How do you personalize your email?

This question was originally answered on Quora

To increase email engagement and open rates, personalization is about more than merging in the contacts first name into the salutation, or having dynamic images or text, it’s about building a reputation that your emails are interesting, relevant, and timely.

That starts with the messaging. The biggest way to increase email engagement is with content and offers that people actually want to read, not just content you want them to read. An email should not just be an advertisement, and it should not be the same rehashed information found on your website. It should add to the experience and be interesting enough that the next time you send an email, someone might actually find value in reading it versus all of the other annoying emails that flood their inbox on a daily basis.

Then, there’s segmentation

The next way to personalize an email is to focus on segmenting the audience, and when it comes to segmentation, there are multiple factors you want to segment like:

• position in your marketing/sales funnel
• prior web browsing or purchase behavior
• net promoter score
• prior email engagement
in addition to many of the other factors dependent on your industry and vertical.

Finally, there’s timing
Email timing is about making sure to send those emails when a recipient would have a need to receive them. Order confirmations and shipping emails are no brainers, but what about a post purchase review? What about sending a campaign email to someone who is currently receiving an onboarding or welcome series?
You wouldn’t want to hammer them with so much email that they get overwhelmed and disinterested.


There are ways to personalize the sending triggers based on timing and segmentation, and there are ways to make email content dynamic based on the audience, segment, and timing as well.
But when it comes down to it, there’s no magic bullet to email personalization, it’s about building a long lasting relationship and reputation with your subscribers to know that you actually have important things to say to them, not just a plea to get them to buy your stuff.
For people with low deliverability and engagement, we often work with them and go through our rehabilitation process which can be found here:

Some Limitations of HTML forms in Email

While some email clients do support actual form embeds and will post data to the source upon submission, much like HTML support in general for email, it comes with many limitations.
• Limited and inconsistent styling/layout – Formatting may look different depending on the email client used, as Gmail has different styling rules than Yahoo Mail, Apple Mail, etc. If the layout and style is not done simply, you can run into situations where your forms do not render properly.
• Limited form error handling – Error handling for things like required fields may have limited support at best depending on the email client. It’s wise to keep your forms simple with little required fields or need to run validation on the answers.
• Limited form field types – Most email clients only support text or paragraph inputs, radio buttons, and checkboxes. More complex input types with validation like datetime fields and drop downs are likely not to be supported across different email clients.
• Security warnings when submitting form – Because of the fact you’re submitting data to an external page from within the email clients’ ecosystem, email clients like Gmail will display a warning to confirm the data submission prior to actually sending it. If your subscriber base is sensitive to their data and security, this may be a turnoff and in fact trigger some subscribers to be suspicious of future emails from you.
How to go about implementing your survey in emails
To figure out which form factor works for your needs, you first need to truly consider which survey questions are going to actually provide the value for you to learn what you need to understand about your subscribers. If your surveys act like reviews, more context about what in particular made the customer happy they purchased the product means requiring text answers. On the other hand if your surveys are a simple measurement of the customer experience, a satisfaction or NPS survey will do the trick without much more context.
If you’re HTML savvy, the implementation of just about any of these survey types is either a combination of table structure and images with links (satisfaction/NPS), or a very simple HTML form. The thing to understand here is the limitations around the layout and styling in email, and the need to be mobile responsive with email – which is often easier said than done without expertise.

If you’re not HTML savvy, you can likely get away with building out a relatively simple satisfaction or NPS survey in multi-column blocks with images embedded, again just be aware that these blocks often stack strangely if you have too many on one line, and can affect the order in which the options are presented and thus introduce bias to the surveys. For a standard form, there are some 3rd party tools that you can build your form, copy the html code, then embed and use the tool to track submissions, just be aware that they are unlikely to be supportive of embedding them in email, won’t be able to guarantee rendering across all devices, and are going to cost you some money.
Digging Out of an Email Deliverability Hole
You’re 2 years into a significant investment in email marketing. It started off great, with 40+% open rates, high click through rates, and clear, tangible ROI. But you might have noticed while your email lists have been growing, there’s been a steady decrease in engagement, with open rates getting low enough that you’re wondering if you’re even hitting the inbox anymore. Does that sound too familiar?
A common problem that today’s email marketers run into is that of email deliverability, and we frequently hear from organizations looking for our help to figure out why their emails aren’t getting opened anymore.
Email Deliverability is much like your Credit Score, in that it can be tarnished over time with poor or lazy practices, and it cannot be built back up overnight. When your creditors (analogous to Email Clients like Gmail and Outlook) deem you untrustworthy, you must build that trust back up in small amounts over time. (PS. Anyone offering you quick fixes is looking to take your money plain and simple.)
Addressing the Simple Stuff
First and foremost, you need to clean your marketing lists, check your DNS settings, IP/Domain reputation, blacklists you may be on, and any content in your emails that may be deemed ‘spammy’. There’s a ton of content out there on the basics, which are low hanging fruit when it comes to determining just how deep your deliverability hole is.
But one thing that you’ll notice when looking at a lot of the resources these platforms and blogs put out is the lack of direction when it comes to addressing actual engagement.

