A-B Testing: The Secret Sauce of Email Marketing

Adam Goyette

Email marketing tips for small businesses A-B testing

You can probably tell by the amount of emails you receive every day, but email marketing is an extremely effective way for businesses to attract new customers as well as drive repeat business. In my previous posts, I gave some general best practices for you to follow—but general advice will only get you part of the way down the road to success.

The reality is that each business has a unique relationship with their audience, and that means the messages that resonate with these audiences are equally unique. Finding that sweet spot for your business is what can take a good email marketing strategy to an incredibly effective one. So how do you find out which message, imagery, tone or call to action resonates best with your customers and prospects?

The answer is A-B testing. This technique involves testing two versions of the same message to see which one performs better with your audience. Here are 3 easy steps to get started with A-B testing:

Step 1: Define Your Test Criteria

The first step is deciding what you want to test. When deciding what you want to test, start with the items that you think will have the biggest impact. For example, if you have extremely poor open rates, you might want to start with testing your subject line. If people are opening your emails but not taking the action you want them to take, then you might want to test your Call to Action (CTA).

Here are a few ideas examples of things you could test:

  • Subject lines: Save 10% Today Only! vs. Special Offer For You
  • Call to actions: Buy Now vs. Learn More
  • Email Layouts: Plain text emails vs. image-driven emails
  • Tone: Dear Valued Customer vs. Hi Joe!

Step 2: Define Your Audience

The next step is to identify your test audience. A lot of this will be determined by how well you’re able or not able to segment your database. Do you want to test your message with first-time customers, potential customers, or lifetime customers? Each of these different groups of people will likely react differently to your email.

While segmenting your list is great, you want to be careful not to segment too much, as you need a large enough sample size in order to see accurate results. Try to include at least 100 people in each half of your test; if your list isn’t that big, you may want to hold off on A-B testing for now.

Splitting your audience should be easy, as most email software has A/B testing functionality built in, but if yours doesn’t for some reason, you can set one up manually. All you’d need to do is split your list , sending version A to the first half and version B to the second. Then simply compare the results.

Step 3: Analyze Your Test Results

Once you’ve sent an email test out to your segment, you’ll want to look at your results to determine which version was the winner. It’s important to keep all other elements not being tested the same in both emails so you can get the most accurate results—otherwise, you won’t know which factor actually had an impact on your test. Once you’ve determined the test winner, you should implement these changes going forward and continue testing other elements. For instance, if you started by testing your subject line, you may want to test the length of your body copy for the next test.

Stayed tuned for my next email marketing blog post, where I’ll cover 5 keys metrics you can use to measure email effectiveness.

About the Author

Adam Goyette

Adam Goyette leads the Demand Generation and Marketing Automation efforts at Booker. Prior to his time at Booker, Adam led the digital marketing efforts at several other growing tech companies such as JW Player and Cision. He is so passionate about start-up marketing he gave up his illustrious career delivering Chinese food for 4 years to follow his dream. He also likes photography and dogs.

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