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

April 28th, 2016 No comments

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.

 

 You may also like

Email Marketing Chart: How send frequency impacts read rate [MarketingSherpa Chart]

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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Testing and Optimization: Welcome send test results in 46% open rate for CNET

October 1st, 2015 2 comments

One of the most discussed sends in email marketing is the welcome email — and for good reason. This first email often acts as the first point of direct contact a customer has with your brand, so the pressure to make it as perfect as possible is there. That’s where testing comes into play.

In her session at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015, Diana Primeau, Director of Member Services, CNET, spoke on the importance of testing her brand’s welcome and nurturing series as well as how the brand utilized segmentation to create a more personalized content series. Described by Erin Hogg, Reporter, MarketingSherpa, as a “mentor and teacher here at MarketingSherpa,” Diana has spoken at several brand events and has an impressive amount of experience when it comes to testing.

[Note: MarketingSherpa is the sister company of MarketingExperiments]

The typical CNET user is someone who is interested in technology and wants to research certain technology to reach a buying decision. According to Diana, CNET is the largest tech site in the world, and the site sees over 100 million unique visitors every month. CNET also has a large newsletter portfolio, which includes 23 editorial newsletters that are hand-curated by the brand’s editors, two large marketing newsletters and three deal space newsletters.

“I feel pretty fortunate. I get to play in a pretty large sandbox,” she joked.

One of the most dynamic tests Diana presented during her Summit 2015 presentation tested CNET’s welcome series against five different treatments. This test was conducted with an A/B split design, and the changes to the treatments were made according to three factors:

  • Content
  • Subject lines
  • Advertisements

 

Watch the video excerpt below to learn how these drastic changes compared to Diana’s original hypothesis of including as much information for the user as possible.

Read more…

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Email Marketing: 5 test ideas for personalizing your email campaigns

September 3rd, 2015 No comments

Personalization is not new to email marketing; but has it lost some of its appeal with marketers?

Only 36% of marketers said they dynamically personalize email content using first names in subject lines and geo-location, according to the MarketingSherpa 2013 Email Marketing Benchmark Report. The report also revealed that only 37% of marketers segment email campaigns based on behavior.

However, marketers from various industries have seen incredible success with personalization. I dove into the library of MarketingSherpa, MarketingExperiments’ sister company, to find out how marketers have used both tried-and-true personalization tactics and innovative, tech-savvy strategies to better engage their customers and email audience.

No tactic or strategy is foolproof, so we suggest using these campaign tactics as testing ideas to see what works with your audience when it comes to email personalization.

 

Idea #1. Turn your email into a personal note, not a promotional email

As Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS Institute, says, “People don’t buy from websites, people buy from people.”

The same applies to emails. As we saw in a recent MarketingExperiments’ Web clinic, “Personalized Messaging Tested: How little changes to an email send led to a 380% change in response rate,” when inviting your customers to take an action or attend an event, sending the email from a real person on your team can have a huge impact on the results of your campaign.

Read more…

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Bet on Horses, Not Customer Assumptions: How the Kentucky Derby tested content for relevance with customers

July 23rd, 2015 1 comment

Assumptions can be a dangerous territory — especially when it comes to being relevant with your customers.

When a brand has a large gap between purchases, keeping customers engaged becomes a consistent concern.

The team at the Kentucky Derby faced that issue when they decided to use the weekly newsletter to identify and validate customer segments.

“When we look to grow a brand like the Kentucky Derby, that breadth of engagement is really core to our growth path,” Jeff Koleba, Vice President of Marketing and Programming, Kentucky Derby, said in this session from MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015.

To solve this issue, Jeff and Kate Ellis, Marketing Analyst, Kentucky Derby, decided to begin segmenting and directing content directly towards the customers who wanted it most. Within its established customer personas, the Derby focused testing on three segments:

  • Social content interests
  • Equine enthusiasts
  • Betting/wagering information

Once they set up segmentation and supported it with relevant content, the team began optimizing for maximum engagement.

Read more…

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The Importance of Customer Centricity in Evolving A/B Testing

June 29th, 2015 2 comments

When we talk about A/B testing, we often think about it on a test-by-test basis. While this singular focus is beneficial, it overlooks testing’s role as an ongoing system for optimization.

At MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015, Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, sat down with Lauren Wagner, Senior Manager, and Tessa Srebro, Lead Generation and Marketing Associate, both of VolunteerMatch, to discuss how to utilize A/B testing to constantly evolve programs.

Lauren and Tessa’s company, VolunteerMatch, is a nonprofit organization that is the world’s largest volunteering network. It also has an interesting funding model. The company sells a Software as a Service (SaaS) product to companies to help fund its organization and, so far, this model has generated almost $1 billion in social value each year through its work with nonprofits and volunteers. VolunteerMatch is also more than familiar with the benefits of testing, as evidenced by the subject line test it ran with MarketingExperiments.

Watch the excerpt below from the MarketingSherpa Media Center to learn how keeping up with current trends and thinking like a consumer can help evolve your testing and your company.

 

Keep up with current trends and your customers

Keeping up with current customer trends is one of the most important pieces of advice Lauren Wagner gave when asked how to keep a company’s A/B testing constantly evolving. Be sure that you’re keeping up with current trends in the marketplace, but don’t forget to take the time to learn about your customers.

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Email Marketing: What assets should marketers be using to design better emails?

June 1st, 2015 No comments

Data is officially everywhere. It’s even infiltrating the design of emails — and for good reason.

“The more you know about your audience, obviously the better you can tailor an email design to someone,” Justine Jordan, Marketing Director, Litmus, said.

Justine sat down with Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa (sister company of MarketingExperiments), at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015, to discuss what tools marketers can access to better their email creatives.

When asked what is the biggest asset email marketers have when designing their next email, Justine answered data.

“Data can be a really powerful tool for helping a designer decide how to layout their campaigns,” she said.

Watch the whole interview here:

 

How can data make design better?

In the interview, Justine shared a few types of data that can benefit email designers:

  • What people have looked at in the past
  • What kind of email services people are opening up
  • What type of content has resonated with clients in the past

When asked how one of these could be applied to campaigns, Justine talked about technical compatibilities. For instance, GIFs don’t work properly in Outlook 2007. By using past data, you can know beforehand if a portion of your readers use that email service. If they do, and you use a GIF, then your email campaign won’t be as effective as it would have been if you had segmented that audience to use a more Outlook 2007 friendly design.

Read more…

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