If the idea of exams gives you the sweats, don’t worry. In marketing, you get to rely on data to take the test for you. You just get to create the questions.
Testing is really your best friend. There’s no gossip or cheating or stealing your girlfriend or boyfriend. Testing always makes a genuine effort to give you a real answer, and it’s not afraid to tell you the hard truths. It’s never going to give you up, let you down, turn around or desert you.
That being said, testing is like a teenager—it works best given good guidance and a structure to follow. Left to its own devices, it’ll deliver nothing but vague answers that will frustrate you to no end.
Luckily, numerous tools exist to help you test your email marketing campaigns, many of which are often built right into your marketing automation system. Testing is vital not only to the success of the campaign you’re testing, but for all future campaigns that will benefit the results.
Now the big question—what to test? You can get as broad or as narrow as you’d like. The important thing is to clearly define the parameters of the test. Testing two completely different emails against each other won’t really tell you the WHY of the results, though it is pretty much the broadest sort of test. The best tests look at specific elements of the communication.
Subject Lines – Oh boy, does this open up a can of worms. Subject line best practices vary depending on whom you ask. Some say it doesn’t matter. Some say shorter is better; others say longer is better. The truth is, there is no universal “best” because it depends on the company and its audience. The one generally accepted standard is a recommended cap of 50 characters.
This is one of those areas where you need to play around and find what works for you. Test long versus short. Urgency vs. pain point. A percentage offer versus a dollar offer. The more you test, the better idea you’ll get for what your audience responds to. Then you can publish your results and throw your hat in the ring of subject line arguments.
Timing – Tuesdays and Thursdays are generally thought of as the best days to send emails. But not always. You might get a better response Sunday night, or Wednesday at 3 PM. This is another one of those “generally, but it depends…” situations that can only be remedied by testing. Split up your list and test out different days and times to send your emails. Be sure to avoid weeks where things like holidays or common vacation times might affect your results. Pick an average week and see what happens.
Imagery – Does your audience respond better to images of people or images of products? How about an image versus a video? How about this front angle of the product over this 45-degree angle? It’s a subtle thing, but image choice can definitely affect click-through rates for your emails.
Call to Action – It’s fine to get good open rates, but if no one is clicking through your emails, it’s time to take a look at your calls to action. Test buttons versus text links. Text link positioning by using links in 2-3 different places and see which one(s) are clicked more. If you use buttons, text button verbiage. Does “Buy Now” work better than “Learn More”? How about “Sign Up” versus “Sign Me Up”? The smallest change in word choice can inspire big changes in conversions.
Speaking of which, make sure you carry this measurement through to the landing page or purchase point. Again, increasing clickthroughs from an email is great, but only if it actually gets them to fully convert.
Alright, Professor Marketer. Are you ready to start administering your exams? Remember, there are no wrong answers—only answers that are more right than others. Let your friend, testing, speak freely and don’t force it to tell you what you want to hear. That wouldn’t be a real friend at all, would it?