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A/B Testing Your Email Campaigns

Whether you love receiving new email or loathe the next piece of spam entering your inbox, there’s no denying the power of email marketing. Marketers continue to use and appreciate this very cost-effective and useful mode of marketing. 

Costs aside, email marketing is generally easy to set up, broadcasts to an audience of interested recipients and can be performance tracked. Those elements alone comprise a recipe for success.

But, there’s more to sending out a newsletter or email campaign than writing the copy, crafting the graphics, and compiling your recipient database. See, in marketing, the only worthwhile email efforts are the successful ones. 

So, how do you gauge success?

Determining Your Key Performance Indicators

Depending on your industry and business goals, key performance indicators (KPIs) can vary. However, in the most general sense, you’re likely going to rate performance on email open rates, click-through rates, and, perhaps, conversion rates. 

When you do this, you’ll quickly know whether your latest email performed better than its predecessors or not. 

But, did the email itself perform as well as it could?

This brings up the topic of A/B testing. 

A/B Email Testing

In short, this is an assessment of two (or more) variations of your email to determine which resonates best with your audience. 

Variations from one version to the next may be differences in the subject line or introduction body copy. Maybe, you decide to try a different graphic treatment or mix up the call-to-action verbiage. 

With subject lines, for example, you may send one version promoting “20% Off Your Order” and another version stating “Free Expedited Shipping.” You’ll find it quite interesting to see which subject line results in a higher open rate. 

Some call-to-action variations might include “Click Here for a Free Quote” or a button with “Download Your Free E-Book” copy. The performance between these two tests might give you insight into the location of your prospect within the sales funnel or buyer’s journey.

Seeing which variation generates a stronger response will help you to better understand how your audience thinks or what they expect when they receive an email from your brand. This knowledge can then be applied to future campaigns helping you hit your target more effectively and efficiently. 

Who Do You Test With?

With your campaign variations ready to go, you’ll need to select your sample audience to test with. Depending on the size of your database, you may elect to send both tests to everyone or split your list into smaller groups. 

If your experiment is fairly straightforward, you would likely decide to send both messages to everyone on your list—just timed a bit apart. With this strategy, you’ll know your audience samples are identical and the variables are strictly confined to your email tests. 

If your tests are more “experimental” or risk-taking, you may want to expose yourself to a smaller sampling. By experimental, I mean if you, perhaps, try a different tone (casual vs formal, for example) or if you’re introducing controversial graphics or headlines. A smaller sample size, while less statistically relevant, might be a safer, more conservative approach to balance out a more risky test. 

How to A/B Test

Now that you understand the concept of A/B testing; how do you go about doing it?

Certain email platforms like MailChimp and HubSpot, for example, include tools to perform A/B tests easily and pull together the performance metrics post-deployment to help you assess how each performed. This makes it very easy to put together two tests and see what works. 

If your email service doesn’t include tools specifically for A/B testing, an easy workaround is to duplicate the email you put together, make your test tweaks and deploy each separately. You can then compare the performance reports of each email and determine what elements worked better than others.

As you can see, A/B testing is easy to do and provides you with a lot of valuable insight. 

For your next email deployment, give this concept a try let me know in the comments below what you learned from this exercise. 

To learn more about marketing your small business, check out our What you need to know to market your small business article.

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