Best Practices for Effective Message Tests: Subject Lines

Want to learn how to add multivariate message testing to your email marketing strategy? This is the place.

If you’ve read any of our blog posts or help articles on message testing as part of an effective email marketing strategy, you may have noticed that our recurring advice is to

Be Bold!

This is because you don’t really know how an audience will respond to a particular type of messaging until you test it. And while you may already have a general sense of what kinds of messaging your audience responds to, there may be segments of that audience that would engage more with a different type of messaging.

Or, to borrow that old clickbait cliche: the answer may surprise you!

Of course, once you’ve decided that you want to add message testing to your email marketing strategy, what exactly can you test? And how can you test it?

Before You Start: Best Practices for Multivariate Email Message Test

The short, unhelpful answer to what can be tested is, well, everything.

More specifically, you can experiment with different subject lines and pre-headers, sender names (the From line), Calls-to-Action, and of course, the overall message content itself.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be providing some best practices for each of these areas in-depth, but for this week, we’ll focus on subject lines.

Before you start creating new email variations, a few ground rules apply no matter what element of your message you’re testing.

The first rule is to keep your testing focused. If you test too many variables at once, it will be challenging to determine what made the difference.

For instance, let’s say you have three different variations of your message. Each one has a different subject line, a different message pre-header, and a different sender persona.

One of the emails vastly outperforms the others. But what made that message resonate with the audience in a way that the others didn’t? Was it the subject line, pre-header, or the sender persona?

So for your experiments, try just testing different subject lines, OR different pre-headers, OR different sender personas.

The next step is to find a specific question you’d like answered. This question will act as a guide for your experiment.

For example, your guiding question could be, “What subject line length impacts contact engagement?” Then try out short and long versions (no more than 70 characters).

If you promote a newsletter, the question could be, “What highlighted topic impacts contact engagement?” Then try subject lines that promote different ideas presented in the newsletter.

Another approach could be, “What type of value proposition impacts contact engagement?” Regardless of whether it’s B2B or B2C, when your contact is reading your marketing communications, they’re asking themselves, “What’s in it for me?” Presenting different answers to that question is a great area to explore.

For instance, does your product or service help with overall productivity? Increase revenue? Reduce costs? Will it help your contact in their career? For some ideas in this area, check out this article on Value Propositions in B2B from the Harvard Business Review.

You can also build guiding questions around sentence structure, reading levels, or types of statements (such as a question, declarative, imperative, exclamatory, or a mix).

Another excellent opportunity for experimentation is the tone of the subject line. Again, the guiding question might be, “What subject line tone impacts contact engagement?”

Then come up with three or four (or more!) possible answers, like you’re creating a multiple-choice test.

Then take your variations and create a Motiva Message Testing step.

Keep your most potent keywords close to the beginning of the subject line, so contacts who read emails on their phone will still have an idea of your message content enough to open and engage.

With Motiva’s Message Testing AI, if one email variation significantly underperforms, we’ll quickly know and stop sending out that variation. No intervention is required on your part, and the risk to your overall campaign performance is minimal.

Another advantage to message testing is that even those “failures” can turn out to be hidden successes. Not every subject line will resonate with every contact. But you may find that certain subject lines resonate with specific segments of an audience.

After a message testing step concludes, go back and look at the Personas tab in the Motiva app and see if any patterns emerge. If so, you can target that segment specifically with the type of subject line that resonates with them.

In the example below, you can see two different segments responded to two different emails, while a third variation fell far behind. You can create a new buyer persona based on this segment, and continue to target it with their desired content.

Ready to see how Motiva can supercharge your marketing campaigns? Schedule a Demo below!