Tag Archives: demographics

Pro Tip: Personalizing Emails for Your Sales Staff

Personalizing Emails
A powerful tool for any email marketer is the ability to personalize each email. Normally, when we think of this, we think of personalization for the recipient, but sometimes you may also want to personalize the emails for the sender. That is, instead of your mailings coming from one company source, they appear to come from your salespeople individually. You might see this as “faking” emails from your sales staff but it is a useful and important technique for any serious marketer. Here’s why.

Personal is Better

When we think of promotional emails, we think of colorful, image-laden messages that have been carefully designed by the marketing team. They catch the eye and entice the reader to visit the links. While there is certainly a place for this type of mailing in marketing effort, there’s another type of mailing that does well with recipients and offers more pull than push—that’s a mailing that is sent by a salesperson directly to the recipient. Take a look at these two “From” addresses:

sales@company.com
terry.martin@company.com

The first one is clearly a mass mailing, most likely promotional. The second appears to have been sent by the salesperson that is handling your account. Since this is the person you are most likely to want to speak to, this the email you are more likely to open and respond to.

Surveys confirm that emails that appear to come from individuals tend to be accepted better than obviously commercial messages. We may not be interested in the sales pitch, but if we feel like a person bothered to sit down and type us an email, we tend to be more receptive.

Having the salespeople send out personal emails might work for a small company with little or no client interaction, but personal emails can quickly turn into a burden for the salespeople—whose time could be better spent engaging in actual sales—and a headache for the marketing to keep track of. No marketing department worth its salt wants salespeople sending out unvetted messages to everyone on their contact list.

But what if you want to send mass mailings that will support each member of your sales team individually? These are emails that appear to come from specific representatives, with reply lines that go back to each rep according to which rep has been assigned to that individual. Can you achieve this? Yes, you can with the right email marketing software and an understanding of the mechanics of the process.

First, let’s address address the technology, and then we’ll offer some advice about how to structure the text of the email itself.

Assigning the “From” and Reply-to Addresses

Before you get started on the mailings, the first thing to do is to assign a sales rep for each prospect and store the data someplace the email marketing application can access. You’ll want a rep assigned for every prospect, but if you have situations where the salesperson is unknown you can choose a specific salesperson as your default choice. The prospect will expect to hear from that person again, so you’ll need to be careful to use that same sales rep for all further communications. For this reason, it’s best to save the sales rep information in the demographics for each recipient.

The best response rate comes from emails that appear to be “from” a specific salesperson. If the email comes in from sales@example.com, it is impersonal and will attract fewer people to look at the email. It would be a little better with a “friendly from” like “Betty Jones” ‹sales@example.com› but the email address is still the generic one. If the person is identified, the email feels more personal, and people are more like to engage. So make it from “Betty Jones” ‹BettyJones@example.com› whenever possible.

Doing this sort of substitution can be done by storing two values in the demographics—one for the actual email address, and one for the “friendly from” name shown, which are then glued together using the mail merge features, or by storing the full address as one value. Not all email marketing software will allow you to mail-merge into the ‘From” and reply-to address, so check your software.

The Signature Line

The email should close with the salesperson’s signature line instead of the usual footer. Even a hand-written email would include the signature line, so this wouldn’t seem out-of-place. Signatures usually includes salesperson’s contact details and either the company logo, or the salesperson’s picture. Here are two examples of signature lines:

signature lines

In Symphonie, you would do this using a “content block,” which is a way of saving pre-formatted combinations of text and images for later use. At a minimum, the signature line should be a few lines of text with their name, address, phone number, and social media contact options. You can format this however you want. The key point here is that signature lines are defined for each representative in a form that can be dynamically substituted by your email marketing software. You could set this up using multiple mail merge fields, but it would be tedious to copy and more error prone. It would be far safer to create the signature as its own element and be done with it.

Once a Content Block is defined for each rep, the next step is to define a dynamic content rule that substitutes the proper Content Block for each rep based on a lookup table. Email marketing vendors may implement this in different ways, but in Symphonie it is easy to define a series of conditions that says if the demographic column holding the sales rep’s email address matches a value, do the substitution. So, something like: if demographic column SalesRepEmail = bettyjones@example.com then substitute content block BettyJonesSig.

You can define these rules once, save them in your email marketing software, and then easily apply them to any new content you create.

Once you have the mapping of salespeople to content blocks, you can test the system and make sure it is working for every sales rep you have.

At this point you should have an email that has a “from” and reply-to address that reference the salesperson, as well as a signature line from them.

CAN-SPAM, GDPR, CASL, oh my!

