Post-Email Summit Workshop: 4 key ways small businesses can optimize their campaigns


“There are no expert marketers; there are only experienced marketers and expert testers.” Dr. Flint McGlaughlin remarks from his keynote on day one of the Email Summit echoed through Friday’s post-Summit workshop about email messaging.

According to the 2012 Email Marketing Benchmark Report, the majority of small- and medium-sized businesses do not test or optimize their emails. In fact, 67% of small businesses don’t even dedicate a portion of their budget to testing or optimization.

As we learned through several case studies performed on larger organizations, if you’re not optimizing for your customers, you’re losing a huge chunk of sales revenue from leads who fall out of your funnel. In most cases, a simple change of focus for a landing page or call-to-action on an email capture form was enough to provide a significant lift in sales and conversions.

For the small business owner, simple and effective methods that can produce results without too much manpower are the best methods to pursue. Below are four takeaways from the post-Summit workshop that will help you view your email campaign through your customers’ eyes and effectively optimize for the best results.

The Optimization Heuristic

The first thing we learned Friday morning was a heuristic for identifying the weak points in an email campaign. Dr. McGlaughlin presented the Email Messaging Optimization Index:



This heuristic breaks down the effectiveness of your email messaging (eme) to the relevance (rv) of your offer (of) and incentive (i) while reducing friction (f) and anxiety (a) in your target audience. In other words, the perceived value of your message (your offer and incentive) should outweigh the perceived cost of the action you’re asking your prospects or customers to take.

Your email capture is the number one factor affecting your list quality. What is the perceived cost vs. perceived value of your sign-up form? Make sure your form doesn’t ask for too much commitment too soon — consumers respond better to an invitation to “Learn More” than to “Get Started Now,” for example.

Your email message is not for closing the sale; it’s for leading your customers to the landing page. Emails sell clicks, not products. And, your goal is to methodically lead your customer through their commitment. Your subject line should entice them to read your headline, which guides them into the message body, which then presents the value of clicking through. What is the cost of reading your email versus the value waiting for them on your landing page?

Your landing page closes the sale and should answer three critical questions to keep consumers’ attention:

  • “Where am I?”
  • “What should I do here?”
  • “Why should I do it?”

Give your landing page clear focus with a single call-to-action to achieve the final conversion and close the sale.


Invert Your Funnel

Dr. McGlaughlin says we view the typical sales funnel all wrong. People don’t fall into your funnel to let gravity push them through. They climb up your funnel through several pathways and a series of what Flint calls “micro-yeses” — small agreements to open your subject line, read past your headline, and find enough value to click through to your landing page.

The small business owner’s goal is to lead customers through these yeses step by step by decreasing points of friction and anxiety — psychological resistances that stop the conversion process cold.

The point is to climb up the funnel with your customers to start thinking like them. Would a call to “Submit!” your information or “Register Now!” before you fully trust your business put you off?


Think Like Your Customers

This ties in with the inverted funnel principle. As Flint says, “People don’t buy from websites or emails. People buy from people.” To optimize your campaign for people means optimizing for their thought sequences. And, consumers think differently from marketers.

While your goal is to grow your list with more names and increase your sales by a certain percent, their goal is to trust you enough to buy from you. Points of friction and anxiety come in when a marketer asks for too big of a commitment too soon.

Remember the “micro-yeses”? Each time a customer says “yes” to your subject line, to your headline, to your body copy, to your call-to-action, to your landing page, and to the final sale, there’s a conversation between you and the customer. And each key point in the conversation — each call-to-action — needs enough value to outweigh the cost of commitment in their mind.

Identify the points in your campaign where the conversation breaks down. How much value are you really offering?


Being Relevant Means Being Present

In his discussion on landing pages, Flint provided a visual example of a business walking a customer through conversion, starting the moment they enter a search term for your product or service.

When that customer finds your landing page, what do they really see? They have questions. Does your page provide the answers or just a sales pitch? Optimizing your landing page is all about the relevance, and being relevant means being present through their thought process.

Pay attention to the kinds of searches that lead to your landing page and address those questions or fears before you ask them to buy. You are virtually holding their hand through the decision process, and the instant you let go by asking for too much too soon, you’ve lost the sale.

Take time to test and optimize your campaign by thinking more like your customers. Meet them on their level and focus on the personal, not the final sale. The more you can ease their resistance by talking like a person, the more your sales conversions will improve.


Related Resources:

Email Summit 2012: Top 5 takeaways from the industry’s largest research-based event

Top Takeaways for Small Businesses from Email Summit 2012

Email Summit: Mobile marketing panel on the complex sale

Email Summit: Testing timing and format elements in follow-up email

Email Summit 2012: Meeting email marketing challenges

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  1. Jeremy Reeves says

    Great insights. I love the example of asking for too much information too soon. I’m currently testing a few different CTA’s for one of my sites… so this came just in time 🙂

    Jeremy Reeves

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