Worth Considering: Split testing – back to high school science

 Worth Considering from Matt HuggA lot of us breathed with a sign of relief when we took our last science class in high school. No more Bunsen burners or frogs, no more chemicals on our hands right before lunch.

Sorry guys, but science is back — in your direct mail piece.

Any science teacher will tell you that one of the most important concepts discussed in her or his classroom is the “scientific method.” Remember that? It’s when you have a “control,” a circumstance that you keep the way it is, and a “variable,” the circumstance you change — then compare the two after you run your test. But make sure that you only change one thing; otherwise you won’t know what caused the results to differ if you see any changes.

Yes, in direct mail it’s the same.

Try this: in your next mailing, change the color of the exterior envelope. The white envelope is what you always do. Make half of the pieces white and the other half yellow. Make sure you mark the pledge cards — maybe a small yellow highlighter mark on those that went into the yellow envelope. Then wait. After a week, then two weeks, then a month — see which envelope color produced the best results.

In the direct marketing world, this is called “split testing.”

There are any number of variables you can test through split testing, such as:

  • Window envelope vs. plain
  • Pledge card gift amounts
  • Language in the solicitation letter
  • Short letter or long letter
  • Adding a brochure or not
  • Using recycled paper or not
  • Who signs the letter?
  • And much, much more.
 Just about any element of a mailing can be split tested.

But why do this? Because your constituency is unique. They have their own tendencies based on their own, and the organization’s personality. You want to know what makes them comfortable giving to your organization — not just now, but into the future.

When do you split test? Always. Demographics change daily in any group. You want to experiment with what is attractive to your donors now, not five years ago.

Do you have enough prospects to split test? Sure. If you have two donors, you do. Yes, this technique gets better results the bigger the list, but don’t exclude yourself from the benefits if you have a small file of names.

Of course, I’m biased. The more you mail the more potential work for me. But whether you use me to write your letters, or do the work in-house, split testing can enhance your results so you build stronger relationships with your constituents based on what you’ve proven they like, not what you think they will like.

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