Create All-Star Emails Through A/B TestingMatt is WebPT’s email marketing specialist. His monthly column covers all things email marketing and how it can help your clinic.

The most sobering realization you can make about your clinic's marketing email program is that, despite what you think, it stinks. The sooner you accept this as a fact, the sooner you’ll be able to improve it.

Email successes are generally measured at a rate that would get baseball players sent home packing (keep in mind that baseball is a sport where succeeding three times out of 10 is considered above-average). While there are exceptions to the rule, marketing emails with at least a 20% open rate are generally considered pretty successful. But do you really want to settle for one out of five people opening your email? Probably not.

So, how do you boost that open rate, thus improving the performance of your marketing emails? You test. And you never stop testing.

Typically, A/B testing is the simplest way to do this. Basically, this means splitting your target list in half and sending different versions of an email to each of the two groups. One half gets Version A and the other half gets Version B. You can either test with a single email or aggregate your results over the course of several emails. Depending on your list size, it could take several messages to get any statistical significance (the results you get from emailing 20 people won’t be as accurate as those you get from emailing 200 or 2,000). Whatever parameters you choose, just make sure you only test one thing at a time; leave the rest of the email the same so you preserve confidence in the test.

Here are five of the best email tests you can use to improve your marketing emails:

1. The Subject Line

In last month’s blog, I mentioned that the subject line is arguably the most important part of an email. This makes it arguably the most important thing to test. There are all sorts of things you can test with a subject line, ranging from length (the most successful subject line in President Obama’s re-election fundraising email campaign was simply “Hey”) to phrasing it as a question versus a statement (e.g., “Do you want to improve your health?” versus “My PT Clinic can help you improve your health”).

2. The Day and Time

When do you check your email? Are you checking it at 3:00 AM on Monday? Probably not. There are veritable sweet spots for what day and time you should send emails. Unfortunately, it varies greatly depending on your audience. The increasing use of mobile phones to check email has also thrown a wrench into the mix. So, the only way to know when to send is to test. Try sending an email to half of your list on Tuesday at 3:00 PM. Then send the same email to the other half on Wednesday at 3:00 PM. Or, send half at 6:00 AM on Tuesday and the rest at 4:00 PM the same day.

3. The Sender

Aside from the subject line, the sender is the first thing a person sees when they receive an email. But does that affect whether they’ll open the email or not? Absolutely. Try sending an email from a generic address (e.g., info@yourclinic.com) and test that against an actual name (e.g., john.doe@yourclinic.com).

4. The Content

When it comes to content, there’s a lot to test. Long or short? Educational or salesy? Casual or formal? The length, tone, and structure of your emails will vary based on the goal of each individual message, so don’t expect to test this once and apply the results across all of your email campaigns. The biggest trick to testing content is to not make so many changes between versions that you can’t attribute the results to any one thing.

5. The Design

The last—but definitely not least—important area to test with your emails is the design. These tests can range from major alterations (e.g., plain text versus a fancy HTML design) to subtle differences (e.g., using one color over another). Try to pinpoint your goal for the email. What action—if any—do you want the recipients to take? Then imagine yourself as one of those recipients. What changes would make you more or less likely to take the desired action?

Now that you have an idea of what you should be testing, it’s time to get to it. Depending on how you’re sending your emails, this task can be very easy or very tedious. Next month, I’ll discuss a few options for services that facilitate the process of sending out your marketing emails, and I’ll also help you perfect your messages so you’ll go from batting .200 to making the All-Star Game.

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