Please enjoy this guest post by Wendy Lowe of Campaigner.
When small businesses are preparing to do email outreach to a list of customers and prospects, often it is very hard to decide what to highlight in the content. Is the special offer you have crafted really going to appeal to your customers? Does a new email template perform better than your existing layout? With all the options available, it’s often tough to determine ahead of time which one will deliver the best response. There’s nothing worse than sending an offer to your entire list only to find it resulted in few or no responses.
This is where small businesses can learn from the big brands. Before you send out that coupon or product offer to everyone on your list, consider using a technique called A/B or split testing. This can give you just enough information to select the content that will generate the best results.
If you have a good email marketing application or service, creating an A/B test is simple. Just follow these steps and you’ll find your email marketing campaigns will generate better and more consistent results.
1. Start by taking your mailing list and pulling a representative sample from it. If you have one main list with no divisions, that’s easy – just take 5 or 10 percent of it. If your list is already divided into sub-groups, such as by gender, age group, where they live, income, etc., take random names from each applicable segment until you reach about 10 percent of your total mailing list.
2. Take that 10 percent and divide it in half. Again, if the list is segmented take half from each segment and place them in group A. Then place the rest in group B. If there’s no segmenting involved, simply divide it in half.
3. Prepare your email using your email campaign service and include the first offer in it. Then perform a “save as” and substitute the second offer. It is very important that the only thing that changes is the offer. There should only be one variable. If you change the offer and the color, or the offer and the body copy, you won’t know for sure which change drove the better performance, which could lead to a misstep.
4. Once you have the mailers ready, send one to half of your pre-divided list, and the other to the other half. They should be sent around the same time on the same day.
5. After the email A/B test is sent, use your email campaign service’s reporting tools to see which was opened more quickly, which was opened most often, and what actions were taken (if any) for each. If you are asking customers and prospects to call instead of click, be sure to track how many calls you receive for each offer.
6. If you have a virtual phone service with unlimited extensions, consider tracking phone responses. Assign a different extension to each email marketing offer, and then track how many calls come to each extension using the service’s reporting tools. Just be sure to change extensions for each new test so your response numbers remain accurate.
Once you have this data, see which offer achieves the best results. You can then roll that email marketing offer out to your full list (except the people who have already received it, of course) with a high degree of confidence that it will be a success.
If both offers are effective, you can choose one for your current mailing and save the other for the next. On the other hand, if neither offer is effective you have learned something about your customers, and will need to work on different offers that will be more intriguing. If one offer is effective with a certain group in a segmented list, and the other offer is effective with a different group, you can adjust your marketing efforts accordingly while gaining insight for future mailings as well.
No matter what you discover, you will have real-world feedback that will help you maximize your responses while minimizing the risk of customers and prospects asking to be removed from your list (also known as opting out).
Building a habit of A/B testing can really help you improve the success of your email marketing campaigns. By investing a little more time up-front, you’ll gain that 20/20 hindsight everyone talks about – but you’ll have it before you launch your full campaign.
Wendy Lowe is Regional Development Director for Campaigner, an e-mail marketing solution that enables organizations to have personalized one-to-one e-mail dialogues with their customers, measure how they respond, and analyze those responses.
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