Personalizing your e-mail efforts

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Personalization means more than simply adding a person’s name to the top of an e-mail message. In fact, according a report released by the Aberdeen Group in June, titled “E-mail Marketing: Get Personal With Your Customers” (, companies that engaged in more advanced personalization strategies are more likely to see a higher return on that investment. Ian Michiels, a senior research analyst in the digital marketing department of the Boston-based research firm and author of the report, said customers are beginning to expect a higher level of relevancy in the e-mails they receive.

“Even the definition of spam is changing,” Michiels said. “People who opt in to be contacted by a company are beginning to consider a message spam if it’s not relevant to them.”

To take personalization to the next level and make e-mails more relevant, Michiels offered the following tips for marketing managers:

1. Make someone accountable for database accuracy. Top-performing organizations have an individual on staff who is personally accountable for the accuracy of the company’s e-mail database, Michiels said. That person will pay close attention to verifying information in the database and will work hard to make it as robust as possible. “Someone is there to watch the database and make sure information doesn’t just fall into a black hole,” he said.

2. Employ database verification and segmentation. Consider subscribing to a data append service, which can verify information a company has gathered about an individual and add missing information to the profile, Michiels said. These services can also provide additional psychographic data about people in the database, such as political and sports preferences.

“You may get lifestyle information you weren’t looking for, but that extra data can help marketing managers segment their database population and send out more focused e-mails,” he said.

3. Use Web analytics to track behavioral data and improve personalization. Track and monitor how individuals in the database move around on your company’s Web site, Michiels advised. Such analytics tell marketing managers whether e-mail recipients clicked on previous e-mail campaigns and what actions they pursued, if any. Such applications will score, prioritize and weight the different activities so managers can have meaningful data to make better decisions about who to put on the list for future e-mail blasts, he said.

4. Understand the buying cycle. Take information from the Web analytics efforts and figure out where individuals are in the buying cycle, Michiels said. The next message a company sends to people on the e-mail list should help them progress to the next step so they ultimately make a purchase, he said. For example, someone who has done lots of research on a product might act on an e-mail with a discount offer to purchase, he said.

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