We're always on your case about all these inbound marketing best practices. We've published some pretty specific content about best practices for tons of stuff -- landing page optimization, blog post structure, marketing analytics -- but we've never really laid down the one definitive guide to crafting the perfect email.
Sup with that?
Well, we've never thrown out a definitively "perfect" email because it's pretty much impossible to say one thing is better than another in email marketing. I mean, everyone's audiences are so different! Not to mention the circumstances under which they opted in to your lists, and how you've segmented those lists since. There are just so many variables, it'd be ridiculous to assert that there's just one perfect email out there that all marketers should replicate.
What there is, however, is email split testing to tell you what the perfect email is for your business. So while we can't do the testing for you, we can certainly tell you the kinds of tests you could run that might give you some really impactful results. We run tests like these every time we send an email to figure out what works best for our audience -- take a look at the ones you can run next time you're gearing up for an email send!
Email Layout and Design Tests
1) Plan Text vs. HTML: You probably know it's a best practice to always send a plain text version of your HTML emails in case there are rendering problems; but did you ever consider that a plain text email might just ... perform better? We've tested email sends with certain segments of our list where this is actually the case -- the recipients preferred seeing a plain text email, presumably because it felt less like they were being "marketed to."
2) Image Selection: We encourage marketers to include images in their emails ... but what kind? Take lead reconversion emails as an example. Do you see better conversions when you include, say, an ebook cover image? Or an image with stock photography? Or maybe even a meme? Test out different image types to see what strikes your readers' fancy.
3) Image Placement: You can test more than just image choice. You can test the placement of those images! Should your template have a right aligned image, or left aligned? Or centered, perhaps? Heck -- maybe no image at all!
4) Sender Headshot: Some email senders -- particularly B2B marketers -- also choose to include a headshot in their email signatures. Is this the best idea? It could make your email seem more personal, improving clickthrough rates. Or maybe it distracts recipients from your CTA. Only one way to find out ;-)
5) P.S. vs. No P.S.: If readers are drawn to your sender's headshot, maybe they'll be drawn to a P.S., too. It's a common tactic -- including a primary or secondary CTA as a P.S. at the end of an email. See if it works for you, or if it detracts from the clickthrough rate of your primary CTA when you include a secondary CTA.
6) Template Designs: We've encouraged you to either use HubSpot's email templates (if we're your ESP) or to even create your own email template designs if you're so inclined. But we also encourage you to test the effectiveness of those templates, as some layouts and designs might perform better than others. Select a few variations to split test until you narrow down a basic template that performs best, then tweak minor design elements -- like an email signature with or without an image -- to get to your optimal template. (Note: If you want to run that signature test, you can use our tool to get free email signature designs.)
Email Timing and Frequency Tests
7) Day of the Week: The day of the week when you send your emails matters. Do you know what day is best for your audience? For different segments of your list? Figure out which day delivers the best open and clickthrough rates for your email sends.
8) Time of Day: Similarly, the time of day matters. A lot. Test which day and time results in the most opens and clicks for your emails. When you combine both pieces of information, you'll have a matrix of awesome times (and not so awesome times) to send your emails. That's some handy dandy information right there.
Dynamic Content Email Tests
9) First Name vs. No Name in Subject Line: Through the magic of dynamic content, you can make your email marketing way more personal ... even in the subject lines of your emails! Test whether including a recipient's first name in the subject line has a positive effect on open rates, or whether they view the personalization token in a less favorable light.
10) First Name vs. No Name in Email: Similarly, you can test name personalization in the body content of your email. Again, some people might view it as a little old school, some might like it, and some might fall somewhere in between. See where your audience sits on that spectrum.
11) Company Name vs. No Company Name in Subject Line: You can have more fun in the subject line of your emails, particularly if you're a B2B marketer. Perhaps recipients would like to see their organization's name in the subject line of an email. You can know for sure by running a quick little test!
12) Social Media Information: If you've captured a lead's social media information, you can use that to send social media specific emails to prospects -- like a content just for Twitter followers, for example. This is really cool stuff! But just because it's cool, doesn't mean it's the best choice for your email marketing contacts. Segment out a portion of your list to experiment with the results of including dynamic social media content in your email sends.
