Why Aren't We More Daring?

Most ESPs now make it easy to perform a variety of A/B split tests, which let you send out two versions of an email to a limited portion of your list and then send the better-performing of the two to the rest of your list. So why aren't more marketers doing them?

Last week I was speaking with Internet Retailer Editor Bill Siwicki, who wanted my thoughts on the results of an email marketing survey the publication is releasing in a couple of weeks. One of the most disturbing findings was that a majority of respondents weren't A/B testing -- at all. Not even subject line tests.

I was pretty stunned, but put a "glass half-full" spin on it: Imagine what the ROI for email marketing will be when more people are A/B testing even occasionally.

Many of the largest marketers clearly see the value in testing, not only for optimizing individual campaigns but also for building their email program overall. For instance, at eTail East last month, Circuit City's senior manager of digital direct marketing, Denise Sarkees, said, "Every campaign that goes out the door has a subject line test." She added, "You can't build a business case to get more money if you don't test."

Simply put: A/B testing is the path to a better present and a better future for your email program.

To help inspire email marketers to experiment, go counter to the conventional wisdom and get outside their comfort zones a bit, the Email Experience Council debuted its Double Dog Dare series in the wake of the summer Email Insider Summit. I left the show with some out-of-the-box ideas and this was my way of continuing that dialogue. Since then, several EECers have pitched in with dares that include the following:

1.    Design an email that scrolls horizontally rather than vertically.
2.    If you include your Web site navigation bar in your emails, test to see if it's truly worth the real estate.
3.    Add an unsubscribe link to the top of your emails where it's more easily seen.
4.    Ask your subscribers to rate your emails.
5.    Entice subscribers to enable images by alt-tagging suppressed images with funny teasers.

Several marketers have responded to our dares by sharing information on previous tests or with promises to put the dares to the test. Whether any of these tactics would be successful in your program ultimately depends on your audience and content, but in most cases you'll never know unless you test. And even if you don't take us up on any of these dares, hopefully they'll get you thinking about new things you can try with your email program -- big or small.

Does anyone have other dare ideas -- or insights to share on any of the dares above?



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