You send an email. Two of your contacts, Sarah and Scott, are categorized as the same personas and lifecycle stages. They both receive your email but react differently to it — only one of them opens and engages; the other one doesn't.


It comes down to their email behaviors. Sarah might want to engage with every email you send her, but Scott, on the other hand, might be better served receiving an email once per month.

If you overload the wrong contacts with too much email, you risk losing them to a passive unsubscribe, which can lead to email deliverability challenges down the road.

Understanding the behaviors of the people on your email lists will guide you in sending great email with high engagement.

So what is behavioral email, and how can you use it to dominate your email strategy?

Why Is Behavioral Email Important?

Email volume, deliverability, and relevancy are hidden plagues that affect all sales and marketing professionals who rely on email as a communication channel.

In collaboration with HubSpot connect partner Seventh Sense, we're going to dig into behavioral email's role in these professions. The Seventh Sense artificial intelligence and predictive system uses data from your HubSpot portal to help you win attention in today's over-crowded inboxes.

But before we jump into why behavioral email is important, let’s take a step back and discuss what behavioral email is. 

What Is Behavioral Email?

Behavioral email focuses on the idea that every interaction a user has with your company should have an expected and appropriate reaction.

By looking at all the interactions and their responses to your reaction, you can start to develop a sense of your contacts' behavior. Each person in your contact database will tell you, by their actions, how often you should send them email.

The old approach of having the user determine how much to send them is going to deliver worse and worse results.

Understanding your contacts' behavior over time and looking for trends in their behavior will continue to yield results because you're always looking to improve your email sends.

As email continues to improve with new technology, email marketers need to create more highly personalized email.

Take, for example, what Alex Williams, creative director at Trendline Interactive, states about email in 2018:

"In 2018, I predict email personalization will start shifting heavily towards 'what’s next’ instead of ‘what was.’ New machine learning and data science-based features and platforms will give email marketers the ability to harness their content and data to prophesize relevant information to mass audiences in a personal way."

When you send behavioral email, you're creating a highly personal experience.

With the current advances in email automation and the increase in integrations across channels, departments, and partners, you now have unprecedented insight into customer activity. This helps you provide your customers with the right content every time you press send.

How Can You Get Started With Behavioral Email?

There are two ways we're going to look at behavioral email.

The first is examining the actions a contact takes with your company and the behaviors they have with your content. The second is looking at the behaviors they have when receiving email, the cadence they prefer, and the times of days they open email.

Both are equally important to sending great behavioral email.

There's a three-piece framework you might want to use when considering behavioral email:

  1. Track the interactions your contacts take.
  2. Determine the actions a contact might take.
  3. Use send time personalization.

1. Track the interactions your contacts take.

The first step in sending behavioral email is to look at the interactions your contacts take and track them accordingly.

Think of all the different ways you interact with your contacts every day (maybe each hour). You can’t send behavioral email if you don’t know what behaviors to act off of.

Each of these channels gives you the ability to listen and see what your contacts are interested in and then create contact around it. Take a look at these HubSpot properties you can use to create content and send personalized email:

  • Website activity
  • Email engagement
  • Social media activity
  • Form submissions
  • Conversion information
  • Data from other integrated software

Once you have this type of information, you can move onto the next step of behavioral email, which is to determine which actions a user takes that should trigger a response from you.

Want to learn more about collecting data on your contacts? Check it out here.

2. Determine the actions a contact might take.

Once you have some background information on your contacts, you can move on to the second piece of the behavioral email framework: Actions.

Behavioral emails are effective because they're based on something the user did and thus the email they receive is expected.

That’s the true power of behavioral emails — they're activated by the user, not the marketer.

As the marketer, you need to decide which actions to react to. Take the below examples. Each one of these user generated actions could trigger an email send from you:

  • Contacts submits a form for ebook/content > send email follow-up with content.
  • Contact views specific content on your website > send targeted follow-up content.
  • Contact engages/doesn't engage with emails >send them an email with another CTA or run a contact-re-engagement campaign.

If you know what your system tracks on your contact's engagement, the sky's the limit as to what types of reaction emails you can send.

