Rob Yandell

Editor, Publisher, Events

Personalised content v privacy – how do you strike the balance?

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In a world where we are bombarded with information through trusty old e-mail marketing and now social media, how can personalisation help with delivering relative content?

Our company has published magazines since 1986 to niche, controlled audiences which means we don’t send our publications to just any old Tom, Dick and Harry. If you want something for free, the very least you can do is fill in a reader registration form so we know a little about you, right?

Gaining information from readers never used to be much of an issue. Perhaps before the explosion of online and digital we were a little less concerned about our privacy. In fact, it could be argued that there was probably less to be concerned about.

Shadow person pushing an @ symbolE-mail is still important in an online world dominated by Facebook and Twitter. A 2013 study estimates the number of worldwide e-mail accounts to be 3.9 billion, with more than 180 billion e-mails sent each day.

Segmentation – easier said than done

I was at a meeting with one of our advertisers recently who was interested in reader segmentation. The tour operator specialises in long haul travel and saw little point in delivering their message to people who only organise day trips and short breaks. A fair and valid point.

We have a Reader Registration form for a magazine we publish called Group Leisure. It’s a monthly title for people who organise group travel and leisure. To determine if we feel the person warrants us posting a magazine to them every month (essentially, are they of value to our advertisers) we ask them to let us know how many trips they organise, how many people go on the trips, what type of trips and holidays they book, etc. The form is not particularly long but more recently we have questioned if forms of this nature put people off. It seems little effort for what they get back but in an age of real concern about privacy are people even more reluctant to share information about themselves?

The decision I made was to shorten and simplify the sign-up form for our weekly e-newsletter and to be added to our e-mail database for other marketing messages from us and third parties (people opt in to what they’re prepared to receive). However, we have kept the long form for magazine registration. It’s physical, it costs for post and print so we have to be more selective.

But what about e-mail personalisation?

The above is all well and good until I start thinking about e-mail personalisation. The conversation I had with the tour operator highlighted our challenges moving forward.

E-mail envelope through PC screenWe know a lot of people on our e-mail database organise long haul travel, but we do not have that information associated with every relevant reader profile. Why? People are not prepared to tell us that level of detail. Even when we sign new readers up at shows and events we remind them that they must fill in our reader registration form in full, plus sign and date it. Most do not complete it properly.

We use our judgement of course. If someone who looks after the sports and social club at John Lewis, Coca-Cola or Tesco has a large and active pool of people then we feel they should be getting our magazine to help them find and plan their travel and leisure activities. But we need a deeper level of information to really achieve effective segmentation and personalistion.

The most imporant areas for e-marketing in the coming year

This interesting infographic which highlights data captured from a 2014 Email Marketing Industry Census confirms that e-mail marketers are focusing on automation, personalisation and segmentation in the coming year.

It makes sense of course, the latter two should mean readers or anyone on any e-mail list receive information they are truly interested in. It is a win, win for everyone.

A niche of a niche. Well, if it was easy I guess everybody would be doing it.

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Author: Rob Yandell

Editor, publisher, event organiser.

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