Subject line personalisation


Is Rumpelstiltskin on your list?

Personalisation in the subject line is great thing, making an email more personal can only be a good thing, unless you go too far and get a bit stalky if you get too familiar.
The effectiveness of subject line personalisation is a combination of how you use it and the rapport of each recipient.

Back in the old days of B2B acquisition emailing where postal marketers applied the same method to email, ie: buy a list; they would use personalisation in the subject line to try and fool the recipient into thinking they had a prior relationship with the sender that they had forgotten about.

You see it in real spam every day, where they take the prefix from your email address to try to get you to open it. It’s a numbers game, sometimes the prefix might actually make sense but rarely.

Nowadays people are wiser because it’s been done to death and everyone knows, it’s also hard to make a subject line make sense with personalisation.
Subsequently unless the rapport is great, personalised subject lines are likely to be treated with suspicion.

The subject line is a title, a teaser, the start of a story, a brief contents list if you’re out of ideas adding my name to it will be hard to have it make sense, eg:

“Todays top deals for you Andy” or “Andy, here are the 3 best things to happen this week”
or even worse “3 super cheap holidays for Andy” – not even addressing me.

It’s like a brand is shouting “I KNOW YOUR NAME, YOU MUST NOW OPEN MY EMAIL!”.
That’s not going to work, unless of course I’m Rumpelstiltskin at which point I will of course be compelled to do so.

There are a few of angles which can help though:

Only do this if the data is right.

If there is a chance that you don’t have the right first name, don’t chance it.
Either get the segment perfect or do some build up and ask the question, link to a form and then personalise the people who update their profiles.

If you personalise the subject, personalise the whole email.
Just adding a first name to a subject and nothing else will be an obvious gimmick and will not be popular, unless it’s really really funny. If you can make the whole email personalised or at least seem it, the recipient will get that personal touch from you. This is more than just putting in the first name where you can and you need to use data about them which you have earned not bought otherwise they’ll hate you.

Don’t do it every time

you can do it every time if you like but the pattern will get dry and you’ll just be wasting inbox space. Your from name is where the rapport starts and the subject is the priority.
Adding personalisation every so often, for a special email, will get that boost.
This can be a handy tool for early re-engagement, people who haven’t opened for 3-6 months, for instance.

Get it in the inbox snippet preview

This is a cheeky little trick. As you know, most inboxes will take the top line or two (or three – iPhone6+) of your email’s copy and stick it after the subject line. The idea was to give users that extra bit of information to help them decide and help avoid the odd click-bait subject line. Of course lazy marketers haven’t noticed this and still insist on having “can’t this email…” blurb at the top so that’s what ends up in the inbox, doh!
The idea is to make that very top line in the very top left of the content elaborate and compliment the subject line.
This is a great spot for a first name. In the inbox, after the bold subject line, in lighter text will be your name and the start of the story cut off by the inbox where you will then be compelled to open the email to see the rest of the sentence that your name was in. Alright that might be a little exaggerated but the point is clear.

Here’s a little example from Gmail’s desktop webapp:



Why not give it a go or even do it on a content A/B test.



image created from screenshot of “Once Upon a Time” TV show and a photo of an iPhone 6+

Transactional social share

[tweetmeme source=”getintheinbox” only_single=false]This has literally just occurred to me, I’ve not seen this anywhere but it seems like a good idea?

Many people are quite proud of their new purchases, sometimes it’s a bi-product of the adrenaline of spending money or just the joy or getting something new. These people are likely to be inclined to tell people about it.

I do see it on Facebook and Twitter, where people take photos of their new gadget or shoes and tell their friends.

If I were in on-line retail, I’d want those shares to link back to that product page on my site.

The way I would do it is to add a “tell you friends” button on the transactional emails associated with that order: payment confirmation, delivery details, follow-up review request, etc. etc.

It maybe more popular to do from a mobile app that integrates use of the camera, eg: the Amazon app could do it and the paper work in the box would remind you to do it when you open it.

As far as email is concerned, providing the opportunity to do something someone is already motivated to do but also get the traffic to my site at the same time must be a good thing!
If someone doesn’t want to take a photo, doing it in a browser should be an easy and enjoyable experience using intergations from your site to the scoal networks using the site’s images to help.

