Elaine Armbruster

Director, Email Marketing/Marketing Automation armbruster.73@osu.edu

Optimize your marketing emails with these three tests

Elaine Armbruster

Sep 07, 2017

When it comes to email marketing, many of us have tested subject lines—and for good reason: if recipients don’t open your email, the great content inside goes unseen. But if you’re ready for inspiration that will give you the biggest bang for your buck beyond subject line testing, here are three tests to try in your next email marketing campaign:

Image of test email campaign from Alumni MagazinePhoto of Alumni Magazine - control1.  Reduce the length of your email
I’ll never forget something Flint McGlaughlin—founder of MECLABS, a research group focused on optimization—said at the first email marketing conference I attended in 2011:

“Marketing emails should have one goal: to capture clicks.”

The industry has evolved since then, and you may argue that certain emails need to include all pertinent information. But in most cases, I would challenge you to ask: what is the ultimate action we want the recipient to take? Can that be accomplished within the email, or do we need to take them to a landing page to get the job done? 

The goal of our alumni magazine email is alumni engagement, meaning we want them to click through to read more. In a simple test with this email, we found that adding more text reduced the overall click to open rate by 5.5%. Less is more.

Attention spans are short. Try reducing the length and see if you can get your recipients to click toward the end result (registering, donating, reading the full article) faster.

Image of connect email campaignImage of connect email campaign2.  Switch up your call to action (CTA)
Our team has tried a little bit of everything when it comes to testing CTAs. My favorite easy win was in our Connect newsletter for alumni and donors: we tested the addition of buttons instead of in-text links and saw a 7.2% lift in the click-to-open rate.

There are plenty of other CTAs to try in addition to buttons versus text links:

    • One CTA versus many
    • CTA placement (top, middle, bottom, in-text, post-text)
    • Urgency language (“Register now” versus “Learn more” or “Don’t miss out!”)
    • “Read more” versus contextual language (newsletters)

3.  Talk to your unengaged audience in a different way
What if you send the perfect email, but people still don’t open it? Do you continue to send the same thing, hoping for a different result? You know the definition of insanity, right?

Try pulling a list of people who don’t open your high priority campaign. Can you send to them again with a different subject line that captures their attention? What about trying to target them in a different channel, like Facebook or direct mail? Usually the best way to read this test is to have a holdout group within your non-openers so you can understand the incremental impact of your additional activities. 

Remember, every audience is different, so what works for others may not work for you. And although it’s tempting, don’t forget to test only one thing at a time so you can understand the impact to your numbers.

Have a testing idea or need some help getting started? We’d love to chat, so send us a note at emailmarketing@osu.edu.

Happy testing!

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