No Bullsh*t Advice From Email Experts
As email marketers, we know that leveraging subscriber data is critical to sending more personalized campaigns that convert at a higher rate than batch-and-blast campaigns. But knowing how to capture and use that data isn’t always so obvious.
Smart segmentation can help you target subscribers more effectively so you can deliver more relevant messaging resulting in more customers and repeat buyers. In this post experts discuss different ways to collect data as well as advanced segmentation tactics that can help you stand out in a crowded inbox.
We asked industry leaders & email marketing experts from Campaign Monitor, Iterable, emailmonday, AWeber, Email On Acid, SocketLabs, eFocus Marketing, Monkey Blocks & Kickbox to help you send more effective messages.
Here’s what they had to say…
Knowing Your Customer Really Pays Off
When it comes to a crowded inbox, you can consider personalized messaging your diamond in the rough. Because a message that’s catered specifically to an individual is the one thing that will break through the clutter and catch a subscriber’s eye when they’re filtering through their inbox each day.
The question is: How can you capitalize on subscriber data to ensure that you’re delivering personalized and relevant content every time? Short answer: it goes a touch further than simply including their name in the subject line.
Collecting purchase history data gives you an opportunity to set up automated emails that make product suggestions based on what your subscriber was previously interested in. Actually, in 2013, management consultancy McKinsey & Company estimated that Amazon generated 35% of its revenue from on-site and email product recommendations. So, it’s safe to say that really knowing your customer definitely pays off big in the long run.
In this product recommendation example, SpiritHoods takes advantage of a customer’s purchase hiatus and invites them back to their shop with some recommended products and a coupon code.
Next steps: Use dynamic content to send the same campaign with unique touchpoints for subscribers. Lean on what you know to serve up unique messaging or next steps—like swapping out images based on gender designations.
Smart Segmentation Starts With Surfacing The Right Data
Want to win the inbox? Start with data literacy. A great email demonstrates that you fundamentally understand who your customers are and anticipate the things they want—lucky for us marketers, these insights live inside our subscribers’ data. We just need to surface them.
Data overwhelmingly comes in different shapes, sizes, formats, and inputs. To make sense of it, Iterable translates all customer data into three overarching categories:
- User attributes: Your users’ profile details—their demographics, how/when they found your brand, their list subscriptions, and their devices.
- Events: Your users’ behavior—purchases, subscriptions, website/app clicks, page views, message opens, and more.
- Metadata: All the contextual product, service, and experiential details from their engagements—item categories, product attributes, interaction specifics and so on.
Now that it’s stored and organized, you can weave any of this different information into a purposeful message experience. Starting with segmentation, you can accurately target engaged customer groups who are likely receptive to a certain message type, such as email, push notifications or SMS. Next, you can personalize that message with data acknowledging past interactions or by recommending things suited to their tastes. Finally, you can send that message at just the right moment—once a set amount of time passes or after expressing behavior that’s worthy of a follow-up.
You Have More Data Than You May Think
In the past, companies have focused on gathering as much information on their customers and prospects as possible, hoping it might come in handy in the future. But times they are a-changing, and so are privacy regulations around the world.
For example, in Europe, GDPR requires businesses to collect an explicit opt in from their subscribers, and it must be expressly written how they plan to use their personal data. In Canada, CASL requires marketers to receive consent from recipients before sending messages.
At the same time, we all know that asking for too much personal information at the point of signup can cause a barrier to entry. Asking for even 1-2 extra pieces of information can have a drastic effect on your subscriber rates.
But should all of that mean you can’t have highly targeted and personalized emails? Of course not! Marketers can still learn a great deal about the interests of their email recipients simply by observing how they interact with your emails and your website.
Within your email data, grouping subscribers with similar engagement patterns into buckets can help you begin to understand your audience better, and provide real value to them. Go deeper than pure open rates here. Consider things like:
- How often recipients are opening your emails – this can help you understand if you can increase your sending frequency, or if you would do better to slow things down a bit. For example, if you send daily but recipients only open 1 out of every 7 -10 emails, consider dropping them to a weekly digest.
- Which subscribers click through the most, and which click the least – are there any other commonalities between these two groups that can help you better tailor your content to their needs or behaviors?
- What specific links they clicked on – Is there a pattern to the type of content various recipients on your list tend to engage with the most? For example, do they prefer sale-related emails vs those offering discounts vs editorial content? Within editorial content: what specific topics are they interested in?
