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How bad data ruins good personalization

In the last three days, I’ve received three separate emails indicating that brands are starting to take the concept of “useful marketing” seriously. This is great news because I believe useful marketing is the future of email marketing.

But every email has a personalization failure, showing that the transition from promotions to customer-centric email marketing has a long way to go.

These failures do not mean the death of this emerging trend, nor do they make me abandon the brand that delivers the message. But it’s clear that as marketers, we need to fundamentally change the way we manage data and automation to realize the potential that useful marketing offers.

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3 emails, 3 questions

Mailbox 1: Cardly

ClearScore email.

Why I like this email . Cardly Send “handwritten” greeting cards anytime, anywhere. The copy in this reminder email is great for a brand voice and useful message – warm, personable and persuasive, not propaganda. (See my previous MarTech article, “Is Your Email Copy Persuading or Selling?” for why this is so important.)

Problems to Solve . Cardly is urging me to arrange a birthday card for my mom Joy, whose birthday is September 3rd. So far so good. But – ahem – she’ll be a little older than “1”! I’m not quite sure how the system calculates it, since I didn’t provide her age, so maybe it’s a default number. The mistake wasn’t serious enough to raise suspicion — though the next email wasn’t.

Email 2: easyJet

I like this reason for the email. This pre-check email is full of details and reminders, all of which answer questions, confirm expectations, and help passengers avoid unpleasant surprises at the airport. It’s easy to view on a laptop or phone and all flight information is correct.

Problem to be solved . The salutation and passenger information in the email is incorrect. It should reflect my partner’s name as he is a passenger. Instead, it pulls the account holder’s name (my name in this case) into the field instead of the passenger’s name.

You can see why this is disturbing! Is the ticket name wrong? Will this passenger have problems checking in? With all the chaos of traveling this summer, you can see why even one wrong field can cause panic.


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Email 3: ClearScore

Why I like this email . I love account summary emails like these because they allow me to review my business dealings with the brand over the past year and it helps me check my credit score – which I probably won’t unless I have a specific reason this way.

Email provides customers with several relevant reasons to click on the email and visit the brand’s website. Emails like this can also generate more engagement lift opens and clicks, as well as more first-party data from subsequent website visits.

The problem to be solved. Opening email thanking me for being a ClearScore customer for one year. But actually, I’ve been a credit report client for a lot longer. As with Cardly’s example, this error was not enough for me to shut down the brand or suspect it was a phishing or spear phishing attempt. If I had to guess, I’d say the brand has only recently rolled out this email automation and only has 12 months of data to call.

Useful marketing went wrong

All three emails are excellent examples of useful marketing as they are brands targeting specific points in the customer journey, delivering important information and making indirect sales.

But they all failed somehow because they pulled the wrong data or misinterpreted the data they had. This suggests that the corresponding email programs have not been thought through enough or have not been recently updated to account for all the data variables that these programs can present.

You might say it’s helpful marketing gone wrong, where good email can ruin your email relationship with customers because it’s driven by bad data.

Why Marketing Matters

I came up with this marketing idea that goes beyond promotion or informational marketing because I believe email is especially good for doing more than selling.

Useful marketing is a “win-win” proposition because it benefits both your customers and your brand. When you help clients achieve their goals, they will help you achieve yours. That is, when they need our products and services, they turn to us more often because they know they will succeed.

The concept got a big boost in the early days of the pandemic, when brands sought new ways to stay in touch with customers who were stressed, anxious, locked in and looking for answers.

Really useful marketing runs on two key engines: data and automation . data provides personalization to create truly unique and relevant messages, whether it’s a purchase confirmation, a troubleshooting message, or an appointment reminder. Automation enables marketers to achieve this correlation at scale for every email address in their database.

Your email content is useful marketing. However, you need to do the backend work to ensure your automation pulls the correct data. As these three email examples show, we’re not done!

How to Use Useful Marketing in Email

Useful marketing is a key driver of a good customer experience through email programs. It recognizes that “buy now” doesn’t always send the right message.

To make your email more helpful, start with the question: “How does my email help my customers achieve their Success in the lives involved?”

The question is simple, but the answers and engineering work required to create these useful emails can be complex.

Elements in emails that help your customers achieve their goals, such as local store locations and hours, localized maps, “how to buy” suggestions, and more. Your information can also help customers buy from you more successfully, increasing their chances of choosing the product that’s best for them. This increases satisfaction and means fewer product returns or service cancellations.

In jeopardy both in terms of revenue and customer loyalty. That’s why getting personalization right in automated emails is absolutely essential.

Review your accuracy automation

Whether you call it useful marketing, customer experience marketing, lifecycle or journey marketing, or something else, you should spend time reviewing your automation at least once a year to make sure it pulls the right data.

Also, consider all data variables related to personalization. The easyJet example highlights the dangers of getting the wrong name, but it’s a situation any retail or e-commerce brand faces when one person buys a product for another.

Check to make sure your email fields are associated with the correct data. To improve accuracy, you may want to add an extra data field or two during the transaction.

Helpful Marketing Pays Off

This might be what you’re thinking: is all this work worth the effort? Yes, absolutely. In my company’s research on Liveclicker, we found that customers were more likely to open and read emails that scored higher on help.

Additionally, according to a 2020 study by KoMarketing, 70% of marketers use advanced personalization as part of useful marketing, and their campaigns achieve an average 200% ROI.

If nothing else, your email audit will help you spot and correct misbehaving data glitches and automation—which in itself can help you improve your email program. What a great time!

ClearScore email.

Everything you need to know about the delivery power of your email marketing that your customers want and inboxes that don’t get clogged. Get MarTech’s Email Marketing Periodic Table.

Click here to check it out!

The views expressed in this article are those of the guest authors, not necessarily MarTech. The authors of the staff are listed here.

About the author

Cardly email.


Kath Pay is the CEO of Holistic Email Marketing and author of the award-winning Amazon’s #1 bestselling book, Holistic Email Marketing: A Practical Philosophy for Transforming Your Business and Delighting Your Customers.

easyJet email.

easyJet email.

easyJet email.

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