Posts Tagged ‘personalisation’

Uh oh, you just sent an email out with Hi {Name} as the salutation. Or even worse the names were there but they didn’t match up and Sally got an email that said ‘Hi Bob’.


This is one of the most common mistakes we see, yet one of the most avoidable, if only everyone took the time to thoroughly test their emails before they sent them out.

If it happens, it’s not the end of the world and you can do things to quickly rectify the mistake.

One example we found was this company who sent an email out with ‘Hi {SubscriberName}’ as the salutation. Oops. However they handled it really well – they quickly followed up with an email acknowledging the mistake, apologising that they forgot the subscribers name, and they started the follow-up email with this very apt subject line as follows:

Subject: Lyndsay, “To err is human, to forgive divine” – Alexander Pope

They then went on to pepper the subscribers name throughout the email, to drive the point home they do know your name and they know how to use it. Below is a screenshot of the intro of the follow-up email. Click on the below image to go through to the full email where you will see they went on to offer a big discount just to drive their apology home.







The thing is, these things happen, as emails are sent by humans not machines, so the best thing you can do is follow-up with an email acknowledging the mistake, apologise, perhaps add in a bit of humour or something light, throw in a discount or special offer, and most of the time your subscribers will forgive you.

If you would like more tips, check out this post for the top 5 tips for a great apology email here in our post on sending apology emails

You know when you move out of home and suddenly the washing piles up and the dishes don’t get done and the rubbish hasn’t gone out in a while? And you wonder how it got done before?

When you live at home you tend to take for granted that these things magically get done when you were not looking (Spoiler alert – your mother does it) and when you move out of home you realise that you now need to take responsibility and do all these things yourself, and by taking charge of these tasks you can improve the health and cleanliness of your environment. (Wow!)

Well I guess it’s safe to say most of you have learnt that one, however I’ve got something else to break to you; YOU control your sender reputation of your email marketing – not your ESP or mailbox providers. (What!?)  That’s right – your mother doesn’t work in your deliverability department. To improve your deliverability and reputation, you need to take some control.

There are five key factors that drive deliverability that you can control:
- Authentication
- List cleansing
- Relevant and valuable content
- Active engagement
- Continuous testing

Now I know deliverability can seem like a very complex system of things that need to be optimised and monitored and analysed and that can seem a bit overwhelming. However there really are a range of simple things you can do to improve your sender reputation, and your deliverability.


What can you do right now?

- Honour unsubscribe requests
- Use a ‘friendly’ recognisable from name
- Send relevant content
- Set expectations

A poor reputation drives poor inbox delivery, however as you control your reputation, the sooner you recognise that the sooner you can improve it.

What exactly can affect your sender reputation?
- Spam complaints
- List quality
- Content
- Engagement
- IP Permanence

Recipients can complain because the email may not be of interest or relevance to them, perhaps wasn’t what they expected, perhaps they didn’t recognise the sender, or perhaps they are just receiving too much email or couldn’t find the unsubscribe button. Which is why having a recognisable from name, relevant content and a clearly visible unsubscribe link are SO important.

Firstly, spam complaints can be the #1 reason for decline in your reputation, and is the biggest indicator to ESP’s that your subscribers don’t want your email and this can result in your email being filtered or blocked.


So what can you do to reduce complaints?
- Set expectations
- Honour unsubscribe requests
- Use a recognisable from name
- Send relevant and valuable content
- Enrol in feedback loops

One of the best things you can actively do to increase your reputation is provide valuable and relevant content that your subscribers want to read, the flow on effect being they will look forward to your email in their inbox and they will open, read, and clickthrough, increasing your engagement and over time that helps increase your reputation.

How important is relevance? 25% of subscribers said they have unsubscribed because the email wasn’t relevant. Well I think it’s worth listening to quarter of your entire database don’t you?

The implications of not being relevant are declining ROI and reputation and eventual increase in unsubscribes and/or complaints.

