It’s our fourth annual copywriting contest, and this year the MarketingExperiments blog has partnered with the Convince & Convert blog to find the most effective copywriter or marketer to help a nonprofit organization that has spent the last 80 years battling in the public and private sectors for safer products and fair market practices.
Take a few minutes to write your most effective email copy expressing one of the Value Focuses that would resonate with donors of our nonprofit partner, Consumer Reports. Leave your most brilliant copy as a comment on this blog post for a chance to win a MarketingSherpa Summit package, which includes a free ticket to MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 and a stay at the luxury Bellagio resort in Las Vegas. Deadline for entries is January 17, 2016 and official rules are here.
How to Enter
- Choose a Value Focus for Consumer Reports from below (or create your own) that you would like to test.
- Write the most incredible, effective, compelling opening to the Treatment email that best expresses your chosen Value Focus. Could be three words. Could be three pages. Whatever you think will work best.
- Enter with a comment to this blog post. You can enter as many times as you wish; please just create a new comment for each entry.
All good writers need some juicy details, so let’s dive in and take a closer look at the specifics.
The team from MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa) will pick the top three or four entries that we think have the most effective copy, and test them on a real audience pulled from Consumer Reports’ email lists. So, even if you don’t win, you’ll hopefully gain something valuable from this very public experiment — some new split testing ideas that you can use to improve your own marketing results.
To help you do that, I’ll explain a little bit about the testing methodology the MECLABS team used to create the design of experiments for this test, and give you enough information about Consumer Reports and the experiment to create your own entry. Ready? Let’s begin by providing you further detail about your “client” for this assignment.
Step #1: Understand the client’s goals and needs
Consumer Reports is a nonprofit organization supported by over seven million subscribers, activists and donors. It conducts state-of-the-art product testing in its in-house laboratories and fights for consumer choice, safety and fairness in the marketplace.
Formed as an independent, nonprofit organization in 1936, Consumer Reports serves consumers through unbiased product testing and ratings, research, journalism, public education and advocacy.
“[In] 2016, for Consumer Reports’ online fundraising we look to continue to grow revenue — since 2013 we have grown from $800,000 a year to looking at over $2.7M this year. Our challenges though are how to keep up with such great growth and this test will hopefully help us find another approach to increasing revenue,” Bruce Duesterhoeft, Program Manager of Online Fundraising, Consumer Reports, said.
“We hope to learn from other marketers who can give insights with both their ‘e-marketing’ hat on and with their ‘consumer’ and ‘potential donor’ hat on. What resonates with them? What would make them decide to give a contribution to Consumer Reports?” Dawn Nelson, Director of Fundraising, Consumer Reports, said.
Step #2: Learn about the customer through market intelligence
Every successful marketing test should confirm or deny an assumption about the customer. You need enough knowledge about the customer to create marketing messages you think will be effective.
For this public experiment to help marketers improve their split testing abilities, we have a real customer to work with — donors to Consumer Reports.
To help you better understand the customer, our Marketing Intelligence team created the ConsumerReports MI Research.
Step #3: Craft a hypothesis to help gain a better understanding of the customer
Sure, you can learn something and improve your marketing results somewhat with just one A/B test.
But the most effective way to use A/B testing is to build a customer theory. Each test should build on the next to help close the most critical gap marketers face — truly understanding what customers want and how they want it.
In the case of this crowd-written test, we want to learn what elements of value Consumer Reports offers are most appealing to this prospect type. We will then build on what we discover to help inform the next test with Consumer Reports, which will be a live test created with the help of the audience at MarketingSherpa Summit, and run during the event. (To learn more, you can read about the Hands-On Live Test Lab session in the agenda.)
So the hypothesis for this test is …
By highlighting specific Value Focuses that communicate the appeal (How attractive is this to our ideal donor?) and exclusivity (Can anyone else credibly claim to have what is offered?) of donating to Consumer Reports, we will increase the overall perceived value of donating, leading to higher clickthrough.
Step #4: Determine how to design a valid experiment to test this hypothesis
Next, we had to determine how many treatments we could send in the test and get a statistically significant result that actually represents customer behavior and is not just the result of random chance. (This gets to be a pretty complex topic, so I won’t go into it. But you can learn more about sample size sufficiency here.)
“In order to gain an understanding of how many treatments we can run, we had to estimate the minimum sample size for the January test. The data points used to calculate this were email list size, baseline clickthrough rate and minimum relative difference that we are aiming to detect,” Jordan Baker, Data Manager, MECLABS Institute, said.
Using the below data and assumptions, Jordan estimated that we could test five email approaches (one control plus four treatments) and identify the most effective treatment with a 95% level of confidence.
