You’ve been emailing your customers and prospects for awhile now and you aren’t getting the response you anticipated. Your click through rate is low. You aren’t seeing increased downloads or visitor rates to your site. What’s up with that?
You, my friend, need to optimize your email for conversion. How, you ask? Here's a hint.
That’s right, good ol’ A/B testing will help you figure out the best way to give your emails more power to persuade.
A Popular Start: The Subject Line
According to Marketing Sherpa the subject line is the element most likely to be tested. This is because it is simple to do. Create two different subject lines for the same email and send one version to half of your list. If you have a large enough email list you could even take just a portion of it, split that group, and test the email. Compare your open rates to find the winner which you will then send to the remaining list.
After all, if you can’t even get them to open the email, it isn’t going to be worth the work to produce it.
This, however, is small potatoes next to other testing you can do. It isn’t enough to get people to open the thing…you need them to follow through on the contents.
Is This Microphone On: The Audience
The most important aspect of marketing is to know your audience. If crickets are all you hear maybe you’re talking to the wrong crowd. Or your e-mail is coming at the wrong time. Consider these variables:
·Prior interest: Has the customer downloaded something on this topic in the past? Is there a pattern to an individual’s site browsing that drops a hint? · Timing and Interaction: How long has it been since this visitor last looked? What action was taken? · The persona: who, exactly, are you trying to reach? Earl End User or Debbie Director? · Stage: Where is the reader within the buying/life cycle of interest?
In other words, don’t send an email to Santa Claus if you are selling Easter Egg Dye.
The Big Kahuna: The Offer
Please note: you are not going to test the way you talk about your offer. You are going to find out whether the offer itself is the best. The best what?
· Format: white paper vs. webinar, fact sheet vs. tutorial · Topic: Are they even interested? Try two topics and see which one is more highly read. · Length: How much time are they willing to devote? · Name: guide vs. white paper, e-book vs data sheet · Best of two congruent offers: e-book vs e-book, webinar vs. webinar
The results of this test can impact future content development and help you refine your buyer personas.
The Right Ambiance: The Landing Page
Your invitation has been accepted. Have you created the most attractive page on which to do business? Once your guests have arrived will they stay to take your desired action? Or will they look around in disgust, frustration, or bewilderment and leave?
There are several landing page elements that you can optimize to make the landing page guide your customers toward an action, whether it is to download information or to buy something.
· Offer description · Description length · Preview/Thumbnail/Image · Form
By the way, make sure your form isn’t an obstacle. You can test to find out just how many and what type of questions you can ask in return for the offer.
Email, Email, How Should You Send Thee: The Format
Without testing you may never find out that the reason most of your list doesn’t open your emails could be due to the fact that it was sent in HTML. Or that it was full of images. Or that there were more calls to action than you could shake a stick at.
Many users are extremely leery about downloading images for fear of malware. Some business email servers simply block those emails which then never reach the intended recipient.
A long email requiring any scrolling may also end in the trash file. There is too much to do in a given workday to devote it to reading a four page epistle that repeats the same few points over and over.
It’s About Time: When and How Often to Email
Timing is a big topic in email. Trying to figure out the best time to email (Monday? Thursday? In the morning or the afternoon?) can be like trying to time the stock market. But a little testing can pinpoint some better times and frequencies for your particular audience. Do take into consideration differing time zones and workdays.
Another puzzle can be how often to email and how soon after a trigger event. You don’t want to come off as too aggressive or needy (kind of like making that second date). But you also don’t want to wait too long; what if they forget about you?
Testing can tell you the best time and frequency for the various emails you send.
Return to Sender: Sender Name/Address Choice
Within the parameters of recognizable email sender names and addresses, you might want to try out different ones to see if a particular audience segment is more likely to open one over the other. You can make it a highly personalized sender or a less intimate business name. You may also wish to personalize it as far as the category: the sender could be named after a vertical or industry.
There you have it; seven different elements to play with. You don’t have to test each and every one but you do want to test just one at a time. You are after hard numbers, not vague reassurances.