Testing, for the Heck of It

If you’re reading this column, you’re probably a highly successful, experienced, and educated multi-channel marketer who has seen it all. You’re well-rounded, well-dressed, and a great conversationalist. As a result, you’re also very confident in your own abilities, and maybe reluctant to break out of what’s worked for you. People come to you for advice on how to improve their programs. You’re happy to tell them what you would do. But do you ever ask for help?

I’m here to tell you it’s OK to ask for help.

In the spirit of asking for help (mostly with what to write this month), I decided to move out of my comfort zone and ask several of the most respected entrepreneurs, consultants, practitioners, and others for some advice: “If you didn’t know anything about someone’s email program and you had to offer any piece of advice, what would it be?”

My inbox was flooded with great ideas.

I tried to ask Dela Quist, CEO of Alchemy Worx, an outsourced email program management firm with offices in London and Atlanta, what he would do: I expected him to respond “Mail more.” But you’ve already heard him tell you that, and it’s advice that has worked well for many marketers. Haven’t tried it? Why not?

But some folks don’t always agree with Dela. Matt Blumberg, CEO of Return Path and chairman of the DMA, pleaded, half in jest, “Mail less!” Remember, the DMA is the group that brought you the “do not call” list and Return Path is the company that pioneered deliverability monitoring. Matt co-authored a great book with some colleagues called “Sign Me Up!” No joke!

DJ Waldow, CEO of Waldow Social and author of “The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing,” recommends that you “Break the rules.” Breaking the rules could mean something like mailing more or changing the time that you mail. It could mean an all-text email. He doesn’t actually advocate law-breaking per se, but if you have his book on your desk, neighboring cube dwellers will know that you are probably unstable, and potentially dangerous and insane. They’ll know that you’ll try anything, at least once.

Simms Jenkins, CEO of digital agency BrightWave Marketing and author of “The New Inbox,” encourages you to have an out-of-body experience: “Put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes – why would they sign up and care about your emails?” It’s very easy to lose sight of the subscriber. Whenever you get lost, think about your recipients’ experience. Are you meeting their standards? Have you been a secret shopper for your own program?

Loren McDonald, VP of industry relations at Silverpop, has been both a practitioner and a vendor. In his role at Silverpop, he sees more programs in a year than we see in a lifetime. Loren’s advice? Find your corporate fulcrum. “Find and focus your email marketing efforts on your organization’s ‘fulcrum.’ Every organization has some critical element that drives success of the overall business or marketing program. It could be moving ‘freemium’ users into paid customers; moving existing customers into members of your rewards or loyalty club; etc. Focus your program where you can have a monumental impact on the organization,” says Loren.

David Baker, VP of digital product solutions at Acxiom, oversees a large organization that’s very data-driven. David sees things in a similar vein to Loren: apply strategy and optimization differently based on his “messaging portfolio,” which has four parts:

  1. Notification-based messaging (transactional and interaction-driven – all about fulfilling a request or interaction).
  2. Informational (publisher-oriented, newsletters – all about content and reach).
  3. Promotional (direct to response/conversion-oriented – all about the sale).
  4. Social (intent is to propagate content within social networks – all about share. This can be applied to No. 2 and No. 3 as well…but typically these are discrete strategies).

Zeeto’s VP of email marketing Bob Frady has run some pretty big email programs, most notably Live Nation’s. Bob likes subject line testing. A lot. His recommendation: “Test as much as you can stand.”

And testing is a concept that ties everything together. If you’re not constantly testing new strategies, tactics, technologies, vendors, and ways of thinking, not only are you going to stop growing, but you’re probably going to get pretty bored.

I’m hallucinogenically optimistic that if you try something new, you’ll benefit. You’re going to learn for sure and maybe you’ll profit too. I’m going to try some of this too in my company’s newsletter. Look out below!

Testing image on home page via Shutterstock.

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