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Email Marketing Tips: Email Testing

Email Marketing Tutorial

Testing, experimenting and tweaking are essential if you are going to be effective in your email efforts.

In the previous entry of this Email Marketing Tips for Bloggers series we looked at email effectiveness tracking metrics. While looking at the stats tells you a lot, it is not going to give you the whole story and they will not make the improvements for you. You need to actively pursue and encourage the results you hope for.

Our last look at emails was to work out which worked best and how. This article is all about trying to work out why.

Before we get in to exactly how you do that, I need to fill you in on a “metric” that I intentionally missed last time.

ROI

ROI stands for “Return on Investment”. It’s probably the most important item to track of the lot.

I know, some of you are wondering if it is so important why miss it out?

That’s because it is not a standard reporting metric that you get from your email service. While Aweber and the other better email marketing tools will give you a wealth of statistics about your emails, only you can decide on your Return on Investment.

Essentially, you work out what it is you want your email recipients to do and how much that is worth to you, taking into account your costs. Normally this will take the form of special code you place on your purchase confirmation pages so the transaction can be traced from initial email contact all the way through to checkout.

It’s very important to think in ROI terms. An email with a high success rate on the face of it, well opened, good CTR, could fall flat when it comes to actually getting people to buy or whatever it is you want them to do. Always keep in mind that chasing any other metric without taking into account of ROI is pure vanity.

When you have a good fix on your numbers, and have a good idea what kind of reaction you expect to get, you can start to predict what your return will be for any campaign. So as well as being able to compare two campaigns after the fact, you also approach the possibility of being able to decide before you launch.

If you are not looking to sell, where is your ROI? In the case of my email newsletters and the email feed for this blog, I am looking at retention as my main goal. I try to attract an appropriate audience and keep you interested with relevant and valuable content. As my list continues to grow steadily I can see there is a return on my time investment.

ROI is not always that easy to figure out, so if you do not know the outcome you are looking for, take some time now to think about it.

Now we have looked at ROI we can now discuss how you achieve it!

Ready, Fire, Aim

Most people focus on building a big list then simply send off their emails and hope for the best. The bigger their list, the less incentive they have to make their emailing work. That’s fine, but inefficient and wasteful. I know a marketer making millions out of a list of only 5 figures, it can be done if you work at it.

As we saw in the previous article, the main principle of email marketing improvement is that you should learn from every email you send. Learnings from past emails are used to make the next ones better. This is a long process though, what we really need to do is find ways to scientifically narrow the gap between ok and awesome 🙂

Beat the control

A concept that will be familiar to anyone who has read or performed direct marketing in the last 100 years will be “beating the control”.

What is beating the control?

You set up an email and send it out. Whatever results that email gets becomes the baseline, the control. Each email you send out following that should then be an attempt to beat those results. If you do manage to improve then your new email becomes the control.

In the offline world there are companies who have kept their control for decades, simply because it has worked so well nobody has been able to beat it.

If you have an autoresponder sequence then you have an opportunity to test this yourself. Take a message in the sequence where you ask your reader to do something, make a purchase, opt to segment, take a survey, whatever. See if you can improve the results by tweaking and waiting for a good number of people to go through. Perhaps it will be your subject line, or your call to action.

Change Only One Thing

I’m not going to get into more advanced testing right here. For now, when you are testing and tweaking, make only one change at a time. If you make a bunch of large changes then how will you know which change brought the new results? So change just one item at a time and see if your results improve or get worse. Then make another change and see what you get again.

Split Testing Email Lists

One of the great things about Aweber is it makes split testing easy. Split testing is where you take two or more slices of your list and send variations of the same email. When I emailed out the previous article in this series I used two different subject lines. You can see below the results.

Email Split Testing

What conclusion can we draw? You could think that the more benefit-lead subject line produced more opens (and more spam complaints). Don’t be too quick to decide …

Statistical Significance

One benefit of a huge list that can not be denied is large numbers allow for greater confidence in your results. With only a small sample it is difficult to tell if your results are misleading because a single person can skew the percentages.

Statistical Significance Calculator- PRC

Before you draw conclusions, see if the results are really telling you anything accurate. There are many calculators online that will tell you if your results are reliable. The one I used just happens to be the first Google result.

Creating Email Swipe files

It’s not just about learning from your own emails. I keep what is called a “Swipe File”.

A Swipe File is a collection of emails you have been sent that you can learn from. It could be a text document, an email folder, print-outs, whatever works for you.

Even spam can be a good source of learning!

sumo-reading

Here I am taking a coffee break and going through selected print-outs drawn from my email lists while sat on my fantastic Sumo bean bag. I print off in bulk then go through highlighting key sections with my pink pen. After I will create a document from these notes.

What should you look out for?

  • Subject lines that catch your eye
  • Compelling introduction styles that force you to read the whole email
  • Call to action lines and link anchor text that get you to click
  • Intriguing approaches that you haven’t thought of
  • Layouts that appeal

Basically, anything that makes you say “I wish I thought of that”.

Summary

You have two choices, fire and forget or incremental improvement. If you opt to make your emails more and more effective then it is worth investing the time and effort to work out why some emails perform better.

Now we have all the tools we need to bring together, but there is another piece of the puzzle missing; effective email copywriting, and we will look at that next.

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Comments

  1. hi Chris!
    wonderful! what a vast knowledge you have ! though earlier i rarely read your articles as i did not have any web site or blog.but now i have a blog so regularly read you. i am really impressed by you.and i appreciate the service you render.
    thanks a lot
    one of your fans
    iqbal92

  2. hi Chris!
    wonderful! what a vast knowledge you have ! though earlier i rarely read your articles as i did not have any web site or blog.but now i have a blog so regularly read you. i am really impressed by you.and i appreciate the service you render.
    thanks a lot
    one of your fans
    iqbal92

  3. Chris,

    This is a very informative post on email marketing.

    I recently wrote a post on improving email marketing by market segmentation. I’ve linked to it.

  4. Chris,

    This is a very informative post on email marketing.

    I recently wrote a post on improving email marketing by market segmentation. I’ve linked to it.