How to Give Email That Personal Touch

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A personal touch can ignite conversations, build relationships—and boost sales.


Little can make as much of an impact on customers' minds, emotions, and decisions as a personal touch.

In fact, it's those intimate details about a person—his likes, dislikes, motivations, preferences—that are the keys which unlock relationships with customers. “Personalizing marketing messages enables a conversation to happen,” says Loretta Jones, VP of marketing at CRM software provider Insightly. “Personal touches result in people feeling like the brand…cares about their problems and understands their needs, not just trying to make a sale. It's how customer relationships are built.”

In this lucid Q&A, Jones spells out how marketers can bring that personal touch to email. Here she reveals why all marketers in small and large companies should be making moves to personalize—and the consequences for those who don't.

So according to Experian, an overwhelming 70% of surveyed brands failed to personalize their email messages in 2013. Why do you think so many marketers just aren't personalizing?

A lack of personalization could be attributed to a lack of access to the data that makes email messages truly personal.

Marketing automation is a step, but just inserting the recipient's name doesn't make a message personal. Commenting on something they have or have not done is a better strategy for providing an excellent customer experience. It is helpful to set up a system that segments your customers to build and support conversations. It's important to set up your business using this strategy. Ideally, marketers could set up their communication applications this way, but in reality, this is probably something that would happen once a user base has been established.

And why exactly should marketers consider personalizing their email marketing messages? What should they be looking to get from this?

The main goal for marketers should be to find out all there is to know about their customers' needs, through demographic information and behavioral data. Once these needs are identified, engaging in personal conversations about how to fulfill them can help marketers become trusted resources. Customers are more comfortable talking to brands about their problems once that trust is developed. From there, marketers can use customer feedback to build more effective campaigns.

Tell us, how is personalization different today than, say, five—or even one—years ago?

There is more technology today to help marketers create personalized messages and gain access to richer data. With new technology in the business intelligence space and the use of data management platforms (DMPs), marketers can take advantage of prospecting tools that help them to get to know the customer well before the initial point of contact. The availability of demographic data also helps marketers learn about a person before they become a customer.

What are some of the least obvious ways to personalize an email?

Asking questions is a way to engage a customer in a natural way.

Marketing is very similar to dating. If you go on a date with someone and they are talking about themselves the whole time, you are less likely to go out with that person again. As for marketing, if a customer is being bombarded with irrelevant emails, and not being asked questions about what they need as a user, the odds of the customer wanting to participate with the brand are slim. Marketers need to provide customers a place to belong within the brand. After all, without customers business would be non-existent.

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