Email is a numbers game, and we have all kinds of numbers we can measure. But when it comes right down to what really matters, money is the most important metric. And the more of it you earn, the better your ROI, right? The challenge is, knowing how to make more of it. And that’s why we test.
However, testing is kind of like flossing your teeth. You know you should do it, but you oftentimes only do a poor job or skip it altogether…until your semi-annual trip to the dentist looms large on your calendar. Then you’re flossing daily, but you can’t really undo all the neglect from the days, weeks or months you skipped.
The takeaway here is that flossing should be a regular habit—and testing should too. And like flossing, testing should be done to maximize results. Unlike flossing, there isn’t one set way to test to get one predetermined result. We’ve performed thousands of tests in our 18 years in this business. We still don’t know what will work, because it all varies greatly depending user-base and company, and best practices are only temporary at best.
However, we have gleaned quite a list of testing do’s and don’ts over the years, and we present them here, both the common pitfalls to avoid and tips for better testing.
Above all, remember that testing only seems hard. It’s not.
10 common email testing pitfalls
Below are the mistakes we commonly see marketers making—marketers who are well intentioned and want to test, but who are also getting in their own way when they do so. We highly recommend you avoid these:
- Waiting for IT or others to help make the testing happen. This is the slow death of a successful promotional email.
- Doing multivariate testing rather than a simple A/B split test. Multivariate seems awesome but hard to decipher. Instead, use A/B split testing to find your diamond, and then perhaps multivariate testing to polish it.
- Using unequal data sets. Be they quantity or records and time periods.
- Focusing in inconsequential details, otherwise known as not seeing the forest for the trees. When marketers test for logos, footer text, and little things like that, they are losing the opportunity to test for what really matters, like offers.
- Testing the wrong thing. Like opens rather than conversions. Opens are easy but unreliable, even dangerous.
- Investing too many resources into a single test. This only leads to wasted time and effort, and time is critical in email.
- Testing too often.
- One-time vs. ongoing. Avoid the set-it-and-forget-it mentality. Create a culture of testing instead.
- Lack of segmentation: These are the marketers testing for the lowest common denominator. These tests won’t take you far.
- Not validating the results. Take into account difference times and regularly monitor gain.
15 Ways to Take Email Testing to the Next Level
These aren’t best practices, per se, rather ways to do testing better.
- Create a culture of testing: Be relentless. In this case, fast and steady wins the race.
- Be agile and streamline processes. Find ways to be fast and use fewer resources.
- Align goals with effort: What are your goals? Lifetime value? Quarterly revenue? Customer loyalty? Be clear on the goals of your program and be clear on the goals of individual emails and campaigns too.
- Start big: Test apples vs. oranges, not red apples vs. green apples. For example, test offers and subject lines before CTAs and body copy.
- Find your champion via A/B split testing.
- Then iterate your champion.
- Validate: Retest your champion twice annually.
- Focus on If those are unavailable, then the open-to-click ratio. If that’s not possible, look at opens and clicks.
- A/B test one element every X days. Then move to test next most important element.
- Name things appropriately, with the goal in mind, because it makes a difference in how you approach the testing and what you look for in results. For example, your Welcome email should perhaps be renamed your Upsell email.
- Test your “forgotten” pages, such as your thank you page, confirmation page, etc. If you’re not testing these, at least evaluate them.
- Optimize the post-click experience: This is the fastest way to boost ROI.
- Put some skin in the game: Use team incentives, like a Starbucks gift card.
- Invest 25%-50% of your production time into testing.
- Monitoring is critical, so do it. Organize and schedule reports. Use the tools available to you.
Testing doesn’t have to be rocket science, and really should be quite simple to do yet profitable too, when you make it a habit, and do it regularly and well.
Art by Justin M. Buoni // Just Justin Art
Words by Gerald Marshall // Email Industries