personalized email marketing

8 Personalized Email Marketing Strategies You Don’t Want to Miss (with Examples)

Who has enough email? To say that the average consumer is bombarded with email marketing messages every day is almost an understatement. In fact, most of us do not have the time or the will to open every single email we get. This is especially true when you’re talking about companies that operate in the B2C space. And even for B2B brands, there are still too many emails reaching every decision-maker’s desk daily. This is why personalized email marketing is more important than ever.

As a marketer, you want to make sure that your emails get opened at least most of the time. After all, without an email being opened, it doesn’t make an impression on your customer. But, how can we entice a decision maker to open their email? One way to do this is with email personalization.

What is Email Personalization?

What is Email Personalization?

In a nutshell, email personalization is the practice of differentiating emails for an individual. While we’ll discuss these techniques in depth later, strategies can include using someone’s name in the email subject line, making yourself the sender instead of your brand, or tailoring the message to a particular audience segment. But no matter how you differentiate, the goal is to show each recipient that you value them. Or, at least, that you are listening to them.

One of the problems that personalized email marketing tries to solve is that people readily tune out messages that they deem irrelevant or that look like the same old thing. However, when your email messages are tailored to each person or each audience segment, this becomes less of a problem.

Why is Personalization Important in Email Marketing?

When you personalize emails, you bring several essential benefits to the table. Arguably, the most obvious benefit is that you will instantly boost your open rates. Other benefits come with higher open rates, such as higher conversion rates, better ROI for each email campaign, and even increased goodwill between your company and its customers.

Of course, ROI is measured along several lines. For instance, we all think immediately of the increase in sales or revenues resulting from email marketing. But, with this marketing mode, it’s easy to forget that better audience engagement and higher brand awareness are also significant benefits. Email marketing personalization delivers all of these benefits and, for the most part, requires only simple techniques to implement.

Further Reading: 12 Inspiring Email Marketing Campaign Examples to Spark New Ideas

8 Email Marketing Personalization Strategies (with Examples)

Like many other things in marketing, there is more than one way to achieve adequate personalization. At the same time, these strategies are relatively diverse. This isn’t like the mail merge of the 1990s when we simply added names and addresses and sent off our pitch letters. Instead, the digital age has given us a lot more options to quickly and easily personalize for each audience member and target various segments of readers.

Basic Personalization Techniques

The implementation of personalized email marketing does not have to be complicated. In fact, some of these basic techniques are very easy to use. Your personal assistant or secretary can make these changes to your email client in just a few minutes. At the same time, they reap a lot of benefits.

1. Send Emails from a Person, Not a Business

Send Emails from a Person, Not a Business

This technique is one of the simplest to implement. Ask yourself, if you were a potential customer, who would you most want to speak to? Is it the customer service manager, an executive, or someone else? Then, have this real person on your team send the email. In other words, Create an email address for them, or otherwise attribute the email to them. This provides a simple yet effective, personalized touch that customers love.

Next, increase the personalized touch by including a picture of your staff rather than just a branded logo. This way, customers will associate a name and a face, creating a personal feel to your emails. Finally, borrow from the mail merge and include your recipient’s name in the subject line. People love the idea that companies know their name rather than just being faceless consumers that are constantly being milked for cash.

2. Include a CTA

Many people ask, “what does the sender want from me?” Even in personalized email marketing, you should never leave them wondering. Instead, be sure to place a CTA prominently at the bottom of your email text. Not only does this announce your intentions, but it also puts the idea into people’s minds and gives them the opportunity to respond without navigating to your website separately.

Advanced Email Personalization Tools and Techniques with Examples

Naturally, there are other email marketing personalization techniques that are less straightforward. In some cases, they require different tools, such as software and digital marketing suites. Fortunately, if you do a lot of social media marketing, the chances are that you already have most of what you need.

3. Email List Segmentation

Another relatively easy yet advanced, personalized email marketing technique is segmentation. We see the segmentation technique used a lot in other forms of Internet marketing, particularly with retargeting.

