Give ‘em Ping Pong balls

Are you aware of the expression of giving someone more than one tennis ball?

Too many tennis balls
Too many tennis balls

In this context, it’s all about e-mails.

If you want someone to reply to a message you send, it can be a good idea to give them just one thing for them to answer, meaning there’s a higher chance they’ll get back to you. As soon as you start asking for more than that, it will be less easy for them to reply. Much like a tennis player, if there is more than one thing to respond to, then it can be too much effort, and nothing will get returned.

This is something we’ve been testing at Tutorfair. When we know we need a response, we focus on one thing and one thing only, and have been receiving a much return of serve.

For one particularly important group email, we had a long debate over what style/ content the message should contain. Whilst a stimulating philosophical exercise, it was all pure conjecture – our reasoning had very little grounding, and mainly consisted of “I think this would work…” and “True, but what about if they do this…”.

Us and Barack Obama

So rather than continue this largely irrelevant back-and-forth conversation into the late hours, we decided upon action. In a similar vein to the Obama Presidential campaign (yes, I’m comparing us to them) we undertook our own bit of A/B Testing.

Half of the messages sent were emails – giving brief, but detailed instructions, and a Call To Action. The other half were text messages, with hardly any information, but instead a direct question for the recipient to answer.

The results

The number of responses we started with clients was several times higher for the one line text, than for the succinct email. We were able to then begin conversations, and start converting customers on the back of this little prompt.

Just give them one, little thing

Just give them one, little thing

Once the dust had settled, and all replies and follow ups had been made, we took stock. It seemed that for what we were after (i.e. beginning conversations with customers) even sending one tennis ball might be too much,

Instead, it was more successful to give them something even easier to respond to: a ping pong ball


Have you done any A/B testing to settle a debate? How about particular types of messages that get a good response rate?