Selena Blue

Email Marketing: 9 testing opportunities to generate big wins on your next email test [Part 1]

April 28th, 2016

Email is a great medium for testing. It’s low cost, and typically requires less resources than website testing. It’s also near the beginning of your funnel, where you can impact a large portion of your customer base.

Sometimes it can be hard to think of new testing strategies, so we’ve pulled from 20 years of research and testing to provide you with a launching pad of ideas to help create your next test.

In this post and next Monday’s, we’re going to review 16 testing opportunities you can test around seven email campaign elements.

To start you out, let’s look at nine opportunities that don’t even require you to change the copy in your next email.


Subject Line Testing

Testing Opportunity #1. The sequence of your message

Recipients of your email might give your subject line just a few words to draw them in, so the order of your message plays an important role.

In the MarketingExperiments Web clinic “The Power of the Properly Sequenced Subject Line: Improve email performance by using the right words, in the right order,” the team reviewed several tests that demonstrate the importance of thought sequence in your subject lines.

Try testing point-first messaging. Start with what the recipient will get from your message and the email.

By reordering the thought sequence — plus adding a few more tangible of details — the below subject line test saw a 10% relative increase in opens and the clickthrough rate increased by 15%.


Testing Opportunities #2 and #3. Internal issues and external events to build relevance

In the Web clinic, “Subject Lines that Convert: A review of 100+ successful subject lines reveals what motivates people to open (or delete) an email,” the team identified two ways to immediately connect with subscribers through the subject line: an internal issue or an external issue.

First, let’s look at an example of internal issues.

From This — Subject Line: [Company Name]: A New Way to Order

To This — Subject Line: [Company Name]: Now only 2-meal minimum order

The first subject line is vague and doesn’t clearly connect to why the subscriber should care. The second subject line connects to an issue that some of customers might have internally felt in the past. This built relevance to their wants and needs, enticed them to open the email and resulted in a 25.3% lift.

However, the greater impact is seen in clickthrough. Because the subject line clearly communicated a new solution to a known internal problem, subscribers opened the email with more interest and motivation, resulting in a 196% increase in clicks.

Check out this list of potential internal issues you can explore in your subject line testing:

  • Limited resources (time, money and help)
  • Unmet expectations (work and family)
  • Deficient skillsets (inability or inadequacy)
  • Operational difficulties (routine usability)
  • Fragmented perspectives (ignorance or misunderstanding)

Next, let’s review an external event subject line test.

From This — Subject Line: It’s easy to access your [Bank Name] Accounts Online. Sign On Now

To This — Subject Line: [Name], Your Account Information Is Ready To View

The first subject line is a general statement. It’s easy to access. Okay. You want me to sign on. Okay. But why? Why should I sign on now? It hasn’t connected an event with why I should take that step.

However, the second subject line states my information is now ready to view. Something has occurred. It gives me a reason to sign on. By providing a reason to sign on, it increased opens by 92.2% over the first subject line.

Here are a few other types of external events to consider when trying to build relevance:

  • An action or behavior
  • A conversation
  • A single exchange (completed or abandoned)
  • A cancellation (membership, contract or recurring transactions)
  • A service interaction


Preheader Copy Testing

Testing Opportunity #4. Value copy in preheader

One area of the email is often overlooked is the preheader text. However, many inboxes, both mobile and desktop, allow subscribers to see these extra 35 or so characters before opening your email. And what message are you sending with the text, “If you have trouble displaying this email, view it as a webpage”? Should I often expect problems with your email? Should I bother opening it if I do?

This space is an opportunity to add more value to your email and entice subscribers to open.

According to Justine Jordan, Marketing Director, Litmus, at a past MarketingSherpa Email Summit, you want the preheader copy to “tie into the subject line, bringing [readers] in and encouraging the click.”

Justine provided a few good examples she has come across.


“From” Field Testing

Testing Opportunity #5. Company versus person’s name

If you’ve been a long-time reader of MarketingExperiments, you’ve probably heard us say, “People don’t buy from companies; people buy from people.” This would could be a great test for your next email send. If your emails normally come from your company name, you might try humanizing your email by using the name of a prominent figure in your organization.


