June 26, 2018

Direct mail elements that you should test and optimise – part 2/2

Our first article in this series set out the basis for conducting  Direct Mail A/B testing. Improving your printed communication will help you promote your brand, increase your response rate and campaign ROI.

Written by Nilda Cerna, Marketing Manager Romax Marketing & Distribution.

This is part two of two series on the topic of A/B testing for Direct Mail.  Part One Covered: 10 Guidelines for Direct Mail A/B Test.

First, you must set the goals for your direct mail campaign, what is its purpose? Lead generation or acquisition, retention of current customer or reactivation of lapsed customers? Secondly, you must decide what variable or metric you want to test in your campaign. Finally, you should test only one variable at a time.

What elements should you test for to constantly improve and ultimately achieve your direct marketing campaign goals?

1. Offers

You should test what types of offers convert better on Direct Mail for your business.

Some examples of offers to test and optimise with Direct Mail are:

  • Discount codes and coupons, or FREE Delivery
  • Sale Promotions
  • FREE Attendance at a webinar or live event
  • Requests for an online demonstration, enquiry, catalogue
  • Download an eBook on your website
  • Subscription to your newsletter
  • Join a loyalty programme.

Check out the Fantastic Service case study 350% ROI.

2. Copy

Your copy is critical. The Same offer portrayed in a different style can make a BIG difference. Consider a mixture of the following. Read it, Filter it and have somebody that does NOT work in your industry read it. Do they understand your message or offer are they tempted?

  • Headlines
  • Short/long paragraph
  • Adding a testimonial
  • Personalised message
  • Repeated messages
  • Targeted image
  • The tone of your conversation (informal, formal, funny, etc)
  • Bullet points

You can play with the same message, offer, copy and call-to-action but only change the format. The format can be either on how is structured your message, such as paragraph, newsletter formal or dedicated send, or in the piece of direct mail format itself.   For example, you can set a standard image in the version A, and a personalised image in the version B.

3. Finishing

  1. You can add visually enhancing finishing processes to your printed communication that can help to present your brand with more sophistication or just to make a particular message stand out. Techniques include: gloss lamination, or spot lamination, embossing and foiling. Next time that you send a postcard test half with gloss lamination and half with matt lamination.

4. Layout

  1. You can experiment with different images and positioning of your calls-to-action then measure your responses and conversions to determine which layout is most effective. This is a very interesting test because changing layout can promote your message and increase your campaign ROI.

5. Timing

  1. A direct mail campaign must be programmed in advance, so you need to plan when you are expecting your piece to land. You want to see how your customers react to the timing of your campaign. Deliver one group of your direct mail shot early in the week and the other group later in the same week, what difference does this make to responses.

6. Sender

  1. Who the mailpiece is sent FROM matters. Consider how different data subjects are likely to respond to a letter from the CEO or their individual account manager instead of a generic “Company Name”. You can experiment signing your direct mail (if applicable) from a Brand Ambassador if you have one. Avoid using Marketing Manager, as this reminds the recipient that you are marketing to them!

7. Envelopes

  1. The outer envelope is the first impression the first brand impact that your Direct Mail supplies when it hits the door matt. If you want to grab the attention of your addressee, you must be creative on your envelopes to stand out from the crowd. Your envelope must be aligned with your offer or content. Next time, why not experiment using a version with a designed and variable outer envelope? A strapline on the envelope? A personalised message? Start the conversation immediately.

8. Target group

  1. Who should receive your direct mail? Everyone on your list or a particular audience finding that campaigns’ content valuable? Segmentation helps you get high response rates because your recipients will find the messages particularly valuable.

9. Cross-media

  1. Direct Mail stands out by itself, according to “Direct Mail an opportunity to Grow” study by Xerox, an individual in the US receives less than 16 printed marketing communication pieces per week, this is much less in the UK. See how direct mail carefully managed in conjunction with your online communication can increase your conversion rates.

10. Call-to-action (CTA)

A CTA is essential for conversion. Test multiple CTA variants to find out which one performs best. In Direct Mail communication you need to be more explicit than with digital, because recipients can’t click on a CTA in DM so must be driven to seek you out, but once they do they are more likely to purchase as a result, less so with Digital as they are more easily side-tracked. You must give clear instructions on how your audience can contact you and redeem the offer.

The elements that you can optimise on a call-to-action are:

  • CTA Placement. Position them in different parts of your printed communication.  Right v/s left side, top v/s button, have you tried a CTR in the middle?
  • CTA Size and Graphic. The Direct Mail CTA isn’t necessarily a standard box with a “Visit our Website” or “User Code” you can play with a different size which you can include images or more text to stand out with the rest of the paragraph. You can test two sizes, with and without an image. Bigger CTA’s will help draw attention, but if its’ too big, it can also overpower your content and decrease your conversion rates.
  • CTA Colour. What’s the ideal colour for Direct Mail Call-to-Actions? The goal of a CTA is to stand out and draw your user’s eyes, so they take your desired action. Using a contrasting colour from the rest of your page will help.  Use colours that stand out and also make sense for your brand and rest of your digital communication.
  • CTA Copy. The copy of your Direct Mail CTA must be very effective aligned with the rest of your content. You need to provide more information to help your customer to take action, you need to work out which one works best with your audience.
  • REPEAT your CTA. We all need multiple stimuli before responding and pick up on offers at different areas of the mail piece dependent on our reading habits.


Conducting regular A/B test helps to understand how your particular audience reacts to your printed communication. Your copy, graphics, layout and CTAs. A good practice is measuring your DM communication separately from your digital efforts.  In our 3 ways to measure your direct marketing campaign blog post, we recommend creating offers that you track via direct mail, or create a specific landing page for solely for your DM.

Ask our Client Service team for information on how we can help you implement your next direct marketing campaign.

Reference: It’s all about Mail and Email, Royal Mail MarketReach, 2014. A/B testing by HubSpot, 45 Facts about Direct Mail.

Romax Marketing & Distribution has more than 20 years of experience managing membership and client printing and communication services for organisations such as Southbank CentreDKMSand PlusNetContact us for a bespoke Membership Marketing Solution: hello@romax.co.uk, 020 8293 8550.

« »