Email marketing has undergone some fairly dramatic changes in the past 10 years, both from a strategic and technical standpoint.  Gone are the days of sending mass emails to your entire database which include generic product pushes, which are about as inspirational as the ‘one size fits all’ label on a piece of clothing.  One of the driving forces behind this change is that it  is now commonly accepted by marketeers that segmentation and personalisation of email campaigns are the ways to drive higher ROI, brand awareness and loyalty.

So how do we make sure every email we send is tailored to the personal needs of our customers?  We believe there are three things that have to be in place for this to be achieved:

  • Knowledge about your customers – Without understanding your customers, how do you expect to give them relevant content?  How do you determine what is relevant to them?

  • Data – How do you implement the right email strategy without the correct data in place?

  • A fantastic ESP (Email Service Provider) – that enables you to implement and successfully deliver a decent targeting strategy. (See Enabler’s functionality to see how it could do for you)

 

 

Knowledge About Your Customers

Your customer knowledge can come from your existing databases looking at the data that’s been gathered from previous customer activity (i.e. through forms, surveys or events), or it could be gathered from the customer’s email behaviour (opens, clicks, unsubscribes). However, even if you are starting from scratch, there are ways that you can build up a picture of your customers.

When it comes to using your customer knowledge to create effective email campaigns, we would highly recommend a personas led approach,  where you create profiles describing a particular group of your target audience based on their shared interests.  Grouping together these valuable pieces of customer information, such as challenges, goals, needs, pains and responsibilities, will help you create a ‘character profile’ which you can use to tailor your marketing so that you offer a personalised, valuable service. This information goes beyond normal demographic data and provides real insight into the customer’s life. If you want to enhance your understanding of your customers, check out one of Pancentric Digital’s Design Thinking workshops.

 

Data

Having the data that enables you to achieve your customer personalisation goals is imperative. For tips on how to acquire data click here. If you want more information on how best to retain your current customers try this one. However you decide to get your data in place, we’re going to assume you have done a great job of it, and skip ahead to the part everyone is waiting for….’How do I turn my data into relevant, personalised emails for my customers?’.

 

 

Dynamic Content

Dynamic or ‘Conditional’ Content allows you to use your customer data to create one email that displays different, unique content to each individual email recipient depending on their customer data. As the marketeer, you set pre-defined rules based on your customer data, so the customer only sees the email content that matches their data. Without this in place, you would have to create multiple emails with every possible content variation of based on your customer profile data (which is messy and time consuming) or just bulk email everyone with one message (which isn’t personalised and far less effective).

Sounds a bit abstract, right? So let’s look at a live example coming to us from the insurance industry. Full transparency here, the example we’re going to show you is an Enabler client, but they are using dynamic content in exactly the right way, so are the perfect example of how you should use dynamic content.  The company in question are Petplan, and we will take you through some examples of how they have used conditional dynamic  content successfully in their automated quote and buy email campaigns.

Below you will see an example of one of PetPlan’s emails with elements of the conditional code sitting within the template. From first glance, it looks like a fairly messy, basic template, however I’m going to show you just how clever this template really is.

– Email Template with Dynamic Conditional Content in Place –

Everywhere you see the phrase {conditional:xxx}, is a section of the email that will change based on the customer it is being sent to. This means, as soon as this email gets uploaded into Enabler, all those sections will look completely different and, most importantly, 100% personalised for each individual customer. Conditional elements can comprise of text copy, images, or a combination of the two.

Secondly, wherever you see {recipient_x_number}, that part of the email will also change to include a personal detail about the customer. This could be anything from their policy ID number to their name (or in PetPlan’s case, the pet’s name. )

Now let’s take a look at what that email would look like for a customer. (For the purposes of this, we have set created a fake customer within the Petplan system).

– Email Template with Customer Data Controlling the Dynamic Content –

As you can see, this looks like a totally different email. You will notice that images and copy have sprouted in all areas of the email, causing the look and feel of the email to change.

Let’s walk through the different elements which change based on the dynamic conditional content set up within the backend system of Enabler:

  • Images – the co-branding logo, pet image, roundel, and plan details all change based on customer information.

  • Alt text – the copy sitting behind each of those images will change based on the image itself, providing a fallback option if the customer has their images set to not display.

  • Lists – the ticks and bullet points in the two lower sections all change based on customer information.

  • Copy – there are too many instances of these to point each one out, but everything from the pets name, down to whether a sentence says ‘need’ or ‘needs’ changes based on customer information.

  • Terms and conditions – depending on the co-branding on the email, an extra paragraph will feature in the terms and conditions of the email. This will not be visible if co-branding is not in place.

  • Cover section – this whole section changes depending on which plan the customer has chosen. For this example, I have not chosen a plan, so I’m seeing all the options. However, let’s assume I had chosen the Covered For Life® 12k option, it would look more like this:

The best part about conditional content within Enabler is that you have a fallback option. This means if for some reason not all the data is held about the customer, (for example they are not sure which plan the customer has selected as in the example above) they will see a default view. This can be carefully chosen depending on what next step we want customer to take.

 

Benefits of Using Dynamic Content

Aside from the massive time saving benefits from an email deploying perspective, this style of email set-up will also save time in the future. Imagine having set up one template per customer variation. Not only would you be wasting time creating and testing all those emails, but when it came to updating them, you would also waste a lot of time. Even if you had one line of copy to change in each email, you may have to do it upwards of thirty times. In these conditional templates, you make the change once, and can then generate mass tests from the one template. Similarly, if you need to add something new to the emails, you are doing it once, rather than across a large number of templates.

