I don’t have a background in marketing. But it doesn’t matter, because I’m getting what amounts to an MBA here at ETR. Take, for instance, the powerful lesson MaryEllen Tribby gave us in a recent meeting.

We were discussing media buys – the process of buying advertising space in the newsletters or on the Web pages of other companies. MaryEllen has been encouraging us to find more and more new lists of subscribers that we can offer our products to.

One of our marketing associates (who does most of the media buying for ETR) showed us the results of an e-mail ad she’d sent out to one company’s e-mail list. The product she was advertising is a great new one. But hardly anyone bought it.

Was the list a dud? Were the subscribers to that e-mail newsletter just not good buyers?

“You can’t tell from this media buy,” MaryEllen said. “Because you tested the wrong product.”

How did she know?

“Testing a new list is like testing anything else,” MaryEllen told us. “You test only one variable at a time. And a new list is a variable.

“Let’s say you have a cutting-edge financial product. You’ve been advertising that product to lists of subscribers to financial newsletters, and the product is selling really well.

“That product becomes your control. So any time you find a like list – an e-mail newsletter with similar subscribers – the first thing you should market to them is that control product. If you send them your control and no one buys, then you can say with some certainty that you shouldn’t mail to that list again.”

Keep this in mind the next time you find a new list to advertise to.

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