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A/B Testing in Account Engagement Engagement Studio Programs (ESPs)

A/B Testing in Account Engagement Engagement Studio Programs (ESPs)

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Engagement Studio Programs (ESPs) are key for nurturing prospects until they are ready to send over to your sales team. But have you ever thought about A/B testing in ESPs?

ESPs allow you to automatically send your cold prospects awareness content and consistently stay top of mind so they can gradually warm up to a sales-ready stage. Although ESPs can be used for everything from basic email sends to complex process automations, one feature it lacks is native functionality for A/B testing. The feature exists natively (and wonderfully) for list emails, but in the realm of automated emails and ESPs, this is something marketers are chomping at the bit for. 

Let’s dig into some of the creative workarounds that make A/B testing possible in ESPs as well as the pros and cons of each option.

How does native A/B Testing work?

Within the native functionality of list emails, A/B testing is very user-friendly. You can:

  • Create and edit two versions of your email (Version A & B) via the WYSIWYG editor or by editing the HTML
  • Specify if the email versions should be measured by email opens or email clicks (we prefer clicks)
  • Determine the length of the A/B testing period (1 hour to 30 days)
  • Determine the percentage of your audience that is tested

Automating the A/B testing process

The beauty of A/B testing with list emails is that so much of the process is automated. 

Once the criteria have been set, Account Engagement automatically and randomly splits the test recipients from the intended recipient lists, sends the email variations to the test group, and, once a winner has been selected, automatically sends the winning version of the email to the remaining recipients on the list. 

This native functionality allows marketers to fine-tune their marketing content by testing which subject lines, CTAs, and even images best resonate with their target audience. 

A/B Testing in an ESP

To A/B Test in an ESP, you have a few options:

  1. Split your recipient list before starting the ESP
  2. Split recipients by last name
  3. Split recipient by a random number from Salesforce
  4. Split recipient lists using Prospect Updater

Using Native Split List Functionality

All Account Engagement Static and Dynamic lists can be split into smaller lists. While viewing your list, the split option will be available in the top right-hand corner. This allows you to split lists evenly, or specify the percentage on each list. 

It’s important to remember that when splitting a dynamic list, the resulting lists will be static. 

When using this option in an ESP, add an Action node before your email send that checks if the recipient is on split list 1. If they are a member of this list, they receive version A of your email. If they are not, they receive version B.

This option works best when your ESP has a static recipient list that you are not adding to later, for example, an event follow-up nurture. If you intend on gradually adding more prospects to this ESP, there isn’t a way to easily and automatically split the new prospects between the two lists. 

Splitting by Last Name

Another strategy is to split the recipients by last name. This allows you to split recipients with dynamic lists so you can continually add new recipients to the ESP. To do so, you’ll need two dynamic lists. 

Your first list will capture prospects with last names starting with A-M:  

Your second list will capture any prospects with last names beginning with N-Z, as well as any prospects with last names that start with characters, non-English letters, or numbers. 

Finally, use these lists to split ESP recipients between your email variations. 

Things to keep in mind

The drawback to this solution is that splitting by last name is not likely to evenly split your recipients. S, B, H, M, and C are the most common initials for last names, so if you split your recipients by “last name begins with A-M” and “last name begins with N-Z”, the “A-M” list is likely to be larger and can skew your data.

Generate a Random Number in Salesforce 

Another strategy for randomly splitting your recipient list is by using Salesforce’s Auto Number functionality. This allows you to auto-generate a random number for each Lead or Contact and push this data down to Account Engagement.

  1. In Salesforce Setup, select Object Manager then Lead
  2. Select Fields & Relationships
  3. Select New
  4. Select Auto Number then Next
  5. Enter the following details
    1. Field Label: Lead Random Number
    2. Display Format: {00}
    3. Starting Number: 0
    4. Generate Auto Number for existing records: Selected
  1. Select Next
  2. Select which profiles have access to view this field.
  3. Select Next
  4. Select any Lead pages where this field should appear. I recommend leaving this field off your page layouts. Select Save.
  5. Next, create a Formula field. While still in the Fields & Relationships tab of the Lead object, select New
  6. Select Formula, then Next
  7. Enter the following details
    • Field Label: Email Random Number
    • Formula Return Type: Number
    • Options – Decimal Places: 0
  8. Select Next
  9. Enter the formula MOD(VALUE({! Lead_Random_Number__c}) ,9)
  10. Select Next
  11. Select which profiles have access to view this field. Ensure the B2BMA Integration User profile, or your connector user’s profile, has access so Account Engagement can map to this field. 
  12. Select Next
  13. Select any Lead pages where this field should appear. I recommend leaving this field off your page layouts. Select Save.

This formula field will auto-generate a random number between 1-9 for each Lead. Optionally, repeat the steps above for the Contact object. Finally, map the “Email Random Number” field to Account Engagement so this new field can be used to randomly split ESP recipients for an A/B Test. 

Now, the only downside of this approach is that all your Account Engagement prospects must be synced to Salesforce before they will get an Email Random Number value. If you regularly nurture prospects in Account Engagement before syncing them over to Salesforce, you could use a combination of the Random Number and Last Name methods, or you can move to our last option.

Use Prospect Updater

Sercante’s Prospect Updater is a Swiss army knife for advanced data updates, cleansing, and manipulation within Account Engagement. This solution allows you to work with your prospect data in more streamlined ways and enables you to create a truly random recipient list split without your data being in Salesforce. 

With Prospect Updater, you can use a RANDBETWEEN function to auto-generate a random number and stamp the number on new prospect records within minutes of them being added to Account Engagement. Then, use an Action node in an ESP to split your prospects into your A/B test groups. 

If you want to learn more about Prospect Updater, check out our Supercharge sales ‘speed to lead’ with clean Pardot data and Creating a Pardot Spam Identification Process with Prospect Updater blog posts or contact us!

Selecting a Winner

After you’ve selected your method of A/B testing and let your ESP run, it’s time to choose a winner and, optionally, consolidate your ESP down to 1 email version. The best way to compare the data between your A and B email versions is by using the ESP reporting tooltips. While on the Reporting tab of your ESP, select the email send node to view the metrics for that particular send. 

The tooltips allow you to easily view the number of sends and opens as well as your click-through rate. If you want to dive deeper into each template’s metrics, select the name of the template from within the tooltip view to open the full email template report. 

Start A/B testing in Engagement Studio Programs

It’s clear that Engagement Studio Programs (ESPs) are the backbone of effective prospect nurturing, guiding them along the journey until they’re ripe for the sales pitch. 

So, let’s embrace the challenge, get creative, and make the most of our ESPs. With a bit of ingenuity and a keen eye on the metrics, we can craft killer campaigns that resonate with our audience and drive those all-important conversions. Here’s to pushing the boundaries and unleashing the full potential of our ESPs.

Remember, you can always reach out to the team at Sercante for help setting up your Account Engagement (Pardot) Engagement Studio Programs and configuring your A/B tests within them.

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  • Erin Duncan is the Account Engagement Product Director at Sercante. Erin is 8x Salesforce certified and has 12+ years of experience as a Salesforce and Account Engagement Admin. She is the leader of the Atlanta B2B Marketers User Group, the leader of the Pardashian Slack group, and a Salesforce Marketing Champion.

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