Direct Mail

Modern Direct Mail Testing: More Versions, Lower Costs, Faster Printing

By May 9, 2021 No Comments

Traditional direct mail testing commonly involves an A and a B version.  You would print one or two static Forms, put it on a laser or inkjet printer, and personalize the piece using black toner.   This is the method used for the majority of direct mail campaigns today.

Any changes in the offer or text were accomplished using black print alone. If you wished to have an entirely new color mailer, you’d need to change the plates on the printing press, which means more proofs and setups, more print versions to manage, and the creation of more mail cells that require commingling or higher postage costs.

If you’re printing 10,000 pieces or only have A and B versions, this approach is somewhat manageable.

However, what happens if you want to print 100,000 or 1 million pieces and go beyond A/B testing to create C, D, and E versions?  When you take into account preprinting forms, setup time, waste, and different forms being stored in your vendor’s warehouse, this traditional method can be costly and time-consuming.

This is one reason why direct response marketers often settle for just “A/B” or “either/or” testing. They’re reluctant to push the envelope. Many have never been shown how to use modern technology to easily execute complex testing in a way that’s not only fast and cost-effective, but also can deliver better intelligence and long-term results!

How Direct Mail Testing Became Smarter, Faster, and More Efficient

Modern digital printing has taken direct mail testing capabilities to a totally new level.  With recent developments in print technology, paper, and ink, the cost has gone down considerably, while the quality has improved to near litho print quality.

High-definition digital inkjet printers introduced in just the last few years print at speeds never before possible. They also make it possible to swap out an unlimited number of offers and images on the fly in stunning, high-resolution color.

For example, if you have 100,000 pieces of mail, you can produce 100,000 unique versions since the process is driven by your data, business rules, and any images that you wish to include.

Also, keep in mind that the traditional approach requires that you break your mail file into separate postal sorts every time you create a new print version. This reduces the concentration of your mail, causing your postal costs to increase. You can use a commingling service to get a postal discount, but this can cause a delay in meeting in-home delivery dates.

Using this digital print idea, we essentially commingle versions right on the press to achieve the maximum postal discounts possible, with zero setup, waste, or storage.

The Missing Ingredient in Most Direct Mail Tests

There’s a critical component to direct mail testing with modern technology that most organizations are missing – experience.

Anyone can buy technology, but you need to have the experience to build an image library in a way that lets your data automatically pull in the right image for each piece. You need to know how to format your mail to optimize costs. And you need to understand how to track and analyze the results so your direct mail testing provides meaningful insights that enable optimizations of future campaigns.

Direct Mail Depot brings this expertise to the table for every client.  In addition to offering the right tools, we have the right people who have successfully planned and executed hundreds of complex, high-volume direct mail campaigns and can walk you through the process.

Real-World Examples of Modern Direct Mail Testing

One emerging form of insurance is pet insurance. Testing is typically A/B with a generic dog version and a generic cat version. If you know what type of animal each customer has, why not take customization and testing a step further?

For example, instead of simply having a dog version, create versions for each breed of dog that your prospect owns – German shepherd, collie, poodle, black lab, etc. Pet owners will be drawn much more to a photo that resembles the pets they love, which improves the open, engagement, and response rates.

If you’re offering auto insurance, you can run tests using an image library of not only different styles and models, but different colors of each vehicle.  For example, instead of having images of just a sedan, SUV, and pickup, you can include images for specific models in a variety of colors and customize your mail accordingly. This can all be based on the unique characteristics or desires of each recipient.

Auto insurance affinity programs for college alumni are also very popular. Rather than simply using a black-only school logo, you can use a full-color logo with a photo of a signature building on campus to grab the attention of the recipient.

For financial service companies promoting low mortgage rates, you can customize your offer and terms for each individual in full color.  Even if you’re promoting something as specific as a VA mortgage, images and offers can be customized to appeal to veterans of different generations with the goal of creating more interest and increasing open and response rates.  The added benefit is that high-speed digital print technology cuts production time in half so you can get to your prospect’s mailbox faster than your competition!

Modern technology overcomes the challenges of limitations of traditional A/B testing, while Direct Mail Depot’s experience enables you to expand your direct mail testing with confidence.  If you’d like see examples for yourself and discuss what’s possible with direct mail testing, contact us today to schedule a consultation.



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