Make Testing Dollars Go Further

There’s no substitute for well-planned and carefully executed testing to move your brand’s direct results to the next level.

Multichannel marketing adds to the complexity of marketing programs and testing plans. But the Web offers significant opportunities as well. The pace of planning and executing a direct mail campaign is equivalent to the Stone Age compared to doing the same with e-mail, search or your Web site. In addition, the Internet offers significantly lower testing expense—without major production.

So why not take advantage of the Web to inform and improve your entire direct response program? By integrating your testing program into a cohesive multichannel plan you can do exactly.

Note that I’m not suggesting you abandon direct mail or other offline testing. A multichannel testing program means we learn from one channel to the next, but still remember what is unique about each individual channel or medium.

So how do you maximize those benefits? The Web is particularly adept at getting answers fast and inexpensively. What it often isn’t good at is targeting specific prospect niches. You don’t control who arrives at your site, and e-mail is primarily aimed at customers with few prospect lists available, so neither provides good access to test prospect reactions specifically.

Paid search marketing targets prospects, but keywords aren’t segment niches, and if you need to determine if the nurses who comprise 50% of your audience will respond to a lower or higher price for an item, it can be challenging to identify key words that attract only nurses interested in your products. In other words, if you need to test a concept or price to a specific prospect audience, the Web isn’t the best place to do it. On the other hand, if you want to get a quick read on which benefit to push in a headline, or which price gets greater responses (regardless of prospect or customer status), or you want to focus testing solely on customers, the Web is an ideal place to start your testing process and improve overall testing efficiency.

Testing of copy is ongoing (or should be) for anyone participating in paid search marketing. Instead of treating those learnings as solely beneficial to future paid search campaigns, structure your paid search tests methodically to gather data on which key words, benefits, copy approaches and combinations draw the most clicks and sales conversions. If there is a clear consistent winner, use that copy approach and specific words and benefits to craft the headline for your catalog page or space ad.

One of the best uses of the Internet is to pre-test price/offer variations. In these circumstances the Web is ideal for preliminary testing. In e-mail or on a landing-page from search marketing, test an alternating round of the various offers you are considering. Just be sure that you gather enough data to be statistically reliable before making a decision.

Use the Web to maximize your multichannel testing experience. Yet another way multichannel trumps single channel.

Shari Altman is president of Altman Dedicated Direct.

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