Posted by Rebecca Swayze
To personalize, or not personalize? That is the question du jour.
Personalization – sending an email that contains the recipients personal information making it look the email was sent to only them – is an easy enough task in most email marketing programs these days. But should you use it?
Most experts waver back and forth between the answers yes, no and maybe so. Some vehemently protest: “No! It’s a thing of the past!” Others believe, “Yes, there’s a certain level of familiarity that can’t be obtained otherwise!” And still more fall into the “maybe, sometimes” category.
Even though we see an incredible amount of emails on a daily basis, our own team members are divided on whether or not personalizing email is a good idea. Find out what they think!
“When it’s just my name, I tend to roll my eyes. But send me an email based on my past activity, whether it’s events I’ve attended or things I’ve bought, and you’ve totally got my attention.”
“While having a user’s name in a subject line or email body may seem cliche, there is no denying it’s power. Users instantly recognize their name, which in turn makes them more prone to open your message. It’s a simple way to get noticed in a sea of nameless cookie cutter messages.”
“Using personalization can lead to better engagement with your list. People respond to tailored content.”
“It’s not just about personalizing with first names anymore. With email analytics, you are able to see so many stats for your messages, so you can say with certainty that an individual visited a particular page on your website, or clicked a particular link in your last email. I mean, a lot of these things really fall under segmentation, but it’s just as easy to customize emails with stats as first and last name.”
“Personalization is a great tool to use when split testing broadcast subject lines. If you want to see if your subscribers are more likely to open messages with their name in the subject line, you can create one broadcast with personalization and one without in a split test. In turn, this can help you increase opens.”
“If people are not consistently entering names, or entering something other than a true name like “Test,” then it could have the adverse effect of proper personalization.”
“I can’t even tell you how many emails in my spam folder right now include my first name in the subject line. It’s a tactic that many spammers use – why would you want to identify with spammers? Instead, I’d suggest using a branded subject line: something that identifies your company and serves as a recognizable message in the inbox.”
“Let’s say Robert signed up for your email list and entered his full name in your form because he always uses Robert for business stuff. But what if they go by Bob? They might see Robert in your subject line and be turned off.”
“Sometimes it comes off as fake, transparent and “markety.” As a reader, most of the time I realize I’m subscribing to a newsletter that will also be sent out to a lot of other people. So for that newsletter to try and play it off as if its being sent specifically to me seems almost cheesy and ironically impersonal.”
Weighing Your Options
Personalization tactics aren’t bad in and of themselves, but a truly personal email will address a subscriber’s needs, desires, fears and preferences.
Does populating an email with the data you already have available take those things into consideration? It’s not a question that we can answer for you – it’s, well…personal.
Let us know how you feel about personalization in the comments below. We’d love to discuss it further with you!
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Ensuring requested opt-in email is delivered to subscriber inboxes is an increasingly difficult battle in the age of spam filtering. Open and click thru response rates can be dramatically affected by as much as 20-30% due to incorrect spam filter classification.
Confirming that the people who ask for your information have actually requested to be on your list is the number one step in the battle for deliverability. You should be using a process called confirmed opt-in or verified opt-in to send a unique link to the attempted subscriber when they request information. Before adding the person to your list they must click that unique link verifying that they are indeed the same person that owns the email address and requested to subscribe.
When requesting website visitors to opt-in ask for their “real” or “primary” email address instead of a free email address like Yahoo or Hotmail. Free emails tend to be throw away accounts and typically have a shorter lifetime than a primary ISP address.
Always promptly remove undeliverable addresses that bounce when sending email to them. An address that bounces with a permanent error 2-3 times in a 30 day period should be removed from the list. ISP’s track what percentage of your newsletters bounce and will block them if you attempt to continually deliver messages to closed subscriber mailboxes.
Usage of HTML messages to allow for text formatting, multiple columns, images, and brand recognition is growing in popularity and is widely supported by most email client software. Most spam is also HTML formatted and thus differentiating between requested email and spam HTML messages can be difficult. A 2004 study by AWeber .com shows that plain text messages are undeliverable 1.15% of the time and HTML only messages were undeliverable 2.3%. If sending HTML it is important to always send a plain text alternative message, also called text/HTML multi-part mime format.
Many ISP’s filter based on the content that appears within the message text.
- Website URL:Research potential newsletter advertisers before allowing them to place ads in your newsletter issues. If they have used their website URL to send spam, just having their URL appear in your newsletter could cause the entire message to be filtered.
Choose your language carefully when crafting messages. Avoid hot button topics often found in spam such as medication, mortgages, making money, and pornography. If you do need to use words that might be filtered, don’t attempt to obfuscate words with extra characters or odd spelling, you’ll just make your messages appear more spam like.
Avoid creating messages that are entirely images. Use images sparingly, if at all. Commonly used open rate tracking technology uses images to calculate opens. You may choose to disable open rate tracking to avoid being filtered based on image content.
With viruses running rampant and spreading thru the usage of malicious email attachments many users are wary of attached documents. It’s often better to link to files via a website URL to reduce recipient fear of attachments and reduce the overall message size.
The January 2004 Federal CAN-SPAM law introduced a number of rules regarding the delivery of email. It’s important you have your legal counsel review your practices and ensure you are in compliance. The two most important rules include having a valid postal mail address listed in all commercial messages and a working unsubscribe link that is promptly honored to remove the subscriber from future messages.
Reputation services are often used by large ISP’s as a way to vet email senders regarding their email practices and policies. Businesses listed with these services are then given less stringent filtering or no filtering at all. Several reputation services are:
Relationships & Whitelisting
Contact with major ISP’s and email providers is essential in letting them know about your requested subscriber email. Many large providers such as AOL and Yahoo have specific whitelisting programs and postmaster website areas to ensure your email is delivered as long as you meet their policies and procedures in handling your opt-in list.