Step It Up: 12 Tests to Optimize Email Performance

Business.com / Marketing Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Smart businesses need to make sure they are getting the most bang for their email buck, given its importance in marketing.

Email marketing is a requisite for small businesses in today’s mobile economy.

In fact, the Direct Marketing Association estimates that it provides up to a 4,300 percent return on investment.

With those kinds of results, small businesses should make sure that every email is earning its keep, and the best way to do that is through testing.

There is a multitude of factors that can influence email marketing performance rates. Two of the most common, subject line and send time, should be tested frequently.

For example, does your audience respond better to percentages or dollars off in subject lines? Do open rates rise when you use numbers or symbols? Are recipients more likely to respond on weekends or weekdays? During the morning, afternoon or evening?

Once you can answer those questions, these 12 tests will take you to the next level in truly optimizing your email performance:

Related Article:Are You Making a Rookie Email Marketing Mistake?

1. Plain Text vs. HTML

Having a plain text version of your email is a good practice to ensure readability across recipients and devices, but it’s also a good idea to test sending only a plain text email. This type of email appears more like personal correspondence, which some recipients may prefer.

2. Sender (Company vs. Personal)

Businesses have many options when it comes to the “from” name of an email, the company name, the owner, a sales person or even the recipient’s individual point of contact. Testing each option will help small businesses improve open rates and overall email performance.

3. Subject Line Personalization

Small businesses may be testing subject line offers, but adding personalization to subject lines is an often overlooked option. Do your recipients open with a higher frequency if the subject line includes their first name or company name?

4. Call-to-Action (CTA) Text vs. Image

A common email best practice is to make sure your primary CTA isn’t only available as an image in case recipients do not have images enabled. However, it’s also important to test and know which type of CTA is performing best, images or text, and tailor your email template accordingly.

5. CTA Color

Small changes in color can have a big impact on performance rates. For example, landing page builder Unbounce reported a 35 percent increase in sales attributed to simple changes to a client’s CTA button.

6. Long vs. Short Copy

Marketers often cram emails with too much information. Sales messaging, recent blogs, customer testimonials, upcoming events, etc., may all go in one email. Instead, try breaking these emails apart into shorter messages or focus the email on teaser information that drives recipients to your website to learn more.

Related Article:Email Marketing: 6 Growth Hacks for Building Your Email List in 2016

7. Stock Photos vs. Real Photos vs. Illustrations

Small business marketers have many options when it comes to imagery, so determining which types of graphics resonate best with your particular audience is important. Do they prefer high-quality stock photos, more real-life images or graphical illustrations?

8. Image vs. Animated GIFs vs. Video

Taking the image test a step further, most email systems now display animated GIFs well, allowing small businesses to insert movement into their emails. Another image option is to display a video still and link to the full video. Are your readers more motivated by videos and motion, or do they prefer static images?

9. One Send vs. Re-Mail

An often ignored email option is to resend emails to recipients who didn’t take the desired action. Behavioral targeting options allow small businesses to easily segment people who were sent an email but didn’t open it or those who clicked on a link, but didn’t convert. Resending the email to those recipients can be a good reminder that results in more engagement.

10. Frequency

Small businesses often fall into an email routine – once a quarter, once a month, every Friday, etc. Vary your frequency to see if it impacts performance. For example, if you’ve always sent emails once a month, try twice a month or even more. MarketingSherpa found that 61 percent of consumers like to receive promotional emails weekly and 28 percent request them even more frequently.

11. Promotional vs. Non-Promotional Content

With the proliferation of sales and discounts hitting inboxes every day, it’s easy to think that each email sent needs to be highly promotional. Add some less promotional content to your email marketing mix, some examples: tips, trends, best practices or problem/solution stories, to see if this type of message increases engagement with your brand.

Related Article:Analyze This: The Comprehensive Guide to Email Analytics

12. Links to Landing Pages vs. Website Pages

Instead of linking to pages within your main website navigation, try linking to a highly specific landing page related to your email content. A McKinsey & Company study found that landing pages sending recipients directly to an item/offer can increase conversion rates by more than 25 percent. 

Email marketing shouldn’t be a set-it-and-forgot-it process. Smart small business marketers should continually test, monitor and measure to make sure they are getting the most bang for their email buck.

Keep in mind that even small changes, like fonts, colors, and sizes, can have a big impact, so it’s important to test just one metric at a time leaving other variables consistent to know what’s moving the needle. Then small business owners can feel confident they’re smart, efficient marketers.

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