E-mail Testing Inspiration

  |  September 16, 2010   |  Comments

Finding inspiration from Alice in Wonderland, Dumbledore, and others to embrace a testing mind-set.

Testing is a crucial aspect of marketing. Without it, you're never quite sure what caused a campaign to succeed or fail, where to spend your money, how to avoid repeating mistakes, or how to optimize your campaigns for best results.

Do your subscribers behave the way you think they will, or do their actions defy conventional wisdom or best practices?

Testing can be a challenge, especially if you're not sure where to start or what to test, or if your management is unwilling to budget time and money to test.

There are four elements to a great testing methodology:

  1. Be curious, be careful.
  2. Plan.
  3. Be optimistic. Don't give up.
  4. Learn.
  5. Couldn't you use a little inspiration and motivation right about now, either to give testing a try or to take up the cause one more time with your management?

    Finding Inspiration in Unusual Sources

    I often find inspiration in reading materials that range far beyond the usual best-practice guidelines and advice you can find in columns like mine.

    I'm not disparaging practical how-to tips, advice, tactics, and strategy, all of which you need to assemble the basic parts of an effective testing program and to get management buy-in.

    However, sometimes material outside the marketing spectrum can give you the mental clarity to focus your thinking and inspire you to go back into battle for the cause.

    This list below pairs points relevant to effective testing with passages from literature or speeches or quotations that can help you see things in a new light or from a fresh perspective.

    1. Be Curious, Be Careful

    Testing is not infallible, but it can at least start you on the right path.

    From "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," by J.K. Rowling:

    "Curiosity is not a sin, but we should exercise caution with our curiosity...yes, indeed."
    - Albus Dumbledore to Harry Potter.

    You'll never get started if you and your colleagues aren't curious. What makes your customers and prospects tick? You think you know, but test so that you know for sure.

    2. Plan: To Do Great Testing, You Need a Plan

    From "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll:

    Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
    Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
    Alice: I don't much care where.
    Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.
    Alice: ...so long as I get somewhere.
    Cheshire Cat: Oh, you're sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.

    Testing injects some discipline into your e-mail marketing efforts. You need to know what you're going to test, how to apply the correct test, and how you'll apply what you've learned. Testing should be driven by hypotheses. State what you believe and then prove or disprove your hypothesis.

    3. Be Optimistic. Don't Give Up

    Testing encourages an optimistic outlook. Great inventors like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford knew that it takes sometimes hundreds of failures before they found success. Why do some marketers give up after one or two bad testing outcomes? Be like all great entrepreneurs. Be optimistic and never give up.

    From "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor," (W.W. Norton, 1999) by historian David Landes:

    "In this world, the optimists have it, not because they are always right, but because they are positive. Even when they are wrong they are positive, and that is the way of achievement, correction, improvement and success. Educated, eye-open optimism pays."

    Landes was answering the question "Why do some people prosper?" He studied nations, but his observations hold true for corporations.

    Even when your tests don't reveal the results you expect or when they are inconclusive, you can use what you learned to go back, revise, correct, and improve your e-mail program, whether it's trying something new in your call to action or navigation, or re-segmenting your mailing list.

    4. Learn

    Testing satisfies your need and desire to learn everything you can about how well your marketing program is working.

    "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."
    - Mahatma Gandhi

    "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty."
    - Henry Ford

    "Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn."
    - C.S. Lewis

    Testing helps you learn whether you're heading in the right direction with your e-mail marketing efforts. Are you spending money wisely or tossing it down a rabbit hole? What you learn can help you get better results from your e-mail campaigns and also help you connect the dots between your e-mails and company revenue, which is the bottom line your management respects most.

    You may not be in your position forever. You may move to another company or move up to another position within your company. Do the right thing and document everything you learn in writing, so your company has great institutional memory.

    Finally, in the words of that immortal Nike motto: Just do it!

Ed is off today. This column was originally published on June 24, 2010 on ClickZ.


Ed Henrich

Ed Henrich is vice president of professional services for Responsys, leading the company's creative, campaign development, strategy, and analytics teams to produce award-winning and profitable client e-mail marketing programs. Ed is a pioneer in the e-mail marketing industry, having joined Post Communications (now Yesmail) in 1997 when it was a five-person startup. For eight years, he was the company's vice president of client services, then president. Before that, Ed was a venture capitalist at Internet Capital Group and a senior consultant with McKinsey & Company. A former Fulbright Scholar to Australia in Control Systems Engineering, Ed holds a PhD and an MS from UCLA and a BS from Drexel University. Follow him at his blog, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

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