Want to make sure your e-zine is going to be read?
Heed the ancient wisdom of direct mailers, and test. But do it in a way that is appropriate for the medium, says Reid Carr, president of Red Door Interactive Inc.
For example, avoid testing multiple variables as you would when conducting an e-mail marketing blast. E-mail newsletters have a built-in time factor, and require a more subtle approach.
“We may be more ginger about it,” Carr says. “We don’t want to piss anyone off.”
Instead, Carr recommends classic A/B testing of a single variable—like color. “In its simplest form, this one gets red, this one blue, this one green,” he says. And whichever wins, you then “maintain that color for the next one.”
Or, you might test headline style to determine if people like an active or a passive tone.
“What you’re doing then is producing a style guide for your future newsletter,” Carr explains. “Ideally, you want to pick up a few different elements over a few months’ period, then try it again based on the changing environment.”
And redo the tests a year later to make sure it’s all as effective, he adds.
How big a test sample do you need?
Carr usually does 1,000-name tests for his clients. “It’s not a huge part of the list,” he says. “We don’t want to burn the list too much, especially if we need to run it again.”
He adds that it’s easy test another thousand names when the results are unclear. Or, you can “make an educated decision that it doesn’t matter,” Carr says.
And which metrics do you use to determine success?
“You have to look at all of them,” Carr says. “In some cases, we’re only interested in the open rate with the subject line. With pharmaceutical products, which require that the user go through certain actions, they’re going to be looking at click-throughs.”
And for a computer marketer selling accessories for purchased products, “it might ultimately include conversions.”
Carr adds one note of caution about e-zines: They don’t work for everyone.
He has found that partner and affiliate updates often produce better metrics than newsletters sent to consumers.
And yet Red Door both sends and writes newsletters for its clients. What are Carr’s suggestions for increasing your open rates and click throughs?
For one thing, make sure your e-zine is structured so that “people know what they’re getting when they’re getting it,” he says.
One tactic is further segmenting the list based on actions on previous e-mails.
“From a newsletter standpoint, that means you can have a list actively enhanced by someone who clicks on one product vs. another, then move them into that category. You end up with a cleaner list.”
Finally, don’t get carried away with technology.
“I’m not a big fan of video,” Carr continues. “It’s a little invasive. The whiz-bang stuff might be a little trendy, but then they get sick of it. It’s all about content more than anything else.”