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5 Elements Manufacturers Can A/B Test Right Now to Drive Results

How confident are you that your headlines or CTAs are truly the best choices? We’re diving into the significance of A/B testing for manufacturers and reveal the five essential elements you should be testing to boost your conversion rates.

Photo of Zach Williams
Photo of Beth PopNikolov
by Zach Williams and Beth PopNikolov

More About This Episode

The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insights on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.

This week, Beth and Zach discuss the five things that building material manufacturers should be A/B testing right now, as well as ideas that will help you be more effective in your marketing.

The Benefits of A/B Testing

The old saying goes, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten.” One of the best ways to surpass what you’ve achieved in the past is through experimenting. “And A/B testing is an excellent way to stick your toe into the waters of trying something new that's not going to just totally blow up in your face or may not get you the exact results that you were expecting,” explains Beth.

A/B testing shows you how to get increased results in a place that already feels solid from both a strategic and tactic standpoint. And the results don’t have to be huge to be impactful. Say you improve the conversion rate of your website from 1-2 percent to 3 percent — you’ve increased the number of leads you get by 50 percent!

That’s not the only benefit, however. A/B testing also helps you learn more about what actually moves your customer to the point of action.

What Is A/B Testing?

“A/B testing is creating two versions of the same thing that are identical in almost all ways — except for one very specific element that is going to vary on one of the pieces,” explains Beth.

For example, you could test the subject line on an email by keeping the email copy the same but changing the subject line. Or for an ad, keep the ad copy the same but change the image — or keep the image the same and change the copy.

The idea is to change only one variable at a time. Then, share those two pieces with the same audience and measure the engagement. You can compare the results for each option to see which provided the best results for your particular goal.

“One important plug I would put here before we move on is that for A/B testing, you need to follow good, scientific best practices. And what that means is it's really tempting to change everything. If a landing page isn't converting, you just throw the whole thing out,” says Beth.

“But if you're going to do a true A/B test, you need to have a one-variable change so that you know what's actually moving the needle. And that's why really A/B testing can't fail because if you think your messaging is wrong and you change it on one ad or one landing page and not the other and then you see that a different messaging actually performs worse, you haven't failed. What you've done is learned.”

In a nutshell: you’re using the process of elimination to get increased results.

Zach has another caveat to keep in mind: “The other thing here, too, that's important to think about is making sure you have a large enough data set, which is just a fancy way of saying: are there enough eyeballs on the asset or the test that you're viewing?”

If only five people view the ad you’re A/B testing, that’s not a large enough data set to draw a firm conclusion. When Venveo does an A/B test on an ad set for a client, we ensure there are hundreds, if not thousands, of eyes on that ad before we can feel confident that option A or option B conclusively performs better. Without a large data set, you can’t be sure it’s not an outlier.

Make sure you know what you’re trying to learn or achieve before you start. This means having the metrics and KPIs you want to measure against before you determine what and how you want to test.

“If you don't have KPIs, goals, specific things in place that you're trying to achieve, it'll be very difficult to: One, agree on what should be tested and why. Two, create the right type of test to incrementally go after those increased results. And then three, to know whether or not it was successful and to be able to put that same effort that goes into creating the A/B test on another digital piece of collateral in the future,” says Beth.

5 Elements Manufacturers Should A/B Test

1. Headlines and Email Subject Lines

One of the easiest places to start A/B testing is headlines and email subject lines. You can test:

  • Headlines on blog articles

  • Headlines on case studies

  • Subject lines for cold email outreach

  • Subject lines to re-engage cold customers

  • Newsletter subject lines

The most important factor is to ensure that the headline or subject line is significantly different.

“Take a big swing when it comes to testing headlines and subject lines because you're trying to really figure out what grabs your audience's attention. Try starting with something that's very controversial or a significant hard perspective that you think people would have a really strong reaction to instead of leading in with just a product name or something like [an] update,” says Beth.

2. CTAs

Another option for A/B testing is CTAs. Amazon tested where their “add to cart” button was years ago, including one option which had corners on the top left and bottom left, while the right side was a semi-circle. That came from an A/B test to figure out which button would produce the highest conversion rate.

