Testing can be an important part of your email marketing strategy. A simple tweak in your email campaign could squeeze in some additional clicks, opens or even added revenue! Here are some ideas for each part of this rule that can hopefully help you garner better results.
Get “control” of the situation
What is a “control”? It’s you putting a stake in the ground regarding what you think will work for your audience OR using what you have commonly used to date as a benchmark. You can’t really determine if any changes you make to your campaign in your test are having an effect unless you have a comparison baseline. That’s where the control message comes in; it’s a handy reference point that allows you to evaluate those “tweaks” you made in your campaign.
So take your best stab at developing your creative, copy, offer and messaging, and always test against that control email. Once you’ve beaten your control, that is, garnered a better result, the new email becomes the control.
Test your list
A good way to test your list is to simply divide your mailing list into different segments, send each group a different email, and determine which one got the better response. This usually works best with larger lists (over 1,000); smaller lists may have a sample size too small to be statistically valid. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to try.
Test small, roll big!
If you’re fortunate enough to have a larger list of 10,000 or more, consider reserving 20 percent of the total addresses for testing purposes. If a particular tactic yielded great results with this group, then you can feel confident rolling it out to the remaining 80 percent of your mailing list. Feel like being a cowboy? Test a new offer to your entire list and compare it with the previous mailing. Yee hah!
Test different variables within your email
When you try a new idea, make sure it contrasts with the wording, theme or style of your control email – it’s the only way to really determine what works and what doesn’t work. The key here is to get them clicking. With so many different variables you can test, here are just a few:
Offer – Your offer is very important so let’s get it right. Once you have your list segments in order, try sending some different offers to your list. Try to get the offer in the subject line if you can.
- Test a hard sell (Buy now $29.95) vs. soft sell (include content around your offer).
- Test pricing – $29.95 vs. $39.95.
- Test varying discount levels – 20% vs. 30% off.
- Test a free offer, such as offering a free product with purchase vs. no free product.
- Test free shipping vs. discount.
- Test one product vs. multiple products.
- Test a multi-step approach – Free trial vs. hard sell.
Look and feel – You’ve built a “control” based on your brand and what you are trying to accomplish. Since a good portion of your response is based on your creative, you can learn by testing specific variables within your email as it relates to your general look.
- Colors and fonts – Try not to stray TOO far from your branded image but if you’re looking to boost response do a test, see if it works. (Keep in mind filtering rules from Creating your Email.)
- Mail format – Test text vs. HTML, long vs. short form, or columns vs. vertical layout.
- Length of message – Include the entire message in the email or just a small teaser with a link to the rest of the information.
- Degree of personalization – Test no personalization vs. personalized name.
- Subject line – Your subject line, as I’ve mentioned, is one of the most important parts of your email. If it doesn’t get opened you don’t get your desired results. So go ahead and test within the subject line to increase your open rates. If you can, get your list of those who did not open your email, and send another one with a different subject line.
- Test your offer wording – “20% discount and complimentary shipping” vs. “Complimentary shipping and 20% discount”.
- Test the word “free” vs. “complimentary” to do a “filter” test.
- Different article headlines from your newsletter – Five Tips – How to Grow Tomatoes vs. Growing Tomatoes – Your Guide
Test your mailing days
The day of the week and even the time of day when an email is received can have a significant effect on the response. Does your audience consist largely of people with desk jobs who check email throughout the day, or do they check personal accounts in the evening hours? Are your clients located in one region of the country or spread across several time zones?
The impact of timing will vary according to the target market for each company, so there’s no hard-and-fast rule. The only way you can determine what’s best for your audience is to supplement common sense with trial-and-error.
Test your frequency
This is the toughest of all to test. You really need to track how often you’re mailing and the decline of response as well as a possible increase/decrease in unsubscribes.
The volume of email you send as well as the frequency with which you mail your list affects the response. It’s generally accepted that “regular” emailing is more effective than sporadic efforts, but does regular mean twice a week or once every two weeks? It really depends on what you told your recipients when they registered. If you do test, don’t stray too far from what they expect and only test a small segment to start.
Also, be aware of your frequency as it relates to bounces and unsubscribes. If you mail too sporadically, you’re likely to lose your recipient’s interest or they’ll change email addresses in the meantime and forget to inform you. If you mail too much, you are likely to frustrate them. Find your balance.
There’s no magic bullet with email testing, but even the seemingly smallest change could produce dramatic results. Just because email marketing is more affordable than most forms of advertising doesn’t mean you can afford to squander what you’ve invested. A well-conceived testing program is sure to improve the results of your email campaigns – and your bottom line.
Most importantly, incorporate the changes one at a time. If you introduce a number of new twists to your traditional approach, there’s no reliable way to tell which one is responsible for the success or failure of the new email campaign.
About the Author
VerticalResponse is a leading provider of self-service email marketing and direct mail services empowering businesses of all sizes to create, manage and analyze their own direct marketing campaigns. VerticalResponse’s flagship product, which allows customers to deliver sophisticated yet easily deployed email campaigns, is the most intuitive and affordable Web-based direct marketing solution available. For additional information,please visit www.verticalresponse.com.