The raunchy comedy film “Revenge of the Nerds” turned 31 this summer. The movie, which foretold of the day when “nerds” would take over the planet, turned out to be on to something. Soon after its release, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and many other computer geeks made their mark on history, paving the way for the label, nerd, to be less of an insult and more of an admirable quality.

With that nerd spirit in mind, this post is about breaking into the science of email marketing. The truth is, the creative aspects of an email – the content, images and layout – often garner the most care and attention. But experienced marketers know that the most effective email campaigns today are based on intelligent insights that turn the discipline of email marketing into more of a science than an art.

If you’re looking for ways to embrace email testing, consider these four ideas for using data to ensure optimal results with your initiatives:

  1. The basics: The elements of date and time are perhaps the easiest to control and test. Therefore, it makes sense to start your testing plan here, especially if you are already in the habit of sending emails at the same day and time. The truth is, if you are following a routine with regard to sending, it may also be routine for your audience to ignore your expected messages. So mix it up: if you typically send in the morning, try the afternoon and see if you achieve better results. And test your assumptions. You might think sending on Mondays and Fridays doesn’t make sense, but perhaps your audience will respond differently. Send the same message on a Friday – maybe your audience is already in a good mood and open to your message – and see if you get better results.
  1. Get the best subject line: As this is what your email recipients see first (after the “from” address), it’s important to get this right, or the rest of your message may not matter. Thus, testing for the best subject line can make an immediate impact on your open rates. Try testing a straightforward subject line with the call-to-action included, and perhaps a more mysterious approach that piques interest. Whichever approach gathers more opens is the one to go with. But don’t stop there – continue testing with alternate words to improve opens further.
  1. Customized content: As this element involves many more dynamics than the subject line, testing your content can go in numerous directions. You can test content, layout and call-to-action against alternatives to find the best mix to which your audience responds. For the most accurate test results, pit one element against another (e.g. free shipping vs. a discount), as opposed to a multitude of variables.
  1. Frequency for the win: There’s a lot at stake with getting email frequency right. If you don’t email enough, you’re limiting crucial revenue opportunities for your company. The flip side – sending too frequently – can translate into even more peril. You can annoy, turn off or even anger the very audience you are desperately coveting. But it gets worse: sending too much email can get you blocked or banned by email providers, and even blacklisted as an email sender – a list from which it is difficult and time-consuming to get off.  There is hope, however: a big way to increase positive responses (and minimize complaints) is to understand mailbox types. It’s somewhat intuitive: recipients want to receive business emails at their work email addresses, and personal messages at their personal email addresses. So when conducting frequency testing, be sure to examine your address database, and send the appropriate message to the right place. Also, analyze engagement patterns to understand the composition of your target based on their primary and secondary email account activities, and develop frequency testing for different account types. Watch for negative signals (such as outright complaints), and monitor responses and open rates. If open rates are trending downward, you’re no doubt over-mailing. The rewards of frequency testing can be well worth the investment. Indeed, the benefits to marketers of understanding email account type and ideal frequency have been reported to generate a 40% incremental revenue lift.

Since marketers typically have limited opportunities to connect with their target audiences, it’s best to apply some test – even a small one – to each and every campaign to maximize the results of your marketing efforts. These four testing elements represent a good starting point, whether you consider yourself a nerd or not.

This article is based on a post published on the BizFACTZ blog.