Email marketers list testing as one of their top priorities year after year. However, most do no testing at all. At the very least, they rely on unscientific tests and their instincts to determine which subject line, offer, or creative will perform the best.
Testing is not a short-term silver bullet that will solve all your problems. You can't run a few tests and expect your program to hum along profitably for years. What worked well last year probably will not work now.
Marketers who test effectively to achieve significantly higher open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates are disciplined to run A/B split tests in every email campaign and committed to making changes in their program that make a difference.
In this column, I will explore six steps to effectively test your email marketing campaigns.
Step 1: Ask a Question
What are you hoping to achieve? Determine a specific objective to accomplish for each email campaign. Don't attempt to achieve multiple objectives with one blanket approach.
A series of small steps can be easy to test and analyze. Structure your thinking this way: "I'd like to...":
Step 2: Form a Theory
Use your marketing experience and best-practice knowledge to determine what aspects might make a difference in achieving your objective. "I think...":
Step 3: Create the Test
Set up your test, following best practices. Remember, you don't need to prove the obvious.
To optimize opens (one per test):
To optimize click-throughs (one per test):
To optimize conversions (one per test):
Step 4: Split the List
Choose the best list or segment to test, and split it (for that specific test). Which statement below matches your situation?
Step 5: Measure and Analyze Results
Measure and analyze results to gain insight and prove or disprove your theory. Compile stats (to conversions) accurately. Look beyond the numbers to find meaning.
Even small percentage differences can mean large gains in response rates:
Step 6: Make Changes
Commit to making at least one change in each campaign. How would you finish this sentence? "I need to...":
The Last Word
Keep it simple. Initially, test only one area at a time to maintain simplicity and establish a testing regimen. Base your prioritization of success factors on the easiest things to test that will result in the best return.
Establishing a test regimen is the key to unlocking higher open, click, and conversion rates. But don't stop with just one test. Far-reaching conclusions based on one test are not predictive.
Repeat tests where possible over a set time period. Aim for at least three controlled tests before drawing a meaningful conclusion. This will keep you on track for continual growth and improvement in your email marketing program.
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Mike Hotz is a senior strategic consultant for Responsys, working with clients to design, develop, and execute cross-channel digital marketing strategies that contribute to their cross-channel digital marketing success. As an industry veteran, Mike has worked in e-mail marketing since 1998, designing, building, and executing e-mail and multichannel direct marketing strategies focusing on increasing customer engagement, nurturing leads, supporting sales organizations, and driving revenue for companies such as CDW, OfficeMax, Grant Thornton, and Digitalwork.com.
March 19, 2014