The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview built a resource center that offered access to their wealth of podcasts, eBooks, and other teaching resources. They drafted emails to send to their house file and rented lists to promote this new initiative and invite constituents to activate their membership with a charitable donation.
Each part of an email has a job – the subject line’s job is to get the open, the content’s job is to inspire the reader to take action (usually a click), and the landing page’s job is to motivate the visitor to complete the intended action.
There’s a tradeoff in fundraising appeals: when you include the donation call to action (CTA) in the email, the only people that click are highly motivated to give. When the email’s CTA is to “read more” (or something similar), many more people will click – don’t yet have the motivation to give. This means there is greater opportunity to convert more donors, but a lower probability that they will have the motivation.
The Colson Center decided to test this tradeoff with the initial membership appeals for the new resource center.
The team created two emails to test this tradeoff. The control was an email like the one that Colson Center constituents were used to: longer copy that spelled out the value proposition of why they should become a charter member, along with several donation-focused CTA. The shorter email offloaded the value proposition to the landing page, and was designed to incentivize users to click, without any donation-focused CTAs within the email. Chuck Colson signed both emails.
Results and Learnings
The Colson Center sent both emails to a segment of their house file and closely watched the data. The treatment email, though it drove more traffic to the landing page, produced a 30.3% drop in donor conversion. This test proved to be statistically significant and had a valid sample size.
There are several key learnings from this test:
1. Longer copy creates more room for the value proposition.
Besides motivation (which we often can’t control), value proposition is the most important factor in conversion. While more copy doesn’t necessarily mean more clarity, it does give the opportunity to fully present the value proposition. One of the four key elements of the value proposition is credibility. The control email reinforced credibility by making the ask actually “from Chuck”.
The shorter email incentivized more people to click, but the landing page (where the donation CTA was located) lacked the credibility of Chuck’s signature – because no one signs landing pages..
2. More traffic is great, but only if the landing page does its job.
This test doesn’t mean that the Colson Center always has to make the donation ask in the email. It shows that the landing page didn’t do its job. No landing page is every fully optimized (I’d love to see one with 100% conversion rate). Further testing and optimization on this page could significantly increase conversion rate.
3. Negative test results can be just as insightful as positive results.
This test also provided a good reminder: we can learn just as much from negative results as we can from positive results. The goal of the test is not to get a lift – it is to provide a learning about our donors and a greater understanding of why they give.