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Question: When it comes to e-mail, does ‘Dear Bob’ personalization really work?

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Answer: Dear [First Name],

Greeting your e-mail subscribers by name is one of those nice little software tricks that, when used effectively, can boost your results. But is “Dear Bob” really enough these days? When it comes to crafting a truly personal, relevant e-mail to your customers or members, it's just the beginning. Here are a few tips on the art of e-mail personalization.

1) Don't overdo it. You’ve met the cheesy vacuum salesman who addresses you by name every third sentence. (We all have.) After a while it stops being a nice personal touch and starts feeling like a cheap Dale Carnegie parlor trick. (Sorry, Dale.) Once is nice, twice is all right, but pepper your e-mail with too many first-name references and your recipients might start calling you a few names.

2) Go beyond the greeting. There’s nothing worse than a generic promotional e-mail with “Dear Bob” jammed into the top. Instead of adding a greeting as an afterthought, start there and write the rest of your e-mail as a personal note to your customers, members or fans. When you’re done, see if your campaign passes the people test: Does it feel like it was written to people by people? That human touch can turn a good e-mail into a memorable one.

3) Get to know Bob. Above all, remember that addressing your recipients by name is nice, surface personalization but, to garner really good response, you'll want to go deeper. Make sure the e-mail you're sending “Bob” knows something about him. Is he a customer or a prospect? Is he here in town or three states away? Does he prefer corduroys or khakis? (Or is he a jean shorts kinda guy?) Get to know more than “Bob's” name and your response will show it.

Clint Smith is co-founder of e-mail marketing company Emma Email Marketing (www.myemma.com).

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