In the last few years, small businesses have invested larger and larger portions of their revenue into marketing, a crucial, yet notoriously delicate part of any business’ growth and longevity. A successful marketing campaign can increase sales, raise your prestige, and allow you to compete with larger companies, but for small businesses there’s not much room for error. It’s too easy to pour valuable resources into undercooked marketing campaigns with limited ROI.
But how can one know what campaigns are designed to triumph? Marketing is all about maximizing conversions. Maximizing conversions is all about A/B testing. A/B testing, or split testing, is a simple experimental design that, when applied to marketing campaigns, helps you understand what’s converting best. For a small business, this might mean creating two versions of a piece of your marketing content, like a Facebook post, and testing Post A and Post B on your audience. Then, whichever post leads to the most measurable positive results, such as shares or likes, wins.
A/B testing is an easy, fast, and relatively cheap way to incrementally improve your marketing campaigns. And incremental change for the better will result in substantial growth in the long-term. In the end, A/B testing will bring you closer, step-by-step, to creating artful marketing campaigns that hook and delight consumers.
To illustrate how A/B testing might work for a small business, let’s look at how a go-to marketing email campaign can be optimized for conversions …
Split Testing Your Email Campaigns
A cheap and incredibly effective way to help the consumer along every part of the conversion funnel, email marketing’s ROI is 3800 percent, with businesses making $38 on every $1 spent. For small businesses with big needs and an average digital marketing budget of $400 per month, that makes email marketing a no-brainer.
Even though email seems like a straightforward way to retain customers and inspire them to return — after all, these people signed up! — there are a considerable number of ways to optimize email campaigns. First off, as with any marketing campaign, there are a lot of variables that are important to your subscribers: the subject line, send time, content, design, message preview, from name, frequency, and list segmentation, just to name a few. All together they can be confounding but these can all be optimized cheaply, and easily via A/B testing.
Email Campaign Split Testing Case Studies
Subject Line – One larger retailer optimized the subject line of their Holiday email encouraging subscribers to browse their offerings just days before Christmas. They A/B tested “Merry Christmas” vs “Happy Holidays,” sending each to 33,500 subscribers. The more specific “Merry Christmas” won by a wide margin with an open rate almost 5 percent greater and a Click-Through Rate 2.57 percent higher.
Content – Mammal Marine Center, a hospital for injured seals, uses email to get funding by asking for donations and offering items from their gift shop. For Valentine’s Day, they A/B tested two approaches to email content: one that focused on storytelling about the cause, the other that focused on gift store products. The results? The product-oriented email content earned almost doubled the amount of purchases.
Design – Microsoft wanted to increase click-through rates on their email marketing so they looked into using a different color scheme and layout. Email A featured a large, full image of the product and a purple CTA button over a white background. Email B had an orange background, a cropped close-up shot of the product, and a pink CTA button, which matches Microsoft’s overall online marketing design scheme. Still, the simpler Email, A, increased click-through rates by 325 percent.
Frequency – In 2012, as Obama was running for reelection, he tested his email campaign relentlessly, focusing especially on frequency in an effort to understand how much is too much. The campaign ran many A/B tests, sending different amounts of emails to segmented parts of their subscriber list, and found there were no negative consequences to sending more emails. In the end, Obama’s marketing efforts were some of the most successful political fundraising efforts ever, having raised $500 million with the help of A/B test optimization.
There it is. A/B testing is a cost-effective and essential means by which businesses can maximize the ROI of their marketing campaigns. This does not only apply to email campaigns either, but any aspect of marketing from social media and newsletters, to planned events and beyond.
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