Fresh Ideas

Keep it fresh.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? A no-brainer, in fact. But it’s not always a simple mission to accomplish, especially for people who’ve found those “formulas” that work.

But here’s the rub about sticking with the tried-and-true: That’s how we get into grinds, folks. We say, “Hey, we’re ultimately profitable with a 5 percent click-through rate and a 2 percent conversion. And we can get that each and every time with such-and-such style of copy and such-and-such setup of the landing page.”

Sure, consistency is good… I can’t argue that. But every once in a while, we really should (pardon this overused expression) “break out of the box” and see what some brand-new running shoes can do.

Yes, that means plenty of testing. Continue to test offers, copy and design of the email promotions themselves, of course… but also test things such as ordering processes and landing page layouts. You might just surprise yourself with the results.

To give you a clearer picture, I’ve gathered a couple of brief lessons from email marketers who stepped away from their comfort zones and upped their response rates in the process…

  • Shorter is not always better. One consumer software marketer learned this by aggressively testing length in its email promotions. The test was set up as follows: Offer, products, and landing page/order form remained the same for each and every email. And three different lengths were tested A) The tried-and-true “short and sweet” (roughly three very brief paragraphs) B) Mid-length (about 3/4 of a printed page), which simply expanded on the offer details, and C) Long. This one, when printed, was 1 1/2 pages long. It went into more detail on the offer, products and company.

    All three were deployed at the same time in straight text to three equal segments of the house list. Total quantity for each was 50,000, which is a more-than-reliable figure, statistically speaking.

    Well, guess what? Test cell C was the clear-cut winner, garnering a 7.5 percent CTR and a 4 percent conversion (as compared to just under 6 percent and 3 percent, respectively, for second-place test cell B). And since this was a hard (paid) offer, it yielded a very nice margin bigger than this particular company had seen in a long time.

    An almost two-page email winner? Who woulda thunk it? (See what I mean…?)

  • Clarify, clarify, clarify. Whether you’re collecting email addresses or cold hard cash, take a good, hard look at how you’re going about it. That’s what the marketers for one nifty gadgets-and-gifts site did recently. And were they in for a surprise. Not to mention a huge lift in their subsequent campaigns once they corrected their “almost invisible” problem.

    For the record, this company creates beautiful emails. Well-written and designed, along with a good line-up of products. Click-through rates were consistently very high (in the 10 to 12 percent range). Sales-to-clicks conversion, however, was another story. Though not quite profitable at under 1 percent, the company was building a decent house email database with its prospecting promotions. And the marketers figured that this was the best they can do. Until someone had the foresight to analyze the landing page and ordering process.

    What they learned, when they stepped back from their web-savvy marketing shoes, was that the ordering process was not that easy to follow. First problem: When a prospect clicked on the product they were interested in within the initial email and was taken to the landing page, he was besieged with a variety of choices. Several products were showcased in front of him (including their favorite), along with buttons to every single other (normal) page on the site AND a search engine.

    Second, if the prospect clicked on the product they wanted, he was taken to an order form. Simple enough. Except there were no clear directions on this form, nor were there any scroll-down boxes to help the prospect along. Under “Quantity” there was a blank box. Under “Personalization” there was a blank box. Sure, you and I would know to type “1” (or another number) under quantity and our initials under “Personalization.” But a lot of online shopping newbies would not know what to do at this point. (So add directions if you don’t already have them!)

    Last, if the prospect did actually get through this initial process and hit the “submit order” button, something strange would happen. In a word: Nothing. Prospect was not taken to a shopping cart. AND prospect’s order form was completely blanked out. However (and here’s the kicker), at the top of this page in very small letters was the announcement, “This order has been added to your shopping cart.” In other words, prospects who didn’t see this completely unobtrusive notation would think their orders had disappeared into the ethers. They wouldn’t know that in order to see their orders, they had to click on the “shopping cart” icon. So without that knowledge, what do they do at that point? Obviously, a majority of them chose to click off. Hence, the terrible conversion.

    The interesting thing to note here is that once these simple problems were corrected (and it was really just a matter of giving prospects clear cut directions to the nth degree), conversion jumped to over 2 percent… putting this particular company’s email efforts in the black.

    Common sense? Yes. But sometimes things that make the most sense escape our attention. We take a lot for granted, especially those things that we, who live and work in this space, find so darned simple. Something to keep in mind.

Anyway, in the interest of time and space, we’ll continue this topic next week. (More lessons… more testing ideas). By the way, if you’ve (uh-hem!) broken out of the box lately and have some lessons of your own to share, please send them my way.

I’m always open to fresh ideas.

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