Getting Personal: How Personalized Content Can Benefit Your Email Marketing Strategy

The lyrics to Johnny Rivers’ 1966 hit song Secret Agent Man probably don’t come up too much in conversations about email marketing, but give me a minute here. How much do you know about your customers? How much of what you know about them do you leverage to tailor your communication to them? The honest answer to those questions are probably not enough and very little.

get-smartWe live in an information age. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be using the data our customers provide us with to personalize our communication with them. And yet, data suggests that only around 5% of companies personalize their email marketing extensively.[1] The majority of newsletters I receive, even from companies I love, make it plainly obvious that I am just one number of many on a mailing list. They’ve /ahem given me a number and taken away my name.

Let’s take a closer look at personalized content and the benefits both you and your customers stand to gain. I can’t promise there won’t be more cheesy song references, though.

How Can Personalized Content Benefit Email Marketing?

I’ll let the following numbers speak for themselves:

A recent Harris Poll survey by the digital marketing firm Listrak shows that:[2]

  • 80% of email readers find it useful when emails feature recommended products based on past purchases
  • 71% of email readers find it useful when emails feature recommended products based on browsing behavior
  • 69% of email readers find it useful when emails feature adverts based on products previously viewed

This plainly suggests that consumers of your email marketing prefer targeted material based on their individual behavior. The majority of consumers want relevant marketing, and are willing to share personal information with you to get it

  • 74% of polled consumers get frustrated with websites when content, offers, ads, promotions, etc. appear that have nothing to do with their interests [3]
  • 57% of polled consumers are ok with providing personal information on a website as long as it’s for their benefit and being used in responsible ways [3]
  • 77 percent would trust businesses more if they explained how they’re using personal information to improve their online experience [3]
  • 56% of polled consumers cite non-relevant content as their reason for unsubscribing [4]

If you’ve paid any attention to world news and events in the last several years, you know privacy is a major concern to a great many people. Almost 9 out of 10 people have at least taken steps to mask their digital footprints and more than 9 of 10 feel that it is important for their online information to remain private.[5] And even given that, as cited above, almost 6 of 10 would be willing to share their personal information with you as long as it is transparently used to provide relevant content to them? That is a pretty strong mandate for email marketers to make every effort to provide relevant, meaningful communication.

There is a strong mandate for email marketers to provide relevant, meaningful communication.Click To Tweet

How Can I Craft Dynamic, Personalized Content?

This is a question that gives lots of people fits. I cited an E-Consultancy survey above that places the number of companies that personalize extensively at just 5%, yet other data from the same firm indicates that 94% of companies acknowledge that personalization is “critical to current and future success”.[1][6] It’s not an easy question to answer because the answer is highly dependant on your own unique blend of customers.

8585152039_a92f63323b_bWith that in mind, keep your eyes peeled for another article in the near future that addresses list segmentation. That is the most powerful means an email marketer has to personalize content to the reader. In that article we’ll take a deeper look at personalization in general through the lens of segmentation.

I’m not going to leave you empty handed today, though. What follows are meant as ideas that will get your own creative energy going, and that you can build on for yourself. At the end of the day, no one can tell you how better to personalize for your own customers than you!

Data is your friend.

Demographic data, behavioral data, transactional data, put it to work. For example, you could potentially group users by their physical location and include local events, regional preferences, language, etc in your strategy. Use behavioral data to segment frequent buyers from occasional customers, regular customers versus browsers, tempt browsers to buy by offering sales on items they repeatedly view but don’t purchase, etc.

Automate using behavioral triggers.

Put that behavioral and transactional data to work using automation. Customer hasn’t logged in or purchased in x amount of time? Set a reminder to trigger. Fire off a personalized set of anniversary coupons each year after account creation. Send related product recommendations after a set amount of time following a recent purchase.

Just ask!

There’s really no better way to get information about a customer than by asking for it. This isn’t something you want to do on first contact. Establish some form of relationship first, but once you have an established relationship to some degree, pick their brains a little. Why did this person become a user? Why did they subscribe to the newsletter? What are their interests? What do they hope to see from you?

Segment by interest.

Again we’ll get into segmentation in detail in the near future, but there’s no better way to personalize 3029241801_a7cd294df2than through grouping. Twenty-somethings probably aren’t interested in the same products as your 60+ crowd. Americans may have different tastes or needs related to the products you offer than European, South African, or Russian customers. Users who bought a new computer in the last several days are prime candidates to receive offers for software products. Generalization can be useful to a degree, just make sure to base your decisions on the behavioral data at your disposal and not stereotyping.

Be somebody!

Almost anyone would rather do business with a person than a faceless corporate entity (SCOTUS rulings notwithstanding). Personalize your own communications with information about yourself. Fill your From line with a real person’s name, not just your company name. Include some personal touches about yourself and your company in your email. Give me a picture to look at, give your communication a human face.

peeking-ninja-300x138At the end of the day, any of us would prefer to be talked to and dealt with as a human being and an individual. It’s a common human desire to be recognized for who you are. It becomes more and more difficult to address every customer this way as your business grows and your customer base expands. Nevertheless, it should always be our goal in communicating with our customers. The more you are able to speak to their interests and bring the conversation to a personalized, human level, the better. They are names, not numbers!