05/07/2014 12:16 pm ET Updated Jul 07, 2014

The New Style of Email Marketing: Testing for Perfection

While my subscriptions are to Men's Health and Esquire instead of Vogue, it doesn't mean I don't appreciate style and understand the latest fashion trends. As I watched different looks change from season to season, I began to notice parallels to the world of marketing. Applying varied trends and styles that are "in fashion" to your marketing approach actually makes a lot of sense. We can learn a lot from the world of fashion when it comes to marketing: It's crucial to understand the diverse styles of our audience, while maintaining our own individual style and identity to truly drive revenue and appeal to a variety of customer preferences.

Admittedly, my style is casual - jeans and a t-shirt are my usual uniform on weekends, and I keep an eye out for emails alerting me to denim sales or new products from my favorite vendors. But if you send me an offer for dance shoes, I will unsubscribe faster than acid wash jeans went out of style. Sending a golfer (like me) an offer for ballroom dance attire is a clear sign you haven't tested your campaign or made an effort to get to know your audience. Without proper testing of messaging, timing, etc., you'll risk losing customers and revenue. Like a tailor with a good set of shears, a marketer must be equipped with the best tools to keep pace with the needs of customers, and in this case, the power of A/B split testing makes all the difference. Here are five tips to test your campaigns and ensure they appeal to every customer's style preference.

Create a Classic
Let's face it, a well-tailored suit never goes out of style, and the vast majority would agree it's a wardrobe "must have" without much argument. Just as a fine suit is a classic staple, your brand needs to set a "classic" control message that resonates across the board as a baseline to measure campaign successes (or failure). Without this classic in your closet of messages, testing won't be of any use. Marketers should also establish a specific time period to measure the success of the control message, and use that time period for all incremental changes.

One Size Doesn't Fit All
Fashion trends can elicit varied reactions based on individual preference, and in my experience, skinny jeans happen to be one of these trends--some love them, while others despise them. The love/hate relationship that exists with this style of pants is the perfect example of why marketers should be splitting lists. In today's email marketing world, there is no "one size fits all" approach so it's important to slice-and-dice your lists. Establish the best exposure of testing campaigns to all audiences by splitting lists into random sets (rather than a specific type of subscriber, reader or buyer). The split lists should remain labeled as 'test' lists, meaning you are using this group as testers for various messages.

Understand Your Style to Establish Goals
An athletic retailer's offering wouldn't appeal to someone who prefers to dress primarily in slacks and button-downs, and thus it wouldn't set goals to break through to that particular person. Think similarly with your email marketing and set realistic goals. Click-through rates will never increase by 90 percent, but an increase of five percent over a defined period is practical.

Be a Rule Breaker
I've found that even men's style trends change quickly, and the fashion labels that continue to remain popular are flexible and often take an outside-the-box approach to stay ahead of the fashion curve. Comparably, email marketers should use A/B split testing to bend the "rules" of accepted industry best practices to uncover surprises that help better target and appeal to customers ('short and sweet' might equate to 'short and delete'). By implementing these rule-breaking changes, savvy email marketers can stay miles ahead of the competition.

Pick Your Investment Piece: A Manageable Platform
As with anything, your approach will only work if it is relatable and relevant. Don't waste money on that expensive jacket that was stylish for a split-second, and now sits in your closet unused. Likewise, don't waste money on complex solutions that are intimidating to use: Find the right product that will yield the best possible results as efficiently as possible.

The key as a marketer is in understanding that style choices are personal, and to best appeal to varied preferences, you must be adaptive, creative and empowered to truly get to know your customers and provide messages that are effective despite changing trends. A/B split testing puts the power in the hands of marketers, allowing for better-targeted messages and individualized content to drive traffic and conversions, ultimately increasing revenue, ensuring your brand never goes out of style.