Big Wins And Incremental Improvements

July 27, 2016 Comments Off on Big Wins And Incremental Improvements

Last week we ran a split test on our mailing list.

You can see the results below (or click here).


We predicted that ‘collaboration book’ would be the most opened subject line (all three were ahead of Mailchimp’s benchmarks), but the difference was surprising.

A +5% difference is relatively rare. This jives with what we’ve seen before. Namely that highly specific subject lines and question-related subject lines are associated with spam and are opened less. Interestingly, the unsubscribe rates for the first two emails were 25% to 50% higher than the last too.

Incremental improvements like this matter. Big wins (those that give a +10% increase in any metric that matters) are rarely the result of a one-off action. Big wins are the result of a deliberate process of incremental improvement.

You test newsletter and email subject lines/confirmation lines. You test what content ranks highly in search engines. You test what questions or activity gets people to participate for the first time. You test what discussions attract the most activity. You test different ideas for webinars and events.

In each test you’re looking for a few percentage point difference. About 5% is good. Over a long enough period of time, each of these add up into double-digit wins.

We’ve worked with hundreds of organisations. Rarely has any organisation rapidly increased growth or activity with a single big win. Yet most continue to embark upon huge platform changes and replacing staff searching for silver bullets that don’t exist.

The big wins are nearly always incremental. You test something, see what works, and adapt (you might be surprised just how simple some of these big wins are).

This means incremental improvement is also related to something even more important, the search for a better way of doing things. In our community we see many discussions based around problems people have, but few based around better ways to do things which aren’t clearly a problem.

If we want to get much better, we need to be on the hunt for fresh ideas to test in every aspect of our community efforts. This includes all the things you take for granted. You’re as likely to gain a few percentage points improving something you already do well as you are on something less successful today.

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