Jenny Peters

Efficient e-mail segmentation and personalization

Written by Jenny Peters on

Segmenting and personalizing e-mail requires an effort. A marketer has to think about his target groups and interaction with the individual recipient for each e-mail campaign. But if he's a smart thinker, he'll also come up with some ways to reduce his repeated effort.
This graph is borrowed from the Email Marketing Benchmark Report 2009. The most important conclusion: 'Delivering content relevant to segment' requires the most effort, but has by far the most effect as well.* I don't need to point out the importance of segmentation and personalization to modern marketers anymore. The size of the blue sphere proves that most are quite aware of it. All the more shocking really that marketers still need to spend so much time on it! We should be able to tip the balance between effort and effectivity much more to the left of this graph. It's a matter of being smart about how you invest your time and effort. Some suggestions:

  1. Stop copying and pasting content. Use a content management system or content feed which can be published through RSS to website, RSS reader, mobile phone, twitter, facebook, etcetera. Even a newsletter can integrate a content feed automatically! More importantly, you can put filters on the feed and diversify the publications. Then, when you send a newsletter, only those articles will be displayed to a subscriber which match with their personal interests. You can even automate the sending of the newsletter weekly. Reducing the effort to a one time setup! Of course you do need to...

  2. …know what your subscribers want. Stop using subscription forms which require only an e-mail address. The quality of your database is more important than the quantity, so don't be afraid to raise the stakes a little. Ask new subscribers which topics they are interested in straight away. If you point out that they'll receive more relevant e-mail because of this, they won't be held back by it! Consumers demand relevance, so let them contribute to it themselves. And therefore...

  3. …allow the subscriber to manage his own personal data. Offer customers and newsletter subscribers the possibility to change their contact data through a personal URL or webform. A subscriber is a dynamic factor; interests change and a checkbox is sometimes ticked by mistake. Instead of unsubscribing entirely when he no longer wished weekly updates, simply allow him to change his preference to a monthly subscription!

  4. If you've used a content feed to setup your newsletter, your system is actually sending the same document every week. Only the content and images are renewed. That means you also have to setup follow-up actions just one time, which is of course highly efficient. Clicks and impressions can be processed automatically at every mailing to enrich customer profiles and clean up your database from errors and non-response.
  5. Of course, you should also stop processing forms and changes manually. That should be a given in this context. Integrate your database with your marketing platform and automate registration of subscriptions, unsubscriptions and changes.

The effort involved in personalizing e-mails can't be removed, but a marketer should always be looking for ways to reduce and optimize. Reducing the effort is definitely possible if we make the most of the tactics and techniques available.

* Other conclusions I draw from the graph:
Forget about advertising in someone else's newsletter and e-mailing to bought addresses. Spreading e-mail through social networks isn't (yet) very effective. Eventdriven autoresponder mails (birthdays, information requests, etc.) require some thought when you set them up, but they pay off. In this case, keep in mind that event triggered mails often serve to bind contacts to an organisation instead of having a commercial drive, which influences the graph's 'effectivity' value. I am a firm believer in event driven e-mail. And finally, collect your own opt-in e-mail addresses (house lists), because e-mailing them has a very good effectivity in comparison to the effort required.

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