Test These Email Campaign Elements to Optimize Performance

Test These Email Campaign Elements to Optimize Performance
Author: Stephanie Miller, co chair, DMA/eec and VP, Aprimo

Email marketers always are on the hunt for ways to optimize performance.

In fact, a study from Marketing Sherpa found that most marketers routinely test at least four different email campaign elements:

marketing research chart for blog

 Which of these should you pay attention to? What are the most important email elements to test?
Usually, the answer is in finding the right combination and optimizing over time.  Let’s take a look at the top five.

Subject line
The best guide in subject line writing is that, “Clarity trumps clever. “ Say what you mean, say it succinctly and say it with gusto.   Avoid lots of punctuation or aggressively spammy techniques like repeating the word “Free” six times or using symbols to replace vowels like  “Vi@gra.”    Other than that, feel free to be a marketer and tell me about the offer and the sale prices.  You may find that  shorter subject lines  outperform longer ones – depending on the type of message.   You must test this, as we see results favoring both styles win.  Optimal performance depends on a variety of subject line factors.  Consider: 

• Don’t wait until the last minute to write subject lines. Craft them as a key part of the creative process.
• Focus on clarity, and front load subject lines with the most important information as many email clients and mobile devices will truncate longer lines

• Use longer subject lines  whenever  there is a compelling reason to do so, or if you have multiple offers in the same message
• Test!

Message Format
Be sure to test your message template every quarter to be sure it continues to serve you well.   Test for spam filters, but also for response.  Is your navigation in the way of offer prominence?   Would a sidebar serve you best, or does it distract from the core message?  Does your footer have the correct legal mumbo jumbo and privacy/compliance links?  The DMA/Email Experience Council released a number of Design Checklists for this purpose. Download them (free for members) in the Resource Room.

Relevant content is essential. Subscribers are too busy –and too overwhelmed with digital content –to read messages that aren’t specifically related to their needs/wants. Make sure your message is meaningful and that it stays true to your brand’s voice.  I just published Seven Tips for Higher Click Through Rates on the Aprimo blog  (LINK:   https://blog.aprimo.com/seven-ways-to-improve-email-click-through-rate).   Consumers are savvy and impatient, so  entice them with information that’s relevant and specific.  Consider that there are many elements to a message:

1. Button.   Perhaps rather than “Click Here,” your readers would like to be invited to “Learn More” or “Get Discount,” instead. Be realistic about what your readers are prepared to do (not everyone will be ready to “Buy Now!” after reading a few lines of email copy) and be clear with your directions.
2. Message type.  Design calls-to-action customized to each email type and purpose. As always, , pay careful attention to their frequency, font, color and location on the page.
3. Offer.  Testing offers is not specifically on the Marketing Sherpa list, but I can’t imagine it isn’t a key aspect for optimization.  Automation technology and the use of personas can guide you in putting the right offer in front of the right person at the right time. 

Layout and images
Email layout and images are more important than ever. Odds are, many (if not most) of your subscribers use an email preview pane feature that displays horizontally. It’s also likely that they block images by default and access email on mobile devices. Plan accordingly. Opt for more horizontal v. vertical elements. Don’t count on images to convey your message. Create content that can be read in different formats and on smaller sized screens.

Day of week sent
As my fellow columnist Simms Jenkins concludes at ClickZ, there is no magic bullet for timing emails. Today’s subscriber lists are typically diverse, and they’re likely to include international customers, people who can/can’t access email during the work day, those who read email on mobile devices, various age groups, etc. Obviously, trying to pinpoint an optimal send times across this wide-range of readers can be problematic. You have to use some judgment , of course–I wouldn’t choose Monday morning to send out a coupon for a Saturday night dinner special, e.g.  –but don’t expect a one-size-fits-all solution for every email campaign.

In all marketing, Your mileage may vary.  Testing will give you the insights needed to determine optimal send times for your particular message types and audience profiles. Marketing automation plays an increasingly important role, as well, as it allows you to track performance, integrate email communication with other marketing tactics, manage campaigns and change responses based on reactions from the marketplace.