Are you passing the test?

Posted: August 14, 2008 in Directed Advertising
Tags: , , , , ,

In Fareed Zakaria’s current bestseller, “The Post-American World,” one of the conclusions he reaches about the American education system compared to that of other nations is that “Other educational systems teach you to take tests; the American system teaches you to think.”

This got me thinking about testing, that critical component of successful direct marketing. Thinking and testing come together in direct marketing. We think, then we test. Then we leverage what we learned to maximize our results.

I started in mail order, and I currently work at a direct marketing agency called Tanen Directed Advertising, where we bring direct marketing disciplines to everything we do. Or at least we try to. Sometimes clients say the budgets aren’t there for testing. Sometimes the universes are so small there’s no point — there’s not enough there to be confident that the results mean what we think they mean, or to leverage whatever we might learn from the test, and the incremental cost of splitting up the universe and printing or creating multiple versions is prohibitive.

But it hurts me not to test. A couple of years ago, at AdTech NY, I heard Roy de Souza, CEO of ZEDO,  an internet e-commerce and ad-serving tech company, share this piece of advice about testing: “2 with one difference.” Roy said that if you buy 2 search ads and change one single item between them, they will
never perform the same.

I think that holds true for just about anything.

The Vice President of Marketing for Trump University is a friend of mine, Josef Katz.  He’s the Marketing Maestro who writes the TrumpUniversity Marketing Blog, and he was recently interviewed by eM+C magazine. Along with discussing behavioral advertising and social marketing, Josef talks about how he used multivariate testing of an event registration page to increase conversion by over 75%. 75%! The biggest factor in the increase:  moving the registration form below the fold. He said the move allows visitors to read more about the event’s content before signing up. Before the move, they were still clicking but converting at a lower rate.

A guaranteed winner. Huge increases in conversions. What’s not to like about testing?

And yet, some people don’t like testing. I remember a former client of mine who wouldn’t go with our proposed testing matrix, and said, “I don’t need to test. I go with my gut.” To which I replied, “I go with my gut, too. I just test it, along with whatever else makes sense.”

By now you’re probably starting to wonder, “where’s the question, Jeff?” Well, here it is. There are plenty of people out there on both the client side and the agency side that never test, that look down on direct marketing as somehow less important than “real advertising.” That are more than happy to throw money at events that can’t be tracked to sales, ads that can’t find their targets, and imprinted premiums like pens and flash drives that don’t work very well as ads and, in a short amount of time, stop working altogether.

So can someone who doesn’t believe in testing please explain to me why, in this day and age when testing is so easy, are you failing to test everything that can be tested?

Comments
  1. Ben Waugh says:

    Nice site. Theres some good information on here. Ill be checking back regularly.

  2. josef katz says:

    Jeff,
    Thanks for posting about me. If you or any of your readers want more info on our testing just let me know.
    Josef

  3. jlsimons says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Ben. And Josef, any time you want to share info that will make us all better at our jobs, you’re more than welcome to do it here.

  4. david basch says:

    Hi jeff

    Just got around to your 8/14 post. Why don’t more people test? To me the question is: are people more interested in results or in being right? And the answer is mostly-being right. And being right means mostly going with what they already either think is right or what they really want. In my many years in the advertising business, I encountered countless situations where the “research” pointed one way and for one reason or another was ignored or deplored. Or if the testing confirmed what was hoped for then it is deemed to be “good” research. As a coach I see it too. Even hard results business people are first people, and people want to be right at almost all cost. So, when working with your clients I advise getting as much information out of them as possible so you know what they really want and then at least you have a better shot at selling them something close to what they want, but better.

  5. jlsimons says:

    David, I’d say that was a cynical answer, except that coming from you, with your many decades of experience as an account exec and a coach, I have to accept that it’s accurate and insightful. At my agency one of the keys to our successful DM is communicating to our target audience as people, not jobs. I think you’re right here, too. Even matters of strategy and tactics are determined by the people doing them, and sometimes those people make personal human choices as opposed to sound business ones. Thanks for your comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s