How can you increase relevance?
- Segment your data based on active/inactive subscribers, demographic, location, etc
- Implement a preference centre so the subscribers are in charge of what they receive and how often
- Send a survey asking your subscribers what they want – but be sure to deliver it
- Use dynamic content to change out content based on subscribers preferences
- Use personalisation throughout the email such as name, account number, points balance, purchase activity, etc

Now it’s no use having an email people want to read if people don’t receive it, so ensure you make it a priority to manage your list hygiene, and make that list as clean and shiny as possible. A clean list means you will be sending to actual humans – not spam traps or old inactive email addresses. It also means higher accepted rates, lower bouncebacks, and therefore better deliverability.

How can you improve your list hygiene?
- Review bouncebacks and correct invalid addresses
- Remove inactive subscribers
- Review your data collection process and ensure accuracy
- Grow your list organically – never purchase!
- Implement a double opt-in process
Then once you have implemented these strategies TEST, TEST, and TEST some more. Be continually analysing and testing a range of variables to find out what works, what doesn’t and what can be changed to suit your audience.

What are some things you can test?
- Email frequency
- Subject lines
- Email cadence
- Send day and time
- Personalisation in content

It’s important to get the frequency right because 54% of consumers say they unsubscribe when emails from a particular sender arrive too frequently….  How do you find the balance between too much and not enough? This is where asking your subscribers how often they want to hear from you can be the perfect solution.

Want some further advice? We have deliverability experts, design experts and experienced account managers at Jericho who can answer your questions – email us!

Dear {Generic Subscriber}

Thank you for taking the time to read our long email all about our company even though you have 573 emails to read and you are very busy.

All the information contained in this email is generic and fairly bland although very informative. We are sending the same information out to everyone, so don’t worry we haven’t taken much time looking at creepy data analysing your particular preferences or interests. Why spend time doing that when all 15,679 of our subscribers will enjoy reading the same generic news ins our batch and blast email this week, next week, and every week. In saying that, we may get busy and  just send one really long email with out dated news once a month, which we are sure you will want to read because it’s all about us.

Also it is not mobile optimised as we haven’t prioritised mobile optimisation yet but that’s OK, you still read your emails on a desktop computer right? The email also won’t contain any dynamic content or personalisation which would make the email more about you and your preferences, because as we mentioned we haven’t got the time or budget for that.

We didn’t spend too much time thinking about the subject line, so as you can see that says ‘September Newsletter’ which is exactly what this is. Also we don’t tend to put much emphasis on testing  so there might be a broken link in there somewhere. Just email our esp if you find it.

Also we probably won’t notice how many of you clicked on anything or who is engaged or not engaged because we don’t tend to do any reporting or analysis on our campaigns. And we we will be sending the email at 5pm on a Friday as we don’t really prioritise our email marketing or think about what the best send time is, just as long as we get to send our news out to everyone before we leave for the weekend.

We hope you enjoyed reading our generic email (that you care about even less than we do).

Insincerely and apathetically yours,
Batch and Blast Inc.

Sadly the above story is not so far from the truth for many companies. If the whole area of personalisation, engagement and analysis seems like a lot to get your head around, take a moment to read these posts that are bulging with best practice advice on everything from how to really your subscribers, how personalisation can make a huge difference to your readers and how engagement has a flow on effect to your reputation and deliverability.

Do much more than just batch and blast

To personalise or not to personalise

- Here’s how to really show your subscribers some email love

- How and why you should treat your subscribers like friends

- Why engagement is important and how to do it


See, that wasn’t so hard. All it takes is for you to implement a few simple best practice initiatives into your email marketing and you can be seeing a remarkable improvement.


Following on from our post about how your From Name and Subject Line act as the gatekeepers to your email campaigns, (Click here to read) we are now going to tell you the formula for creating the ultimate subject line so you can increase your chances of your campaign standing out, getting opened, and getting read.

As we’ve said before, prompting the open by getting past the first ‘gatekeepers’ is the primary goal, because you can’t count clickthroughs – much less sell something -  if no-one opens your email.

