Dose #98: Contextual Data in Email + SMS

Drive more revenue by understanding intent in marketing communications

Matt here with your weekly Subscription Prescription đź’Š

Email marketing. We all do it, but can it be done better? In this week’s dose, I take an interview with Jimmy Kim to provide some simple ways you can segment better and drive more revenue by understanding what people want.

In an effort to provide more content and expertise for the subscription community, I’ve launched this workshop series starting on March 28th. You don’t need to figure this stuff out all on your own.

There are nine sessions over the next several months. Free to join, and you can review content after the fact. I’ll be joined by some real pros on topics like:

  • Creative and Ads - Ashvin Melwani, CMO of Obvi

  • Subscription PDP design & CRO tips -

  • Post-purchase experiences - Jeremiah Prummer, the CEO of KnoCommerce

  • Retention tricks - Jai Dolwani, Founder of the Starters and former CMO of WINC

  • Subscription Inventory planning - Pauline Shiu, VP Marketing, Finale Inventory

  • Understanding LTV - Matt Putra, fractional CFO, EightX

All are geared towards helping you grow subscriptions. Each session will start with training and end with a group discussion. Come armed with questions or just be ready to learn.

Join live or access past workshops on-demand. Access the workshop here:

This week’s dose is also a full podcast episode! Check out the live interview with Jimmy Kim for more stories and examples to make the most of your marketing communication. 100% worth the listen, I promise.

You know those moments in marketing, sales, or life when you realize there’s something simple you’ve been doing wrong? Making a simple change can have a profound impact on your revenue and overall happiness.

This week is bringing you one of those moments.

Interviewing Jimmy Kim, the founder of Sendlane, did this for me, and in this dose, we’re going to dive into some key strategies around marketing communications.

Email and SMS, to be specific. Let’s dive in!

What is Contextual Data?

Context is all about understanding what’s going on with a particular behavior. For example, the open rate is one of the most tracked metrics in email. But do you know if someone is reading that, clicking it to get it to go away, or a bot that’s auto-filing it away?

There are a few simple tactics within email and SMS marketing that help you understand the customer’s intent better. Knowing this intent—the context—lets you market to them in a way that will drive more revenue.

Stop Lumping Everyone Together

The first step in embracing contextual data (and a big ah-ha! moment for me) involves segmenting audiences. Most ecommerce marketers lump past customers, newsletter subscribers, and anyone with some activity in the last 90 days into one audience.

The problem is that most of your sales come from past customers, so sales attributed to this group are misleading. The trick here is segmenting people by customers and prospects.

You can market to a customer aggressively because they’ve bought from you before. But a prospect is sitting on the fence, so you want to find out if they’re ever going to buy as soon as possible. So you can be even more aggressive here - push hard for a sale or an unsubscribe. You only want active people on your lists.

Understand Intent

Forget open rates. That statistic is misleading. Pay more attention to clicks and build experiences for those clicks.

When you send an email with multiple links, track those links. Find out what people are clicking so you can understand their intent. For example, imagine an introductory email that links to upsells, a how-to guide, and social profiles… but the how-to guide gets all the links.

People want to know how to use the product! You can make that better by changing up the email and making it focus on how-to. You can create an entire flow for this.

Or, imagine you’re the bran Obvi. Selling collagen has been linked to many different use cases and benefits. You include those on the product page, email marketing, ads… the list goes on.

But when you email people, and the only link getting clicked relates to weight loss, what should you do?

Switch up those emails and take out all the other use cases. They’re distracting customers. Focus on what they want more than anything.

Paying attention to what people click lets you market to them better! This is something I do with my newsletter. I look at what people are clicking to see where their interest lies.

Treat Subscribers Better

I see it in so many audits… brands build for one-time purchasers with upsells and remarketing, but subscribers are an afterthought.

You’re ignoring your most profitable segment with this approach.

Create a strong onboarding experience. In those first few days of subscribing, utilize more emails to send more information about the product, brand, and what you’re all about.

But pay attention to what’s getting clicked. Build that out more.

Over the life of the subscription, you can target them by cadence. A special upsell right before Month 2, for example. You can also build out campaigns specifically for subscribers.

The best subscription brands make offers just for subscribers. They launch new products for them. Early releases. Do the same with upsells.

Context in Conclusion

It’s easy to get lost in open rates and campaigns. But you can make sure your campaigns are driving an action - and tag those links so you know what actions are the most popular.

Market based on the context you glean from those links. Is a product more popular, or do customers want more information?

In the end, don’t forget subscribers, either. You’ve worked so hard to acquire them, so make the most of them!

That’s it for this week’s dose! Be sure to join our workshop on subscriptions starting March 28th. Dose #99 is out next Tuesday.

 - Matt Holman 🩺

The Subscription Doc