16 Ways to Personalise Your Marketing Emails

16 Ways to Personalise your Marketing Emails

Shane Herring
Shane Herring

Course Developer at Atomic Education


Last Updated: April 3, 2021

Have you been in a coffee shop and seen the personal connection when someone is greeted by name? And even more so when the barista knows their ‘usual’. Maybe it’s even happened to you. How does that make you feel?

Personal interaction has become a lost art in the digital age. With more businesses doing business online, people can start to feel that their just an avatar instead of a human being. That is starting to change.

Businesses are realising that building individual relationships with their customers is extremely important. And email personalisation is helping them do it. 96% of organisations believe personalisation improves the performance of email marketing campaigns.

Generic emails just don’t cut it anymore. If you want your prospects to respond, you need a more personal touch.

One way to lose engagement is to send a generic email to your entire list.

Personalising emails is how you get your readers to pay attention.

The first, and probably only, step many businesses take in personalising their emails is to insert the recipient’s name at the top of the email and… that’s it.

With inboxes getting more and more crowded, it’s not enough if you want your emails to stand out.

In this article I introduce you to email personalisation and give you ways to personalise your marketing emails.

Benefits of personalisation

You need to take personalisation a step further if you want your email campaigns to be more effective.

It’s no longer enough to insert your reader’s first name. You need to show that you understand them, their problems and where they are in their buyer’s journey.

The question I have for you is are you ready to take personalisation of your emails to the next level?

In this article, we’ll look at some of the more advanced email personalisation techniques that you can leverage today.

It starts with you

Personalisation is about building a stronger relationship you’re your recipient. But like any relationship in life, personalising your email campaign must be two-sided. For a relationship to form, they need to know something about you. You need to come across as a relatable human, not a faceless business.

Whether you are an individual or a large company, there are several ways to show your human side in emails.

1. Include a real name and photo

A personal email should come from a real person. The best way do this is to have a person’s name in the From field. For example, you won’t get an email from Atomic Education but you will get an email from Shane from Atomic Education. This does two things. It shows the email is from a real person and it reinforces the link between that email and my business.

People are visual, and a photo will make an instant connection. Include a photo of the sender. The signature area is usual place to do this. Another option is to setup a Gravatar account where many email clients will show an image based on the sender’s email address.

2. Show your personality

Have you heard the say People buy from People? You have to you’re your readers that you’re a person just like they are.

It’s important to let your personality out. Don’t be afraid to show things that you think might alienate your readers.

Start by using a conversational tone in your emails. Avoid business jargon. Your brand should have a distinct personality. Once you’re written your email, read it aloud. You’ll quickly find out if the tone is ‘you’.

Some ways you can show your personality in your email content:

The goal here is to have your readers experience a transformation from being on your list. That means that they know you and start to think of you as someone they would like to meet.

3. Make it easy to respond

Building a two-way relationship means that people should be able to reply directly to the sender. I’ve talked about making sure the email address comes from a real person and that includes a real person’s email address. It’s counterproductive to have an email that is from Shane from Atomic Education, but the email address is no-reply@atomiceducation.tech.

Make sure you have a process in place so that you respond quickly to any marketing emails that have been replied to.

Now make it about them

4. Personalise the subject line

You can insert the recipient’s name in the subject line, which is a smart way to stand out in a cluttered inbox. As they skim their new emails, seeing their name will pique interest.

5. Personalise the preheader text

Also known as “the second subject line,” preheaders are very important for mobile devices. Preheader text takes up more space than the subject line, giving you another opportunity to personalise.

Because I add a first name to the subject line and start the email body with the reader’s first name, I don’t usually include their first name in the preheader. It just seems like I’m trying too hard. What I do is use second person words such as ‘you’ or ‘your’.

6. Start your email as if you were writing to a friend

Be pleasant at the start of every email and sound like you’re writing to a friend. Here are some examples:

How to personalise your marketing emails

Inserting personal information in your emails is a cool feature, but it’s only effective if the rest of the content is relevant to that individual.

An email becomes genuinely personal when you can address your reader’s needs.

Amazon is considered the pioneer of personalised emails because they can use your shopping history to craft content that is unique and relevant to you.

Amazon is a massive company with a sophisticated personalisation operation, but the good news is that most email service providers have similar capabilities.

The more you segment, the more you can deliver the right content to the right people.

7. Use other services to collect relevant information

Traditionally, email marketers collected data by asking a lot of questions on a signup form.

People don’t fill out lengthy forms anymore.

The more information you ask for on a signup form, the fewer people will fill out the form. It’s much more important to get the reader first, then worry about collecting more information later. This is where integrations can play an important part in delivering relevant emails.

However, if you want to personalise your marketing emails, you need information.

If a prospect or customer is interacting with your business, there’s a good chance that you have information about in other them in a different system. An example is if you have an ecommerce platform. When someone makes a purchase, you should be collecting information such as their first name and email address but also the category of item they purchased.

Collecting this type of information in your email marketing platform gives you the opportunity to send highly targeted messages to your readers.

8. Segment your readers

Imagine that you’re a single male who shops in a local department store.

Now image that department sends you a marketing email promoting women’s clothes. Would that make you feel that they know their audience?

Probably not.

