Targeting your marketing – Part 1: Advanced personalization

Strategies for targeting your marketing

In 2014, 86% of revenue came from email campaigns that used advanced tactics (not broadcast emails).

— DMA UK’s National Client Email Report – 2015

Our improved ability to target individual contacts might be the most important advancement in email marketing services since the autoresponder was introduced over a decade ago. The old marketing adage, “Get the right message to the right contact at the right time,” has never been easier to achieve.

Targeting is a proven path to better results. The closer your marketing message aligns with the needs and interests of your contacts, the more effective it becomes.

Over time your contacts come to expect that messages from you are highly relevant to them because each message seems to anticipate their needs and interests. As a result you’ll get more opens and clickthroughs and your unsubscribes will drop.

Not only that, there is a multiplier effect at work: your more effective marketing messages will reach more of your contacts as your email deliverability improves. This will happen because signs of engagement influence deliverability as email providers shift to algorithms and away from IP based spam filtering.

Our days of blasting our entire list with the same email are long past. It’s time to shift our thinking toward extremely granular segmentation of our contacts, customization of our messages, and perfect timing [tweet this] so we send fewer, but much more targeted, emails to each contact.

 

3 ways to target your emails and online marketing:

Through segmentation [right contact] – You can filter your contacts so that a message is sent only to those contacts who would be interested in it. At the same time, and just as important, you can prevent it from being sent to contacts that wouldn’t be interested in it.

Through timing [right time] – With timing you can make sure your messages are appropriate for where the contact is in the buying cycle. At one time we had to guess at where a contact was on the basis of how long it had been since we first had contact but that was a crude, illogical approach. Now we are able to leverage behavioral data and react in real-time to how they are interacting with our marketing.

Through personalization [right message] – By altering a message based on information you have about a contact you can send customized email messages that reflect who they are and what they are interested in. The more you are able to personalize, the better (within reason — there is one very important caveat and suggestion I’ll get to later in the post).

In this post I’ll be focusing on how to use ActiveCampaign’s personalization features to tailor your message to individual contacts as much as possible. In future posts I’ll address segmentation and timing in depth.

 

Basic personalization…

When people think, “email personalization,” they often think of using a contact’s first name in the subject line or salutation.

At one time this was thought to make a contact think an email was meant specifically for them. That’s probably less true as consumers become much more aware of the techniques used in online and email marketing. Love it or hate it this kind of personalization is proven to increase engagement.

Personalization tags

We offer over 35 personalization tags out of the box. You can use these tags to display information about the contact and to insert social media links. These tags use the format: %FIRSTNAME%.

Clicking the “Personalize” button in the email builder which will bring up a modal window that makes it easy to find and insert these fields:

Customizing and targeting your email campaigns

If you’d like to change the capitalization of the information these tags display, there are a variety of modifiers you can attach. For example, to capitalize the first name of a contact, you would include a modifier like this: %FIRSTNAME|UPPERFIRST%

Custom fields and personalization tags

ActiveCampaign also let’s you create tags that display information from custom fields you’ve created so your personalization options are nearly limitless and you can collect whatever data would be useful to you.

To do this, go to the “Lists” page and click “Fields:”

Add tags to target subscribers

 

The caveat… there is a “right way” and a “wrong way”

Personalization can increase the effectiveness of your marketing but be careful — you can easily freak people out.

If a contact worries you might be keeping track of how many children they have and what TV shows they like to watch on Friday nights, you’ve gone too far and your attempts to personalize may backfire on you as privacy concerns undermine the relationship.

To prevent this… use personalization to tailor the message in subtle ways rather than insert personal information you have about them into the message. In other words, use the personalization to change what you tell them about yourself, your company, and your products so it is more interesting and relevant to them rather than to point out things you know about them like their demographics, interests, page view history, etc.

Here is an example to make this distinction more clear…

You might have data on your contact’s product interests. The right way to use that information would be to give them helpful content that is inline with their interests. The wrong way would be to say, “Hey %FIRSTNAME%, I know you are interested in ________ because you clicked a link in my last email so…”

The former is subtle and useful, the latter is creepy and unnecessary. If you use email personalization right, the contact might not even realize you are doing it. [tweet this]

Using personalization tags to dynamically insert information is pretty straightforward — if it’s helpful to a contact to give them information, then do it. For instance, if you are trying to increase engagement on a discussion forum it might be helpful to remind your contact of their login information while giving them a digest of recent activity.