- Conversion rates – it’s nice seeing high open and click rates, but what’s really important is the percentage of people who clicked through on a link and completed your desired action. Whether that’s filling in a lead-generation form or making a purchase, honing in on the content that drives ROI is key.
Then on your website, you can track behavioral data about your subscribers by adding a pixel or cookie. With one of these in place, you can:
- Understand which products or categories your recipients might be looking to purchase, and highlight those kinds of products in your future email content
- Know which blog posts they’ve read or videos they may have watched
- Discover unexpected areas of the website that users spend time (such as your FAQs page, Support chat, or API documentation) to improve your website design, email messaging and potentially even reduce the load on your Customer Support team
- Identify the lead magnet or incentive that brought them to your website in the first place!
While all of this data is not specific to email, having a better understanding of these types of behaviors can help you apply better segmentation to the emails you send, personalize your content, and ultimately deliver greater value for each subscriber.
Leverage Subscriber Data To Send More Effective Emails
Email segmentation is all about sending deeply personalized emails to your audience. While many will hear the word “personalization” and think about adding a subscribers’ name into the subject line, personalization actually goes much deeper. True email personalization is about tailoring the email content to individuals’ personal interests and behaviors.
In fact, personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates than emails that don’t feel personalized, according to data from Experian. It’s an extremely effective marketing method to increase open rates, click through rates, and ultimately, purchases.
Gathering data about them will help you understand your audience better, which will in turn let you send more powerful emails. There are a few key ways to collect and leverage subscriber data to send more effective emails:
- Start with the sign up form. Collect the information you need from your subscribers in a sign up form. Reinforcing that you’re there to provide them value that’s relevant to them will not only help you segment your audience better, it will leave your audience feeling good that you’re sending them exactly what they need.
- Segment based on behavior. You can also allow subscribers to self-select their interests in your welcome series. Set up automated sequences or campaigns based on the subscriber’s own actions and interests, and what links they click within your email.
- Segment based on page visits. Segment subscribers based on the pages that they’re visiting on your website. This will let you get a sense of their interests and enable you to send automated campaigns based on what you know about them.
Figure out what your audiences’ paint points are, and send valuable content that helps them solve these problems. Knowing this information will let you send the right content to the right people at the right time.
Think Through What You Plan on Doing With The Data You Collect
What I’d like everyone to work on is their Data Ideation. Think about the data you might gather and creatively work out what to do with it (and vice versa).
For example, an on-demand printing service for photo albums asks new subscribers about their favorite photo topic: Is it family, nature, sports, travel, pets, babies?
But Jordie, Why do they ask that? Aren’t all albums sort of the same no matter what pictures you put in there? Well yes, segmentation padawan, the product is the same – but the use (and communication about it) should be different.
For those that chose babies as their favorite topic, they include an extra dose of baby images in their welcome email. This information ensures they show the right, personalized images in their product shots.
For those who didn’t choose babies, seeing babies everywhere could be a huge turn-off.
Your tactics and tools for email segmentation will look differently according to your industry and brand products. But YOUR ideal data-set is based on what you are going to do with it!
People love babies…
Image source: The Art of Email Marketing Segmentation.
That one question, that one data point, opens up a lot of connected information about Concerns, Motivation, Life Stage etc.
There can be great confusion between market segmentation, email marketing segmentation and personalization.
- If they are aiming for the new parents segment as their target clients: that is market segmentation.
- Swapping out images of product use or adding baby names isn’t email segmentation, but personalization.
- The next email about “how to take the best pictures of your baby” is thinking in groups and making use of the same data point – as email marketing segmentation.
Think it through.
Stand Out In The Inbox With Data-Driven Content
The answer to this question comes down to three main points: data storage, data access, and data usage. Too often we see senders with no interest in data, nor the means to store, organize, and access relevant data that should be used to improve email targeting and personalization.
Of all the marketing senders that use SocketLabs, it is rarely the ones with proper data storage, access, and usage who suffer poor deliverability and engagement.
The technology to store, organize, and then use customer data is widely available.
It is the marketer’s responsibility to proactively collect and implement data into marketing plans, so that they are not forced to do so after encountering deliverability problems.
Being stuck in the spam folder while having to implement complex data changes is not a great place to be.
One of our customers Sub2 Technologies recently explained how they use real-time behavioral data and analytics to create a completely personalized communication/buying experience for customers across multiple channels.
