“Relevance” used to be the biggest catchphrase in email marketing, followed closely by "it depends," which is a favorite among email strategists (especially Andrew Kordek). However, both these terms seem to be losing ground to "Big Data." We now live in a world where 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created each day, according to IBM. That data is being created in lots of places: online footprints, purchase behavior, weather beacons, take your pick. We are tracking everything these days, but the challenge becomes making it actionable. Still, when you get your hands on data for your email program, it's time to do it BIG!
In the world of email marketing, where there is big data, you will also find relevance. Big data is a large topic with many facets, but when it comes to email marketing, there are a few things you need to do:
Be Hands-on with Your Analysis
It isn't enough to just *have* the data these days, you have to be able to do *something* with it -- no small undertaking. Making sense of big data can be incredibly labor-intensive, but for email marketers, the challenge is often even bigger. This isn't because we aren't capable, or that we have more data. It's because we are often at the tail end of most analytic efforts.
The email team inherits stuff, so rallying at the front end to drive it can sometime appear preposterous to your internal counterparts. This is where I recommend that you stand your ground. Look for elements that you can leverage from previous engagement (or lack thereof) with your email program. Then use that data to help develop very effective look-alike models and predictive modeling that can improve the results of your email efforts over the long term.
Don't Minimize the Target Too Much
Ever since the first email was released into the wild, marketers have been trying to get as close to one-to-one relevance as possible. With the highly dynamic tools and technical capabilities available today, it has become easier to actually do so, but just because you can -- should you?
Many times, the success or failure of leveraging big data to drive targeting and segmentation doesn’t happen because of your ability to do it, but rather your ability to measure it. So if you are going to leverage big data to make your email hyper-relevant, take extra care on the reporting front. It’s possible to overthink most things, and target audiences is no different. So be sure to just keep measuring, since you don't want to lose out on making a positive impression on someone by simply segmenting them out.
Know What to Say
Finding the magic segment (or segments) among your massive data set is great -- but it's just the beginning. Yes, you have a lot of data on your customers, but if you reveal too much in the wrong way, you run the risk of "creeping out" the recipient. Even worse, if you get the data wrong, you may run the risk of losing the customer entirely. Regardless, you need to make sure that the audience that you have identified is getting messaging that actually matters to them. If you fail to ensure the accuracy of this critical last step, all the hours you've put into analyzing your big data could be spent largely in vain.
Go Big with your email program, coupling the power of your data with the tools you have to make it actionable. If you act in a way that counters your recipients' expectations, you could actually do more harm than good. The last thing you want is for your customers to look at your email communications and conclude that you have no idea who they are.