- Use a valid reply email. We're human, and we all make mistakes. It is possible that one day your list merge may go awry. You might just address your customer Sara with "Dear George." And Sara may want to reply to let you know about the mistake. A no-reply@ address not only feels impersonal but it could cause you to miss out on an opportunity to learn about your mistake and lead to an unnecessary number of unsubscribes. Make sure your customers can help keep you in the know.
- Make sure you have the data. If you don't have many members' names stored in your audience, or if you're storing details that are NSFI (not safe for inboxes), it's best to skip personalization altogether. You can send out a "manage preferences" form to collect and use that information in the future, but you don't need to start off addressing almost every member of your audience with placeholders. It defeats the purpose.
- Avoid generic placeholders. I get it: You value me as a customer. But you don't need to address me as "Dear valued customer" in your emails; it feels generic. Placeholders are a helpful safety net, but sometimes they detract from the message you so carefully crafted in the rest of your email. My advice? Segment out the recipients who don't have a first name and nix the personal greeting altogether. They won't know it's missing, and your content will take center stage.
Emma Hall on 03.26.2015