Would you test this in Finland?

I just finished reading Confessions of a Direct Mail Guy by Gordon Grossman.

While Grossman isn’t well known today, he was one of the brilliant marketers who made Reader’s Digest one of the biggest magazines in the world in the ’60s and ’70s.

Grossman had a saying:

“Don’t make tiny tests.”

Reader’s Digest and the other large magazines Grossman worked with were way ahead of their time in terms of sophisticated marketing.

Because they mailed in such large volumes, they theoretically COULD test everything.

For example, Grossman once found himself embroiled in a debate over whether to test a male name vs. a female name as the signer of a promotional letter.

He had a handy rule of thumb for these situations:

“Would you test this in Finland?”

Since Finland had a population about 2% that of the U.S., the client would quickly run out of people to mail if they insisted on testing every tiny little variable.

Debate over.

The recommendation to “Test everything” is often thrown about in marketing circles.

In reality, 95% of businesses don’t get enough subscribers to their email list to run more than a handful of valid tests per year.

Forget Finland (population 5.5 million)—most businesses are more like Luxembourg (population 550,000).

When you’re thinking about a test, ask yourself:

If I could only run ONE test this year, would THIS test be the one?