If they do want a photo, a mobile app may well be the better way, but also to make it easy to get a photo from your computer to the share would also be s good idea.

One thing that springs to mind would be a link in an email saying “tell your friends” that click will take you to the product page on the site, then a light box pops up providing the opportunity to share, possibly with screenshots of how it would look on Facebook, G+ and twitter.

If this is not a new thing and I’m just in the dark a bit and anyone has seen this in action, please let me know.



Word to the Wise: Consent vs Content

I saw a great quote from Laura Atkins today from the Word to the Wise blog and I just had to share it:

I’m not knocking consent. Consent is great. Every bulk mailer should only be sending mail to people who have asked or agreed to receive that mail.

But if your focus is on delivery and getting mail to the recipient’s inbox and getting the recipient to react to that mail then you can’t just fall back on consent. You have to send them mail that they expect. You have to send them mail that they like. You have to send them mail they will open, read and interact with.…read on

Video in email is cool but virally is it bad for SEO

[tweetmeme source=”getintheinbox” only_single=false]One of the benefits of your content going nice and viral is that places like Twitter, Facebook, Stumbleapon, Digg and Delicious where people share your content are great for giving SEO juice.

Emails on the other hand are not. Traffic from an email is not seen by Google or Bing in the same way and subsequently cannot help get your site up the search rankings.

This is why email does not own social and why SEO tends to run social.
There are more SEO benefits from social than direct revenue.

Q: So what do you do?

A: Use video in email the same way as you use everything else. To get the click through!

Like TV documentaries are a window on the world, emails are a window on the web;
They have a frame and glass to only show you what it can and wants to.

Use the video to increase engagement and get more clicks.

If you make the video too good, people will have no reason to visit your site unless they absolutely want to buy something or they think there are more videos that are that good.

The original hotmail video email about Game of Thrones did not give a full episode or even a full trailer, it gave a teaser.
It was a much bigger teaser than a picture because it moved and had sound.

Of course people will still forward popular emails to each other and with a video they are more likely.
But where you give the opportunity to share the email on a social network consider making the share button share the url of the landing page instead of the browser view of the email.
Of course you could also host a version of the browser view on your own site and link to that and still get the SEO juice but you are asking someone to take and extra step to achieve your goals for them.
A full web page / dedicated landing page will also be more attractive than an email, it can do more. For email there is only really novelty value to go with.

More money is still going to SEO and Social than email, so why not share links back to your site rather than the actual email, and have something to show the purse strings about how email can beat SEO at its own social game?

Will the new ICO powers help the fight against spam

[tweetmeme source=”getintheinbox” only_single=false]As a response to the increased EU privacy laws, there will be an amendment to our Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) in the UK.

From the 25th of May 2011 the ICO will have the powers to fine businesses and organisations up to half a million pounds for incidents of unwanted marketing calls, emails and SMSs.

The powers include:

  • Monetary penalty powers extended
  • Increased investigatory powers
  • Compulsory notification when breaches occur
  • Increased audit powers
  • New rules for websites using cookies and similar technologies

For all of the details on each point and a word from the Information Commissioner himself, Christopher Graham read the full press release from their press release page.

– – –

Now to the brain-dump / rant…

While this dramatically increases consequences and hopefully will act as more of a deterrent now, personally I’m not sure what this will really achieve for email marketing.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to kick the gift-horse in the teeth: it is definitely a step forward and gives hope for the future, but it merely means that there are more consequences for ignoring the PECR. However, the majority of the emails that get complained about are sent within the law, it is the law that is the problem.

Along with the US CAN-SPAM laws (often referred to as “u-can-spam”) the UK’s soft opt-in and zero protection for generic business addresses while popular with data brokers and lead generation businesses is despised by recipients and subsequently their ISPs. So much so that ISPs have their own sending regulations far beyond the legal requirements requesting only emails that have actually been asked for by their users.
And no-one who’s been blocked by and ISP has ever successfully sued an ISP for it – even though I’ve occasionally hear the phrase ‘illegal restriction of trade’ no-one tries it because they know they won’t win.

