Testing Tools: How Technology Has Changed the Game

Ashlea Owings Blog, Data and Analytics

As a performance marketer, you know the need for testing.

Whether it’s a simple A-B split test, or a complex test where each variable of the message is tested, the digital testers today can learn quite a bit from those who created direct mail …the ‘snail mail’ now looked upon somewhat derisively by those who’ve never had to write a four-page direct mail letter, (with accompanying brochure and response device), and wait two weeks (or so) to compute their response rate.

In today’s digital world, you can see your response rate almost immediately, and then make corrections to enhance your messaging to increase it.

A good example can be seen in the most recent presidential election, where the digital team for President Obama used the speed and technology of today combined with the testing methodologies created by direct mail gurus Bob Stone, David Ogilvy and Richard Viguerie.

The Obama direct response team tested and sent a national email almost every day. As the election drew closer, the frequency of their emails increased.

The direct mail (snail mail) fundraising gurus based their list selection on three criteria: Recency (of donation); Frequency (how often a person donated; and, Amount (of donation). By following the RFA formula, they knew they wouldn’t go too far off track.

And while the Obama campaign had 20 writers working to crank out messaging on a 24/7 basis, the techniques they used were pure direct response (with a bit of SEO thrown into the mix).

Among the many messages the nearly two dozen writers produced each day, four to six drafts were selected for each group sent and then at least 3 subject lines were chosen for each message. (Sounds a lot like headline testing, doesn’t it)?

Then the Obama team tailored the copy of the chosen emails to each segment of the audience (in direct mail, it’s called ‘segmentation testing’). Then links were added to donors and non-donors urging them, “don’t wait until the last minute!” (Sounds like adding a ‘P.S.’ doesn’t it)?

The Obama team then conducted a random selection from among their lists to determine the response, testing subject lines. And the winner from among these multi-variant tests became the ‘control’ package sent to the remainder of the campaign.

And then they repeated the process. Soon thereafter they repeated the process and tried to beat their best. They started over, and the control email became the grail against which all future tests were measured.

The lists that were successful were used time and time again, sometimes repeating their mailings more than once a day. And they did very well.

The team at AdStation knows the importance of combining the old with the new and is constantly testing new technologies to make its clients messaging more responsive by channeling that messaging into the most effective verticals. And then we test, combining ‘old’ techniques with today’s technology to make it a ‘win-win’ situation for all concerned. Try it.

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Ashlea Owings

Ashlea Owings