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You Actually Want Someone to Open Your Email, Right?

Email yogi (best title ever) Sundeep Kapur has been a customer at the same bank for more than a quarter century. He also speaks English. These two facts together should create a specialized, at least semi-personalized experience for Kapur at the ATM, but, sadly, they don’t.

Every time Kapur (official title: director of strategic e-commerce marketing at electronic company NCR Corporation) puts his ATM card into the machine—and over the course of 27 years, we’re talking a lot of swipes—he’s asked to choose his preferred language, and every single time he selects “English.” Next, the machine asks Kapur what he wants to do. Nine times out of ten the answer is, “withdraw $60.”

“After all of this, they have the audacity to tell me that they know what is best for me because they always have an offer,” scoffs Kapur (below). “[Brands] need to pay attention to basics and will certainly excel if they can personalize with relevance.”

One area marketers should be paying particular attention to when it comes to personalization is email—a) because there’s no excuse for sloppy email marketing and messages that start out “Dear [first name],” if you’re using your database and your automation software right; and b) when email isn’t personalized it goes over with customers about as well as bad Wi-Fi at the unveiling of the next iPhone.

In the lead-up to the SES conference, going down March 25 through 28 in NYC, Kapur—who will be presenting a session on email engagement and a full-day training workshop on email marketing success—took a few minutes to talk email do’s and (for the love of god, please) don’ts.

How big of a turnoff would you say unpersonalized email is and how quickly will and untargeted emails cause someone to disengage?

Let’s start by considering what personalization is. It’s nice if I address you by your name, but it’s even better if I can remember what you did the last time or if I know what you like. My most frequent airline always addresses me by my name, but somehow makes me offers that I already have. Simply calling someone by name is not personalization; you have to make it personal to the person.

Email is a very personal channel—is this something email marketers have forgotten?

Email is preferred when it’s personal, mobile when it’s urgent, and social helps you spread the word. I’ve given you my email address and I’m willing to let you in by opening your message—do not blow this trust by “blasting” me. If you send me a message, it has to be relevant to what I want, or else I’m going to tune out, start hitting delete, and eventually unsubscribe.

How important is mobile-optimized email?

My bank “optimizes” its email messaging—it’s called “scrunching” and then they expect me to squint to read. Just fitting the message into mobile is not optimization. Here are five tips to optimize for mobile: a clear subject line, preview pane text that explains the message, limited number of offers in the campaign, no skinny links, and a clear call to action that takes you to a landing page that is also truly optimized.

What’s the main difference between email outreach for B2B versus B2C?

While you need to think about personalization, keep in mind that there might be more than one person who responds to an email in an office setting, like someone ordering office supplies. Other important considerations are timing and bandwidth. However, the most important consideration is “time taken to engage.” A B2B email with content can keep the recipient busy for a while, whereas a B2C email has to grab the consumer’s attention quickly.

What should marketers be tracking in their preference centers?

Don’t ask the obvious. Let me give you an example from a movie rental company. Whenever I rent a movie, they ask for feedback. Their first question to me is, “What movie did you rent?” It ticks me off because this is something they should already know. Preference centers need to track clicks, and lack of, to track preferences. Pay attention to this kind of detail and you will be served very well.

What really creative things can you use to harness the power of social in email?

Drop the small buttons, what is the point in putting up an F, a T, or a B? Do not ask them to like you or follow you. Do not give them gifts or play games. Instead, lead them in with intrigue. Do you know the fastest two minutes in sports? What are seven common tax mistakes? Why do cardinals kiss?

What would you say is the top challenge facing email marketers today?

The key mantra is to drive value-based engagement. If you cannot show value, you will fail in your engagement and it’s simply downhill from there. If I can get my list to open, click, and purchase, it will help with deliverability, segmentation—into proper preferences—and ROI. I can only do this if my consumer pays attention to my campaigns.

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