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Direct & Email Marketing

Tried and Tested

Hot tips for creating simple tests that improve e-mail marketing results.

Gail Goodman

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TriedandTested

What if you could make a slight change to one of your e-mails and get a 20% lift in opens or a 10% increase in sales? You would do it in an instant. But how do you know which element to change? That’s where testing comes in. E-mail marketing makes it easy to quickly test important elements of your e-mail at very little or no extra cost. With testing, you can find out what factors influence the success of your e-mail. Follow these five steps to create an effective and measurable test.

1.Decide what to test.

Because testing with e-mail is so easy, it’s tempting to test many elements at once. Start by testing just one. Why? If you test more than one element in the same e-mail, it’s challenging – and sometimes impossible – to determine what influenced the response. Here are some easy and telling tests:

  • Subject Lines:
    Create two different subject lines for the same e-mail communication. For example, a boutique owner just added a home and garden section and wants to get the word out to her customers. Here are the subject lines she’ll test:
    • Subject line No. 1: New! Home and garden section added
    • Subject line No. 2: Get what you need for your home and garden
  • Long vs. Short Copy:
    Is less really more? Create a shorter version of your current newsletter with teasers and links to your website. Or create two versions of a promotional e-mail. Keep one very short and to-the-point and make the other a little longer by adding additional, useful information.
  • Special Offers:
    Create two different offers. For example, an online bookseller wants to get rid of last season’s bestsellers. He sends the following offers to see which one gets a better response.
    • Offer No. 1: Buy three books and get one free
    • Offer No. 2: Buy three books and get free shipping

2. Decide how to measure success.

What will you measure to determine success? Possibilities include website traffic, response to an offer, sales, opens and click-throughs. Whichever you decide on, be confident that you can attribute an increase – or decrease – in the area you  measure directly to the e-mail you send. The easiest place to start is with your e-mail communication opens and click-throughs, data that your e-mail marketing service provider makes available to you.

3. Determine how to divide your e-mail list.

When it comes to who you will send your test to, you have two options. You can either split your entire list in half and test one half against the other or take a random sample and do a pre-test.

A pre-test is an excellent way to find out what works before sending the e-mail to your entire list. This knowledge can greatly improve your overall response rate. It also protects you from sending a poor e-mail test to a large portion of your list – and wasting your efforts. To pre-test, choose a random sampling of 100 people from your master list, then split that in half and send each half one of the two test campaigns.

4. Test, measure, and declare a winner.

Once you have everything ready, send your test e-mails. The great thing about e-mail is that you get your results quickly: within a 24-to-48-hour period you will know which e-mail communication got a better result. Declare your winner, send that e-mail to the remaining members of your list and watch the results come in.

5. Have fun and keep it up.

Did I mention that testing is fun? Make a guess about which version will win before you send and see if you are right. What’s amazing about testing – and what proves its incredible value – is that many times the results are not at all what you expect.

Let your customers, clients or members tell you, through their actions, what they respond to best. This is an excellent and trustworthy way to improve your e-mails. Test often. You may be surprised everytime.

Other tests to include

Don’t underestimate the value of testing your e-mail marketing message.

  • The time of day or day of the week you send.
  • Whether you include an image.
  • Types of calls-to-action, and the placement of a call-to-action button or link.

A small business expert and visionary, Gail has revolutionized the way that small businesses and organizations can effectively and affordably communicate with their customers, clients and members.

Direct & Email Marketing

How To Get The Most Value For Your Direct Marketing Money

Grant Fleming, CEO of Leadify offers this advice to entrepreneurs and marketers.

Grant Fleming

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It is a common, global problem in the digital age – how do you convert vast amounts of data into demonstrable business value? Marketers aren’t exempt from this conundrum, and the pressure is always on to justify the worth of running a marketing campaign in real world, practical terms.

So how can you glean the most profitability from a campaign? Start by addressing a core challenge: Separating the important data from the not so important.

More particularly, focus on demographic information that is easily accessible like age, gender, location. Then follow up by looking a bit deeper and adding data such as marital status and income. Grant Fleming, CEO of Leadify offers this advice to entrepreneurs and marketers.

1. System essentials

Beyond this, while choosing the right data is key, it’s wise to use the best direct marketing system possible for your marketing needs. For starters, it should report on the data that is most important. It should also offer smart dashboards that displays comprehensive information. And it should accommodate users who want to put analytics and insights together manually.

Related: POPI Proof Your Direct Marketing

Having all three in place – pulling together data, running analytics and translating those into presentable reports – is not just a nice to have. It’s increasingly essential, as direct marketing is fast becoming a saturated space. Figuring out ways to better personalise data, and target and curate the right audience for the right message at the right time has become mission critical.

2. Aid from the machines

The good news is that machine learning is set to take much of the onerous work out of personalising data. But the caveat is that its usage doesn’t exempt you from being involved, as machines still need to be taught what constitutes good data to begin with. You thus need to know and understand how to curate data properly from the outset.

For the foreseeable future, you still need to understand what you are feeding the machine learning algorithms with, and most importantly, testing assumptions. Avoid the tendency to assume that because the results came from a machine, they are correct. Rather, conclusions drawn need to be continually tested, verified and honed where appropriate.

3. Pitfalls and challenges

But, while you may have a basis from which to extract more value from your data, what is preventing you? Among key obstacles that many marketing companies do not realise, is the power of the tools that are available to them, especially those locally produced.

Related: Direct Marketing: Go Where Your Customers Are

This is to their detriment, as the tools readily available in South Africa boast sophisticated, yet simple, insight dashboards and reporting metrics that could power-up their marketing efforts.