Testing Opportunity #6. Executive versus customer-involved employee

Once you determine that sending emails from a person works better, it could be worth a test to find the right person. While subscribers might recognize your CEO, they also know the chances of the CEO being directly involved in the email are slim. A lower-level employee with a title that connects to what your email is about could be found more favorable by subscribers because they might see that person as more real and involved. The email won’t feel faked.


Email Send Time Testing

In the Web clinic, “When Should You Send An Email? How one of the largest banks in the world discovered when to send its emails,” the MECLABS team revealed research about email send time based on multiple experiments in the MECLABS research library. The clinic detailed three testing opportunities around email send time.


Testing Opportunity #7. The time of day

Timing can greatly impact not only if your emails are opened, but the engagement level you achieve beyond the open.

Early morning sends could get subscribers to open on their commutes, but will they take action on a mobile device? Or would an afternoon send get lost in a crowded inbox?

A large financial institution wanted to increase the number of completed applications it received from an email. To do so, it tested two times of day: 3 a.m. versus 3 p.m. The 3 p.m. send time saw a 13.5% increase in clickthrough.


Testing Opportunity #8. The day of the week

The above time of day experiment also tested all seven days of the week. While Tuesday has often been cited as a good day to send emails, it performed the lowest. The best performing day: Sunday, with a 23.2% lift in clickthrough rate over Tuesday.

Remember, there is not a magical best day or time. Test and let your audience tell you which day (and time) works best for them. Even when testing the same group of people, different products or services could change the day or time the group is likely to respond. What works for B2C might not work for B2B. And what works for grocery stores might not work for media streaming brands.


Testing Opportunity #9. Frequency

The clinic identified a third opportunity in the email timing area: frequency. A large ecommerce company wanted to find the optimal send frequency for a portion of its list. For the company, this meant the frequency that would generate the most revenue without increasing the unsubscribe rate.

The team segmented the group into seven email frequencies:

  • 21 days
  • 14 days
  • 10 days
  • 7 days
  • 5 days
  • 3 days
  • 2 days

The team determined that when sending the email at the rate of once a week, the company would miss three times the amount of revenue it could be making if sending every other day without negatively affecting unsubscribes or the open rate.

That’s a huge potential lift in projected monthly revenue, and definitely worth a test for your list.


Stay tuned

Check back on Monday for the second portion of our email testing opportunities compilation, when we review experiment ideas around your design, body copy and calls-to-action.


You can follow Selena Blue, Manager of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute on Twitter at @SelenaLBlue.


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Collaborative A/B Testing: Consumer Reports increases revenue per donation 32% [MarketingSherpa Case Study]

Email Marketing: Preheader testing generates 30% higher newsletter open rate for trade journal


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Daniel Burstein

Transparent Marketing: Research into social media marketing reveals surprising consumer discovery

April 25th, 2016

If you’ve read MarketingExperiments for any amount of time, you’ve seen how clarity trumps persuasion. Instead of trying to sell in marketing emails or on landing pages, help your customers clearly understand the value they will get from your conversion objective.

That’s why I was so surprised by some research I recently came across about sharing promotions on social media, a medium where selling is particularly frowned upon.

You can watch the interview with Dr. Lauri Baker, Assistant Professor in Agricultural Communications at Kansas State University and co-creator of the Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement, where we discuss this specific research along with other social media marketing tips. Below the video, I’ll give you my take on the subject.


Social media is a great channel for transparent marketing.

“There has been a lot of research done on transparency,” Dr. Baker told me. “Everybody wants to see that product from start to finish. They want to see that farmer aspect; they want to see that created in an authentic environment. A lot of that happens from just stories. Highlighting the people that are producing this food or this product, and show the places that it’s coming from. Those are the things that customers are really connecting with and wanting to see.”

Read more…

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Andrea Johnson

Grow Digital Subscriptions with 4 Proven Insights

April 21st, 2016

What drives people to sign up for digital subscriptions, especially when similar content can be easily obtain elsewhere for free? To answer this question, MECLABS Institute recently completed a survey of 900 U.S. consumers who spend at least three hours a week reading print or digital news content and earn at least $40,000 annually. Academic and industry experts were also interviewed as part of the research.

