Know Your Audience

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Determine a strategy for data gathering.
  • Explain the difference between implicit and explicit data.
  • Validate existing data.

Data Gathering and Validation

It’s time to start using your brand-new preference center to gather more data through a data gathering or validation campaign. Let’s go through some examples.

Welcome Your Subscribers

In all relationships, it’s important to make a good first impression. This is also true for your new subscribers. You can put your best foot forward with a thoughtful welcome campaign that leads a subscriber through a series of emails. Hint: A welcome message is the best time to ask all those questions you have for them. And it’s when subscribers are most likely to respond. Win-win. Here’s what a welcome series could include.  

Email Description
Example Message
What to Include
Welcome Email One
First email sent as soon as someone registers for your emails.
Thanks. We like you too...
  • Benefits of signing up (remember, what’s in it for me or WIFM?)
  • Frequency expectations
Welcome Email Two
Email sent a few days later that reinforces your brand and asks for more information about the subscriber.
We want to learn more about you...
  • Link to Preference Center
  • Offer for their time
  • Identify other ways to communicate (Social media channels, SMS, app, and so forth)
Welcome Email Three
The third email sent to the customer uses information the subscriber provided or asks for that info again.
See? We get you...
  • Content that uses what you learned about them
  • Re-ask about preferences
  • Remind them of the benefits of the email program

Learn More About Subscribers

If you've been friends with someone for a while, you probably know lots about them—like where they live, the names of their pets, or what types of trivia they're good at. But, what if you don't? What if you realize that you don't know much about them at all? It can feel a little awkward to ask some of these basic questions. The same goes for brands that don't know much about their subscribers. 

As a marketer, you need a way to gradually build knowledge about your customers. That's why using email to gather preferences over time is a great way to build stronger relationships and evolve your content strategy. Here are some sample campaigns that do just that.

Email Description
Example Message
What to Include
Birthday Request Email
Email sent to request a subscriber’s birthday information.
I want to send you a birthday treat, but I don’t know your birthday.
  • Humor if it makes sense for your brand
  • Link to preference center
  • Benefits of providing this info (WIFM)
Survey Email
Email sent to request specific feedback (regarding an event, an item, etc.) from a subscriber.
How do you like your birthday gift on a scale from 1 to 5?
  • Link to survey landing page with specific question/data point
  • Benefits of providing this info (WIFM)
  • Description of content
Progressive Profile
Email or a series of emails sent to request specific information from a subscriber.
I want to find out more information about you, so I’ll ask one additional question that links to our preference center.
  • A clear question with an explanation on why you are asking
  • Link to preference center
Preference Call to Action (CTA)
Email specifically asking for the subscriber to visit your preference center.
Are you getting what you want? We have great content to share and we want to learn more about you.
  • Link to preference center
  • Benefits of providing this info (WIFM)
  • Description and frequency of content sent
  • Offer for their time

So, what do these messages look like in the wild (or your inbox)? Here is an example of a progressive profile email for a recipe site. It offers a clear question that drives a consumer to their preference center, and it provides a clear benefit to the subscriber.

Example email with survey to select dessert preference of donut or cake with a CTA button labeled Your Favorite Sweet Treat.

It is important that emails and surveys in a progressive profiling campaign be short, easy to complete, and reward customers for their time. 

Confirm What You Know

American psychologist Abraham Maslow not only developed a hierarchy of needs, he also said, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Meaning it might be appealing to make assumptions based on what info you have already, but it’s not always wise. 

For marketers, it is tempting to make certain assumptions based on the data you have collected on a subscriber. And you do have to make some assumptions about your subscribers in order to do your job. So how do you balance what you assume about your subscribers (implicit data) vs. what you know for sure (explicit data)? We’re here to help. First, let’s break down these two types of data. 

Implicit data is data that you have about a subscriber that you have inferred, but it is not plainly or directly provided by your subscriber. Imagine you’re a retailer, for example. You have purchase data that shows your customer bought a baby stroller last month. You are about to send an email with a coupon for diapers. But should you? Do you really know they have a baby and need diapers? What if the stroller was a gift for someone else? These are good questions to ask when dealing with implicit data.

Explicit data is the data that your customer told you via a preference center and is clearly stated and spelled out. There is no room for confusion. Again, pretend you’re a retailer with purchase data from a customer who bought a baby stroller. This time, you also have preference data from that customer indicating that they have kids under the age of 2. They might need that diaper coupon after all. Go ahead and send away.

Directly requesting data in an email campaign can help create the best possible experience for a customer. These types of campaigns are called data validation campaigns. Here are two examples of when you might use them.

Email Description
Example Message
What to Include
Gift Guidance
You have purchase data about your customer, but don’t want to assume they made the purchase for themselves.
We want to provide you correct content suggestions. Were you buying this item for yourself or someone else?
  • Link to a survey page or preference center
  • Benefits of providing this info
Life Change/Opt-Down
You have a brand that a customer only needs at certain times in their life, so you want to acknowledge your brand and not send an insensitive email to your customer.
Maybe something in your life has changed (animal passed away, you moved, and so forth) and you don’t want to hear from us right now. Update your preferences to show what messages you do want.
  • Link to preference center
  • Description of content you will (or won’t) provide

Use Your Data Responsibly

Marketing messages can walk a fine line between helpful and—dare we say—creepy. But don’t let that spook you. To create personalized content that feels spot on, marketers can use purchase history and behavioral data. Just stick to the guidelines we’ve talked about. Here’s a refresher.

  • Clearly define your goals for data collection.
  • Don’t ask for data if it doesn’t provide value to the subscriber.
  • Explain why you’re asking for something. (Customers want to know, “What’s in it for me?”)
  • Be open about how you use the data you’re given.

Overall, you can build trust with every interaction by keeping your customer’s data secure and honoring their preferences. Stay tuned—next we transform your data into really awesome content.


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