Do you remember the childhood thrill of getting a pencil with your name printed on it? Maybe you recall twirling racks of personalized keychains in gift shops, looking to spot your own name. (If yours is an uncommon first name, you might still be jealous of the Kevins and Sarahs of the world, who could always see themselves represented.)  These days, it takes more than seeing your name in print to get your attention. And yet, there are a lot of marketers out there who are still focused on “personalized marketing” – basically, the idea that putting a recipient’s name into the subject line of an email or onto a postcard’s first line will compel the recipient to pay attention to the message.

Personally, I think this is crap. All it means is that you have a database of people’s names and that your email or printer has a way to do variable inputs. Ten years ago this might have been an impressive technological trick, but it’s basic stuff at this point; just about anyone can figure out how to personalize emails and other communications. This alone does NOT equal good marketing.   So what DOES constitute good personalized marketing?   Your goal is to create a “must read” instead of “default delete” newsletter.  It’s more work, but it’s worth it, and here’s how it’s done.  

Database Segmentation

Your database of contact information for clients and potential clients is absolutely a huge asset, but a good marketing strategy uses that database meaningfully, not just to pull first names for “personalized” email subject lines. Good marketing means segmenting your database so that you can present each audience with the content that would be of interest to them.

Just as importantly, it means not giving them articles they don’t care about. Picture your own inbox. How many emails do you get each day that aren’t relevant or interesting to you? Do you notice the same companies spamming you over and over with these messages? That’s not the kind of name recognition you want for your own firm. You want to cut through the clutter in your target reader’s inbox, to be a “must read” sender instead of a “default to delete” sender.

It’s more important than ever to address this need because cutting through that clutter has gotten even more difficult in the last few years. Outlook, Gmail and other email inboxes now create present “focused” / “primary” and “promotional” / “other” tabs. Every email sent through an email system (like Mailchimp or ConstantContact) is going to go into the recipient’s “promotional” inbox automatically, and you need to get your audience to move them to the “focused” inbox so they actually see these messages.

As an example, a CPA firm might have clients in a range of industries and specialties. The firm might segment separate lists for Construction & Real Estate, Manufacturing, Healthcare, and Nonprofit audiences. Each of these audiences has different interests. This firm might send a “Lean Production R&D tax credits” article to the Manufacturing list only, but send an “Opportunity Zone” article to C&RE, Manufacturing, and Healthcare because it’s a topic potentially applicable to all of those audiences.

What Does it Take to Create Segments?

Effectively employing this strategy means you need more than one list, more than one newsletter and enough content to regularly communicate with each group. How do you do that? You may need to divide and conquer within your firm by assigning writing tasks to various people to share the load, get help from outside writers, or round-up a regular suite of guest bloggers. You may also choose to curate well-written articles from reputable third parties to bolster your content quantity in the newsletter and on your social media. If you choose the latter, it’s best if you include an opinion on the piece; maybe you expand on something the writer missed, highlight the most important point or even disagree with something in the piece. (If you don’t have anything to add, why wouldn’t the reader just follow the third party instead of you?)

A firm of any size can make this work. If this strategy is new to you, just pick one industry to start with. Continue to send your general newsletter but also create a second newsletter with content just for that one industry group. Do NOT send them the general email – remember, we’re segmenting, not doubling the number of emails a client receives from you. You can include any tangentially important content that you created along with curated third-party content to round it out. It’s not glamorous, but it is effective.  

From Content to Conversations  

Final thought: Blog posts educate, but people who are truly interested in a firm visit service pages or bio pages. Include links to those in your articles so that anyone who’s in buying mode can move along to those pages and easily contact you. People who are in learning mode will be willing to read more articles about the same topic, so include links to other blog posts in the same category to keep them on your site longer.  

Your website and email list are powerful tools that you have right at your fingertips. Take the next step of getting the right content in front of the right people. If you’re ready to take your blog to the next level with content that connects reach out to me today.

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Alison has more than fifteen years of professional services marketing and business development experience. She is a Boston College Double Eagle, holding both a BS in Management with concentrations in Marketing & Information Systems, and an MBA. Alison is a member of the 2009 Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 class of honorees.