Some people say email marketing is dead

I (and most of my peers) strongly disagree. What those naysayers mean is that email marketing has changed.

It has changed because customer expectations are now so high. Modern customers demand an interesting and relevant experience. Sending the same message to everyone on your email list doesn’t work anymore.

Regardless of this, email, in my opinion, remains a key component of the marketing toolkit. What marketers need to do now is tailor emails so that what the customer receives is more relevant to them. Thereby increasing the effectiveness of the email and improving the customer’s experience (as they receive something they are far more likely to be interested in).

Research by the Aberdeen Group indicates personalised emails improve click-through rates by 14%, and conversion rates by 10%.

However, to personalise your marketing you need to know more about the individuals you are marketing to – and this is where it gets tricky when you’re talking about new prospects and recent subscribers as you won’t have swathes of information about them.

So what information should you ask for when you’re collecting data? It’s a delicate balance as asking for too much can be off putting.

The minimum information you need in order to effectively personalise are:

Email address – The email address is likely to be the unique key to your customers and is essential to market to them via email. Email marketing is the most profitable in terms of ROI and allows brands to enhance customer-brand relationship, build loyalty and engagement.

Mobile number – Should you wish to contact your customers via SMS, you need their mobile numbers. As customers are more and more mobile, we are seeing an increasing number of retailers sending SMSs to their customers for sales announcements or service messages such as store openings, order confirmations and out of stock messages.

Name – Collecting customer names allows brands to create a personally addressed experience for the user – in the subject line and in the copy. It is also useful for showing that your email isn’t spam, increases open rates and fosters brand trust.

Date of birth – Ideal for birthday campaigns to increase loyalty and drive engagement. This information is often collected at sign up but may be requested at a later stage too. Birthday campaigns are an excellent way of engaging positively with a customer and are a good opportunity to make them feel special (read this white paper on birthday campaigns for more).

That’s not all – depending on your brand you may also want to collect addresses.

Address – Postal address is often a required field at checkout stage for delivery purposes. A customer’s postal address can be extremely valuable if you wish to do some geo-targeting for new stores opening (local maps), closest store information or invitation to events.

Sending customers geo-targeted content is going to be highly relevant to them and likely to generate much more engagement than the standard email. Collecting a full address is sometime a lengthy process for customers, therefore other alternatives may wish to be considered such as asking for zip or post code which would auto populate the rest of the address, and if not, would suffice for geo-targeting.

When to ask for this data

As mentioned the more information you ask for in one go the more likely you are to put potential customers off. There are options such as progressive profiling – where you collect data types of a longer period of time and touchpoints – which can help, but essentially it boils down to value.

Potential customers will be more than happy to give you their details as long as they see the value in doing so. What you are offering has to be worth their while.

Believe it or not, a lot of this comes down to making sure you express that value as well as you can. The skill here is to put the customer first and to remember that you’re not trying to trick them into giving you their data. They need to know why they’re doing it and what they’re going to receive in return. This way the data you collect will be of engaged and relevant potential customers.

You’d rather have the details of 500 relevant potential customers who are interested in your brand and what you sell than 50,000 complete randoms who are not likely to be interested in what you have to offer.

The data you have is there to improve the customer experience

At the end of the day asking for personal information is a tricky subject. As discussed it all comes down to value and ensuring that what you are offering is valuable to the person giving you their information.

Ultimately it really comes down to the customer experience. Take a step back and ask yourself – is what you’re going to send them of the value that they’re expecting?

Equally you need to make sure that when you have the data you are using it to make your marketing more relevant to the individuals in question. Some messages and industries really don’t need to go crazy with personalisation and should think realistically about whether they’re really adding to and improving the experiences of their customers. Do all brands need to send a birthday campaign? Do all industries need a mobile number? Should personal finance brands send an SMS?

If personalisation is relevant to your brand and the campaign you are thinking about then it’s definitely something you should consider – but to do it you need to have the right sorts of data and that data needs to be accurate. Make sure you’re making the most of the tools you have on offer and are collecting the right data at the right points in the customer journey but above all – put the customer first. If it’s not relevant or you’re not helping them have a better experience by offering relevancy and value then think again.

For more on customer-centricity read this article by Richard Whale.

Experian Marketing Services is the leading global provider of customer insights, data quality and cross-channel marketing. We help organisations intelligently interact with today’s empowered and hyper-connected consumers.

By helping marketers identify best customers, find more, and then coordinate seamless and intelligent interactions across the most appropriate channels, Experian Marketing Services can deepen customer loyalty, strengthen brand advocacy and maximise profits.