A lot of testing boils down to determining what has value and relevance to your particular customers and leads. What message or offer will truly resonate with them?
Just about anyone can pull together a standard email test nowadays. A/B (or even A-Z) split tests of everything from subject lines to format to offers are almost commonplace. Of course, the reason that marketers test these components is to determine response lifters; and certainly, with a solid strategy to dig out the best among those components, that can be done.
But why not break away from the tried-and-true and test some other potential response boosters out there that are both specific to and take advantage of the best that the Internet has to offer?
To do this, let's focus on house-list/retention email test strategies, because testing some of these items effectively with outside lists is simply more challenging (due to strength variances between lists and other factors).
A safe strategy for coming up with a solid test cell is to remove your best and worst customers from the picture, then take the remaining ones and test within that segment. These "middle of the road" types will likely give you the most accurate picture of how a normal, nonskewed group will perform. Besides, you probably want to focus your loyalty programs on your most valuable customers.
So with the above in mind, check out the following unique, and definitely Internet- or email-specific things to test. Some of you may have already tested some of these items; others may be implementing them on a regular basis. But for those of you who are looking for some fresh ideas over and above the proverbial subject-line tests, here's some food for thought:
Audio bites. Yes, you can get plenty of audio in a rich-media email, but if you just want a quick sound clip of your headline or some other compelling prose from your promo, think about testing your standard HTML promotion with audio against it without. The creative development can be cost effective, and deployment and implementation are easy as well. The audio is streamed in as the recipient opens the message. Companies that offer this service, such as BYOBroadcast, simply send a section of coding that your development team or agency inserts into the HTML. We've tested this with our own clients and have seen lifts as high as 50 percent.
Callback feature. Business-to-business (B2B) email marketers, take note: Since it's often a tougher proposition to glean sales -- and even solid leads -- with email, think about testing a callback message against your standard one. Companies such as Instant LiveTalk enable marketers to provide their customers with the option of receiving a phone call from a sales representative. The rep can then answer any questions customers may have from the promo. For high-dollar offers or lead-generation promotions that ultimately lead to high-dollar offers, testing a quick and easy-to-use callback feature is a no-brainer.
Specialty landing pages. We've seen conversion enhanced with some creative manipulation of the landing page. For example, in a recent promotion for a client's various communication services, the alternate version to the standard promotion's single landing page (which showcased all services) was the promo that displayed a unique link for each service. When "DSL" was clicked on within the email, for instance, the customer was directed to a page that focused on the DSL (digital subscriber line) suite of products. This was a very simple change that yielded much stronger results when tested against an almost identical promotion that did not contain these unique links to specialized landings. Such a test is similar to what online retailers do with individual products within their emailed newsletters; however, in the B2B marketplace, where this is an infrequently used tactic, it can boost conversion like gangbusters.
Another landing-page tactic that can be used for paid single-product offers is the "microsite." For instance, a high-dollar newsletter publisher may want to promote a newly launched publication to its house list of current subscribers. When tested against a single-page landing, a multiple-page landing -- with separate pages for things such as testimonials, "About Us," reviews, and other backup promotional items (including the order form, of course) -- will most likely significantly boost results. The assumption here is that the strength comes from these microsites being, in effect, self-contained, information-loaded online direct-mail pieces that leave very few, if any, questions unanswered.
No matter what you decide to test, just be sure to test something with every rollout as often as you can. The Internet -- including email -- still comprises a ton of unknown territory as far as strengths and weaknesses go. But there's gold in them there hills! Regular testing can certainly help dig it out.
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Kim MacPherson is President and Founder of Inbox Interactive, a full-service email marketing agency specializing in promotional copywriting, HTML design, planning, and deployment/tracking solutions. Kim is also the author of "Permission-Based E-mail Marketing That Works!"
March 19, 2014