Sick of receiving too many emails? Do you ever peek into your inbox and wonder how you ended up on so many lists, many of which you may not even recall ever signing up for? Sadly for marketers, you’re in good company. While email remains one of the best channels, in terms of ROI, to communicate with customers and drive revenue, we can all agree that it’s gotten a bit crowded over the past 20+ years.

Consumers facing email exhaustion are quick to delete, archive, filter and defend their inbox by any means necessary. Coupled with steps Email Service Providers (ESP’s) have taken in recent years to organize (think Gmail’s sorting tabs), it can be a real challenge to reach your audience, let actionable personalization for local businessalone keep them opening and engaging with your communications.

The Power of Personalization:

Personalization is the powerful key to cutting through the noise to reach your audience. Personalized subject lines increase the likelihood that they’ll be opened by customers by 26%, as well as boosting click-through rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10%. As compelling as the data alone can be, it’s also squarely aligned with local business philosophies.

The differentiator has always been (and continues to be) the personal touch of independently-run businesses within a community. The store owner that knows you by name, as well as your child’s favorite ice cream flavor; the exterminator whose personal cell phone number you have on hand for emergencies; the electrician who will make a weekend house call because you’ve known him for a decade. The value of such customer relationships has always been a cornerstone of local business, and so it’s only fitting that these personal touches remain in tact, even when adapted to digital communications.

For this post, we’ve decided to dissect the best tactics and tips for personalizing your marketing communications, including email and text messages. There is still a significant opportunity here, as even many large or corporate brands have encountered difficulty in customizing at scale. We’ve adapted our best practices to ensure SMB’s of any stage can start applying to your current strategy, and getting results immediately!

It all starts with your contact lists

As with all things in modern day marketing, every successful campaign or initiative begins with your data. Now, we haven’t forgotten the promise at the start of this post to keep these takeaways basic and actionable.  As intimidating and technical as the application of data may seem, in this case there’s no need for advanced analysis. The “data” in this sense are your customer contact records. It’s vital to keep these up-to-date and precise, at all times. Make a list of all the places you currently request, require, or collect contact info, whether on your site, email subscriber lists, social pages, estimates, appointment scheduling software, or many others.

It’s important to have one, centralized location to store all of this information. If you’re already using a CRM, make sure that you update the records, accordingly, and format all entries properly. Be aware of the limitations of other software  you might be using. Although many of them might also provide some version of a light CRM, if it’s not their main focus, it could be lacking the tools you need to effectively organize your customer relationships. Creating a spreadsheet of all the information you’d like to track is another alternative, but be careful to be accurate and check for any typos or errors. Some important data to collect:

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Company Name (if applicable)
  • Email Address
  • Phone Number
  • Residential Address
  • Interactions with your business (any calls, emails, questions, reviews left, social media mentions)
  • Status (Are they a prospect that’s shown interest, but has yet to transact? A new customer? A frequent or loyal customer?)
  • Transaction Info (could be average transaction value (ATV), or you could log the amounts and what products/services they purchase for improved segmentation!)

Again, the importance of being precise cannot be emphasized enough. Any strange formatting (i.e. inputting a customer’s name as “ken” vs. “Ken”), can result in a potential blunder that could result in anything from a bit of embarrassment to the loss of a customer.

Where to personalize?

Consumers crave customization. They seek out unique and individual experiences, services, and products. However, they’re also unwilling to compromise for authenticity. It’s essential for businesses to strike a balance between these two demands, which can sometimes find themselves at odds. As mentioned above, personalized subject lines in emails can improve their chances of being opened and read. Adding their first name, company name (when applicable), or even mentioning items or services that they’ve shown consistent interest in, can all tip the scales in your favor. Instead of simply announcing a summer sale, you could reference a service they often purchase, such as “Summer Sale starts now – up to 30% off!” vs. “Summer Sale – Gutter Cleaning and Repair 30% off!”.  Usually, adding their name, is a good place to start.

Similarly, inside the email or text, personalization can also help to nudge them to take the next action, by clicking to make an appointment, calling (through click-to-call functionality on mobile, where a majority of emails are now opened!), or whatever the desired next step may be.

If you provide free quotes or estimates in your line of work, then it can also be helpful to customize these as well. Even if you use a template, just adding the name and personal info to the quote, bill, or report can improve the customer’s overall experience and requires minimal effort.

Personalized Recommendations

Big brands like Amazon have popularized personal product recommendations and made them the new bar for consumer expectations. Of course, few businesses have resources anywhere near that magnitude, but that doesn’t mean others should dismiss the approach altogether. There are many stepping stones en route to a comprehensive recommendation engine.

Purchase tracking is a great tool for such recommendations. When you have insight into the type of items or services any given customer frequently purchases, then you can tailor your communications to ensure they remain engaged. If you are manually tracking, it makes sense to streamline into larger buckets that make sense given your offering. For example, a full-service salon might want to segment according to type of service: Hair (can even drill down further between cuts vs. color and more), nails, waxing, spa treatments, etc. You may want to just start with product purchases vs. service if you offer both, or determine ATV buckets (i.e. $1-$50; $51-$100; $100-$250, etc.).

This way you can tailor the messages, promotions and offers to things that are within reach. You don’t want to send an email to a happy customer with a smaller budget about a huge sale you’re having, if it only applies to your highest priced offerings. This will only create potential frustration. This also gives you flexibility to diversify the types of offers or emails you send and enables them to have more of an impact. You also have visibility into who your “best” customers are, both in terms of purchase frequency and highest transactions.

You can incorporate these efforts into your loyalty program. You can send exclusive event invitations to your best customers, or test different types of promotions to your small but frequent shoppers. You’ll also be able to identify lapsed customers more readily, and conduct outreach to win them back or reactivate them.

Get Started!

Personalization need not be intimidating. As with many other things in the digital marketing universe, it’s rarely an all-or-nothing pursuit. Even putting some basic first steps into place is sure to yield tremendous returns. It’s credited with delivering 6 times higher transaction rates, so the sooner you take the leap, the faster you can enjoy the benefits personalization has on your bottom line!