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increase-email-open-ratesEmail marketing is the ultimate shiny object. It has become an inbound marketing staple that, even from our experience, often times becomes the first point of interest for new businesses entering the world of inbound. Despite having a seemingly high barrier to entry and sometimes requiring complicated software setup, we know that business owners love it. And they should, because email marketing is awesome.

But like most inbound marketing activities… it’s a fatal mistake to embark into new territory without a roadmap. There are literally hundreds of tactics to consider when developing email marketing campaigns, but for the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on one small tactic that yields high value returns: email personalization.

What is email personalization? Email personalization is creating custom email marketing experiences that cater directly to the characteristics and needs of the individual receiving your marketing messages. Whether it’s strategically delivering messages straight to their inbox you already know they’ll love, or even including personal information such as the reader’s name in the subject line, Experian found that personalization can help boost your email’s open rates by up to 29% and can increase your click through rates by as much as 41%. Let’s explore several tactics that will immediately result in higher open and click-through rates:


Step #1: Create more relevant email marketing campaigns.

Relevancy should be the main requirement of all email campaigns. Nothing will bore your reader faster, if your email is even opened, than sending an irrelevant marketing email in the first place. Relevant, well thought out segmented email blasts will always be better received when your audience is inherently interested in the subject matter.

Say you are an eCommerce website that sells home appliances and electronics. If a customer recently purchased a high definition television, an email sent the following week offering a substantial discount on select Blu-ray players would be much more applicable than an email blast highlighting the newest washing and drying machines. 

The same can be said in other spaces as well… even in B2B lead generation. If our agency offered a cheat sheet on optimizing your company’s Facebook page for customer engagement, our chances would be pretty good that the same database segment that downloaded the Facebook page cheat sheet would also be interested in checking out an eBook on the best Twitter marketing strategies. We are operating under the assumption that the type of visitor that would be interested in learning more about Facebook marketing is probably also interested in perfecting their marketing on other social media platforms as well.


Step #2: Spend time on your subject lines, and include personalization.

It isn’t uncommon that the best email marketers spend more time composing the email’s subject line than the content of the email itself. Because what good is the content inside if the email isn’t opened in the first place, right?

Including personalized information in the email’s subject line such as someone’s company name, or even their first name, will typically lead to higher email open rates. And with standard email open rates ranging from just 13 to 30%, email marketers need all the help they can get to compel readers to open their emails.

Here are some examples of effective, personalized subject lines:

Thank you, [FIRST NAME].

3 Opportunities noticed on [COMPANY URL]

Is [COMPANY NAME] taking advantage of these features?

[FIRST NAME], your store credits are about to expire!

Feedback requested for [RECENTLY PURCHASED PRODUCT]

What if you have several good ideas for your email subject lines, but not sure which one to use for an important seasonal promotion coming up? Just like A/B testing for PPC, A/B testing can also be a great way to improve email open and click-through rates. Many of the most popular email marketing platforms including HubSpot allow you to test subject line A versus subject line B by running a split test. If an email is to be sent to 50,000 people, you could choose to send an email with subject line A to 1000 people, subject line B to 1000 people, and let the software determine the winner that will be sent to the remaining 48,000 people on the email list.


Step #3: Personalize the copy in the email itself.

Many email marketing platforms such as Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, and HubSpot allow you include “personalization tokens” within the email itself. See the below example:


Thank you so much for downloading our eBook, [MOST RECENT FORM SUBMISSION]. We hope you will find the information useful, and worthy of implementing at [COMPANY]!

If you have any comments, questions, or feedback about the material, please don’t hesitate to let me know.


Account Manager

The email campaign above only has to be composed once, yet all of the information in brackets will populate with the appropriate information, according to the data that lives within your marketing database. This tactic will result in a more personalized marketing message every time.


Step #4: Send your email campaigns from an individual, rather than the company.

The sender’s identity in the email campaign does matter. Statistically, readers are 47% more likely to open an email if the email appears to have been sent from an individual, as opposed to an entire department or the company at large. And that makes sense, right? Consumers receive thousands of marketing and advertising “interruptions” every day, from billboard ads to commercials. We’ve trained ourselves to mentally block out such promotions. Using specific individuals names as the sender can be enough to spark curiosity, resulting in an email open; better yet, it can even ensure an email open if the reader already knows the sender from a previous marketing or sales conversation.

If you’re using marketing automation software such as HubSpot, you might even be able to dynamically switch the sender identification of each email that goes out, depending on who is receiving the email. For example, if Jane were to start a free demo of a B2B software platform one week after requesting a white paper about the software, the welcome email (possibly containing software setup instructions) delivered to Jane could be sent automatically from Jane’s lead owner, via the marketing automation software. The email itself would appear to be from Jane’s lead owner, and the signature block of the email could dynamically switch to be populated with her lead owner’s name and contact information. To clarify, this specific example may only require the email campaign to be created once; we would rely on the software to intelligently change the contents of the email, based upon the characteristics of the recipient stored in the company’s contact database.

What other tactics have you used in email marketing personalization? Please let us know in the comments section below!

Jon Stroker
Post by Jon Stroker
March 10, 2015
Jon Stroker is a self-proclaimed inbound marketing nerd, snowboarder, and bear-fighter, in that order. Jon graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder where he studied advertising and marketing. He enjoys starting new projects and helping his clients build successful inbound marketing campaigns from the ground up.