Replace Marketing Best Practices with Testing

As marketers, we sometimes get pulled into the black hole of thinking that best practices are the answer. We dive into case studies, we research articles, and we have discussions with peers about how other companies have achieved their success. The problem with relying on building our marketing on case studies is we don’t really learn anything for ourselves. Every business is different and just as importantly every product inside of the same company is different. Each can target a different audience with a different buying cycle.

If a campaign or advertisement works for one product or company, labeling it a “best practice” does not ensure it will work for another. Even more dangerous, the marketing campaign could be led down a path in the wrong direction from the very beginning.

So what do we do about it?

We need the answers to these questions!

When do I send out my message? How long should my email subject line be? What color will grab the attention on this direct mail postcard? At how long into the commercial do I ask them to ‘like’ us on Facebook? What dimensions do I create that banner for?

We should be figuring these answers out for ourselves.

  1. Have a clear marketing goal. Go back to the very simple reason of what the marketing department is tasked with. Is it driving sales? Leads? Registrations? Clicks? Visits? Understanding what the goal is will affect how it’s measured and therefore the results. It will quickly be apparent that the discovered “best practice” on our desk is for a company with a different variable.
  2. Build a foundation of testing. Set up a campaign to measure the end goal as an experiment. Continuously benchmark against the progress of the campaign and adjust as necessary. Build testing into the DNA of every campaign. If the campaign can’t be measured then take a good look at the reason it’s being run.
  3. Look at the results of the experiment. People are busy. We all are. But without the results there is no measure of success. We need to take the time to present them in a reasonably easy to understand way. If our CMO or executive board spends more time on the format than the data, it’s been done wrong.

Marketing can be a fine-tuned and running machine in every company. No matter what the product or company, each has their own needs. Relying on best practices will not only take a marketing team down the wrong path but it will set them up for future failure.

Undoubtedly, we’ll run into a situation (especially with the way technology evolves) where there is no best practice to choose from. Would we rather have a system in place to figure it out ourselves or wait until someone else does, so we can read their “best practice”.

Increase Your Email Marketing Effectiveness

As an email marketer, I’m constantly looking for ways to achieve an increase in effectiveness of the emails I’m sending on behalf of myself and clients. Even a 1% increase in click rate could equate to 1,000+ individuals for some large blasts. By influencing those extra people and engaging them to click and engage with the content, the chance that they make a purchase goes up significantly. Without action there is no ROI to measure. They are a meaningless subscribe. If they open however, one can attribute that back to influence and transactions.

Below are 5 tips for increasing your effectiveness in emails:

  1. Clean your list up front. Many marketers gather whatever emails they can find and start blasting them out, and then are surprised when they have low engagement. I always ask, “How did you get that email address?” Most likely the person ‘found’ it or grabbed it from a transaction in their system. If you ask the person permission outright or allow them to subscribe themselves on your site, your contacts will me much more engaged in the future.
  2. Write a great subject line. Keep it short and simple. Let them know what’s in the email with a quick call-to-action of what you want them to do. It’s so easy to hit that “delete” button and move on to the next item in their inbox. What can you say to make them stop, even if just for a second.
  3. Be a familiar From Address.  If your sales rep normally has a relationship with the person on the other end of that email, make it come from them. It’s easy to customize the From Address of emails with the help of advanced email service providers. Use email technology as a way to build retention and a relationship. If the subscriber doesn’t remember who you are, you’re not going to get through.
  4. Manage your IP reputation. Internet Service Providers such as Gmail, Yahoo, etc. have purposefully installed automatic filters that block emails from unknown or blacklisted senders. If you have a private IP address dedicated to your brand’s email sends, protect it. Don’t buy lists and send massive email blasts. Monitor your SPAM complaints and unsubscribe everyone who asks. You likely only have one shot to make a positive impression.
  5. Test test test. Just because something works for one company doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. The opposite is also true. Find out what works best for your list, on your schedule, with your content. Develop a 50/50 AB test where you send half of your list one subject line and the other list a different subject line. What worked better? Now test the From Address. Now test the From Name. Now test the day of week. Now test the time of day. Build a list of best practices and continue to modify.

Email marketing is effective because it’s highly measurable. You’ll be able to know exactly how many people opened, clicked, bounced, and unsubscribed. Use this data to develop a strategy for getting through to your customer. Always ask, how can I add value to their inbox?