The Only Email Marketing Rule that Matters

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A while back I posted my “50 Golden Rules of Email Marketing”. And though I think there is a lot to learn about email marketing if you want to be successful, there is one rule that I keep coming back to time and time again. It is far and away the most important rule, not only in email marketing but in every aspect of a marketer’s job.

From the list, it is #41. And it reads:

#41 – Treat every email that you send as a chance to test something new.

A marketer’s job is never done. Success is only a step in the right direction. And in today’s world, where we can track and analyze every aspect of a marketing campaign and customer behavior, there is no excuse for not trying to outdo yourself.

Testing is not the only way to get better. But it’s the best way to get better. It gives you real numbers to work with, real objectives to meet, and real, measurable value.

By testing different subject lines, images, offers, content, etc., you can get the answers you are looking for and improve the return on investment in email marketing over time.

You will never get 100% of the people on your list to open the email. But you can keep trying.

You will never get 100% of the people who open your email to click through. But you can keep trying.

The perfect email is unattainable. But you can get closer with every send.

That’s why we test!

5 Landing Page Elements to Test Today


Someone clicks on your ad or visits the special URL provided in your campaign and they get to your landing page. What they do next can make or break your marketing plan.

Will they take action? Will they hit the back button? Will they get bored and fall asleep?

To increase the percentage of people that take action, I recommend testing various elements of your landing page on an ongoing basis.

Here are 5 key landing page elements worth testing:

  1. Images. Change up the photos that you use on the page. Try a man instead of a woman. Try someone older or younger. Try using more or less images. A strong graphic captures a visitor’s eyes and could draw them in to read the text on the page. A weak one might turn them off right away.

  2. Headline. Change up the text in your headline. Try one that makes a special offer, or one that promotes the benefits of your product. Try one that matches the headline of the ad they likely clicked on to get here. The headline is the first thing most people will read and it should wet their appetite for the rest of the page.

  3. Call to Action. Change up the wording on the link or button you want people to click. If it’s a checkout button, try “Buy Now” instead of “Checkout”. If it’s a general form submission, try “Go” instead of “Submit”. Try an orange or a green button instead of a red one. Try a bigger button, or a different shape.

  4. Colors. You most likely match the colors of your landing page to your brand or website. But you should treat a landing page as an independent entity. Whatever you can do to increase conversion is worth trying. Test a white or grey background. Test varying the colors of form fields or text. The general color pattern on a page will give people an impression like they either want to be there or don’t.

  5. Length of Text. Generally, less is more when it comes to text on a page. But that rule does not apply 100% of the time. Test a page with more text on it, giving you room to provide more details to those people who are looking for them. If your text is already long, use bullet points and lists to shorten it.

The key is, keep testing, and keep measuring performance. When the conversion rates start to rise, you’ll be happy you did.

For more tips on creating landing pages, read my landing page handbook.


5 Reasons Your Last Marketing Test Failed

Welcome to another edition of the “5 Reasons” blog series. This will be a weekly blog series, with a fresh post every Monday. Last week’s topic was “Five Reasons You Need to Generate News”.

This Week’s Topic = Five Reasons Your Last Marketing Test Failed

As a marketer, part of your job is to continue to improve on what you’re already doing. Get a higher response rate, great return on investment, more bang for your buck. And that means testing. But what happens when your tests fail? What happens when you feel like you are taking two steps backward in order to take one step forward?

Here are 5 reasons your last marketing test failed:

  1. You didn’t test the right thing. You may have thought the headline has the biggest impact when actually no one reads it. You may have thought the colors you used would affect the response when it’s all about the content. A failed test can still teach you something, usually that something is, you’re paying attention to the wrong thing.

  2. You didn’t measure it correctly. You’re measuring the number of calls an ad drives when really what it does is push traffic to your website. Or maybe you’re measuring lower numbers of purchases but the value of each purchase is going up. Make sure you try to see the whole picture before you make any determinations.

  3. You didn’t track it correctly. You tested the right thing, but you have no way of knowing whether you found a winner or not. Believe it or not, this is usually the biggest problem. Make sure you can track the numbers for each version of your test in order to make the necessary decisions.

  4. You didn’t take into account outside factors. If you ran a test during the runup to election day, or during Hurricane Sandy, or the fiscal cliff negotiations, then the data you are seeing is bound to be a little skewed. Make sure to factor into your testing and analysis any outside events that may be changing or affecting the numbers.

  5. You have the best possible version of whatever you’re trying to test. Too bad this is never the case. It can always be better. Don’t ever let yourself be convinced that something can’t be improved.

As always, if you have your own landing page tips, please include them in the comments below.

How to Test

Too many people test things with no purpose.

In marketing, it’s true that continual testing is a key to success. Frequent readers of this blog have heard that before. I’m a huge fan of testing anything and everything you do to try to improve your effectiveness.

But too often, people test things without putting enough thought into it. There has to be a goal, something specific that you are testing. Scientists would call this your hypothesis.

Here’s a hypothesis: Can we improve the open rate on this email with a new subject line?

Here’s another: Can we get more people to fill out this form with a bigger submit button?

Testing requires that you know what you’re testing. It also requires you to look at the right number when doing your analysis. If you’re testing the subject line, look at the open rate. If you’re testing a form, look at the conversion rate.

If you can’t get the right answers, you’re either not asking the right questions or you’re not looking in the right places.

Test with purpose!

The Mistake You Can’t Afford to Make

As a marketer, it’s your job to grow awareness, attention, loyalty, revenue, profit. There are literally millions of options and opportunities that you have.

And while some people would suggest that the larger your budget is, the more options you have, I would argue that some of the largest companies are also the most boring in the marketing materials they create. They think they can buy attention.

But whether you are Walmart or you are your company’s sole employee, there is one mistake you simply cannot afford to make as a marketer. It’s the biggest mistake marketers make (they do make it), and can cost you your success.

That mistake: not testing new things.

Because there are millions of ways to reach people, there is always something you could be doing that you’re not. And while I know time and resources are limited, you should never be satisfied with the status quo. Even if what you’re doing is working, there is something out there that could work better, or could add-on to the existing plan.

This year, make an effort to try 4 new things. That’s just one per quarter.

Odds are that if you prioritize, and plan carefully, you will find that you can add things (or alter things) in your marketing plan that will help you reach your goals faster or cheaper than you would otherwise have.