Email Call-to-Action Tests
13) Image CTA vs. Text CTA: Your email's call-to-action is one of the most critical parts of your emails to test, because it's what generates leads and reconversions! Start by testing whether you see better conversion rates from image CTAs, or text CTAs.
14) CTA Button Copy and Color: If you find that image CTAs are best, start testing the button copy and color. Hey, you'd test those elements for your site's CTAs, right? Emails are no different!
15) Link Placement Within Text: If you find that text CTAs perform better than image CTAs (or you have the best conversion rates with both image and text CTAs), start to experiment with the placement of those hyperlinks within the email copy. You might find anchor text gets clicked on the most when it's at the beginning of your email, near the end, or somewhere in between -- it all depends on your recipients' email reading/scanning habits.
16) Text CTA in Body Copy vs. P.S.: We talked a little bit about using a P.S. earlier in this post. If you find that using a P.S. works for you, you might want to test whether your text CTA gets the most conversions when it's included in the body copy of your email, or in the P.S. And if you decide to use the P.S. real estate for a secondary CTA, test whether it aversely impacts conversions for your primary CTA.
17) Social Proof vs. No Social Proof: Social proof is the concept that consumer behavior can be impacted by the behavior of others -- you might mirror other people's behavior under the assumption that what other people are doing is "right." So you might also find that if you include elements of social proof in your emails, your conversion rates improve. Here at HubSpot, for example, we've found that CTAs that include three tweets vouching for an offer tend to have the best CTRs. Those with only one tweet, however, perform even worse than CTAs with no elements of social proof.
18) Offer Type: The type of offer you're sending might also have an impact on conversions, particularly across different list segments. You might find through testing that certain list segments -- whether based on persona, lifecycle stage, or some other element -- prefer, say, ebooks to webinars. Test different types of offers to see which performs best for each segment of your list.
Email Sender Tests
19) Company Name vs. Personal Name as Sender: The name that appears in the email "From" field can have a huge impact on whether your email even gets opened. Test whether it's best to send from your company's name, the name of an actual person at your business, or a combination of both. For example, at HubSpot we've found that emails sent from "Maggie Georgieva, HubSpot" perform better in terms of open and CTR than emails sent from just "HubSpot."
20) Sales Contact as Sender: Many email marketers may choose themselves, a CEO, or some other authority figure as the name in the "From" field. But have you ever considered sending from the name of a contact's salesperson? With dynamic content, you can do it to see whether it improves email performance. I mean, if a lead is already in the sales process, it makes sense that they'd hear from a sales contact instead of a marketer, right?
21) Personal vs. Alias Email Address: You might also consider whether the email address from which you send your email needs to change. Does your list cringe at the idea of receiving an email from an alias, like "firstname.lastname@example.org?" Do they prefer seeing something like "email@example.com?" Maybe. Maybe not. Only one way to find out.
Email Copy Tests
22) Familiar vs. Professional Tone: The copy of your email can take a lot of different tones. Nailing the right one takes a thorough understanding of your buyer personas, as well as some plain ol' trial and error. Test different tones -- familiar versus professional, for instance -- to see which resonates most with your audience.
23) Including "Free" in the Content: We recently wrote a blog post about whether including the word "Free" in email content impacted deliverability and clickthrough rate. The results are a handy starting point for any email marketer, but you should conduct your own tests to see whether the words turn your list on or off.
24) Longer vs. Shorter Emails: You could also decide to wax poetic in your emails, or keep it short and sweet. Truthfully, there's a place for both. But you can only know the right time if you test it out. See whether you need to include more detail in your email copy, or whether you should have sent readers to a web page long ago.
25) Subject Line Copy Variations: Writing amazing email subject lines is a tricky mix of art and science. Think about it -- would you rather get an email with the subject line, "How to be an excellent business blogger," or "How to stop sucking a business blogging?" Probably depends, right? That's why email marketers have to test different elements of their email subject line copy to see what gets recipients' attention!
What other creative email marketing tests can you think of to run?
Image credit: pasukaru76
Originally published Sep 24, 2012 2:00:00 PM, updated August 29 2017