Statistics: Get to Know Them
You know all about testing, right? Will blue text get more donors to renew than red text? Will you get more new acquisitions with a picture of a cute little kitten or a half-starved dog? Can you do it better, faster, cheaper than you’re already doing it?
All good questions. And all test-able, along with about a million other nuances of your direct-response program. So test away. But after the test, you’ll find yourself lousy with statistics. And if you are, indeed, lousy with statistics, all your valuable testing might be for naught.
Geoff Peters, president of the Crofton, MD-based Creative Direct Response, knows statistics. He knows them well enough to know how valuable they can be in determining what works and what doesn’t when it comes to direct-response fundraising. He also knows they can be a real pill, if you don’t handle them correctly.
Here, a synopsis of Peters’ “Rules for Reading Statistics” from his session, “DM Metrics: Are you using the right ruler?,” which he presented recently to the Greater Toronto chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
1. Never use statistics as the only criteria for making decisions.
2. Never use statistics as anything more than a guideline for decisions.
3. Always question your statistical data in light of surrounding and outside influences (e.g. time of year, type of lists, politics, economy).
4. Try to determine trends in your results (e.g. “All health lists are doing X”).
5. Evaluate your tests both separately and as part of other mailings.
6. Define your goals before you test mail.
7. Define what you consider to be significant results before you become mired down in interpreting data after the fact.
8. When you test, isolate only one item to change in your test (e.g. carrier, reply, copy).
9. Be careful of projecting data in early days (before 28 days), because a number of items can affect the projections (e.g. number of Mondays, multiple mail dates, different post offices, actual days of return versus reported days of return).