SELF IMPROVEMENT: My best lesson

Having spent so many years in the DM industry, it's hard to know just what to highlight. After some deliberation I'll share an example that I can sum up in just a few words. Never forget to test everything.

When Response Direct Publishing was set up ten years ago, publishing card decks and response catalogues, the card decks were printed in Belgium and France. The print companies offered the choice of clear plastic wrappers or a shiny metallised foil that could be printed in up to eight colours.

It's obvious, we all thought. Clearly, the metallised foil has far more doormat impact and is more attractive to potential advertisers so, despite the extra cost, the decision was made to go with the foil.

For the next five years, endless different designs, copy, offers, competitions and titles were tested, as well as different target audiences, data sources, response devices and mailing dates and a great deal was learned.

Then, in an effort to keep costs under control when overheads were rising, the MD demanded a test of metallised foil versus clear flow wrapping.

You've guessed the result already, haven't you? That's right, there was absolutely no difference in response rates at all. Thousands of extra pounds had been spent on each mailing to afford the luxury of an element that had no impact whatsoever with the target audience.

So, always remember to look carefully at every element of your direct marketing campaign. Throw away your assumptions and test - everything.