Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Trouble with Testing

Yea, yea, yea, I know I should be testing. I just don’t have time. It’s hard enough getting one email out the door let alone creating different versions for testing! Give me more time or more resources, then I’ll do testing!”

Sound familiar? [Big Sigh].

I won’t waste your time telling you why you should be testing. You already know that. But testing isn’t something you should be doing – it is something you MUST be doing. Why?

It Makes You Look Really Good
Showing your boss that you personally generated a measurable increase in open rate, CTR or conversion rate as a direct result of testing makes you look really good.

It Makes You Feel Really Good
Imagine the thrill of seeing a significant lift in response after testing one of your brilliant hunches. Not to mention the look on your boss’s face when you show him/her your results.

It Makes You Be Really Good
Testing is the only 100% accurate metric you have in benchmarking the growth of your marketing effectiveness.

So with all this going for it, there must be some pain associated with testing, since, according to one report, less than 10% of us actually build it into the routine.

So let’s examine the main reasons why we don’t test and identify some solutions:

"I Don't Have Time"
You don’t need much time. One of the best criteria to test is the Subject Line. For Pete’s sake, how long can it take to come up with 2 of them and test each one?

"I'm Not Sure What to Test"
Here’s your list:

  1. Who the email is FROM (company vs. sales rep for example)

  2. Subject Line

  3. CTA (Call to Action – Urgency/Scarcity)

  4. Copy (“What’s in it for me”)

  5. Graphics links vs. text links

  6. Layout/design

  7. Which day of the week

  8. Time of Day

  9. Frequency

"I'm Not Sure How to Test"
The quickest way to get up to speed is a simple 10/10/80 split test. Send 10% of your list Offer A, then send another 10% of your list Offer B. whichever offer wins, send that to the remaining 80% of your list.


  1. Test only one element at a time. Start with #1 above and don’t test anything else until this metric settles down. At some point this test will start to deliver diminishing returns. At that point, stop and go with your most successful version. If the metric starts to fall off, resume testing that element until it picks back up again.

  2. Don’t test something just because you can. Stick to the list above, go in order.

  3. Document the results of every test. Make sure to include what you tested and the results.

  4. Be consistent. Build the process of testing into your workflow as a permanent action item.

While some companies have already implemented complex multi-variant testing, there are others still cringing at the thought of doing any testing at all. So when someone says they need an email sent out tomorrow, push back. Tell them you need 48 hours to test. It’s not your fault the requestor is so unorganized they can only give you 1 day’s notice! Why should your testing process suffer?

What’s funny is that many of us (including me) at one time or another have purchased Industry Benchmark Reports, downloaded white papers and attended webinars looking for “industry averages” to learn what works and what doesn’t work as a way of circumventing the testing process. Alas, while these are all great at pointing you in the right direction, most of these include the following caveat:

“Results may vary but are worth testing”

‘Nuff said.

Steve Kellogg
aDemand Generation/Marketing Automation Consultant, Astadia
aEloqua Certified Marketing Best Practices Consultant

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Automating Email Frequency

How much is too much? How little is too little? What is the best way to measure/control all this?

Is there a way to actually vary the frequency automatically, based on user behavior?

Let's start with, what I thought was a brilliant comment Steve Woods recently posted on his Blog: http://eloqua.blogspot.com/ in which he said: "It depends". Basically he broke it down into 3 levels of engagement: High, Medium and Low.

Which got me to thinking...allow me to elaborate:

Q1: How often do you want to hear from family and friends? Every day? Every week?

Q2: How often do you want to hear from the IRS?

Hmmm...the answer seems to be directly tied to the relationship.

Have you ever had a first date with someone only to have them start calling you relentlessly? A direct violation of Level-of-Engagement-Frequency-Tracking, or LEFT for short -- as in gone, bye bye... :) Aah, sometimes I crack myself up!