The Real Challenge
Increasingly, leading email clients like Gmail are filtering the inboxes of their users based on engagement of that user, as well as the engagement from their other users who receive your emails.
So, if you want your emails to hit the inbox, you better have engaged recipients. As a Gmail end user, this is great! As an email marketer… you might see how this could snowball in both a positive, or negative direction. If you find yourself in a bad spot, how do you get people to engage if they aren’t seeing your emails in the inbox?
Of course, most email marketing platforms typically don’t offer explicit advice for improving engagement, so you’re left to figure it out yourself.
So how do you actually do it? Do you really only email the people who opened the last few emails you sent and abandon the rest? No marketer wants to give up on prospects or leads who are qualified but whose timing is just not right (especially if your contacts have been acquired by attending expensive trade shows or events).

Email Deliverability Rehab – A Blueprint
First, you need to develop content people actually want to open and read. That sounds like common sense, but think about how many marketing emails are sent to you that you skip over and archive every single day. Moving the needle on email engagement is going to come from captivating subject lines and content within your emails, not because you sent it at the “best time to send emails” or because orange is the highest converting button color for a CTA.

Outside of the standard attributes you should already be segmenting on (past purchase data, position in your buyer funnel/customer journey), you’re going to want to segment your contacts based on their past engagement. To start, we recommend breaking them up into 4 simple categories:
High Engagement – those who open your emails regularly, who are your brand ambassadors, who are your most loyal fans and who always check out your newest product releases (think about Apple product fanatics, or sneakerheads here).

Moderate Engagement – those who open your emails from time to time, who might have purchased from you more than once, or those who take advantage of your product sales or seasonal promotions
Low Engagement – those who only opened your transactional or confirmation emails, or maybe once opened the “biggest sale of the year” emails
No Engagement – Those who signed up for an account and gave you their email address, but haven’t engaged with any of your email content
Most marketing automation platforms have the ability to segment or tag these 4 categories in some capacity. You should be able to segment based on email sends, opens, clicks over time. You could also use a lead scoring system to funnel contacts in and out of these categories, something we helped customers at Net-Results set up many times.
Once you’ve determined a process to get your contacts into one of those four engagement categories, you’ll then take a look at your upcoming marketing emails and offer content to gauge how the contacts in your engagement categories will respond.

Again, the key is going to be sending content to the people who actually want to read it. An important distinction here is not content that you want them to read, but content that they want to read.
In the context of our four engagement categories, think about categorizing your email content in terms of 3 different levels of offer/content strength:
Strong Offers – Big seasonal sales with deep discounts, truly groundbreaking case studies, or game changing product updates/brand initiatives
Medium Offers – moderate sales offers, reputable industry reports
Soft Offers – New season product lineups, customer testimonials, simple newsletters with company updates.

If you’re having trouble categorizing the content, look back at previous email campaign data, as well as your own inbox to see the type of content you’ve personally engaged with.
Now that you understand the different categories of offers and engagement, use these categories to determine which audiences you’re going to send your content to.
To build your engagement and reputation back up, you’ll want to isolate your Soft Offers to your High Engagement contacts, and make sure that the No Engagement and Low Engagement contacts only receive your Stong Offers. After two to three Strong Offers for a No Engagement contact, you may want to think about unsubscribing them from receiving email for the foreseeable future.
Over time, this categorization process will begin to improve your average open rates and engagement, as each email will be more targeted to those who are more likely to open it. With this improved engagement, your reputation and deliverability credit score will be built back up, and you’ll be hitting the inbox more often.

As an added bonus, you’ll be forced to examine your content and come up with fresh and enticing ideas that your audience will be excited to read.
Need help implementing our Email Deliverability Rehab Process or getting the remainder of your deliverability issues under control?


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