By Anne Holland, President
I am not hung over, but am definitely a little tired after partying the night away with this year's MarketingSherpa Email Awards Winners at our gala in Miami. (You can see who won plus inspirational creative samples at the link below.)
Aside from the fact that these people *can* dance, what else did I learn while judging the more than 250 entries in this year's competition? Three things every email marketer should be testing:
#1. Tiny lists = big sales
Segmentation, segmentation, segmentation. Oh, my. Awards were based nearly solely on results (judges also reviewed strategy and then creative for tie-breakers) so you know winners had the best opens, the best clicks and/or the best conversions. What blew me away time after time was when a tiny little list -- perhaps a couple of thousand names -- would beat previously much bigger list campaigns in terms of total overall sales or registered prospects. (Not just higher percent response rate, but higher total responses.)
For example, one award-winning British B-to-B marketer took his campaign clickthroughs from 6% clickthrough up to 46% clickthroughs by segmenting his list into loads of engineering niches.
For most marketers I know, segmentation is tough because you simply don't have the staff time to handle it. Each campaign -- including list selection, copy, HTML, scheduling and measuring on the back end -- is taking at least five hours, maybe eight, maybe longer. So, it's easy to say segment but hard to implement it.
Therefore, if you're going to send only one special segment, make it a triggered campaign … some type of autoresponder that you can create, test and then leave in place faithfully sending yearlong without any work on your end. This might be a special welcome to all new opt-ins, or a special offer to first time buyers, or an automated birthday campaigns, etc. Triggers at special points in a prospect or customer's account lifecycle with your brand seem to work the best.
Or, you should segment for your biggest time of year, putting your effort into the time that will make the biggest impact on the bottom line. For B-to-B marketers, this might be first quarter so resulting sales have enough time to wend their way through the cycle. For B-to-C marketers, it might be in the holiday season. (Yes, we had several holiday campaign winners.)
Best idea for holiday segmentation tests came from Sprint, who sent historically frequent clickers more emailed offers last November and December than they sent less frequent clickers. It worked. Their biggest fans were delighted to get more offers, while their moderate fans were happy to get just an email or two when it really mattered.
#2. Try content that's not articles
The Internet stopped being text-only eons ago, and now for most demographics your customers are on high speed connections. So why are so many email newsletters still offering nothing but articles?
If you do a newsletter for marketing purposes, consider offering content that's not just more reading for your subscribers. You might try an audio file, a checklist, a photo, a quiz, a video, PowerPoints -- you name it. The data I'm seeing suggests many "readers" are delighted and even relieved to get different types of content. (OK, I'm saying this in an article; oh, the irony.)
#3. Pre-launch email opt-ins
Several marketers had incredible results from posting an opt-in offer on their Web site a few months or weeks before a big new product launch. Anyone who wanted more info could sign up. Then comes the day of the launch and they send a special note to those opt-ins. Gangbuster sales every time.
The Automobile Association of America was just one of the brands who tested this to win an award this year.
Do you already have a normal opt-in offer on your home page that you don't want to displace for the launch special? No problem, just add the launch notification offer to your "thank-you" page that appears right after folks opt-in. They can check the box and click "go or "subscribe" one more time to get on that list, too.
Give them the power to ask for information, they will respond if they want it. And your bottom line will benefit.
-- Anne Holland is President of MarketingSherpa Inc, a research firm publishing Case Studies and Benchmark Data for its 237,000 marketing executive subscribers. To view the 2007 Email Awards Winners, including campaign notes and creative samples, go to the online gallery at: