My goal was to improve the e-mail user experience by including a downloadable wallpaper. The e-mail contained a great archival photo that I was certain would appeal to the target audience. "A no-brainer," I thought. "Appeals to an important new audience segment, shows consumers using the product and is something people will want to display and talk about."
My clients had a different opinion. They felt people wouldn't want to download the image, preferring to use their own images for computer wallpapers. This is self-referential thinking: "I don't like this, therefore the customer won't." We forget that we are insiders and therefore not representative of the customer.
In direct marketing, the best way to squelch self-referential thinking is to test. After a few successful tests, clients are more willing to listen to good advice. In e-mail marketing, the cost to create different versions is much higher, so clients are less likely to test.
Hence my bar bet.
I bet that at least 5,000 people would click to download the wallpaper and, if not, I would pay all additional costs incurred.
Did I win?
Yes! There were extenuating circumstances, however. The ESP servers went down just after the e-mail was launched, so the campaign was halted until we were certain the problem wouldn't recur. While on hold, a decision was made not to include the image in the men's version of the e-mail, so the wallpaper was not offered to half the audience.
Even though half of the intended audience did not see the image, over 4,800 clicked to download it. The wallpaper link was the most popular in the women's version of the e-mail. For the men who received it, the wallpaper was the third most-popular link. (Remember that this image showed the target audience using the client's product and was deemed inappropriate for the men's version.)
There were two important lessons we learned from this experience. The first is that we all need to avoid self-referential thinking. Your opinion, as they say, is a focus group of one. The second is that sometimes e-mail marketers need to go out on a limb in order to improve the e-mail user experience. If you've truly got the customer's best interests at heart, I'll bet on you to win every time.