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Katelyn Goerke

UX Research Lead

Katelyn leads the Northwoods UX research and strategy teams and genuinely enjoys helping clients, professionals, and students better understand the value of a data-backed marketing approach. She’s a skilled marketing strategist, certified in Google Analytics and Google Ads, and she shares her extensive knowledge as an Adjunct Instructor in Information Science and Technology at UW-Milwaukee. Katelyn appreciates a good puzzle and finds the fun in using data to solve a client’s unique set of challenges. When she’s not at Northwoods, she loves to travel and enjoys board games and all things Harry Potter.

Four Easy Ways to Personalize Your Email Campaigns

July 14, 2020 | Katelyn Goerke, UX Research Lead

5 Minute Read

You’re sending marketing emails with good content on a regular schedule. You’re building a contacts list. Good. Now: How do you get more recipients to open those emails and then answer their calls to action? 

Email personalization can go a long way to answering that question. The process of personalization customizes emails based on information you’ve gathered about any given recipient. 

You can personalize email campaigns in several ways. Some are minor, such as inserting the recipient’s name into the copy. Some go further, including changing the structure, layout or design of the email. 
We suggest starting with the following four personalization tactics.

Subject Line

You have one goal for your subject line: Get the recipient to open your email.

According to Campaign Monitor, subject line personalization can raise open rates by 26%. Recipients want emails crafted just for them. Personalization grabs attention from the inbox marketing mush. One easy way to do so is to add personal data from your recipient into the subject line. This could include the first name, the company name, the city, and more. 

Example of a customized email subject line

This email included personalization to help solicit contacts to fill out a survey after a pick-up order.

Personalized subject lines could also include custom messages based on the recipient’s industry, products used, or other information you have stored. 

At Northwoods, we vary the subject line of post-event emails based on whether the event-registered person actually attended. If yes, “Thanks for Attending!”; if no, “Sorry We Missed You!” This simple change shows that we pay attention to our recipients and that their engagement with us matters. 

Another personalized email subject line example

This subject line would change if I had not attended the event. 

Unsure of how to write a good subject line beyond personalization? We’ve already covered the basics. 

Email Sender

Another easy way to add personalization before the recipient even opens the email is by altering the email sender. This is especially helpful for organizations that use account directors, sales team members, or other individuals that their contacts may recognize personally. 

How you personalize your subject lines depends on the capabilities of your tool. But many email marketing platforms allow you to customize the sender name showing in the recipient’s inbox. So, you can create a single mass email, but recipients will perceive it as coming from their particular contact within your business. 

Example of personalizing the email sender info

Many email tools make this personalization a matter of a quick click of a button. 

A familiar name in the inbox grabs attention and triggers memory. In a B2B setting, Acme Corp. might not register with the recipient, but Mary Jones, Acme VP/Fireworks and Anvils, will register. This tactic won’t apply to all organizations, but it makes sense in many settings, and gives the recipient a hint about the nature of the message.

Email Copy

Don’t stop with the subject line and sender notification. Carry personalization through to the body copy. The most common way to do this is to address recipients directly, by inserting their first names into the copy.

Personalized email greeting

A common way of adding personalization to email copy is to add the recipient’s name to the introduction of the message, as done here. 

Among other email copy personalization, consider: 

  • Company Name
  • City or State
  • Job Title
  • Services or Products used

If you have stored information about your recipients, you can probably use it in your email campaign copy. 

Email Design

Customizing the design of your emails can make them more user-specific. For example:  

  • Change a skyline photo to reflect the recipient’s city.
  • Adjust the images in the email based on the recipient’s industry.
  • Change the colors or font by persona type.

Personalizing the message usually has the largest impact but changing photos or other design elements to better suit the user can create the aura of an understanding of the user’s needs. And you’re not faking it; you’ve gone to actual trouble to make them feel at home. Which is, in fact, a way of understanding their needs.  

Again, your email messaging platform determines what you can do to personalize the design of your email campaign. Before you put a platform in place, take a close look at its personalization features. 

Personalization Cautions

You Can’t Personalize If You Don’t Have Data

You can only personalize messaging through the data you have gathered on your contacts. If you lack data for, say, city of residence or industry category, you cannot use those items to personalize your campaign. 

Plan ahead. As you design your contact information gathering process, consider how you will leverage that information for personalization in future email campaigns. You can also run an email campaign to gather info for personalization. 

Always Set a Default

Even the most sophisticated data gathering inevitably leaves gaps. When creating personalized campaigns, always set a default option for display if a contact is missing data in any given field. 

For example, if you choose to insert the first names of your contacts into the body of the email, set an alternate word – “valued partner,” “friend,” etc. -- that displays when the first name is not in your database. Most email marketing tools that allow for personalization have a field in which to enter a default option. 

Don’t Go Overboard

Don’t go too far and cloud your main marketing message with distracting personal items. You want to play the role of the friendly marketer caring for a particular valued client or customer, not a nosy neighbor who knows way too much about said client.

Need guidance with your email marketing personalization? Reach out! We're happy to help.