An email written by hand by a salesperson is less likely to have an option to unsubscribe, although, by law, it should. Emails that come in with an unsubscribe link may cause people to think the email is automated, but not including it is risky. CAN-SPAM says that automated emails must include an unsubscribe link, as well as a physical address for the company. Some email marketing software won’t allow emails to be sent that don’t have an unsubscribe link. Others, such as Symphonie, allow you to choose, although we always recommend including it. In our signature examples above, you’ll notice that we have included an unsubscribe link at the bottom of each signature as a simple text link. This is the safest and least obtrusive approach.

Driving the Process

Often the automation system is used for prospecting emails, but once the prospect has started to engage with a salesperson, the automated routines are stopped. The prospecting emails can be sent via a workflow process built into the email marketing software or can be driven by an external program using the API to tell the email marketing software what to do. If the process is driven by a workflow in the email marketing software, there should be some logic that will cause the process to be stopped. When a prospect engages, the recipient should be pulled from the workflow, so the automated emails do not conflict with the actual emails of the salesperson. Often this would be an API call or the ability to set a flag in a demographic that causes the workflow to terminate for that prospect.

Workflows can be as simple as an enhanced drip program that sends an email, waits, checks to see if the status has changed, and if not, sends the next one. Be sure you pay attention to the time of day that each email is sent. If your reps only work regular business hours, don’t send the salesperson email at midnight; your prospects could find this suspicious.

The Email Style

Hopefully you now have a sense of what it takes to automate sending emails that appear to be coming from a salesperson. Now we turn to how the emails should look.

The whole point is to make the emails look human-written, so making them too fancy will defeat that effort. One solution to this is to send plain-text emails. They certainly won’t be fancy, with no pictures or colors, but not even any fonts or basic layout elements. For this reason, HTML is recommended. Even salespeople writing their own emails will likely be sending their messages as HTML, so it is not a give-away that the process is automated.

Just because you can send pictures and style the content to no end doesn’t mean you should. Keep the content almost entirely as text. The only place a picture should be used is in the signature line, which can look a little fancy, but most people recognize that the signature line comes from copy-and-paste, so some better formatting is expected.

The style of the content should be casual and direct and avoid letting the marketing department wordsmith the content too much. It should sound like something the rep would write. Remember, if the prospect does engage and the actual rep starts sending emails, we don’t want a large discrepancy in styles to come through.

You could consider allowing typos or poor grammar, as it seems more realistic. You might even consider statements at the bottom of the email with wording like “Sent from my iPhone”. A recent study showed how this helped people feel more comfortable with the content. It is not accurate, so you should consider the legal ramifications of this deception before employing this tactic.

Conclusion

Sending emails for prospecting is quite easy to setup if your software supports dynamic content across the “from” and reply addresses and “friendly from” information. You can define a salesperson’s details in demographics, and then use the features of the software to dynamically change the “from” and reply-to, as well as substitute a proper signature line. Drive the process using a workflow in the software or use the APIs to drive the process from your side. Make the content appear folksy and casual, written in HTML but using few features of HTML.

Of Senders and Subject Lines

Good email practices start with the sender and subject lines. If you don’t have these in order, nothing else matters. Here are some ideas for improving your deliverability.

dynamic content in subject line

Try this little experiment: Go to your email software, be it Gmail, Outlook, or whatever, and open it. Quick, what do you see? The first thing you’ll notice is the sender. It is usually the first item on the left, or appears above the subject line, often in bolder type than the subject line. Given this fact, it is safe to say that nothing is more important than a good-looking sender address, especially when one looks at the statistics: 64 percent of small businesses executives said they decide whether or not to open an email newsletter based on the sender,1 and over 50 percent of respondents cited knowing and trusting the sender as the primary reason for opening an email in the first place.2 Even more disturbing, 73 percent of people decide to click on the “report spam” or “junk” button based on the sender’s email address alone!3 Ideally, your sender information should be personalized enough so that they see either a name or company, or some other title that has meaning to them (“Advanced Widgets Weekly Newsletter”). Ideally, your Sender name should make sense to the recipient. If the mail is a newsletter, a sender name that contains the company name and the word “news,” or “newsletter” is helpful. If your company is large enough to have different branches with different branding, then it’s a good idea make sure the domain matches the sender information.

