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Email Marketing: How A/B testing raised $500 million for Obama for America

March 10th, 2014 2 comments

At Optimization Summit 2013, attendees had a chance to gain a behind-the-scenes look at the one of the biggest marketing efforts ever. The result of this effort alone generated $500 million in donations, just from the email campaign.

The best part about this Summit presentation? All of the key takeaways can be applied to your own marketing efforts.

The 2012 presidential election was the chance for the team at Obama for America to apply A/B testing to email campaigns and learn what motivated their audience to donate.

Toby Fallsgraff, Email Director, and Amelia Showalter, Director of Digital Analytics, both of Obama for America, walked the Summit audience through their process in designing and executing email tests for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

In this video excerpt from the full session, Toby and Amelia discuss the first lesson they learned from their work for Obama for America: content matters.

 

“We found this pretty cut and dry that no matter what we did, the different versions we would test and the subject lines actually made a difference,” Toby said.

The impact on testing the language and style of email content and subject lines was dramatic. According to Toby, the difference between sending the best email and the worst was huge – nearly $2 million in revenue.

One of the most consistent discoveries the team made was that the top-earning sends were personal and resonated with the audience in an approachable way.

“I think it gave the impression that there were real people writing these emails, that it wasn’t focus-grouped to death. It was something more off the cuff,” Amelia said.

To learn more about the team’s efforts, check out the full replay, which reveals how you can foster a culture of testing in your organization just like Obama for America did, and much more.

Also, if you’re interested, MarketingSherpa and MarketingExperiments will be teaming up again this spring in New York City to present Web Optimization Summit 2014.

Read more…

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A/B Testing: Is responsive design worth the investment?

February 3rd, 2014 1 comment

Is responsive design worth the investment?

It depends on whom you ask.

You can ask the experts, receive a variety of replies and hopefully draw some conclusions from their answers. Or, you can look to your customer data for insights through a little testing and optimization.

During a recent Web clinic, Austin McCraw, Senior Director, Content Production, and Jon Powell, Senior Executive Content Writer, both of MECLABS, revealed how marketers at a news media organization decided to forego relying on expert opinions and put responsive design to the test.

First, let’s review the research notes for some background information on the test.

Background: A large news media organization trying to determine whether it should invest in responsive mobile design.

Goal: To significantly increase the number of free trial sign-ups.

Primary Research Question: Which design will generate the highest rate of free trial sign-ups?

Approach: A/B multifactor split test

 

Here’s a screenshot depicting both design approaches as they render responsively and unresponsively on desktop, tablet and mobile devices.

Read more…

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Mobile Optimization: How the Ritz-Carlton Destination Club increased its mobile email traffic 243%

February 15th, 2013 No comments

With MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013 just around the corner, I wanted to touch on a strategy that, for the most part, is uncharted by marketers – mobile email marketing. According to the MarketingSherpa 2013 Mobile Marketing Benchmark Report, only 11% of marketers are using mobile email marketing as a tactic.

Q: Which mobile marketing tactics does your organization currently use?

 

What can we learn?

So what can be learned from the pioneers currently active in the mobile space?

For starters, developing a mobile marketing program from scratch is going to produce some tough challenges marketers like Alex Corzo, Manager of Digital Communications and CRM, Marriot Vacations Worldwide – parent company of The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club – can attest to.

At last year’s Email Summit, Alex presented the four-step process his team used to develop and optimize a mobile pilot program on a shoestring budget.

According to Alex, the team encountered two key challenges:

  • Landing pages not optimized for mobile browsing
  • Limited resources

So, in today’s MarketingExperiments blog post, you can watch Alex’s session from Email Summit 2012. Our goal is to share a proven blueprint you can used to aid your own mobile email marketing efforts.

 


Related Resources:

Mobile Marketing: 59% did not perform any mobile testing or optimization

Mobile Marketing 101: 5 ideas to help you begin a conversation with your team

Mobile Marketing 101: Should you make the leap to a custom mobile site?

