Personalisation is without a doubt one of the buzz words with the most equity behind it at the moment when it comes to digital marketing. Regardless of the sector they are operating in brands are fiercely competing to find the most effective ways to grab and sustain their customers’ attention.

I’ve said numerous times in this column that email is the supreme modus operandi for effective digital marketing and capturing audience attention in the moment. But, when people talk about adopting a more personalised approach to how they use the channel, it appears the results can vary quite considerably.

Here are five top tips to take your email campaigns to a whole new level of sophistication.

1. It’s not all in the name

The days of relying on sending emails solely personalised by name are gone. The ability to directly address an individual may appear personal at face value, but it is inherently lazy. Just because I received an email saying “Hi Mark”, it doesn’t mean the rest of the message beneath it has any degree of relevance to me.

In fact, I would go as far to say most probably don’t, and as result they make the recipient feel disconnected and disengaged. Equally, if the content inside the email is not relevant to the addressee, the fact it opens “Hi Mark” is irrelevant.

Adopting a higher level of personalisation may sound like a scary or expensive prospect but it shouldn’t. It may sound obvious but listening is incredibly powerful. What have your customers told you? How are they interacting with you? Every interaction generates data, which breeds insight that can be used to improve the content you send. Ensuring that you don’t ignore what your customers are saying about you can add extra value to your email and generate a far more positive response.

2. Don’t focus on the preference centre so religiously

The preference centre used to be the definitive source for information on customer preferences. However in 2016 its value has severely diminished. It is such a simple form of data capture and doesn’t come anywhere close to addressing the ever changing needs of every individual in your customer base.

Whilst it does provide a snapshot of an individual’s preferences at one given moment it relies on the recipient updating it in order for it hold any long-term value. Brands therefore need to ensure they use this data as a base level and identify other data sources across the business which add additional insight, ideally in real-time. That way messages can be more precise and adapted to customers changing needs.

3. Invest in a DMP

A DMP lets you collect and analyse data about your customers-including behavioural, geographic and profile data-from every touch point in one platform. The key benefit they provide is that they give brands an integrated picture of all its data sources, from both its own first party data and third party sources.

Moreover it provides brands with the ability to identify its most valuable target audiences and with it improve performance. As a result it makes it far easier to personalise communication materials on an individual basis and on a unified view of how they user actually interacts with the brand. This enables brands to massively improve the relevance of their content and choose more predictive business rules to decide on the best content to show to the user.

4. Use the power of emotion

Standing out in a crowded inbox can be difficult. Even if a brand has recipients who regularly open its emails there is never any guarantee they always will. They might easily miss it, or feel that not every message they get is fully applicable to their needs. Brands therefore should look at ways they can appeal to their recipients’ emotions with enticing subject lines and hero messages. Emails which say “you’re in our top 5%”, acknowledge recent interactions, or play on other vanity statements are not only a personal reflection of how that user has interacted with the brand, it is typically followed by an incentive for further interaction. Understanding what powers of persuasion will best influence customers should therefore be a key requirement of the data capture and analytical process.

5. Don’t underestimate the power of timing

As much as I love and support email, it is after all only a small cog in a much bigger and rapidly growing digital machine. The days are long gone where marketers can think and act in terms of siloed communication channel strategies. It may sadden me to admit it, but email is not the only game in town, and it can be played by virtuosos alongside mobile, social and even digital display to create a rich, compelling and unique marketing approach and delight your audiences. Unpin your thinking from only using email for a nurture campaign or regular face time with your customers. Use it for different and surprising reasons, be bold, and test and learn alongside the broader digital communication approaches. Email is a workhorse, but it can race alongside the thoroughbreds.

Mark Ash

Mark Ash


Mark Ash is Managing Director Teradata Interactive International.