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Email Optimization: Testing best time of day and day of week for email interaction

September 22nd, 2014 6 comments

When do you check your personal email? Do you let it build up throughout the work week and go through it during the weekends? Do you check it on Monday when you’re also sorting through your work email? Or do you check it while you’re at lunch or on a quick, but much-needed, break from work?

In today’s MarketingExperiments Blog post, we’re going to explore which times of the day and days of the week people are most likely to interact with their emails — two questions of optimal interest for any emailing campaign.

 

Testing  the time of day when people interact with email

In email testing, we focus so much on the content and landing page of the email, but that hard work won’t pay off if email recipients don’t open or clickthrough the email. We wanted to get a better understanding of when people interact with emails to determine the best time of the day and day of the week to send promotional emails.

First, we began testing what time of day people are most likely to open and interact with emails.

Emails were currently being sent out on Mondays and Wednesdays at 7 a.m. EST. We hypothesized that by sending emails at various times throughout the day, we would learn the optimal times recipients are most likely to open and clickthrough their emails.

In an A/B split test, we sent a promotional email at 7 a.m., 3 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. EST on a Monday. We wanted to isolate the general times of day people may be interacting with their email.

3 a.m. was tested to determine if people were more likely to interact with their emails as soon as they wake up in the morning and before they start their day, while 3 p.m. would tell us if people were checking their emails in the afternoons.

Lastly, 7 p.m. results would show that recipients were more likely to check and interact with their email in the evenings or later at night.

By sending emails at 7 p.m. EST instead of 7 a.m. EST, we saw a 12% lift in open rate:

  

Read more…

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Email Marketing: 3 resources to help you optimize your next campaign

September 8th, 2014 No comments

Email by far remains the trusty pack mule for most marketers.

This is understandable given the growth within this channel (thanks in part to mobile), which continues to produce a solid ROI.

But, as they say, satisfaction is only the death of desire. There is always room for improvement. To save you from the pitfall of merely being satisfactory, here are three resources that will help you optimize your email marketing program and, hopefully, deliver a dynamic customer experience in your next send.

 

Watch: Subject Lines That Convert

 

In this Web clinic replay, Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS, reviews two effective approaches for building an immediate connection with customers through your subject lines.

How it helps

One big takeaway from this clinic you need to understand is that customers aren’t trying to open your emails; they are trying to eliminate them.

To prevent elimination, marketers must effectively transfer a customer’s attention into interest.

According to Flint, the transfer occurs when you “create a space in the prospect’s mind that can only be filled with what is coming next.”  

Read more…

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Email Marketing: Compliance-related re-engagement campaign messaging increases conversion 49%

September 4th, 2014 1 comment

A name in a database does not a customer make.

You need customers and potential customers who actually want to receive email from you. To do that with your current email list — either for legal compliance reasons, like the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), or to win-back unengaged subscribers (like CNET did) — it may make sense for your company to run a re-engagement campaign.

We recently ran a re-engagement and reconfirmation campaign for our Canadian subscribers of MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa. The challenge for me when writing these emails was finding which messaging would be most compelling to subscribers.

At MECLABS, a challenge like that is a great opportunity to run a test, and then share the results with you on the MarketingExperiments Blog to help with your own campaigns.

To the splitter!

 

Treatment #1. Value of subscribing to the list only

Treatment 1 offered a reminder of the value our newsletters provide before asking the recipient to continue receiving these emails:

 

Treatment No. 1

  Read more…

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Email Marketing: Does your copywriting accomplish these 6 key objectives?

August 11th, 2014 3 comments

When writing an email message, it’s easy to break the goal down to one thing – just trying to write compelling enough copy to get a click.

But how do you actually earn that click?

If you really want to optimize your email marketing, you have to think like the customer and walk through the cognitive process that potential customers subconsciously go through when interacting with your email.

To achieve that click, your email copy must accomplish these six key objectives.

6-objectives-email

 

Objective #1. Arrest attention

Once you’ve captured an email subscriber, and gotten them to open the email, the next thing you have to do is stop them.

Basically, you need to stop them from quickly deleting. Stop them in their tracks to an extent.

By stopping them and grabbing their attention, you’re buying a few moments of their time to make a case for your conversion goal.

You can arrest their attention with a striking visual (although, with image blocking technology in many email readers, this can be reduced to a big blank space with a little red X) or a compelling headline.

Our testing suggests two effective strategies for writing a compelling headline.

email-headline-test

The first is making a promise. For example, this headline was one element of an email that increased conversion 181% (the headline has been anonymized). 

email-headline-test2

The second is identifying a problem. For example, this headline was one of the elements that generated a 75% higher clickthrough rate.

 

 

Objective #2. Build a connection

At this point, you’ve basically shouted, “Hey!” and stopped the prospect in their tracks.

