Courtney Eckerle

How to Drive Conversion Using a Value Proposition-focused Testing Strategy in Email Marketing

September 27th, 2017

Your company’s value proposition is its answer to the question, “If I’m your ideal customer, why should I buy from you over your competitors?”

While this might seem like something that lives and dies on your landing page, value proposition needs to be brought into every aspect of your marketing, especially your email. It is the channel where customers are going to be interacting with you most.

Plenty of email marketers have begun at least light A/B testing — subject lines, images, button colors — but value proposition is often an untapped area of email testing that could lead to serious returns.

There are four elements that increase or decrease the force of your value proposition:

  • Appeal: How badly do I want this offer?
  • Exclusivity: Where else can I get this offer?
  • Credibility: Can I trust your claims?
  • Clarity: What are you actually offering?

Take this recent case study with Willow Creek, which dabbles in all four of these elements, for example.

Last year, John Jordan, Executive Director of Digital Marketing, and his team were exposed to the idea of optimization, and began working on the messaging for The Global Leadership Summit that has been hosted by the brand for the past 25 years.

“This year, we’ll have about 400,000 people attend from 128 countries in 60 different languages,” he said.

Previously, marketing decisions had been made based on their preferences, intuition, industry best practices or their past experiences. The team had never applied testing to what they were doing with any sort of method.

“We were leaving money and potential attendees for our event on the table,” Jordan said.

Look for opportunities to insert value

To find those opportunities in email, the team looked at the event marketing calendar for key pricing deadlines to create moments of urgency and exclusivity.

When the team was looking at this in March, there was no pricing urgency coming up until June. So, they decided instead to leverage valuable content with the founder of the Summit, Bill Hybels, to create this sense of urgency.

“We created urgency with an email to get this ‘Best of Bill Hybels’ DVD,” he said.

Register for the Summit by this Friday, get a free copy of ‘The Best of Bill Hybels’ DVD with your purchase.

Not only was that email introducing this exclusive offer (creating appeal) because there was a deadline to register by in order to receive the DVD, but it was also leveraging Bill Hybels’ credibility and gaining some by showing people the type of professional knowledge they could expect from the event.

As a result, the team saw 1,080 additional registrations from that campaign, with the primary channel being email. The offer messaging was also echoed on social media, but 95% of the registrations came in via email.

Incessantly tinker with your email’s value proposition

A team value, Jordan said, is to be “incessantly tinkering.” For example, when the team saw the added value and urgency work, they ended up adding another campaign. This time, they focused on a DVD that was made up of 25 of the best presentations from past Summits.

“Rather than doing additional pricing incentives, we were adding value and communicating that via email,” he said.

A different subject line test, which was run by the team leading up to the event, relied more on clarifying the event’s appeal. They wanted to see what would be of more value to potential attendees — specific big-name speakers or, perhaps, a more generic subject line.

“We thought that by highlighting some of our event buzz speakers in a subject line or email headline, that was going to be more impactful. It wasn’t,” Jordan said. “We were astonished because what continues to work over and over again is the breadth of the faculty.”

Instead of having a subject line that says, “Come See Sheryl Sandberg,” he explained, the subject line, “Come See 13 World-Class Speakers” ended up being of more value.

Transform your testing culture

After the work that has been done through the focus on value proposition in testing, Jordan has seen tremendous growth in how it is perceived internally. Probably the best indication of that is how the size of the team’s weekly testing meeting has grown.

“It is truly transforming the way we talk about things here. It has been incredible because now our answer to new ideas is not, ‘Oh no, I read this and you read that.’ It’s, ‘How can we find a way to test that?’ And three years ago, that would have never happened, he said.

From leaders at the organization who focus on high-level vision to the “minders and grinders who are in the day-to-day operations with customers … all [were] buying in to defining our value prop for the summit,” Jordan said.

That understanding of value proposition connected a lot of dots, and Jordan’s team brought it into everything — from marketing materials to email subject line testing.

“We positioned content in our emails, all of our PPC testing [where] the first line is value and the second line is a micro-yes. That got applied everywhere, but it gave us a starting point for our testing. Then we could validate what we learned in the value prop workshop,” he said.

The overall results that Jordan and his organization have seen from this testing transformation are:

  • 10,990 additional registrations from testing and optimization in 2017 (U.S. only)
  • 66% additional registrations from email marketing (2017 compared to 2016)
  • 3x more registrations from pay-per-click advertising and testing (2017 compared to 2016)

“We’ve been doing the Summit for all these years and there are tried-and-true assumptions for things we believed would work,” Jordan said. “As we’ve been on this journey — and we’re probably somewhere in the middle — of transforming the organization to truly being a testing organization, it has challenged assumptions.”

John Jordan is the featured speaker on a MECLABS Institute webinar at 2 p.m. ET, October 4. Focused on creating a culture of optimization and testing, he will be discussing discovery through testing of email, landing page and PPC.  

You might also like…

Email Marketing: Five ideas to increase your email’s perceived value

Five questions to ask to understand customer motivation

Crawl, Walk, Run: How Ferguson began customer-centric email habits to generate over $21 million in online revenue

Download the free Quick Guide to Email Marketing

Courtney Eckerle

About Courtney Eckerle

With a focus on aspirational, customer-first marketing, Courtney’s goal has been to produce clear, interesting and actionable external content for MarketingSherpa readers. This has included writing over 300 case studies, moderating live event interviews, and producing video content. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, Mass Communications and Film Studies from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., and was a correspondent for USA Today College prior to joining MECLABS Institute.

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