Here is a question: how many times have you googled "best time to send an email?" What about "best subject lines for nonprofits?" Personally, I've lost count. To be fair - I have found a lot of great information through google searches exactly like the ones listed above. That information, however, is optimal for their audience, not mine.
One of my favorite things about the clients I work with is how unique each one of them are, and how unique their audiences are! That's why what works for one organization won't work for another, and why that information you found on google won't help you become a success.
There is something that will make you more successful though: A/B Testing. This (relatively) simple process will help you understand what works best for your audience. First, however, you need to learn how to A/B test your e-mails. Next, download my list of 10 A/B hypotheses you need to test now!
What is A/B testing?
A/B testing compares two versions of something - an email, a webpage, a direct mail piece - to determine which performs better and in turn optimize your communication.
Why should I A/B test my emails?
If you're not A/B testing, you're losing money. It's as cut and dry as that.
Sure, your emails may be converting now. But if you knew there was a chance you could increase your conversion rate, why wouldn't you try?
Avoiding A/B testing means you don't want to optimize your content, learn about your audience or speak to them when they want to be spoken to. It really means you just don't care.
How to A/B test your emails
1) Determine which element you want to test
Once you've learned how to A/B test your emails, you can test almost anything - subject line, times, background colors, images, text placement... the list is endless. However, A/B testing isn't simple or quick. It takes planning, time and money, so be meaningful about what you're testing. Determine how these results will benefit you in the future.
2) Develop (and write out) a hypothesis
If the element you selected means something significant to your organization, this step should be no problem. Part of the A/B process - and the scientific method - is writing out a hypothesis. What do you think the results will be? More importantly, why do you think that will happen?
Thinking about your hypothesis in advance will help you think critically about your results. If you're having trouble thinking of a hypothesis, download these 10 hypotheses you should A/B test now!
3) Determine how you will measure success
Imagine this: you know you're marketing to an older audience via email. You have a beautiful, colorful, creative template you use but you've heard some feedback recently that it's hard to read. So, you decide to A/B test the color of your email's background. But, what will you consider successful? The click through rate? The conversion rate? Having people respond to your email?
If you know how you will measure your success in advance, you will determine other elements you may need to include in your email. For example, if you're measuring click through rates, don't forget a link!
4) Create your tests
Now that you've determine the element you're going to test and how you're going to measure your success, it's time to create your emails. Your two (or three, though I wouldn't suggest doing more than that) emails need to be identical, with only the selected element being different. Ensure one email stays the same as before so you can determine if there were any significant improvements.
5) Organize your mailing list
Before beginning any email you should have your email list selected. Knowing which groups or segments you will be speaking to is the base of every great email. Because you will be sending two (or three) emails, you need to split your list. Don't organize by state, age, or alphabetically. You need to ensure each email is received by a random sample as to not skew your results.
6) Give it time
I typically wait a week before recording and analyzing my results. The way I look at it, the more time you wait before studying your results the more accurate your results will be. Some people don't check their emails right away, they may wait a few days and check them in bulk. Or, they may open it and file it away to read later.
7) Test it again
Have you ever heard the saying "once is a chance, twice is a coincidence, the third time is a pattern?" Well, that goes for A/B testing too! No matter how significant, results from one test aren't enough to base decisions off of. Instead, you need to retest the same element at least three times. If you continue to get the same result, you can decide to make a change.
However, that doesn't mean the retesting phase is over! You should test the same elements again at least twice a year. I typically retest every quarter, as behaviors tend to change with the seasons.
Now that you know how to A/B test your emails, what is the first element you're going to optimize?
Like most of us, I took management courses in university. I was a retail supervisor, a customer care manager. I understand how to organize, lead and motivate employees – but all that changes when you’re managing creatives.
