Personalized Triggers in Email Marketing

Our last post covered how simple personalization can register as SPAM to recipients. Should personalization be abandoned all together even though it is often cited as a major boost to email marketing success?  Obviously not, but the focus of the personalization needs to be selective and identifiable.  Setting up email marketing campaigns by triggered activities rather than general information or demographic data registers as a one-to-one communication which is more impactful to the recipient because it’s clear why they are receiving the email.

Triggered emails are often used in ecommerce.  For instance, if you buy something at an online store, you’ll get sale offers for similar items a few days or weeks later.  Another example is if you fill a cart and then abandon it.  That often triggers an email asking if you need assistance or highlighting coupons for something that was in the cart.

Trainers, consultants, and professional coaches can lift these same concepts for calls-to-action (and that’s often a valuable tool for improving lead conversion) but recipients are savvy enough that most will not register it as a personal one-to-one communication.

For B-to-B email marketing campaigns it’s best to take the concept but modify for individual actions.

Here’s an example. Suppose a group of consultants regularly attend events with trade associations.  At those events they offer a specific report that is pertinent to that particular trade and collect contact information for those that want to receive it. Those two pieces of information can be used to trigger an email.

The email campaign can be sent to the contacts with a short message like,

<First Name>,

I met you at the ________ event.  The _____________ report we discussed is available here.  After you read it, would it make sense to set time aside to discuss any of the common challenges that you might be struggling with?


<Consultant Name>

This is not a terribly complex set of data to work with.  There’s four variables to set into a campaign: the person’s name, the event they attended, the report that they would have been introduced to with a link, and the consultant that attended the event.

The complexity is not in the data but rather in the execution.  There are a few prerequisites necessary to make this campaign successful and worthwhile.

  • Good Data Management – Both frontline employees and marketing professionals need to work in unison to make sure the necessary data is collected and organized. Sending emails with the wrong personalized data will make it obvious that the emails are a bulk effort and, worse yet, make it appear as if you don’t care about the recipients.
  • Large Group – If you don’t have a large enough sample size then it’s simpler to send each email directly to each person. Make sure there’s enough scale to make the campaign’s setup worth the effort.
  • Recurrence – Recurring events or offers are ideal because the same process can be used over and over to engage a target group. A high level of recurrence can actually overcome limits on scale if the frequency will make the number of recipients large enough.

Lacking any of these pre-requisites often calls the amount of effort into question.  However, if these pre-requisites are met, triggered emails often convert exponentially higher than general personalization because they genuinely provide a one-to-one personalized offer.


Avoid Personalized Email Marketing From Being Mistaken as SPAM

Personalization in email communications is always a valuable goal.  In fact, the level of personalization continues to get more and more sophisticated.  Marketers can segment by trigger events, demographic information, or gathered personal data.  Unfortunately spammers and scammers are leveraging the same tools to deceive recipients. The escalation in marketing tool sophistication is creating skepticism with recipients who are becoming savvier at identifying automated messages and screening them out.

Many email marketers are using a simple email format that appears to be a one-to-one communication with the recipient rather than a bulk communication.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with the approach but some of the tools that made these emails so effective in the past have been adopted in unscrupulous emails and can cause suspicion.

I personally learned this lesson when I received an email requesting a feature review from a marketing tool provider I used in the past.  The email appeared to be sent to me personally but when I scanned the text and saw a generic salutation with my name, my company in the body, a reference to an association I belong to, and a lengthy explanation of the new feature, I assumed it was a bulk email and deleted it.

It’s only when I got a call from a person in their support team that I had worked with that I realized they actually only sent the request to a small number of previous clients for feedback. So if I mistakenly assumed an actual one-to-one email was SPAM, what chance does a personalized bulk email have?

There are some lessons to pull from my red flags in this email.

  • Salutation – make it appropriate to the email. If it’s meant to be informal have it written that way like Hi <First Name>.  Avoid general salutations like Dear <person>, it reads as a merged bulk email.
  • Company – Unless there is really a reason to reference a particular piece of personal data, don’t use it. Any information dropped into a non-specific sentence will appear like a merged field.
  • Association – I assumed the sender had gotten access to the association’s member list and emailed all of us. Same lesson, if the data isn’t pertinent, don’t include it.
  • Lengthy – Make sure your email gets to the point. It should be as short as possible, clear on the request, and simple for the recipient to take the next step.

Not coincidentally these same lessons can be applied to effective one-to-one professional emails you send but those emails typically include enough specific information to not be perceived as a bulk communication. Placing a few personalized fields in a bulk email will not make it personal to the individual.

Our next post will cover including personalized triggers to make the email more engaging by specifically identifying why an individual is receiving the message.