What works best, not best practice

By Angela Schuster

There seems to be a lot of hype out there about “best practices”, “must dos” or “rules of thumb” for online marketing. Some marketers could be forgiven for strictly adhering to these so-called sterling rules of thumb because they sound as though they assure mercury raising results... not so, in fact some best practise can work against you.

Marketers should focus on what works best, not best practice.

So let’s review best practice versus what works best.

Time of day

So-called best practice:

Time of day seems to be the overwhelming area of concern for Marketers and the area open to greatest interpretation and “rules of thumb”.

Some companies have gone to the extent of running regular studies on email campaigns that show which times and days have better open and click through rates (eROI being an example). While these certainly make for interesting reading, you should take them with a grain of salt because these times and days may not work best for you.

The reality is that the time and day that will work best for you depends. Unfortunately, it is not just a matter of saying “everyone interested in XYZ will be most receptive to email at 2pm on Tuesday”.

What works best:

Consider your audience – who are they and when are they most likely to be checking their emails?

Is your audience sitting in front of their computer all day with their email open? Alternatively, are they checking their emails from hand held devices or do they access email more sporadically?

Test time of day yourself – drip feed your campaign to your audience at set intervals over a period of time and track the results. Again, this may not be 100% bulletproof but it will give you an indicator that is more relevant because it is based on your message and your audience.

Engaging subject lines

So-called best practice:

Everyone knows the importance of a subject line. More and more I am seeing subject line creation spliced, diced, julienned and downright over-analysed.

A few so-called best practices around subject lines you may have heard:

  1. Keep the subject line under 25 (or 55 or 75) characters;

  2. Make it compelling (durgh);

  3. Include a teaser not just a “April Newsletter” etc.

What works best:

The reality is you are never going to know which subject line works best without testing. Recently I tested three different subject lines for an eNewsletter. Two were compelling and referred to articles in the eNewsletter; the other was just a plain old daggy “September eNewletter”.

Now if I listened to best practice, I probably would not have even bothered testing the daggy subject line. But I did and guess what? It out-performed the other two subject lines by a factor of 4.

So again, we see the importance of working out for yourself what works best for yourself.

The Upshot

Marketing is not a paint-by-numbers discipline; there is no golden rule for a successful campaign. You need to think and learn for yourself what works best for your message and your audience.