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How to Actually Personalize Your Member Communications

Associations, Communications Strategy // Creating truly personalized emails can be hard to do. But much of personalization comes down to the tech you’re using and how you’re using it.

Vivian Swertinski
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We know the statistics; we have the proof. Relevance is key to engagement. Personalized emails improve relevancy, consistently outperforming non-personalized communications. But the question I have for you is this: how do you define personalization and how are you incorporating it into your email strategy? If your definition of personalization is using a name field in a subject line, then you’re just scratching the surface of opportunity.

As I glance through my own email inbox, I can tell which organizations are sending broadcast messages and which ones are actually paying attention to me. Personalization is communicating in a way that makes your audience feel known. It’s seeing your audience in a holistic way instead of data fragments by market channel.

Now, if you’re already thinking, “This sounds like it could get complicated fast and we have a small marketing team with limited resources,” stay with me. I promise this can be a game changer and it’s within your reach.

The Key to Email Personalization

It’s essential that you see yourself through your audiences’ eyes. Your audience sees you as one organization, whether they call you, visit your online community, email you, like you on Facebook, attend an event, or visit your website. The engagement they have with you is defined by their experiences across multiple touchpoints.

Now let’s flip this around. How do you see your audience? Fragmented or whole? Can you connect the dots as they interact across multiple channels?

If you’re not able to leverage audience behavior across channels than you are definitely leaving money on the table. That’s why I’m such a big fan of marketing automation technology. Marketing automation is the technology that empowers organizations to easily blend website, email, database, and online community activity to deliver relevant, automated communications. It empowers you to market like a big brand even if you’re a team of one.

3 Marketing Automation Essentials for Creating a More Personalized Email Experience

You need three main ingredients to create a personalized experience with marketing automation.

  1. Integrated systems
  2. Advanced targeting tools
  3. Automated campaign designer

Let’s look at each.

1. Integrated Systems

“Integrated systems” mean that your database, email platform, website and even online community inform each other. With an integrated marketing automation platform, you can bridge the information gap. Having more data in one place means you as a marketer can target your audience in a holistic way.

Now, the low hanging fruit that marketing automation technology provides is the ability to respond directly to website activity. This is called web tracking. Websites are the primary portal through which audiences interact and conduct business, so it’s imperative to have a web tracking insight and action tool with the capability to effectively correspond with known web visitors.

With a marketing automation software like Higher Logic’s, you can track and take action on observed behavior of audiences on your active email subscriber list. That means that you can engage in conversations with your audience much like you would in person.

Think about it: if you observed a lapsed member visiting your website, wouldn’t you want to reach out to them? If a prospect began the membership application form but did not successfully complete it, wouldn’t you want to follow up with them? The opportunities to follow up, add value, and nurture audience relationships are abundant with marketing automation.

Personalization opportunities abound when your association management system and online community data are also integrated with your email marketing platform. Blending online community insights with membership profile information enables you to customize the member experience.

2. Advanced Targeting Tools

The second ingredient for creating a personalized experience is having advanced targeting capabilities. With an advanced targeting tool, you can cast a wide net or get as granular as you like. For example, you may want to select all subscribers that visited your website in the past six months or drill down to just those that viewed an event page yesterday. You can then turn these into target groups.

The power of target groups is in how you use them. Target groups can be used to trigger a single email or be the entry point for an automated campaign. They can be used as an exclusion file or as a decision point to branch audience members into personalized communication streams. The tool provides the flexibility to combine target groups together to create a very precise audience.

For example, when the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) used target groups to focus on audiences most likely to convert, they immediately experienced a 25% uptick in event registrations. Specific website and email interaction behavior qualified individuals to receive timely and relevant event communications. This highly targeted group received information to aid and support their decision-making process. The campaign exceeded expectations! It contributed $72,000 in revenue and brought at-risk members back to the annual conference.

3. Automated Campaign Designer

The third ingredient for creating a personalized experience is having an automated communication workflow. Automated workflows allow you to pre-program the delivery of messages according to how subscribers interact with the content. Subscribers automatically start receiving messages based on the cadence and criteria you establish in the campaign. With a tool that allows you to build out email campaigns from start to finish, you can easily visualize where campaign members come from and where they go at each stage. And the smaller your team, the greater the need to automate for process efficiency.

For example, instead of just sending one onboarding email to new members, you could engage your audience right at the start with a multi-part welcome campaign. Or you could turn your membership renewal emails into a campaign that reacts to what members do.

Email Personalization is Possible with Marketing Automation

The options to create meaningful interactions are endless when you connect the dots between your audience interests, their behaviors, and your marketing tools.

To jumpstart the thought process for your personalization opportunities, picture your website as an actual storefront. Imagine the store buzzing with activity, and you’re in the store in the midst of your audience. You notice the familiar faces of long-term customers and you see a few first-time visitors browsing products and walking through the store.

What behaviors would prompt you to engage in conversation? When would you offer additional information to someone who’s just looking? What activity would prompt you to make a product recommendation? Are there activities that you would want to follow up on? As you envision the opportunities to observe and serve your audience, you may be thinking, “If only my website could be more like a storefront.” The good news is that it can be, with the right tools.

With marketing automation technology, you’re empowered to communicate in a way that makes your audience feel known.

Vivian Swertinski

Senior Manager of Strategic Services

Vivian Swertinski, Senior Manager of Strategic Services at Higher Logic, has over 25 years’ experience helping customers leverage technology and strategy to achieve outstanding results. She is known for helping organizations turn engagement challenges into engagement success stories. During her 7 years at Higher Logic, Vivian has delighted in helping customers achieve operational efficiencies and increase annual revenues.

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