In traditional advertising, you spend a lot of time and money coming up with that perfect creative campaign idea, produce the TV commercials/radio spots/print ads, let them loose in the wild and you're pretty much done.
In email marketing, it's never done. Every email is an opportunity to test and refine the creative. A simple tweak in your email campaigns could squeeze in some additional clicks, opens and even extra revenue from your subscribers.
You can pretty much test anything in an email, including the name of the sender, subject line, pre-header, header, image-to-text ratio, number of links, even the color of your font and call-to-actions … which can make the whole testing thing a little confusing and overwhelming, especially if you’re just starting an email campaign.
So you know you need to test, but where do you start? Here are some key essentials.
Develop a control email
A control email is you putting a stake in the ground as far as what you think will work for your audience, and the email to which you’ll be comparing your test emails. Take your best stab at developing your creative, copy, offer and messaging with your control email, and always test against this. Once you’ve beaten your control (in other words, achieved better results), then the new, more effective email becomes the control.
Test your list
Divide your list into two segments so that you can send one email to one group and the other email to – you guessed it – the second group. This tends to work better with larger lists (more than 1,000), because smaller lists may have a sample size too small to be statistically valid.
You also might want to separate your list by “customer” versus “lead.” This way you can eventually shift leads over to being customers, and send out different offers for each group.
Test different components within your email
Here’s the fun part. Select what you want to test. The subject line is a big one; if it doesn’t pique your readers’ interest, they won’t even see the content of your email. At VerticalResponse, we recently conducted a test where we created two exact copies of an email and only changed the subject line. One read “Get 50% Off Email Credits – Up to 1000!” and the other said “Get Your VR 10th Birthday Gift!” Guess which performed better? If you guessed the first one, where the offer is loud and clear, you're right. This subject line had a 3.8 percent lift in open rate and made 45 percent more revenue. (For more about this test, read my “Adventures in Testing” post on the Marketing Blog.)
Another popular element to test are call-to-actions. You can try text links with one email and buttons with the other.
When you try a new idea, make sure it contrasts sharply with your control email – it’s the only way to really determine what works and what doesn’t.
There are a lot of opinions out there regarding the best day of the week and best time to email, and the truth is, it’s different for every company and industry. But timing can have a significant effect on 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? Figuring out the best date and time might take a bit of trial and error, but it’s definitely worth it.
Soon enough, you’ll be able to spot what works and what’s less effective, and your email marketing campaigns should improve considerably.
Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse, a provider of email marketing, social media, online survey and direct mail marketing solutions.