Put your e-mail campaigns to the test

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There’s always room for improvement with e-mail marketing campaigns, and testing them is a great way to get there. Yet only about half of all e-mail marketing managers are testing their programs to find areas to revamp entirely or even tweak just a bit, said J.D. Peterson, director of product management at Lyris Inc., an Emeryville, Calif.-based e-mail service provider.

While it’s always been important to have a campaign that gets strong results, it’s more imperative than ever during the current economic environment, Peterson said. “The pressures of the economy make it that much more critical for managers to justify all of their spending,” he said.

Here Peterson offers some testing tips to help you get the strongest results possible:

  • Test e-mail creative, including subject lines, content and images. The subject line is the most important piece to test because it’s the initial eye-catcher, he said. Marketers should craft two different versions of the subject line—and send each sample to 5% of the total subscriber list—to determine which one has a higher open rate, Peterson said. Try a personalized subject line versus. a nonpersonalized one; or test your company’s brand in the subject line for one but not the other. Repeat similar tests with the content and images within the body of the message, he said. “Once you identify something as a champion, continue to challenge it and always look for ways to improve and optimize,” he added.
  • Test the offer within the e-mail. Testing two different offers in a campaign enables marketers to gauge which one inspires more people to take action, Peterson said. For example, one e-mail may highlight a discount while the other entices subscribers with a longer warranty. Adopting the more effective offer across the board can translate into higher purchases or lead conversions, Peterson said.
  • Compare audience response. Some messages resonate better with women than men, or young people versus older readers. Managers should test their e-mail content with sample groups of the different population segments that comprise their database, Peterson said. If one group within the list favors a particular message or image more than another, consider sending different versions of the campaign to the varying subgroups, he said. “The more diverse your audience is, the more likely you will need to customize to maximize your message,” he said.
  • Test frequency and time. Managers should test the day and time of day to send e-mails to sample groups among their database to determine the highest open rate, Peterson said. For example, if research in your field finds Tuesday is the best day to send, try sending your e-mail to half your subscribers on another day when there isn’t as much competition for their eyeballs, he said. A comparative analysis of the results could lead to different sending patterns. “Test all these segments often because this is real-life feedback from real subscribers and not a mini focus group” of hypothetical people, he said.
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