So if you want to stand out in the inbox, you want data-driven content that is much more valuable to the individual than the generic marketing email everyone else sends.
Devise a Plan To Get More Data
At some companies, “subscriber data” is the email address and nothing else. If that’s all you have, then you have to get more subscriber data. You can do it in two ways.
You can ask for it by using progressive profiling, where you can ask about interests, preferences and more. You must explain why you want the information and why you’re going to use it to drive better relevancy.
The problem with this method is that the data, and the insights you get from it, can go stale quickly. Also, supplied data isn’t as accurate.
Or, you can go out and buy data (like demongraphics or industry data) and append it to your existing user records to gain insight to find out who your customer is in specific data fields that make it useful in targeting. Third-party data is usually more accurate because it’s independent of being asked for and is based on purchases inside and beyond your vertical.
If you don’t have enough data, come up with a plan to get more because that will change your targeting and approach across the board.
Use Data To Understand Your Buyers Needs & Persona
Email Thought Leader
Using demographics such as age, gender, company position, and income level is a quick and easy way to understand the buyer’s needs and persona.
For example, my needs can be differentiated from those of my sons by simply knowing more about the targeted audience, but also the possible difference in platforms they might be accessing to receive marketing.
My sons tend to use more social platforms where I tend to use more email based systems.
You can also add geographic data to the mix that allows for targeting buys based on weather or location to a specific brick and mortar store and their local offers or maybe where an event is closer to them.
Reminder, don’t ask for too much data though as you can put them off and you should try a balance test to help understand what you really need.
You can then combine this information with other things such as surveying data from them to allow them to help you target what their needs are based on insights into individual tastes, preferences, and beliefs. Don’t forget to give them something in return. Also, make it fun like a quiz can be more engaging for them.
Before You Begin, Conduct A Data Audit
Your data is at the heart of everything that you do with your email marketing; with good quality, accurate data, and enough of it, you can target, segment and trigger emails to the right person, sent at the right time, with the right message (through the right channel).
To better leverage your data, start by truly understanding it and learning to love it!
Conduct a data audit to understand what data you have in your business, where it sits in your data pyramid, how accurate and complete the data is that you have, and where is it in the business; is there data in the business already that is being used, but you don’t have access to it for your email marketing?
Then consider where the gaps are in your data – what would you like to have / need to have to better target and personalise your emails over the next 12 months, that you don’t have now? How can you go about collecting this data and adding it into your email platform ready to use? From the data you have already, are there segments that you’re not already utilising that you could start to use now to create more targeted campaigns; for example, if you have purchase data available and know when someone last bought, how frequently they usually buy and how much they’ve spent with you, you could use RFM analysis to identify more segments and identify your best customers, most loyal customers, those at most risk of becoming inactive and everyone in between, allowing you to send more targeted content to encourage them to buy/buy again.
Implicit Data Will Help You Create A Better Experience For Your Customers
Businesses need to make more use of implicit data in their marketing these days to place themselves ahead of the competition.
Explicit data is great, it tells you someone’s name, where they live, their age, gender, and of course, which products they’ve bought previously. But if you rely solely on this data you’re severely limiting your ability to personalise your messaging.
Implicit data allows you to really understand your customers, and anticipate their needs, possibly before they’re even aware of the need themselves.
Imagine you run a furniture website and someone comes along and buys a sofa. Explicit data tells you either; they now have a sofa, so don’t offer them a sofa, or they have a sofa, they must like sofas, so keep suggesting sofas.
Implicit data tells you they have a sofa, so they need cushions for that sofa, or maybe they’ve just moved house so they need a coffee table, an armchair, some rugs.
It doesn’t have to be crazy difficult to implement either, it’s basically a bunch of ‘If This Then That’ statements, and with 91% of consumers saying they’re more likely to buy from brands that send them personalised offers and recommendations, it’s pretty essential for your business.
More No Bullsh*t Advice From Email Experts Coming Soon
Stay tuned, we’ll be posting more No Bullshit Advice soon. Read our last installment, Adapting to Change: Adjusting Your Email Strategy To Changing Times or catch up on the entire series here: No Bullsh*t Advice From Email Experts.
And as always, feel free to share your thoughts with us on Twitter.
Keep your list healthy and boost campaign performance by regularly cleaning your email list. We’ll let you know which email addresses are good, bad and risky, before you hit send.
Your first 100 verifications are on us. Verify for Free