Personalized Email: How To Not Overdo It

Email personalization: how to not overdo it

Outline:

In this golden era of outreach marketing, we all put maximum effort into making our email messages as personalized as possible. We strive to show that we’re looking for a serious business partnership, not just trying to push a product and move on.

But is personalization always good? Marketers keep being told to take personalization to the max, but the truth is, there is a limit. So where should you stop to not overdo it?

Do you need personalization at all?

Personalized outreach used to be expensive – you had to perform deep research and manually collect data on your prospect to be able to individually approach them. With the development of email verification, data mining, and lead generation tools, harvesting information on the prospect became much easier, and basic personalization became the new standard.  

Personalization is so widespread because it has been proven to increase open and click-through rates, thus skyrocketing revenue. Science confirms this:

  • Targeted personalization increases prospect engagement by 74% – eConsultancy
  • Emails with personalized subject lines get opened more by 26% – Campaign Monitor
  • Revenue skyrockets by 760% with personalized segmented campaigns – Campaign Monitor
  • Personalized emails generate six (6!) times higher transaction rates – Experian

The statistics above reflect just a fraction of what personalization can bring to the table of marketing. However, when strategies like personalization appear, they don’t really come with a tutorial. Personalization will not solve all your email marketing problems and overusing it will create new ones. So how do you find the perfect balance? The best you can do is learn from the mistakes of others.

How to use collected data

Segment your audience

Understanding your audience is the key component to nailing your personalized email. To make it easier, segment your prospects list. The most common examples of segmentation are:

  • Geographic: country, region/state, city
  • Demographic: age, gender, socio-economic group
  • Behavioral: likes, dislikes, usage rate, loyalty status, readiness for action
  • Psychographic: personality, lifestyle, attitudes, class

Use created groups to customize the content of your email. The most important tip here is – do not include the data itself in the email, but use it to make an informed decision on what the recipient wants to see in the message.

You can segment by whatever characteristic you find useful, we’ve only provided the most basic and commonly-used examples.

Craft an appealing message

The keys to an appealing message are simple: structure, language, and the idea.

The structure of your email determines whether it is possible for the end user to digest what you are trying to deliver at all. The best tactic, always, is to keep it short and simple. In the introduction, include a few words on your prospect, what makes them special, their achievements, etc. In the main part, talk (again, in short) about the problems the prospect faces and how to combat them (with your solution). In conclusion, include a CTA, and, if necessary, your contact info.

To determine the right language, you first need to know who you are talking to: for enterprise-level prospects or prospects from highly official fields (government, finance, etc.) stick to a formal or neutral tone. This also applies to older audiences in general, regardless of the field. With younger groups, you have room to experiment with informal style – be as creative as possible, use colloquial language, insert pics and emojis, videos and GIFs.

Your idea is the core of your campaign. Any content without an idea is nothing more than a flat promotional text that doesn’t care about its recipient. Your message shouldn’t just address, it should deliver: be it a feeling, a vision, or a concept, it must fit and engage your recipient.

What data to use

Outreach is based on a human-like, friendly approach to prospects and customers. Mistakes begin when email marketers overestimate the degree of personalization they can use in their campaigns. To do personalization right, you must know the lines of appropriateness, and never cross them.

Sensitive personal information should never be used for personalization purposes. Some companies learn that the hard way, as in the case of Target’s baby mail. Target’s algorithm sent a coupon to a teen female customer based on their client’s purchasing history. The problem was that she was pregnant, the coupon was for baby clothes, and the teen’s father, who didn’t know about the pregnancy, saw it. This ended in an angry father storming into Target, and eventually having what we imagine was a very uncomfortable talk with his pregnant daughter.

While data algorithms like this are impressive, their use can be seen as unethical and inappropriate. According to the University of Pennsylvania survey performed on 1,500 American customers:

  • 91% would never give out their personal data for a discount
  • 55% don’t think that shops should collect data to create a perfect customer profile, even if it improves the service
  • 84% would want to control what personal data marketers can use

As you can see, people would want any personal information collected to be disclosed and not used for marketing purposes without their consent. That’s why including data that isn’t in open access from public sources is bad marketing. The use of unique comprehensive data will obviously help you increase sales, but a single data misuse or mishandling can cost you your business.

This was even agreed upon on the international level by the European Commission, and the now famous GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, was approved. According to it, you are no longer allowed to use or harvest data that the customer didn’t provide willingly.

Don’t overdo it: the right parts to personalize

After all this, you may be wondering, what personal data can we include in the message? Here’s a short list of attributes that can be found in public access and successfully used in your personalized message:

  • Name
  • Location
  • Company name
  • Position

Name attribute is usually used in the greeting. But, as we know from the research mentioned in the beginning, personalized subject lines get opened much more often, which is why putting the recipient’s name in the subject is a good tactic.

Location can be used indirectly in the introduction, together with the company name and position, to show that you’ve done your research and want to collaborate on a certain subject.

Summing up

Personal data is sensitive information, that, when used right, can boost your campaign rates and skyrocket revenue. Don’t get too excited, though – never neglect the rules of handling personal information. Overall, use data carefully. Keep in mind the saying – better a little fire to warm us than a great one to burn us.

2 Comments

  1. Is overpersonalization a question of how many pieces of information you’re using or how detailed it is? Does it depend on your business type?

    1. Sally, overpersonalization can seem confusing.
      Make sure the data you use is actually connected to your offer, has been sourced responsibly, and doesn’t violate any common-sense lines.
      For example, a good example of extensive personalization would be mentioning the talking points you had during your meeting with someone and some piece of personal info they shared at a conference when penning them a follow-up email. Hope this helps!

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