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TMI? How to Personalize Your Emails Without Being Creepy

first-nameYears ago, I would have been shocked to receive an email that said "Hello Rachel," but today it would shock me to see an email that didn't greet me by my first name and feature content tailored to my individual interests. 

But with all the information we marketers know about our contacts ... it's very possible that we can over-personalize emails. No one likes a creepy marketer. 

There are some questions that marketers needs to ask themselves when personalizing. First, how does personalization improve your email marketing? Second, where's the "creepy" line when it comes to email marketing personalization? Let's dive into them to figure out how you should personalize your emails.

Why Personalize in the First Place?

There's a reason why email marketers have shifted toward personalization when years ago it wasn't even a thought. Personalized emails can produce much better metrics for email marketers. But why?

Personalization does what most emails were unable to do before -- it makes the reader feel special. Being addressed by your first name at the beginning of an email makes you feel like you're receiving an email from a friend, not a business hoping you will purchase their products or services. In fact, according to the 2014 Science of Email Marketing Report, having that first name personalization increases your clickthrough rate from about 5.8% to about 7%.

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In addition to first name personalization, company name personalization can make a big difference in your emails. That means instead of saying "I think your company would be interested in X, Y, Z..." you can said "I think HubSpot would be interested in X, Y, Z..."

In a test we ran, we've found that including the company name in personalization increased clickthrough rates from about 7.5% to about 15%. That's huge! Similar to including your email recipient's first name, including your email recipient's company goes a long way to show that your business is making an effort to connect with the people they email.

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Higher clickthrough rates aren't the only benefit of email personalization. In fact, it is extremely helpful when segmenting your email list. You can personalize your emails beyond first name and company to things like the most recent offer someone downloaded or a recent page they viewed on your site. Then when you follow up with your site visitors and leads, you can use this information to send them personalized content about the offers or pages they viewed on your site. This can go a long way because you're providing extra information on exactly what the people in your database are looking for. 

What's a Good Amount of Personalization?

The key to figuring out if personalization is "too much" lies in knowing and understanding your audience. If you are marketing to a technologically savvy group, you may be able to get away with more personalization without them being creeped out.

But if you are marketing to a group of people who you know may not be completely comfortable with personalization, it is important to ease them into things. Even though they've given you permission to market to them (because they filled out a form on your website), people can feel creeped out when you use overly personal personalization. Maybe start your personalization strategy by including their first name, then add in company name, and after you have established more of a relationship, you can start including actions they took on your website. But it is important to be more cautious with this group.

A good rule of thumb is to personalize around actions someone took on their website. Personalize around things like pages that were visited, topic of recent conversion, and of course name and company. If a person receives an email that refers to an action they took on your website, they will not be as nervous as they would if you were personalizing around specific personal information you happen to have on them. 

Also, before you complete your email send, make sure that you test out your personalization. If you don't have certain information about someone but are trying to use that personalization tag, what will the email look like in their inbox? It is important to make sure all of your personalization tags are formatted properly and make sense in the context of the email before you send it out.

There's a fine line between creepy email marketing and personalized email marketing. By asking yourself what your audience would want in the buying stage they're in, you can avoid freaking out your contacts. 

What do you think about email personalization? When do you decide whether or not to personalize your emails?

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