Getting Personal With Your Emails

Ever been disappointed with the lack of email responses for your marketing campaign? If you’re not currently personalizing your emails, now is the time to start. In return for being treated as individuals, your customers are much more likely to open your emails and click on your calls to action. Here are my top tips, from a content strategy perspective, for getting more personal with your email content.

Stick to the Subject

A weak subject line will defeat your marketing effort before it begins, by dramatically reducing open rates. It’s best to keep subject lines short and relevant, especially since 35% of emails are now opened on mobile devices. According to a 2014 Demand Gen study, personalized emails with subject lines that included a recipient’s first name delivered a 2.6% increase in open rates compared to those without names. Personalized subject lines have also become more effective over time. MailerMailer’s 2013 annual study cited a nearly 9% increase in the open rates from the previous year for emails with personalized subject lines.

 One Email Doesn’t Fit All

Another way to personalize email is to create multiple versions tailored to distinct audience segments. To define those segments, you’ll want to have a good understanding of your customers and their attributes. Group customers, for instance, by their common interests, demographics or purchase history. Then you can craft different versions of an email targeted to each segment. There may be some content that fits across all audience segments, but make sure that the subject line, hero copy, subheads, body copy and calls to action speak directly to each segment you’re trying to reach.

How many versions of an email should your create? That depends on your business goals and your budget. You’ll want to balance the need for personalization with the cost of hard coding these emails. In my experience, three versions is a good number to shoot for. That way, you can target one email toward new customers, another toward existing customers who, for example, may own a previous model of the latest product you’re promoting, and a third version for customers who have purchased other kinds of merchandise from your company and may be interested in this new product or service you’re promoting.

 Go Dynamic

Another personalization tactic is to populate your emails with dynamic content based on what you know about an individual consumer. What exactly do I mean by “dynamic”? I’m referring to relevant content that changes depending on the individual’s interests.

If, for example, your company has the capability to dynamically populate an email with specific content based on past purchase history or interests captured for an individual customer, that increases the level of personalization. In addition to using purchase history, you can establish interest flags to use when populating your emails with dynamic content. For each interest flag, you would develop a content module.

To create dynamic content, mine your database or create personas based on demographics, purchase history or interests, then assign the appropriate flag to each customer. That information is used to populate the email with the most relevant content for each customer.

Messaging Platforms

If you are undertaking an email personalization project, I recommend that you create a Messaging Platform (MP), which is a document I create for every email campaign that I work on as a content strategist. Think of the MP as a blueprint or outline for your email. It contains suggested tone, talking points and copy for subject lines, headlines, body copy and CTAs, as well as information on where you are linking to for each CTA. For dynamic content, map out the content for each flag and how it’s going to work within the email template.

Once the MP is complete, I brief the Creative on the objectives of the campaign, the distinctions between each version and the approach for each email.

Tracking Success

To measure whether or not your personalization efforts are working, you’ll want to consider A/B testing. Split your audience into test and control groups and create a different set of business rules for each—one that’s personalized and one that’s not. Or test different spins on content—one that’s more generic and another that’s more specialized based on interest.

Gathering analytics for dynamic content can be complicated, as email service providers are not set up for this, so there is an additional complexity to handling the reporting. You need to know who received what content, and you have to pay attention to how you measure content engagement.

By taking the time to personalize, segment and test your creative and dynamic components, you’ll obtain valuable data and improve your results over time. You’ll also build more brand loyalty, as consumers are looking for relevant content that engages them. So the next time you send them an email, they’re more likely to open it.


Dmytro Marushkevych, a Technology Director at Rosetta, contributed to this article.

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