Using A/B Testing to Create Email Marketing That Gets an A+

Your company is launching a new product and you know that an email marketing campaign is the best way to get the word out to customers and prospective customers. The team works hard discussing the requirements and goals of the campaign, perfecting the overall tone and message. You draft clear, powerful copy, add some eye-catching artwork, making sure to throw in a few calls to action as well. With campaign tracking setup, you send the email out to your list and wait for the returns.

Although it sounds like you’ve covered every item on the email marketing checklist, you’ve missed an extremely important step: you neglected to test your email campaign.

What issues does testing help weed out? From potential problems with header graphics to subject lines that fall flat, email testing will help you identify the most effective components of your campaign to ensure that you’re putting your focus – and your marketing dollars – in the right place.

Here are a few critical areas to focus on in your email testing:

Subject Lines

By sending your email campaign using two different subject lines, you'll be able to answer some of the questions above. One subject line could be a question, another a statement. Or, both subject lines could be statements that speak to different aspects of the content in the email. Once you've chosen your two subject lines, split your list of contacts into two groups. Then send out the campaign to group A with one subject line and to group B using the other subject line.

The email platform you use should be able to easily keep track of which subject line gets the most opens. You can conduct more extensive A/B testing, and test multiple types of subject lines against each other, but this is a simple way to start to learn more about your audience.

Header Graphics

Your header graphic will be the first thing that your audience sees if your effective subject line convinces them to open the email. If they’re reading email via a platform that shows a preview, they’ll likely see your header graphic even before they’ve opened the email. Since  your header graphic is your first chance to make the best visual impression, it's worth testing the design to find out your audience's preferences (e.g., conservative or playful).
Your header graphics should be visually captivating, simple and easy to understand, and consistent with your branding. Create two header graphics to use in otherwise identical email campaigns and see which version creates the most engagement. (Given their importance, you may wish to hire a professional to design your header graphics.)

Email Content

Once you’ve successfully invited your audience in, the next step is to encourage them to continue reading and spur them to take action. The email content will help you close that deal or lose the customer – potentially forever if they’re turned off and decide to click “Unsubscribe” instead of “Register Now.”

This is why testing the content of every marketing email is so essential. You can test individual elements such as graphics or color schemes or cut to the chase and create two entirely different versions of the same email to determine which one customers react to more positively.

What Determines the Winner?

After all the testing is through, you’ll likely be left wondering what determines ultimate success. Is it the number of opens you get? The number of clicks? Vanity metrics such as these provide a valuable glimpse into the mind of your prospective customers. They indicate what grabs their attention, keeps them reading, and encourages them to click through to your website.

The most important metric is total revenue, however. Which campaign compelled the most people to become a paying subscriber or to place an order or call you to talk about your services?

You spend a lot of time crafting each email marketing campaign. Once that work is done, are you sending them out and simply hoping for the best? If so, take a more proactive approach and utilize A/B testing to effectively maximize your valuable marketing dollars.

Since 2003 CC Marketing and Communications, a Chicago full-service email marketing company, has helped small and mid-size organizations generate opportunities for new business.