But that’s just the beginning of what you can do with personalization and it’s not what “good” personalization is about…

 

Advanced personalization

ActiveCampaign has a powerful personalization feature called “Conditional Content.” Using it, you could show or hide content per contact, display different information to different contacts, and more depending on what data you’ve collected about them. Page views (using our site tracking feature), tags, past purchases, and pretty much any field attached to their contact record can be used to dynamically modify the content of your emails.

When you send an email to announce a sale you could mention that the sale applies to, and then display product images from, the same category of product they have viewed or purchased in the past on the assumption that is where their interest lies. You could also exclude products they’ve already purchased if a repeat purchase is unlikely.

Send a different message on the basis of what stage of the customer lifecycle a contact is tagged with. If they are in a later stage you could give them a more aggressive call to action related to purchasing. If they are still in an interest stage you may want to direct them to where they can find more information that helps move them to a later stage.

Send out an email when a contact visits the faq/help/support docs of your website. If they are tagged as a customer you could ask if they’d like to book a consultation with customer support to overcome their difficulty. If they are a prospect you could ask them if they’d like to book a consultation with sales to get their questions answered.

The foundation of a good sender-receiver relationship is them knowing they willingly opted in to receive your marketing. If a contact wonders how you got their information it is going to be difficult for them to trust you. Remind a contact exactly how they ended up on your list so that they never question how you got their email address. “You downloaded a free report from our blog, Best Blog Ever, called, “A free report everyone will love” on May 5th, 2014” will work much better than “you filled out a form on our website” (which isn’t likely to jog anyone’s memory).

Repurpose emails to trim down the email messages you require. You could have a single email template serve multiple purposes. For instance, you could have a “thank you” email that uses conditional content to switch out what you are thanking them for — it could be a purchase, a referral, a comment on your blog, a social media share, etc.

Keep your blog subscribers engaged and interested by filtering and delivering only the content they would be most interested in. Many people are hesitant to subscribe to a blog by email because a lot of the time they are only interested in a few categories of posts. Send articles to your subscribers that are on topics they have indicated interest in in the past (based on what they have viewed in the past using our site tracking feature).

Conditional content

Conditional content uses “If this, then that” logic. “If your contact has this [tag, name, location, email, web page visit, social network profile, etc] then display that…”

If your contact is male, then display images of men’s products.

If your contact if over 65, then remind them of your senior citizen’s discount.

If your contact is on LinkedIN, invite them to connect.

This feature is important because, no matter what your business, it’s unlikely that everyone is interested in and motivated by the same things. With conditional content you can customize the content to tailor the message to the person, on the fly, with a single email message.

For instance, with ActiveCampaign’s marketing — we have three core competencies: email marketing, marketing automation, and sales CRM automation. We have contacts who vary in their attraction to each of those core competencies so we should focus our message accordingly.

Rather than sending everyone the same message, we could use conditional content to speak their language, address their likely concerns, and mention the benefits they are interested in, based on what we know about who they are and what they want.

With it we can say, “If someone is in a marketing position at a c-level organization, let’s present the benefits of our marketing automation in such a way that they recognize the value in it from their point of view. If they are are a solopreneur, let’s present the benefits slightly differently.”

To create a condition, select some aspect of your message and then click the “gear” icon. From the menu that appears select “Manage conditions:”

Message variables

This feature allows you to create tags that contain text, images, personalization tags, and conditional content. To access it, go the “Campaigns” page and select the down button next to “Templates.” You’ll see “Message Variables” as the first option:

As you can see the input area is huge so these tags can contain massive amounts of information.

You can use message variables to house complex conditional content that you find yourself using often. I have some pretty complex conditional content code I use to display the name of a product a customer purchased based on how they are tagged. As I add products this logic becomes longer and more unwieldy.

By putting that code into a message variable I could use it with one clean %product-purchased% tag rather than 10 lines of “if this, then that” each time I use it.

If you have any questions about targeting, personalization, or conditional content, please feel free to ask in the comments section.

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