How to Create Catalog Test Scenarios That Matter, Part 1 of 2
In part one of a two-part series on the value of creating mail tests that produce measurable, and telling, results for your catalog, this week I tell the story of one cataloger and how its testing proved to have inexact results.
Catalogers these days are racking their brains thinking about ways to decrease costs. Many have turned to changing their books. But as I illustrate below, making universal changes to your catalog can have mixed results.
Some of the earliest direct marketers called their work “scientific advertising.” Catalogers separate themselves from brand marketers by measuring their results and learning from their successes and failures. That’s why catalogers must consistently stay true to the principles of scientific advertising and test everything.
I know you’re desperate to reduce costs. But I implore you to test before making any universal changes to your book. To illustrate my point, let me share with you a story — more like a cautionary tale — of a company that shunned the notion of a test before rolling out a major change to its catalog’s paper.
A client of mine decided that upgrading the paper it used in its catalog would result in increased sales — just a gut instinct. I warned these people about testing first, as well as running some profit and loss scenarios, to determine how the additional costs would affect their catalog’s break-even point.
They scoffed at the notion of running a pro forma break-even analysis to determine how much revenue they needed to offset the additional paper and postal costs. In fact, it took the convincing of their paper merchant, printer and service bureau reps, along with myself, to convince them to set up a test before changing their paper weight.
We set up a straightforward scientific A/B split test. We took half their customers and prospects and sent them a catalog printed on their regular paper. The other half were sent the book with the upgraded, more costly paper. To keep the test scientific, the service bureau chose every other name from each list segment. In scientific terms, the A portion of names represented the “control” group and were mailed the “before” catalog; the “test” B group was mailed the catalog with the upgraded paper stock. The goal was for the test group to outperform the control group.
Jim Gilbert has been creating direct marketing programs that drive superior ROI for almost 30 years. Fluent in consumer or B-to-B, creative, operations, and analytics, he marries the strategic and tactical sides of direct and social media marketing in a seamless fashion that gets results. He's CEO of a multidiscipline direct marketing agency, Gilbert Direct Marketing, Inc., which focuses on direct mail, catalogs, DRTV, telemarketing, print, alternative direct marketing media and social media marketing. Jim has been involved in start-ups, expansions and turnarounds, and is an expert in helping multichannel marketers get to the "next level." He's a former adjunct professor, teaching direct marketing at Miami International University, and is President of the Board of Directors of the Florida Direct Marketing Association. Jim loves to talk direct marketing, and has done many lectures on direct and social media marketing.