3 Advanced Email Personalization Tactics You Can Use Today

by George Mathew

Last updated on August 21st, 2017

Marketers and business owners seem to be well aware of the opportunity that personalization presents.

According to a survey conducted by Forrester (with 100 B2C marketers participating), more than 94% of respondents said personalization plays an important role in helping them meet short-term goals and 97% say it is important for long-term objectives.

That being said, most personalization is limited to using first or last names—and the story ends there.

Today I am going to present you with three ways to take email personalization to another level—and improve your conversions while you’re at it.

1. Build a customer persona

You must have heard the theory that you need to get into your customer’s shoes in order to sell something to them. Buyer/customer personas help us achieve exactly that.

Data from Hubspot reveals that sending emails by persona increases CTR by 16%. Here are 7 ways to boost conversions with personalization.

targeting emails by persona increases email clickthrough rates by 16 percent 2

According to Tony Zambito:

“Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions.”

It’d look something like this:

the buyer persona

Image Source

A customer persona models your ideal customer. Since a buyer persona represents various segments of your audience, a business need not limit itself to one customer persona. Instead, creating three or four of them is recommended.

A good example would be GoodBye Crutches, which targets content to four buyer personas.

  • Andy the Athlete is an active 21-35 year old who has hurt himself as a result of a sports-related injury.
  • Gerry the Grandparent is 55-75 years old.
  • Mary the Motivated Mom is a 35-55 year old who worries about family and kids.
  • Woody the Working Dad is concerned about being able to get things done around the house despite an injury.

buyerpersonas goodbye crutches

Image Source

Utilizing customer personas can help you send emails that really connect with people. But you need to get involved with the process.

Here’s how the marketing team over at Pardot created buyer personas:

customer persona

“When we say we created buyer personas, we mean we actually created them. We’re talking life-sized versions of what we envision as our ideal buyers, complete with nametags, company profiles, post-it notes covered in buyer pain points, geography information, and more.”

And these life-sized models were placed where the marketing and sales team could see them every day, serving as reminders of who they are selling to.

The marketing team over at Pardot asked themselves these questions to create the models:

  • Their location?
  • What do they do? Do they work in marketing or sales?
  • Are they B2B or B2C?
  • What is their budget and how big are they as a company?
  • What other marketing and sales tools are they using?
  • What are their business goals?

Depending on your market, you can add more questions to this list.

Something similar was done over at MailChimp.

mailchimp customer persona

Image Source

How you can use this in your emails

Once you have your persona developed, it’s time to pull that information into your customer communications. Here are some examples from brands that do it right.

Collegis Education, a company working in the higher education space, achieved 7% conversion rates with persona-based emails.

For starters, they had six eBooks on higher education on their website in the following categories

  • Business
  • Education
  • Health care
  • Justice studies
  • Design
  • Technology

Once a user interested in college education downloads any of the eBooks, they become a soft lead and Collegis sent them an email with different pathway options.

The example below shows an email sent out to soft leads for Rasmussen College, one of their partners.

college1

Depending on the option selected, the user was sent a landing page specific to that option.

The landing page shown below was sent to users who selected that they knew which career they wanted to pursue. Note that users are sent landing pages and course information that’s relevant to the eBook they downloaded and the option they selected.

Here, for example, the landing page appears to be sent to someone who downloaded the Business eBook.

college2

Also, there’s an academic calendar and information about financial aid and credit transfer info.

The second landing page is for individuals who are still considering their options. See how personalized this is to the prospect’s interests?

college3

This page has a lot of information, including blog posts, debating the merits and demerits of a degree in the field prospects are interested in (e.g., “Should I get a business degree?”).

The third landing page was specifically designed for individuals who need much more guidance. As you can see, this landing page encourages the user to reach out and seek guidance from Collegis.

college4

The fourth landing page is sent to users who indicate they don’t need any further information. The purpose of this page is to gather more information on the prospect. That way, future emails will send appropriate information about courses this prospect might be interested in.

college5

Once Collegis knew exactly what their prospects wanted and tailored their emails to target those desires, they saw

  • A 28% average open rate
  • A 7% conversion rate

Now, have a look at Modcloth’s cart abandonment email. Behaviorally targeted transactional emails of this nature can send conversions through the roof.

modcloth email resized 600

Image Source

Although it isn’t evident in the image, the subject line of the email is “Eek—something you like is almost sold out!” The email’s body highlights a product the customer viewed online, adding a bit of urgency by announcing it’s almost out of stock.

In order to see if their targeting and personalization is on spot, I fired up Alexa and SimilarWeb. Alexa data shows that over 90% of the audience consists of female visitors.

alexa data

Data from SimilarWeb shows that most of the searches comprise people looking for something fashionably different—vintage clothes, ‘20s clothing, different wear, etc.

