Posts Tagged ‘email summit 2014’

Email Marketing: Using A/B tests to challenge your assumptions

April 21st, 2014

Dan Ariely has a Ph.D. in business administration.

He also has a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology.

I can think of no better description of a high-performing marketer. Someone who understands management and organizations, yes, but who also can provide unique insights into mental processes (i.e., the mind of the customer).

We were honored to have Dan as a keynote speaker at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014. While there, he stopped by the Media Center to discuss email marketing, human intuition and rationality (or the lack thereof) with MarketingSherpa Reporter Allison Banko.


As Dan discussed, if we approach marketing as a three-step process …

  1. Doubting ourselves
  2. Having a bit more humility
  3. Testing

… we can use email marketing as a quick feedback loop to gain a deeper understanding of the cognitive psychology of what headlines, subject lines and offers will get a customer to act (and which ones will not). By doing this, ultimately, we can improve business results.

“You have to try things that you think won’t work out,” Dan said. “If you try only the things you think will work out, you will never learn.”

This is a perfect explanation of Web optimization, which is the focus of our next Summit.

At Web Optimization Summit 2014 in New York City, one of our featured speakers will be Michael Norton of Harvard Business School, a colleague of Dan. They conducted research together on The “IKEA Effect”: When Labor Leads to Love. They discovered a cognitive bias in consumers – people tend to place a disproportionate value on products they help to create.

That bias prevents you from seeing the marketing campaigns and landing pages you create the way customers experience them. You helped create it, so you place disproportionate value on it.

But as we’ll explore at Web Optimization Summit, A/B testing is helping marketers see with new eyes –the eyes of the customer.

Read more…

Email Marketing: 3 letters to drive subject line success

February 20th, 2014

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.



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…

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

January 7th, 2014

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)



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…

A/B Testing for Fun and Profit [Subject Line Writing Contest]

December 3rd, 2013

If you’ve read the MarketingExperiments Blog for any length of time, you know that A/B testing and conversion optimization can be a very profitable endeavor. You can receive 90% more trial sign-ups, a 1,312% increase in the start rate of a multistep process, 331% more leads from a homepage, and the list can go on and on.


Split testing can be fun, too

Aside from improving results, the sociologist in me finds it fun to create a few possible headlines or subject lines, release them into the world, and see how customers react.

I’m not alone. For example, when Amelia Showalter, Director of Digital Analytics, Obama for America, discussed the A/B testing that helped generate $500 million in online donations for the president’s re-election campaign, she mentioned the fun the analytics and email teams had as well.


“There was this thing called the Email Derby … ”

“It was really fun,” Amelia said. “We started an informal poll.”

They asked the teams which subject lines being tested would win, and which would lose.

At MarketingExperiments, we’ve been known to have a little fun with surprising test results as well, thanks to a very gracious CEO.


Let’s have some fun, and give you a chance to win a ticket to Email Summit (plus hotel)

Online marketing can be a tough daily slog in the trenches, so to help you have a little fun with A/B testing, we’ve thrown down a challenge to the readers at Copyblogger.

We’ve said you, the dear readers of the MarketingExperiments Blog, are not only smarter, more fun to be around, and more physically attractive than the readers of Copyblogger – you are more effective subject line writers, thanks to all you’ve learned from A/B testing.

If you scroll down, you’ll see the exact copy of an email we are going to send promoting MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014 in Las Vegas. We’re asking you to write the best subject line you can think of, and leave it as a comment for this blog post.

Then, the MECLABS optimization team will read each and every comment and hand-pick the five subject lines they hypothesize will perform best. Copyblogger’s team will also pick five subject lines from its blog as well.

We’ll then run all 10 of those subject lines in a split test.

The writer of the subject line that generates the most unique clickthroughs will receive a complimentary ticket to Email Summit 2014. We’ll even put you up in the host hotel, the Aria Resort & Casino, for two nights.

The writer of the subject line that receives the highest open rate (CTR is our primary KPI, or key performance indicator, but opens will be a secondary KPI), will receive complimentary access to the MECLABS Email Messaging Online Course.

If you’re the type of marketer that likes diving into the details, you can read the official rules.


Now, let’s see your high-performing subject line

Sound like fun? Great, let’s see what you’ve got. Below is the email we will be sending. Write your best subject line, and leave it as a comment to this blog post. Easy peasy.

[Send Dates:] December 16-20, 2013

[Sender:] Pamela Markey –

[Audiences:] MarketingSherpa + MarketingExperiments lists

[Subject Line:] TBD


Hello [xxxx],

The last day to take advantage of the Early Bird Discount ($300 off) for Email Summit 2014 tickets is January 9, 2014. If you plan to be out of the office for the holidays, be sure to book your ticket before your vacation so you don’t miss out on this special rate.

MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014 promises to provide you with a great experience and an opportunity to learn what is and isn’t working in email marketing today. All case study presentations focus on real results with practical concepts you can use to do your job better. Come learn from your peers at companies like 3M, Dell, Porsche and Whirlpool.

If you want to learn how to grow your list, boost your performance and increase email ROI, join us at the Aria Resort & Casino Las Vegas on February 17 through 20, 2014, for Email Summit 2014. Order your tickets today so you don’t miss out on the Early Bird price before it expires Thursday, January 9.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me anytime at

I hope to see you there!


Pamela Markey
Senior Director, Marketing


UPDATE: The results and winner of this contest can be found in this MarketingExperiments Blog post: Email Marketing: What elements of your offer get people to click? [Subject line contest winner announced].”


Related Resources:

Subject Line Test: 125% more unique clickthroughs

Email Marketing: Subject line test increases open rate by 10%

Lead Generation: Capturing more leads with clear value prop communication