Article first published September 2017, updated July 2019
It’s no secret that marketers seek ways to send personalized messages to subscribers. After all, personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates, making marketers keen to use the strategy.
But is it possible to be a little too good at personalizing your marketing messages? At some point, do the messages begin to feel creepy, weird, and like a brand knows a little too much?
In today’s digital ecosystem, marketers are personalizing their messages in more sophisticated ways to ensure that what they deliver is relevant, valuable, and far from creepy. In this post, we’ll take a deeper look at delivering personalization that compels not repels.
Marketers focus on relevancy
Consumers demand personalized experiences these days. Industry trends show customers want emails that offer recommendations based on past purchases, as well as access to exclusive deals based on loyalty status.
Consumers do respond to personalized emails, but some big brand marketers are taking issue with the word “personalization.” It conjures up images of a robot that tracks our every move, then “blasts” our inboxes. But nothing could be further from the truth with personalization that is done well.
Because of this, some marketers are now replacing the term “personalization” with “relevant content.” A great example of relevant content is this email from Guess.
For example, the email below would only be relevant to people with children.
It might seem like marketers are getting hung up on a word, but they’re trying to take the robot, “we’re-spying-on-you” feel out of personalization and focus more on creating relevant messages that feel more human. As brands navigate the journey from 1:many to 1:1 messaging, they need to do it in a strategic and thoughtful way in order to make it successful.
That’s not to say brands will shy away from collecting and using data to power personalization and relevant content. Instead, they’ll try to be more selective about how they use it.
How to create content that’s relevant
As you work to create and improve your email marketing strategy, you’ll want to figure out how to personalize your messages in a way that feels relevant rather than creepy.
Here are a few ways to reach subscribers with relevant content that doesn’t cross over to the dark side:
Check your email frequency
Email frequency can make or break a subscriber’s perception of a brand. If your brand sends too many emails, subscribers can feel like you are violating their boundaries and retreat away from you.
To cope with this, figure out the right frequency for your subscribers, keeping in mind that one frequency won’t fit all. Different segments will likely want different amounts of emails, so you’ll have to test your email frequency to land on the perfect number of emails per month.
If you aren’t sure where to start, Campaign Monitor research suggests that sending an email every two weeks gets high response rates without burning subscribers out. Use this as a starting point and test your frequency as you make adjustments. And. always deliver what you promised when subscribers signed up to hear from your company. If you change it, communicate it to subscribers and let them choose if they still want to hear from you at that frequency.
Use dynamic content
Dynamic content gives brands the power to change pieces of an email campaign depending on the subscriber.
For example, if you’re having a holiday sale and want to feature different products in an email, you can use dynamic content to send emails that highlight relevant products to each subscriber group.
You’ll create an email that advertises the sale, but the product images change based on the subscriber. For example, men might see men’s’ clothing, while women would see women’s. That’s the dynamic content.
Build landing pages specifically for email campaigns
To create the ultimate relevant experience, connect your email messages to specific landing pages created for that purpose.
When a subscriber clicks on a link in an email, they’re taken to a separate page– a landing page– which has the same look, copy, and CTA.
The point of the landing page is to provide a consistent, relevant experience. The landing page shows that you didn’t just blast an email into inboxes– it has more thought behind it and provides a fluid way for subscribers to go from thinking about a product to paying for it.
Here’s an example from La Mer. The company sends an email that focuses on products for brides and directs interested subscribers to a landing page that provides testimonials about each product and a way to buy.
Create email courses tailored to subscribers’ interests
A growing number of brands are finding success by creating email courses that offer subscribers a relevant and educational experience.
Rather than sending overly personalized messages based on data collected, a course encourages subscribers select courses that feel particularly relevant to them. This makes the subscriber feel as though they’re in the driver’s seat. For example:
- A nutrition site could create a 5-day course on eating healthy. Each day the subscriber gets a meal plan emailed to them with links to helpful blog articles.
