It’s all in the numbers

It's all in the numbers

Searching for inspiration on what to write about this week I took a quick look at Buzzsumo, as I’ve often recommended you do.

I was immediately struck by the number of “list” subject lines among the marketing blogs: 7 big trends…, 5 up-and-coming tools…, 8 tips…, 7 ways to prove…, 12 e-commerce tips… – and so on.  Yet starting your headline with a number instead of “how to” (for example, “7 tips for finding blog subjects” instead of “How to find blog subjects”), gives you much lower scores on CoSchedule’s headline analyser.

Strange, isn’t it?  Going by the plethora of blog titles that start with a number, it must work for lots of people.  Or you’d think so anyway – maybe they’ve just never run the figures and don’t know whether they work or not.

Have you ever done the research to see which sort of headline works best for you?  I’d be interested to hear the results, if you have.

If you’ve no idea how to do it, the answer’s A-B testing.  It’s an absolutely classic marketing technique, going right back to well before the days of the original Mad Men.

Here’s how it works.

Divide your list into two segments.  One segment gets headline A and the other half gets headline B, and you see which one gets most people to open your newsletter or share your blog, or whatever other metric you normally compare.  (You do check your metrics, don’t you?  ‘Course you do!)

A-B testing is just the beginning, though.  You can try the same headline with different body copy, or a different image, or a different time-scale for an offer – whatever options you want to test.  If you divide the list into more segments, you can mix and match – though you can take it so far you don’t really learn anything.

You can also divide your list into groups, classified by what type of product people have bought from you or by membership of various bodies you belong to or whatever, and tailor your offering to each group.

Then you can segment your groups…

… and so on – as long as there’s a reasonable number of people in each sub-segment.

It’s probably not worth going below about 20 people, unless you’re talking about something that only concerns them.  For example, the segment of my list for people who’ve said they’re interested in beta-testing the new writing group has fewer than 10 people in it, but I’m sending them very specific information.

N.B. If you want to join the group but haven’t yet got around to telling me so, time’s running out – it’s starting in just a couple of weeks!

The key to marketing success is grabbing people’s attention, and research shows you have about 7 seconds to do that.  If you can keep your audience engaged for at least 7 seconds, they’ll read the next bit; keep grabbing them and they’ll read on … and on …

You need to write stuff that will attract each segment or group – which might require a completely different approach for each one, or might just mean a few tweaks.  But unless you know what gets people to open your piece in the first place, you can’t run those deeper tests.

Whatever CoSchedule thinks of using them in headlines, numbers matter.  Know your numbers, use them wisely, and you’ll be able to solve the age-old conundrum of how to get the best return on your marketing investment.



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