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!
By starting with simple rules you can be a testing genius. An old direct marketing rule of thumb is the 40/40/20 rule. Simply put, 40% of your response is driven from your list, 40% from your offer and 20% from your creative. With email it can be a bit different, since your list and your relationship with your recipients will dictate if they even see your offer due to the potential of them filtering you. For this reason we like to put more emphasis on the list so for email we'll go with the 60/20/20 rule. How do you put this to work? Here are some ideas for each part of this rule which can hopefully help you garner better results.
Develop a “Control” Email
What is a "control"? It's you putting a stake in the ground as far as what you think will work for your audience. 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, then 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 1000); smaller lists may have a sample size too small to be statistically valid. Either way it doesn't hurt to try.
You also might want to try separating your list by "customer" vs. "lead". This way you can try moving the leads along to one day be customers and you can have different offers go to your customers.
Test Different Variables Within Your Email
When you try a new idea, make sure it contrasts sharply with the wording, theme or style of your control – it’s the only way to really determine what works and what doesn’t. With so many different variables you can test, here are just a few:
Offer – Your offer is 20% of your response so let’s get it right. Once you have your list segments in order try some different offers to your list.
- Test a hard sell (Buy now for only $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 - a free product with purchase vs. no free product
- Test free shipping vs. discount
Look and Feel – You’ve built your control based on your brand and what you are trying to accomplish. Now 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 test it out.
- Mail Format and Layout - 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 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 get your email opened. If you can get access your list of those who did not open your email, you can send another one with a different subject line.
- Test your offer wording – 20% Discount and Complimentary shipping vs. Complimentary shipping and 20% discount, remember to stay away from excessively using the word “free”.
- Test different article headlines from your newsletter too see what gets opened more.
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?
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 gut feel with trial-and-error.
Test Your Frequency
The volume of email you send, as well as the frequency with which you mail your list affects the response. Does regular mean twice a week or once every two weeks? It really depends on what you told your recipients when they registered, so if you do test, don’t stray too far from what they expect.
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 may have changed email addresses in the meantime and forget to inform you.
Got any insights on testing? Tell us!