There are several different ways to segment your emails. For instance, you can segment based on a consumer’s personal characteristics, such as gender, age, income levels, job roles, industry, and location.

Another way to segment is based on a consumer’s stage of the buying journey. For instance, someone who has never heard of your brand, or has relatively limited familiarity with your product line, has different needs from somebody who just needs that final push before they will purchase something. Likewise, you can help foster customer loyalty through carefully crafted emails.

At the end of the day, the value of the segmentation technique is 2 deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. This way, you’ll have a much higher conversion rate and overall ROI. To make this more manageable over time, have several different email types in a library. While you should never send exactly the same email every time, bits of copy can sometimes be helpful if used in the right way.

Further Reading: How to Use Email Segmentation to Boost Marketing Conversions

4. Tag Your Subscribers Based on Actions to Refine Your Segmentation Further

Another way to segment is by tagging your subscribers. For example, you may have some subscribers whose interest in your products and services may be a mere curiosity, or it could be that they are performing market research and are not the actual decision-makers themselves. When you tag subscribers in this way, you can send highly personalized emails with the information they need right now. In turn, this helps to keep your subscribers interested and what you have to offer.

5. Automate Email Sequences for Each Stage in the Buyer’s Journey

One of the biggest challenges that we can face with personalized email marketing is staying on top of the relatively heavy workload. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Rather than sending out manual, segmented emails, you can automate most tasks using a high-quality email marketing tool.

Sometimes, email is included in more general-purpose marketing suites. However, you can also invest in software that sends out emails in a more deliberate manner rather than indiscriminate blasts. For instance, HubSpot lets you add a high-quality email client to your tech stack at a minimal cost. I have an extensive list of email marketing tools that you should check out.

Further Reading: What is Email Marketing Automation and How Much Can You Actually Automate?

6. Criteria-Based Email Triggers

By collecting users’ website and app behavior data, you can trigger behavioral emails based on certain actions.  This means that your emails will automatically be more responsive to customers’ needs, and they will also meet them at their stage of the buyer journey.

Examples include sending welcome emails once your lead has subscribed or sending out lead nurturing emails. You can also send a special promotional email after the user views a couple of products on your e-commerce store.  Experience has shown that this technique is highly effective.

Link tracking can help you know when your user clicks on your email link. You can use this information to either segment your user into the correct category or take other action. For instance, link tracking and cookies are pure gold for many digital marketing modalities, such as Facebook ads, display ads, or even social media.

8. Cart Abandonment

Cart Abandonment

Three out of four shoppers abandon their purchases before the sale is complete.  Fortunately, there are ways to combat this indecision through personalized email marketing.

For example, by tracking your users’ behavior data with your email marketing campaign, you can send timely personalized mail gently reminding them of the product that they have left in the cart.  Often, you will successfully convince the customer to complete the sale. A good quality email client will include abandoned cart functionalities. You’ll just need to add a line of code to your website.

6 Scenarios Where Personalized Emails are Especially Effective

As time goes on, you will find that there are many opportunities for personalized email marketing. Some of them are obvious, such as congratulating someone on a personal milestone. However, there are other situations that are less obvious. As you will see from this list, there are a lot of options when it comes to reaching your customers with a personalized message.

1. Welcome or Onboarding Emails

While it’s usually easy to get people to subscribe to your emails after they buy something, many more of the opt ends are challenging to earn. Show your appreciation by sending your new subscriber a friendly welcome email. This should include any legally required notices, such as an unsubscribe link and a statement that they can unsubscribe anytime. However, the most important aspect of a welcome email is that you demonstrate your appreciation for your customer’s commitment.

At the end of the day, the can spam act has made welcome emails technically obligatory. However, personalization helps your company turn legal compliance into another opportunity to make a great impression. In other words, you should probably think about welcome emails as being marketing tools in and of themselves. Any opportunity we can use to make a good impression on our customers should be maximized.

