That's My Name: Don't Wear It Out

I recently took a vacation trip to Washington, D.C., and made all my own travel arrangements.  I booked my own airfare, reserved a hotel room, and bought tickets online for entertainment and other attractions.

The confirmation emails and subsequent marketing emails I received from each travel vendor varied in the amount of personalization they used.  I received emails that contained my first name only, my first and last name, prominent placement of my name in the email, my name difficult to find in the email, and follow-up emails based on my buying habits, such as airfare deals to Washington, D.C.

I also received emails with no personalization.

As marketers, we know that adding personalization to an email message boosts the effectiveness of the message by making a personal connection with the recipient.  In fact, our experience has shown that personalizing your email campaigns can increase the effectiveness by as much as 25% to 30%. 



Personalization is poorly used in most marketing emails.  The belief that "any personalization is good personalization," simply is not true.  When personalization is overdone or done improperly, the email can come across as phony, contrived or downright creepy.  For example, I recently received an email that used my name in the subject line: "Neil, Labor Day hotel sale going on now."  Awkward.

Best practices to ensure personalization works for your campaigns -- not against them -- include:

1.     Make sure your data is clean.  Accurate data is imperative if you plan to personalize emails.  No one wants to receive an email addressed to a wrong/misspelled name.  Manage your data regularly to ensure it's updated.

2.     Make personalization natural.  When names appear in subject lines or personalization is accentuated in emails, it feels forced.  Ensure your personalization efforts fit in the flow of the email and further engages your recipient.  For example, instead of putting my name in the hotel email subject line, perhaps the sender could have put a location or a brand to get my attention.

3.     Personalize with more than just a name.  Dedicate your efforts to gathering additional demographic and behavioral information about your recipients, and use that information to create powerful, one-of-kind messages.  Emails can detail membership information, most recent purchase or donations, location and other data.  The Indy Zoo includes extensive membership information in each email sent to its members, including membership level, status and expiration.  Members never have to wonder when their membership expires.

4.     Use dynamic content.   Pull content into email that is applicable to a segment or demographic of people in your database.  For example, J.C. Hart Company, an apartment community developer in Ohio and Indiana, develops personalized emails for its residents using dynamic content to populate information relevant to different communities.  For example, if you live in their community in Miamisburg, Ohio, you will receive emails listing events in that community and in Dayton. 

Finally, monitor your campaigns.  Look at your campaign metrics.  Are recipients engaged with the email?  What is your conversion rate?  How do these metrics compare to non-personalized campaigns?

If your campaigns are successful, congratulations!  If you're not achieving success, look for other ways to personalize your emails using demographic and behavior-driven information.  The results will be worth your efforts.

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