So with so many people receiving many emails, deleting and filtering, how do you get your subscribers attention? A great subject line gets your email opened.



Spam filters can be triggered by a variety of reasons, rarely will specific words like ‘sale’ or ‘free’ get you a one way ticket into the spam folder – filters are changing and it takes a combination of things to really mark your email as spam. So don’t be afraid to put in the odd exclamation mark, you can use all caps, even the word free or sale is fine.

The key is to use these words sparingly. Spam filters assign points to ‘spam’ words, and if the points exceed a certain threshold then the email is considered spam.  However if you just use one or two of these words and symbols throughout your email or even just in the subject line, they won’t automatically mark your email as spam – you may have heard us say before that while content filtering is important, there are now other factors like your sender reputation and engagement metrics that are much more important.


You may have heard a lot of talk about geo-location lately – well collecting and using geo-location data to create more relevant and personal emails and subject lines can increase open rates.  For example, the same email content can come to life when the subject line suggests it’s especially relevant for you.  American retailer Urban Outfitters does this well with subject lines often calling out to me ‘Hey New Zealand – here’s our best sale yet’  or ‘We ship for free to Kiwis every day!’.  Extrapolate that out to your regional customers and – well you see our point.

Subject lines framed as questions have often performed better in tests. Of course you won’t be asking just any old random question – consider your audience, their interests, what your campaign is about, and frame a question around that which will pique their interest and even better if they can respond in some way you can increase engagement.  ‘How many ways can you wear this scarf?’  ‘What’s the best way to show the world you care?’.

Email marketing company MailerMailer found that longer subject lines had lower open rates and click through rates than those emails with shorter subject lines.  They found emails with 28-39 characters in the subject line had the highest open and click through rates. Considering that is about how many characters of a subject line smartphones display, that is no surprise. So the golden rule of thumb is keep it shorter than 50 characters, or at least make your point early in the sentence!


✓ There has been a craze of sorts lately with people using ✶symbols✶ in clever ways in an effort to stand out in the inbox. If used appropriately and cleverly, ✈ symbols may get you more opens, but too many symbols might start driving people crazy so again use sparingly ☂ and only if relevant ☀.  You can read our article about using symbols here.

We’ve heard recently that contrary to previous advice, using the recipient’s name in the subject line does not significantly improve open rates. If it clearly looks like a mail merge then it’s not very personalised at all and will probably have no effect, however if you use their name cleverly and in a relevant way, it may increase opens. In their July 2012 study, MailerMailer saw significantly lower click through and open rates for personalised subject lines compared to non personalised ones.   We have many clients who use this technique every time and it works very well – the answer for you is TEST it!


Keep it useful – why would your recipient want to open your email?  Tell them.

Keep it short – remember the golden rule of 50 characters.

Keep it specific – make sure it is relevant and valuable to the recipient.

Keep it timely – with everything being instant now there really is no place for old news, old jokes, or old memes – keep it fresh.

Always have a call to action – people will respond when you tell them to do something. So ask yourself why are you emailing them? What do you want them to do?  Make your CTA’s easy and ensure they make sense.

Test test test – use the A/B split test send function and test out different subject lines and learn what works for your audience.

Set expectations – clearly state what’s inside the email, and why the recipient should read it.

This advice along with the previous post on From Names and Subject lines will give you some things to work on, and we’re here if you want to talk about what works for you, what doesn’t work and how you might grow your response rates, and deliver great emails to happy customers!

It is always a good idea to send out re-engagement campaigns to your inactive subscribers every so often.

A re-engagement campaign generally means you send a re-opt in email to your inactive subscribers to see if you can get them to re-engage with you, (And more importantly to see if they want to re-engage with you)  The main thing is you don’t want to lose these subscribers right? So how do you re-connect with them?

There are effectively two types of re-engagement campaign:

1. Re-activation:
Send this campaign if your recipients are still opening your emails, but haven’t made any purchases or taken any actions.

