The 5-Step Guide to Email Marketing Personalization

by Irek Klimczak last updated on

Personalization goes far beyond a custom name field. Personalization means relevance and that’s why it lies at the heart of effective marketing communication. In today’s article I’ll show you how to use marketing automation in order to send the right emails to the right people at the right time.

The shocking truth about the state of email marketing personalization

According to the State of Email Marketing by Industry report:

  • 58% use personalization techniques
  • 4% of marketers use layered targeting, incorporating informed and behavioral data to send relevant, personalized email messages to their audiences.
  • 42% of marketers don’t segment and send the same message to all of their database

It’s bad news for the subscriber – there’s almost a 50/50 chance that the subscription program they sign up for isn’t designed to meet their preferences.

On the other hand, if you’re a marketer, this data shows you the way to keep ahead of your competition. There’s no time lose, so start personalizing!

I’ve prepared the following 5-step guide to email marketing personalization to show you how easy it is with marketing automation. You can use conditions, actions, and filters in order to collect valuable information about your subscribers and run highly targeted email marketing communication. Here’s how you can achieve relevance:

1. Establish business goals and target audience needs.

A personalized email marketing program delivers value to subscribers and revenue to the business. That’s why you should set clear business goals and thoroughly research your subscribers’ needs first.

Business goals usually boil down to increasing revenue and reducing costs – luckily, marketing automation can help you achieve both of these goals. You can easily track conversions, calculate the return on investment, and create a business case for more budget and resources.

As far as subscriber needs go, you can start with finding answers to the following question: what do my subscribers need in order to purchase my product or service? If you run a B2B business with a complex sales cycle the question might actually go like this: what do my subscribers need to know in order to make a decision to purchase my product or service?

If you want detailed insights into customer needs, you should develop buyer personas. According to the Buyer Persona Institute “(…) a buyer persona tells you what prospective customers are thinking and doing as they weigh their options to address a problem that your company resolves. Actionable buyer personas reveal insights about your buyers’ decisions and help you answer their information needs at individual stages of the customer journey.

2. Create marketing automation workflows.

The relationship between business goals and subscriber needs provides context for automation workflows. You will clearly see the overall purpose of a whole workflow as well as its individual elements: webforms, landing pages, surveys, and emails. The context will help you choose the right CTA and get rid of the nonessential (perhaps unnecessary?) elements of each resource.

email marketing personalization
An abandoned cart workflow has a well-defined purpose.

3. Segment your list.

Use the elements of your marketing automation cycle as a series of touch-points that allows you to find similarities and differences among your subscribers and segment your email list accordingly.

There are a lot of ways to segment a list. For example, you can segment by:

  • demographics (age, sex, geography)
  • customer lifecycle
  • customer value
  • activity
email marketing personalization
A simple marketing automation workflow welcoming new subscribers and rewarding subscribers who opened the email with scoring points.

And when you want to send relevant messages, you should use multiple segmentation techniques. To learn more about layered segmentation, read the following article on email segmentation and targeting options.

4. Turn data into actionable insights.

Check your statistics and go beyond the obvious. For example, instead of relying on open and click-through rates, analyze what makes people open and click the links in your emails. Is this information relevant to a particular segment? What type of content is most engaging? What is the optimal frequency for these subscribers?

email marketing personalization
An email with links to several pieces of content. By checking the statistics you can see works best among your subscribers and use it to segment your list by interest.

5. Analyze and optimize.

As you well know, one of the essential skills in marketing is the ability to adapt to change. Marketing channels, buying cycles, customer preferences – everything changes over time. And the pace of change is constantly increasing. That’s why you need to stay focused on customers and constantly optimize your efforts.

Analyze your marketing automation workflows and see if they effectively convert prospects into buyers. Ask yourself questions like: What data do I need in order to send relevant communication? What conclusions can I draw from these subscribers’ behavior?

Run A/B tests of complete workflows, sections, or single elements (webforms, landing pages, emails, etc.) in order to find new ways of increasing conversion. In the case of email marketing processes, the sum of incremental changes can result in a massive performance increase.

email marketing personalizationemail marketing personalization
This is how you can A/B test a preheader. What do you think, which leads to more opens?

Over to you

How do you personalize your email marketing? Would you add anything to the 5-step guide?

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