Subject testing: Hate it in the classroom, love it in B2B marketing.

Sitting in the classroom on test day was always a painful experience. “Do I know the materials?” “Did I read the right chapters?” “I should have spent more time studying.” “What will happen if I fail?” Back then, testing was a bad thing full of questions.

Today, as a B2B marketer, testing is a good thing that delivers answers. Testing, in fact, is the thing that keeps us from failing and allows us to continually improve the success of our outbound marketing efforts.

Direct marketing has always been about testing. Without testing, how can a B2B marketer know which marketing channels, offers and language will work for his or her particular company, product and market?

Yesterday I sat in on part of a MENG Webinar by Beth Harte, Client Services Director, Serengeti Communications on “Strategies for Integrating Traditional Marketing With Social Media.” She spoke about the importance of using the right language. Her point was that, if a company’s market is “gear-heads,” then the person communicating with that market via social media better be a “gear-head” or the social media strategy will fail. She’s so right. Having the right “voice” is critical in all B2B marketing.

Unless our market is very vertical (such as “gear-heads”), figuring out which “voice” will best resonate with our prospects is best determined by testing.

Since smart B2B marketers use emails to nurture their pipeline leads in an effort to move them through the buying cycle, subject lines are at the top of the list of items that should be tested. The question arises, “What should we test?”

Fortunately there was a great discussion recently on LinkedIn about subject lines. Started by Ben Bush of The Crocodile on the B2B Technology Marketing Community, the 26 participants shared great insight.

Here are some of the approaches that have worked for others and are, therefore, worth testing:

John McMillan at McMillan Technology Ltd.:

  • Eye-catching benefit subject lines going to strangers — the equivalent of a “cold call”
  • First names in subject lines (he notes that it works in the U.S. but can be seen as rude in other cultures)

Sandra Nangeroni, Director of Interactive Marketing:

  • Include in the subject line “what” they get if offering a white paper or Webinar
  • Who it comes from carries a lot of weight as it identifies the sender as a trusted, credible source
  • Words or phrases that resonate with the target and industry
  • Use themes like “Top 10 Tips for . . .” or “5 Reasons Why . . .”

Graeme McKee at API Software and AudoRek:

  • A phrase or sentence that summarizes the email content — no more, no less

Karen Dove, at DEX Imaging:

  • Simply the company name in the subject line is very effective
  • Sometimes, after the company name, put a colon and then add detail

Sokol Nikolov at EL MEDIA:

  • Use specific technology-related words in the subject line

These are some of the elements B2B marketers may want to consider when conducting email subject line testing. There was much other good advice as well.
Jason Ball, Specialist B2B Copywriter, for instance, uses Litmus to check whether subject lines would get tossed by spam filters before sending. This is an excellent idea, as a test result is not very valid if one of the two lines being tested never makes it to the prospect’s inbox.

The best testing approach, of course, in an A/B split. That is sending the two options at the same time in a half-and-half split.

The lesson today is that testing is good and, in B2B marketing, it can end with more than an A+ grade. It can result in learning how to generate more click-throughs and more prospects being moved down the buy cycle and into the hands of sales for conversion.

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  1. says:

    Subject testing: Hate it in the classroom, love it in B2B marketing….

    We all remember that testing in the classroom was about questions. Testing in the world of B2B marketing, however, is about getting answers. See a number of ideas for testing email subject lines and learn why testing is one of the most important parts …

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