Because our clients do marketing the way scientists do science. Test an idea. See what works. Find out why it worked, and be fiercely self-critical when it doesn’t. Apply what you learned, adjust your idea, and try again.

And we really, really like the way our clients work.

This approach may not sound as fun as the glammed-up “creativity” you see on TV and the Web. But it’s a lot more rewarding if you’re a business in the know. Because when your ideas work… and work they will, if you’re meticulous enough… the response rates to your marketing lists skyrocket.


Turning a mailing list into a business database

But to get those results, you need two things. First, start with the right data to build your prospecting lists and define your target audience. Second, make effective decisions to make your next campaign work harder.

And that’s the key phrase: your next campaign.

Because the true value of any business database isn’t what happens when you use it once. It’s when you learn from your experiences and apply those learnings over time.

(There’s a reason few “creative advertising” ideas last more than one campaign. Most of them just don’t work. Think about it: even among the ads you enjoyed, how many can you name the company they were for?)

The basic idea isn’t hard to understand. It involves using the learnings from one campaign to inform the strategy of the next.


Using data is a process, not a product

Split a marketing list of names in half. Mail both lists, with one detail changed in your marketing communication. (Even something simple, like Firstname instead of Lastname – does the recipient prefer being addressed as Dear Fred or Dear Mr Smith? Response rates to each approach can vary hugely.)

After the responses come in, note which half had the highest response rate, and adopt the communication that worked better as the basis (called a “control”) for your next mailing.

Then do it again. And again. Each time, you get a little closer to the communication that makes your audience’s heart sing. Response rates climb a little higher. Your sales and profits start rising.

Any marketer will recognise this strategy: it’s an A/B split, and it’s among the oldest and simplest approaches to data marketing.

What’s surprising is how rarely even this simple approach is used in practice.

Even among data-savvy marketers, we estimate fewer than 15% have a process in place for capturing learnings and rolling them forward as a complete data strategy.

That’s why some “non-data-savvy” customers try database marketing once, then write it off, thinking it failed. But they gave up too soon. No first campaign is ever a failure, if you make the right decisions early.

If you buy data – say, a 50,000 name email database – don’t risk it all at once. Mail two samples of 500 with an A/B split first. Maybe one split wins 5 responses while the other gets 9.

Doesn’t sound like much? If your average Customer Lifetime Value is £15,000 (reasonable for many SMEs in the B2B space) … the difference between using Content A and Content B (1% response versus 1.8%) could run to £6,000,000 over the total dataset. Six million pounds!

Critical thinking applied to data choices. Now that’s a joined-up data strategy.

The key is don’t stop there. Split your next 1000 names in half, change a detail on that control, and do it again.

And when you’ve successfully mailed all 50,000, ask your database provider to come up with fresh data that looks like success. Share your data, so they can apply those findings to their search. Better still, share your ideas before they even supply you with data. It’ll make sure your database starts off with the best possible chance of success.

This is science. But it’s not rocket science. It doesn’t take advanced technology. And it works across countless channels.

Related Topics: Consultancy and advice