A/B testing: How to identify the most effective marketing tactics

Marketing is in a state of constant transition. Many of the tactics that worked five years ago—or even last year—no longer produce results. B2B buying cycles are changing. We’ve reached the point of content saturation. Customer expectations are growing and consumers have more power in the vendor-consumer relationship than ever before. Success now requires a keen focus on the customer experience and customer success

As marketers, we’re charting new territory and are forced to constantly experiment with new, innovative tactics to remain competitive. 

Luckily for us, the marketing automation (MA) systems we use provide tools that facilitate this experimentation. An effective way to evaluate new marketing tactics is through A/B testing. 

A/B testing lets us deploy two variations of the same marketing tactic, side-by-side, and compare results. In this way, we discover which of the two is more effective. This removes part of the guessing element from our disruptive marketing experimentation and allows us to determine which new tactics to focus on based on data rather than intuition.   

Below we dig into A/B testing, discuss when you should use it, and delve into a few best practices for mastering A/B testing in your marketing organization. 

What exactly is A/B testing?

With A/B testing, we leverage marketing automation to execute two approaches to the same marketing tactic simultaneously. The best marketing automation solutions let you get pretty granular with A/B testing

How does it work from a technical perspective? 

We can use email marketing as an example to explain the process. When testing two versions of the same email, your MA system will send a sample of each version to two subsets of your overall targeted audience.

Your system will then wait a specified amount of time to measure how each of the two performed. Which had the highest open rate? Which saw the most click-throughs? Which resulted in the most unsubscribes? 

Once it has enough data to determine which version is more effective, your system will push that version out to the rest of your target audience. 

Why should you use A/B testing?

It’s important to know which marketing tactics best engage your audience, attract new leads, and drive the most lead conversions. If you’re testing an email campaign, A/B testing will tell you which email versions generate the highest open rates, click-through rates, and which generate the most marketing qualified leads. 

Experimenting with an email campaign

When applying A/B testing to an email campaign, you can experiment with the subject lines of your emails, the copy of the emails, or the images you use. You can experiment at a more granular level by testing two different font types, font colors, email template designs, headers, sub-headers, names in the email “from” line, and so on. 

Testing elements of a marketing campaign

You can also use A/B testing in various parts of a digital marketing campaign. Compare the results of two different landing pages, lead generation forms, or calls-to-action. Moreover, you can test two different marketing campaign sequences to determine the optimal cadence for campaign touchpoints. 

Don’t forget statistical significance

When you’re A/B testing new tactics, be sure to apply your test to sample sizes large enough to produce statistically significant results. 

If your target audience is 3,000 leads and you only send your initial test versions to subsets

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