Why Don’t People Test More?

By Dr. John Leininger, Professor, Clemson University

Maybe my prospective as a college professor gives me a unique vision on why companies do not do more testing when it comes to the success or failure of a marketing campaign.

Think back when you were in school, did you look forward to taking an exam? I really have not met any student in 34 years of teaching that would say yes to that question. Why? Because it’s a point in time that you’re held accountable for your effort.

I always think it’s funny when I read my student evaluations on the question “Do the tests in this class fairly represent what you know in the class,” and so many say no. They all think they should get an “A” because they worked hard. But hard work is only half of the equation. People are uncomfortable with testing in any part of their life.

Testing is really as simple as setting up a control and experimental group in a marketing campaign. This shows that things worked or failed,  but you have to beware that if the measurement was not targeted at the real issue, it might be giving a false positive. We should not be afraid of measuring the results of what we do everyday. If something is not working right, we should figure out how to improve the results.

Think about going into surgery to have a knee replaced (I have had two replaced). Would you be happy if the doctor did 80% of it right, 90% right? Of course not, you would expect their work to be perfect.

There are variables in the process of any marketing campaign. Create a plan that you “think” will work better than what you are currently doing. The key work is “think.” If you do not measure the results in a meaningful way, it is only a guess. Professionally, we should all be striving to achieve the best results possible and always looking for ways to improve on what we are doing.

I want to point out that it is not just the graphics manufacturer that’s reluctant to measure. It’s also the designer and the marketing manager. Everyone in the process is at risk if the campaign shows up with a meager response. On the plus side, if you can test alternatives, measure the results, and create a more potent campaign, everyone wins.

One plus in today’s print production world is that digital printing gives us a chance to easily create several variations at a minimal cost. It might be a different photograph, a different headline, a different color stock, a different size piece, whether it’s in an envelope or a postcard, has personalization, or has a discount offer. You can send out as small as 200 pieces in each group (as long as you select records randomly) and find out if one option works better than another.

Testing without measurement is worthless and testing takes time and money, but the potential benefits of increased response rates and increased sales has to become the motivating factor for everyone in the process. Success is virtually guaranteed if you improve the response mechanism.

I can tell you that not every one of my students deserves an “A” in my class, but I can tell you the one thing that all of the good students have in common is they aren’t afraid of being evaluated. They prepare for every assignment and exam, address the issues, and earn the “A.” Are you someone that is ready to do their homework to get a better grade?

To schedule a variable data printing consultation, please email Fineline.

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