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    February 6, 2013 // 9:00 AM

    7 Excellent Examples of Email Personalization in Action

    Written by Corey Eridon | @

    email personalizationintermediate

    Personalized email marketing: We have the technology!

    So why isn't anyone doing it? Well, it's not that nobody is doing it (otherwise we wouldn't have much of a blog post on our hands) ... it's just not being done as often or as well as it could be. I mean, I think we've all received the email that seems to be relying on "Hi [$$FIRSTNAME$$]" to totally nail it with email personalization. Alas, first name alone just isn't cutting it these days.

    Thing is, email personalization doesn't need to be insanely complicated to resonate with recipients. Just like any other piece of marketing content, useful personalization is the stuff that simply makes your marketing more relevant, and more helpful. That's all!

    So, what are some ways you could make your email marketing more personal? I like to tell stories through examples, so I dug up some companies that are leveraging email personalization abilities in ways that are really useful to the recipient. Because no matter how awesome your creative or compelling your copy, excellent marketing comes down to being useful. Let's take a look at seven examples of excellent email personalization I found in my inbox (and a couple of my co-workers' inboxes ... thanks guys).

    And then we'll wrap it up with one funny/mildly embarrassing one that didn't quite hit the mark, just for good measure ;-)

    1) Slingshot SEO

    This example came to my attention via Litmus' blog, in which they highlight an inspiring example of email personalization. It caught my eye for a couple reasons, but one of because Slingshot SEO is a customer of HubSpot's! Pretty groovy, guys.

    slingshotseo resized 600

    I'm starting out with this example because I think it's an excellent case of using personalization with restraint, and in a real world scenario a lot of us can relate to. I mean, they're not going overboard with a bajillion fields or pieces of lead intelligence ... because you don't need to get that complicated to do email personalization right. Here's what they did really well with this email:

    • Slingshot SEO succeeded in softening the sometimes stark "First Name" dynamic tag blog. As Litmus pointed out in its blog post, their inclusion of "Hi there" before the name makes the inclusion seem much more personal and conversational.
    • You'll also notice they include the company name within the email in a natural, contextual way, just like they did with the "First Name" tag.
    • Slingshot SEO also segmented its email list to only send to those who hadn't already downloaded the calendar on their own. Remember, a huge part of successful personalization is successful segmentation, and not trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Know who and what you should leave out of your email.
    • Finally, they selected an offer that's appropriate for those on the list. This was a list re-engagement campaign, so selecting a top-of-the-funnel offer was a great choice. These folks wouldn't want a middle- or bottom-of-the-funnel offer at this stage in the game.

    For anyone just getting into the email personalization game, learning from a message like this is an excellent place to begin.

    2) Dropbox

    I love this email I received from Dropbox because it showcases how to use email personalization and behavioral triggers within your product (or on your website, as the case may be) to improve user experience.

    dropox resized 600

    I received this email from Dropbox after I had logged in from multiple devices -- clearly, they have an automated workflow set up that is triggered by this user behavior. As a result, I got this email reminding me of a product feature I didn't know existed (or just forgot about), but makes my experience using Dropbox infinitely better and more efficient. Improved user experience through education about how to properly use a product or service usually results in customer retention and even upgrades -- hey, when I use Dropbox more often, I might need to upgrade from a free version to a paid version as more storage is needed.

    Think about what makes your product or service sticky -- or heck, what tickles people's fancies on your website -- and set up workflows that remind leads and customers it exists, how to use it, and why they should. It's a great way to boost engagement in a way that directly ties to new leads, customers, and revenue.

    3) Overstock

    If you're an ecommerce marketer, you've no doubt encountered some sleepless nights over the dreaded abandoned shopping cart. Where did they go? Why did they leave? Is it something I said? Overstock put together this email to help address that problem after I left this bed frame in their shopping cart.

    (My apologies in advance that I didn't turn images on before I forwarded this message to my work address -- let's consider it a lesson in using proper image ALT text in your emails!)

    overstock resized 600

    This email is so effective because it gives me all of the information I need right up front. I get:

    • A picture of the purchase I almost made to jog my memory visually, as well as the product name.
    • The price of the product, to help me evaluate whether it's a purchase I can complete right now.
    • Informed that the product is still in stock, so it's not too late to pull the trigger.

    I also love the friendly, conversational tone that's used in delivering all of this information.

    Where this email could improve on personalization, however, is in delivering more relevant suggestions in the subsequent section of the email in which additional items are recommended to me. I know you don't know my Overstock browsing history, but these items aren't that well-aligned with the shopping I'm doing, nor is it that relevant to the purchase of a bed frame. Instead, they could have made this more personalized by including recommendations for things like:

    • Other Bed Frames at a Lower Price Point - Maybe I was scared off by the price the first time around, and needed something a little more cost effective.
    • Bed Frames With Different Features - Maybe this bed frame didn't have everything I needed, and I was looking for something more "juiced up."
    • Complementary Products, Like Under-Bed Storage or a Headboard - Maybe I purchased my bed frame elsewhere, but still need other bed accessories.

