As we prepare for our participation in the Greater Philadelphia Culture Alliance’s Annual Meeting, the focus of this year’s meeting — relevance — got us thinking.
In pondering how organizations are maintaining relevance with their messaging, I really dug in and thought about all of the ways that email, in particular, can be used as a tool to stay relevant. With topics related to specific target user behavior, including products purchased, products viewed, price, geographic info, weather conditions, LITERALLY ANYTHING, one of the key considerations becomes ‘who am I emailing, and what am I saying?’
For many small organizations, getting a single email out can feel like a huge accomplishment (and it is!). But simply sending an email to one list is not enough to ensure success. Email personalization and segmentation offers the ability to send emails to subscribers with content that is relevant to their interests/demographics/activities, and according to a VentureBeat Insights Survey, the personalization of email has led to 95% of digital marketers increasing their email open rates. So what does this look like in practice? We first need to understand what email personalization and segmentation are, respectively.
What Is Email Personalization?
At a high level, email personalization can be defined as using subscriber data to inform what messaging or content you send to them.
It is important to remember that personalization is no longer just about using dynamic content to include a subscriber’s name in a subject line or introduction. While that is one form of personalization, a more robust campaign includes content tailored to a very specific email segment (more on this later), and in practice it can look like sending an email reminder to a user who left an item in their shopping cart after leaving your site. There are a variety of ways to use the data that subscribers provide you, but the most important thing to remember is to use it to advise the content you send.
Personalization is not something that is used effectively in one campaign and discarded, only to return again in 6 months. It is a strategy that should advise what information you’re collecting and how you use it to craft campaigns. Email segmentation provides a structure for campaign managers to segment and organize email subscribers so that these personalized campaigns hit the right subscribers at the right time.
What Is Email Segmentation?
Email segmentation is the division of email subscribers into segments based on similarities in data. For further context, the absence of email segmentation means that there is just one list that contains all email subscribers. An easy way to start segmenting lists is to separate active from inactive subscribers, which most email clients (such as MailChimp) are able to provide in their reporting.
Simple ways to start segmenting lists include adding fields to a signup form to gather more information, tracking subscriber behavior and activity, and grouping subscribers via demographic info. It is important to remember to respect the lists that are created by segmentation, as sending relevant content helps establish trust with subscribers. Once an email promotes the wrong thing to the wrong subscriber, it is a breach of that trust that can quickly lead to ‘list shrinkage,’ or a wave of subscribers quickly becoming unsubscribers.
This is a very high overview and introduction into these practices, and in subsequent blog posts, I’ll be providing some examples (both good and bad…very bad) of personalization and segmentation that I’ve received personally and will break down where they succeed or fail. A big takeaway to keep in mind when starting with personalization and segmentation is to always be testing. Nobody knows your subscribers or organization as well as you do, and finding out what does or doesn’t work in regard to list segmentation or personalization isn’t an exact science. So long as subscriber data and information are being used to guide your decision-making, your subscribers will find value in your relevance.