Direct Marketing Is Like Baseball

I heard on the radio a few weeks ago that the Florida Marlins, with 23 wins and 14 losses, has the best record in Major League baseball today.

But that means the best-performing team in professional baseball loses four out of every 10 games it plays.

And remember: That’s the best record in baseball.

What’s ironic is that businesspeople who accept this statistical truth about baseball without a second thought… go bonkers when even one of their marketing programs fails.

Experienced direct marketers know – and expect – a percentage of their test campaigns to under-perform the current control, or even lose money. They accept this fact without despair, because they know that if one test mailing in every two… or every three… or even every five is a winner, they can make a lot of money.

Inexperienced direct marketers don’t get this.

As a result, countless small businesses test direct marketing once every few years. And if they don’t hit a home run the first time at bat, loudly proclaim “Direct mail doesn’t work”… and abandon it.

If you’re a business owner or marketing professional, is there a better way to get direct marketing to work for you? Yes. And it’s nothing more than doing more testing than you do right now.

Let’s say you are planning to mail 5,000 postcards to drive people to a Web page.

You just can’t decide which of two headlines you like: “Tastes Great” or “Less Filling.” If you randomly pick just one, your risk of going with the wrong sales appeal – and, therefore, having your postcard mailing bomb – is 50 percent.

A much better approach is to split the postcard mailing into two batches, half with the headline “Tastes Great” and the other half with “Less Filling.” Each drives traffic to a different URL so you can measure the click-through and conversion rates. Then you see which one generates the most leads.

Especially on the Web, testing different variations of a promotion is relatively quick, easy, and inexpensive. So if you create a long-copy landing page to sell a product on the Internet and your conversion rate is poor, don’t give up on the product. Instead, test different headlines, graphics, pricing, offers, premiums, subheads, and copy leads.

You’ll notice that one headline pulls slightly better than another… or one price generates 40 percent more orders.

Start incorporating the winners of those tests into your landing page and, in no time flat, you can take the promotion from being marginally profitable to being a real winner – all courtesy of testing.

I am amazed at how many marketers, both large and small, invest significant sums in developing products and promotions – both online and offline – and then just promote each of those products with a single promotion. With no testing of any kind.

If you are doing that, you are essentially hoping you’ll get a hit with only one chance at bat. In baseball, a .250 hitter who gets only one at-bat has a one in four chance of getting on base.

For product launches, the success rate is often as little as 10 percent – which means that a single promotion has only a one in 10 chance of making money. In other words, the odds are 10:1 against winning with a one-shot promotion.

By testing different elements of your promotion, you can significantly tip those odds in your favor.

Giving your marketing multiple chances to score a winner through testing is a much more sensible way to go, don’t you agree?

[Ed. Note: Testing is a major part of direct marketing. But it’s not the only technique you need to know to increase your sales.

Make sure you check out the Direct Response Letter, Bob Bly’s monthly e-newsletter. Bob’s a freelance copywriter, the author of over 70 books, and a marketing expert – so you’re sure to find useful strategies for improving your campaigns. Sign up today and get over $100 in free bonuses.

Correction: In the 6/5 issue of Early to Rise, we mistakenly calculated that the baseball team referenced loses six out of every ten games. In fact, the team loses four out of every ten games.]

Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.