Estimated List Size (provided by Consumer Reports): 300,000
Clickthrough Rate (from 2015/historical data): 1.77%
Minimum Relative Difference: 10%
“The Consumer Reports team had a business need to assign 35% of the traffic to their control email, which changed up our typical procedure of doing an even split of 20% per control/treatment. We were able to cater to this need without drastically affecting the validity of the test, and now the Control will receive 35% of traffic and each treatment will receive 16.25% of traffic,” Baker added.
Step #5: Create Value Focuses to test
A value proposition should answer the following question: “If I am your ideal prospect, why should I buy from you rather than any of your competitors?”
MECLABS uses a five-step process to identify the most effective value proposition, and we conducted a mini version of our value proposition workshop to help determine the Value Focus we would test:
1. Identify the value proposition question.
We settled on “If I am your ideal donor, why should I donate to Consumer Reports rather than any other nonprofit organization?”
2. Identify potential Value Focus.
Several members of the Consumer Reports and MECLABS teams submitted possible Focuses, informed by Consumer Reports’ experience and MECLABS Market Intelligence research.
3. Rate the appeal and exclusivity for each Focus.
We did this as a group in the workshop.
4. Identify evidentials for the top Value Focus(es).
5. Craft a clear argument integrating the top Value Focus(es) with supporting evidentials.
Here are the value elements we decided to focus on for this test, with evidentials included. (And, it’s Consumer Reports. It is a massively well-known and respected brand with tons of information available about it. So don’t feel only locked into our evidentials. Feel free to identify your own. To get you started, here is Consumer Reports’ About Us page for reference if you’d like to research and identify your own evidentials.)
And you get to help with Step #5. Craft clear messaging to potential donors that expresses a Value Focus (the element of all the possible value you provide to ideal customers that each segment finds most compelling). When you submit your entry in the comments section, let us know which Value Focus you are writing copy for.
Value Focus #1: Honest and unbiased reporting
- Process Orientated: Not having to rely on advertisers or corporate funding allows Consumer Reports (CR) to deliver honest reporting.
- Independent and unbiased
- Purchases all products that are tested
- Not influenced by corporations
Value Focus #2: Quality of research
- Process Orientated: Trusted, high-quality research is powered by the largest consumer advocacy group in the world, Consumer Reports.
- Consumer Reports has 60 labs plus its own auto track used to conduct its testing
- CR rates nearly 4,000 products and services each year
- There are nearly 300 CR staff members involved in testing, researching and reporting on all of these products and services. This includes, to name a few, individual testers, scientists, doctors, writers, editors, proofreaders, statisticians, Web developers and market researchers.
Value Focus #3: Personal impact
- Outcome Orientated: The research and testing conducted by Consumer Reports has a direct impact on the safety and quality of life for millions of people.
- Makes a difference in the lives of others
- Helps keep me and my family safe
- Helps me make well-informed purchase decisions
- Helps me save money
Value Focus #4: You tell us
- One of the benefits of this test for our nonprofit partner, Consumer Reports, is to discover new Value Focuses it might not have previously considered. This is essentially a large focus group of experienced copywriters and marketers who may be able to identify a Value Focus we’ve overlooked.Plus, you’re creative folks. We didn’t want to stop you from using a good idea you had by imposing too much structure. If you choose to enter with your own Value Focus, just let us know you’re entering Value Focus #4 and tell us what it is, along with the actual copy you write for the email that messages your Value Focus.
Since the desired action is a donation and the reward for the consumer is the intangible value that comes with contributing, the value proposition should answer the “What’s in it for me?” question that every customer asks. (As with many donations, recipients will also get tangible benefits for donating, which you can see by clicking “Membership Benefits” on the Consumer Reports landing page.)
Step #6: Create messaging (here’s where you come in) and conduct the split test
- Subject Line: <first name>, Please Read This Important Notice
- From field: Consumer Reports Foundation
- Preheader: Please renew your annual membership to Consumer Reports today!
The treatments will have the same subject line, from field, preheader, imagery and template. The call-to-action copy in the body will also be very similar.
The only factor that will be significantly different will be the value proposition messaging you write at the beginning of the email.
The winner will be the email that generates the highest clickthrough rate. A click within the email takes donors to this landing page (the ask amounts will be dynamic).
On the landing page, the conversion objective is to have donors renew their membership. The funds from membership renewal are a donation to Consumer Reports.
Step #7: Learn from previous copywriting contest winners
Looking for some inspiration for your entry? Here is some info from previous public experiments:
Step #8: Show us what you’ve got!
Now that you have all of the info you need, we look forward to seeing the copy you come up with.
Remember, you can enter by leaving a comment like the example below. Just include the Value Focus you’re writing about and your copy for the opening section in the email.
Good luck! Winners will be announced (along with an analysis of why they won to help you with your future testing) on the MarketingExperiments and Convince & Convert blogs.
You can follow Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute, @DanielBurstein.