The full results are compiled in a MECLABS Executive Series report. However, we’re giving our readers a special high-level look at those results in this post and in this month’s MarketingExperiments 35-minute Web clinic replay, “Digital Subscriptions Boosted: Survey of 900 U.S. news consumers reveals four key insights to increase your subscriber base.” You can also watch an abbreviated, 10-minute interactive Research Brief.


Insight #1. Consumers sign up when they understand that a digital subscription will provide them a valuable experience that other products can’t match.

Consider an experiment conducted by a national newspaper. Treatment A focused on the value of subscribing to online news.

Treatment B focused on a discounted entry-level price. While value was mentioned on the landing page, the primary focus was the discount.

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Regina Love

Marketing Optimization: 4 steps to more efficient practices and processes

April 18th, 2016

24 hours. That is all we have to accomplish the one million tasks on our daily agendas. Do you find yourself subconsciously running strategic tests to ensure that you are spending your time efficiently? Whether it is experimenting with alternative routes to work each day or using multiple programs to manage your inbox, task lists and projects, in the end, you want to make sure that you aren’t wasting a minute of your day on a tedious task.

Marketing optimization is the process of improving marketing efforts to maximize desired business outcomes. As an operations manager, part of my role is to improve and advance my team’s business processes to allow them the opportunity to spend quality time on the departments’ goals that will ultimately help benefit our audience.

Marketing optimization

When optimizing your marketing practices, the first thing you want to consider is the customer experience. If that part of the equation fails, it’s back to the drawing board even if that process works well for your team.

As marketers, the main challenge we face is making the time to define successful practices. Instead, teams tend to simply follow processes as they have always been done. We need to forget the short-term excuse of not having enough time and make time to start thinking about the future.

To optimize your own marketing processes, follow these four simple steps.

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Ken Bowen

Social Media Testing: How simple changes to Twitter copy led to a 119% increase in clickthrough

April 14th, 2016

Here at MECLABS Institute, parent company of MarketingExperiments, we never stop testing. Whether it be subject lines, email copy, Web clinic format or landing pages,  a day rarely goes by where there isn’t an experiment taking place on our campus. This culture of testing extends far beyond just the optimization team — it permeates the entire organization.

Case in point, a recent Twitter test imagined by our resident marketing operations specialist, Walker Ragland. Walker is famous around the Institute for his quick wit, strong marketing copy and love of all things Valdosta, Georgia. You might recognize Walker from last month’s MECLABS Live Optimization webinar, where he provided viewers with actionable tips on improving the performance of their site banners.

“Social media is still a new frontier for this company, so I’ve been encouraged with a generous budget to test out what works and what doesn’t work as far as different aspects of the creative of social,” Walker told me.

Armed with this healthy testing budget and a strong team supporting him, Walker has recently set out to test some of our social media sends across multiple platforms.

For this experiment, Walker wanted to test which Twitter messaging approach would work best when promoting the newest issue of the MECLABS Institute Executive Series.

“This is a relatively new product,  so I tried three different copy options with this test,” Walker said. “The first option used a quote from the piece, and it was a positive quote. The second featured a quote based on a negative point. And then the third option was just a standard offer.”

Take a look at the three approaches that he tested and see if you can correctly pick the winning treatment.


Version A: Positive messaging

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Daniel Burstein

Value Force: How to win on value proposition and not just price

April 11th, 2016

A recent question we received is a fairly common concern we hear from readers  customers only care about price — what do I do? So we’ve decided to answer it here on the MarketingExperiments Blog, since the answer might help you as well. And if you have a question you’d like answered on the blog, let us know.

Thanks for the outstanding workshop on value proposition. I agree that value propositions are the core to growth for any brand but the challenge I have is marketing products in a highly commoditized and fragmented category (olive oil).  Price is such a dominant element of the value proposition that it’s difficult to compete unless you’re competitive on price, which is a no-win strategy. How have you seen other brands effectively create and market a value proposition that did not rely strongly on price? ”

– Brian


First, let me start by defining terms, which might help. Price is not an element of the value proposition. Price is part of the cost force of the buying decision.

For every purchase customers make, they weigh the cost against the value. If the cost is too high, they will not purchase. So, essentially, a company that does not have a strong enough value force (Vf) must reduce the cost force (Cf) to get the sale.

Read more…

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