2. Re-permission:
Send this campaign if your recipients are not engaged in any way and you want to confirm whether they still want to receive your emails.

These are both great ways to help build your reputation, keep your list attrition rate down, keep email subscriber engagement up, and keep your list up to date.

Click here to see some great examples of email campaigns that will get subscribers engaged and buying again.

But apart from running a re-engagement campaign, here are a few ways to increase engagement that you can do all the time:

1 Use preference centers
They allow subscribers to control and customise the content they receive, and they provide you with data which you can use to further tailor emails based on a recipient’s information and preferences. It allows you to give subscribers what they want, when they want it. It let’s the subscribers be in control, and when they have control, they are happy, and are more likely to engage. (Tip: Check out this post on using dynamic content to enhance email campaigns depending on subscribers preferences)

2 Include a feedback link in all your emails
Allowing your recipients to give you feedback establishes 2 way communication, and it allows you to hone your content based on the opinions you receive. For example, if you are a travel agent, send a welcome home email and ask the customer how their trip was.

3 Use good send settings
Consistently use a ‘friendly’ from email and from name.  Subscribers don’t open email from people they don’t recognise. And it’s also important to note that reputation and deliverability is in part based on having good send settings. And never use a no-reply address. Never. Click here to read a previous post about the importance of your from name.

4 Include an unsubscribe link
Always include a clear unsubscribe link in all emails you send out. (This is one of the criteria of CAN-SPAM so is a vital element of all emails) Here is a cartoon that we featured in a previous post, which sums up how subscribers can quickly go from happy to unsubscribe.

5  Use personalisation
The level of personalisation can vary depending on the sender and the type of campaign. Simply inserting their name in the email works well – people like that. However you can vary the level of personalisation and do much more with it, depending on how relevant and how effective it is for your brand and the particular campaign. Overall, personalisation has been proven to help with open rates, increase your reputation, and the subscribers appreciate it. Show they matter to you and that you ‘listen’. Check out our previous post on personalisation.

6 Include a safe senders link
Always include an ‘add me to your safe senders list’  link in all the emails you send out. This means recipients are more likely to add you to their safe senders list, so that you get delivered to their inbox, which in turn decreases your spam rate and increases your reputation.

Bottom Line:
Always create engaging messages that are based on your subscriber’s preferences.  Content that subscribers find valuable and helpful will always succeed, and emails that contain only marketing statements will always fail.

And remember – ‘Be wise – personalise!’

As an extension of our posts in December about personalisation, we thought we would start the New Year with a focus on subject lines. New opening lines for a New Year you could say.

Some subject lines work really well, and others leave you cold. Why is that? Well that’s what we are going to explore.

1) It’s about creating intriguing, catchy subject lines that capture the recipient’s attention above all the other emails in their inbox.

2) It’s also about creating subject lines that are in keeping with your brands style and language.

3) And it’s about creating subject lines that cleverly and naturally incorporate a recipient’s name to make it really personalised.

I have recently received two campaigns which did a great job of using personalisation in the subject line, and they were really engaging and got me to open the emails and read them.

‘Amanda, have we got the deal for you!’
I thought ‘wow I better check that out just in case it really is something I will like, also I don’t want to miss out!’ I opened it of course, the deal was good, and so I thought it was a great email. You can play on people’s FOMO (Fear of missing out) – if that works for you and if it’s relevant, it’s fine.

‘Thought you’d like to see this Amanda’

I was naturally curious as to what they think I should see, so I opened it. (Well it worked didn’t it!) Inside was simply a promo about something that I wasn’t interested in, but it got me to open and read the email.

I received another email campaign that used personalisation in the subject line, but it didn’t provide me with quite the same feeling as those other two. The email came from someone I knew, and the subject line said:

‘Amanda, I owe you an apology!’
I thought, ‘Oh gosh, what for, I haven’t spoken to them in a long time! So I opened it, and saw an email that was a clever sales pitch to attend their sales seminar. I don’t open any of their emails any more.

