Why 2015 Is the Year of Personalization

I know, I know, not another post about what the new year means for email marketing. We’ve already seen that video is the new trend, mobile’s gonna be where it’s at, gotta have microtargeting and marketing automation, and is it really an email without a #hashtag? Marketing clearly has a LOT going on in 2015, and it can be a lot to wrap your head around.

Let me clear all that up by declaring that there’s one thing 2015 is definitely going to be: the year of personalization. The common thread in all of the posts I’ve read is that you need to really focus on knowing exactly who your customer is and how they like to get their marketing content. Inboxes are more crowded than ever, and you’re going to need to really work to make your messages stand out.

Easier said than done though, right? It’s not like you can ask every prospect to fill out a complex personality profile, give you their Myers-Briggs test results, and provide a blood sample. How do you get that information, and then how do you use it to personalize without being creepy?

Collect relevant information as it relates to your product.

Don’t be that marketer who asks for a birthday, but doesn’t send me a birthday email. Collect data from your prospects that you actually plan on using, such as purchase history or what I’m doing on your website. Don’t just collect data to have data — collect data to use it for something meaningful. At the same time, don’t overwhelm your prospects by asking them for too much. I recommend using progressive profiling to ask prospects for more information on multiple form fills. Ease into the relationship; don’t ask for all of your prospect’s data up front. Build a strategy first, then collect the relevant data you need to help drive your creative and your overall marketing strategy.

Personalize thoughtfully.

As humans, we have a fundamental need to be treated as valued members of our community. Consider the barista who remembers your favorite drink, or the sales person who asks you about your family. We feel good about those interactions and are more likely to purchase because the other person has taken the time and energy to care about us personally. Now here’s the really fascinating part: we don’t psychologically distinguish between that sort of social recognition from a human and from a machine (there’s a huge body of research on this, I recommend starting with this and going from there — and saying goodbye to your productivity today). You can leverage this within your email subject lines by using our variable tags. Even something as simple as “Hi Skyler, have you seen our awesome crochet hooks?” is more likely to achieve an open, as it looks more personal.

Don’t be creepy.

There’s a fine line between personalizing and being really creepy about what I’m doing on your site. Target learned that lesson when their algorithms accurately predicted someone was pregnant and began sending her advertisements for baby products before her father knew! Don’t use your data to be that creepy. Instead, ease into things by starting with an email that references my name and company, then send another one later if you notice I’ve visited a certain page on your website. A good rule of thumb here is: “Would I be freaked out if I received this after visiting someone else’s site?” If the answer is yes, don’t do it to someone else!

I’m calling 2015 the year of personalization, as it’s going to be so much more important to find new and exciting ways to forge a personal relationship with your prospects. What’s your prediction for what 2015 will look like for the future of email? Tweet to me @holobachgirl with your thoughts!