How to test insert media on a small budget

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Many small advertisers miss out on big opportunities because they overestimate the dollars needed for testing alternative media. So they tend to avoid it.

However, with a well-crafted, smart test strategy, even smaller advertisers can explore alternative media and how they might grow their new customer base.

A smart strategy will help you use your budget wisely, get the most out of every dollar, improve results analysis and prep you for the next step.

Keys to a successful test
First, you should know the rollout universe well enough to develop a representative test sample.

Far too often an advertiser will test a single file, find it doesn't work and discard the entire media as a whole. Or, worse, roll out a test campaign aggressively based on one successful file performance. Those of us who have made insert media work know that files perform differently from one to another.

Second, you want to test as little circulation as possible within each file to spread your dollars more among many files, but you must have enough to give you statistically valid results.

Third, it is essential to test multiple offers in a new media. Test two controls if you have them, or one control plus a variation. Test, for example, free shipping, multiple payments or a new premium.

A case study
Let's look at a possible test scenario in credit card statement insert media. At the very minimum you should test 500,000 inserts in banks that your broker presents as fair indicators of the entire universe's responsiveness. Take that 500,000 and split it between two files for 250,000 each. Then, A/B split test two offers in each file for 125,000 each. Now you have four test cells to analyze results from and compare to one another.

To improve your ability to react to this initial test, see if you can find the resources to test circulation of at least one million. Then you would have at least eight test cells to review and compare against one another.

For insert media, the ideal initial test - even when operating on the tightest budget - would include two top card issuers. A good combination would be one smaller bank and one retail file. Again, A/B split at least two offers in each file to help you determine the most successful offer in this media. It's more spending up front, but will give you valuable knowledge about this media's future viability for your product.

Proceed cautiously, however. As mentioned earlier, positive results from this initial test do not mean you are ready to roll out. Instead, you are ready for a more aggressive test.

We recommend a next test of five to 10 times the effort the initial test circulation, but no more than five million. In this case, take your best-performing offer from the initial test and place it in a four to five million circulation effort. Be sure to conduct creative testing from your successful offers.

A/B split testing is an outstanding opportunity allowed by insert media. Be sure to have your printer collate the pieces before delivery.

Now, let us look at a successful test of catalog and package inserts, two media that are a lot easier to test. With catalog and package inserts, you can pick and choose programs based on your own audience's demographics and their lifestyle characteristics.

Keeping in mind this advice, a good way to start is to carefully select five to 15 catalogs or package-insert programs to test.

You will generally need to test only 25,000 to 100,000 per file initially. Again, get a good read on several different programs. Then zero in on the successful ones.

Increase your circulation for a second round on the ones that work, and look for other similar programs to test with initial test circulation.

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