“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain
In today’s rapidly evolving markets, you can never take anything for granted. The average lifetime of so-called “best practices” is shorter than ever.
I experienced this first hand recently on a couple of email tests designed to drive registrations for some upcoming conferences. Both conferences were targeted at highly technical IT audiences.
My past experience had always indicated that the best subject lines had offers and calls to action, especially when closing in on a limited time offer pricing deadline. So the following test results were as expected:
I had seen this result dozens of times before; invariably, the subject line that emphasized the dollar savings and created a sense of urgency had always emerged triumphant. Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw the results of the following test for a different conference directed at a similar audience:
Not only did the standard subject line offer no improvement on the alternative; it produced a result that was significantly worse. There is no doubt that, for this particular audience, the second subject line produced more conversions than the first.
The beauty of testing is that marketers don’t have to figuratively stumble around in the dark searching for the best way to communicate with customers. Test and learn strategies provide a way to find out directly, from prospects and customers, what they value and want most. There is no longer any excuse for a marketer to rely on hunches, anecdotes, and biased opinions in order to make marketing decisions. Even the seemingly most insignificant of decisions – the color of a registration button, for example – may have an effect on conversion rates which can be quantified.
However, when employing a test and learn approach to marketing, there is a trap to be avoided, which is illustrated by this example. Every business, and every customer set are different. There is no one set of best practices that apply in every situation. Think of the body of knowledge that you gain by testing to be a set of “best guidelines” rather than best practices. And know that no testing program ever arrives at a final best answer. Your customers are always changing. Always be testing.