Flattery Will Get You Nowhere When it Comes to Email Personalization

By Leo Strupczewski

April 3, 2014

A couple of days ago, a colleague got an email that promoted an upcoming webinar. It started like this:Flattery

“Dear [So-and-so],

As an email marketing expert…”

That’s as far as my colleague read. Know why?

She’s not an email marketing expert. She’s a writer.

The attempt at personalization fell flat, because it spoke to how little the company knew about her and it was an inauthentic attempt at flattery. And that turned off my colleague.

As the trend toward email personalization continues to intensify, we should probably anoint this sentence as a best practice:

Don’t hide your lack of knowledge behind flattery.

Monetate has partnered with Econsultancy for the past two years to produce reports on personalization and real-time marketing. Together, we’ve surveyed more than 1,000 marketers, and, in both cases, have asked them about the type of data they have available to them for personalization efforts. The answers have included on-site behaviors, content viewed, demographics, personas, geography, traffic sources, time of day, and device/browser.

Turns out, marketers have tons of data at their disposal.

And to be fair, the company in the example above may have used some data to identify my colleague as someone who might be interested in the upcoming webinar. She could have downloaded an ebook on email marketing or read a case study related to the company’s email marketing product.

Here are three ways it could have used that data to create a better email:

1. Use “content viewed” data to make sure your message is received in context

If she had downloaded those assets, it would make sense to offer her a seat in an upcoming webinar. That’d be relevant to her and of potential value.

A better approach in that instance could have been starting the email as follows:

“Dear [So-and-so],

We didn’t expect our email marketing ebook to generate this much buzz. But it did, and now we’re inviting you to join the discussion at our webinar…”

This approach would let my colleague know that her interests are being considered by the company and that it’s being thoughtful about the opportunities it presents to her.

2. Use on-site behavioral data to prompt additional interest in a subject

What if my colleague had only visited a series of pages related to the company’s email marketing product?

It could have just as easily established a reason to attend the webinar by offering up an interesting data point that would be expounded upon.

This approach would have provided my colleague with an interesting nugget of information, which in some cases might be enough to prompt a registration on its own, or, if that wasn’t enough, it would have at least enhanced the company’s reputation as a credible source of information.

3. Use personas to speak to an audience-specific issue

If my colleague hadn’t given the company very much outside of a couple completed lead gen forms on disparate topics, it could have segmented her based on persona (had she provided her title or seniority level) and made sure the email resonated with her in that manner.

Really, with this approach, the email she received could have probably been edited to simply remove the “As an email marketing expert” lead.

In none of the scenarios, though, can I see how calling my colleague an “email marketing expert” would create any advantage. The company’s opportunity to win her attention and time boils down to how contextually relevant the content is to my colleague, the quality of that content and how well it is presented.

In this case, flattery will get you nowhere.

Leo Strupczewski is a former Content Marketing Manager for Monetate. A former journalist, Leo has helped media companies, professional services firms, and business-to-consumer brands identify stories that resonate with their target audiences and to integrate those stories into an organization’s business objectives. He is passionate about technology, but owns a typewriter.

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