Why A / B Testing Matters in Your Email Marketing

By Bob West

We’ve written here before about the growing popularity of email marketing as more companies deliver their product messages and content directly to targeted growers’ in boxes. Sending more than 200 of these efforts a year for clients affords Meister Media the opportunity identify the best practices for achieving success, and we want to share details that helped us quantify one key learning — the keys to a successful subject line.

Subject lines don’t excite marketers producing email efforts. They lack the sizzle of well-orchestrated graphics and the substance of informative content. But the right subject line engages the audience and creates maximum exposure for the send.

We have quantified just how significantly a well-written subject line boosts open rates through a series of A / B tests with multiple clients in multiple markets over the past six months. Most importantly, we learned that the best-performing subject lines speak to the value for the audience. Subject lines that are more marketing oriented (ie., they specifically mention product names!) generally produce lower open rates.

We understand that clients want to send email blasts to promote a particular product, especially if it’s new. That’s fine. But the growers you want to reach probably aren’t looking through their email hoping for an opportunity to spend more money. Instead, they’re wondering how to solve specific problems — a tough insect, lagging sales, technology challenges, etc. Introduce your product to them by positioning it as a problem solver!

Consider the difference in these two subject lines:

“New fungicide X now available!”

“Control multiple diseases with one application.”

Both subject lines were used list for emails sent on the same day to the same number of growers pulled from the same list. The open rates? About 15% for the first subject line and better than 20% for the second.

This is just one example, but we’ve got many more that followed suit. So, what does this mean for marketers? Three things:

  1. Give real thought to your email subject lines. Treating them as an afterthought results in missed opportunity.
  2. Write your subject lines from your audience’s perspective. What problems do they have that you can solve?
  3. Consider incorporating subject line testing in your email efforts, even if doing so costs a little more. Send the same effort to equal portions of your list with different subject lines to learn exactly what key words or messages produce the best open rates for your audiences.

Subject line testing is clearly not something companies must do for effective email marketing, but it’s also clearly a way to ultimately maximize the value of your email efforts and better understand what information will engage your audience most effectively.

Bob West is the Director of Interactive Sales for Meister Media. He can be reached at 440-602-9129 or bwest@meistermedia.com.