One of the best things about email marketing is the instant gratification in knowing if an email resonates with an audience, and along with that comes the ability to learn what makes the audience engage — open, click and convert — through testing. Here are four testing partnerships that resulted in some big wins and shareable learnings.

Project: Ongoing testing of email marketing campaigns
Goal: Increase engagement (opens, clicks, conversion) by optimizing emails sent through testing
Strategy: Identify small tweaks in copy or imagery that can make a big impact for both current and future campaigns
Key partners: Moritz College of Law, College of Dentistry, College of Education and Human Ecology, Alumni Association
Audience: Recipients of email marketing campaigns (all alumni and donors in these scenarios)
Outcome: Increased opens, clicks and engagement

Does it matter who the email comes from?

If you aren’t familiar, the “from name” is quite simply who the email appears to be from, and it can be edited by email marketers when setting up a campaign. Moritz College of Law reviewed data from past emails to determine which “from names” were performing best. This data gave a directional read to suggest that specific "from names" were outperforming the general college "from names", but there were many factors that couldn’t be controlled, especially subject line. We partnered to develop an A/B test to determine if an email from a known person outperformed an email from the college, given all other factors constant (date, time, subject line, etc.).

Following its reunion weekend, Moritz Law sent emails to the celebrating classes to thank them for coming and to share photos. Half the audience received the email from their class chair(s), and the other half received the email from OSU Law Alumni Affairs. Open rate was the primary key performance indicator (KPI) to determine success.

From sender
From sender

Results and Learning

Emails from class chairs had a 26.5% higher open rate and an unexpected 19.9% higher click to open rate over emails from OSU Law Alumni Affairs. This means that not only did receiving an email from class chairs drive more opens, it also drove more clicks, a secondary KPI in this test scenario.

In the future, Moritz Law will send the optimized version of reunion emails from the class chairs to the entire list in order to maximize opens.

Does how you incorporate a sense of urgency into a subject line make a difference?

After attending a Buckeye Email Community Breakout Session on testing email marketing campaigns in January, the College of Dentistry decided its upcoming Buckeyes in the Kitchen event would be a perfect avenue to test urgency language in the subject line.

Two short and sweet variations were deployed to test: Reserve Your Spot! versus Don’t Miss Out!

Subject urgency
Subject urgency

Results and Learning

“Reserve Your Spot!” resulted in an 11% lift in open rate over emails with the subject line, “Don’t Miss Out!” — that’s 46 more eyes on the event information! In the future, the College of Dentistry can mix in this urgency language, knowing that it resonates with its audience, but that overuse can cause fatigue.

Mystery subject lines — to tease or not to tease?

Each month, the College of Education and Human Ecology sends a newsletter to its alumni and donor audiences with the following formula as the subject line: Teaser – OSU EHE In Touch – Month Year.

EHE was curious to know what kind of teaser drives more opens and decided to test a mysterious teaser with one that was more overt:

Subject line
Subject line

Results and Learning

In this test, recipients did not respond to mystery. “This diet helps boost bone health” had a 7.8% higher open rate than the subject line withholding that the key was a diet. Openers were also 11.5% more likely to click after opening the email with the more overt subject line. One hypothesis as to why is because they knew what they were opening and clicked to get even more details.

Moving forward, choosing a more overt subject line is a good direction for EHE’s monthly In Touch, but more testing can always help optimize to make sure it wasn’t just the topic relevance that affected results. Additional testing could also determine if overt teasers drive more qualified traffic (people who are more likely to click once they open because they know what they are looking for).

Mystery, revisited.

A frequent question that comes up when developing email marketing content is how much detail to include. We partnered with the alumni association to test this with Ohio State Day at Cedar Point content. We set up two versions, one with mysterious copy (no mention of specific event) and one with more overt copy (mentioned Cedar Point and Ohio State Day). In order to control for variables, both emails were sent at the same time and had the same "from name", subject line, imagery and layout.

Copy mystery
Copy mystery

Results and Learning

The mysterious copy had a 69% greater lift in the click to open rate than the overt version – that’s huge! Understanding this lift in clicks is the first step in optimization. The next step is to track all the way through to conversion (in this case, registering for the event) to confirm that the lift in clicks ultimately results in the desired action. Progress!

Interested in seeing more results from tests around campus or have a testing idea? Join us for our bi-monthly Buckeye Email Community meetings, where testing is a standing topic on the agenda.




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