This post is focused on email marketing, but I think you’ll agree that the principles can be applied to other aspects of online marketing. For those of you who send emails to past customers: how often do you send those emails? Has your frequency changed over time, or did you “set it and forget it”? Is anyone testing frequency?
To illustrate, I’m going to pick on an unsuspecting merchant who’s been pestering my inbox of late. Take a look at the last four emails they sent me, just focusing on the subject lines:
25% OFF EVERYTHING COUPON CODE Super SALE Ends TOMORROW (+Free Shipping)
25% OFF EVERYTHING COUPON CODE Super Sale VERY LIMITED TIME (+Free Shipping)
Get Your BOOTS BOOTS BOOTS – Extra 25% Off Coupon Code SITE WIDE Fall Super Sale (+Free Shipping)
WOW – Extra 25% Off Coupon Code SITE WIDE Fall Super Sale (+Free Shipping)
The first thing you might notice is that the offer seems pretty compelling, at least at parity with what other merchants in their space are probably offering. A 25% off promo code plus free shipping can be pretty persuasive if I’m in the mood to shop TODAY. But, what if I’m not in the mood to shop right now? What if I’m more of an early or middle stage prospect?
If that’s the case, I’m going to be annoyed with the frequency of the emails. I have no interest in reading a merchant email every other day, and I doubt many prospects have that level of interest. I should add that I’ve only bought from this merchant once, so it’s not that I’m an uber-customer who’s shown a huge propensity to buy their product.
The other thing you might notice about the subject lines is that THEY’RE YELLING AT ME! Be careful about the use of capitalization in subject lines. It’s quite easy to test, so run some simple tests on open rate.
Another warning I’ll give is to cut down on superlatives like “super” and “wow.” If I had $1 for every superlative that ever clogged my inbox, I’d be living in my chalet in the Alps today instead of writing this post!
Finally, and most importantly, is the fact that the offers and subject lines are too similar, and I’ve already started to discount them in my mind. Like the boy who cried wolf, if you keep sending me the same “super” offer, I’m going to start to think that it’s not all that super. Plus, if I’m the type who’s persuaded by time based promotions and “scarcity” offers (and I am), you’ve now got me trained that I don’t have to buy today…I can buy whenever I want because you’ll always give me 25% off and free shipping. This is especially bad if you’re trying to hit those Holiday sales goals before 2011. Send me too many promotions, and I’ll simply stall my purchase until next year.
Now that I’ve abused this poor merchant, let’s talk about testing. Testing email marketing for frequency isn’t as easy as split testing things like subject lines, images, or calls to actions on a campaign-by-campaign basis, but it’s crucial nonetheless. To properly test for frequency, you need the ability to segment your list into a Control group and an Experiment group. The Experiment group can be relatively small to minimize your risk. The Control group can get your recurring messaging at the usual intervals. Then, try reducing and increasing the frequency of blasts on your Experiment group until you’ve found the right balance between pestering customers and staying “top of mind.” The hardest part will be determining when and if your results are statistically significant.
If anyone has anecdotes or case studies on email frequency tests, please share with our readership.
Finally, does your email marketing have you baffled? Want to start testing emails and landing pages? Talk to us about how OnTarget can get your email channel on the road to continuous improvement.