Direct Marketing Insider's Testing Secrets


Tuesday, January 4, 2005


Me, a gambler?

Most people who see my huge marketing campaigns,
massive mailings and full-page ads running worldwide
assume I'm a born gambler.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Fact is, I hate gambling. The odds in winning any
game of chance are stacked against you. Clearly,
I don't like games where you have zero chance of
winning in the long run.

Gambling is for suckers. When I observe so many
poor souls who actually expect to make money
gambling but lose big, I really feel sorry for them.

One of the biggest benefits and what makes direct
marketing the most powerful and successful way to
sell products is just the opposite of gambling.

You can always approach marketing in such a way
as to always have the odds stacked 100% in your

The key to direct marketing with almost no risk is

Testing is the lifeblood of every successful direct
marketing business, small or large.

You can run marketing campaigns as some do--
without any testing whatsoever. However, instead
of suffering ongoing losses or even being forced
out of business, you can eat your competitor's
lunch if you closely follow the recommendations
here today.

Tried and true tips:

1. Test the big stuff first. Concentrate on
elements that will make a big enough difference
in response to justify doing it.

Tip: Don't be afraid to invest money. The
additional cost could pay for itself many
times over.

2. The big stuff includes:

-- Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
Test the USP around which you've built your ad,
letter or e-mail.

-- How does your product compare and stack
up against competition with regard to benefits?
Pricing? Samples? What makes your product
unique and different?

Tip: Test different versions of copy, each one
of which emphasizes a different USP. The test
results can often reflect amazing response
differences of as much as 5 or 10 times.

Tip: Test long copy versus short copy. Always
test one sales message against another and
carefully measure the results.

3. Headlines

A good headline can increase your response
enormously. Differences of 300% to 500% are
not unusual.

Tip: Never run an ad or mailing online or
offline without at least one headline test.
Creating good headlines are the fastest and
least expensive, creative thing you can do to
both look for breakthroughs and increase

4. Test lists

The most powerful mailing list you will ever
use will always be your own database. Reason?
People who know and trust you from past
experience are always more responsive to new

However, a successful direct marketer is always
looking to expand the in-house list with fresh
new buyers.

Tip: The best outside lists are proven mail order
buyers, not inquirers. Look for people who have
bought something at approximately the same price
as your product. Recency is also important. Select
names who have bought. And within the last 3 to 6

5. Test offers

Test prices. Test different combinations. Test the
copy describing the offer. For example, "Two for
the price of one" usually outsells 50% off.

Tip: Seek to constantly strengthen your offers.

Include free bonuses and test them. The free
bonuses you include can make a huge difference
in response.

6. Test order forms

The purpose of a mailing or ad is to get an order.
However, most order forms are ugly. Make yours
beautiful, colorful and user friendly.

Tip: Always use a headline. But never use the
words "order" or "form." Instead, use these magic

Free Examination Certificate
Free Trial Offer
No Risk, Free Trial

Use a stock certificate border. Use good paper.
Include photographs of your product and/or people
using and enjoying it.

Tip: Test three offers as follows:
(a) Good deal
(b) Better deal
(c) Best deal

Each one should be more favorable and attractive
to the buyer.

7. Test the P.S.

Always include a powerful P.S.. The P.S. is the
second most read part of the letter or ad next to
the headline.

Tip: Restate your biggest benefit or a new
benefit in the P.S. and repeat your guarantee and
free bonus gifts.

Tip: A handwritten P.S. can often increase

8. Test graphics colors of ink and paper

I recently recommended using brightly colored
envelopes to a client instead of plain white.
Everything else remained exactly the same. Sales
increased by 17% immediately. Graphics,
including typefaces and photographs, can improve
response by 2 ½ times with the same copy.

Tip: Make the headline words on the envelope and
letter much larger and bolder for a usual response

Tip: Once you have an offer that is either
profitable or covers costs (breakeven), this
becomes your "control." Or benchmark.
Thereafter, until you beat the control with a
better response, always run all new tests against
the control.

Tip: Be sure to code each offer online or offline
to assure you are measuring the exact element
(headline, P.S., offer, etc.) making the difference
in response. Offline this code can be e.g. a
department number; online a new link is best.


With all major testing, it's very important to
test one major element at a time. In this way
you can clearly read results as well as avoid

One good strategy that's economical and I like
is this:

1. Test 3 different lists, each with 1,000
prospect names. You won't get scientific results
from a small test. You normally need at least 50
orders to make accurate projections. But you will
get an indication.

2. If indication is encouraging, test 3,000-5,000
names from the same lists.

3. If results continue to indicate an expanded
mailing or "roll out":

(a) Test 15,000-20,000 names on each list
(b) If testing again so indicates, "roll out"
to 50,000-200,000 names.

Tip: Of course, it's much more economical to
test online than offline. But normally response
rates are considerably lower than offline. You
can therefore conduct far larger tests (i.e. 5,000
to 50,000) without a large investment.

Please note. The real money is always in repeat
sales. The so-called "backend."

Therefore, what I'm looking always to do in all
my tests is first to add new customers to my lists
and break even or better. Happily, many of my
offers, even on repeat products, are profitable
right on the front end.

But while desirable, front-end profits are not at
all necessary in a healthy direct marketing

Step two is a continuing contact at least once
a month with a series of attractive offers to
develop the enormously profitable backend.

Enjoy your new, greater level of prosperity
as you test for success.

Your correspondent,

Ted Nicholas

© Copyright 2005 Ted Nicholas