Are you A/B testing or A/B hedging?

Marketers often do not want for ideas. Conversations around the creative table often yield a number of different directions a single campaign could go. Thus, the idea of A/B testing seems inherent in the DNA of marketers. But unfortunately, what ends up happening often is that marketers, so close to their babies (ideas), really end up A/B hedging instead of A/B testing.

What’s the difference, you ask? In an attempt to appeal to as many people as possible, many marketers find themselves unwilling or unable to make a decision between two ideas. So in the name of diversification, the idea “why not test both?” surfaces. So they split their efforts (and their marketing dollars) between to two to see which does better. While this practice may feel like A/B testing, what they’re actually doing is hedging their bets, and perhaps losing a large portion of their marketing budget as collateral damage.

One truly effective way to A/B test uses only a small portion—say, five or ten percent—of your list or sample to test which material is most effective. So if you have two email subject lines to test, splice out 10% of your email list to test which email subject line gets the most opens, click-throughs, or whichever metric you’re testing. Remember to be clear about the goals of your A/B test, then shoot for a test that provides insight that is large enough to be statistically significant yet small enough to exclude the vast majority of your audience. That way, you can use the winner of that test to determine which subject line gets used for the remaining 90% of your email list, maximizing your efforts and your ROI.


To learn more about how to leverage marketing best practices to increase enrollment, download our Enrollment Growth Playbook.

Eric Olsen

Eric brings more than a decade of award-winning creative brand development, marketing analytics and higher education experience to Helix Education. Eric is a graduate of Bradley University and earned his MBA at Lewis University.