Testing is the mantra of the email marketing world, and there are so many variables to be tested. Here's an element that hasn't received much attention, yet can help lift response: your email format.
Test, test, and test: This is the mantra of the civilized email marketing world. Given the fact that there are so many variables to test within this space, let's take a look at a particular one that hasn't received too much attention.
Which one? Namely -- the format.
Here's what I mean. In my previous life as a direct mail marketer, the format -- or "package" -- could make all the difference in the world to a campaign's success. To give an aging package a lift in response, a good rule of thumb was to completely reformat it while maintaining as much of the same "content" as possible.
Take the "magalog" (a self-mailer format, typically 9" x 12" and 28 pages or so in size). For example, we'd take a once-powerful magalog package that was losing steam and convert the same offer, copy, design, and color scheme into a new miniature booklet format. Or we'd do the reverse and turn the booklet into the magalog. Or we'd convert a letter package (complete with envelope) into a self-mailer. And so on and so on.
Sure, it required a full redesign, and, oftentimes, the new format was more expensive to produce and/or mail, but the added pain and expense could be well worth it. In fact, we'd often see a 75 percent lift in response (or more) from such manipulations. And more times than not, it would be enough of a "freshener" to get us through another couple of mailings.
I've seen similar results with HTML email formats. What, you say? Email is not a tangible medium; therefore, there can be only one format. Think again.
Not too long ago, we developed a tremendously successful acquisitions control in HTML for one client that gleaned high clicks and conversions over the course of a few campaigns. The layout was similar to an emailed postcard in size and shape. One small graphic and a brief, well-composed headline, message, and call to action were contained therein. This format stood the test of time until, quite suddenly, response plummeted when we tapped out the universe of lists for that particular audience.
To address this, we created two other brand-new email promos -- new offer, new copy -- to test against the control in the next campaign, but I also encouraged the client to test the same content in a different format. Essentially, we made the redesigned control look like a typeset letter, with a couple of relevant graphics thrown in for good measure. (It actually was a bit more complex than that, but you can at least get the picture.)
Can you guess what happened? The reformatted control ended up being the winner in the successive campaign. Just goes to show we should think twice -- if at all possible -- before messing with success.
So what are some other email formats you can turn your tired control into? For e-commerce marketers with a lot of products, the emailed catalog can work well. But the trick is that it needs to be designed properly with tight graphics and a fast download. It needs to showcase your wares, while making it easy for recipients to click... and buy.
Another winning format, of course, is the newsletter -- and, yes, it can be used for acquiring customers as well as for retaining them, and can be as long or as short as you want or need it to be. There's also the "brochure" with multiple connected site pages that complete the concept. And there are probably plenty of other formats that have yet to be explored.
It can take a ton of trial and error to develop an outstanding control, so instead of just dumping it when it gets to the point where it has seen better days, why not at least attempt to revive it with a new format? Experiment with your winners. You may just find one that can take you through the ages... with a little revamping, that is.
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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!"
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