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Marketing Optimization: You can’t find the true answer without the right question

November 28th, 2011 1 comment

It’s the holiday time, so let me talk about a holiday. Passover, naturally (hey, if you want to succeed in marketing, don’t follow the crowds).

In the classic seder, there are The Four Sons. For this blog post, I’m going to focus on “the one who does not know how to ask a question” because I think that’s a perfect explanation of where many marketers are right now with their testing practices. For example, according to Jeff Rice’s just released 2012 Email Marketing Benchmark Report, he found that 85% of marketers don’t even know why they’re running every test they run!

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Click to enlarge

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Take a look at the second field in this chart. Only 15% of marketers routinely define the question, objective, and key metric when running a test. Why bother taking the time to set up a test if you don’t know what you’re looking for in the first place?

My guess is, that like the fourth son referenced above, they simply do not know how to ask. So in today’s blog post, I want to briefly discuss how to write a research question. And in this Thursday’s MarketingSherpa webinar – Negative Lifts: Turning a 25% loss into a 141% increase in conversion – Junior Editorial Analyst Paul Cheney and I will be discussing in more depth how you can learn about your customers from tests, along with Tina Hou, the director of product marketing for webinar sponsor TRUSTe.

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How to create a clear research question

While all of the elements in Jeff’s chart are important for running a valuable test (i.e. truly learning what really works with your customers), the research question will play the biggest role in guiding your test design.

That said, the research question is just one part of step #11 (“Test Comps”) in the MarketingExperiments Optimization process. Before our analysts begin to design tests using the MECLABS Test Protocol (in which they define the research question) and begin the iterative testing process, they do everything from determining the page objective to submitting comps for peer review (you can see our full landing page optimization process in session 7 of our paid Landing Page Optimization Online Course.)

While I obviously can’t cover the entire process in this blog post, if I can help you write a true research question, I can set you on the path to learning about your customers from your tests. This is a complex process, but if I had to simplify it into three steps, I would say…

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1. Start with asking “what” you want to know

Clearly you’re running a test for a reason. Write that question down on a piece of paper. Go ahead, do it, I’ll wait.

Now pass that piece of paper (or email) around. Are all of the key players aligned that this is, in fact, what are you trying to learn from your tests?

For example, you may want to know “What is the best price for product X?” This is the variable you will test.

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2. Turn this into a question of “which”

Good start. Except the only problem is, to truly answer the above question, you would have to test an infinite number of prices. And I’m guessing your time, resources, traffic, and patience are not infinite.

So to narrow your focus, you want to ask a question of “which.” Not only will this force you to think about exactly how you’re designing your test, it helps you create a testing-optimization cycle to continually learn about your customers from your tests and improve your marketing performance.

A year from now, when you’re been promoted three times for driving such impressive results, and the new hotshot your direct report’s direct report hired sees a test that asks, “Which of these three price points – $1, $2, or $3 – is best for product X?” he will know exactly what you tested. And exactly what you learned about the customer.

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3. Add in your KPI

So now you know exactly which prices (technically speaking, which values of your variable) you need to design a test around. The next question you need to ask is – how do I pick a winner?

You certainly don’t want to write the rules after the fact. “My favorite analogy for this is throwing a rock in the forest and saying, ‘look, I hit that tree,’” said Phillip Porter, Data Analyst, MECLABS. “If you aren’t aiming for something before you start, how do you know if you hit what you aimed for?”

What KPI (key performance indicator) will help you determine which value is the winner? To reformulate our example question, you would say “Which of these three price points – $1, $2, or $3 – will generate the most revenue for product X?”

Now everyone on your team (and everyone on your team a year from now) knows exactly how you define “best.” If you don’t think through and define the question beforehand, you might just try to come up with an answer based on whatever metrics you had on hand after the test is run. For example, choosing sales instead of revenue, and picking a winner that sells more product but generates less money in your pocket.

You might also not even have the chance to redefine the rules after the test is run since, since depending on the metric, the testing platform, and your transactional data system, you might not have captured the KPI that you later determine would have been most effective to know.