2. Order Confirmation Emails

This type of transactional email is critical because people want to receive an email invoice that they can keep for their records. However, it’s also a significant opportunity to make a good impression. Making careful confirmation emails part of your personalized email marketing can help build your relationship with your customer. Plus, people get the opportunity two anticipate that package heading their way.

Order confirmations have another important role within B2B sales or consumer sales that also have a tax-deductible purpose. Depending on the customer’s setup, the order confirmation email might serve as a tax receipt. In other words, their accounting department or tax preparer will take that receipt and use it to help prepare taxes. In this situation, personalization is especially useful because it includes the buyer’s name and address.

3. Password Reset Emails

I would argue that personalization is critical with this type of email. Frequently, people push the password reset button after getting frustrated with your website. Even though passwords are there for a customer’s protection when it gets to the point of password confusion most people do not enjoy having their transaction held up.

Of course, personalization can also be very practical. For example, in certain business profiles, you might have more than one user name attached to the customer. Or, personalization can help overcome spam filters and other obstacles that can make reaching your customers more difficult.

4. Personalized Product and Content Recommendations

Strictly speaking, these emails are already personalized. However, this is a good example of where personalization should not merely look like a mail merge. Instead, carefully curate the content or the product recommendations, rather than blindly including products or content that should loosely appeal to your audience. This way, people will see that your brand really listens to them.

For this approach, consider including links to product videos. For example, you could tell your customer that the grooming product they bought works well with a different one that you sell. To demonstrate this point, and to make it less spammy, you could add a link to your YouTube video that demonstrates how both products work together. Often, seeing how something works increases the chance that a customer will buy it, so you get two benefits in one here.

5. Birthday and Anniversary Emails

Birthday and Anniversary Emails

Once again, birthday and anniversary emails are personalized by nature. And The thing is, people love them because they realized that you know about their special milestone. B2C brands love to send these emails out for a reason: experience shows that they help build and maintain the relationship between customer and company.

For further personalization, you might include a personalized offer, or maybe just an inspirational quote that you think they’d enjoy. In these cases, you would make the selection based on your segmentation groups.

Further Reading: 10 Top Tips To Write Convincing Email Subject Lines That Get Opened

6. Rewards and Loyalty Program Emails

People who join rewards and loyalty programs often do so to save money. Or, they might do it because they simply love your brand and buy a lot of it. Either way, these customers are valuable to your business because they come back frequently. Spending a little time to personalize emails about your loyalty program helps reinforce and deepen their relationship with your brand.

Of course, some loyalty program customers are more interested in free stuff, and others prefer discounts. Done properly, emails attached to this program will utilize segmentation and sentence the more advantageous email to each segment of your audience. By tailoring your reward-related emails, you can boost the chance that people will respond to them.

Enhancing Email Personalization Using Marketing Automation

Businesses leverage marketing automation to send timely, relevant, and personalized emails to drive engagement and revenue.  This rule holds, regardless of whether a company primarily sells consumer or Enterprise Products. In addition, companies use automation with personalized email marketing To save time and increase accuracy. Let’s take a look at how automation works for marketers.

First, it’s important to remember that marketing automation consists of three elements. These are triggers, rules, and content. triggers are events that cause a company email program to send an email to each customer, such as a purchase or an abandoned cart. Rules are the conditions whereby this software sends out a particular email. For example, a travel company might send different promotional emails to a customer based on their travel habits, such as if they are primarily traveling for business or if they just want to go see grandma.

Finally, content refers to what the email actually says, and what it contains besides writing. So, this would include the basic text, but also pictures, links, and graphics. Let’s say that your company is running a particular promotion but has different pitches for that promotion based on audience segmentation. This is an example of where marketing automation would choose different content for each group automatically.

Likewise, marketers need to collect data about their users for automation to be effective. Certain rules, such as California’s privacy act, can make this more complicated. However, some information is always fair game. For instance, if somebody buys add children’s bicycle from your company, it is fair to guess that they have a child in their life. By tracking these trends over time, you can help predict what an individual might want to buy in the future. The same principle holds for other industries, whether it’s B2B or B2C.

