5 High-Potential Email Marketing Experiments


Button text changes, little color experiments, and tiny copy tweaks are great ways to take your email marketing to the next level by making small improvements on what you’ve already built.

But oftentimes you’re optimizing the difference between a 7.50% click-through rate and a 7.55% click-through rate. At the scale of millions of subscribers, that’s a huge difference. But that isn’t most of us.

Sure, every little bit helps. But the vast majority of us would be better off focusing on much bigger tests that could drive massive list and revenue growth instead of marginal changes.

There is no magic bullet in terms of what kinds of emails will work for your audience. You just have to start testing and figure out what sticks.

With this in mind, here are some idea starters for ways you can test your email marketing by really pushing it to the limit.

1) Test Your Discount Messaging

20% off and $20 off are the exact same thing if the purchase is $100. Free shipping could be a baseline expectation or a huge incentive depending on the product.

Usually the thing that gets tested is the dollar amount of the discount itself rather than thinking broader – would people convert more if it were messaged differently?

Test this in your subject lines and email content to see what works better.

2) Test Hero Statements on Landing Pages

According to Copyblogger, only 1 in 5 website visitors read the content of a webpage. 80% read the headline only. With statistics like that, it’s clear that your landing page copy shouldn’t be left to chance.

We’ve talked about establishing a brand voice for your marketing on this blog before. This kind of test is an opportunity to bring data into that process.

Here are some big ways you can test the messaging on your landing pages:

  • Positive vs. negative messaging – Would you rather have a 10% chance of mortality or a 90% chance of survival?
  • Loss-framed vs. gain-framed copy- “Free Shipping” vs. “Don’t Miss Out!”
  • Action-oriented vs. passive copy – “Businesses grow faster online!” vs. “Create a webpage for your business.”

3) Segment Your Lists By Gender

A 2007 study from Wharton Business School and Toronto Consulting Firm Verde Group confirmed what we have thought for years: Men buy, women shop. Some key findings included:

  • Women were more invested in the shopping experience. Men wanted to go to the store, buy something specific, and leave.
  • Women react positively to personal aspects of the shopping, like an interaction with a sales associate. Men valued more utilitarian aspects, such as free shipping and finding parking.

Heirlume is a jewelry retailer that benefitted from embracing these facts and segmenting their marketing efforts.

After a sophisticated email address analysis revealed that many subscribers were actually women – not men, like they initially thought – they segmented their lists by gender.

They began sending females more frequent newsletters and updates about new styles. For the men, they focused newsletters on holiday-centric promotions, the idea being that those subscribers were buying for others during those times of the year.

The result of the test speaks for itself: Heirlume averaged a 9% increase in open rates and a 3% lift in click-through rate from the campaigns.

4) Try a Daily Deal

Daily deal sites like Groupon, Living Social, Zulily can be a huge opportunity for small businesses. But they come with a few caveats worth considering before you dive right in.

A 2012 survey by Manta, an online hub for entrepreneurs, showed that 82% of entrepreneurs did not intend to run daily deal promotions that year. Only 3 percent said such campaigns have garnered them repeat business, while 11 percent said they either lost or made no money on the coupons.


The “deal-breaker”, so to speak, is this: The Daily Deals didn’t bring in repeat customers.

So, here are two things to consider if you want to test this:

1) Is the buzz alone worth it?

Some people use these daily deals sparingly to boost site traffic, enhance brand awareness, or launch in a local market. However, these business owners negotiate deals with the sites that allow them at least to break even on each sale. If you feel that the PR value of the deal could be worth it, proceed with the deal.

2) How many times does someone have to buy something from you to be a “customer for life?”

If someone tries you once, will they come back for more?

Look at past purchase patterns. Figure out how many times someone has to buy from you in order to become a regular customer. If it’s only once, this could be an option for you.

5) Giveaways

Sometimes, it seems like people are giving away iPads like frisbees, and you have to wonder – are they getting anywhere with these campaigns?

Noah Kagan, CEO and Founder of App Sumo, recently wrote a fantastic post for Andrew Chen’s blog. In the post he shares some lessons from running more than 25 giveaways over four years at

For starters, here are some metrics from the results of these giveaways:

  • 528,238 total subscribers
  • $866,265.69 in revenue
  • $442,802.72 in gross profit*
  • Average gross profit per new subscriber is $0.83

*This does NOT include unsubscribes / email-removals or the costs of the giveaways.

He judged the success of the giveaways by gross profit per new subscriber. In that context, the biggest flop was a giveaway of two Macbook Airs. The biggest win was a giveaway of the “Monthly1k Entrepreneur Getaway”, in which one lucky winner got a chance to work one on one with Noah for five days to launch a new business.

Some of his main takeaways include:

  • Promote the giveaway with Facebook ads and buy traffic against the company you are sponsoring.
  • Do co-marketing for the giveaway.
  • Don’t do giveaways weekly. There’s a diminishing marginal return to giveaways, so do them quarterly.
  • Try to stick with giving away smaller items more related to your audience vs. something popular, yet broad, like a laptop.

Overall he suggests taking the leap and giving giveaways a try to drive both email acquisition and sales.

What other marketing experiments would you like to try? Let us know in the comments.


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