Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3...

We all know that testing can help improve our marketing campaigns but sometimes it's hard to know where to start. So we've come up with three simple tests you can try.

Before you start, take a look at your current situation. What are your open, click through and conversion rates? Once you have these clearly identified you can start. It's important you only test one element at a time. Make sure you know what you've changed and the impact it has on your results.

With this in mind, here are three simple tests to try:

Test one: subject lines
"Description" versus "desire". A simple way to test subject lines is to split your database into two segments. To the first segment you will send an email using a "desire" led subject line. To the other, you send the same email with a "descriptive" subject line. It's important that you only change the subject line. Keep all the other elements of the campaign consistent.

The subject lines could take a structure similar to below:

  • "July Newsletter - Three simple sales techniques"
  • "You'll have more sales than ever before"

Notice the difference between the two subject lines. The first sets the scene and describes what the email is about. The second subject line plays on the recipient's desire to grow sales but doesn't clearly state what the email covers. When analysing this test we suggest you compare the figures for open rates and click-throughs to see which performs best overall. It is possible that changing the email subject line can increase opens but reduce click-throughs. It's important you analyse as many elements as you can. This will help you form a clear view of what works and what doesn't work for your industry.

Test two: email length
Many tests have been conducted on length of copy and the affect this has on marketing success. Many of these tests conclude that there is an optimum length for copy. However, they rarely prescribe a specific length for a specific target audience or campaign type. With this in mind, ask yourself if you have ever tested email length to see what works best for your business.
You can test short copy versus long copy in the following way. Segment your email database into two segments. try to make these segments as similar as possible. You'll then need to create two email campaigns. The first campaign will be the long version. It will have most of the information on the email and will almost certainly require the recipient to scroll down in order to read it. The second campaign will need to be much shorter. Preferably limiting the scroll to an absolute minimum.

You can reduce the amount of copy on an email by using landing pages. For example, rather than writing the whole paragraph, simply summarise it into one or two lines. Then have a "read more" link through to a landing page. Finally, you should send the campaigns to your segments at the same time in order to keep the test fair and consistent.

Analysing these campaigns can be difficult as the benefits of short and long copy are not always easy to identify. We suggest you look for the following key indicators of success:

  1. Number of opens per subscriber and as a total of all subscribers
  2. Conversions (the number of sales or enquiries generated)
  3. Contacts (number of people that reply or contact your business as a result of the email)

Click-through rate is likely to be misleading as the short email will inevitably have more links than the long email, but on the longer one you could try including a call to action link at the end of the email as an indicator that the whole email has been read.

Test three: image versus text based links
This test is extremely popular with email marketers. Research into this area has identified that there can be a significant difference between the performance of text links and image links. This depends on the environment in which the email is sent and the psychology of the recipient. Even though the environmental and psychological elements are difficult to control this test is still a very useful one to conduct.

Split your database into two segments. Make sure the characteristics of your segments are similar. You then need to create two email campaigns. The first using text links and the second using image links. These image links could be pictures or buttons. It really depends on what will fit with your email design. Deliver these two campaigns at the same time, on the same day and then analyse the results. Which campaign has the highest click-through rate? Which produces the most conversions or contacts?

There is another way to structure this test. Design one email, but next to every image link place an alternative text link (linking to the same destination). Positioning the images and matching text close together will help you identify which performs best.

In our experience text links often out perform image links, but until you try you won't know if that's the case with your particular industry and/or database of subscribers.