Luckily for me, in addition to those management courses, I specialized in visual communications. I studied communications, practiced design and learned photography and videography. I went to graduate school for public relations, and was the director of integrated marketing for PRLab, so I have already have a solid foundation for managing creatives. I speak their language, understand their processes, and have a general idea of their needs. However, there is one question I ask that allows me to be the best creative manager I can be.
Why is managing creatives properly important?
Do me a favor, think of the worst boss you’ve ever had. Maybe they micromanaged, maybe they took credit for your work, or maybe they yelled and screamed when they didn’t get their way. No matter their characteristics, I’ll bet you dreaded going to the office and hated doing your work. How well did you accomplish what was expected of you? How often did you go above and beyond in your work? Were you motived? A self-starter? Probably not. However, those small acts of rebellion are less noticeable in many industries and jobs.
Now imagine if a creative person isn’t motivated. If a photographer isn’t inspired, or a designer takes no pride in their work. This will show in every single aspect of their work, and it will be detrimental to your organization as well.
Well, the unthinkable happened. After six months on the job, I made a mistake in an e-mail… to 2700 people. It wasn’t a small mistake either. I didn’t forget to center an image or close a tag. No, this was big. I gave 2700 people the wrong event location!
Minutes after it was sent I sat there imagining our empty event a few weeks from now, and the pressure I’d feel knowing it was all my fault. Thus, I needed to fix it. If you’re ever in a similar situation – though I hope you never are – follow these six steps to fix email mistakes. Then, download my fool-proof email checklist to ensure you never make an email mistake again.
First things first, I give you permission to panic. This is a big deal, so you’re allowed to freak out – quickly. Spending too much time in panic mode because of an email mistake reduces the effectiveness of any solution you’re going to find, so get to it.
6 Steps to Fix Email Mistakes
I have a problem. I'm in communications, yet I'm terrified of networking. I'm not sure where this fear comes from, either. I'm not shy and I can hold my own on various topics, however the idea of walking up to someone and starting a conversation gives me major anxiety. As a communications professional, you can understand the various ways this hinders my career development.
Recently, I've been chatting with new connections in hopes of gaining nuggets of advice about getting over my fear. One of the most valuable conversations I've had was with Alissa Trumbull (@AnOrchidInBloom) who recently took a #ConnectIRL tour. We spoke over the phone before meeting during her trip to Boston, and I left both conversations feeling more confident and purposeful in my ability to connect with others. Alissa has incredible networking knowledge, and though I'd love to be selfish and keep it to myself, I need to share what I learned.
Donning a crimson gown and poorly-decorated cap (glitter isn't my thing, clearly), I walked across the Boston University stage last week. I finished school in December, started working in February and received my diploma in March. However, nothing beats the feeling of crossing the stage, especially because I didn't walk in my undergraduate ceremony.
The Commencement ceremonies were especially unique because some of my closest friends were completing their undergraduate degrees. They won awards and received high honors while celebrating with the groups they've been part of for the last four years. This got me thinking about my own undergraduate experience and the many, many, regrets I have.
First, relax about money. I know that's easier said than done. If you're like me, you're paying your way through your undergraduate degree with little financial help. That's a scary and overwhelming task. Suddenly, going to a movie doesn't seem worth it, and you're desperate for every additional shift you can pick up. I'd wake up and fall asleep stressed, always calculating the amount of debt I'd finish with. I refused to get involved in anything social at school because I believed my time would be better spent working. I stopped going out and I lost touch with many friends. And for what? As I worked my way through graduate school I realized I had nothing to show for all that stress. I still owed money (I was incurring more debt, actually) and I hadn't paid off much of my undergraduate debt. What was the point?
As my mom always says, "You're not the first student in debt, and you won't be the last." Be smart with your money, budget, plan and save all you can. However, going for diner, taking a vacation, using your day-off, or letting go of a shift to join a group won't make or break you, so just relax.
