We all like to believe we’re special. Or as anthropologist Margaret Mead wryly put it, “Always remember that you are absolutely unique — just like everyone else.”

That belief (or state of denial) is why so-called “batch and blast” email is usually less effective than email campaigns customized to your unique market. In a recent study of marketing professionals by Experian Marketing Services, 62 percent said a personalized email subject line is crucial.

The study also revealed that personalized promotional emails generated transaction rates and revenue per email six times higher than non-personalized emails. The personalized mailings had 29 percent higher unique open rates and 41 percent higher unique click rates. For triggered email campaigns (in which emails are triggered by a calendar event, a business action or an action taken by a website visitor), personalization doubled transaction rates.

Because today’s email marketing services allow for more detailed data about customers, users can implement some pretty impressive personalization that likely wouldn’t have been possible a couple of decades ago. Logistics like fully optimized mobile applications and time-delayed messaging are now par for the course, as is message micro-customization based on consumer behavior.

“With so many available tools, businesses of all sizes can now employ the best email strategies for reaching customers,” writes Jayson DeMers in the Huffington Post. “When used correctly, these tools let businesses of all sizes compete with even the largest corporations. As more marketers discover the value of personalized marketing, businesses that don’t personalize their efforts will likely find their campaigns are largely unsuccessful.”

Reasons to Ditch

“To get started with such customization, conducting customer research is imperative,” explains Vertical Response Senior Content Marketing Manager, Linzi Breckenridge. “Your success with email marketing lies in understanding as much as you can about your contacts so you can better communicate with the groups of people likely to find your message relevant,” she says.

Since personalizing messages for a world’s worth of potential customers is probably still out of technology’s reach, here are tips for identifying whom to target in your next campaign.

Identify your target market(s), segmenting the groups of customers most likely to buy your goods and services. Think about which segment of the population has a problem your product is able to solve. Narrowing that down keeps you from wasting time and energy, and maximizes your chance of gaining and keeping customers, growing profits and expanding market share.

The most common ways to segment are by demographics, geographic location, purchasing behavior and/or psychographic segmentation (interests, hobbies, lifestyles, values and attitudes). The most common demographics used are age, gender and income level, notes social media blogger Lisa Furgison, all of which can be collected from your customers and embedded for reference onto your website or blog platform.

To help you form your messages, some marketing professionals recommend identifying common themes among your best customers and conceiving of actual “personas” that represent them in their various forms — including their shopping objectives and possible objections to buying.

Further fine-tune your target market by analyzing email data to identify customers who answered calls to action, like clicking to open windows announcing new product arrivals. “Knowing if, when and how contacts engage with your email is useful in determining which contacts find the message relevant,” notes Breckenridge. “You can continue the communication with those who respond, and tweak or completely change the message for those who don’t.”

Limit your target market to a manageable size. Warns Furgison: “If you overdose on segmentation, you could get frustrated and make your email marketing strategy more complicated than it needs to be.”

Consider rewarding loyal customers with discounts or special sneak peeks of products. “With a marketplace overflowing with options, repeat buyers are a much smaller segment than they once were,” Furgison notes.

Identify, target, and maybe reward brand advocates — customers who praise your products on social media or provide you positive feedback.
Make an effort to bring back inactive customers, possibly with a promo. Such emails have titles like “We miss you!” or “It’s been a while,” notes Furgison, who also advises that surveys should find out why customers have strayed.

Place the customer’s first name or user ID at the top of the message to quickly capture attention, advises Kevin Gao on targetmarketingmag.com. “If the user took the time to register with your business, then there is some implicit trust between both of you,” he says. “Remind them of your relationship by promptly showing their names. This tactic is especially important for consumers on mobile devices as the limited space means brands need logical personalization right away.”

Ask customers for information so you can provide even more apt customization in the future. “But avoid being greedy,” warns Gao. “Customers don’t want to spend time with a detailed registration page that asks for demographic data or other personal information. Ask for the minimum, use that in personalized emails, and expand your data as the relationship grows.”

