Keeping Score with Email Goals and Testing


In football, the distance the kicker kicks the ball is irrelevant if he doesn’t aim for the field goal. The same goes for an email campaign.

With the current buzz around “big data,” metrics have risen to top-of-mind, but data mean nothing if you don’t know what or why you’re measuring. Before you write the first line of copy, you need to determine the underlying purpose of the campaign, quantify the campaign’s objectives, set performance targets, and decide how to measure results.

There are several broad categories in which your organization’s goals are likely fit:

  • Build awareness/advocacy
  • Raise funds/increase revenue
  • Engage/mobilize volunteers
  • Increase web/social traffic
  • Solicit feedback/survey responses
  • Register events/increase turnout

Once you set your campaign goals, you need to create a testing strategy. Testing allows you to identify the effects that certain variables have on meeting your goals.

The simplest form of testing is A/B (or “split”) testing, which comprises comparing two versions of a message with the exception of a test factor. Common test factors include — but are not limited to — day of week, time of day, frequency, sender name, subject line, design, image use, and copy.

When you start testing, keep these fundamentals in mind:

1. Pick global factors that can be applied throughout the duration of the campaign. Focus on testing variables that will produce results you can use repeatedly.

2. Identify a single variable to test at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself with a multivariate test at the beginning. Too many test factors can complicate the process and confuse the results.

3. Test variables simultaneously. This reduces the likelihood that your results will be skewed by timing factors.

4. Use a large sample when possible. The more contacts you include in your test, the more statistically significant your results will be.

5. Split your contacts randomly. Many email service providers offer built-in A/B testing tools, but you can perform random split tests manually if yours does not. Split your contact list into two new lists, sending one version of the message to each list.

6. Analyze and act on the results. Depending on your chosen test variable, your opens, clicks, and/or conversions will be affected. Use the data you collect to continually make improvements toward reaching your goals.

7. Run tests often. Your contact list is a fluid entity, and your audience’s needs can change over the campaign lifecycle. Make a habit of testing to prevent surprises and discover new ways to move the needle of success.

Goals and testing are the backbone of a successful email campaign and concepts we’ll refer to throughout the remainder of this blog series. So, start aiming between those goal posts by establishing your goals and developing your testing strategy. I invite you to share your game plan in the comments!

Amber V Hammond is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Tommy Bowen

Hi Amber,

First off, I love the football analogy! It’s absolutely true, and this is a great primer/resource for anyone who is ‘kicking into the wind!’ I feel like there are a lot of companies that push how important email communications are from the top of the org, but provide little to no resources as to how to actually implement, measure, iterate, etc. Awesome post!