9 Things to Test in an Email

Here are three things you can test that might increase the rate at which your emails are opened!

1. The "from" address should be descriptive and consistent. Test an institutional address such as "XYZ Charity" against the name of the letter signer. Email
2. Subject line: With all the personalization in spam today, I advise retesting using the recipient's name in the subject line against something that might be more 'official' sounding. Some personalization might still work; try "Legislative info for our supporters in Virginia" or something like that.
3. Drop day and time: I'm sure this matters, though I haven't found any results that are consistent. Sometimes emailing on a Friday evening works well, sometimes a Tuesday is better. Most email is delivered within a few hours, even if it isn't opened by the user until the next day.

The next six things can make the difference between an opened, abandoned email and one that produces a click back to your website:

4. The ask: There are 10 things you can ask for in an email. Money is just one of them. What you ask for, and for what purpose, is the essential element of the entire email. Everything should be centered around the ask. If possible, test personalizing the ask like you would in a direct mail letter.
5. Copy: Copy should be short enough to tease, or long enough to really involve. Test a short email that teases readers to the landing page against a long email that has all the reasons to give.
6. Offer: As in direct mail, we need to give our readers the answer to 'what's in it for me?' Downloadable premiums, instant online recognition, or a special donors-only e-newsletter are three electronic alternatives.
7. The list is perhaps MORE important in email than it is in direct mail. Drill down and test the most likely segments of a list, then broaden out your selection as results indicate.
8. Format: Text v. html is only one example of a format test. Heavy graphics v. "rich text" are two alternatives of an html email. Note: text might work best for an urgent appeal, while html might work better for a regular newsletter.
9. The last item to test is the only one that gives you the chance to turn a click into a donor: the landing page. Test various versions, with links to pop-up windows that contain more information if a particular reader wants it. Don't let them wander off to the far reaches of your site. And use session cookies to track their path from landing page through to, eventually, (hopefully) the 'thank you' page.