Personalised emails: Can you have too much of a good thing?

On August 7, 2017

For direct email marketers there are definite benefits to personalised emails – an increase in ROI, for a start – but if it's done poorly you risk losing potential clients and damaging your brand's reputation. So when is it right to get personal, and how far should you take it?

Personalising email subject lines and segmenting your campaigns can boost your open rates.

The benefits of personalised emails

According to email marketing platform Campaign Monitor, personalising email subject lines and segmenting your campaigns to target specific demographics can boost both your open rates and conversions. Consumers respond well to marketing that is relevant and that feels like it's meant specifically for them. Think of how many times you've received a message addressed 'to whom it may concern' or to 'the household' and immediately switched off. Personalisation lets you avoid this response from your readers.

But what are the risks?

Using someone's personal details inappropriately can do more harm to your campaign than good. Kevin Gao, CEO & Founder of communication solutions provider Comm100, says that user concerns about email privacy can be a sticking point that sabotages the benefits of personalisation. This is especially relevant, Gao says, when you're dealing with personal or potentially sensitive business – the kind of thing where people might not be comfortable with others knowing they use your service.

"While, in theory, a personalised email will only be seen by the person it was intended for, it can have the unfortunate side effect of creating uncertainty about the safety of their identity with a user," Gao says. "If you have a reason to believe that any significant portion of your user base would be concerned with the security of their identity, veer away from personalisation in your emails."

Personalisation works when it tells your audience that you're thinking of them - but not if it looks like you're thinking about them too much.
Personalisation works when it tells your audience that you're thinking of them – but not if it looks like you're thinking about them too much.

How far should you take personalisation?

If you do decide that personalisation could help your campaign, the next step is to decide what level you're going to take it to. Diana Potter of email messaging service argues that although personalisation is a handy technique, it's best not to overdo it.

"There is a fine line between helpful and creepy when it comes to personalised emails, and you don't want to step over that line," she says. "Adding a user's name is generally a safe first step. However, customising everything based on what a user just searched for could quickly set you on the path to becoming Big Brother."

Getting personal details wrong is a quick way to ruin any chance of convincing your reader you care.

Managing Director of Teradata Interactive International Mark Ash agrees, arguing that personalisation is valuable when it's relevant to your reader, but it's an unwanted intrusion when it's just there for the sake of it.

"A truly personal email addresses the user's needs, desires, fears, preferences and expectations," he says. "Don't just personalise for the sake of it. It will come across as lazy, automated and rather insincere as a consequence."

Getting personal details wrong is, of course, a quick way to ruin any chance you had at convincing your reader that you care.

"If you're in doubt about the validity of any of your data, just skip it," Potter says. "It's better to be impersonal than blatantly incorrect."

An email mailing list from The Prospect Shop gives you the opportunity to customise your direct marketing with information about the recipients, and to target your campaigns towards people who are interested in what you have to offer. Whether you decide to experiment with personalised emails is a decision that should take into account what your business offers, your audience's attitudes, and how you can use that personalisation to give them a relevant, targeted message. Please get in touch if you'd like to discuss how you can make direct email marketing work best for your business.

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