Don’t Fear what You Can Measure – Improving Email

All of us make a ton of decisions everyday, but most of us also spend a lot of time not making decisions – debating the merits of doing A or B, questioning a decision we’ve made, etc. This debate doesn’t really make sense – in many cases, just trying something out and then measuring the outcome is the most effective, efficient and valuable way to make the right decision.

Let’s take email as an example (though the same idea is relevant to many of the other decisions we make on a day to day basis).

The Problem of Email

Email is a problematic – it’s overwhelming, it’s annoying, it shows up whether we like it or not, but it’s also the most effective tool businesses have to communicate with users and customers.

The real problem with emails for most businesses is that the fear of the downside of email (becoming annoying spammers) is not justified by the risk it takes to test emails to actually know their impact and what customers like. In short, we can just take a subset of people and send them different emails, more or less emails, etc and see how their behavior changes (and even assess their customer happiness).  This isn’t how most companies do it – instead they either A.) just spam the heck out of us or B.) stick to the most basic and minimal of emails, even when more emails might be helpful to the customer.

Be More Creative, but use Analysis to see what Happened

The core idea here is that rather than companies just keep doing what their doing or doing nothing, they could just go out and try ideas and see what happens. I’m not talking about comparing slightly different message content here – I’m proposing comparing radically different approaches, such as:

  • Not sending users emails
  • Sending personalized emails individually
  • Sending only trigger based emails (you’ve done X but not Y so here’s how to do Y)
  • Sending one more / one less email
  • Sending more casual emails

What does it take to know what the impact actually is?  Not as much as you’d expect.  If you are a web app with 100 sign-ups in a week and devote 20 of those to testing new ideas, you’ll start to gain real data into what new approaches would actually do. If you see one being successful, you can expand the test, run it for longer, etc.

Stop Pointless Debates

I used to work with a large web storage company that was in the midst of a long debate about whether to collect more information about users during sign-up. The core issue was whether the value of knowing the information (which allowed targeting emails and better support) was higher than the lost customers who wouldn’t want to answer the question.

There’s no reason to sit around debating this for months when you can find out the right answer by taking a small subset of new sign-ups and treating them differently.

Get Sh*t Done

In summary, if you can cheaply and easily test something, it’s better to see what actually happens than to sit around debating it.  Email is a great candidate for this – it’s cheap, easy to target, directly reaches customers and for most businesses on the web is a huge area of improvement.


Klaviyo is a new kind of CRM that can handle this entire process – seeing your customer behavior, sending emails and understanding their impact.  Try it today with no commitment.




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