So if you have a good relationship with your customer (one who is actively engaged) then they will tolerate more frequent communications from you. If you are just forming a relationship with your customer, better not to overwelm them with your well-intentioned (albeit) frequent nurturing efforts. Less is more until they demonstrate an increase in interest.

So in keeping with Steve Wood's concept of Hi, Mid and Low Engagement, you might try something like this:

Engagement Level is determined by implicit behaviors, such as:
  • How recently did they respond to your last email?

  • When did they last visit your website?

  • When did they last fill out a form?

  • Etc.

(Of course this assumes you have a marketing automation tool that can track these types of behaviors).

So, we see that we actually need 3 nurturing programs, not just one, each focused on both content and frequency, all based on their current their level of engagement - Hi, Mid, Low.

So, how do we automatically "adjust" any given customer's frequency and content, based on their currentl level of engagement? Implicit criteria to the rescue!

Essentially you build a 4th nurturing program which is nothing more than a gate that continuously adjusts which nurturing program a customer is put in, based on their last implicit behavior.

So everyone is put into the Low Engagement nurturing program to start and then you let the customer define their own content and frequency moving forward. Customers could conceivably move through all 3 nurturing programs, back and forth as their interest/situation dictates.

This is where a good scoring program also comes into play. Odds are if someone is showing strong interest in your communications every week, they are ready for handoff to sales! Chances are they won't be at this level of engagement long, since they are probably getting ready to choose a solution. Lead scoring to the rescue...

The road to Best in Class "Right Time, Right Message" marketing effectiveness isn't easy. But thanks to marketing automation, once you set it up, you can leverage low cost, high efficiencies to nurture customers dynamically at their own pace. Love it!

Steve Kellogg
aDemand Generation/Marketing Automation Consultant, Astadia
aEloqua Certified Marketing Best Practices Consultant

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

A FAIR EXCHANGE - When to Ask for (And Get) Vital Customer Information

When offering whitepapers or other high-value content, the question often comes up as to when is it appropiate to ask for specific information in return.

  • When should I ask for a phone number?

  • When should I get their job title?

  • When should I ask for their buying horizon?

I think the answer to this really hinges on two criteria:

  1. Where they currently are on the Buyer Journey

  2. Their perception of a “Fair Exchange”

#1 The Buyer’s Journey:

Obviously asking for much less at the Interest stage and asking for much more at the Evaluate stage makes sense. It’s like building any relationship – you ask for information over time as trust evolves.

So for example you might map when to ask for what this way:

#2 Their perception of a “Fair Exchange”

This is where a customer evaluates the fairness in what they perceive they will be receiving, in exchange for divulging specific information. As long as the customer perceives there is a fair exchange, then they will provide the info.

The more valuable the asset is perceived, the more answers you will be allowed to get.

A good way to test the perceived value of a given asset is to require a form submission but leave ALL the fields optional – except for email address. See what they voluntarily fill out. This will give you a good gauge as to the perceived worth of the asset.

BTW – Just because something is FREE doesn’t automatically make it a good perceived value. We’ve all seen forms that include 30 fields just to download a FREE [something]. Geez.

Of course just because they give you information doesn’t guarantee it is accurate. When was the last time we were truthful filling out our height and weight :) In fact asking typical BANT questions usually spells trouble as frankly many people either don’t know the answer or won’t be honest.

It all comes down to testing, like most everything. But these seem to be pretty good guidelines.

Steve Kellogg
Eloqua-Certified Marketing Best Practices Consultant

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Why GPS Might Drive Email CTR Through the Roof

Anyone who has ever played with a cell phone's GPS feature has seen a glimpse into the future of eMarketing. iPhone, in addition to knowing your exact location, now has apps that pinpoint the proximity of friends and colleagues as well. Welcome to the latest in segmenting your customers: Location, location, location!

I'm not talking about a 10% off coffee coupon that gets emailed to you as you walk by a Starbucks, (although that would be pretty cool). But with relevance being the key driver in whether your email gets any attention at all, it doesn't get much more relevant than knowing exactly where someone is at the precise time they open your email!

