How To Start & Grow Your Business

Email personalization techniques

Mark Brown
Jan 7th, 2015
  • Estimated reading time: 5 min read
  • Hummy's

    1"Personalized email has a 29% higher unique open rate." 2Don't be over-familiar, it's invasive and insulting. 3"Use the first person and simplify words."
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Email Marketing

Sales-Group of Business People on Colored Gears Photo Credit: Rawpixel Shutterstock

Technology has gone a long way to depersonalize business. From the invention of the telephone to the emergence of bulk email, the feeling of dealing with another human being is soon becoming the analysis of a statistic. Thankfully email service providers have made attempts to put the human element back into the equation with personalization techniques to benefit businesses around the world.

A 2014 marketing study found that while the majority of brands still do not use personalization, it has proven to get readers engaging with your email. Personalized email has a 29 percent higher unique open rate and a 41 percent higher unique click rate when compared to non-personalized email.

Although the most common form, email personalization doesn’t only mean having a reader’s information in a couple of lines. It can also be a particular tone, style, or frame your email uses to evoke a response. Some companies have gotten interesting results from using different personalization techniques you may not have heard of.

Customer name personalization: Helzberg Diamonds case

This is the answer every email marketer will give when asked about personalization, and every person with an email account has probably experienced this personalization at one time or another. As the name suggests, this kind of personalization will use the customer’s name in the subject line as well as the opening line. It may even continue to use the customer’s name in the content itself.

While this form of personalization is the oldest trick in the book, that’s not to say that this form has no use. A study by MarketingSherpa found that this kind of personalization achieved a 17.36 percent higher average click-through rate by simply including the recipient’s name in the subject line only. In addition, the emails with a personalized subject line saw a 5.13 percent higher average open rate than the emails without.

However, you can also get quite creative with customer name personalization, as Helzberg Diamonds found. By adding an animated image using the first name of the recipient (a bracelet with the recipient’s name on it), Helzberg Diamonds achieved an amazing 288 percent increase in sales conversions.

  • Tips for customer name personalization
  • When signing up subscribers, always ask for their name.
  • Always double check your data for incorrect or obvious fake names.
  • Know when not to use it. Would your subscribers want other people to know they use your product? (For example, adult services, gambling, financial services.)
  • Don’t use their last name. Research shows it’s too personal.

Company personalization: MarketingSherpa case

Dealing with named organizations feels cold, impersonal, and like an Orwellian nightmare. Company personalization is all about doing away with company and team names and putting a face to the company.

Replace your company email address with one that is more personal. For example, instead of “,” use “” to receive a more personal response from your reader.

At the end of your email, rather than signing off with “regards, Marketing Solutions,” company personalization gives you the option to add credibility and build a relationship with your reader with a sign-off like:

Ben Statsworth
CEO, Marketing Solutions
BSE Business, UCT

A case study indicated an increase of 137 percent in open rate from an email advertising an educational seminar by MarketingSherpa that used company personalization techniques.

Tips for company personalization

  • Be sure to include the company name somewhere in the sign-off and address, so readers know where your mail is coming from.
  • Include qualifications and position to give your message credibility.
  • Be ready to respond if people reply with questions, or have a team ready to handle the requests.
  • Appearance personalization: The Obama campaign case
  • A personalized message can mean more than just fields that change depending on the recipient — and it should. The layout, template, and subject line that appears as a personal letter or informal message is an example of appearance personalization. It doesn’t matter if you send out your email to thousands of subscribers, as long as it appears personal, it will have the desired effect.

In addition to company personalization, MarketingSherpa also applied appearance personalization to achieve its 137 percent increase in open rate. However, appearance personalization is not only successful with companies. The Obama campaign used it effectively as well.

The Obama administration was grossly underfunded by corporations when compared to the Romney campaign. However, after using email and appearance personalization, Obama was able to raise the majority of his $690 million campaign through appearance personalized emails.

Obama’s emails begin with a slightly informal tone while communicating in the first person about relevant, everyday, human topics, slowly bringing the election and fundraising in as the main focus. Within reason, the same approach can be applied to your own email marketing campaign.

Tips for appearance personalization

  • Don’t be too personal: Slang and lingo is never well received.
  • Don’t be too specific: If you’re too specific, you risk isolating a percentage of your readers.
  • Use the first person and simplify words where you can to appear friendlier.
  • Keep context in mind: If you’re a legal company, you do not want to sound unprofessional and not serious.
  • A little effort can go a long way and earn you a lot of extra revenue. Email service providers can provide basic personalization tools and segmentation functions, but personalizing your email campaign can and should mean more than a tool doing all the work for you.

This article was written by Mark Brown and published on iMedia Communications, Inc.,  is the most influential community of senior marketers in the rapidly evolving digital world.

Mark Brown is a copywriter at GraphicMail.