One of the most important elements of communications is measurement. If you don't measure every output, you have no way of knowing what's working, what isn't, and where you need to improve. For e-mail marketing, there are some important statistics I keep track of, including Open Rate and Unique Clicks. The open rate tells you who is opening your e-mails, while the click-through-rate shows which links people are engaging with. However, sometimes the numbers don't line up the way we think they will. Thus, it's integral to understand what's behind the metrics.
To give you some context, e-mail marketing is a large part of my current position. In the past, it has always just been used, rather than used strategically. Over the last two months I've been tracking what we send, when we send it and who we send it to. I've been looking not only for ideal days and times, but a better way to connect with our audience.
Recently I was tasked with promoting tickets to a local event. Traditionally they'd send out a mass e-mail to over 8,000 people - including those 3,000 miles away. I couldn't see the benefit of this, so I tried something new: send out the same e-mail to three different groups. The first group (104 people) lived in the immediate area. The second group (3214 people) lived within the state but outside the immediate city. The final group (3560 people) live outside of the state.
A week later, I measured the results, expecting the highest number of opens and unique clicks to be in the first e-mail. But I was wrong, and here's why.
I've always worn many different hats. Student, freelancer, intern, Asst. Director of Communications, writer, editor, girlfriend, daughter, sibling, friend and more. It's hard to determine where one role ends and another begins. Recently, The Well initiated a blog link-up about balance. They asked: How do you create a work/life balance? As a chronic over-achiever, this is a topic I can discuss tirelessly. Here, I have four easy tips to help you change your mindset and achieve a successful work/life balance.
Keys, wallet, smartphone. We don't leave the house without them. For good (or bad) smartphones have become our lives. I'll admit, I only just got a data plan a few months ago. Before then, I was a wifi-only type of gal, so I did a lot less work from my mobile. Here are a few apps that get me through the work day.
Yes - Twinder. Cute name, right? Twinder is almost exactly how it sounds - Tinder for Twitter. Except, you're not looking for people to meet, you're looking for people to unfollow. I follow everyone, probably too often. Sometimes these people stop adding value, and I need to go through and clean up my list. Twinder allows you to read profiles, look at profile photos, and decide on the spot if you should continue following or cut them loose.
Almost two years ago, I made a big change. I packed up my bedroom and made the move from Toronto to Boston. Attending school in the United States was something I have wanted to do since high school, so I was confident in my decision. When I first moved here, my schedule allowed me to go home almost monthly - Toronto is only about an hour and a half flight - so it never felt that strange being away. However, this was my first holiday where going home wasn't an option, and I felt the pain.
There are many ways to survive a new city. I could tell you how to take on the professional world, hunt for an apartment, or discover the local sites. However, I think there is something more important: how to survive emotionally. Homesickness is a heart-wrenching feeling, and it weighs on you day and night. It can affect your sleep and dampen your productivity. So, if you're planning a big move or preparing for a holiday alone, here are a few tips to surviving a new city.
Think back to your first part-time job. Remember the hours, days, and weeks of training the organization gave you? Step-by-step guides on the proper ways to answer the phone, how to work the register, and exactly how to prepare everything on the menu? Well, communications is nothing like that. Training is a luxury most of us aren't afforded. I'm one month in to my new position, and while I adore it, I'm still training myself. So, if you're preparing for your first job, here are some tips for on-the-job PR training you can do yourself.
1) Keep Track of Edits
There's a good (great) chance somebody above you will be editing your work before you submit, publish, or print. Keep track of their edits. We've all memorized the AP Style Guide, but some organizations maintain different brand guidelines. Some drop the "S" before adding "'s", some hate centered text. You'll become accustomed to what your organization expects if you keep all of the edits you receive and implement them in your next project.
2) Enroll in Program Training
Most organizations use outside platforms for their day-to-day - beyond Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Things like Salesforce, iModules, NationBuilder and more are used everyday, and offer a lot of training for new employees. Introduce yourself to the account manager assigned to your organization, and have them direct you to training videos and how-to guides.