Written By Cheryl Stern

In the immortal words of Grumpy Cat, “Everyone has an opinion. And they are wrong.”

When it comes to the topic of email best practices, I’d argue that the above sentiment is half true: there’s certainly no shortage of opinions about the most effective way to approach a given audience, but there is a magical tool at our disposal to help us determine the validity of these beliefs. Enter A/B testing!

If you’re not currently testing your emails, you should be. And if you are testing your emails, you should pause briefly to commend yourself – and then quickly get back to it.

Let’s start with the basic primer for those free-spirits who are currently living on the edge, frivolously sending emails without a care in the world (or any hard evidence about what is and isn’t working).

What Is A/B Testing?
A/B testing, often referred to as “split testing”, is a great way to determine which of two email options performs best in terms of opens, clicks, and actions taken. You can achieve this in three steps:

  1. Build two variations of one email, changing a single element between them.
  2. Split your delivery list 50/50. The first half of your audience receives version A while the second half gets version B.
  3. Sit back, relax, and wait for the stats to roll in.

Why Should I Test My Emails?
Your event and your audience are unique, which means that your voice should be, too. There isn’t one magic recipe that will deliver solid results for every email campaign across the board. If there was, we’d all be using it! An approach that may have performed well for another project might not be the right fit for your current venture. And the fastest and most reliable way to find out? Test it.

Testing opens up a world of possibilities. There’s no need to hold back on new suggestions or random strategies for fear that switching things up will negatively impact your results. Because you can test them. There’s no need to sit and ponder or to debate about whether an idea will perform well or poorly. Because you can test it.

Where Should I Start?
There are myriad things to test within the body of an email, from the layout to the content. But first you’ve got to know what is going to have the best chance of getting your audience to actually open the email. So a great jumping off point is to look at two elements that your potential readers see first: the subject line and the “from” field. Is your audience more likely to respond to a whimsical subject line or one that’s more straightforward and direct? Should you include a discount code in the subject or merely hint at it? Should your emails always come from the official name of your organization or staff member, or will you pique your readers’ interest by placing something novel in the “from” field instead? There’s no universal right/wrong answer to these questions, but there’s likely a right/wrong answer for your organization and your audience. Wouldn’t you like to know what it is?

When not playing the role of participant in everything from 5Ks to marathons, Cheryl works as the Brand Manager for MuckFest MS, helping to deliver a meaningful event experience to others.


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