Asked by The Financial Brand for their brand’s biggest digital marketing opportunity in the coming year, optimizing the customer experience was the top choice of marketers. Email personalization is one of the best ways to improve your customers’ experience because it helps them feel like your company is speaking directly to them about things they personally care about.

However, modern email marketing requires more than simply inserting someone’s first name in a subject line and in the body of the message. Here are 5 powerful ways you can personalize your next email campaign.

1. Develop customer personas

Just as you change how you speak when addressing different people in various areas of your life, you should consider creating different ways of talking to your customers in emails. Start by segmenting your customers according to various factors, such as age, gender, location, income, and other characteristics that you know about them.

Then try to see your company through the eyes of each segment. What’s important to those people? What are the biggest obstacles they’re facing, and how can you help them solve those problems? You may want to rely on outside research to discover what your customers are likely experiencing, depending on their age, income, location, and other factors.

Each segment can be as broad or as specific as you want it to be. For example, you could slice your customer base by generational divides and talk to them that way. If you do that, keep in mind that PwC Financial Services found that while Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Baby Boomers are all concerned with saving for retirement, their secondary goals are saving for a home, getting out of debt, and ensuring financial stability, respectively.

You could then tailor your next email campaign around those secondary goals and send each generational cohort messaging that resonates with them. An easy way to sub-divide those cohorts is by their stage in the customer journey. For example, you might talk to Millennials about strategies for saving for a home different ways if they’re new to your business compared to customers who have been with you for a few years.

2. Personalize your imagery

In addition to talking to your customers in specific ways, make sure the photos and other images in your emails match those personas. That includes not just their ages (such as using photos of people in the same age bracket) but also potentially customizing your pictures by location and other factors.

For example, you can use pictures that feature prominent landmarks or notable geographic features in an area where people in a specific cohort live. Campaign Monitor ran a test with images personalized to the recipient’s country (US, UK, and Australia) vs. location-agnostic pictures and found that the former increased the email’s click-through rate by 29%.

3. Personalize your offers

Rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach to offers, such as messaging everyone on your list about a new type of account that doesn’t have any fees, try tailoring those messages to people in a more specific way. For example, using PwC Financial Services’ previously mentioned research, you could limit a special deal on a debt consolidation loan only to a Gen-X cohort.

You could also personalize offers based on past behaviors. For example, you could offer a special type of savings account to people who previously opened checking accounts, particularly those who have seen their balances dip precariously low and could use overdraft protection. Or you could put a generational spin on the offer and aim it at Millennials who want to save money to buy a home.

4. Create triggered emails based on the customer journey

In addition to creating customer personas, you should map out a customer journey that starts with the onboarding process, which is how you welcome new customers. At a minimum, you’ll want to send them a thank-you email that’s personalized based on any information they gave when signing up. For example, based on their address, you could dynamically insert the address of your company’s nearest office or branch location, or give them the contact information for an agent in their area.

In addition to creating triggered emails that alert customers to suspicious sign-in attempts, transaction problems, and other important events, you can also craft messages that are based on other kinds of behaviors. For example, if someone hasn’t logged into their account for a specific amount of time, you could send them an email that prompts them to log in. Try to give them a reason why, such as checking an account balance or viewing certain activity.

Other potential triggers include:

  • Reaching an account anniversary: Wish the customer well and perhaps add in a cross-sell or upsell based on their persona and account history.
  • Hitting a transactional threshold: Such moments might also be a good time for a cross-sell or upsell.
    Engaging customer service representatives through certain channels: Some people like an in-person experience while others prefer phone calls, email, website chats, social media messaging, and so forth. Paying attention to how and when your customers engage with your company gives you an opportunity to nudge them toward other channels if you have a reason to do so. You can also send follow-up emails to ensure that people are happy with their customer service experience.
  • Expressing interest: Maybe someone asks questions but doesn’t create an account, or they fill out a form requesting more information. That’s an opportunity to not only supply what they need but also create triggers that send emails after a certain amount of time has elapsed and they’re still not a customer. Based on what you know about them, try to personalize the message as much as possible to seal the deal and turn them into a new customer.
  • Needing a reminder: When people engage in a cyclical activity, such as providing the information needed to complete a tax return, you can create triggered reminders that prompt them to re-engage with your business. For something like a tax return, you can start sending reminders in January and keep sending them past the deadline, so you can catch the stragglers.

Paying attention to the customer journey is key because 81% of financial marketers surveyed by Adobe and eCounsultancy said that optimizing it will be “very important” over the next few years.

5. Consider who’s sending the email

One aspect of personalization that’s often overlooked is who’s sending the email. That includes not just customizing the from name and reply-to email address, but also the body of the email. Instead of sending the email from your company, it could come from a specific (but fictional) employee. That employee could vary, depending on the cohort being addressed.

HubSpot tried that technique, testing an email sent by the company versus one sent by a marketing manager. It found that the latter generated a higher click-through rate as well as more overall clicks.

~ Casey