Messages to customers triggered by real-time behaviors — such as reminders that items have been left in a “shopping cart” — can be very effective. “Even if the visitor receives it minutes after leaving the site, it does help the brand to stick in their mind,” states Gao. “Personalization should also be included in standard messages, such as shipment confirmations, where companies can suggest additional products or services, perhaps at a discount.”

Consider customizing email messages to arrive at the optimal times for your customers depending on demographics and time zone. For example, emails to student customers could arrive in the evenings when they’re most likely to be browsing via computer.

Lastly, always test your email campaign before sending. Having more than one pair of eyes review the email reduces the chance of suffering from an error. After making the effort to boost open and click rates with personalization and segmentation, the last thing you want is to waste it on a typo.

Conclusion:  Move beyond the old-fashioned and ineffective approach of “batch and blast” to get the best results with email marketing.

Source: Reasons to Ditch “Batch and Blast” and Get Started with Email Marketing Personalization

As you’ll see, this month’s biggest stories are heavily influenced by Google (even more so than usual), due to a number of newly released products and announcements by the search engine giant. As usual, we’ve also got a pick of the biggest stories happening right here in Distilled, as well as a few other pieces of breaking news about the likes of Moz and Facebook.

Get the Handy PDF of this month’s roundup

The Month’s biggest stories

Google releases new Quality Rater’s guide

Google’s Quality Raters – the third-party hires used to rate search results – have been existent for over a decade, but it’s only since 2013 that Google has released the rating guidelines publicly. Google has just released a new version, with plenty of emphasis still on expertise, authority and trustworthiness, but further importance is also given to mobile.

Read the full story (The SEM Post)

TensorFlow is now open source

Google’s machine learning algorithm, which it uses to recognise photo content, translate languages and recognise spoken words, has now been released for others to use completely free. Industry experts say this technology could be used for improved ad targeting and even computer security.

Read the full story (Wired)

Advertising support for AMP released

Having recently announced Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which is intended to create super-fast loading pages for mobile, Google has also declared it intends to serve ads as part of AMP.

Read the full story (Marketing Land)

App Streaming to create web of apps

In a busy month for Google, it has also put an important new feature into testing – App Streaming. The feature essentially allows users to search through app content and browse within it, without the need for downloading.

Read the full story (Marketing Land)

Google+ to focus on communities and collections

The ailing social network has been redesigned with a focus on two of its most popular aspects: collections and communities. The new layout is intended to make it for people to share their interests.

Read the full story (Marketing Land)

How will Marshmallow shape the future of mobile search?

Android Marshmallow landed in October, and it’s full of new features. In a three-part series, Marketing Land explores how these could shape the future of search on mobile.

Read the full story (Marketing Land)

More industry stories

Moz releases new content tool (Moz)

Facebook passes 1 billion daily active users (Marketing Land)

Google Analytics adds calculated metrics (Marketing Land)

Washington Post beats NYT for web visitors (Digiday)

Distilled News

We announced Distilled’s new Optimization Delivery Network last month.

As ever, the Distilled offices have been very busy. We’ve announced our new Optimization Delivery Network (ODN), which you can sign up to get involved with here. On the blog, Analyst Stephan Solomonidis has an excellent tutorial on .htaccess, while Senior Consultant Ben Estes has been writing about SEO’s role in enterprise success on the Moz Blog.

Source: What We Learned in November – The Digital Marketing Month in a Minute

Solopreneurs are a powerful and growing force in today’s career landscape. A solopreneur is “a business owner who works and runs his or her business alone.”

Related: The Difference Between a Solopreneur and a Side-Gigger (Infographic)

A solopreneur is also the proverbial chief cook and bottle washer, who started the business, owns the business, runs the business and is responsible for the business’ failure or success.

A solopreneur is not the same as an entrepreneur, however. Both assume risk and build a business, but a solopreneur does it alone.

The entrepreneur engages traditional forms of business-building, including the hiring of employees. But the solopreneur chooses whether to grow the business with contract agreements or outsourced providers rather than the standard model of employer/employee.

The benefits of solopreneurship are better experienced than reported, yet if you’re curious about the lives of these disentangled, high-risk, high-reward captains of their own fate and are considering taking the same plunge, here’s what you can expect.

