Still Time for this Year-End Tweak

We’re at countdown time for your year-end campaign.

Realistically, you can’t do much to strengthen your database (e.g. your ability to segment your list as you want to) or re-brand at this point. But…there is one element you can strengthen NOW to help you hit your fundraising goal this year—your email subject lines.

Your subject lines are vital—If your people don’t open your email, you won’t motivate interest OR donations. In fact, the likelihood of meeting your year-end fundraising goals is linked directly to improving your open rates.

Just take a look at how overstuffed your inbox is right now with requests for donations from so many orgs, plus all the other regular and season-specific stuff. A/B testing of your subject lines (comparing the performance of two distinct versions of your subject line by simultaneously sending a test to two similar segments of your list to see which generates the most opens) will help you stand out in that crowd.

In fact, the when marketingsherpa experts surveyed how marketers test email campaign elements to strengthen results, they found that 86% of marketers test subject lines. There’s a reason for that…they’re easy to test and provide vital insights into which messages and formats motivate people to open your emails.

Here’s how to test your email subject lines:

Note: Most email providers have a built-in A/B testing tool. Ask your provider.

1. Draft your email

2. Write two distinct subject lines (see these ideas on what to test)

3. Test—I strongly recommend you test subject lines on a segment of your list before the full mailing. Select two small but similar segments from your list and send the same email to both groups, with a different subject line for each segment. Then select the one that generates the greatest number of opens to the balance of your list.

If you’re out of time on this email, your test results will provide guidance on the subject line for your next email in the campaign. Simply split your email list into two (or split each segment or sub-group if you’re sending segment-specific emails) and send the email with a different subject line for each. This approach provides you with guidance on the subject line for the next email in your campaign.

4. Assess the open rates for subject line A versus subject line B. Did more people open one versus the other?

5. Use the subject line that generated the most opens for your email (or build on your findings for the next email if you didn’t pre-test).

Ultimately, motivating your network to click on links to take action is more important than motivating them to open the email. I’ll discuss testing strategies related to motivating action in a future post.

How do you use A/B testing to strengthen your email success? If you don’t, or do but aren’t satisfied with testing results, what’s getting in your way. Please share your experiences here.

P.S. Get more nonprofit marketing guidance plus in-depth case studies, templates and tools via the Getting Attention blog & e-news. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz on December 11, 2013 in Fundraising: Innovations & Research | 1 comment

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