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What to Do When You Don’t Have Enough Data to Personalize Emails

Apr 2, 2015   |   3 min read

Knowledge Center  ❯   Blog

emailpersonalizationCustomer data is the key to successful personalization. It can transform your marketing strategy, boost subscriber engagement increase ROI and help you better understand the drivers behind customer conversion. In many ways, customer data is the magic elixir guaranteed to help take your email marketing strategy from dull to dazzling.

There’s just one problem: what do you do when you only have access to a limited amount of data?

The Data Dilemma

Several weeks ago, at one of the conferences we attended, a marketing professional for a large insurance company approached our booth. She’d attempted to use a highly sophisticated personalization platform but, because her customers were not engaging enough with her emails, she couldn’t collect the behavioral data the platform needed to build the necessary algorithms.

Of course, she’s certainly not alone. Only about one third of marketers feel they collect enough data about their customers. Even with dozens of tools at your disposal, obtaining and making sense of your data can be a challenge.

However, as we explained to this overwhelmed conference attendee, when it comes to data, you can’t achieve a perfectly refined, ultra-sophisticated personalization strategy overnight. You have to start with a proper foundation.

Here’s how to personalize email campaigns with limited data:

Create Buyer Personas

A buyer persona is a representation of your customer based on thorough research. This semi-fictional character embodies a section of your audience, and will help you better shape your email marketing efforts. Initially, you can collect persona information by interviewing your buyers. Then, as you obtain additional data through future marketing efforts, your personas will become more robust.

According to Adele Revella, creator of the Buyer Persona Institute, there are five rings of buying insight you’ll need to explore to shape your personas:

  1. Priority Initiatives: What causes buyers to invest in your solution?
  2. Success Factors: What result does your buyer expect from your solution?
  3. Perceived Barriers: What concerns would cause your buyer not to choose your solution?
  4. Buyer’s Journey: What influencers affect your buyer as they evaluate options?
  5. Decision Criteria: What aspects of your solution, along with your competitors’ solutions, does the buyer perceive as most important?

Answering these questions through research and customer interviews will help you shape your personas and enhance your targeting.

Adopt the Cluster Method

A cluster, scientifically speaking, is a group of objects with similar characteristics. In marketing, the cluster method is a way of defining the similarities between customers. A sports equipment retailer creating a campaign for a sailing equipment sale, for example, may create a cluster of people who live within a certain proximity of the ocean.

In other words, clustering is the precursor to customer segmentation. Once you’ve defined the characteristics, and determined trends, you can slice and dice your customers into segments. Eventually, you can use behavioral data to further refine these segments.

Use Data to Get Data

As we’ve highlighted before, the best way to obtain new data is to use the data you already have. Using an email intelligence service, you can use customer email addresses to obtain social media information, postal addresses and purchase data. As you learn more about your customers, you’ll be able to improve your targeting technique.

When it comes to data acquisition, the process is cyclical: highly personalized messaging leads to engagement, engagement leads to better data and better data leads to greater personalization.

In conclusion, what do you do when you don’t have enough data to personalize? Create buyer personas, begin clustering and use data to obtain more data. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying all the benefits of sophisticated personalization.

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