“If you write an email like a human being would write an email, you’re going to get a better response.”
So says Nathaniel Ward, Associate Director, Online Membership Programs, The Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation is a non profit conservative think tank focused on conservative policy formation and promotion.
I realize quoting a political organization of any kind is just asking for an incendiary response in today’s political environment, but bear with me on this one.
Partisan or not, they have a very sophisticated email marketing department, especially for a non profit. And Ward’s approach to email testing and messaging is critical for any organization to study and learn from.
But … let’s be real … it is harder to test your email than to just send a single version of the email idea you come up with.
One challenge with email marketing – to keep your customers clicking and coming back for more, you need to endlessly come up with new messages and ideas for every email you send or set in an automation platform.
However, when you test your email marketing, you don’t get to create just one email for each campaign, you now need an A and a B (and a C and a D … etc. … etc. … depending on how many treatments you have and your list size can support).
To give you some new hypothesis ideas for your next email test, I interviewed Mike Nelson, Co-founder and Head of Marketing, ReallyGoodEmails.com, in the MarketingSherpa Media Center (MarketingSherpa is the sister publishing brand to MarketingExperiments).
He brought examples of five key types of marketing email from his site, which is described as a “modern-day museum” full of emails.
The first treatment was designed based on the hypothesis that visitors did not convert because the copy didn’t engage them enough, so it took a direct response tone. The second treatment was based on the hypothesis that visitors experience high levels of anxiety over potential high-pressure salespeople or spam phone calls. This treatment took a more “customer service”-oriented tone.
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.
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:
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.
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.”