Yogi BerraMy fiance, Rob, was raised by a diehard Red Sox fan. While he’s a fan, too, and played baseball through high school (throwing a knuckleball), and we have a signed photo of Tim Wakefield hanging on the wall, I’m always reminded of how fanatical Rob’s dad is when we go visit.

In fact, there are more photos of Ted Williams around Rob’s childhood home than of him and his two brothers. The place is practically a Red Sox museum.

So, I was a bit surprised when going through the bookshelves for a yard sale that I came across three copies of The Yogi Book, hidden away from all the Boston memorabilia and books that take over every shelf, closet, display case and their basement. (There are, I guess I should note, a few other “diplomatic” nods to the Yankees, since former Red Sox player Dom DiMaggio had an older brother, Joe, who played for the Yankees; you might have heard of him.)

Anyway, The Yogi Book is a collection of quotes and stories from Yogi Berra, the prolific Yankees catcher. Whether he’s more famous as a player or for jumbling words into oddly insightful quotes I don’t really know, but after looking through the book I definitely think he has the mind of an email marketer.

In the spirit of tonight’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game, then, I figured I would highlight those quotes that most resonated with the email marketer in me.

“You can observe a lot just by watching.”

This is a fastball, right down the middle. Personalization is mainly about watching, gathering knowledge about your customer, and then using it to drive relevant experiences with your brand.

You’re likely already tracking a ton of customer data, and maybe even using it to personalize the website experience, but what about email?

I know that traditional email metrics are limited, and “watching” in this case is mainly open rate, click through, and maybe some clickzone analysis, but connecting on-site behavior to email content is a prime example of personalizing a message, and increasing your relevancy.

Monetate Engage, our email solution, lets you target content based on recently viewed categories or products. Sometimes the most obvious changes can have a big impact, so you could start with something as simple as targeting my email to the Petite’s section: I’m 5’, and my on-site behavior and purchase history would show my predisposition for this category.

“Little things are big.”

This is a curve ball. You might be thinking that email personalization has been around for years, and you’ve been using “Hi ##first_name##,” with great success, but there’s more to email personalization than merge tags in a salutation.

You can start small, by expanding the use of those merge tags into targetable segments. Engage allows you to pass your first-party data into a campaign as a target, using a query parameter. By defining the tag, and any associated limits (less than, greater than, equal to, contains, etc.) you can connect customer knowledge to content.

For example, if you have a merge tag for your ##loyaltypoints## target users who are on the West Coast and have more than 10,000 loyalty points, those customers could be targeted with an opportunity to upgrade their seat, or notified they qualify for a free extra bag on their next flight, while those with less than 10,000 points would see a completely different experience.

“It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.”

This is your knuckleball, deceptively slow with a lot of movement. Creating a conversation takes time; you need to understand where your customer is, and what they want (which can be a moving target).

Email marketing is about continuing engagement with your customer and building that relationship. Talking is more of a one-way message, only about you and what you want to promote. It doesn’t take the customer into account, and, as a result, it might as well be delivered directly into spam or the trashcan as soon as it’s sent.

Enter open-time personalization, which determines the content of an email at the time a customer opens it, as opposed to when you, the marketer, physically hit send. It sounds crazy, but Engage segments your audience and matches them with dynamically targeted creative to build emails on-the-fly, responding to real-time circumstances like location, current weather, and device type.

As Yogi would say, “90% of the game is half mental.” With those odds, marketers need to collect all of the customer knowledge we can to make our email communications more relevant and, ultimately, more personal.