Petplan are really at the forefront of creating dynamic templates, both from a strategic and build standpoint that put their customers first. From an agency standpoint, this is something we love to see, and the templates are also great fun (for an email nerd anyway) to put together.

However you choose to do your conditional content, make sure your data is in place, you have a great ESP solution in place, and you fully understand your customers before starting to build.

If you are interested in following in Petplan’s footsteps and bringing your email campaigns into the future but your current ESP doesn’t provide the necessary functionality, why not switch to Enabler.

As a marketer, one of your top priorities is likely to be drumming up leads to pass on to the sales team, and you may feel under a lot of pressure to bring do this in large quantities. So we completely understand that buying an email data list might seem like a quick win – access to thousands of new contacts at the click of a “pay now” button sounds like a no-brainer, especially when the lists are advertised as targeted, verified, accurate, and opted-in.

Unfortunately though, the reality is less assured. A purchased data list is very unlikely to provide you with high quality data that enables you to promote your business effectively, and can cause you a whole host of problems which will impact your ability to email legitimate leads in the future.

Here’s Six Reasons to Remember Why Buying Data Is Bad:

1. Quality Is Not Guaranteed

First and foremost, it’s pretty likely that a list you buy will be littered with old or incorrect email addresses, incomplete names, and other problems affecting the deliverability of your email.

2. Bad Delivery Rates = Bounces

The deliverability issues caused by these incorrect / old email addresses could cause your emails to have a very high bounce rate, which will in turn damage your sender reputation by potentially marking your IP address as that of a spammer, further impacting the deliverability of your emails. Read our blog post on spam filters to help avoid getting caught in this vicious circle.

3. Nobody Knows You

It’s likely that the contacts on your list have never heard of your company before, which immediately lowers the chances of them opening your email. You should be sending to people who are already interested in what you’re sending them, such as existing customers who have engaged with your brand and those who have specifically opted in to receive messages from you.

4. Less Engaged Recipients

recent analysis of a company’s email marketing activity found that business areas emailing to opt-in lists achieved open rates 82% higher than the areas emailing to purchased lists. That’s a significant difference! It’s basically not worth your time emailing people who are unlikely to engage; channel your energy into people who want to hear from you.

5. Shared List = Fed-Up Contacts

It may well be the case that other companies have bought the same list as you, meaning that the recipients are already annoyed by all the emails they’re receiving before yours has hit their inbox. You don’t want to join a crowd of ignored competitors.

6. You May Fall Foul Of The Law

Your communications need to be in line with the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (UK) or CAN-SPAM Act (USA), or you could face hefty fines. Unfortunately your email itself may follow the legislation to the letter, but if the email addresses were harvested illegally in the first place, you’ll still be breaking the law. Additionally, from 25th May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force, meaning that the way companies are allowed to store and process personal data will change. Here’s our GDPR guide to help you get to grips with the new regulations.

 

Okay, – so what should you do?

Now we’ve talked you out of buying a list, let’s discuss the six best ways to source your data instead…

1. Attract An Audience With Engaging Content

Produce content that you know people are going to want to read, and make sure that when it goes live it’s been optimised for SEO so that your audience can easily find it (get in touch if you’d like help with this) . The content itself may be blog articles, white papers, a series of top tips, opinion/advice pieces, reviews, templates, or anything else you think would be engaging.

2. Include a Gated Asset

If it’s not enough for people to be reading your content and hopefully contacting you as a result, you can set up a data capture / sign up form that people have to complete before they can view your content. This gives your content a feeling of exclusivity, and also allows you to grow your leads

3. Create a Lead Magnet

Following on from the above, you could also create a lead magnet – this means an irresistible incentive for the customer to give you their contact information, and often comes in the form of a discount code.

4. Use a Reputable Email Service Provider

Doing so will help to protect your sender reputation, and ensure that you’re adhering to spam legislation by providing the tools needed to offer an unsubscribe and process it within 10 days. An email service provider like Enabler is also able to offer comprehensive reporting and testing facilities, allowing you to optimise your emails, and keeps your database up-to-date by logging unsubscribes and bounces and removing them automatically from your mailing lists.

5. Encourage Sign-Ups

Include a sign-up box on every page of your website to offer people maximum opportunity to subscribe to your emails. Keep it simple and quick to complete – all you really need is an email address, but if you must you can also include fields for first and last name.

6. Cross-Channel Promotion

Make the most of your other marketing channels, such as social media and your website, to promote the content of your emails and why people should sign up for them. For example, if you were soon to send an email featuring “Five top tips for x!” you could tweet something along the lines of “Sign up to our emails to discover five top tips for x!” ahead of time.

 

Most of these techniques are targeted towards acquiring new leads, but remember that it’s also super important to retain your existing customers. Firstly (and obviously) your existing customers are likely to repurchase if you look after them, and may also create new customers for you through word-of-mouth and recommendation. You could tap into this by rolling out a refer-a-friend campaign, with a form to capture friends’ details and offer incentives to both your customer and their buddies. There are loads of other ways to build your email lists explored in our Email List Building blog post.

Hopefully you can see that it simply isn’t a worthwhile investment to buy a data list for your emails. There are too many pitfalls and too few chances of success. Instead you should focus on growing your database organically, and maintaining a positive sender reputation. If you’d like help in your email endeavours, give our Enabler team a call on 0207 099 6370, or drop an email to enablermail@pancentric.com.