We publish a weekly e-mail newsletter that promotes sales and savings, and offers coupons from local businesses. Currently we list about 25 offers on the e-mail, but as it continues to grow we must decide if we should continue to list each offer within the e-mail or if we should just perhaps link back to a Web site, from the e-mails, for the deals. Is it better to get as much content into an e-mail as possible, or is it better to have minimal content with links back to a site?
Jim in L.A.
There are several approaches you can try, but the only way to know which works best with your audience is to test them. In any case, a Web site with more information is a good idea. The site allows you to provide more depth, link to your advertisers, and develop non-e-mail-generated traffic.
KPI. The biggest hurdle will be getting an accurate measure of success, so you need to define your Key Performance Indicators (KPI -- we do love our acronyms and polysyllabic words!). If your current content is both in the e-mail and on your site, your job is easy: split test a new version against the current version and measure:
If your current content is in the e-mail, you may want to try usability testing. While less quantifiable, you'll get valuable feedback. Create two groups of testers who represent your target audience and show each person one version of the e-mail. Get both an initial impression and feedback and activity from an extended view. Consider also eye tracking to show which version invites more readership.
In either case, you should be able to measure these particularly valuable KPIs:
Not all of us are couponers, however, whether advertisers or consumers, so this won't measure the total value of the program, as it ignores "impressions."
Other KPIs--list growth, opt-out rates, pass-along rates--will help monitor your program strength. Along with anecdotal feedback from current advertisers, these KPIs will help sell new advertisers, but won't reflect test results in a useful way.
Once you have established your KPIs, here are some things to test:
Scanability. You didn't provide a sample of your newsletter, but with 25 advertisers, the visual layout may be overwhelming. Readers should be able to quickly find offer(s) of interest, then dig deeper for more information, whether on the site or in the e-mail. If each ad is currently in a display-type format, you may want to test it against a more uniform format with offers arranged in categories and listed with intriguing headlines. Categories or featured offers presented in HTML text as anchored links at the top of the e-mail will optimize for the preview pane by showing readers the great things they'll miss if they don't open and read the e-mail.
Copy--Amount and Style. How much copy do you need to get your message across? Prevailing wisdom says, "less is more," but direct marketers know that is often not the case--and have test results to prove it. You need to find the right amount for your advertisers and your readers. Test a version with headlines only vs. a version with explanatory copy. Invest in copy that really sings about benefits, rather than just listing the facts.
Featured + Categories/Lists. Try an alternative format that showcases a featured advertiser or two. For the feature, select a customer who is willing to include a redeemable offer and share the results with you, pay a premium for the privilege or is a big consumer draw (ideally: all three). In addition to the featured advertisers, present a list of other offer categories, or a list of all offers, and link to your site for more information.
Preference Center. This is not a test idea but a good practice, particularly for e-mail marketers who find themselves with too many advertisers (or company divisions) fighting for readers' very limited attention. Allow customers to select categories of interest so that you don't send a diaper offer to the empty nesters or a gardening offer to apartment dwellers. This also gives you a better-targeted audience to sell to your advertisers.
The E-mail Diva does love a bargain, and so I wish you,
The E-mail Diva
Send your questions or submit your e-mail for critique to Melinda Krueger, the E-mail Diva, at firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.