Designing a Message Test

Want some ideas for how to design an effective message test? This is the place.

Scott Gutelius avatar
Written by Scott Gutelius
Updated over a week ago

Multivariate message testing is one of the most powerful tools for optimizing content and increasing engagement. But MT only delivers results and real insights if the content versions you test are distinct from each other and relevant to your audience.

In this post, I'll take you through a step-by-step process for developing content versions.

First, you may be wondering what kinds of variables can be tested, and the answer is, well, just about everything. If you're looking to test content that boost open rates, try creating variations with different subject lines, Sender Personas (the name that appears in the From line), or preheaders. If you're looking to increase clickthroughs, then make changes to the header, images, body text and CTAs, or the design and layout.

For best results, only change one element for each variation. If you change more than one element, then you won't know which variable made the difference.

For example, if you are testing for open rates, change a subject line OR From line OR the preheader in each email variation. This will give you more actionable intelligence to work with.

Developing Email Versions Office Hour (3)

Simple A/B testing is the equivalent of asking your audience a series of Yes/No questions. No one wants their professional success, and the financial success of their company, dependent on a meandering game of 20 questions. "Is it a rock?" No. "Is it a mammal?" No. "Is it something you eat?" You get the idea.

Multivariate message testing, on the other hand, is the equivalent of asking your audience a multiple-choice question, which can yield greater clarity and faster results. It's a much better conversation with your audience. And this is the foundation of our version development process.

1. Start with an Audience & a Guiding Question

Start by defining your audience and articulating what you want to learn about them. The goal of testing is more than a one-off optimization on a single email campaign. You want to gain insights that can be applied to other email campaigns and even other marketing channels.

Potential Questions & Testing Suggestions

  • What topics are most engaging? Experiment with subject line, pre-header and value-added content.

  • Who does this audience want to engage with? Experiment with sender persona from brand name to specific type of person.

  • What value propositions lead to more conversions? Experiment with subject line keywords, CTAs, and special offers.

  • What type of content is most engaging? Experiment with blog posts, podcasts, downloadable guides, and video.

Here's an example for subject line testing

2. Research Answers

Once you have a guiding question, research your specific audience to find a series of potential answers. Don't look for one definitive answer, but several possibilities like a multiple-choice question. For example:

3. Turn Answers into Content

Now that you have a range of possible answers, turn your answers into content versions. For the example above, you'll have four separate emails, one for each type of content.

4. Test & Analyse

Feed your versions into Motiva's automated message testing step on the campaign canvas and see which version performs the best for your audience. The answer will be based on hard data from your audience so you can rest assured in the quality of the insight.

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