Once you have the actions tracked and you know which types of reactions you want to send, the last piece of behavioral email comes in: The conversation.

3. Use send time personalization to start a conversation.

The conversation you create after understanding your contacts' actions with your company and identifying the types of email you'll send in reaction to those actions is the most important aspect of behavioral email.

This is also where it gets fun. How can you increase the attention to your email and better understand how your contacts want to interact with email?

We discussed the difference between two contacts, Sarah and Scott, at the beginning. While both of them may have similar interactions with your company, both might want to receive a different cadence of email. That's where send time personalization comes in.

Send time personalization is using the data you have on each of your contacts and then scheduling your emails to send at the time when each is most likely to engage with your email.

Think of Sarah and Scott and how they both want to engage at different times and different cadences. How great would it be to send to them when they want it to most?

Take a look at this infographic displaying the ROI of using send time personalization.

Screen Shot 2017-11-30 at 10.39.26 AM

These three pieces of behavioral email make up the framework you can use when sending behavioral email for your business.


What Tools Can You Use for Behavioral Email?

Using the three-piece behavioral email framework, you can get started creating email campaigns. But what tools should you use?

Inside your HubSpot portal, there are a lot of listening devices and email data for behavioral email. With this, partnered with data and send time personalization from Seventh Sense, you have the tools to send the right email to the right person at the right time, every time.

Let’s dig into the three key tools you can use to get your behavioral email strategy off the ground:

  1. Email attention.
  2. Reduce email fatigue.
  3. Email deliverability awareness.

1. Increase email attention.

If you want to implement send time personalization, you need a tool to do so. HubSpot and Seventh Sense have teamed up to provide just that. Now you can use your data to create that personalized delivery time every time you hit send.

Check out what it looks like on your contact record: 

Want to learn more about send time personalization? Check it out here.

2. Reduce email fatigue.

Think of all the emails you get in your inbox daily. We receive far more emails than we desire to engage with, and that's what email fatigue is.

When your contacts are getting email fatigue with the emails you send them, you're no longer delighting them. To reduce email fatigue for your contacts, you can use HubSpot engagement data to automatically increase or decrease your sending frequency at the individual level.

Here's what this will look like: 

Delivery Screen-1

You can schedule lists and select the fatigue class, which will adjust the amount of email you're sending. Scheduling the list like this will help you decrease email fatigue for your contacts by sending to them for their personalized sending time.

Want to learn more about how to schedule these lists? Check it out here.

3. Email deliverability awareness.

As an email marketer, you know how important email deliverability is to getting your emails out to the right people. By optimizing your email sends for attention, you can help your emails get into the inbox.

Pay attention to your email engagement levels so you can gauge who you should be sending to. If you send to people who do want your emails, eventually it can result in email deliverability ramifications.

With the information in HubSpot, paired with Seventh Sense data, there are two key data points you want to pay attention to:

  • Dormant (low-engaged) contacts
  • Email engagement level

Dormant contacts (in HubSpot also called low-engaged contacts) are contacts who have not engaged with your emails over a certain period of time and should be considered for a re-engagement campaign or to be taken off your email list.

Email engagement levels will help you prevent contacts from getting to the dormant stage and to help you delight contacts that are consistently highly engaged.

The key here is that depending on someone's engagement level, they should be receiving different content from you or no content at all.

Take a look at what this data looks like in action: 


These data tools give you insight into the many behaviors of your contacts. This information is your tool to sending better email.

Want to explore this data more? Check it out here.

Behavioral email gives you the chance to take your email to the next level by creating an immediate response to your contacts with the information on when they want to hear from you.

By using software that helps you automate the emails you send, software that provides you with the data on how engaged your contacts are and when to send to them, you're setting your inbound business up for success.

Email remains at the heart of successful marketing and sales efforts, but competing for attention in the inbox has never been more challenging.

Want an example of what Seventh Sense and HubSpot look like in action? Check out this case study.


Get started with your contact management strategy here.


Originally published Dec 7, 2017 9:00:00 AM, updated December 20 2017