- A photography company could offer a three-email series that gives amateur photographers tips to take better portraits with homework assignments to complete each day.
Apartment Therapy, an online resource for urban apartment dwellers, offered baking classes that are geared toward small living.
Here’s a look at one of the classes:
This kind of email course typically results in a high engagement rate. The email course not only gives subscribers something of value, but it also gives brands new insight as subscribers interact with specific content with further opportunities to personalize the customer experience as they go.
Humanize transactional emails
After a purchase, brands typically send a transactional email, which serves as a confirmation or receipt. Since the message is sent only after a customer takes an action like making a purchase or booking a flight, these emails are highly relevant to the subscriber. Even so, they typically have a robotic feel.
To take the machine-created feel out of transactional emails, consider trying some of these small changes:
- Create a tailored headline that references the customer’s action.
- Include a quick thank you note from the CEO as part of the email.
- Give subscribers a way to reach an actual human for follow-up questions.
- Offer exciting, compelling images within the email to show off the brand or related products and services.
For example, Talbots, a women’s clothing retailer, sent a thank you email after a customer made a purchase in-store. It’s a nice way to follow-up with a customer and provides a human touch via a digital channel.
Review your customer service process
As customers interact with your brand and product, they’re likely to have questions. Make sure customers have a way to reach a real human for help.
Offering troubleshooting guides and knowledge bases is essential, but there should also be a simple way for customers to talk about a question or a concern with an actual person. The process should be smooth, without jumping through a million menus or being bounced from one person to the next.
It’s always a good idea to audit your customer service process to make sure it’s providing the right level of relevant assistance. When you’re sending support emails, make sure you give subscribers a list of ways to get in touch.
How to design hyper-personalized content that pushes the right buttons
Now that you’ve laid the foundation for your personalized email marketing campaign, let’s take a look at some of the key factors in creating personalized content that will move your customers to take action. Remember, your customers don’t respond to generic content.
They respond to content that has been deliberately tailored for them.
1. Understand your company’s sales funnel
That may sound like something odd to say, but you need to understand your company’s sales funnel – from your customer’s point of view.
As much as you may feel like you’ve got the best sales funnel on the planet from a strategist’s viewpoint, it won’t serve you well if it doesn’t improve the customer journey. In order to fully understand your sales funnel, put yourself in your customer’s shoes and travel down it yourself. Or better yet, take a group of beta testers down the funnel and get their feedback on how each stage feels.
Use this to improve your funnel until it provides a seamless journey from start to finish.
Understanding each stage of the funnel from a customer’s point of view will help you to create content that is super relevant for each stage of the customer journey. It will also help you come up with optimized and personalized content delivery systems.
2. Understand your customers’ pain points
Another key to creating content that evokes the right reaction is to take the time to understand not only the problem your customers face but the emotions the problem and the solution elicit from them as well.
Understanding your customer’s pain points helps you empathize with them and also helps you design a content personalization strategy. The result is your customers will stop seeing you as a brand that’s just after their hard earned money but as a caring friend.
And that’s what fosters brand loyalty.
For audiophiles who live an active outdoor life, one major pain point is having a good set of earphones that don’t fall out of the ear during rigorous activity. Jaybird addressed this paint point by creating a reliable product.
To get people to buy into it, they created a personalized email campaign with hyper-targeted content.
Once you’ve got these two factors embedded in your marketing DNA, you are then able to anticipate exactly what your customers need. That is the key to sending targeted content that gets consumed and elicits readers to take action.
As brands rely more and more on data to tailor messages to customers, it’s important not to lose sight of the human being at the other end of your messages. Subscribers want relevant content that’s of interest, but every brand has to make that happen without going too far. The tips above should put brands on the right path to relevant– not creepy– email content.
For more in-depth tips on giving your customers personalized content that drives sales, you can check out our guide on creating customer journeys that are enjoyable.