Email is one of the most important tactics in the B2B marketer’s toolbox, coupling the potential for broad reach with opportunities for highly targeted messaging. Although email is at the core of most B2B marketing programs, it’s amazing how many marketers fail to leverage its most powerful aspect: testing.
Because each of its elements can be tweaked, email offers significant testing opportunities — and even the smallest changes can have a big impact on conversion. With opt-in communications, the battle for attention is already half won. Getting the rest of the way there means testing to see what resonates best with your audience. Here’s how to do it:
1. Build testing into your process. Your email service provider or agency should make A/B testing simple. Tools such as MailChimp and Constant Contact offer helpful ways to perform split testing. If you work with an agency, testing should be built deep into its methodology and tools.
2. Test everything. In every email, there are a number of ways to capture recipients’ interest and attention. All of them are potential areas for testing:
• Subject line
• From address
• Body copy
• Calls to action
• Button colors / placement
• Offers and promotions
• Time of day
• Day of week
3. Keep your testing focused. Though there’s a lot you can test, you shouldn’t test everything at once! The results of multivariate tests can be difficult to analyze, so be sure to identify and isolate the variable you want to assess and then build two versions of your email — an “A” and a “B” version. Small variations can sometimes make a difference but, in general, you shouldn’t be too subtle. Changing a single word is unlikely to have a measurable effect on results. The difference should be distinct and relevant.
For example, if you’re testing subject lines, you may want to try one in the form of a question and another as a compelling statement. There’s a wealth of subject line best practices you can explore online to inform your approach.
4. Make sure you have enough volume. A small sample list that doesn’t achieve statistical significance won’t return accurate results, which can inadvertently set you on the wrong path. If your list has more than 5,000 names, 10% should be an adequate sample. You may also want to test your internal and external lists separately, as each represents a different type of audience. With third-party lists, you may not be able to pull a sample, in which case you’ll have to split the full list.
5. Test and roll. Send version A to half of your sample list and version B to the other half. Then watch the open rates, click-through results and conversions to see which performs better. How long you test is up to you, though most email service providers and A/B testing tools will indicate when the test has reached statistical significance. Once you’ve identified a clear winner, you can send it to the rest of your list knowing it’s optimized to achieve the greatest ROI.
6. Extrapolate your learnings. As you continue to test, the patterns you find will help you develop best practices for your campaigns, allowing you to streamline them even further. Feed your email test results into your larger marketing program analytics to better shape your content in other channels — print ads, direct mail, etc. You may even find that emerging trends have the potential to influence your prospect journeys. How people respond to your email campaigns might encourage you to reconsider the sequencing or messaging related to your current journey outlines.
If you’re sending marketing emails without testing, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Email provides a highly dynamic, low-risk laboratory where you can experiment with ways to optimize your messaging. Through the power of testing, you can promote constant improvement across your email campaigns as well as your larger marketing program.