Marketers, How Good is Your Gut?

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Email triage is a daily headache, but one email shows up like clockwork each week, and no matter how full my in box or how busy I am, I take two minutes to read it.  I always learn something new.   Marketers, are you a fan of “Which Test Won” yet?

Here’s how it works:  you get an email with a “Test of the Week”.  Side by side, two versions of a marketing communication are presented — email headlines , ecommerce sites, landing pages for PPC and the like — and then you get to vote on “which test won”.  How good is your judgement?  In an instant you find out, as the next screen shows you the results, and an analysis.  (re: the test below, Version B won.  If that doesn’t make you want to test, I don’t know what will!)

What have I learned over the past 134 weeks? (list of 134 “Which Test Won” past tests here) As much as we THINK we know, actual results can surprise.   As founder Ann Holland says, ” no matter how big an expert you are, you are going to guess wrong sometimes because you’re not a true representative of who the marketplace, the page or email was designed for.”  Yup.

So …  if you could improve the chance of conversion,  or stop people from abandoning your site, your registration forms or your cart, wouldn’t you want to do that?  Yet, 73% of marketers aren’t doing any testing whatsoever.

Problem is, you need a certain level of conversions per month just to run a conclusive test, so for smaller marketers, sometimes you have no choice:  you have to use judgment.  For those cases, here are some lessons that have come out of “Which Test Won”:

  • Use bigger, more prominent buttons.
  • Match your headline to the headline of the ad or offer that drove the traffic.
  • Get rid of extraneous navigation.
  • Test your headline copy, offer copy, and button copy.  (The word “Submit” for button copy can be easily improved!).

for instance: there was one test where a colon versus a dash was used in the subject line of an email, which really made a difference in responses. Who knew such a tiny factor would make a difference?

  • Overlays can garner email opt-ins, among other things.
  • Images:  it completely depends on the market and the product. For instance, a happy smiling human: will that help or depress responses?  Size, use of video, or even no image at all can all make a difference. (In the test below, version A won, due to combo of image, offer headline and layout).

Marketers, do you rely on judgment all the way?  Have you tried splitting your email lists, or testing headlines prior to important mailings?  Have you tried testing alternate visuals in ad campaigns, website layouts or landing pages?  What do you test, and what results have surprised you?

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About Rhonda Hurwitz

Rhonda Hurwitz is a content strategist and marketing consultant who helps mid-sized businesses develop more effective online strategies. @rhondahurwitz on Twitter, and on
This entry was posted in business common sense, marketing, website effectiveness and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Marketers, How Good is Your Gut?

  1. H. Chimoff says:

    Very interesting. Testing is a good concept, although sometimes difficult to implement. Another benefit of this web site is continuous education for marketers and team training/discussion opportunities, including with agency partners.

    • Harvey,

      Have you subscribed/ been playing along with “how good is your gut? I find the results often suprising! You make a good point re: training and education opportunity. Have you gotten clients to build in testing to their online marketing, or do they tend to “go with the gut”?


  2. I think testing is a great idea because nobody can really rely on judgement alone. Marketers should really be open to things like this and be willing to try out new stuff to be more effective.

    • Thank you for your comment.

      Virtual Agent — Do you test the effectiveness of what you do? I am working on a project for a client with testing built in. Very excited to approach it this way from the get-go.


  3. Hi, Rhonda! I have been following Which Test Won? on Twitter for months, but I really need to pull them into my email, because each time I do seem to learn something, whether I “guess” right or wrong. Thanks for bringing this back to my attention.

    Question for you: How do you tend to test your results? Just using a Google Analytics tool, or something else? I’m a copywriter, so I seldom have the opportunity, but I may soon (have a prospective client interview this week).

    • Hi Shakirah,

      That’s the beauty of WTW, right? You can still be surprised! That is why I subscribe and challenge myself each week, to learn a bit more about what works…

      As far as how I “test”, the good thing is that content online, and offers, are measurable in terms of traffic and conversions. Google Analytics is good for this, and most recently, I have been looking at Hubspot as an integrated platform that gives clients a lot of data that can show what is working and what is not. But before the fact, nothing is totally predicable, so it still comes down to gut!


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