A/B testing emails | reading gmail

Your Email Marketing Resolution: Start A/B Testing Emails

I have an email marketing resolution for you: commit to A/B testing emails this year and watch your efforts really start to pay off. You’ll see higher open rates and click-through rates. Spend some time studying the results, and you’ll have a much better understanding of audience behavior and expectations.


Start A/B testing emails


First, an A/B testing primer. A/B testing, or split testing, means you are testing two variables to see what works better. (MailChimp allows you to test three variables, but we only use two.)


Let’s look at the four elements you can test:


Subject line


If you do A/B testing for one element, make it this one. You have so many options for writing a subject line:


  • Statement
  • Question
  • Emojis
  • Special offer
  • Number or statistic
  • Humor


You can test a statement versus a question, you can test a subject line with and without emojis, you can test one offer versus another (like a percent versus dollar discount). I have found that our audience likes questions, humor and statistics.


From name


You have four options with the “from” name:


  • Your name
  • The company’s name
  • Your name + your company name
  • The name of a customer-facing person on your team


The from name might change depending on the audience segment and the message or purpose of the email. Your newsletter might come from the company, while a survey might come from someone in customer support. I have a few drip campaigns set up, and they either come from my name or my company’s name.


Personally, I hate getting marketing emails from a name I don’t recognize – unless they introduce themselves at the top of the email (or in the email preview). However, what I prefer doesn’t matter – it’s what your audience prefers.




Like your subject line, the content in your email can have a lot of variation:


  • Topics
  • Order of content
  • Calls-to-action
  • Button colors
  • Video
  • Text
  • Images
  • Image placement


In my experience, the variables that make the biggest difference are order of content, button colors and types of content (video, text or graphics).


Content will be different whether you’re B2B or B2C. A B2C email will likely be photo-heavy, while a B2B email will likely have more text. How many photos and how much text? You’ll have to A/B test to find out!


Send time


Once you sent out enough emails to a list, MailChimp (and other email marketing platforms) will “learn” the best time to send. Take advantage of this. Before you get there, though, you’ll have to experiment with A/B testing.


Your variations here are:


  • Time of day
  • Day of week


We send B2B client emails on Tuesdays through Thursdays, anywhere between first thing in the morning to mid-day. B2C emails depend on the industry. Though I’d never send my own monthly newsletter out on a Friday, this is a good day for Realtors.


And in case you’re wondering when my email newsletter goes out, I send it the second Tuesday of every month around noon. I use A/B testing for the subject line. By 4pm, a winner has been determined and the rest of my list gets the email with the winning subject line.


I want to hear from you! What kind of success have you had with A/B testing emails, and what are you excited to do differently? If you’ve never used A/B testing, tell me which element you’re going to experiment with first.


Image by Stephen Phillips via Unsplash 

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