Once you have this data, you can divide your audience and segments. At that point, this segmentation will become a rule used to trigger the right email at the right time. Your email marketing conversion rate should go up quickly if you send the right message.

How to Get Insightful Data about Your Email Subscribers or Customers?

It’s one thing to say that a company should gather data about their email subscribers and customers, and another to actually implement this suggestion. Fortunately, there are some relatively easy information-gathering methods. Many of these are automatic as people use your website, while others require varying degrees of extra effort.

Email Subscription Forms 

Especially in ecommerce, it’s easy for companies to obtain more email subscribers by offering this option at checkout. While this is certainly effective at expanding the company’s email list, it provides relatively minimal targeting information. In particular, there’s rarely more information associated with the customer. Often, it’s limited to personal information and what they purchased.

On the other hand, a more elaborate email subscription form can provide rather extensive information. This methodology is frequently used for lead magnets, such as white papers and other promotional materials. Here, most of us ask for a name, email address, and company for B2B brands. This way, our sales team will already know who they are contacting.

However, just asking people for their name company and email signups might not tell sales what the lead might be interested in. For example, marketers provide many different services, from copywriting and strategy all the way to social media marketing and even work with legacy media. If I ask people to just tell me which company they are from, it’s hard for me to know which of these services they might be interested in. So, if your company provides a wide variety of products and services, you should also consider adding more options to your form.

Of course, this may not be appropriate in all situations. Sometimes, data such as age, gender, and location can provide a lot of guidance. This is especially true with local businesses, and businesses that have product lines tailored specifically for certain demographics. Companies such as clothing retailers are a fine example of this. Remember, the more relevant information you gather, the easier it will be to tailor your sales pitches.

Integrate CRM with Your Email Marketing Tool

Who says that your CRM has to work alone? Arguably, customer relations management software is meant to work with other tools. After all, it is mostly used to keep track of customers and their preferences. But when the sales and marketing departments fail to work together, this powerful software usually doesn’t live up to its full potential.

However, as most of us know CRM tools can plug into many different applications. Many of them have built-in integrations that allow an easy connection with an email marketing software suite. In particular, HubSpot, Shopify, and Salesforce let you import data from your email efforts. They also let you set email tasks the drawers on the data in your CRM, making segmentation simple. Plus, it can easily store customer birthdays and anniversaries, making this type of personalized email marketing even easier.

Further Reading: The 19 Best Email Marketing Software Tools to Consider Investing in Today

Use Interactive Content to Collect Data

Use Interactive Content to Collect Data

Finally, when it comes to data about your customers, a few things alright efficient as the interactive content. You can use this content type on social media, such as when you have a contest. However, these contests are just the tip of the iceberg.

Once in a while, you should send out surveys that solicit customer feedback. For instance, you might find that your customer service is lacking. In addition, you might ask customers what features they would want in future or improved product lines. This way, you can make more compelling pictures and, in addition, the research and development department will thank you.

Likewise, old-fashioned website cookies are pure gold. You can use cookies that are internal to your website and those only track users while they visit your pages. However, other tools like Facebook Pixel will help you gather information on a customer’s overall interests. From there you can improve your products and services to appeal to them, and in the meantime, you can use these interests for a sales pitch. The options are almost endless.


The idea of personalized email marketing may sound intimidating at first. After all, for many business owners writing the copy for universal email blasts may seem hard enough. But in an age of increasingly agile email technology, it’s much easier to personalize your pitches. Whether it’s as simple as adding someone’s name to the subject line, or as complicated as product recommendations based on their preferences, almost anyone can master these techniques. At the end of the day, personalized email marketing is more than just making a good impression. Instead, it’s a powerful tool to forge relationships with your customers, send them the right message at the right time, and boost customer satisfaction because they get the right deal. Who doesn’t like that?

Hero photo by Andrey Larin on Unsplash

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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