Inauthentic Email Marketing Personalization

ID-100234288 (1)A lot of aspects of email marketing get lumped into good and bad categories.  One such aspect is personalization.  The more personalized the better.  In some ways that is true.  If you can cater content to a particular audience to ensure relevancy then personalization is good.  However many trainers, consultants, and professional coaches don’t have an infrastructure or list size to make segmentation   practical.  So instead they “personalize” by adding a form field name to the top of a newsletter or offer email.  This is inauthentic personalization where the communication is meant for a group but contains superficial personalized elements.

Personalized email means its set up for a particular person or audience.  Trying to make general communication personalized is often a transparent effort that has no measurable effect on metrics. We recently ran a test on a client’s stock newsletter that had always included a first name.  There was no measurable difference when we tested a version with a name vs. a version without.  The audience understood that they were receiving a company communication not intended as a personal message, therefore the added name was just superficial.

Adding a name to something like a newsletter usually does not do any harm but it’s also not creating a personal connection.  Generally people can identify when they see a form field in an email.  Real problems arise when trainers, consultants, and professional coaches attempt personal messages delivered in a mass communication method.

Recently a client asked about doing an email campaign to local business owners. The campaign included a report specific to their geographic target.  Furthermore they had generated a list of business owners of the applicable size and industry verticals.  Seems like the perfect setup for a true personalized email right?

The issue was that they wanted the emails to come from individual consultants in their office as if the consultant had typed it.  The reason for this is that each consultant was to be assigned a particular business owner to call and offer a customized analysis of how the report related to their business. The plan was to run the emails through an email marketing platform.

The emails from an email marketing platform have to include SPAM compliance information and opt-out instructions.  That’s non-negotiable so it served as a clear give away that the consultant had not actually written an email to the business owner but rather done a group blast.

Instead of doing an inauthentic personalized send we restructured the email to send from the companies actual email addresses.  Furthermore, the groups were broken down into smaller sections that allowed for very specific customization by demographics.  The result was that it was more time consuming to get the emails out but responses were better as the emails were actually personalized.

Inauthentic personalization might make you feel like the email is “better” but often has no real impact. If personalization is desired then an effort need made to actually personalize it.

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Is Your Marketing Problem . . . a Marketing Problem?

Marketing is often a “fun” business topic.  It’s surrounded by new opportunities and getting a company’s name into the market.  Sometimes trainers, consultants, and professional coaches let that zeal taint how they perceive business issues.  Their desire to work on marketing makes all problems look like marketing problems.

In discussing calls to action with a business owner, he told me how much he enjoyed marketing.  As we talked through a few points he interrupted me when I mentioned events, “We’ve tried events and they are just a pain.  People sign up but then don’t show up.”  We briefly discussed some confirmation messages and reminder initiatives to improve attendance for those that signed up.  We continued the conversation and when I mentioned whitepapers and reports he complained, “Those things are a waste of time.  Sure people download them but they aren’t real leads.  We’ve never had anyone interested when our sales team called.” We then discussed transition strategies to the sales team.

Curious I asked, “Sounds like you have a marketing system down pat, what’s your best call to action.”  He smiled and said, “Our radio ads are great.  I do them myself and love hearing them on the radio.” So I asked, “Sounds good, and it generates a lot of leads?”  He responded, “Yes, we get some calls in from it. Not a whole lot but I think the most powerful aspect is people recognize our name when my sales people meet with them.”

I was confused because all of the web marketing calls to action were criticized for not generating solid leads.  However, radio was lauded for providing very few measurable leads.  Nothing against radio, it can be a powerful medium, but it seemed like he liked it because it served as a name recognition crutch for the sales team rather than a marketing tool.

My lesson learned was that the business owner liked talking about marketing.  So much so that other business problems were assigned to marketing. Attendee confirmation and reminders was a problem with his administrative process.  Sure, it used some common tools and competencies with marketing like email reminder content and layout but the actual process was not a core marketing task. In discussing downloads, the business owner claimed to have had over 500 leads from downloads but not one of those people were interested?  While marketing could help the process by offering a promotional deal or call to action after the report was downloaded, there is a strong indication that the sales team might have a deficiency in approach calls to prospects.

Are you working on the right end of the problem?  If marketing is presenting a professional message, building an audience, and generating leads then it’s meeting its primary goals.  Any related problems might be affected or helped by marketing efforts but will not be solved with them.


Focus on the Marketing Elements That Convert

ID-100186396I was part of a strategizing meeting for a new online marketing initiative years ago.  The owner of the company who was looking to start the new campaign interrupted the project manager on seeing a sample landing page layout and said “I’m not sure about that shade of blue in the background.”  The blue in question was pulled from their logo but the designer on hand asked what kind of blue the owner had in mind. “Crisper,” the owner said.  A half hour conversation ensued about what type of blue would be “crisper”.

My reason for being at the meeting was to nail down the ideal audience and agree on an email schedule.  At the end of the hour meeting, the designer had a long description of what blue might work but none of the high level topics had been addressed.

I’m not trying to downplay the importance of a professional design, it makes a difference.  But once “professional” looking is achieved, small tweaks will make little or no difference.  Instead it becomes a conversation with no clear purpose or correct answer.

That campaign never launched because none of the critical elements were covered.  Instead small design and branding issues were debated.  So it ended up being a complete waste of time and money.

Most consultants, trainers, and professional coaches don’t have a lot of spare time to dedicate to online marketing.  So when time is set aside to strategize a campaign, make sure to focus on marketing elements that convert. Things like design can often side track critical elements because it’s more fun to talk about personal preferences.  Unless something is glaringly wrong with a layout or design couch it until high level strategy is set. Then make specific changes.

So what are important elements?  A few examples that will critically affect online marketing is:

  • Identifying target audience
  • Calls to Action
  • Communication channels
  • Communication schedule

If any of these items are missing or out of sync, it’s likely to sink the entire campaign.  If you find that you’ve covered all of the critical items, feel free to debate finer details, but never before.


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