Image of person checking email

Open me, please.

How Getting Personal With Email Helps Boost Engagement

I live in a large neighborhood with a very active community email list serve that exists primarily to share information. A mere glance at an email subject line is all I need to determine one thing: does it matter to me? Much of what is shared there has no bearing on my day to day life, so I simply hit “delete” and move on. But occasionally, something pops up that resonates. Like the time an enterprising teen posted “Pet Sitting Services”, just as I was pondering what to do with our bulldog Sophie while we planned a last-minute weekend get-away. The timing of that message was key, and it prompted an action coveted by marketers like myself – the almighty email “open”.  That simple act of taking a look inside is akin to raising a hand and nodding “yes” when asked, “are you interested?” So how do you get someone to make that split-second decision to open an email and grant you a deeper level of attention?

Timing Is Important, But…

It’s surprising how often businesses seem to over complicate marketing. I am not suggesting marketing is easy. On the contrary, today it is a fusion of many complex things, including technology, psychology, artistry and science, among others.  But the overarching goal of marketing, specifically email marketing, is pretty simple:  to elicit a behavior (in this case, opening an email) that occurs when the right message crafted for the right person is delivered at the right time. That, friends, is the sweet spot, your foot in the door. What happens after that is inconsequential if the door is never opened.

On the surface, it may seem that the perfect subject line is the magic bullet. Not so fast. Your subject line may be Pulitzer-prize worthy, but if it does not portend content perceived helpful to the recipient, then it’s just some clever writing. At 20-20 Services, we spend a great deal of time and effort on database maintenance and what I refer to as “list hygiene”. It is a big job and one we consider critical to our business. We segment our lists based on a number of important criteria, including personas. B2B marketing strategist Ardath Albee defines a marketing persona as a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience. For content marketing purposes, you need personas to help you deliver content that will be most relevant and useful to your audience.

One Size Does Not Fit All

At 20-20 we’ve created composites of several distinct types of people we either do business with or would like to do business with based on what we know about them – their job roles, their companies, their locations and other demographics. Then, we use this information to develop content and messaging targeted specifically to them. For example, we work with both the managing partner and chief learning officer within the accounting firm. These may be two people who work at the same place, but what’s important to each of them from a day to day operational standpoint is quite different. Is the managing partner interested in knowing the specific dates and locations of 20-20’s upcoming New Hire public training classes? Perhaps not. But this information may be exactly what the CLO responsible for ensuring staff gets appropriate training needs to know.  It’s a more personal approach to customer and prospect engagement and we’re finding it makes a big difference. Since we’ve employed list segmentation and targeting we’ve seen a 7% increase in our email open rates (we’ve seen a significant bump in click-thru rates, too, but that’s another blog post!).

At 20-20 we market to public accounting firms, rather people within public accounting firms.  Who are you marketing to? More important, how are you marketing to them? Do you cast the net wide with your messaging and content and hope something sticks? Or are you conscious and deliberate with your efforts and deliver true value as defined by your customers?

Marketers are often credited (or charged) with “working their marketing magic”. I’d like to say I am among a select breed who possess mystical powers and can produce fantastic results with the wave of a wand. But the truth is, there are methods to what we do that can be learned and implemented with great success, even by non-marketers. Email marketing, still a mainstay in any comprehensive marketing strategy, can be an extremely powerful tool for connecting with your customer and prospect base, if you truly understand who you are marketing to, what’s important to them, and making the information accessible to them when they need or want it.

Mary Beth Albertini is the director of marketing for 20-20 Services LLC. Marketing allows her to explore her fascination with human behavior and learn about what makes people tick.