The second thing they notice, obviously enough, is the subject line. If the sender’s address has done its job, the subject line won’t have to work quite as hard to catch the reader’s attention, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods yet. 35 percent of email users open messages because of the subject line. A relevant subject line is going to have a better open rate than a generic one, naturally, but what does “relevant” mean exactly? In one sense, it means a subject line that is personalized for the recipient, but when most people think of a personalized subject, the first thing that comes to mind is the dreaded “[First_Name], have we got a deal for you.” The ability to insert merge tags into subject lines has been so thoroughly overused by spammers that doing it at all is a risky proposition. It might be okay for a triggered email, such as a birthday greeting or anniversary, but even here, we caution against making a first name merge tag the first element in the subject line. Several studies report that people react more favorably to this tactic when the name is inserted at the end of the message (e.g., “Here’s a birthday coupon for you, Jim”). Others studies suggest that using the first name in a subject line at all is the kiss of death.

Dynamic Subject Line

A far better approach to subject line personalization is to use dynamic content instead of merge tags. So what’s the difference? A merge tag is simply a piece of information stored in a recipient’s demographics. First and last name, address, city, state, membership level, most recent purchase, age, gender, etc. are all examples of merge tags. Even the most basic email marketing application can insert one of these at any point in the email and the subject line. Dynamic content, on the other hand, is not a fixed piece of information, but is a form of request based on one or several variables. It is often represented in an “If/Then” format (if x is true, then do this). It can take the information in the demographics and break it down further (into age groups for instance), or combine two or more demographics to yield different results (women in California, for example).

Dynamic content requires a bit more advanced planning, but it pays off in the end. For example, if you want to offer people different discount rates based on their membership levels, you could create a logic condition that says if the customer’s membership level is gold, the subject line should read, “Here’s your 20% Gold Member only discount coupon,” while for everyone else it should read, “Here’s your 10% discount coupon for our store.” It is also possible to use more than one block of dynamic content in a subject line, so that, if you wanted to steer people to certain departments based on past purchasing patterns, or other demographics, such as age or gender, you can add these conditionals to the subject line as well. Clever combinations of dynamic content can make a subject line appear hand-typed specifically for a recipient.

Dynamic Sender

An even more powerful feature for email marketing is the ability to change the sender dynamically. As previously mentioned, the sender is the first thing anyone sees. With dynamic content, you could, for example, change the sender based on where a recipient lives. In that case, the mail could come from your West Coast representative for anyone residing in California, Oregon, or Washington; or a department store may want to assign reply duties to whichever department a recipient shops in the most.

Not all email marketing software offers the ability to add dynamic content to the sender and subject lines, but it is a feature you shouldn’t overlook. Marketers are moving away from simple email blasting, and beyond social media connectivity, with a trend toward using data to provide a unique experience for each email recipient. The business that is already doing this is ahead of the game.

To learn more about the dynamic content capabilities available in Goolara Symphonie, click here to visit the Features section of our website.

1Bredin Business Information
2ReturnPath
3Email Sender and Provider Coalition

Personalizing Your Email Marketing

dynamic content in email

Recently on the Direct Marketing News Site, Editor-in-Chief Ginger Conlon talked about the positive effect personalization can have on your email marketing efforts. “The sweetest words to anyone is their own name,” she writes. “If you have my name, and you’re a direct marketer, why don’t you use it?”

Every email solution worth its salt at least has the ability to use the first name field somewhere in the mailing. More advanced software can take this one step further by letting you control the sender and reply lines as well—an important feature if the recipients are used to dealing with specific salespeople. Still more sophisticated software will take this even further, allowing you to tailor an email’s content to use any portion of a recipient’s data. Yet, in spite of this, many marketers go out of their way to make their mailings as generic as possible. As Seth Godin has pointed out on numerous occasions, generic means boring, and boring means no sale.

It’s easy to understand where some of the reluctance of marketers to use personalization comes from. When the ability to add demographic data to email was first introduced, many marketers (bad marketers) muddied the field by sticking a person’s first name in nearly every subject line. After a while, subjects like “Jim, look at this great deal!” became synonymous with spam. But personalization is about so much more than sticking a person’s first name in the subject line or at the top of the message. It’s about providing content in each and every email that is specifically relevant to that person alone. Relevancy means not sending generic messages. Relevancy means when people read it, they feel like you are really talking to them.

While you can certainly improve your customer engagement with the simple addition of a first name field to your emails, the key to real personalization is dynamic content. Dynamic content simply means that when it comes time to send email to a person, the software looks for specific information that you’ve entered based on that person’s statistics (demographics). If the demographics say the person likes orange juice, then you may want to say something about orange juice. If the demographics say a person hates orange juice, then any mention of the subject is removed from the email.

