My clients shell out big bucks for me to write a single promotion package. But my smart clients can get two… three… even five promotions for the same price. How? By giving me the freedom to create multiple cover tests for them.

Cover tests allow you to change the entire look and feel of your sales promotion just by making changes to the cover. That means you can test different headlines and cover designs for pennies on the dollar. But the better news is:

Cover tests give you – and your copywriter – more chances to get a winner in the mail!

Why put all your creative eggs in one basket, hoping you picked the right headline and cover design? Let your market decide which is best. Here’s an example of how one of my smart clients got a big bang for his creative buck with a health promotion I worked on for him…

The promotion was for a chelation product. We cover-tested four different headlines:

#1: The Ultimate Pac Man for Your Arteries

#2: Now you can REMOVE and SEE the plaque that was clogging your arteries!

#3: The New Chelation Miracle

#4: Meet the folks who said “Bye Bye Bypass!”

So, which one won?

If you picked #3, you’re a pretty smart cookie. That was the strongest headline and became the official new control – the headline my client “rolled out” to his entire list of prospective customers. However, #2 and #4 were also strong – coming in less than a percentage point behind the winner. Which gave my client three sales packages he could rotate in the mail.

That meant he could fight response fatigue and mail the package longer. And, in fact, that original package has been mailing for over two years – and is still going strong. So you can see why the client is happy. (And I’m happy, because it’s meant a long and steady flow of royalty income for me.)

This client lets me do up to five test covers for every new package I create for him. And, many times, if I had to pick only one of those five covers to go with, I would’ve picked the WRONG one. Here’s a perfect example:

For the launch of a probiotic product, we mailed the following five test covers:

#1: When you poop, do you need a…

[photo of a plunger] to unstop clogged bowels…
[photo of a vice] to tighten up loose bowels…
[photo of a gas mask] to keep from passing out afterwards

#2: The Big, Huge Yogurt Hoax

#3: Unclog your colon! [with a before and after graphic shot of what a filthy colon and a clean colon look like]

#4: Why suffer? Now you can put an end to embarrassing gas… bloating… constipation… heartburn… diarrhea… irritable bowels… and other digestive problems [photos of folks experiencing digestive problems]

#5: When your intestines go from: [photo of the Sahara desert] To this: [photo of Ireland’s green pasture] You can put an end to your worst digestion problems in record time.

Let me tell you this first: I absolutely LOVED the “poop” and “unclog your colon” covers. I felt they nailed the product’s USP (unique selling proposition) right on the head. I thought the yogurt cover was a solid test too, since most people think yogurt contains a lot of stuff that’s good for the digestion. We almost didn’t test #5. Both my client and I worried that the message was too vague. “Why suffer” was okay, but no one was shouting its praises.

The winner?

Well, let me say this: If I only had two cover tests, using #1 and #3, my package would’ve lost money in the mail.

If I had put all my chips on the yogurt cover – that would’ve lost even MORE money!

The undisputed winner was boring #5 – the one we almost didn’t test. And the close runner-up was #4 – the one that no one was thrilled with.

See what I mean? Sometimes, there’s just no method to the madness when it comes to the right cover for a sales promotion. So why take chances? Ask your copywriters to give you several headlines to test.

One important thing to remember: Make sure your test covers look very different from each other. But don’t waste the opportunity by testing insignificant things or ideas. For example, you don’t need to test whether a red border will be stronger than a blue border … or whether a single word change on the headline will make a difference. What you want to do is test ideas and headlines that have the potential to give you a 20 percent or better lift in your response rate.

I try to test covers that range from safe to scary. So I always include a safe cover – one that nails the USP of the product right on the head. I call that my workhorse cover. Then I go to the other extreme with a crazy idea that will either bomb or blow the roof off.

My clients and I have gotten some great successes by taking this approach – and so can you.

As a business owner, you can get more leverage from every sales package if you do this: Ask your copywriter to create two… three… even five different cover tests with the final copy submission. And make room in your mailing schedule to test as many of them as possible.

Why request five covers when you plan to test only one or two?

Because the best time to get the best ideas from your copywriter is while she’s hot and heavy working on your project. If you wait till two or three months later, she will have purged all the info about your product from her brain and will have to start cold. So strike while she’s sizzlin’ hot. You can always test the unused covers at a later date.

By testing aggressively, you’ll soon discover you have several controls for the same package. Not only does this make “cents” – it can deliver a hefty profit to your bottom line.

[Ed. Note: Carline Anglade-Cole has 20 years of direct-mail experience in mailing-list strategies, new-product development, and creating kick-butt controls. She is the author of How to Write Kick-Butt Copy: Straight Talk From a Million-Dollar Copywriter, Anatomy of a Kick-Butt Control: How to Create a Winning Promo From Start to Finish,and Which One Won? How to Write Kick-Butt Headlines and Boost Response! Contact Carline directly by visiting her website at CarlineCole.com.]
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