August 11, 2017 | Holly Yalove

How to Improve Email Deliverability with Segmentation and Personalization

“Blast me with the same boilerplate email you send to everyone in your database”... said no one ever.

With email marketing still delivering the highest ROI of any digital channel and new research reporting that 1 in 5 emails don't land in subscriber inboxes, improving email deliverability is a key marketing goal. How can you nurture your leads and customers if your email messages aren't seen? 

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So, uh, let's just go ahead and decrease the chance that your email marketing gets lost in the ether by using email segmentation and personalization. These proven tactics will both increase the chance of your emails reaching inboxes and get more engagement.

Before digging into exactly how segmentation and personalization can improve email deliverability, let's review some related definitions...

Email Deliverability

Email Deliverability refers to the ability to deliver an email into the recipients inbox. Emails that bounce or divert to spam folders impact this metric. 

Emails Delivered

The "Emails Delivered" metric in your email marketing platform (a.k.a. Delivery Rate) refers to the percentage of emails you tried to send that actually went out without bouncing or getting rejected by email servers. It doesn't tell you how many of the emails you sent actually made it into inboxes instead of spam folders.

Sender Score

Your Sender Score is an indication of the overall health of your email marketing. It's calculated through a proprietary Return Path algorithm, which measures your trustworthiness on a 0-100 scale. Higher scores indicate better reputations and higher deliverability rates. 

The Role of Segmentation and Personalization

Thanks to today's marketing technology, consumers and businesses have come to expect highly targeted, relevant, and personalized messages that help meet their goals, needs, and challenges. 

Email messages lacking these qualities are going to end up unread, deleted, or marked as spam—all of which send negative reputation signals to email providers and impact your sender score.

Emails that are sent to targeted segments of your email list and highly personalized to the individual and are more likely to engage recipients, who in turn will take actions that send positive signals to mail providers. Recipients opening, forwarding, and replying to your emails all improve your sender score, as do instances when they proactively mark emails "not spam" or "not junk."

Segmentation Examples

The options for segmenting your lists are plentiful and will allow you to create messages that speak to specific audiences in different ways. Some types of segmentation may require a marketing software platform (like HubSpot) that allows you to create custom database fields and track your contact's website activity, but whatever you're using, you can start with basics and move to advanced segmentation once you're in the groove. 

Lifecycle Stages: Segmenting your email list by the stages of your marketing funnel allows you to create email campaigns and lead-nurturing workflows catered to each audience. Lifecycle stages vary from business to business, but you can begin with subscribers (or contacts), leads, marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads, customers, and ultimately brand ambassadors.  

Geography: You can use geographic segmentation to personalize messages with a recipient's city, state, or country. This is helpful if you offer local events, training, or services and want to make sure emails about them aren't blasted to those who can't take advantage and may be turned off by the message.

Industry: If you're a B2B marketer who serves different types of businesses, segmentation by industry allows you to craft marketing messages to the specific goals and needs of each.  

Job Role: Different job roles have different daily tasks and goals. If you offer different services for different job roles or position your services differently depending on job role, this is a helpful list segment to have. 

Purchase History: Trying to sell your customer something they've already purchased (if it's not consumable) will not reflect well on your company or brand and could result in unsubscribes and spam flags. Segmenting your lists by products purchased, purchase dates, and renewal schedules will allow you to send the right messages at the right time. Beyond positive impacts to your sender score, you'll have positive impacts on customer loyalty and revenue.

Event Attendance: Have you ever RSVPed to an event but kept receiving reminders to RSVP? Have you received an email which referred to an event you didn't attend as if you'd been there? Annoying, right? Segmenting your lists by RSVPs as well as tracked attendance will help you avoid badgering contacts to take steps they've already taken and allow you to tell "no shows" that you missed seeing them. 

Website Activity: If your marketing software tracks website page visits, this is a great way to segment based on areas of interest. Sending emails targeted to specific areas of interest will make your messages more relevant and more likely to be opened, read, and clicked on. 

Personalization Examples

Segmentation and personalization go hand-in-hand. Beyond personalizing your message to specific segmented audiences, you can add "personalization tokens" to your emails and templates to drop in information from fields in the contact record to make each message unique to the recipient.

Many software programs allow basic personalization tokens like First Name, and some advanced options allow you to use various custom fields you've created. Below are a few examples of some personalization tokens you may find useful in your email marketing, but you can also use some of the segmenting categories like job role, industry, event attendance, etc. 

City or Company Name: Many subscribers are used to the "Hello [first name]" routine, but find reference to their company name or city an unexpected addition (in applicable situations, of course).

Product Name: If your database allows fields for products purchased, last purchased product, or products of interest, you can add tokens to your message and impress them with your memory of your relationship.

Last Conversion: If you have downloadable offers on your website, you're likely using workflows to nurture your leads down the sales funnel. Adding "since you downloaded [offer title].." or similar reference in your follow-up emails reminds your prospect how they know you and that you've provided helpful content to them before. Being helpful and building trust is key to increasing email read rates and avoiding the spam folder. 

Personalization and segmentation are not the only things to consider when working to improve your email deliverability, but they are necessary components for better email marketing. I hope these tips will help you improve yours! 

Want to learn more about the role of email marketing in an effective inbound marketing campaign? We've got you covered!

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Holly Yalove

Holly Yalove

As VIEO’s chief strategist and one of our principals, Holly Yalove serves as the head digital and inbound marketing strategy for our clients. She has used her extensive management, sales, and marketing experience to dramatically increase our digital marketing business, helping us become the well-rounded agency we are today.

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