The possibilities are endless, but here are a few good ways to use dynamic content to improve reader response:

Location-based offers

Companies with different locations can take advantage of the fact that some recipients are close to certain locations by telling them about nearby site-specific sales or events. There are a few ways to accomplish this depending on the size of the company. State, city, or Zip code information is the easiest way for companies with just a few sites to do this, but if it is a company with many locations all over the country (or the world, for that matter), a site (or store) number field is the best way to accomplish this. Another advantage of using the store number field is if a client prefers to visit a certain location, regardless of its proximity to their actual address. For example: I live down the street from a CVS store, but I never go there. I go to the one near where I work, which is several miles from my home. A coupon for the store near my house might entice me to visit, but one for the location near my office will have a better chance of drawing me in.

Membership privileges

If a person has membership or a similar preferred status, your email should reflect this. Two of the most favorably received types of email are those that make people feel “special” and those that impart “secret” information. Email directed at members accomplish both of these at once. You can also use this information to create unique user coupons, either as components of the email, or dynamic barcodes. If your company has a membership and you are not using that information to advance sales, you are ignoring a strong potential sales channel.

Gender and age specifics

This is almost a no-brainer. Gender and age are two of the most important variables when it comes to assembling an email message. Men don’t buy the same things as woman, and older people don’t have the same needs as teenagers. You can send everyone on your list the same email, but that’s the quickest route to the trash folder. Sending a single man an email about your back-to-school specials might not make sense, whereas a family with kids will certainly want to hear about it. Sometimes this can be handled with segmentation, but if you are tracking a specific event (such as a company-wide sale), then you may want one email to cover it.

Conclusion

In the end, people want email that pertains to them. If they feel like you are only pretending to do this then they are going to tune you out. The careful use of dynamic content will let you create email that speaks to each recipient individually, which, in turn, increases the potential for engagement. With careful and sensible dynamic content use, you can make sure that each person receives the email that best matches their needs and desires, and, in the end, isn’t that what we all want?

Dynamic Barcodes

Create Dynamic Barcodes with Goolara Symphonie

Goolara Symphonie now supports the ability to create and add barcodes to email from within the software. If you need to generate coupons, passes, or other barcoded email, now you can do this without ever leaving Symphonie. But that’s only the tip of iceberg. Symphonie also lets you create dynamic barcodes. Using a recipient’s demographics, you can create tailor-made barcodes that contain a customer’s vital statistics or other unique information, helping you control the use of the coupons you send out.

There are many different types of barcodes. Symphonie features some of the most popular, including:

UPC, DataMatrix, Code 128, and QR Code samples

We may add additional choices to the list from time to time if there are other codes that prove to be popular.

As a coupon production and control technique, dynamic barcodes are hard to beat. Possible uses include the ability to create use once or limited use coupons based on:

  • Coupon recipient
  • State or city
  • Specific store branch
  • Customer status (member, VIP, etc.)
  • Age
  • Date range

There are three ways to segment email campaigns: per customer, by pool, or with a limited data range. Here are some ideas for using these features.

Dynamic Barcodes by Individual Customer

Customers with robust POS systems can take full advantage of dynamic barcodes, assigning a unique code to each customer. This code may contain any of the demographics about a recipient, and is a great way to keep track of coupon usage and to compare current and past shopping patterns. It also makes it easier to control the use of the coupons in situations where online copying might by unwanted.

In the example below, a customer’s ID number is included as part of the barcode:

Example showing dynamic barcodeOnce the customer uses the coupon, that information goes into your system, providing plenty of additional information about the customer and their purchasing habits, allowing you to further refine your marketing strategy.

If your POS system cannot handle that much information, there are a simpler alternative uses for the dynamic barcode feature that are also quite powerful.

Dynamic Barcodes by Pool

If individual customer information is more than your POS system can handle, an effective alternative is to generate a few barcodes based on specific demographics (e.g., state, membership level, age group, etc.). Now you are only working with a few codes. The software determines who gets which coupon based on recipient demographics. You can also use this feature with specific number ranges to add customer specific information without overloading your system (see below)

Limited Number Range Dynamic Barcodes

Individually numbered barcodes are a useful addition to codes that don’t contain specific customer information. After the coupons are used the barcode numbers are paired up with specific customers. This is easily accomplished and we can work with you to facilitate this solution as well. We will use the number range you specify and send a list that identifies which customer received which number. In this way, even basic POS systems can compete with more advanced systems when it comes to identifying customer buying patterns. As long a system can keep track of one variable number, we can provide the rest. Please call for more information.

If you’ve used barcodes already, then you know what a valuable tool they are for marketing and sales purposes. If you are new to barcodes, Wikipedia has a good explanation of what they are and how they work; also please download the latest version of the user manual, or contact us for more information.

For more information on Dynamic Barcodes, click here.

For more information on Goolara Symphonie, click here.

For more information on Dynamic Content, click here.