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“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” – Lewis Carroll

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In the end, the value of the research question is that it helps ensure all the effort and resources you invest in testing and optimization gets you to where you want to go. Or, as Phillip related, you might as well be testing through the looking glass…

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
Alice: …so long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.

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Related Resources:

Research Update: The state of email marketing testing and optimization

Negative Lifts: Turning a 25% loss into a 141% increase in conversion – Thursday, December 1, 1 p.m. EST

MarketingSherpa 2012 Email Marketing Benchmark Report

Landing Page Optimization: How IBM applied homepage redesign learnings to landing page testing

 

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SEO Landing Pages: How your peers optimize for traffic and conversion

October 12th, 2011 8 comments

Every marketer is trying to find ways to tap into the traffic-generating beast that is The Google to drive conversions. Or, so I thought. You can imagine my surprise when I cracked open the new MarketingSherpa 2012 Search Marketing  Benchmark Report – SEO Edition and found that just 51% of marketers use SEO landing pages.

And yet, 93% of marketers are using keyword/keyphrase research. Which tells me that marketers are spending a lot of time, energy and resources to drive traffic to a general site, homepage, or other page that isn’t specifically optimized for conversion. Hey, traffic’s great, but a man’s gotta eat.

So why aren’t more marketers using SEO landing pages?

Well, according to MECLABS Research Analyst Kaci Bower’s report, 54% of marketers found SEO landing pages to be very or somewhat difficult (that number hit 92% among marketers only in the Trial phase of SEO). And for good reason. I like to think of Google like the Federal Reserve, as Ben Bernanke once described himself, they are always “purposely vague.”

In essence, there is no scientific process to SEO, it’s mostly trying to figure out what the man behind the curtain is up to. So while we can’t remove all the mysteries that make SEO difficult for you, we can help you determine how to optimize the conversion on SEO landing pages in a way that lessens the chance of messing up an already high SERP ranking, or starting from scratch and creating a page with good SEO potential to begin with that you can also test and optimize to make sure it doesn’t generate traffic, but also converts that traffic.

So in today’s Web clinic at 4 p.m. EDT – SEO Landing Pages: How we achieved 548% more conversions without damaging organic rankings – MECLABS Managing Director Dr. Flint McGlaughlin will share our discoveries about optimizing SEO landing pages to help you overcome some of that difficulty.

Our focus will be more on LPO and less on SEO tactics. And, our goal is to help you determine the basic search engine optimization factors to consider when building a landing page, but mostly how to take all that traffic you can get from Google, Yahoo!, Bing and the like, and turn that into revenue, leads, and donations.

But before we share our discoveries, we asked your peers their top advice about SEO landing pages. Here are a few of our favorite responses, starting with the in-depth, very helpful first response … Read more…

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Value Proposition: A free worksheet to help you win arguments in any meeting

August 24th, 2011 7 comments

Perhaps you’ve been in a similar meeting. We were discussing plans for the upcoming Email Summit, when someone brought up an idea for an interesting pre-event workshop.

We debated it a little. The pros. The cons.

Personally, I loved the idea.

But how should we decide if this was the right approach to take? Based on our past experience? Based on the highest paid person’s opinion? Based on the stars?

The fault, dear Brutus, lies in our value props (or lack thereof)

And then Justin Bridegan, Senior Marketing Manager, MECLABS, said something that instantly killed the conversation, “Wait a minute…this idea goes against our value proposition.”

As Alex Bogusky has said, “The most effective advertising a company does is the way it conducts business.” If we do something that goes against our value proposition, that flies in the face of the value we provide our customers, and all the marketing and advertising in the world is not going to help us once we’ve burned that bridge.

For this reason, a value proposition serves as an excellent North Star to help guide decisions made in any strategy meeting or on any steering committee, much like an A/B test is a great way to win any marketing debate (“Which headline will perform better? Instead of debating, let’s try both and see what our customers tell us.”)

If we didn’t have that clearly defined value proposition, the decision would not have been as clear cut. Read more…

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