Making the Complex Simple - Part II

Last week I discussed the importance of simplicity and how marketers often make things too complex in e-mail marketing. Another thought, along the same lines of that topic, speaks to the often asked and rarely answered question, "How do I improve e-mail creative?"

Ironically, much of the time and budget that is spent on an e-mail is spent in this category. Yet sadly, it represents only 3 to 10 percent of your audience that actually reacts to these elements. One might think that the response to this question would involve some user centered design (UCD) methodology (as is used in the Web design world). But, the real answer to this question is not a direct one, rather, a restatement of what you are really asking, "How do I improve the response of my e-mail program?"

If only 30 to 40 percent of your audience will ever open a message, and 3 to 10 percent will ever click on anything, you must think about what your creative design can really impact. That being said, the crux of the issue is not if your creative is working to improve your e-mail program; it's what elements you should focus on for improvement -- the elements that will help you break through the clutter and generate a larger response.



Today, more often the approach is to isolate creative experiences to the discrete e-mail domains (AOL, Hotmail/MSN, Yahoo!) of the recipient. Each domain represents unique limitations and user experiences. And, in the day and age of mass customization, why would you design to one experience when you know each is inherently different?

Remember the first rule about benchmarks: Only test what you are willing to change and learn from. Well, the reality is most consumer e-mail databases have a pretty consistent penetration of Yahoo!, AOL, and MSN/Hotmail that represent over 60 percent of the base. By determining which groups are most active and valuable to your company, you can determine whether it justifies optimizing a creative experience to a particular domain. Old Navy has done this recently, optimizing its traditional e-mail creative to the preview pane within AOL 9.0.

Now, taking domains into account, you must layer in what area you want to test: delivery, reception, and response. Each presents a unique opportunity to improve response rates. But, you must know what to test, what the results mean, and how environmental considerations can affect a campaign.

To help better improve your results, here are a few recommendations:

·Use best practices in HTML code, design, and file structure when sending HTML e-mail. This will help ensure that your message can get through unfiltered.

·Test creative types by high response segments.Treat those that have a historical response pattern to a series of creative testing and focus low response segments to other tests (frequency/recency methods).

·Create a testing hypothesis. Be certain to know what you want to learn and what you will do with the results of the findings.

·Test fundamentals of UCD. Some people react differently to text and/or the use of images. Although the general belief is that imagery promotes higher response, in many cases it is the main reason the e-mail didn't get there in the first place.

·Use ISP environments as isolated test cases.Design to be optimized in a certain environment (ISP) and test against a traditional design.

·Use graphical click map overlays to illustrate click performance by creative type.

·Include creative team in your program review and analysis (so they can learn along with the project/business teams).

·Leverage applied learning and don't forget to archive what you learn. If you generate a high response from a specific tactic, make certain you archive the learning and continue to improve.

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