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May 3, 2011 / jasonpinto

Email Newsletters and Personalization

When it comes to best practices for a company’s email newsletter program, there is a balancing act that marketers often have to walk.

  • On one hand, we do not want to ask people for too much data when they opt-in. In fact, we may only want to require them to enter what we absolutely need — their email address.
  • On the other hand, we want to have our audience in mind when we create content for the newsletter. Yes, we want the content to appeal to each reader that has subscribed.

However, can we truly say that we know our subscribers if we only have their email address? How much personalization can we truly do with our content if we only have one piece of data about them?

Certainly, the key is to learn more about them as the relationship progresses. We could manually try to gather/decipher additional data by simply looking at their email address (i.e. Name, Company Name, Industry). But that is not always practical or possible.

One Company’s Tactics

I recently subscribed to an email newsletter for deals from Southwest Airlines. The act of subscribing literally took less than 20 seconds — I only entered my email address.

However, for travel deal newsletters to have a powerful impact, they should be relevant to each individual:

  • Which airports do they primarily fly out of?
  • What sorts of destinations do they enjoy going to?
  • What activities and amenities do they look for?

With answers to questions such as those, an email newsletter could truly be tailored to each recipient.

Southwest Airlines has taken steps to get data beyond my email address.

– After I subscribed, they sent me a “Welcome to the Club” e-mail. In the email, they encouraged me to update my travel preferences.

Southwest Airlines Welcome EMail– That link directed me to an easy-to-use form where I could update my personal travel preferences:

I think that is absolutely an effective way for companies to try to build their email subscriber list horizontally. Often, we are so concerned with how to add more names to our list.

But to truly increase the effectiveness of the communications that we send out, we should put just as much effort into learning more about the individuals that are on our list today.

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