The Secrets to Really Good Email Personalization: Webinar Recording + Q&A

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All email marketers know that “Hello {{First Name}}” is email personalization. But it doesn’t feel like really good personalization. Brands that have truly mastered the art of email personalization don’t just call their subscribers by name, but use data to fuel campaigns that truly create real value and delight the reader.

In this webinar, email geeks from Litmus and Really Good Emails look at the brands that take email personalization to the next level—including examples from their own emails—and provide hands-on advice for how you can steal their strategies and apply them to your program.

Didn’t have a chance to watch the webinar live? Don’t worry. You can access the full recording at any time and read the Q&A below.


Q&A

A big thank you to everyone who chimed in during the webinar with a question! Here’s a recap of our answers to the most popular questions, along with our take on some of the questions we didn’t get to during the live webinar. Have any additional questions? Please leave them in the comments.

Some of the awesome examples we went through used personalization in images. How do you take full advantage of this functionality, knowing that many email clients or subscribers block images or maybe can’t get images to load?

Mike Nelson: If you do a lot of images, you want to do a lot of alt text along with that. Plus, if you’re a preferred sender—if someone has a really good relationship with you—they’re going to want to see what’s in those images. Blocking images is a thing, especially if you have a low download speed, but the hope is that you’ve built up enough trust that your subscribers will turn on those images.

Matthew Smith: The other aspect of that is accessibility. So one thing that I would do, especially in those key areas with key information, is take a minute to make a thoughtful message for your accessibility. A lot of people say they don’t have time for that, but… what if you just created a budget in your time to look at and think through the accessibility of your email? In the alt text for your image, you should be able to use some personalization tools to help keep that creativity. If you’re showing care to the parts of your audience that have temporary or permanent disabilities, you can communicate that care to your entire audience.

Any tips on cleaning up data fields? It feels like it’s really easy for personalization to go wrong.

Jason Rodriguez: Test as many scenarios as you possibly can before you send that email. Look at actual subscriber data and preview examples in your ESP if you have that functionality to see as many examples as you can from your subscriber base. Read your personalization out loud to make sure it feels natural. Plus, don’t forget to pay attention to those fallbacks. Do your fallbacks still sound natural?

Mike: Garbage in, garbage out. Only use data you trust. The older the data, the less reliable it can be.

How can I best use cookies and search history to personalize my emails?

Mike: The best way of doing this is to set up a customer data platform (aka CDP) and tie that into your ESP. Essentially what happens is when a user comes from an email, it appends a unique identifier to that individual that ties the user’s data to their email, and then gets pushed back into the ESP for filters, segmentation, etc. Some companies that do this on the CDP side are Segment.io or Amplitude, but there are plenty of platforms out there. Some ESPs also have them built into their implementation as additional javascript. Check with your ESP to see what they suggest.

What if I don’t feel like I have enough data on my subscribers to add value when personalizing my emails?

Whitney Rudeseal Peet: When in doubt, ask your subscribers what they want to see in their inbox! After all, they know themselves best. If you’re a travel company and you think your subscribers might want to hear about local activities or deals on hotels in a place they’re traveling to, ask them! Open up that dialogue between you and your subscribers. You’ll know more about them and be able to give them hyper-personalized, valuable content—and they’ll really love you for it.

What are some “safe” personalization elements to use, in terms of privacy? For instance, we know birthdays, addresses, etc. for many of our users, but we wouldn’t want to put that information in our emails.

Mike: Ask yourself and others you work with if it would be creepy or step too far over the lines to include some of those elements. You don’t have to include their birthday, but you can send them a birthday email the same week and not mention the date at all. Or you can highlight some things in proximity to them based on their city, but not their home address.

How can my Google Analytics data be used with my ESP to personalize emails?

Mike: Google Analytics is anonymized, so you can’t use GA on a one-to-one level tied to specific email addresses. However, you can use GA to find trends based on segmentation of your users. For example, if you sent an email only to people who have X trait and appended a specific UTM to track their clicks to the site, then you could filter by that segment and see their behavior compared to other segments.

For B2B companies, the audience data may not be as robust. What tips can you give to really personalize B2B emails? What data points should I be looking at?

Whitney: Actually, we B2B brands often have a surprisingly good set of data available. While B2C brands often struggle with fake names and data—that’s people who only sign up to your emails to get that great discount you’re offering for a newsletter signup, for example—folks who sign up for B2B tools and services often provide more reliable data.

What type of data you can use to personalize B2B emails totally depends on your business. What’s the stuff you know about the people on your list? Do you know where they’re based? Use that to promote local events and roadshows. Do you know what parts of your app they use (or don’t)? That’s awesome data to customize product promotions. Know what industry your subscriber is in? In your next newsletter, include a case study that shows how industry peers use your services—powered by dynamic content based on your subscribers’ industry.

What are some examples of personalization in the footer of an email?

Whitney: Personalization in email footer content is the 5th most popular part of an email for marketers to personalize. During the webinar, we mentioned that we’d love to hear more about what people personalize in the footer… and you guys answered! Here are some of the things marketers are including in their footers:

  • Referral number for rewards programs/newsletter signups (“You’ve referred *|Referral_Number|* people”)
  • “This email was sent to…” ending with a first name, account name, or account number
  • Level of non-profit donation
  • Location or contact info for a subscriber’s local office or branch
  • Preferred restaurant location

Really Good Emails team… how did you come up with those mixtape names? They’re genius!

Mike: It’s a pretty low bar to hit, but here are the steps:

Step 1: be a kid of the 80s and 90s

Step 2: dream of becoming a rapper/pop-star in your youth

Step 3: have your parents squash your dreams

Step 4: use sites like napster to download as much pirated music as you can

Step 5: grow up and do a lot of boring stuff that doesn’t fulfill your creativity

Step 6: download your subscribers names

Step 7: stay up way past your bedtime and put that creativity into mixtape names