Testing is critical in direct mail. You won’t achieve different results by doing the same thing over and over. Testing is the best way to grow your program. There is risk in testing, but there is also reward!

How you approach your test, what you test, and how you structure your test are all important in ensuring that you generate valid results. Testing requires an investment in time and resources. Here are four tips for making sure you invest wisely.

Set a goal and develop a hypothesis. Goal setting can be difficult, especially when you’re trying something brand new. However, if you don’t start with some expectation of what you will happen, you won’t be able to measure your success in the end.

Ask yourself what you hope to accomplish and whether it’s reasonable that the testing variable will help you achieve your goal. There are three ways you can generate more gross revenue: by getting more donors, by getting more gifts from your existing donors, and getting a higher average gift. When you’re testing, you should ask yourself which of these outcomes you expect to happen, and if it’s realistic that the test will achieve your goal. For instance, if your goal is to increase the number of gifts per donor, you might consider adding a follow-up mailing. However, increasing the amount you’re requesting isn’t likely to help you reach that goal.

Structure your test properly. You should have a control and a test panel of similar quantities and selects to have like panels to compare in the end in order to allow for a valid comparison. Otherwise, you might not end up with projectable results from your test.

Don’t get too attached. Not all tests will be successful, and that is okay! No matter the outcome, you will always learn something from a test that could lead to your next breakthrough. So don’t be afraid to fail. And let the data determine your next steps.

Good luck and remember to always be testing!