We’re a full month into the new year. At this point, you’ve probably already analyzed last year’s marketing efforts. Maybe you’ve attempted to infer – from a limited sample size – what worked, what didn’t and why. Of course, without ample data, it’s hard to draw much of a conclusion.
In the absence of data to guide you one way or the other, it’s easy to fall into a cycle of creating new content that is similar to the old content and hoping for the best.
If this sounds familiar, well keep reading: there’s a better way.
Instead of going in blind, you can use variable data digital printing technology to test out your ideas and discover which methods, language and images resonate with your audience. Break free from your old habits and give yourself the opportunity to make data-driven improvements.
Here’s how to test your ideas while still ensuring you get the returns you need.
Imagery and Design
To begin with, the printed pieces you develop will more than likely follow one of these formats: brochures, handouts, postcards or multi-page direct mail pieces. These all either tell the story of your business or the benefits of specific services in bite-sized forms that your audience can easily remember.
To make these pieces successful, your targets need to be drawn in immediately. This will be primarily dictated by your design and the images you choose. So why not test out variations of each to see which formation works best? With variable data printing ( VDP) you can easily do this in one print run, creating subtly different projects without drastically inflating cost.
Take a look at your content and evaluate what has room for wholesale changes and what is more evergreen but in need of an update. For your most important pieces (the ones where your copy and information really can’t change), try swapping out some design elements, images or reordering your content to increase its effectiveness. Maybe the imagery or configuration of these brochures is out of date, or maybe it just doesn’t fit the impression you want your brand to make moving forward.
Here is where the power of VDP and testing can come into place. Let’s say, for example, that you are launching a new brochure but have two different cover image options you like. Each sets a different tone for the piece and you’re unsure which your audience would connect with. Instead of just crossing your fingers, picking one of the two and sending it out, you can use VDP to print two different versions of the same brochure, each with one of these images. Your target audience will then be divided as well, with one list of contacts receiving one brochure, and the other list receiving the other brochure. From here, you can then internally track which version of the piece is most successful.
Once you’ve updated your design and imagery, consider how your content can also be improved. As with imagery and design, you can also use VDP to swap out portions of text. This should be done to both test what tones and writing styles best connect with your audience, especially when it comes to your evergreen pieces of content.
To accomplish this, follow a strategy similar to the one outlined above for imagery and design. Have one print piece with one particular introduction, for example, and another piece with an alternate version. This will again allow you to track which copy resonates with your targets.
It should also be noted that you can use VDP to personalize content to your audience by swapping out general copy and having it be more industry specific or personalized. We’ll have more on how you can plan for this in an upcoming post.
A Note on Variables
For all of these suggestions, remember that you want to keep the variables you’re testing low so that you can better interpret your returns. If you have one brochure with a set of images, and another with a completely different set of images, then it will be much harder to definitely point at which particular image made the difference.
The same goes for swapping out both text and images at the same time. Choose one or the other when testing. Ideally, you’ll perform this in stages; beginning with testing for the best imagery then moving onto the text itself. Like we noted before, first impressions matter. Your design and images drive people to read your copy, not the other way around.
Planning for the Future
Whatever your needs are, VDP allows you to both personalize content for specific audiences and test out some of your best ideas. That’s not to say you should go crazy with it – instead confine it to specific areas of interest you have right now. Undecided about what internal marketing message or tone to take? Test it out. Unsure if you want to feature more humans in your imagery or if an abstract, conceptual look will appeal to your audience? Test that too.
Your findings will likely have wide reaching impacts on the way you develop your printed marketing collateral, help to streamline the process and increase the effectiveness of all your work. After all, more data can only lead to better, more informed decisions.