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Variables to Test Instead of Just Your Subject Line

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Variables to Test Instead of Just Your Subject Line

1. The Offer

Possibly the biggest lever you have in your email marketing is not the few words you use to describe your offer, but rather, the offer itself. Whether you’re testing two ebooks against each other, or an ebook versus a webinar, this test is bound to get you better results overall. The reason this is particularly important is, while you may think your offer is the best thing since the iPod, you may also be wrong.

Here are some more specific offer elements you can consider testing:

  1. Topic: Do certain offer topics resonate better with your audience? For example, we might test one of our ebooks on Facebook against one of our ebooks on Twitter.
  2. Format: Which offer format does your list prefer? Do they love webinars? How does that compare to their interest in ebooks, kits, free trials, etc.?
  3. Length/Size: Does your audience prefer smaller, bite-sized offers like tip sheets, or are they hungry for more, like an 80-page ebook? Try testing longer forms of content vs. shorter offers, or one offer vs. a set of offers.
  4. Name of Offer: Sometimes the way you position your offer can make a difference with your audience. Think ebook vs. guide vs. whitepaper, or factbook vs. slideshow vs. download.

2. The Landing Page

The goal of your email is not just to get someone to open or click through; it’s also to take some action. For example, to download your offer. So don’t think of your email in a vacuum. Think of it in the context of driving that particular action, which means optimizing where the action takes place: the landing page. After all, if you create this great email that drives lots of clicks to your website but then you lose those potential leads at the last stage, it’s like you’ve run the first leg of a marathon but then decided to drop out of the race during the very last mile.

Here are some important landing page elements to test:

  1. Description of Offer: The way you position your offer may have an impact. Calling out that a consultation is free, or referencing testimonials of people who have downloaded that offer, for example, can be interesting variables to test.
  2. Length of Description: Do you go on and on about your offer, providing testimonials and screenshots, or do you keep things short and sweet in bullet point form?
  3. Image/Preview of Offer: Using a supporting image is great, but what do you show? An image of the ebook cover, a sample page of the ebook so people can see what’s inside, or a preview of the first few pages?
  4. Form Placement: Do you put the form on the left? The right? Below a block of text? Best practices say make it visible on immediate page load (above the fold), but feel free to play around with the placement.
  5. Number of Form Fields: What data do you really need from your prospects? Fewer form fields usually leads to a higher conversion rate, but you should always test asking the bare minimum versus asking for every personal detail — and somewhere in between. We’ve also published some great advice about this debate here.
  6. Which Form Questions to Ask: In addition to the number of form fields, which questions you ask on your form can have a big impact. Asking for Social Security Numbers or visitors’ first born child’s name is very different from asking for size of company or industry.
  7. Form “Submit” Button Text: Do you use a straightforward, action-oriented phrase like “Download Ebook Now,” a fun option like “Let’s Go!” or a standard “Download” button? Test out the text of the button you know each lead is clicking on.

3. The Audience

The success of your email is not just dependent on what you’re emailing or how you’re emailing it, but also *who* you’re emailing. The simple act of segmenting your email list to narrow your audience down to one that would find your content more relevant can have an amazing impact on your results.

Here are some audience segmentation tests you can run:

  1. Interest: Has someone downloaded an ebook on this topic before? Do you know they have a particular challenge based on their website browsing history? Target the offers around those interests for a boost in response rate.
  2. Persona: Identify your main business personas, and target your content to each one.
  3. Recency or Level of Engagement: Did this subscriber come to your site recently, or has it been a few months? Did they download a dozen ebooks, or just one?
  4. Other Demographics: Try segmenting on other demographics collected by marketing or sales – things like industry or role or company size.
  5. Lifecycle Stage: Where is this person in the sales and marketing funnel? Did they just start engaging with you, or are they in the last stages of the sales process? This article provides suggestions on what to send at each stage of the funnel.
  6. Check out this blog post for even more examples of how you can slice and dice your email list for better segmentation.

4. The Format

Changing up the format of your email can also have a surprising effect on your response rate. This could mean everything from the length of the email, to including a lot of images, to creating a simple, plain text email. Keep in mind that your results may differ depending on the type of offer. For example, our new ebooks perform best when sent in a nicely formatted html email, while our free consultation offers perform better when sent as a simple, plain text email.

Here are some formatting elements you can test in your email marketing:

  1. Plain Text vs. HTML: Simply try changing your pretty HTML email into a plain, personal-looking email to see how that changes your response rates. You might be surprised at the results!
  2. Content in Text Only vs. Text and Images: Some companies have had great success with using visuals to tell stories that you simply can’t convey through words alone.
  3. Number of Calls-to-Action: Do you go with a newsletter style with a lot of calls-to-action, or zone in on one single offer?
  4. Length of Email: Do you go short and sweet, include meaty content, or go on and on about the value of the offer?

5. Timing & Frequency

Timing is one of the most popular things marketers try to optimize. But it seems like there’s more talk about the best time to send in general, and not enough testing going on to determine the best time to send email to your own subscribers — or even a specific segment of your subscribers. Instead of sending email at every marketer’s favorite time (Tuesdays at 10 a.m.), break away from the pack and see what works specifically for your audience in order to optimize for your particular business — and to have a better chance of breaking through the clutter of other businesses’ emails.

Consider conducting the following timing/frequency tests in your email marketing:

  • Day of the Week: If you always email on Tuesdays, try mixing it up and sending on a Monday or Saturday.
  • Time of Day: Do you always send emails in the mornings on the East Coast? Try an afternoon send — or even go for after work hours.
  • Triggered by Specific Behavior: It’s not just about when you want to send an email, it’s about when your subscriber has taken some interesting action. Try targeting your follow-up around when they take an action using marketing automation.
  • Timing Around Trigger Event: How soon after the triggering event should you send that email? Immediately? An hour later? A day later? Longer?
  • Frequency: How much should you email someone, and how much time should you leave in between? Once a month, once a week, once a day? Check out this article to help you determine your optimal email frequency.

6. Sender Name/Address

If you haven’t tested a different sender name or address yet, definitely add this to your list. While best practices still apply (in other words, using a name that recipients will recognize as well as a real email address that your prospects can respond to), you can always try out different names to see how it affects your open and clickthrough rates.

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