Google did something similar with their color choices. They tested over thirty shades of blue to figure out which shade converted the best, and once they figured that out, they used it for their entire brand. “Simple CTA alterations from both copy, as well as design, can have a pretty big impact,” explains Zach.

But you can also test the location of your CTA on a page. Does it perform better higher or lower on a page? Does it perform better with sub-copy or no sub-copy? Testing each little thing one at a time adds up and compounds to improve the conversion rate — which ultimately improves sales, thanks to more leads in the pipeline.

An easy CTA A/B test to start with is changing the copy on the button. “CTAs will perform significantly better if a user or person on your website knows exactly what is going to happen on the other end of that CTA,” says Beth. Instead of using “Learn More” or “Contact Us,” try something action-oriented options such as “Download Now” or “Get Started.”

3. Layout of a Page

While a bigger lift than a CTA or email subject line, you can (and should) A/B test the actual layout of an individual page or landing page. For example, if you have a landing page dedicated to downloading a case study or brochure (which is a great idea) that’s not getting the conversions you want, you should try A/B testing. It may not be that people don’t want what you’re offering but that the layout is not keeping them engaged or has too much text to be easily understood.

“You actually can incorporate some of the other suggestions that we've talked about in the A/B testing into landing pages. So that would be creating really clear sections that are going to give very bite-sized clear information. Consider moving CTAs up higher on that landing page — or just throwing the whole thing out, looking for really great landing page examples and then applying that to your site,” says Beth.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. There are proven examples and formats for basically all of digital marketing. If what you’re doing is underperforming, see what your competitors are doing that’s working well and incorporate that into your strategy.

“You don't have to come up with a net new idea. Figure out what's already working, and then bring that into what you want to do,” says Beth.

4. Ad Copy

You should also test your ad copy alongside your landing page or wherever you are driving the traffic. But don’t just test different value props — also test how you are addressing the viewer.

For example, say you’re targeting contractors with a Facebook campaign. You can test leading with the value prop versus addressing the contractor directly with “attention plumbers.”

“You're trying to think of different ways to catch people's attention, and you're testing the ad copy to understand what resonates the most, which does relate back to your landing page, because whatever performs best in that ad, you could then test that on your landing page alongside of it,” says Zach.

Beth has a pro tip for your A/B testing: “If you are trying to figure out what message resonates the best with your audience, even to incorporate into your sales conversations, ads are the fastest way to get multiple different types of messages in front of a high volume of eyeballs and give you statistically-relevant data on what type of messaging is going to resonate the best.”

But remember, it’s not just about getting your digital presence to perform better. You should also focus on learning what you’re doing online that’s working and bringing that into what you do offline in order to get your sales conversations to convert better as well.

5. Images or Visuals

Lastly, test out your images and visuals. But don’t just focus on changing the image itself. Sometimes you have the right image but the quality isn’t at the right standard. or, maybe you need a 3D visualization of the image or product. With a high-quality photograph and the right partner, you can actually get a great 3D version of that product.

If your images are just okay, there’s probably an opportunity for improvement.

Another way to A/B test images and visual assets besides swapping them out is to add on to what you already have. For example, instead of a single still image, try a carousel of images or a video.

“Or, on your product pages, adding in additional product images has been shown time and time again to increase conversions on those product pages,” says Beth. Adding testimonials or videos to product pages showing how it’s installed and how it looks in the finished environment can all increase conversions.

Want Even More Insight?

A bonus idea from Zach is to look at your forms. If you have a contact form with a bunch of questions, test removing as many of those fields as possible. We’ve found that the more fields you remove, the higher lead volume you’re going to generate. “I understand that we want as much information on a customer as possible, but the less you ask, the more you'll get,” says Zach.

Beth agrees: “Getting a conversation started sooner rather than later significantly increases the opportunities for actually landing a sale. If we're only trying to talk to people at the very bottom of the funnel, we're really shrinking down our ability to bring in the best types of leads to give us exponential growth over longer periods of time.”

To learn more about A/B testing, listen to the entire episode here. You can reach out to Beth on LinkedIn or Instagram, and Zach on LinkedIn and Instagram as well.

Remember to like and subscribe to Smarter Building Materials Marketing wherever you get your podcasts.