Here are a few examples of how one day we might be able to leverage GPS in segmenting our email communications:

B2B Message Before GPS:

Hi Bob,

Thank you for your interest in [Our Product]. We'd like to schedule a brief demo with you. We can arrange an appointment at one of our many branch offices or have the local rep in your area contact you directly.

B2B Message After GPS:

Hi Bob,

Welcome to Boston! Hope you had a good trip. Did you know we have a branch office right down the street from you! While you are in town, we'd like to schedule a brief Product Demo with you from the convenience of your hotel.

Please reply to this email to have Simon Smith, our product expert in Boston arrange a convenient time for you.


B2C Message Before GPS:

Dear Bob,

Save 50% off pure wool coats at Bingham's Factory Direct. To find the location of the store nearest you, click here.

B2C Message After GPS:

Hi Bob,

Welcome to Boston! Hope you had a good trip. Since you've already discovered how cold it is here, we'd like to invite you to Bingham's 50% off wool coat sale, going on now through Sunday. Even better, there is a factory-direct store right down the street from you, conveniently open until 9PM.
Click here for directions.


With segmentation rapidly becoming the cornerstone of effective email marketing, knowing where someone is can dramatically personalize your messages, making them instantly relevant.

No doubt some will say this is way too "Big Brother is Watching" and like anything else, this type of segmentation could certainly get abused. But with today's sheer volume of email communications, your only hope of ever getting through all the clutter is to make your messages as relevant as you possibly can.

Personally, I can't wait for someone to connect the plumbing on this so I can test it!

Steve Kellogg
Eloqua Certified Marketing Best Practices Consultant

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Does Your Newsletter Taste Like Chicken?

Since it's the start of a new month and a new quarter, many newsletters are, as we speak making their way into unsuspecting inboxes everywhere. But how do you insure yours makes it through all the clutter?

5 Key Strategies for Effective Newsletter Design

#1 - Make Them Memorable
Here is a very clever example of labeling the typical types of content found in most Newsletters:

#2 - Include Only Your Best Stuff
Your Newsletter is not the place to stick all the leftover assets you don't know what else to do with. The sole purpose of your newsletter is to inform your customer about their industry. Only assets that position you as a Thought Leader ever belong in your Newsletter. It should NEVER be about you, but rather about your customer.

Content that typically generate higher click-through rates include:
  • "How-to" Articles

  • Customer Experiences (Case Studies)

  • Best Practices

  • High-level Strategy Articles

  • Interviews with Industry Thought Leaders

#3 - Make it Relevant
Leverage the power of your marketing automation app in segmenting your Newsletter. Sending your IT Newsletter to someone in sales is probably not going to get you much attention. Hopefully you have the tools available to dynamically add content to the newsletter specific to the recipient.

#4 - Design the Announcement Email as the "Cover" of your Newsletter
Don't make the email you are sending to announce the Newsletter also serve AS the Newsletter itself. It's typically too much to try and squeeze into an email.

Instead, take a tip from magazines and make the announcement email act as the "cover" to entice users to click through to the actual Newsletter.

The above is a perfect example of how magazine covers get you to pick them up off the shelf. They typically imply an "easy read", with numbered bullets to entice you to want to learn more:

  • 2 Rules for…
  • 3 New Ways to…
  • 4 Lessons from
  • 5 Critical Steps…

But be careful - don’t imply too much time or effort:

  • 99 Ways to Succeed
  • Take Our 45-Minute Survey
  • Free 600-page Report

Learn which topics get read and which ones get ignored. Always seek to better your last Newsletter's performance by benchmarking against yourself. Forget what the industry "averages" are. The only benchmark that really matters (and is 100% accurate BTW) is where you currently are right now.

Newsletters have been around forever. They were the original Blog. But today, effective newsletters are less focused on what your company has been up to, but rather on providing tips, tricks and strategies your customers can leverage in helping them do their jobs better.

Steve Kellogg
Eloqua Certified Marketing Best Practices Consultant

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