The Power of the Drip Part 2: Email Personalization and Relevancy


The first post in “The Power of the Drip” mini-series defined drip marketing as an email strategy that deploys a set of messages to an audience over time, based on key recipient characteristics, and explored how drip marketing affects email frequency and timing. To conclude this drip series, this post will examine drip marketing in the context of audience segmentation and persona-building to provide personalized, relevant content.

Developing a clear picture of the types of email subscribers you have is key to tailoring your messages to address the specific needs of each audience member. This means abandoning the traditional approach that “blasts” the same, long message filled with disparate content to your entire audience on a pre-determined schedule and employing a new approach that presents only the pieces of your content that pertain to smaller subgroups of your audience with common inputs, behaviors, or statuses.

Why you should care about personalization and relevancy
Utilizing a drip strategy that focuses on personalization and relevancy can help you meet your organization’s email goals, can be automated and repurposed through dynamic content, and have multiple applications in government email communication.

Since the average email recipient spends only 51 seconds scanning the content of an email message (per Nielsen Norman Group), shorter messages focused on a single topic germane to the reader are more likely to meet your email performance goals. According to the Aberdeen Group, personalized messages increase click-through rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10% compared to generic messages. Juniper Research found that relevant messages drive 18 times more revenue than broadcast messages.

With advances in email service providers’ capabilities, the process of sending applicable messages to specific audience segments can often be automated, using dynamic content tools. Automating messages with dynamic content also allows you to repurpose that content. In fact, a study by The Lenskold and Pedowitz Groups found that automated messages help marketers repurpose 61% more content than ad hoc messages.

Remember, you can use drip marketing for multiple types of government campaigns, making it a versatile strategy:

  • Set expectations and introduce new subscribers to relevant content via a welcome series. MarketingSherpa found that the average open rate for a welcome message is 50%, making it prime real estate to build trust and create connections with your audience.
  • Break down a curriculum or training into a set of “bite-size” messages to educate subscribers over time.
  • Confirm event registrations, and send pertinent information and reminders prior to the event.
  • Follow up content downloads with additional, complementary content.
  • Build momentum and call for action for the duration of an awareness campaign period.

How to implement personalization
With personalization, you use information about your individual subscribers or subgroups of your subscribers to build audience personas (DigitalGov offers a wealth of information on developing audience personas). There are three broad ways to segment your audience:

  1. Subscriber inputs, including name, age, gender, topic and interest selections, timing preferences, etc.
  2. Subscriber behaviors, including email opens or clicks, webform completions, website pageviews, content downloads, event registrations/attendance, etc.
  3. Subscriber statuses, including device use, geographic location, weather or safety threats, current events, etc.

Notice a theme yet? The drip approach focuses on the characteristics of your subscriber rather than the demands of your organization.

How to meet the needs of both your audience and your boss
Let’s combine the above concepts in hypothetical drip campaign examples for flu prevention:

Subscriber inputs

  • Personalize the message greeting or subject line with the subscriber’s name.
  • As the flu affects different age groups in distinct ways, craft a series of messages on the importance of vaccination for seniors, various flu immunization options for seniors, flu symptoms in seniors, when and how seniors should seek health care, and senior treatment options, and send them only to your subscribers who are age 65 and older.
  • Since pregnant women are particularly susceptible to flu, develop messages regarding the effects of changes to the immune system during pregnancy, vaccination options and contraindications for pregnant women, flu symptoms in pregnant women, when and how pregnant women should seek health care, treatment options for pregnant women, and the protective immunization effects of nursing on infants too young to receive the flu vaccine. Target these messages only to your female subscribers who have indicated they are pregnant during flu season.
  • Create several distinct message series with guidance, checklists, and resources that provide education on flu pandemic planning and preparedness. Tailor and target messages specific to business owners, community leaders, school administrations, transportation managers, health care professionals, and government officials.

Subscriber behaviors

The good news is that drip marketing does not erase the need for general messages, but rather helps you transform the information that is applicable to your whole audience in a way that adds value on an individual level. For instance:

  • Send a message to your entire audience with a link to a video on precautions everyone can take every day to prevent flu. Then send follow-up messages that are based on the actions (or inactions) subscribers take with that message. For those who did not open the original message, resend the message with a different subject line to try to gain an open. Send a follow-up offer to download an infographic on hand-washing only to those who did open the original message because their opening behavior indicates interest in the topic.
  • Taking the previous example one step further, make the hand-washing infographic available via a webform submission. This serves two purposes: 1) the webform-completion behavior indicates further interest in the topic and 2) it presents an excellent opportunity to collect additional subscriber data that will help you shape your audience personas and allow you to deliver increasingly relevant content (a marketing notion called progressive profiling). Each time you receive a webform submission, deliver the requested content and follow up later (timing to be determined by testing) with another offer to download a relevant resource, for which the subscriber will need to provide one more piece of information. And so on to create a nice snowball effect.

Subscriber statuses

  • Encourage subscribers who read your messages on an iPhone to download the iOS version of your flu-prevention app, and ask those in your audience who use an Android device to read your messages to download your Android-based app. Have subscribers who only open your messages on a desktop? Invite them to view a special interactive page on your website created exclusively for desktop usage.
  • Deliver the state-specific flu pandemic planning guides to subscribers in coordinating states. Bonus: identify subscribers on state borders and deliver planning guides for both states.
  • As the current flu situation changes for each region, send messages with that information solely to affected individuals.
  • When the #Blizzardof2015 interrupts local availability of vaccines, alert subscribers in the Mid-Atlantic states (and not Florida!) of the situation. Bonus: refine your targeting to notify Bostonians differently than those inside the Beltway.

While not every example listed above necessarily applies to all agencies or organizations, the general ideas can be extrapolated to fit a wide variety of situations and capitalize on your current resources. Note: I was able to develop the examples above by reviewing the existing content on Flu.gov; I have no affiliation with the website, and I have never looked at it before today. Very little new content (only the hypothetical infographic and video, to be exact) would need to be created to fully execute the examples!

I hope this series has piqued your interest in trying your hand at implementing drip marketing in at least one area of your overall email strategy in Q2 2015 and beyond. I also look forward to seeing your ideas — and talking through any questions you may have — in the comments.

Amber V Hammond is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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