What A/B Testing Can’t Do for Your Email Marketing

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by  Lisa Furgison The digital marketing world sports dizzying array of metrics, automation tools and analytics platforms—so much so th...

by Lisa Furgison


The digital marketing world sports dizzying array of metrics, automation tools and analytics platforms—so much so that many marketers rely entirely on them to guide their marketing decisions. A/B testing can certainly improve an email campaign but there are some things that it can’t do, and experts say we should remember that imagination is as important as being tech savvy.
“Stellar marketing is guided by metrics but fueled by creativity,” says Tyler Young, the principal consultant at Missouri-based marketing agency Conversion Insights. “You can have a ton of numbers sitting in front of you, but if you don’t have a creative bone in your body, those numbers are useless.”
Analytics are a great tool for honing a marketing campaign or message, Young says, but they can’t do the heavy lifting of creating that voice or appeal. “Metrics can fine-tune your efforts, but sheer numbers can’t craft an engaging email or frame the perfect picture for the campaign,” he says. “That all comes down to creativity.”
Here are a few areas where Young says creativity trumps metrics:
Find the right tone
No piece of data can teach you to create a personable tone in your email campaign, Young says.
“Readers won’t connect with a robot-like, corporate façade,” Young says. “You always need to write in a way that reflects both your brand and your personality. If that means your emails take an edgier tone, go for it. Just be sure what you write is a reflection of your company.”
One example that Young cites is this email he created for his own company’s products.
You know what sucks? Like, really sucks? Pouring money into advertising, only to get nothing out of it.
I’ve run into plenty of business owners who did just that—they signed on the dotted line for their company’s very first billboard (or print ad, or direct mail campaign), waited, and … nothing. A big ol’ zero percent ROI, thousands of dollars later.
“I was a little nervous to send this out,” Young admits. “It’s certainly not written in corporate-speak, but I think that’s the very reason it did so well. Marketing statistics didn’t tell me to write it up this way.”
Get creative with subject lines
A/B testing can determine the relative merits of various subject lines, calls-to-action and images but “relative” is the key idea; determining what to test in the first place is entirely up the marketer’s intuition and judgment. Subject lines can make or break an email marketing campaign—just like finding the tone for your marketing, creating compelling teasers is less about testing and more about starting with your gut and knowledge of your brand.
“It takes readers about two seconds to decide whether or not to open your email based on the subject line,” he said. “Creativity is crucial here. You want an intriguing 75- to 80-character subject line that makes people want to read more.”
For the email example above, Young used this subject line: The scariest part of advertising for your business.
Make an amazing video
Adding video is an awesome way to engage with customers. No measuring tool is going to help you create a visually appealing video, Young says.
“You can crunch numbers all day long, but it’s your creativity that enables you to put together a well-thought-out video,” he says.
Metrics are beneficial, Young says, but marketers should think of them as a dessert. Your five-star email campaign is the main course, and takes the most creative work to get done, and analytics are the special treat you get afterwards.
This post contributed by guest author, Lisa Furgison. Furgison is a media maven with ten years of journalism experience and a passion for creating top-notch content.


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