Stop Testing Subject Lines

Marketers are taught to test and learn so they can keep getting better results. Why then, are we all still testing subject lines? While these are the easiest tests to set up and run, they also have the smallest potential to drive better results.

Testing subject lines doesn’t do anything more than check a box: “Yes, I did run a test in that send.”

Marketing budgets are usually awarded based on results or innovation, not whether you ran a test that accomplished nothing.

Challenge yourself to drive results and budget approvals. Here are 4 innovative test areas that are likely to be buzz-worthy enough to grab senior management’s attention and some extra “investment” dollars.

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is one of the hot topics of 2017, and it’s showing results for some brands. Marketers should already be reaching out to the vendors leading the charge in this promising area. This technology is admittedly only helpful to brands with large lists, so marketers should check whether they can get meaningful results before pulling the trigger here.



2. Dark Data. A good example of dark data might be a post classified as having positive sentiment on social media. Put another way, dark data is the 95.5% of data that marketers haven’t touched because it is too hard to evaluate. “Too hard” is relative, though — this category is very broad and some data types are much easier to use than others. Getting marketing, data scientists, and social media experts in a room to brainstorm will help identify an area of opportunity and lead to a test that could wow senior management. Marketers can kick-start a brainstorm by asking what data types have stood out to their peers, and how they could be used to drive action.

3. Internet of Things (IoT). The Internet of Things is about integrating the online world with the offline world. Email, especially on mobile devices, is central to the customer experience in IoT marketing.

The other buzzword to keep in mind here is “programmatic,” which refers to setting up mini programs that automatically trigger emails when a specific interaction takes place. For example, customers may enter their email address at a kiosk to get more information. The information gets sent, but the programmatic setup notes previous interactions by this same customer and may trigger a follow-up call, email or display ad based on where the customer is likely to be in the purchase cycle. This type of marketing — think triggered email marketing on steroids — has huge ROI potential.

4. Influencer Marketing. Customers who have a social presence and voice that can actually cause other people to buy more from your brand are “influencers,” and marketers have been trying to influence the influencers for years now. Influencer marketing is poised to become more sophisticated in 2017. Email marketers need to team up with their social media counterparts to make sure they can share in the budgets, since email is a smart way to communicate with these important customers. Marketers should think about tests that drive desired behavior.

Testing is hard. Most marketers wind up focusing on easy-to-implement tests (like testing subject lines), but marketers are finding that the return on these easy tests is getting smaller and smaller. Budgets are awarded to results and innovation, so it’s time for marketers to focus on some tests that will catch senior management’s eye. Investing the extra time in any of the testing areas above will do just that. You can justify testing subject lines while you take the time to pick one and make it happen.

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