There is a simple way to explain the importance of a testing plan: It's the only way to make the leap from what you thought would work to what you know will work. The information that testing generates will help you understand what's best for your customers in real-life situations and gauge how they are interacting with your brand. This is the foundation every email marketer needs for success.
In this article, Tim Underwood lays out four key steps to help you get there. Here’s a summary:
1. Plan ahead
First, compile a list of questions you need to answer:
- What elements go into a great subject line?
- Should I use images?
- What is the prime placement for my content?
No doubt when you brainstorm around these questions, you will come up with great ideas, and some will really push the boundaries of your strategy. However, only ask questions if you are prepared to act once you uncover the answers.
Last but not least: test one variable at a time and make absolutely certain you can isolate that variable.
Now develop a list of variables to test. Don't forget you will need to test everything twice to be certain of your results. A great strategy is to identify one stream of communications -- for example, your regular monthly newsletter -- and split it into two versions. Whichever comes out on top, use that as the control for your next test. Testing should be a continuous activity, and by using this method you can ensure your marketing is always evolving.
You need to know which success metric is the most relevant to your test; there will always be a primary and a secondary. The primary metric is the action closest to the variable, and the secondary metric as the next action after that. This is really as much as you can hope to have influence over; any action further removed from your variable has been subject to too many other factors. You can't really attribute high conversion rates to a great subject line.
Lastly, it's essential to make sure your answers are statistically significant. Even two equally sized random splits will give slightly different response rates, so it's not enough to look at the highest value and declare it the winner. You will need to do some calculations to make this decision.
4. Take action
Testing initiatives can become very involved, so don't lose sight of the goal. Once you've got your first wave of results, make sure you share them with everyone involved and take action on them. But the job doesn't end there. Monitor your results to ensure your new best practices stay fresh and are still producing the desired results. Again, a good testing plan never ends. Your customer base never stops evolving and neither should your marketing plan.