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Behavioral Email Marketing: Real vs. Ideal

Nov 4, 2013   |   3 min read

Knowledge Center  ❯   Blog

behavioral marketingBehavioral marketing with automated triggers is all the rage. Andrea Krohnberg, for example, describes behavioral marketing as “the marketer’s dream-delivering the most relevant message to the willing customer, at the right time, via the right channel.”

Also gaga over behavioral marketing is Silverpop CEO Bill Nussey, who describes it as “real-time, cross-channel, insanely relevant campaigns to one person at a time automatically driven by analytics of their actions, preferences and profiles.”

This sounds great, but look closer and you’ll find that triggered behavioral marketing is dizzyingly complex and requires an immense amount of work to set up the infrastructure-including database, rules, triggers, monitors and personalized messages.

As Dave Chaffey of Smart Insights points out, behavioral marketing is still used by relatively few companies. “One barrier to setting up these event-triggered email sequences is the time it takes to specify the sequences if it’s a new approach to the company or agency,” he explains.

In response to a query about which tool is the easiest to set up for automated behavioral marketing, Chaffey replies, “it’s quite complex to set up, so all the systems are fairly complex.”

Likewise, Jon Miller of Marketo notes that behavioral marketing “is still not commonly put into practice. Why? “Because traditional email service providers have not made it easy.”

Stumbling Blocks

That marketers are struggling with all forms of real-time marketing is supported by Neolane’s study, which found that the chief stumbling block to dynamic personalized marketing was the complexity of systems. Neolane’s conclusion is “marketers need a tangible and easy way to get started with real-time marketing.”

Complex marketing automation schemes, however, are at the heart of behavioral marketing as envisioned by marketing automation vendors. As Silverpop’s Bryan Brown explains, the formula for behavioral marketing is “an individual’s behaviors + marketing automation = behavioral marketing.” Brown recommends marketers begin by building a centralized marketing database. Marketo’s Jon Miller agrees, explaining that modern engaging email marketing needs to be powered with a behavior-smart database at the core.

This, however, is no simple task. As Brown explains, the centralized database must capture the interactions of each person with your company across multiple channels: site visits, email, social, mobile, offline, CRM, location, Web forms and more.

You can start, Brown suggests, “by tapping the power of marketing automation platforms to extend your marketing beyond email to multichannel and cross-channel data capture.”

If/Then Thickets

Besides setting up your comprehensive database, behavioral marketing requires you to set up triggers to respond to prospects’ actions. You also must craft personalized responses based on the customer profiles you have created to be dynamically delivered by the triggers. Thus, multiple “if/then” scenarios must be programmed to guide the system in detecting and sending personalized messages in response to user actions.

As Brown points out, you don’t have to be a math wiz to see that, with all those variables, you could “potentially establish rule sets that would send prospects and customers down dozens, even hundreds of different messaging paths based on their unique actions and attributes.”

With multiple routing schemes, it can get even hairier. As Brown explains, in addition to sending an email triggered by a behavior, you could also alert a sales rep, route names to an outbound call center, schedule an appointment, dynamically generate individualized content on your website or social page and recognize your contact across all of his or her devices (laptop, smartphone, iPad).

As we see, setting up a database and marketing automation scheme for behavioral marketing is a daunting proposition. This complexity is reflected in the relatively small percentage of marketers who are conducting triggered campaigns. Epsilon’s latest Email Trends and Benchmarks report, for example, found triggered messages accounted for 3.5 percent of total email volume.

That real-time triggered email can deliver higher returns is seen in a number of studies, including Epsilon’s research, which shows triggered open rates were 70.2 percent higher in Q2 2013 compared to business-as-usual messages. Click rates were also higher by 152.3 percent.

Finding Technical Guidance

Those who want to pursue behavioral marketing will find information scarce. While many blogs and articles offer vague generalities about how wonderful behavioral marketing can be, technical details are rare. Dave Chaffey is among the few providing more concrete information on how to map out a behavioral marketing scheme. Bryan Brown of Silverpop also offers some information about behavioral profiling and setting up marketing automation triggers.

For many marketers, building up the skill set to pursue behavioral marketing will require a monumental effort. Thus, top-tier email marketers who persevere in acquiring the skills and expending the energy required to perform behavioral marketing will be able to separate themselves from marketers who cannot match their efforts.

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Photo Credit: daniel zimmel

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