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To further understand optimization, it’s important to understand that it’s not something that happens on the page. In fact, it happens in the mind. Whenever we send a message, regardless of channel, we are entering into a mental conversation with people. In the case of email, that mental conversation begins when we capture the person’s email address. It carries forward through the “From” line, the “To” line and the “Subject” line, all of which inspires them—hopefully—to open the message. The conversation continues through the message body, which inspires the click, and that carries all the way to the landing page that inspires the individual to act. If we think about it this way, we don’t need to optimize our email campaign; instead we need to consider how to optimize thought sequences.

Best Practices Are Not Enough—You Need A Rigorous Methodology

?If I were to show you three different emails—all designed by top notch agencies—how would you determine which one is “optimized”? Would you look at the amount of white space? The use of colors and images? Would you evaluate the copy, the messaging, the call-to-action? How do we really know when something is optimized? The reality is, we don’t. While we all pride ourselves as wonderful marketers and cunning fundraisers, the key to success is humility. We need to come to terms with the fact that while best practices may be helpful, they are not enough. And though we like to trust our marketing intuition, we find often that testing trumps marketing intuition. So, if the key to optimization is testing, how and what should we test? That’s where you need a rigorous methodology—a methodology that has been developed through years of scientific testing. MECLABS conducts rigorous experiments in the new science of optimization. Here’s a snapshot of their Optimization Methodology, which we’ll refer to throughout this series:

eme = rv(of + i) – (f + a)©

?eme = email marketing effectiveness index?
rv = relevance to the constituent
?of = offer value
?i = incentive to take action
?f = friction elements of the process
?a = anxiety elements of the process

It reads in plain English like this: Email Marketing Effectiveness equals Relevance times Offer plus Incentive minus Friction, minus Anxiety.

Start by Identifying Value Factors and Inhibitors?

To begin to apply this formula to the mental conversation you’re having with your constituents, start by identifying the Value Factors in this formula, which are RELEVANCE, OFFER and INCENTIVE. You’ll also want to consider the Inhibitors, or the FRICTION and ANXIETY your constituents experience when they go through the mental process of moving to a decision point. MECLABS describes this process as an inverted funnel — your donors are not falling in, they are falling out. What we need to do is help them through the series of micro decisions that lead them to the macro decision. To accomplish this, the marketer must increase the Value Factors as much as possible and to mitigate the Inhibitors as much as possible.

Small Changes Can Make a Dramatic Impact?

There are four aspects of the Email Messaging Sequence—or the touch points where the mental conversations take place—Email Capture, Open, Click-through and Landing Page. This is how MECLABS states the formula:

ec < op < ct < lp ©?

ec = email capture?
op = open?
ct = clickthrough
?lp = landing page

In our next entry, we’ll walk through each aspect in the sequence one at a time.