How can we properly test our email campaigns to ensure optimum performance?

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A well-executed approach to testing your email marketing campaigns can pay huge dividends. E-mail is direct, drives immediate action and is easily measurable. Testing an email campaign doesn't need to be a complicated process and can make a significant business impact with great ROI. A key to ensuring optimum performance is to integrate email testing into the DNA of your day-to-day production process—expanding and shifting as your consumers' behaviors change. Here are some recommended areas for testing:
  1. Subject lines. Test various keywords and phrases to elicit different reactions. Also, consider testing various lengths, featuring multiple versus single offers, and leading or ending with a call to action.
  2. Layout. What you say is important, but so is how you say it. Play with such various typography elements as font, size, color and formatting. Try using one offer and testing it in three different layouts—with emphasis on the offer, the product or lifestyle imagery.
  3. Content. Ensure that your content is valuable, and test different offers, messaging and tones to see what your customers gravitate toward. You can also test the language of your calls to action, i.e., “Buy Now” versus “Learn More.” Think about where they are in the transaction process, and work the tone and messaging around that.
  4. Images versus all html. Many email clients have images turned off by default, so you need to make sure your message will come across regardless of the user's settings. Try all-text emails versus rich visual designs.
  5. Time of day. When you send your emails will make a difference in the number of opens, and the results can vary greatly based on your specific audience. In addition, you may find that within your audience, certain segments react differently at different times.
  6. Frequency. Try sending your emails at different intervals—daily, weekly, biweekly. Monitor your results and try different approaches to the messaging and content, then tweak your campaign schedules accordingly.
The key to testing emails is choosing several variables and tinkering until you get them right. If your open rates are increasing but your conversion rates are lagging, monitor the trends and keep tweaking until you find the perfect combination. Josh Levine is CEO of Alexander Interactive (, a website design and engineering firm.
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