The large consumer ISPs like Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail and AOL (respectably) are all utilising engagement monitoring to help them more accurately assign a reputation and decide if someone is sending emails their users want and have asked for…or not. This reputation will then decide inbox placement and volume tolerances for brands by IP address, domain, email address and sometimes even the prefix.

You have to ask your selves, why have ISPs had to do this?

Answer: Because the law does not respect email or SMS properly.

As countries in the mainland EU like Germany and Holland have nailed down their data privacy laws, and now the EU  has improved their laws significantly and appropriately, they have nicely encroached on  the generally poor communication laws, and that can only be a good thing.

Now we just need the same protection in the UK because it’s not cutting it: email is not flyering.

One big problem is that once an email address has given 3rd party permission once, that’s it there is no way out. You just have to keep hitting the unsubscribe links – if you trust them – or hit the spam button, or get a new email account. And most of the time you don’t realise you’ve even given 3rd party permission.

Something has to give and change to improve the recipient experience and stop consumers just thinking that all marketing emails are spam:

  • Brands should be forced to clearly announce contact details usage and ownership in plain site of the submission form, not a linked Ts and Cs page full of small print.
  • Brands should not be allowed to force consumers into providing 3rd party opt-in when using their site.
    Eg: credit companies, comparison sites and gambling sites etc.
  • Ownership of that data must stay with the collector.
  • All email addresses should have the same levels of opt-in, whether they are consumer, business or generic business. However I will compromise for generic business address being given the same protection and opt-out rules as personal business addresses.
  • I can tolerate the soft-opt-in as long as the soft-optin emails are sent from the same brand which attained consent in the first place.

So my main issue is third party sharing of email addresses which to me is a privacy thing.

Maybe it is because an email address alone is not classed as personal identification, because it is without context, even if it is firstname.lastname@…?

It is someone’s email address and subsequently should be treated with respect and care born out of empathy, not contempt born out of greed from more money for nothing – great tune by the way, got it as a ring tone for whenever my Dad calls me.

There must be a reason why sharing email addresses so freely is still an acceptable practice, other than no-one has fought hard enough to change it?

Is it some kind of age old industrial loyalty to a revenue stream born out of peoples’ apparent endless confusion between postal marketing and email marketing

Maybe it’s some kind of pressure from elsewhere

Could it just be de-prioritisation.

Dunno is the answer, but something is wrong with it.

Email UX – recipient experience top 5

[tweetmeme source=”getintheinbox” only_single=false]You may have read me banging on about the recipient experience, whether it was about deliverability, engagement or ROI (they are all the same by the way) and when ever I read a good piece from someone else about it I cannot help but shout about it (eg: Scott Cohen’s Conversation Starter).

Well, I’ve found another one:

Email Insight less is more” by the legend of Remy Bergsma on his (April 11th, 2011) really got to the core of it.

It’s a great length of post too, not too long that you decide to save it for later and never get round to it,
but has all the points too: it has a nice contextual image and a simple 5 point list, what more can you ask for:

  1. Purpose
  2. Audience
  3. Time
  4. Followup
  5. Tone of voice

If you want to find out what this means for your email success…read on

If not, you really should do, so…read on

– – –

There is not enough about the really core touchy feely, how to delight people consistently in email marketing. There is so much pressure on numbers and money, the recipient experience is fading. Senders either through lack of inclination or pressure are still thinking the word ‘blast’ (uurgggh) and forgetting that every recipient is an individual.

Each person is different and can look at your brand differently, based on their exposure to you, the way they found out who you are, their life long experiences of your brand and the amount of time since you last entered their thoughts or even line of sight.

Your call to action might not be achievable for every person on your list for any reason and you might end up losing people who would will spend later if you treat them right. So normalise it with some top level categories like their age, their last purchase, their last interaction, how long they’ve been with you etc.

Split the list for prospects and customers, split those lists for hot & cold leads and customers & fans and make sure what you want them to do is achievable. Help them achieve it and those who aren’t ready purchase now will be next time and you’ll know about it!

And don’t forget that with social media it is even easier for people to say things about you and people are more inclined to shout about a bad thing than a good thing – because a good thing is just the norm – so aim for delighted and if you under achieve all is well and everything else is gravy!