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January 30, 2015

Three Ways to Improve Your E-Mail Marketing With Personalization

Image courtesy of (Stuart Miles)/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How many generic e-mails do you send straight to the trash each and every day?

We’ve all been there. You receive a generic e-mail blast from a company, open it to see nothing but irrelevant information and send it on its way to the trash can.

In today’s busy world, as a marketer, that’s what happens to your e-mails. To stop this from happening, you need to be able to deliver information in a way that speaks to your time-strapped customer, who is too busy trying to cut through all the content clutter. They, just like you, want to finish all of their work before 5 p.m. to get home to their families at a decent hour.

So with such a busy customer, what can you do to give your e-mails the best chance of being read?

Personalization

Personalization is the answer to combating poor e-mail marketing open rates and dismal click-through rates.

We’ve all been guilty of sending a boring broadcast e-mail marketing to our entire database. Whether you sent it to update them on some company news or wanted to invite them to your latest event, odds are it was pretty generic. As a marketer myself, I use to do this because it was considered best practice at one time.

But in 2015, it’s not good enough. Here are three ways personalization can make your e-mail marketing more effective.

Personalize e-mail marketing using customer data to make your audience feel special

The easiest way is to personalize your e-mails is by using the data you should already have on your customers. Start with their first and last name and company, which are quick wins.

Let’s look at a how Clarity – a marketplace that brings together top advisors and industry experts – as an example of a company who makes good use of their customer data.

Here’s an e-mail from Clarity:

clarity 1

In the e-mail, you see Clarity addresses the recipient by his first name. This makes me, as the recipient, feel special – as if the e-mail marketing was sent to me personally. Personalization like this builds trust overtime. It also increases engagement. A study by Mailchimp found that personalizing both the first and last name in subject lines has the biggest impact on open rates.

People prefer to receive e-mail marketing that is addressed to them — it makes them feel special.

How you can do this with your e-mails:

The easiest way to add basic customer data to your e-mails is to use an e-mail marketing tool that lets you add personalization. When you collect contact details from your customers and subscribers, make sure you ask for a first and last name, and other useful information you might want to use later on. Add these details to your contacts inside your tool. You will then be able to personally address your e-mails and make them more special for your customers.

Personalize e-mails based on customer needs to ensure you deliver useful advice and information

Instead of sending the same e-mail to everyone in your database, you should segment your list based on your customers’ needs. This will ensure that the e-mails you send are more relevant and, therefore, more valuable to each of your customers.

We’ve seen first-hand how personalized e-mails based on needs can dramatically increase open and click-through rates on e-mails. In one particular case, it’s works so well that we receive open rates around 45-65 percent and click-through rates around 14-29 percent – well above the industry average for generic broadcast e-mails.

In addition to high engagement, e-mails based on specific needs will also help you build stronger relationships with your customers. Since they know that you only send them relevant e-mails, they will trust you as their source of information and look forward to each one they receive. Imagine that, huh?

How you can do this with your e-mails?

You should segment your e-mail list based on the specific type of customer. Break your list down into existing customers, subscribers, leads, employees and partners. Next, segment your list based on specific needs. Hubspot does this particularly well. They capture important information from their e-mail subscribers based on the content they download, so if you downloaded an eBook on social media marketing, for example, the majority of follow-up e-mails you’ll receive will be based on that topic.

Use an e-mail marketing tool to segment your customers by type and need. Here’s an example of what Hubspot’s e-mail segmentation might look like.

Customer type Needs/Topics of Interest
Existing customer Social media marketing
Lead Inbound marketing
Subscriber Search marketing

 

Your e-mail marketing tool should let create custom lists based on multiple groups or tags. For example, you could create an e-mail list that includes only customers, who are interested in search marketing. If your tool doesn’t give you that power, I recommend you use MailChimp or Campaign Monitor.

Personalize e-mails using customer behavior to create a better experience

Businesses are starting to use e-mail to deliver more accurate, relevant and personalized experiences throughout the entire customer journey. What this means is businesses are getting smarter at tracking your behavior on their websites and during their interactions with you. An example of this might be tracking the website pages you visit. They can see what pages you spend a lot of time on and the topics in which you are interested. From that data, they can trigger e-mails that extend the experience.

Let’s continue to look at how Clarity sends e-mails based on customer behavior.

Here is an e-mail from Clarity that you might receive after browsing some of the expert profiles on its site:

clarity example

In the e-mail, you see personalization based on customer behavior at its best. Clarity tracked the user, who had recently viewed Tom Williams’ expert profile. This behavior automatically triggered the e-mail above, since this user failed to follow through with purchasing a call after viewing the page. This is a great example of providing more value with personalized e-mails. Can you imagine the open and click-through rates on this e-mail?

How you can do this with your e-mails?

Behavior-based e-mails continue to gain popularity. New tools like Vero and Customer.io are increasingly more affordable for marketers and have the features needed to send e-mails based on behavior. These tools track when and how people are interacting with you on your website, blog or inside your account portal. Based on specific actions, you can send tailored e-mails and content.

Here’s a quick screenshot of what it looks like inside e-mail marketing tool, Vero:

vero

In this example, you see the e-mail newsletter we are about to trigger will only be sent to paying customers who have not used new feature. This is powerful.

What’s stopping you from using tools like Vero to send more targeted content and offers?

Personalize e-mails and make the experience better for your audience

The point of personalizing e-mails is to deliver content and offers that your customers and e-mail subscribers actually want to open and read. If they are customers, they probably want content related to what you’ve been doing as a company. If they are leads looking to learn more about a specific topic, they probably want more blog posts, webinar invitations and eBooks about that specific topic.

Your audience will want to open your e-mails if they know they will be full of useful and relevant information. By providing e-mails that are more valuable, you will give yourself the best opportunity to cut through the noise and make sure your message is delivered.

So, what’s the end result of all of this? Better engagement and better open and click-through rates. At the end of the day, that’s how you measure e-mail marketing performance. I challenge you to try personalization as a way to improve those rates.

Your thoughts?

What from this guide will you implement into your next e-mail campaign? Let us know in the comments below.


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Simon Dell is a former agency owner and managing director, and is now a freelance consultant under his own brand SimonDell.com. His goal is to help develop and implement strategic digital and creative marketing plans for clients delivering measurable results and fantastic ROI. He also writes for Fairfax Media, MYOB's business portal and frequently speaks at events and conferences around Australia.

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