Modcloth.com Traffic Statistics by SimilarWeb

The tone of the message is in tune with what a primarily fashion-savvy female audience would love.

So how do you build customer personas?

The personas you build should be based on real customers, not idealized versions of them.

According to Tony Zambito, there are a couple things that you need to check for.

  1. Buyer personas should be based on qualitative research conducted directly with the buyers.

In the case of Mailchimp, customers were interviewed by telephone prior to creating customer personas. This included asking questions to understand what drives their behavior.

When doing something similar, you should also ensure that these questions make sense and provide you with data that you can actually use. Conducting a customer survey to find more about what drives their behavior provides a sneak peek into their mindset. Here are a few questions you can ask:

  • What problem does our product/service solve in your life?
  • Why did you sign up for the newsletter?
  • What features do you need?
  • What’s stopping you from buying?
  1. Buyer personas should be based on real people.

Consider giving them real names like Dan or Susan so you can easily relate to them. Have a look at the examples by MailChimp and Pardot where they used real names for their personas.

  1. Buyer personas should focus on the right attributes of buyers.

You need to know their demographics, psychographics and attitudes, as well as their wants and needs. If you do not do this, then a buyer persona would feel and look more like a resume.

  1. Buyer personas should help formulate key decisions related to your product.

Any changes or upgrades to your product should be run through the filter of how it will affect your customers. Use your personas to evaluate all ideas before moving forward on their development.

  1. Buyer personas shouldn’t be too complex.

Your personas are representations of the different segments of your customers. Keep them simple enough to cover the bases, detailed enough to help you target your marketing precisely.

  1. Buyer personas should be helpful in improving consumer interaction.

Personas should help all customer interactions—before, during and after the sale.

2.     Sending emails at the right time/location

One of the keys to email marketing is sending the right message to the right people at the right time.

Once you have your personas built, you need to focus on the right time for their location.

Think it doesn’t matter? Think again.

The Canadian Opera achieved a 67% open rate for its emails by timing them with pinpoint precision.

When someone purchased a seasonal ticket from their website, an email address was required for the person to complete the purchase. Then, during the intermission of the performance they attended, emails were sent to them offering a discount on the next opera.

Subscriber behavior (for example: number of clicks or the amount of opens) was measured, and another email was sent to the most highly engaged subscribers.

The winning subject line: Loved Bohème? Save up to 44% (Winner)

opera

This campaign was followed up with a telemarketing call. Over half the subscribers who took these calls ended up purchasing another ticket, and email response rates went up from 10% to 67%.

Another example comes from BustedTees, who, despite the location of the subscribers, sent emails to all of them at the same time.

To make emails more relevant, they decided to conduct an experiment and send personalized emails based on the subscriber’s time zone. To learn the most suitable time to send mails, they pored over past open times.

Results?

  • 8% lift in email revenue overnight from personalized send time
  • 17% increase in total email response rate
  • 11% higher clickthrough rate
  • 7.6% increase in post-click site engagement

Most marketers would take the shortcut and never bother to look into data to determine optimal sending times. BustedTees went the extra mile. Here’s the case study.

3.     Provide more choices to your customers.

Experian’s 2013 Email Marketing Report states that over 60% of marketers do not present a choice to customers when it comes to the number of emails or the type of emails they want to receive.

experian study

Image

But people respond well to choice. It may be as simple as offering a choice of a daily or weekly update, as we do here on Crazy Egg. But you could also offer a choice of plain text or html or what topics or product categories they’re most interested in.

You should also make your emails responsive so they display well on mobiles, tablets and desktops. Today’s consumers expect to be able to read your emails on any device—and often unsubscribe from brands that don’t use a responsive template.

Concluding thoughts

Personalization goes way beyond adding the subscriber’s name to the subject line. As you can see, your entire brand experience can be personalized, and it can be applied not only to email design but also to on-site experience and checkout to get the most out of your traffic.

Take time to get personalization right. You’ll see the payoff in higher conversion rates.

How has your experience been when personalizing emails? Were you able to achieve more conversions? Let us know in the comments below.

See other Crazy Egg articles by George Mathew.

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George Mathew

George has marketed million dollar startups with his skills and has contributed to ace Conversion Optimization blogs like ConversionXL. You can hire him for your content marketing needs.

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  1. Thomas Garcia says:
    April 20, 2015 at 6:56 am

    I have attempted inboxman since 2 months and I am truly content with their deliverability, the cost is additionally extremely focused contrast with my past esp I reached.

    • Kathryn Aragon says:
      April 20, 2015 at 9:16 am

      Good to know. Thanks, Thomas.

  2. Alicia says:
    March 25, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    So refershing to see information like this “Personalization goes way beyond adding the subscriber’s name to the subject line” Great article George.

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