Start A/B Testing Your Email Marketing Campaigns Like A Mad Scientist

Start A/B Testing Your Email Marketing Campaigns Like A Mad Scientist

December 15, 2016
4 min read

I’ve always told people being a marketer is like being a mad scientist.

We’re all in dark, damp labs working up the next lead generating creation.

The only difference is we don’t have an Egor by our side.

Or maybe your offices look different than mine. (Kidding)

When it comes to creating effective email marketing campaigns, we often start out with a hypothesis.

You have to think about what will be an effective strategy.

But, as you know, a hypothesis is only a hypothesis.

It’s meant to be tested.

That’s why you should always use A/B testing as part of a strategy for building a strong email marketing campaign.

There are a ton of ways to slice and dice what you should test and how to do it.

In this post, I’m going to cover why you should start A/B testing your email marketing efforts if you aren’t today, and some of the ways A/B testing can help refine your process.

So let’s get to it:

Why in the world should I start A/B testing?

Remember how I talked about marketers being mad scientists?

We’re always trying to find the right combination of what works.

So why would you just keep using the same method unless you knew it was optimized to its fullest?

That’s like driving the same way to work every single morning, and never trying a different route to see if it’s shorter.

Marketers shouldn’t be stubborn when leads and revenue are on the line.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Marketers shouldn’t be stubborn when leads and revenue are on the line.” user=”Trojanowski_” hashtags=”emailmarketing” url=””]

And that’s exactly why you should start A/B testing.

Accurate A/B tests can truly impact your company’s bottom line.

If you can prove what works and what doesn’t, plus having the data to back it up, it puts you in the driver’s seat to making smarter decisions.

Especially if you can determine which variation of a single object in your email can increase lead generation by as much as three times higher than another.

You can hear your sales team cheering already, can’t you?

Choosing your best visual elements

Design plays such a vital role in the success of your email marketing efforts.

Layouts, color schemes and placement of images all affect how subscribers react to your marketing messages.

And the design is typically one of the first things your contacts will look at.

And you need to grab them with a design that works, and converts.

According to Litmus, readers spend 3-4 seconds deciding if they’re going to read your email.

That’s a short window to grab their attention.

A/B testing can help you identify the right mix of these elements for grabbing subscribers’ attention.

Define a narrow focus for your test and choose two sample groups to receive different versions of the same email.

Here’s how to simply do this:

Change the color scheme for your call-to-action sent to one group.

Once you have collected data about customer interaction with those emails, you may find one button color is more effective than the other.

Then you can use subsequent A/B tests to evaluate details such as the best photo placement, or which color works best for text links.

But this is just the beginning:

Creating subject lines

How many characters should I use in my subject line?

Do some words result in higher open rates?

Those are just a few of the questions A/B testing can help you answer.

Subject lines are critical to the success of an email.

When testing different subject lines, make sure to account for how mobile users respond.

A subject line that displays perfectly on a desktop monitor might be too long for most mobile phones.

To eliminate that variable, make all subject lines are short enough to display well on mobile.

There’s also be a rise in the use of emojis in subject lines.

Does that mean they’ll increase open rates for your audience?

Test it out!

Finding the right frequency

A/B testing can help you determine how often to send, as well as when to send.

You may find that a test group is more likely to open your emails on Wednesdays instead of Tuesdays, or that engagement is higher for late-day emails, as opposed to early morning emails.

Again, keep the focus narrow, changing only one delivery element with each test.

If you’re testing to see which day of the week is best, schedule emails to be sent at the same time on each test day.

A/B testing takes some time to execute, but it can help you zero-in on the right look, language, and frequency for your email campaign, which is essential for connecting with your audience.

Should I run multiple A/B tests?

Essentially there are two different ways to look at running A/B tests, and each is unique.

Allow me to explain:

Let’s say you decided to test your subject line, but you have three different options.

You can still run a single A/B test, but in this case, you would split your audience into three groups rather than two.

Going this route is far more efficient than running three separate tests over a longer period of time to get a winner (A vs. B, B vs. C, and A vs. C).

But what if you want to test more than one thing at a time?

This is called a multivariate test.

Let’s go back to the example of the subject line test above, but let’s also add your call-to-action button color to the mix as well.

Now things are more complicated with multiple objects playing into the success of  your email.

Make sure you email marketing software has the ability to run multivariate tests.

And just keep things simple if you’re a novice and stick to running single A/B tests to start with.

What are you waiting for?!

Consider yourself A/B testing operational.

With the right strategy, the right controlled tests, and properly tracked results, you can optimize your emails to reach the conversions you desire.

Just remember to keep testing on a regular basis since the effectiveness of anything can change as time goes on.

All the more reason to keep finding what wins.

What A/B tests are you running? Any success stories to share? Comment below or tweet me @Trojanowski_!

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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula", and Founder of Marketing Insider Group. Recognized as a Top Content Marketing expert and Digital Marketing Leader, Michael leverages his experience from roles in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as his leadership in leading teams and driving growth for thriving startups. Today, Michael delivers empowering keynotes on marketing and leadership, and facilitates actionable workshops on content marketing strategy. Connect with Michael today.

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