Now you must build a connection with that prospect. You can start by bridging the gap between the headline or visual that caught their attention, and something that is meaningful to their lives.

This is why it is so important not to overpromise or mislead with a headline. If you’ve caught their attention but failed to connect with the prospect, you have only alienated him.

Read more…

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Email Marketing: 3 letters to drive subject line success

February 20th, 2014 No comments

It’s tried and true: Personalization works in marketing.

You know this already – approach your consumers as individuals and reap compelling results. However, tailoring campaigns can call for plenty of pain and patience along the way due to the journey of implementing new technology and complex techniques.

But the attendees in the General Session Room of the Aria Resort & Casino Las Vegas at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014 learned that there’s a loophole to this. It’s possible (and realistic) to actually gain the benefit of personalization minus the heavy lifting.

Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS, kicked off Day 2 of  Summit with his session, “Interactive Quick-Win Clinic: 3 simple email tactics to achieve personalization without the need for complex technology.” He set out to shed light on how to achieve the highest possible yield with the least amount of energy.

Two points of focus in Flint’s session were how to achieve this via subject lines and headlines.

 

Subject lines

Of course, this process begins at the subject line. Plain and simple, you need your recipient to open  your email. Flint boiled the personalization of the subject line down to three letters: R (relevant), I (important) and U (urgent). When examining a subject line, he challenged the audience to ask themselves:

  • Is the email relevant?
  • Is the email important?
  • Is the email urgent?

Flint explained that although something may be considered both relevant and important, the item that is the most urgent gets opened. Thus, establishing urgency in your email is key.

 

Headlines

Flint likens the headline of an email to a pick-up line. The headline begins the conversation with your recipient and, not surprisingly, its wording is essential. Because a headline is part of a conversation, it doesn’t work when it’s not a sentence. In other words (no pun intended), don’t speak in bullet points. After all, would you do that in a real-life conversation?

“[Speaking in bullet points] would leave me playing by myself on the playground,” Flint joked.

He examined the wording of select headlines tested for a survey company. The findings illustrated that headlines with a “point-first” design garnered the highest performance. These were the headlines that focused on what the consumer “got” – they were value-centric. Read more…

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Email Marketing: What elements of your offer get people to click? [Subject line contest winner announced]

January 7th, 2014 2 comments

There are many reasons customers may value your product. But which one resonates with your customers the most?

Miller Lite famously spoofed this conundrum in its TV commercials, in which people would debate whether the beer was awesome because it tasted great or because it was less filling.

This is a serious challenge to you as a marketer. You’re likely not only marketing a product, but an associated offer of incentive as well. Should that incentive take precedence over the product itself? How do you choose?

 

Don’t bury the lead

Sure, you may drip elements of secondary importance throughout your campaign, but what should you lead with?

In email marketing, another way to think of this is: Which element should be included in your subject line?

Let’s look at a value testing experiment (that you might have been involved in creating) to help answer this question.

We recently launched a subject line writing contest here on the MarketingExperiments Blog using a product from our sister company, MarketingSherpa – Email Summit 2014 in Las Vegas. The point of this contest was to gather possible subject lines to test in a value testing experiment.

You can read the blog post that launched this contest to see the email body copy we tested. In the comments section of that post, you can also see all of the subject lines your peers wrote.

After receiving more than 300 potential subject lines from you (some people submitted multiples), our next challenge was to narrow them down to just five subject lines to split test. No easy task.

To guide our selection, we divvyed them up by the value and incentive categories featured in the email’s body copy:

  • Name of promotion (Early Bird)
  • Incentive ($300 discount)
  • Urgency (discount expiring soon)
  • Value of product (what you’ll get by attending Email Summit)
  • Location of event (Vegas baby, Vegas!)

Once all of the subject lines were organized by category, we gathered a team together to choose the top three or four subject lines that best expressed the value for each category, and then took those to a larger group in a peer review session to vote for the finalists. The lesson here is don’t test in a vacuum – collaborate.

Here are the subject lines written by the MarketingExperiments audience that the peer review session chose for each value or incentive element.

 

Name of promotion – Early Bird

[Email Summit 2014] Last Day of Early Bird Discount is… (written by Eugene Nilus)

Incentive – $300 discount

$300 Savings | Vegas | More ROI From Email In 2014 (written by Mike Schwenk)

Urgency – Discount expiring soon

Tick Tock – Email Summit 2014 discounted registration ends soon (written by Joy Avila)

Value of product – What you’ll get by attending Email Summit

Get the latest, proven strategies in email marketing – Email Summit 2014 (written by Chris Allsop)

Location – Vegas baby, Vegas!

What Happens In Vegas Shouldn’t Stay in Vegas – 2014 Email Summit – Bring it home! (written by Linda Jackson)

 

Challenge your paradigms

When testing, it also helps to see an outside perspective.

