7 Things you should split test in your emails

Split testing is a great way to settle design disagreements and work out what kind of content your readers respond best to. However, a huge number of elements go into creating an email. So, it can be tricky to know where to start with effective split testing. We’ve pulled together a list of tests that we have seen some interesting and unexpected results from.

1. Sender Name
In Microsoft Outlook, the Sender Name is the first thing you see before you open the email. This also applies to most web-based email clients. This is your first chance to grab attention!
The simplest test you can do is First Name vs Full Name. Depending on how formal or casual your industry is, “John” may well get a better engagement rate than “John Doe”. You can even take it a step further by testing “John” against “John at CommuniGator”. This kind of split test will likely revolve around where in the lead funnel your contact is. If they are familiar with your company, including the company name will be a useful prompt. If they are already highly engaged, the name by itself should be enough.

2. Subject Line
Probably where most people would start, and for good reason. This is the banner advert for your content, where you show the reader what they will get inside.
The most common kind of split test is what you might call “Explaining vs Intriguing”. An “explaining” subject line would be something like “5 ways to use images in an email”. It’s very clear what the reader can expect to get, and simple to come up with as it draws directly on the content of the email. An “Intriguing” subject line might be “Show, don’t tell”. Appealing more to curiosity, it hints at what is on offer.

3. Outlook-style vs HTML
Don’t get our Marketing Director started on this one, he has very strong opinions!
In brief, an Outlook-style email is a very simple, text-based format. These kinds of emails are generally seen as less obviously automated. This is because they look like what individuals send themselves. Simple to put together and highly familiar, less really can be more, especially further down the lead nurturing process.
HTML emails are more decorative, with images, GIFs and buttons. They are a staple of the automated B2C email world and are taken as obviously automated by most readers. Text blocks, images and banners can separate your content. This allows you to address different topics in the same email.

4. Email Length
Research shows that 187 million emails per minute were sent over the last 12 months. That’s 3 million every second! To compete in this level of traffic, your emails either have to be beautifully succinct, or deep enough to merit dedicated attention. Which one works best for your industry is something you’ll have to test. The perfect balance will be somewhere in between a single sentence and the entirety of War & Peace.

5. Personalisation
Now an established tool in the marketing kit, personalisation can add great appeal to your email, or miss the mark entirely. To venture into this territory, you need to be confident in your data quality. Nothing gets such a negative response as an email which addresses the recipient by the wrong name!
You can personalise any aspect of your email. You could insert the name of the reader’s company into the subject line. For example, “How ACME Fixings could benefit from CommuniGator’s email platform.” You can use any piece of data about your contact to personalise your email. How about, “What Sales Directors like you need to know about GDPR”?
More than whether or not to include it, the testing ground is how and where to apply personalisation. Whether you put your contact’s name in the subject line, or within a text paragraph, applying it correctly can grab your reader’s interest.

6. Send Time
Everyone has their own way of tackling their inbox. Some people deal with emails in blocks, scanning the inbox first thing in the morning, then not checking again until after lunch. Others are plugged in constantly, dealing with each message as it comes. Add in meetings and tasks that crop up through the day, and you can’t accurately predict when someone is most likely to read and react to your email.
This is an area where split testing is at its most valuable. It shows you what people actually do, not what they say they do or what you think they should do. Changing one of our biggest lead generating campaigns from a 9 am send to 10:30 saw a huge jump in engagement. The 9 am send had average CTO (Clicks-to-Opens) rate of 16%. Sending at 10:30 more than doubled our success rate, with a CTO of 41%! These emails were going to the same audience, with a very similar style.

7. Send Day
Do you plan the coming week’s activities on Friday afternoon or Monday morning? Do you always schedule meetings for a Wednesday? These kinds of trends are well worth taking into account, especially when you are inviting your leads to an event.
For example, you’re most likely to catch our Commercial Director in the office on a Monday. He spends most of the rest of the week on the road, so he’s reading his emails on the go, on his mobile. This means that an email full of thought-provoking content sent on Tuesday morning Is not going to receive the level of attention you want it to. If your target audience includes salespeople or C-suite executives, the day you send can make the difference between being ignored and that all-important click.
Enhance your marketing with Split testing
Once you’ve tested all of the above, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a split testing expert. From here you can use your new confidence to compare how specific images perform in your HTML emails. Does a stock image of a seminar do better or worse than an image of one of your actual staff who will be presenting? Does a red Call-To-Action button outperform a green one? The possibilities are endless!

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