1. You can be a workaholic if you want to.

Workaholics get a bad rap for all the wrong reasons. If working relentlessly is your thing, then you get to do it, no holds barred. No boss to please. No employees to harass. Just you doing what you love, burnout or not.

2. You get to keep what you make.

Yes, you have to pay taxes. Quite a bit, actually. On the other hand, your business profits are yours alone. You can choose to incorporate as an LLC or an S-corp, but either way, the money your business makes is the money that you make. Invest wisely.

3. You get to hire creatively.

Solopreneurs have help. They hire. They manage. They even get to boss people around, sort of. The process, however, is different. Instead of employing a CFO, the solopreneur might engage the services of an advisor, or purchase accounting SaaS or work with a contractor.

4. You discover the power of automation and outsourcing.

The solopreneur must automate processes and outsource tasks. In the absence of minions to do his or her bidding, a successful solopreneur learns to create streamlined systems that accomplish crucial business tasks.

Related: 4 Differences Between Solopreneurs and an Entrepreneur Working Alone

5. You live to work.

Solopreneurs don’t have to go it alone. They can just as easily shutter their shops and start papering the town with their resumes. They can go right back to the corporate grind. But, why? Work is an adventure — a passionate engagement in the excitement of life. That’s worth living for!

6. You can turn on a dime.

Startups love to pivot. Pivots are a survival tactic. Solopreneurs pivot, too, and they can do so without any accountability to shareholders, stakeholders, board members, employees, investors or even a pet cat. They can pivot like nobody’s business.

7. You choose everything about your business.

It takes a lot of decision-making to run the business. From the carpet’s hue to the company’s slogan, you decide everything. If you’re a sucker for control, you’ve chosen the right line of work.

8. You can create your own schedule.

A 9-to-5, a 5-to-9, or a 9-to-9? What gives? You’re the one in charge. Deciding how, when, where and how long to work is completely up to you. Most solopreneurs, though, don’t choose to binge-watch Netflix, sleep in or loll, poolside. And “creating your own schedule” is just another way to describe the inflexibility and demands of working all the time.

9. You are responsible for your own success.

You have to take big risks if you want big rewards. Solopreneurs internalize this truth. Rather than leave their success to the whimsy of an employer, they choose to take their success firmly in hand.

10. You develop your own vision.

Whose vision do you want to follow? Your own or your employer’s? A solopreneur makes this decision with fierce independence and experiences true fulfillment as a result.

11. You embody your own brand.

Personal branding is the practice of creating and curating your public identity. Since a solopreneur is a business, he or she will find it more important than ever to engage and achieve personal branding.

12. You experience adventure every day.

An adventure is defined as “an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.” That basically sums up solopreneurship. Job security? Not a chance. Steady paycheck? Nope. Benefits? You’re kidding. You live a life of adrenalin-pumping adventure, and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Conclusion

Do you notice a common thread running through these 12 awesome things? Each can be tweaked ever so slightly, and ultimately turn into a terror.

In short, your passion for work may morph into a soul-sucking monster. Your high-earning potential may push you into a miserable tax morass. The necessity of making every decision yourself may burden you with a relentless mental strain.

So, the life of a solopreneur is not for anyone. It takes an iron stomach and a clear head to pull off this kind of self-brutalization and insane risk.

What’s more, these risks of soloentrepreneurship are high, and you can completely dispense with any level of normalcy

You hear people complain of their “healthcare,” and you think what health care? Others brag about their four weeks of accrued vacation time, and you smirk about your unlimited vacation time. Conventional cubicle dwellers moan about their mean boss, but you know the meanest boss that ever walked the planet — yourself.

The risks are high. The burdens are great. Yet the experience is transformative.

The few who have tried and succeeded at solopreneurship invariably achieve great things. Whether they continue as solopreneurs, metamorphize into entrepreneurs or leave it all behind them, they know what the solopreneur life is about, and they have the glory stories to tell about it.

What is your experience as a solopreneur?

Related: These 7 Tips Helped Me Avoid Solopreneur Isolation