    4) Twitter

    Even the big social networks are upping their email marketing personalization game -- and they're finding some low-hanging fruit to do it! The other day, I was checking out whether my favorite local brunch establishment was open for, well, brunch. You see, as a TV-less place, they typically throw their holiday party on Super Bowl Sunday, because everyone's at bars with giant flat screens to watch the game. But I thought maybe they'll be open for brunch since the game isn't until much later, so I took to Twitter to see if they have a username. They did, they were open for brunch, I got a Bloody Mary, and I was excited to see them using social media, so I followed them. All in all, a lot of big wins that Sunday morning.

    I told you that story to tell you this one ... about the email Twitter sent me shortly thereafter:


    twitter email mkt resized 600

    This email is such an excellent example of personalization because Twitter's tailored suggestions for who I should follow based on following @washsquaretavern were actually really good recommendations. Two of them are right around the corner from me -- one a restaurant I frequent all of the time already (for brunch, no less!) and didn't yet follow on Twitter -- and the other three are people and places that are right up my alley in terms if similar interests in the "brunch space," if you will.

    A company like Twitter that has so much data can usually go one of two ways with personalization: They totally hit the nail on the head, or they have too much data to sift out what's important. This is an example of accurately sifting out what I'd actually care about, and delivering it to me.

    5) Singlewire Software

    Singlewire Software is another customer of HubSpot's, and while they're using email personalization to market their business to leads, I thought it would be interesting to showcase a way for marketers to help tee up their sales organization for success using email personalization internally. This is one of the emails a Singlewire Software sales rep might receive from Marketing:


    singleware resized 600

    This is such a simple way to use the personalization features available in your email marketing software to makes salespeople's life easier -- and what marketer doesn't want a big win with their sales team? When a lead comes to your website and performs an action that denotes they're someone Sales should be talking to, set up a trigger to alert the assigned sales rep that there's someone they should be on the phone with. Be sure to include all the relevant information about the lead for that rep, too. Just remember, this email is so helpful because it's not clogging up a rep's inbox -- it's only being triggered when a relevant lead performs a relevant conversion event!

    6) ModCloth

    Man, it's been a while since I highlighted ModCloth for their awesome marketing chops -- well, here we go, another examples of these fashionistas doing great work with email personalization!


    modcloth email resized 600


    There's a few things I love about the personalization work in this email. Here are some highlights I hope you take away, especially if you're an ecommerce marketer:

    • The language in this email is really well tailored to their target persona. For instance, the subject line to this email was, "Eek -- something you like is almost sold out!" You might even notice a smiley face emoticon further down in the message copy. Personalizing the tone and language you use in your email marketing is just as important as apt use of dynamic tags and proper segmentation.
    • This email is also such low-hanging fruit for any ecommerce marketer, I'm surprised more aren't using the tactic. Based on my on-site behavior, they've sent me a triggered email alerting me that a product I looked it as almost out of stock. This is a great way to get someone to take a quick action that contributes directly to revenue, and deliver value at the same time.

    7) OpenTable

    This email from OpenTable is leveraging personalization in a very creative way -- it's always beneficial for marketers to think outside the box to deliver value and personalized content. As you can see, they took the perspective of rounding up my own personal dining stats to deliver a summary of my year in dining. That's some pretty cool content, aptly timed and delivered!

    open table resized 600

    OpenTable rounded up a great mix of interesting stats that tell a nostalgic story tailored to my experiences in 2012 -- featuring some of the restaurants I went to -- and also promoting the value of using OpenTable to book my dining by showing the amount of points I accumulated using their service. And the best part? The alignment with this use of personalized data with its call-to-action, to make more reservations and improve my stats!

    8) A Funny Bonus Fail From OkCupid

    Finally, I thought I'd close on a somewhat funny, somewhat embarrassing personalization failure. The thing is, it isn't the worst email in the world, and the online dating service clearly had good personalization intentions. It's just ... a bit off base. To give you some context before you read the email, the subject line of this email was "12 Days of Atheist Matches."

    Oh, and please pay particular attention to the bizarre sentence called out in orange.

    okcupid resized 600

    Here's what happened with this email. My OkCupid profile (if my significant other is reading this, please note that it's not an active profile ;-P) has a ton of information about me. In fact, when you sign up for the service, they provide hundreds of questions for you to answer about yourself. That's a lot of data from which to personalize your marketing emails. That's why this email is so bewildering, because it draws upon just one trait in my profile to try to match me up with someone ... one that wasn't even that important to me. On top of that, the copy is bizarre, and this is just one of twelve emails I'll receive matching me up with atheists. That's right, twelve emails in a row came to my inbox, matching me with people based on one character trait.

    OkCupid is usually excellent about slicing and dicing its abundance of user data -- if you've ever read their blog, you'd know what I'm talking about -- so this just seemed like a classic case of personalization oversimplification. Not the most egregious sin, but something all marketers should remember when putting together their email marketing campaigns. Remember, base your email personalization on information that actually matters to the recipient!

    What other ways have you found to take personalization to the next level with your email marketing? Share your ideas and tips in the comments!

    Image credit: tillwe

    Topics: Email Marketing

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