March Madness Sweet 16: Your Email Testing Brackets

March Madness is in full swing for all those college basketball fans out there. I know this because I think my husband may be the biggest Indiana Hoosiers fan I have ever known (and according to him, they are going to slaughter Syracuse). Of course I've spent many a night with ESPN and their bracketology assessments running in the background  -- and have heard more Charles Barkley-isms than a girl can handle. So what do I do to cope? I turn it into email marketing fodder. So friends, welcome to Email Testing Brackets!

Let's get your office's competitive juices flowing -- they all think they know email better than you do any way, right? Give them a chance to prove it. Below, I have provided a pretty standard list of testing elements that you can bracket out to a winner. Clearly there are rules -- there always are. 


1. Test one objective in your program at a time. While there is certainly an appetite for multivariate testing (especially among email marketers), for the purposes of our brackets, we are going to need to keep it pretty simple. You can have multiple brackets going simultaneously, as long as the audiences for these tests are distinct and have no overlap.



2. Hold out a control group. For the brackets, we will be testing a variety of progressing elements against one another, but in order to truly determine the incremental impact on the messaging, it is helpful to hold out a control group. This provides a blank canvas for assessment in determining if a customer would have likely taken the action (or not), and the influence the message had on the decision to act.

3. Make it statistically viable. A test is not a test if it is not statistically viable. If I have a sample set of five people out of a pool of 500,000, and three behave in a distinct way, does that indicate that the other 499,995 people are most likely to respond similarly? Nope. 


Here is a bracket for you to use for your office. You will need to provide each participant with:

  • A goal/objective for the test (e.g., our goal is to increase conversion)
  • The 16 testing elements that you plan to leverage (e.g., blue button, green button, button with large font, button with small font, etc.)
  • A motivation to be crowned the office Email Genius

Here are some tests that you can consider:

    Test the actual verbiage, button treatment and color of the call-to-action. You may find that what you "think" your customers respond to is not the actual reality. That's why we test, right?
    It's true that the creative of an email program drives only about 20% of the probability a customer will convert (relevance in audience, offer and channel has a much bigger impact), but it is still the most visible component of your email program. Many, I am sure, have opinions about what should be featured and how it should look; let's give them the chance to prove their theories.
    Many brands these days have departments fighting internally over email real estate. I'm sure many of you defend your email templates daily to maintain their integrity. So test them out.  


Now that you have your tests, you just need to build your brackets. Here's what you are going to do:

First, define the goal, and then align your tactics into two "divisions" for your brackets. Using my example above, on the left side you might choose to test CTA verbiage, and on the right, CTA button treatment -- all with the goal of determining which has the most impact.

Next, determine the eight elements for each division and start building your brackets to a winner!

Go on, get your bracket on! 


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