Whether it’s through email, social media, phone call, cloud, or in person, changing technologies have created an overwhelming array of opportunities for businesses to grow and reach consumers. More than that, there is a mounting chorus of people and blog posts talking about the necessity of marketing analytics.

For a small or medium-sized business (SMB), research and analytics may seem like undertakings only available to larger businesses with the experience and resources to devote hours to confirming emails get opened, read, and generate real sales leads.

However, with a ‘test and learn’ approach, SMBs can quickly and easily observe how certain tweaks to a campaign can affect consumer engagement and use the data to optimise their marketing campaigns.

Below are some great ways SMBs can apply the test and learn method to their email campaigns. But before we get into it, there’s one hard and fast rule to experimentation: don’t test everything at once. You’ll never know what caused that brilliant open rate or click-through if you changed everything at once, so one thing at a time.

1. Create an engaging subject line

Your subject line is the first thing your email recipient sees, and it’s the difference between opening and ignoring. It’s the difference between high user engagement and being lost in the hundreds of emails people receive every day.

Therefore, creating an attention-grabbing subject line is critical.

One way to achieve this is through variation. While it can be easy to fall into patterns, repeating key words or phrases you know have worked well in the past, changing it up can help keep readers engaged and attract attention to parts of your email other than your ‘top story’ or lead item.

Try incorporating some visual symbols or emojis for more light-hearted campaigns. Challenge yourself to create shorter subject lines. Or personalise content by including the recipient’s name, industry, or other details that will grab their attention.

2. Ready. Set. Send or sit?

Busy SMBs may sometimes send an email whenever it’s ready to go. That makes things difficult from a marketing analytics perspective. Even if you have a regular cadence, though, it might not be based on anything more than a guess.

Try sending earlier in the day, later in the day or in the middle of the day. Use the data you have to segment your audience and match send times to their differing habits and preferences. When are they most likely to have a window of opportunity to read what you have to say?

3. Setting the rhythm

If you tell customers you’re launching a weekly email newsletter, you want to be consistent in delivering it on that schedule. However, if you’re seeing a poor open or click-through rate, it might be worth considering whether customers might prefer a different cadence.

Once every two weeks, or even once a month might have a greater impact if what you’re sending is more meaningful or relevant. In other situations, for example if your open rate is strong but click-throughs drop off after your lead item, breaking up the content and sending shorter emails more frequently might be the answer.

4. Less can be more

Deciding on the right amount of content for an email campaign can be difficult.

Initially, you might produce a newsletter that links back to five different stories on your website, thinking that ‘more is more’. However, you might find that most readers only tend to click on the first one.

In this case, working out what content is most valuable to you and to your audience, and reducing your content to two or three items might make more sense – or even one link with more enticing context and description around it.

5. Include a list of content upfront

You may need to pack in several pieces of content though, even if the audience isn’t scrolling all the way through to the end. A table of contents that outlines everything they’ll see in the message if they explore it in depth can help address this problem. A table of contents can be static – just words in the top of the message – or it can be linked directly to a particular item in a newsletter.

6. Experiment with images

A compelling photo or illustration can really help content to stand out, especially if it’s of a product or service you’re promoting. If you’re using few images (or simple stock images) it might be time to reevaluate what goes best with the text you’re including in email campaigns.

Also think about where these images will sit within a message – to the left of headlines, to the right, or in a banner across the top of the message? It’s usually best to ensure that your lead image, if it’s full-width, doesn’t make people scroll down before they see any of that compelling copy that tells them why they want to keep going, but there’s room for experimentation in placement and size, and you might find your audience differs.

7. Segment your content

Lots of companies work with a mix of customers across different industries. Rather than ‘one email to serve them all’, think about whether you want to create slightly different versions for segments of customers based on particular content, promotions or other considerations.

If this sounds too ambitious, start with a single segment spin-off version to just one group of customers. If the marketing analytics show a boost of any kind among that audience, you’ll know it’s worth pursuing with others.

8. Change up your call to action

There should be a good business objective behind every email a business of any size sends, and it should usually be spelled out in the call-to-action (CTA). Check out that link at the bottom of this blog – we’re keen to show you our latest SMB ebook!

Your CTA should be a link or button urging customers to buy something, to learn more or even to share information with you – balance the most important action you want your recipient to take with an action they are likely to take, and you’ve found your sweet post.

In a lot of cases, these CTAs tend to be near the end of the message, which assumes everyone’s reading until the end. See what happens when you move the CTA closer to the top, or have it woven more strategically into the message somehow.

It’s also worth trying out different CTA styles – what happens when you use a button rather than a link? Or change the button colour or shape? Or change the text style on the button from a formal-sounding CTA to something more conversational, or more urgent? What happens when you make your CTA a banner?

Final word: keep experimenting

Testing and learning may be time-consuming and complex, but it should be ongoing – it gives SMBs a great advantage in understanding their audience and the opportunity to optimise their marketing campaigns.

The marketing landscape is constantly changing and what worked yesterday may not work as well tomorrow or next month.

So, keep experimenting with your email campaigns, watch your analytics, and adapt accordingly. In the long run, giving your audience what it wants will lead to a growing, loyal customer base and help you get the most out of your time, money, and hard work.

Download the Salesforce Essentials ebook for more information about how your small business can get set up easily with a CRM that will scale as you grow.