A/B Testing in Real Life: An Email Marketer’s Journey through Online Dating

Email Marketing


Test everything. Does an orange button work better than a blue button in my email? Test it. What should I order at In-N-Out: two double doubles or one 4×4? Test it. Is this Tinder profile picture with my family better than me surfing an epic wave in Tahiti? Test it.

Being an email marketer has taught me one critical thing: you never really know what works best until you test it and prove a rightful winner. And over the past three years, I’ve taken my passion for testing optimization and applied it to my dating life. This used to be embarrassing…until I found things that worked and things that didn’t, which made online dating less about the guesswork and more about science. Come join me on my journey through A/B testing in the world of online dating!

Does this profile summary sound familiar?

My name is Mike. On a typical Friday night, you’ll find me out having dinner and drinks with friends…but I also love to stay in and enjoy my shows on Netflix with a craft beer in hand. I love to laugh, travel the globe, try new restaurants, and meet new people. My friends would say that I’m easygoing, but I like to think I follow the “work-hard, play hard” lifestyle. I’m all about living in the moment. In the end, I’m just a genuine guy seeking a genuine girl to be my new PIC (partner-in-crime). And if we really hit it off, we’ll tell people we met in a bar (insert winky face).

Gross. And I hope you think this is gross too. Why? Because you learned absolutely nothing about this fictional Mike guy. He’s one big CLICHÉ! He likes to go out and stay in. Loves to laugh? Really? Are there people who despise laughing? This doofus Mike doesn’t know who he is or how to convey his true self to all of his possible love interests. I’d swipe left if I were you.

So how do you attract and engage the right person without sounding like a cliché? Well, I’ve got answers. Over the past few years, I’ve optimized my dating profiles (as a marketer, optimization is what I do), and I have no problem admitting that these “optimizations” helped me find my girlfriend (whether she likes me admitting that is another story). The point is that there’s a lot of fish in the vast dating pool and you have to swim to the top to get noticed. Here are five strategies that are tested and proved by yours truly to improve your online dating efforts and email campaigns:

1. Put all your important call-to-actions at the top

I don’t know what it is, but so many online dating websites (outside of a swiping app like a Tinder) have the most important sections at the bottom of the profile. The bottom section might be titled something like “Message Me If…” Do not, I repeat, do not put any important information in that section. Anything you would choose to put there should go in the first section at the top of your profile page. People are searching for their one and only true love, so tell them why it’s you in the first paragraph rather than 2,000 words into your profile. No one has time for that.

As an email marketer, this strategy also rings true for your email content. Where is the best place to put your call-to-action? Above the fold, which means you can see it without having to scroll down.

2. Use a greeting that stands out

Think of your greeting as an email subject line. “Hi” doesn’t quite cut it. It’s boring and is unlikely to generate any responses. In my experience, the best subject lines are “Howdy!”, “How’s it going?” or “How’s it hanging?” It seems friendlier and less creepy. Plus, all the hundreds of other people out there are still saying “Hi”, so this helps you stand out in their inbox!

For your own marketing emails, your subject line should capture the recipient’s attention. Ask questions, use numbers, front-load the important words, and keep it short and concise. Your email is one among many (let’s be honest, tons) other emails that they are receiving, so make it stand out to get them to do a double-take and ultimately click on yours.

3. Get into the specifics

When you’re meeting someone online, you’re trying to forge a connection in what may seem like an elevator pitch. You are not trying to say hello to someone in passing. If you were to write “Hey, how’s your day going?” to which I’d reply “…” (that’s meant to symbolize no reply).

But, if you say something like “Howdy, Caitlin! That’s so awesome that your favorite show is The Walking Dead. What do you think about the fan theory that Rick is immune to the zombie virus or is a zombie already or that he’s immortal? I think the whole thing is all a dream just like Inception was all a dream.” Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere! Not only have we connected with Caitlin’s favorite show, but we’ve also said something that may stir the pot a bit. Now she has a reason to write back because you’re interesting.

In email marketing, getting into the specifics is done using segmentation. Segment your audience by gender, interests, demographics, or different behaviors. Then, tailor your communications to be ultra-targeted towards each segment, which builds trust and long-term relationships. The lines between email marketing and online dating are starting to blur, right?

4. Be unique

You are the best person in the world at being yourself. Someone needs to fall in love with you for who you are, not because you were pretending to like Game of Thrones when in reality, you would never watch a show that uses the term “realms” (thank you Pete Holmes for the joke).

Here’s a screenshot from my dating profile:


Don’t you feel like you know me? You learned some specifics and it doesn’t feel like I’m trying to be anyone but me. And if you are picking up what I’m putting down, then I’ve achieved quality!

Figure out what sets your brand apart from your competitors and own it. For me, its:

The most private thing I’m willing to admit:

My license plate holder on my car says Expecto Patronum and I’m damn proud of it.

For your brand, maybe it’s a corporate culture focused on giving back, like Ten Tree, who plants 10 trees for every item purchased. Or own the fact that you’re a startup and you work hard and play harder. The point is to be real. Show the world exactly who your brand is and they’ll love you for it.

5. Rotate your creatives every few weeks

At 9pm every night, hundreds of thousands of online daters begin searching the web for their perfect match. And if they keep seeing your same profile picture in their search and have shown no interest, they’ll continue to have no interest over time. But if you keep your profile fresh with a new picture every few weeks, you’ll increase your profile page visits dramatically. Think of it this way: a cartoon character wears the exact same thing every day. Over time, you stop noticing them. But if that wardrobe changed, you’d say “Who is this? Could this possibly be Hey Arnold in a tuxedo?” It’s interesting, intriguing, and begs for a profile visit.

The same rule applies in email marketing. When you’re blasting the same emails week after week, make things interesting for them by offering new CTAs or creatives in each email. For instance, try some new video marketing or shake things up with new writing style and tone. Be unpredictable in a good way. It’s more exciting for your audience.

Online dating (and digital marketing, obviously) is about creating life-long relationships with quality people. Now you have five tried-and-true, marketing-optimized tips, you’re all set to pursue your new love interests or email members.

What other tips are in your email marketing toolkit? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!