that’s new and different from the ground up. You could end up with a new control, rotating controls, or co-controls appealing to different segments of your market.

In insurance marketing, it’s a given that official or straightforward packages work best. But that doesn’t mean everything has to look or sound the same. Don’t be afraid to test more expensive packages with things like personalized cards or 9” x 12” envelopes; these elements can more than pay for themselves with increased response. Try a snap pack format. Build a package around first-person stories and testimonials from customers, or demonstrate understanding of your customers with a question-and-answer approach. Present content in different ways, such as with charts and tables.  

Think outside of the box. It might even be time to challenge accepted wisdom. “Official” may always win in insurance marketing, for example—if you’re always mailing to the same market. But has the ethnic and cultural makeup of your market changed over time? In some markets, the use of color and emotion are essential. A warm and colorful package might not replace an official-looking control… but might it tap into a different part of your market to become a co-control

We’ve noticed that some insurance companies are mailing large quantities of self-mailers to Medicare recipients, which was unheard of a few years ago. Might today’s 65-year-olds—who are comfortable online and more accustomed to short copy and content—be more responsive to self-mailers than their counterparts of just five or ten years ago?

The only way to know is to test.

Whether you change your creative a little or a lot, keep these guidelines in mind for creative testing:

  • Always have a clear rationale; know what you are trying to achieve or learn.
  • Keep your offer, audience, product, etc. the same as your control so that creative is the only variable.
  • Maintain DM best practices, such as having a strong offer and clear call to action.
Melinda Risolo

Written by Melinda Risolo

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