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Any seasoned direct marketer will tell you that there is no “always” in direct marketing successes. Changes in consumer preferences, markets, even the weather can impact the success of your direct mailing.

Before you send your direct mailpiece to your entire mailing list, you may decide to test. Often this is at the direction of a skilled professional who can help you model the target group’s characteristics. It is not dissimilar to A/B testing you might find in other marketing channels like email or social media, where you test your mailing on a small group to determine the best format or even to decide if it’s worth sending to a larger group at all.

About Testing 

Testing a direct mailpiece can provide your campaign with valuable majority insights directly from your audience. When determining the control and testing groups, compare only one element of your mailpiece, whether it is a mailpiece attribute such as copy or imagery, or a time-stamped attribute such as day or time of mailpiece delivery.


The Importance of A/B Testing

An A/B Test is when you compare one element on two different mailpieces to see which option performs best. No matter how well your mailpiece showcases your offer and creative elements, without an A/B test you may miss out on valuable and revenue boosting insights.

Direct Mail Testing Tips 

Here are some testing basics that cross industries, budgets and objectives.

• Test against a control mailpiece you know has been successful.

• If you don’t have a control, do an A/B split test to establish one.

• Test one variable at a time (e.g., mailing list, mailing format, offer, etc.) against the control.

• Test the big things first: Those that are most likely to make a significant difference in response. These elements could include product, mailing list, offer, copy platform, mailing format or timing. For example, is an offer stated as “Buy One, Get One Free” more appealing to your audience than an offer stated as “Half Off Clearance Items. This Weekend Only. While Supplies Last.”?

• Test a sufficient quantity of mailpieces to obtain reliable test results.

Testing is the foundation of an ongoing direct mail program. It allows you to build on what works and what doesn’t. What and why you test will vary based on many things, including your business objective.

Three Mistakes to Avoid 

The argument could be made that the first mistake of direct mail testing would be to not test at all. Once the importance of testing is understood, foreseeable mistakes will be held to a minimum. There are a variety of missteps that one should avoid when testing a  direct mail campaign; however, a closer look at three key mistakes will set the guideline for which success will be measured.

Unclear Definition of Success 

A direct mail campaign without a goal in mind or a method of tracking is a costly and time-consuming mistake. A campaign without a purpose will also make it difficult to know which variables to test. Knowing the goal of the campaign will guide you to make the right choices in offer, creative appeal, and mailing list. It’s important to remember that one of the greatest benefits of testing is the knowledge gained that can be used on future campaigns.

Testing Too Many Variables 

To know which variable affected the response rate, it’s imperative that you only test one element at a time. While the language should stay consistent, switching up the orientation or other visual elements such as offer placement or imagery can really change how a mailpiece is viewed.

Mailing to the Wrong Lists 

Know who your audience is and who your current customers are when beginning the testing process. There are several factors to consider when deciding on a mailing list, such as geographical limitations, age groups and economic status. For example, if you are centering your campaign on your luxury senior living facility, it is best to avoid targeting areas that are populated mostly by Gen Z as that is not a concern for that age group.

testing direct mailpiece

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