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January 20, 2015 // 11:00 AM

8 Big Tests You Should Run in Your Email Marketing Program

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What’s the last major thing you tested in your email marketing program? Small tests, like subject line or sender personalization are quick and easy, something most great email marketing softwares can do out of the box.

However, these small tests, which can provide some data, can’t compare to larger, more comprehensive email tests. And really when it comes to testing email marketing, it takes more than one email to really determine what works best for any given company.

Comprehensive email program testing may seem daunting. However, you can clearly define your own company best practices and utilize those results for a long time if you complete email tests properly. But the question remain: What should I be testing?

Types of Email Marketing Program Tests

For comprehensive tests, small things like subject lines or button color won’t give you the kind of data you need to improve your overall email marketing efforts.

Instead, take the opportunity to test things that have significant impact on recurring emails.

Visual Style Tests

With many marketers focused on design, we often think that what looks best also performs best. However, there can be times when over-designing makes an email look too promotional.

Is this the case with your email marketing? Testing the visual style of your email, comparing high-end creative design to low-end personal emails can often have a big impact.

1) The Plain Text Email

Rather than sending an email with a colorful header and graphics in the body, try using a blank template that’s made to look like an email sent from Outlook or Gmail. For more than one (though not all) of our B2B marketing clients, the simple look and feel performed better, especially as we moved to higher levels in the organization.

2) Visual or Text CTA

Visual style test may can also be as simple as testing the call to action in the email. Do more people click on text based links or button style CTA? So rather than adjusting the entire email template, simply uncovering whether a text CTA in the body of an email performs better than a button, which for some of our B2B clients is the case, can improve the overall performance of your email program.

Structure Tests

Digests and email newsletters are still common marketing tools. But after the initial design, it’s rare to rethink the actual structure of your email asset. Placement of content matters, especially when it comes to clicks and conversion.

3) Re-arrange the Layout

Look at your email newsletter template and see if you can create a version where something in the middle of the structure can be easily moved to the top. You can even remove modules altogether to see if the value of building it out really matters.

4) CTA Placement

For basic promotional emails with a single offer, does the call to action work better on the left, right or bottom of the email? This type of structure test can also be done on a per offer basis. So the structure that works best for an ebook, might not work the same way for a webinar.

Time/Day Tests

Time and day tests are common but the a commitment to refining them is often neglected. A good time/day test is run over a series of batch emails, slowly whittling down the list of times to find the optimal send for your business.

You should expect to give yourself a good month or two, depending on the number of batch emails you send, to really get a good grasp of the optimal send time.

5) More Small Sends to Determine Optimal Time

When you have a batch email scheduled, try sending a series of 10 emails at different times and days. As you get a better idea of the times and days best for your company, send batch emails to larger groups with fewer options. After comprehensive testing, we found for one client Wednesday at 2 p.m. was the best send time, but for Kuno it was Thursday at 7 a.m.

6) Testing Different Types at Different Times

In addition to just testing the day/time, you can also determine what type of email works best throughout the week. Earlier in the week you may find that short quick emails perform better for busy professionals.

But later in the week, a longer more thought out email can be a better send as recipients have more time to ingest your content.

Content Tests

Regular email communication is important to any good email marketing program. (One touch per contact per week is a good rule of thumb.) But what should you be sending? Blog posts, whitepapers, case studies, videos?

7) Testing Content Types

Content tests work especially well in structured digests and newsletters. Adjust the type of content you have in the main content area for different random groups and see what performs the best.

Like one of our clients, you may find that putting a popular blog article at the top every time doesn’t produce the clicks a more high-quality download does.

8) Testing Content by Segment

To refine your email program further, testing content with different segments can produce vastly different results. An IT person might respond to a different type of content than someone in finance.

A busy executive might prefer something more quickly digestible than a manager. Varying the offers for different buyers not only improves the email program, but also helps focus your overall content strategy.

When Should I Test Again?

The speed of changes in digital marketing and email technology mean that what works now won’t work forever.

If you can commit to one comprehensive test per quarter and then revisit the test again in a year, you’ll at least have a structure in place to get started with the major email tests you’ve been missing.

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