The Email Savant Series: Creating Relevant Email Content • Nxtbook Media

The Email Savant Series: Creating Relevant Email Content

Written by Mark Vogel

Year after year, email marketing continues to deliver a strong return on investment for marketers. According to eConsultancy in 2017, three-quarters of companies agree that email offers “excellent” to “good” ROI.

Are you part of that one-quarter that does not agree with that statement? It’s time to look at your message. Your target audiences increasingly expect highly relevant messages and can spot a one-size-fits-all email blast. Here are just a few ideas to help you improve your email ROI through relevant messaging.

Your List

Email marketing success is only as good as the quality of your list.

Are you leveraging all internal resources to build details into your master database? It’s tough to send relevant messages when all you have is an email address. Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened. Integrate your email marketing with your CRM or e-commerce platform. Work closely with your sales team to build out everything they know for each address – age, gender, occupation, and more. According to Direct Marketing Association, 77% of email marketing ROI came from segmented, targeted, and triggered campaigns.

Go Beyond Personalization

Many marketers are dropping the term “personalization” from their vocabulary and replacing it with “relevant content.” Here are five ways to change from “one-to-many” to “one-on-one” messaging.

  • Dynamic Content: all leading email marketing platforms offer some type of “dynamic content” functions. I’ll address this in more detail below.
  • Message Delivery: if you overload your recipients’ inbox, you might increase unsubscribes. On the other hand, if you wait too long between messages, your recipients might lose interest and buy elsewhere. Use A/B testing to determine the best frequency but bear in mind that one frequency won’t fit all. Different segments may prefer different email volumes. The same holds true for message timing – what day of the week is best, and time of day?
  • Custom Landing Pages: rather than simply sending clickers back to your home page, align the call-to-action in the email with a specific – and relevant – landing page. Don’t make the recipient work to find what they need. Keep them focused and engaged with same call-to-action and content as they just viewed in your message.
  • Transactional emails: these are automated messages sent by specific actions on your site. These include order confirmations, shipping notifications, membership renewal notices, account status messages, and many more. Open rates can be as much as eight times higher than marketing messages, so find ways to make these auto-generated emails feel more like a personal conversation.
  • Choose the best “voice”: how are you viewed by your subscribers? If you provide professional services, avoid being overly casual or familiar. If your brand is viewed as a friendly, “casual” company, then avoid stilted, formal copy.

Dynamic Content

What’s the difference between list segmentation and dynamic content? If you manually segment your list, you would then need to manually create and deploy separate messages based on their segment. With dynamic content, you hit the send button ONE TIME. The messages are then automatically generated to be relevant and optimized based on your subscribers’ data and behavior.

One client of mine is online bookseller with thousands of titles in more than 200 genres. Instead of creating more than 200 email templates to cover each genre, I created one template. The database of 80,000+ customers contained all the details on each subscriber’s buying history. If they purchased 7 romance novels and 6 science fiction books, the top row of the email featured offers on the “Newest and Best-Selling Romance Novels,” while the next row featured offers on science fiction titles.

Here are some other ways to use dynamic content:

  • Sales Funnel: where are they in the “purchase cycle?” Are they just a “tire-kicker” who downloaded a whitepaper, or are they a current customer?
  • Pre-Purchase Behavior: use “tracking pixels” to understand a subscriber’s activity on your site. If you know which pages they visited and how long they lingered, you can send a follow-up email that addresses that interest.
  • Past Purchases: integrate your sales data to create automated, relevant emails to your current customers. Another client of mine sold huge pumps for water treatment plants. Because they knew which pump each customer owned when it was installed, and the average number of hours that pump would run, they could determine exactly when the filters needed to be replaced. We sent automated emails exactly 30 days before the filter replacement deadline, with a link to purchase the filters online, plus direct contact info for the technical service rep for that region based on zip code.
  • Demographics: if you know the age and gender of a recipient, dynamic content allows you to automatically generate an email that “looks like” the subscriber. For example, a clothing retailer might show their products being modeled by a baby boomer male or a millennial female – depending on the recipient’s profile. If you know a subscriber’s birthday, send them a “Happy Birthday!” message with an exclusive offer.
  • Cart Abandonment: nearly all email marketing platforms offer a cart abandonment feature. If you are an online retailer, make sure you have the tracking codes in place to implement these messages. SalesCycle reported that an approximately 75% carts were abandoned in 2016. The good news is that approximately 40% of cart abandonment emails are opened, and the email click rate is about 29% and conversion rate is about 5%.
  • Responsive design: while this has been around for years, many email marketers still send a static email design that looks the same on desktop and smartphone. Make sure your message “knows” what device the subscriber is using at that moment – iPhone, Android, desktop and so on.

There are also some very savvy app developers who can add amazing dynamic functions to your emails to help improve relevancy. Here are just a few examples:

  • One developer I work with can help you send custom emails based on the weather where the subscriber is viewing the email. A message from a retailer could feature umbrellas on a rainy day in Seattle, or sunglasses on a hot sunny day in Phoenix.
  • Geolocation is now a relatively easy dynamic function you can implement. If your product is found in retail stores throughout the country, don’t just include a link to your website to search a long list of participating retailers. Your email will know where that person is standing with their smartphone and automatically generate a map with a link to the nearest store.
  • Do you have a limited-time offer? Use a “countdown clock” in the email to create a sense of urgency and help increase response to your call-to-action.
  • If you have a loyalty rewards program, don’t make subscribers click back to the website to log in and view their reward status. Display their reward total prominently, with a clear call-to-action to take advantage of those rewards with a single click.

There are nearly endless ways to create more relevant content for your email marketing messages. Sit down with your sales and customer service folks to uncover new ways to improve relevancy. Speak with an email marketing pro and app developer to help create dynamic messaging that delivers one-on-one, custom conversations based on your subscribers’ preferences. The “times they are a-changing’,” and email marketing is no exception.

Mark Vogel is President of Vogel Marketing Solutions LLC and serves as a lead email consultant for Nxtbook Media. He has more than 35 years of experience in the marketing world and has been actively engaged in email campaigns for more than 20 years. His email marketing clients include Fortune 500 companies, e-commerce retailers, non-profits, local businesses, and more. He can be reached at

Feel free to check out part one of this series by going here.