After all, insider ideas may help convert current customers, but if you want to bring new customers into the fold, you have to think like someone who knows little, if anything, about your product.

It can be difficult finding the right outside perspective when you know your product so intimately.

By this point, we had already involved 43 people within MECLABS along with 209 readers from the MarketingExperiments audience. But many of them likely have some familiarity with Email Summit already, or, at the very least, MECLABS and our focus on conversion optimization and A/B testing.

So we went a little further outside the box. We challenged the readers of Copyblogger to write their own subject lines for this email. Not only did this provide a new perspective to the subject lines; it also added a fun, competitive element – seeing which blog’s readers could write the most effective subject line.

To further remove bias, we had no say in which subject lines Sonia Simone, Robert Bruce and the team at Copyblogger would choose. However, since those same five elements of appeal were in the email copy that entrants were writing the subject lines for, they naturally appeared in these subject lines as well.

After Sonia sent her selections over, I assigned each subject line from the Copyblogger audience to one of the elements of value or incentive being tested.

 

Name of promotion – Early Bird

Early Birds, save $300 when you register for the Email Summit by January 9, 2014! (written by Faraz Maqsood)

Incentive – $300 discount

Last Chance to Save $300 on Email Summit 2014 (written by James Shirley)

Urgency – Discount expiring soon

(Open BEFORE Christmas) Email Summit 2014: discount ends Jan 9th (written by Ali Luke)

Value of product – What you’ll get by attending Email Summit

Your emails don’t work (We’ll tell you why) (written by Danielle Wallace)

Location – Vegas baby, Vegas!

What happens in Vegas…will improve your emails! Save $300 now. (written by Cheryl)

 

Results

The primary KPI for this test was clickthrough rate, measured as delivered-to-clicks. What we were trying to avoid was a subject line that got a lot of curiosity opens, but did not tie into the value of the email. For example, we received submissions referencing everything from naked women to checks from grandma.

Our goal with a subject line is to make it compelling, but also make sure it honestly represents the email someone will read if they open it.

We also included sheer open rate as a secondary KPI, acknowledging that the copy in the email itself is a large part of driving clicks, and the subject line writers had no control over that.

Drumroll, please.

And the winner is …

 

Urgency – Discount expiring soon

(Open BEFORE Christmas) Email Summit 2014: discount ends Jan 9th (by Ali)

This subject line had the highest unique clickthrough rate and highest open rate, as well. 

 

As you can see in the results, this subject line outperformed all but two subject lines with a level of confidence of 99%. This means that we can be very confident that this subject line will consistently perform differently than those underperforming subject lines if we used them in the future.

However, the winning subject line did not outperform two of the subject lines by our desired level of confidence of 95%, which means that we cannot be certain that there is a significant difference between the subject lines. There is a higher likelihood that sometimes, because of random chance, one of those subject lines might perform better.

If you look back at our hypothesis, an interesting aspect is that both of the top two performing subject lines relied on urgency. This new knowledge can help inform future tests.

While we, like all marketers, hope the value of our product by itself is enough to encourage an action, this experiment backs up the classic marketing notion of the important of urgency. As Brian Clark of Copyblogger said, “Give people a logical reason why they should buy now, and more people will.”

This experiment also shows the power of A/B testing. We also really liked, “$300 Savings | Vegas | More ROI From Email In 2014.” We had meetings and votes and chose that subject line as one of our five favorite overall.

However, had we not tested and just ran with it because it was popular, we would have ended up with a 67.25% lower clickthrough rate, as you can see in the results.

Perhaps it wasn’t the subject line as much as its focus on incentive. Incentive underperformed urgency. That may be because, logically, you have to show people the value of something before you give them an extra incentive to buy it. After all, $300 off something you don’t know or care about isn’t a very attractive incentive.

That was our take on the results. You can read Copyblogger’s take on the results to learn additional lessons for your subject line testing, as well.

Congratulations to Ali Luke, Writer, Aliventures, who wrote the subject line with the highest clickthrough rate (measured as delivered-to-clicks) and winner of a ticket to Email Summit plus a two-night stay at the Aria Resort & Casino Las Vegas.

Ali also wrote the subject line with the highest open rate, and therefore won a MECLABS Email Messaging Online Course, as well.

Ali is editor of DailyBlogTips, and author of Publishing E-Books For Dummies (Wiley, 2012).

When I congratulated her on her winning subject line, she said, “I’m absolutely thrilled (and pretty stunned!) to have won the Copyblogger/MarketingExperiments competition. I’m no email marketing expert (I hope Email Summit will change that) – but clearly some good advice has sunk in during my years of reading Copyblogger. When coming up with my subject line, I thought about what I’d like to see in my inbox – a bit of humour with a clear, straightforward message.”

Read more…

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