Why personalisation and relevance in email (and everything else) will always be important

Why personalisation and relevance in email (and everything else) will always be important

Principle 3 – Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

I’ve been reading (and re-reading) ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ for about half a year now – although a lot of it is common sense, it’s still one of those books you wish you would have read sooner. Although I don’t agree with parts of the book, there is one chapter (6) in particular I have visited quite a few times because it speaks to the email, and general, marketing geek in me. If you’re familiar with the text, which odds would say you will have at least heard of it (first published in 1936, selling over 30 million copies), you probably know this section as ‘Six ways to make people like you’. In brief, Carnegie tells us about then politicians and CEO’s that could attribute a lot of their success to people skills, as simple as remembering names and birthdays. Seriously, this stuff would supposedly win elections. The chapter links a lot of similar principles together. Marketers can get so wrapped up in tactics and goals that they forget how far being kind and taking a genuine interest in someone, actually goes. No matter what customer profile you’re targeting, human nature & psychology (more or less) stay the same.

Personalisation in email has been covered thousands of times with the argument creeping in that subscribers are getting standardised to seeing their names in subject lines and being bombarded with birthday emails, so is it really that effective? Others might claim that including a name could increase your conversions by a million percent etc. etc. I look at and analyse email marketing campaigns everyday and I always think it is a nice touch to see my name in my inbox, as long as the right sentiment is there. Don’t be put off just because it isn’t considered ‘innovative’.

Principle 6 – Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely

This doesn’t have to be a gimmick you chuck into your campaign planning, to make it look like you’re utilising ‘big data’, ‘religion over tactics’ as Gary Vaynerchuck says. Use this information with purpose, not as just another tactic. This works best when it isn’t just part of a play to get someone to open a newsletter once in awhile, believe in what you are doing, believe in what you are saying and ultimately, listen to your customer.

Takeaway 1: Use data wisely i.e. try not to use personalisation in every subject line just because you can.

Personalisation has been said to work best in transactional or triggered campaigns. Pretending your unsegmented campaign is uniquely designed for each subscriber, however can be a little transparent – unless you’re using dynamic content. Here are some examples of common SL’s:

Re-engagement: Hi Millie, we haven’t seen you in a while
Abandoned basket: Millie, we’ve held your basket for you – come back when you’re ready
Tailored product suggestions: We think this has ‘Millie’, written all over it…

Not the same effect:
Summer is just around the corner, Millie
We’ve launched a new product (that has nothing to do with what you’ve previously purchased), Millie
Millie, perfect gifts for Father’s day

And sometimes it can just appear to be a bit bizarre:


You can see the difference in reasoning, throwing a name on the end of a subject line can sometimes have the opposite effect of ‘personalising’ an email and diminishes its effectiveness.

Tip: If you haven’t used personalisation in your campaigns before, remember to update your QA check-list with a personalisation functionality check. Calling all your subscribers FIRST NAME isn’t ideal…

Takeaway 2: People respond to authentic/make your subscribers the focus, not you

Being authentic goes hand in hand with being relevant for your subscribers. ESP’s can sometimes make it difficult (or just extremely expensive) to collect data and/or optimise that data, if you are limited, there are other ways you can provide value. When planning your campaign calendar for the year, try not to just talk about ‘your’ products or ‘your’ event. Think about what your customer might be going through. Plan for the unexpected rain in June, for the last minute birthday gift before payday, there are lots of things that you could react to that isn’t in your database but could hit home with a lot of your customers.

Principle 5 – Talk in terms of the other person’s interest

Remembering information as a brand might not be that impressive anymore, yet it’s still important to show subscribers of your community that you recognise them as an individual, whether that’s using their name or personalising their communication journey. Listen to your customer, test the data insights you have, make product or content recommendations without making broad assumptions that could pigeon-hole or exclude segments, be sincere, be authentic and return the value.