Email Personalization is About So Much More Than Your [First_Name]

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For the vast majority of marketers, email personalization is as simple as inserting a [first_name] tag into any form of communication.

Automation software has made it easy.

Want to reference a contact’s location? Job title? Company name? It can all be done through a click and selection from a drop down menu.

Marketers have become obsessed with personalizing everything due to the ease in which automation software can pull demographic data. And that’s just it; this isn’t personalization, it’s demographics.

Personalization is about so much more than a [first_name]. It’s about understanding what drives a person’s decision making process, where they are in that process, and placing all of it within the context of their specific challenges.

In other words, email personalization is hard work. It’s not an add-on, but rather requires an obsessive understanding of each segment of your audience. It requires time, and in full transparency, is nothing that can be mastered in some average “Ultimate How To…” blog post.

Instead, I’ve used two examples right from mine and a coworkers own inbox to provide some real world context to the conversation.

For a deeper dive into crafting highly-targeted emails, be sure to check out the webinar recap on personalization and relevancy featuring Skip Fidura from dotmailer!

Now let’s get to it.

Do ‘em a favor

Famed ad man David Ogilvy always said the best products did one of three things: made something faster, easier, or cheaper.

(If yours does all three, there’s a really good chance you’re reading this from a yacht and consider space travel an aspirational hobby.)

What Ogilvy spent his entire life doing, however, was helping brands communicate these three things. When done right, an advertisement feels less intrusive and more like a personal note from a friend.

“Hey, you need to check this out. This will help your problem.”

This is how I feel every time I open an email from Dollar Shave Club. Like many others, I joined Dollar Shave Club not necessarily for the price— it’s not actually a dollar for razors—but for the convenience. One less thing to remember at the grocery, am I right?

Dollar Shave Club knows this. They know they’re doing me a favor, not in price, but in the ease of transaction. They’ve made buying razors both faster and easier for me. And they don’t stop there.

Take a look at this email that I received before my second box shipped:

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 2.10.39 PM

Notice how the focus isn’t on cost savings, but rather on the convenience?

“Hey, before we go and ship this box, want us to save you a trip to the store? Whaddya need? Shaving cream? Hair gel?”

(For the record, I tossed in the $8 bottle of shave butter.)

Dollar Shave Club knows why people subscribe and uses this knowledge as a method for upselling product. And it works.

No use of [first_name] needed.

Use the data

People tend to feel a little gross when they talk and think about the way brands use our data, but when used tastefully, it’s not only a powerful personalization tactic, it’s also radically helpful.

Take this email from my colleague Justine Jordan’s inbox as an example. Karma is a device that enables people to take their wifi connection with them wherever they go. Justine has one, and while on the go one day getting work done, she got the following email:

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 1.23.08 PM

Her reaction was one of surprise, not at the email itself, but that the device needed charging at all. She felt immediately compelled to find a charging station so she could continue working.
This is when big data gets it right.

This one happens to use [first_name], but it really doesn’t need to.

Email personalization: Where everybody knows your [first_name]

Everyone knows your [first_name]. Consider these table stakes in digital marketing. It’s less about demographics, and more about behavior.

What assumptions can you make about your audience right now? How can you leverage data in a way that inspires action?

Be sure to check out the webinar recap for more real world applications for sending highly-targeted, personalized emails.

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