Segmentation the tactic of grouping your readers by one or more attributes. Then send relevant, personalised marketing emails to people who match those attributes.

For the department store above, simply segmenting based on gender would have a good start.

9. Send behaviour triggered emails

How many times have your browsed an online store, added it to your shopping cart and started the checkout process but, you’ve changed your mind and moved on. To your surprise, or maybe not, an hour or two later you receive an email reminding you that you haven’t completed your purchase.

These are abandoned cart emails. They’re a perfect example of behavioural triggered email that you can use. They’re personal because you know what they were interested in.

10. Track what your prospects are reading

The content your prospects are reading on your website is a great source of information. This is one reason why I write posts targeted at different readers.

How does this work? Image that you’re a fitness trainer. A prospect lands on your website and spends some time reading a particular post. Let’s say the title is

5 things you need to know before starting a fitness training program

Because they’re reading this topic, you can be confident that they’re interested in starting a fitness program.

If they’re not already a subscriber, it’s the perfect opportunity to offer a resource in exchange for their email address. Either way, you now know a little more about them.

By targeting your email content to someone who is interested in taking up a fitness training program, they’re more likely to read what you send them and more likely to say yes when you make your offer.

11. Let them choose what they want to receive from you

Every prospect comes to you with a specific problem. If you’re like many businesses, you probably offer solutions to more than one problem.

The danger here is that if you’re sending a solution to a problem that person doesn’t have, it’s irrelevant and they’ll ignore your emails or worse still, unsubscribe from your list.

Ideally you would be giving your readers the opportunity to choose what type of content they receive.

Imagine you’re a travel agent. Someone is reading a blog post titled 11 Tips for the First Time Traveller. You offer them a free download in exchange for their email address. Now you know they’re a first time traveller.

Once they complete the subscriber form, send them to a landing page. On that page is a form where they can select the type of travel they’re interested in. For example, domestic, international, adventure, or escorted tours.

You’ve made them an active participant in the process. Because they get to choose, they feel confident that you’re going to provide value. The thing that’s really important is that you need to send relevant emails based on their choice.

12. Maximise when they receive your email

The time your email lands in a reader’s inbox can influence on not only if they see it but when they choose to open it.

Imagine you’re located in Vancouver, but you have clients around the world. Because you’ve researched your marketing and chosen the ‘best’ time, you send a marketing email at 7am local time. This is fine for your readers along the west coast. However, your readers in Montreal or Boston will get their email at 10am their time. For your clients in London, it will be 3pm. And in Sydney, 1am. So much for your opening time research.

Some email service providers have the ability to send an email at a time relative to the recipient’s local time. For example, send this email when it’s 7am in the recipient’s location.

13. Ask for their opinion

If you want to get free input from your readers as well as their opinion on decisions you need to make, and making them feel valued, asking them is an excellent option.

When you ask for opinions, don’t overcomplicate things. Make it simple for them to give their answer. You don’t want them to have to think through a complex problem.

14. Challenge them and join the fun

Many of your readers want a challenge especially if it’s a challenge that will ultimately benefit them and their business. Presenting a challenge gets your readers to engage with you and each other and help build a sense of community.

While you’ve probably seen the ice bucket challenge, a challenge should be relevant to your business and brand, but here are some examples:

Above all, make sure you’re part of the challenge. Encourage them to share their progress and results in your community group.

15. Send something fun

Not all of your emails have to be about business. Show your human side by occasionally sending something that’s fun or interesting. If you’ve collected the right information, you could even wish them a happy birthday.

Building a relationship with your readers is about trust and loyalty and this starts with you showing your personality. When people know they are talking to an actual human, the dynamic changes and they are more willing to engage.

One piece of advice though. Don’t try and force it. Forcing a personality that you would like to be seen but isn’t you doesn’t work.

16. Ask relevant questions

Your readers want to see that you understand their problems and frustrations.

By asking your reader questions that relate directly to their problems, you’re showing them that they aren’t getting a generic, obviously automated email. Instead, they’re getting something that you’ve tailored specifically for them.

You’re probably already asking what to do if you don’t know the exact problems somebody has when they join your list. But again, posing questions is the solution here.

This can start on your landing page. As part of your form, you could provide the prospect with a list of potential issues that they want to work on. The answer tells you which email campaign to insert them into.

And from there, you can kick off your emails with questions that relate to the problem they highlighted.

17. Personalise the postscript

The postscript (P.S.) at the end of your email is often read more than the actual content. It’s an area of the content that’s commonly used as a secondary, subtle call to action. But, it can be used for so much more.

You could mention their company or the city in which they live. Whatever you put here, make it count. Maybe add another personal detail like their company name or their city.

The P.S. is the most charming part of a letter. It’s the wink you give as you walk away.

~ Shaun Usher, author of Letters of Note, for The Wall Street Journal

For example:

P.S. Steve, if you know anyone in Vancouver who might be interested in this email, why not forward it to them?

It’s So Much More Than Just a Name

Using a reader’s name is the most basic level of personalisation there is. After all, every single person on your lists expects you to do it. If you want your email list to be more effective, you really need to personalise your marketing emails.

What they may not expect is for you to deliver valuable and relevant content to them via your emails.

The techniques shared here show you how to figure out what your readers want from your business. After that, it’s up to you to make sure they receive it.

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