How You Can Use Testing for Optimal Results

As with all types of marketing and advertising, there is no magic formula for creating a successful direct response campaign. You may think you know what your customers want, only to discover that they are on a different page. So it pays to do a smaller scale testing to learn what works and what doesn’t before you commit your full budget to a wider rollout.
Of course, you first need to define what you want your direct marketing to accomplish. Having a clearly defined goal is critical. Often this means formulating a specific question to be answered, such as, “Which version will generate the most click-throughs to our landing page?” rather than the more vague and harder to quantify, “Which version is best?”
  • Create multiple versions. In simple A/B testing, you create two versions of the same campaign and test the responses. The difference between version A and version B could be as simple as an alternate headline or photo. You can also test multiple calls to action, color palettes, and navigation. Depending on your budget, you could create and test two versions or as many as four or more. Be sure to code each version so you can track results.
  • Track your test results. For example, separate URLs for each version of an e-blast, will give you an accurate indication of how many click-throughs each version received. Online display ads can provide data on which headlines generated the most interest. Some analytics software can even provide heat maps of your landing page so you can see how far visitors chose to scroll and at what point people tended to drop off.
  • React and regroup. If your favorite headline tests poorly, be disciplined enough to get rid of it. Trust your test results and adjust accordingly before you launch your full campaign. This will give you the best opportunity for success with the specific campaign you tested, and provide insights you can use in future direct response initiatives.

Game Plan

  • Make sure your test versions are different enough so that performance variables are meaningful and applicable to future marketing efforts. Never underestimate the emotional power that subtle differences can have. Sometimes, changing a single descriptive action word can make a difference in the response you get.
  • For a quick look at 10 testing case studies, plus links to testing tools and resources, read this A/B testing primer from Smashing Magazine.
  • Keep in mind that testing can provide insights into key areas of your advertising initiatives.
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