A fundamental component to direct mail that marketers don’t always follow.

Every direct mail control package will fatigue at some point, it’s unavoidable. But waiting for your control to fatigue before you begin to test is a huge mistake! Did you know the best time to test is actually when your control is performing well? Not only can testing early help you make better decisions on future mailings, but it can avoid negative implications down the road because you positioned yourself to be ahead of the curve.

Don’t test just to test. Make sure you are doing the math first to estimate your return on investment (ROI) based on your mail quantities, package/postage cost, estimated response rate and average gift. Testing a package that’s not able to recover from its test cost or that requires, for example, an overstated average gift to beat the control, doesn’t make sense.

Make sure when you’re testing, you’re testing components of the package that will make more of an impression on your results then simply changing your campaign graphic slightly. Below are some easy, low-cost tests you can do on your letter alone that can make a big impact on your results:

Salutation –Personalization is everything. Adding someone’s first name instead of addressing them as “Dear Friend” can increase your ROI (including response rate and average gift). Try testing their first name throughout the letter to add even more personalization.

Headline – This is your key to keeping your donors’ interest. Try more bold statements, pose a question to the donor, include stats or localization to help with increasing ROI.

Formatting – Try testing bulleted lists, bold font, underlining, images, faux handwritten notes in the margins, and highlighting to bring your message to the forefront. Adding more formatting elements to your letter can improve your ROI as these components make it easier for the donor to gather as much information as possible in the shortest amount of time.

Urgency – Test more urgent messaging to increase response rate, like deadlines, deadline extensions and red font to help the donor really understand the need for their support.

Tailored Messaging – Add versions of your letter in this campaign to donors that gave last year or have a one-year anniversary. Tailoring your letter to different audiences can add more personalization and make the donor feel valued at your organization and lift your response rate.

As long as you take the right steps and do the math to ensure statistical significance can be determined in the beginning, don’t be afraid to test against a control package that’s staying steady.

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Lauren Endler