Testing Your Ads

I had a call a couple of days ago from the director of a new business. “I’m not sure what to do in the way of advertising,” she said. “When we first opened, we had lots of enquiries, but now it’s really fallen off. I’m not at all sure people really read papers or listen to the radio much any more, so I’m thinking TV, but I don’t know which station would be best. What do you think?”

I almost wanted to ask if it was a trick question. It seemed sort of like calling a car dealer and saying, “I don’t know what to do. I have to travel a long distance and I’m not sure I can get there by bike quickly enough. I guess I need some quicker form of transportation. Can you think of anything?”

“Do you do email?” I asked. “Do you have a website?”

There was a silence. I could hear the director mulling over this clever idea. I passed along the news that more businesses nowadays are cutting print and radio ads and increasing their use of online marketing.

It didn’t really solve her problem, though. In some ways, it made things worse. If she can’t tell whether people read the print ads or listen to the radio ads, or which TV station is most likely to pull, then bringing online marketing into the mix just gives her something else to wonder about.

She needs to test.

We talked about testing your website earlier in the week. Testing ads is a little different, but just as simple. Here are the steps:

  • Make your call to action something measurable. For print ads, include a coupon customers need to cut out and bring in. Put a code on each ad, distinguishing one newspaper from another. For a web offer, you can set up a special email address for each source, have customers print out a coupon, or ask for a code in the subject line. For radio and TV, you can still use a special email address, URL, or code (“Tell them Jack sent you”), just make sure to announce it clearly.
  • Add some urgency. You want to get the information fast enough for you to act on it. Give your special offers an expiration date — and make it a short window. The longer they wait, the more likely it is that people will forget. “Two days only” gives you a more accurate measure of the relative effectiveness of multiple delivery channels for your message.
  • Keep track of the results. Make a plan to collect the data accurately. Once your two days (or week, or whatever length of time you give) are up, count the responses from each delivery method, and compare. If the results are close, replicate the experiment.

You might be interested to know that tests of this kind show that direct mail offers with email follow up have a 50% higher response rate than the same offers without email. You might also be interested to know that people who see a coupon are more likely to visit you even if they don’t actually use the coupon.

These are interesting things to know. But your own test results will be even more interesting.






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