Forget First Names–You Need Data You Can Use!


use email integration to move beyond the first nameA few years ago, personalization was the holy grail for email marketers. If you could use a customer’s or subscriber’s first name in a subject line or an email, you were heads above your competition and getting more attention in the inbox.

As with all things email, however, we’ve evolved beyond the first name level of relevance into a whole new world of delivering very specific content in a very timely manner to the widest possible variety of individuals.

Or…that’s what we are trying to evolve to at least.

With many consumers weary of superficial personalization, inboxes more crowded than ever, and attention spans even shorter, the real relevance is no longer a first name but rather an extremely relevant and timely message delivered to just the right customer at just the right time.

People aren’t opposed to receiving marketing messages, either B2C or B2B ones. But they want, even demand, more than yet another sales pitch with their name attached. They want customized product recommendations and information that is relevant to them at that moment in time.

A relevant email marketing message is one that contains content determined by a customer’s stated preference combined with their past behaviors. Consumers are more receptive to these kinds of messages, emails based on both what they say they’re interested in (preferences), as well as what they show they’re interested in (behavior).

Compare that to a first name. Is that name really a useful piece of data these days, when organizations are sending out hyper-targeted email messages based on everything from microclimate (for lawn care) to gestation age (for pregnant mothers)? If your personalization is limited to a name, what kind of useful email reporting can you hope to learn from?

You need more than a name
You need to know more than a name. You need to know your customer (or prospect).

With the business systems integration and deep analytics possible today, you can really know your customers…through both their preferences and their behaviors. And with the right technology combined with the right ESP, you can use email integration to put that data to use to send email marketing messages that speak to people on an individual level like never before.

Consider a wine lover, for example. She eats at her local Italian restaurant about four times a year and she always orders a bottle of wine with dinner. Using a relational database, we’d know this about her as a customer. Using advanced segmentation, we could target her with a discount on wine that might tempt her to patronize that restaurant more often.

How to get to know that customer
Obviously you can’t set up dinner dates with everyone in your database, so you can’t get to know these people in person. But you can still get to know them. How? You get to know your customer by collecting and using data about them. Emphasis here is on the word “using.”

Collecting data is nothing new in the marketing world. We’ve been doing it probably since marketing started and the door-to-door salesman, traveling from farm to farm, remembered that Mrs. Simpson always bought an extra bag of sugar if prodded.

Like our marketing predecessors, many organizations collect data these days. However, less than half are able to put that data to use, partly because of the sheer volume of data collected. (These days data is about a lot more than a bag of sugar.) A recent Forrester report finds that although marketers are capturing data, only 45% of those surveyed are capturing it and using it too.

How does a marketer cross that bridge, to go from collecting the customer data to being able to put it to use for targeted email marketing? By having the right technology in place.

By technology, I mean two pieces:

  1. The right ESP, one that can support relational databases, email integration and advanced segmentation.
  2. The right analytics that will help you understand the data you collect.

When you choose an enterprise-level ESP like ExactTarget, you get a robust email service provider that can handle not only your email volume but your data volume too. Plus these types of top-tier ESPs usually integrate with sophisticated analytics and email reporting tools like Tableau Software, tools that make it much easier to interpret your data and put it to use. Plus the market now offers tools like eMVision–a proprietary platform based on Tableau Software and built exclusively for ExactTarget—that make it even easier for you analyze data, identify new patterns and segments, and send targeted and timely messages.

Yes, we’ve definitely moved beyond first-name personalization, and consumers know it. They are wary of emails using their first names and they are welcoming of emails that are extremely relevant to them. With the right technology in place, you can deliver the messaging they want, when they want it, buy really knowing your customer.

–Marco Marini