Marketing as science, not art - Part 2

Dec. 1, 2004
I hit Las Vegas at least five or six times a year, but I would never consider "gambling" a single penny. The food and room bill for a conference I ran at the Bellagio was $94,277 (quite a party!).

I hit Las Vegas at least five or six times a year, but I would never consider "gambling" a single penny. The food and room bill for a conference I ran at the Bellagio was $94,277 (quite a party!). Add $57,000 for the Lexus I gave away and another $50,000 plus for marketing the event, and I spent just over $200,000 on that "party"!

I have never once hit the tables or spun the roulette wheel. I take carefully and scientifically calculated risk. Over the last three years, I have spent over $1,000,000 of my own money marketing my businesses. Nothing worthwhile is totally without risk. But if you approach marketing as a science, the odds still may be in favor of the house. The question is how can you become the house?

The answer is testing ... constantly testing. That's how we can predict with relative certainty how an ad campaign will do. One of the most common scientific tests you can use in advertising is called the "A-B Split Test." The A-B split pits two or more versions of the same piece of the puzzle against each other.

There are countless pieces you may choose to split test. Here are just a few of the tests I've performed recently for my Gems Insiders' Circle:

1) Headline

The headline is the most important part of any print advertisement. It is the ad for the ad! If you open your newspaper and a flyer drops out, everyone knows it's junk mail until - on the way to the wastepaper basket - you inadvertently read a headline that just might change the rest of your life! Once you catch the reader's eye, you've got that person's attention for at least the first sentence of the first paragraph. That is the only purpose of a headline!

I recently ran an a/b/c/d/e split test on five different headlines. All the other parts of the ad were identical. In fact, that's an important rule in split-testing. Choose and change only one parameter in a test. Otherwise, you can't confidently point to one change and know that it was the one responsible for the increase or decrease in effect.

What were the results of our five-headline split test? The best headline outsold the worst headline by 500 percent! Once you have found your best headline, choose another parameter and measure multiple versions of it, while maintaining the winning headline throughout.

2) Choice of envelope

You might assume FedEx would outperform Priority Mail hands down. Normally, it would. But I had a hunch that we could save a fortune if we could create a priority mailing so enticing that few could resist opening it. Once accomplished, then anything extra spent on FedEx would be a waste of money.

I set up an A-B split test. We mailed 2,500 Priority Mail letters and 2,500 FedEx letters. Everything else about the inner mailing was identical. We enjoyed the same excellent results from the 2,500 Priority Mail letters as we did from the FedEx letters. In subsequent mailings, we saved a fortune by using Priority Mail, without compromising results.

3) Method of addressing

We don't have to test (it's been done before!) whether or not labels save you money. They don't! Unless you're mailing to an existing customer and it's something they look forward to receiving, address labels are the surest way to get your mailing deposited directly into the trash without passing "go"!

However, you might want to test whether having each piece hand-addressed versus having your printer use a handwriting-simulation font on the envelope would increase your response rate!

Continually apply scientific testing

I've barely scratched the surface of the many ways you can apply split-testing in advertising. The sky and your imagination are the only limits. Results often will befuddle even the best-trained, seasoned marketing pros. That's why the only safe bet is to continually apply scientific testing to your ongoing advertising campaigns. It's a lot of fun tweaking, improving, and wondering if that last little change will help or harm your results. Then, sit back and watch as your marketing lets you know the "bottom line!"

Dr. Tom Orent, the "Gems Guy," is a founding member and past president of the New England Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. His "1000 Gems Seminars(tm)" span five countries and 48 U.S. states. He is the author of five books and hundreds of articles on practice management, TMJ, and "Extreme Customer Service." To receive a free half-year subscription to Dr. Orent's "Independent Dentist Newsletter" (normally $297 per year), mention Dental Economics and send request with doctor's name, address, email, and a major credit card number and expiration date (to pay for the one--time $5.95 shipping and handling charge) to [email protected] or fax to (508) 861-1550.

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