As for a potential opportunity, this too is a topic that is often mentioned in other industries, that of creating greater integration with a variety of tools. In reality, few companies have managed to integrate their digital, social and direct marketing approaches well.

Getting more money out of your data boils down to sorting the wheat from the chaff, having the right system in place, curating data, and finally, using machine learning with an eye towards it being an aid, rather than a replacement for human efforts.

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Direct & Email Marketing

Build A Better Database And Boost Your Audience

Put frankly, if you have not crafted your message so that you are engaging with your audience, with their permission, you will be out of the direct marketing game.

Grant Fleming

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For businesses across the board, one way to get better returns is by improving efficiencies. For marketers in particular, the million rand question is how to build better databases and grow their audience.

Grant Fleming, CEO of Leadify, says that building up an audience around particular marketing messages or strategies rather than pushing out any and all content to anyone, is essential. The latter may have been a trend that TV advertising praised, but it is ineffective as well as wasteful, when applied to direct marketing campaigns.

Marketers also must pay attention to their ‘list hygiene’ i.e. ensure irrelevant messages aren’t being sent to the wrong demographic. Do this by avoiding over-marketing, a factor which may be missed by those operating with a ‘more is better’ mindset. This can derail efforts, as even if people are partially interested in the marketing message, they will reach an unsubscribe point more quickly if marketers press them too often.

Dealing with information deluge

Front of mind for marketers should be that people are being besieged by information more than ever. Additionally, email and SMS channels are especially hotly contested marketing spaces, full of marketing promotions.

Clearly, any marketers who want to increase their opt-ins need to get their message and audience right from the outset, while ensuring that they send carefully crafted campaigns at the right time.

Segmentation needs to become more sophisticated too and is among top marketing trends for 2018. Doing so helps marketers treat their audience differently and adds a level of personalisation to their campaigns.

Related: Direct Marketing: Go Where Your Customers Are

The Smart Insights report even suggests greater personalisation will result in an increase in conversions, by keeping marketers relevant and in touch with lists’ changing needs and preferences.

Strategies for success

Analytics can play a significant role here.

More granular detail can be built up over time such as what day of the week, and time of the day messages should be sent to particular segmented audiences for the optimal response.

Spread marketing messages out for a while too, and then hone in on specific days of the week, and times of the day, according to the audience being targeted. It’s considerably more effective to target the right audience at the right time than continuously sending general messages all day.

Related: POPI Proof Your Direct Marketing

The importance of A/B testing to help hone the message to your audience also cannot be underestimated. By testing two or more variants, and listening to the feedback received, marketers have a basis from which to optimise their campaigns.

Further benefits

As for databases, is bigger still better? Yes, but only as a starting point for the data to be further segmented and refined, empowering marketers to more accurately define their audiences.

All this may sound like a great deal of work, but the benefit of doing so isn’t just to build an audience. It will also help marketers deal with the increased pressure from the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) act to ensure they aren’t spamming their audience.

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Direct & Email Marketing

Honour The Opt-out

Gareth Mountain from Olico, explains how PoPI will effect companies undertaking any form of direct marketing, and why it’s important to honour the consumers’ right to opt out of the marketing process.

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It’s in a companies’ own best interests to toe the line when it comes to direct marketing best practices. It boils down to the fact that ethically it is the right thing to do, and that they should not wait for the implementation (and subsequent fines) of the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) act to kick in to respect the consumer.

1. Electronic comms and outbound calling

The most notable point to understand when it comes to electronic channels of communication (email, SMS, Automatic Voice Messaging), is that companies will need explicit opt-in permission to contact the consumer. Here it is not about having the legal right to market to them as the Electronic Communications Act currently specifies, but rather being able to prove that they specifically gave permission for your communication.

Related: Direct Marketing: Go Where Your Customers Are

This is set to bring about an overall decline in electronic marketing, and securing that valuable opt-in permission is going to be crucial. Yes, some companies will certainly struggle, but by providing relevant, ethical, targeted deals to your consumer database, there’s no reason for them to opt-out, especially if your offers are beneficial.

When it comes to outbound calling, PoPI permits one marketing call to a person, even if they have not opted in. During this call, operators can attempt to get them to opt-in for future marketing (both electronic and voice). While this might protect jobs in the South African call centre industry, it could   result in locals receiving more intrusive calls, while less intrusive email and SMS marketing declines.

2. Respect the No

One thing to keep in mind during all marketing communication, is to respect the public’s requests. If a person asks to be removed from your electronic marketing or direct calls, make 100% sure to comply and ensure their number/email does not slip through the cracks to the next campaigns.

On a national level the Direct Marketing Association of SA (DMASA) has established a National Opt Out Database to adhere to. Paid-up members of the DMASA have access to this database as well as the process involved in making sure that their own database corresponds to the DMASA no contact list. This is through a process called “Deduping” and ensures companies do not accidentally market to anyone on this national do-not-call database. DMASA members also need to adhere to the code of conduct which regulates behaviour in the industry.

3. The responsibility of the company

When it comes to a company-wide level, it is best to automate the opt-out process so that human error is taken out of the equation. Keep a record of the opt-outs and inform the consumer that they have indeed been taken off the database.

Related: POPI Proof Your Direct Marketing

One grey area where we believe companies might try and bend the rules, would be to opt-out the consumer on a product-level, meaning that although they have said no for marketing on one brand or product, the company will continue with marketing other products in the stable. It is unlikely, however, that a consumer will decline receiving marketing for one product, and still want communication for another. Rather take them off the database completely.

The reasons why companies must honour opt-outs are numerous, with the fact that the PoPI Act allows for fines of up to R10 million or jail time for violation perhaps standing out as the most prominent. But with the ethical behaviour of companies under the spotlight locally, the moral responsibility of respecting the consumer should not be ignored.

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