Experimenting with your Email Campaigns

You constantly hear about A/B testing, and the importance of testing your email. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering “Why? How much difference could it really make?” I send out my emails and I get some leads – it’s great.

The truth is quite horrifying. A good email, gets more than a 100% increase in open rates. That’s twice as many potential leads. Just because you tweaked your email campaigns a little (okay… quite likely a lot). Either way, it makes your email campaigns a much more interesting all of a sudden.

MarketingSherpa does a good job in this article of talking about the actual difference between two emails they ran. The comments from the users highlight a few factors that you might also want to use in your experiments, and this MarketingSherpa article provides an overview of the significance of various factors (there are some notable overlaps – highlighted in bold):

  1. Variance in link location performance (on one email)
  2. Quantity of images 
  3. Subject line
  4. User profiling / targeting
  5. Landing page design & performance for conversion

The bottom line is that your bottom line could be improved by experimenting with some of these factors. Don’t try to handle them all, just focus on a few at a time and check to see if there’s any improvement. Keep in mind that open rates aren’t the goal, you’re still focused on leads & conversion. So re-positioning solely to achieve a higher open rate, isn’t helpful if there’s no change in the nett performancen of your leads.

 

Why your Email strategy needs themes

Is your email strategy is a week-to-week collection of offers, interspersed with some content? Or a soup of weekly content with little correlation? You’ll probably find that your open rate is massively variable or just really low (Eloqua has some great details on average industry open rates). More importantly you won’t be able to respond, because figuring out what your users are actually responding to is difficult.

There’s plenty of articles about creating interesting and meaningful content, not to mention how and why it helps, but creating links and themes between your email content is just as important.

Costume Fiesta

For my email campaigns I create monthly themes (for about 3 months), and then  chalk out weekly content ideas. I try to get each idea to sojourn into the next, and have some linkage to past content (for reinforcement). Ideally speaking they’ll have some connection to real world activities that we’re conducting. This sounds tedious but doesn’t actually take very long.

If you’ve got decent email software (and aren’t sending everything by bcc), you’ll quickly be able to get an idea as to what content is working and what isn’t. Trends will be easier to spot because you’ll have more than one reference point for a topic.

If you’ve got fancy Hubspot-esque software that does user-profile building, then creating theme’s is going to be even more advantageous. As your theme’s will help you create more realistic pictures about your visitors than just a single “I-read-this-article” reference point would.

Of course if you know what your users interests are, selling to them becomes easier – but you didn’t need me to tell you that did you? What strategies are you using when planning out your content?

Marketing vendors, who you gonna call?

I’ve never been part of a marketing team that didn’t have to create literature, usually design through to print. It still amazes me how many Marketing Teams don’t have all their vendors in place though. Sure you’ve got that guy that you usually go to for your printing. But what about when the timelines are really short? (Like last minute events or stunts) Or when your in-house team is overloaded and you need to send work out to a contractor?

I’ve built relationships with a set of vendors, so that just in case everything’s in a mess, I’ve got a list of go to people (with contract rates) ready to hand. It’s something I’d strongly recommend you create. You can get updated pricing every couple of months, which is a great opportunity for you to keep in touch with them – even if you’re not sending any work their way at the moment.

Here’s a few of the different marketing vendors that I try to keep relationships with:

  1. Copywriters; we have our in-house writer and use an external agency (Godot) when there’s excessive load
  2. Graphic designers ; we have internal designers, and have contract rates with 3 freelance graphic designers that we use for specific projects
  3. Video creators; this is new for us, previously we used to create videos internally, but we’re increasingly relying on external vendors given the volume of time taken (and resource used) to finish video projects
  4. Printers (regular); everyone needs to have a regular printer, nothing special here
  5. Printers (last minute); this is where we go when things are getting tight. They charge a premium but can get things done overnight and work really well under time pressure
  6. Web designers; we have an agency on contract that we use for majority of our work, but there are 2 freelancers that support us when we need custom pages & quick project work

Even if you’ve got in-house teams to cover these, it’s always good to keep your fall-backs ready. If you’ve got the budget, it can be worthwhile to send work out to them on occasion instead of in-sourcing it. It’ll give you practical experience of working with your vendors, so you’ll understand their process and their idiosyncrasies when crunch time comes.

Having a few good marketing vendors on tap has saved projects for me in the past.