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Here are some low (or no) cost testing ideas to consider.

Who's a guru? While selling information products by direct mail is certainly more an art than a science, there is a body of conventional wisdom--techniques and tactics which have proven successful for many mailers.

But even with "conventional wisdom" you know there are many things newsletter marketers continually argue over--envelope teasers, sample issues, letter length, personalization, guarantees, testimonials, and 100 more.

For that reason, I admit to a certain uneasiness about "gurus," anyone who has "all the answers." Perhaps that's because, while I have created some winners, I've had some losers, too.

But Dan Kennedy, publisher of Dan Kennedy's No B.S. Marketing Letter, is one of the self-certified experts (You can get a free trial to his newsletter at his website,

Dan knows very much about direct marketing--in the mail, in magazines, even on television.

He also knows very much about testing. But testing costs money, and with the increasing costs of direct marketing, let's back up before the mailing drops and "pre-test" the salesletter.

I like Kennedy's suggestions for no-cost pre-testing techniques. Like most people in newsletters, I'm a sucker for those words, "no cost."

Dan Kennedy's 3 no-cost pre-testing techniques

1. Read your salesletter aloud. If you find tongue-twisters or hang-ups, fix them. The letter must read smoothly and easily.

To that suggestion, I'd add: Have a colleague read it to you to see if he or she stumbles. After all, you know how you meant it to flow.

(This is a hangover from my speechwriting days, shared with all who have plied that trade, grinding my teeth and muttering, "Read it the way I wrote it, you moron.")

2. Read the salesletter to people who might be your customers, good prospects. If at least some of them begin asking questions about how they can get or use the product or service, you are on the road to success.

Caution: If your "test" prospects have a lot of questions, you haven't done the job of explaining the product or service. When the prospect gets your package in the mail, you won't be there to answer questions. Time for a rewrite that answers those questions.

Often, publishers take for granted some feature of their information product--even a very strong feature--that is not that apparent to a prospect.

3. Have an intelligent child read the letter to you. Before you snicker and snort, "My prospects and customers are smarter than any 11-year-old child," think again about the declining level of functional literacy in the U.S.

To quote H.L. Mencken, certainly a man with an good eye for the American character, "No one in this world, so far as I know ... has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people."

2 more interesting ideas from Kennedy

* Read the National Enquirer. Skip over everything about extra-terrestrials and Britney Spears. Concentrate on the direct response ads. Some of the best copywriters on the planet are paid outrageous sums of money to create them. The American public contains a lot of closet National Enquirer readers. If you still believe your prospects are more intelligent than that, read Mencken's observation again.

* Dan Kennedy's Fascinating Writing Test. (I love this one.) You are writing a letter to someone with whom you are (or hope to be) having an affair.

In the letter you need to convince your lover--who is somewhat more conservative than you but shows signs of having a hidden wild side--to take off an entire week to spend with you.

You need to convince this person to make some excuse to be away from work and family for a week in order to fly off to Dominica with you, where you have the free use of friend's beachfront villa.

Now there's a sales job and a half. Use as many pages as you need.
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Title Annotation:DM Notebook
Author:Goss, Fred
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Aug 19, 2004
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