An Audience of One

September 10, 2015 Adam New-Waterson


As recently posted on Uberflip by Adam New-Waterson.

When I became the chief marketing officer at LeanData earlier this spring, there was a three-week gap between when I accepted the position and my first day on the job. During that time, I began receiving a flood of emails asking me to take a meeting, visit a webinar, check out a piece of content, and so on. My inbox was filling up. Many, many people wanted little pieces of my time. And I hadn’t even started the job.

But here is a confession.

I delete virtually all of those emails. Sometimes, I didn’t even get past the subject line. In fact, I respond to probably no more than 2 percent of the dozens and dozens of emails I receive from vendors each week. Here is the harsh reality: Just like every other marketing executive, I am busy. I simply don’t have time to sift through all the correspondence I receive to find if there is anything there that is important to me.

Creating a personal connection is the best way to cut through the clutter and make yourself stand out. So if you want to capture my attention – and then hold on to it – you have to be very focused with your messaging and create hyper-targeted content that is tailored to my needs. Without an extremely high level of personalization, you’re never going to hook me. You have speak with me, not at me.

For instance, here are how some recent emails have been addressed to me: “Hi, Marketing,” “Hi: CMO,” “Hi, First Name Here.” And if you are addressing an email to me with “Adam” and then quickly descending into a cut-and-paste pitch that could have been written for countless other marketing executives, that doesn’t count as being “personalized,” either. All that shows is that you are using a marketing automation platform.

If it reads like something just one step above spam email, it’s going to be treated that way. Vague promises of higher conversion rates are not going to get me to reply. You need to explain, quickly and concisely, what you do and why I should care. The way you create real a connection is to do your research and tailor the message to an audience of one. That takes time and effort. But that also is what will get you noticed.

Here is one example of how we implemented a Hyper-Targeted Content strategy at my previous company. Our goal was to reach senior executives at some of the country’s biggest household companies and brands. Obviously, it can be difficult getting on their radar of those types of business leaders. So we created one-off content for each company we were targeting.

We made short, customized videos where real users navigated the websites of these companies. When those customers reached roadblocks or struggled while looking for specific items – anything from men’s shirts to women’s shoes – that had a real effect on those executives who watched the videos. It was a striking, real-life display of pain points that they might not have even known existed.

The second piece of hyper-targeted content was a PowerPoint presentation showing how our company could help make their specific website more user-friendly and create a better customer experience. The campaign was a multi-channel effort. We also printed those presentations and brought them to trade shows where we could hand-deliver the personalized information to members of those companies. Likewise, when executives later visited our website, it immediately showed them hyper-targeted content directed to that specific company.

All of that took a considerable amount of planning and energy. But it also showed that we had done our research. And here was the unstated message: If we had put that much time into thinking about their challenges before they were a customer, just imagine how we could help them once we were business partners.

During my first few months at LeanData, I have received numerous creative emails that successfully hooked my interest. Two in particular are memorable. And they both got my attention for a very simple reason: Each crafted a message that spoke directly to me.

One came from an Uberflip sales rep. He sent an email that showed a great deal of thought had gone into researching me as a person. He knew about my various career stops and how my professional responsibilities had changed and grown over the years. He sent me a personalized message, minutes after I had shared a blog post, referencing a point I had made. On one hand, you could say that he had played to my ego. But this is not about vanity. It’s about doing your due diligence and understanding your target. The fact that he took the extra time doing his homework made him stand out. I took the meeting with Uberflip to learn more because he had learned about me.

The second example is a great case of how Hyper-Targeted Content doesn’t have to be complicated. This email came from Clearbit. After a basic introduction of about 50 words – quick and to the point – the rep took an addition step that made all the difference. He attached a graphic that used my name, my company logo and other information about me. Again, it stood out. It spoke to me as an individual. And it intrigued me enough that I responded back.

At LeanData, I push our Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) to create these kinds of personalized emails. The goal is to create a real connection. If something reads like it could have been sent out to 100 other marketing executives, then chances are that’s exactly what has happened. And the target simply will hit that delete button.

The goal is focusing the message as specifically as possible. The extra effort is well worth the time.

I’ll end with an example of messaging that didn’t speak to me as an individual. Over a four-week period during my start at LeanData, I received six emails from a list vendor that made little effort to personalize his message. When I didn’t respond, the tone of each successive email became increasingly boisterous. On the final email, the subject line simply read: “You are a tough nut to crack.”

While it is probably true, I just do not want to be made to feel like every other nut.

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