Apart from this example I give above, some examples of not so effective personalization we have seen are:

  • Name; Do You Have a Minute?
  • Exclusive Savings for Name
  • Name – Good news and bad news
  • Hi Name
  • NAME; Save 30% for Two Days Only!

Each of these examples read like a subject line from a spammer or some such similar source. So how likely would you be to unsubscribe from emails with a subject like these? How much more likely to click ‘Spam’ would you be? How much less likely would you be to open emails from these senders again?
The general idea is about being on brand and in keeping with your brands tone and voice; it’s also about not appearing to come across as a spammer, or appear to be people who send emails with subject lines that give a less than reputable appearance. You don’t want to be sending subject lines that make people think you are a spammer. And we all know it’s wise to stay away from ‘deal’ and ‘$’ and ‘free’ and words along those lines.

My key take hope tips from this for you would be to write subject lines that:

  • Are intriguing and catchy
  • Are in keeping with your brands language, tone, style and message
  • Not trying to sell anyone anything
  • Naturally, and cleverly incorporate a recipient’s name

Do all these things, and you will have winning subject lines that will  increase open rates. And we all like that.

Jericho’s Deadly Email Sins

We often talk about all the good things you can do with email marketing in this blog, however we don’t often mention all the things that can go wrong with email marketing.  There is a balance between getting email very right and very wrong, and a balance between focusing on the technical details vs. the creative and fun.

So we have made up our very own list of ‘email sins’ based on the biblical deadly sins.

Writing your own eDM content even though you know you’re not a writer, just because you want to retain control. If it’s not your thing, hire a copywriter… or if you don’t have the budget, find someone in the office that is a good writer.

There are too many companies that only send emails all about themselves and about their products or services and just try to sell, sell, sell. Instead, make sure your messages deliver value to recipients. For example, if you’re a sporting goods manufacturer, don’t just send emails that sell your equipment. Instead, try to teach people new techniques when it comes to working out. 

Don’t fill your email with boring content and not make any effort. Not all your subscribers are as excited as you are to read about your products, services and news. So put some effort in. Tell a compelling story, and hold their interest with humour, controversy and interesting facts.

The positive benefits of personalisation will quickly turn negative if your message begins with Dear [blank]. No subscriber thinks you personally sat down and wrote them a message, but your recipients should be able to expect that you at least get their non-personal personalisation correct.

Don’t try to copy someone else’s style just because you like it… create your own email personality. Develop a tone and look and feel that is unique to your company. Each company has their own style, and a humorous tone that works for an agency may not work for an insurance company.

Some email marketers think they can use the low cost of sending emails as a chance to send to every email address in the universe. Others buy lists and try and re-subscribe those recipients who have unsubscribed. Sure sending to 5 million people might widen your net, however you will get lots of recipients who may unsubscribe anyway, and mark you as ‘spam’ which will damage your reputation and open rates. It is much wiser to send relevant emails to segmented databases to people who actually want to hear from you. 

Putting EVERYTHING possible in your email and making it as long as your arm just gives your recipients email indigestion. And you risk losing their attention part way through your looonnnng email. Instead, consider putting snippets of information in your email and putting extra content on landing pages, or even link back to stories on your website. Alternatively you could send shorter emails at more regular intervals.

If you want more, you can read Hub Spot’s take on deadly email sins here

Continuing on from our post last week around personalising your email campaigns, I thought I would expand on this. This week we explore dynamic content as a way to enhance your campaigns, increasing the relevance and personalisation, by tailoring the content to specific recipients using dynamic content.

What is Dynamic content?
It is an element within an email campaign that changes from one subscriber to another depending on the data you have for them in your database.

In other words, it’s the perfect way to customise your email, improve the relevance of your content, and better meet your recipient’s individual needs. And it starts with knowing your recipients’ preferences.

In our Top Tips post we introduced preference centers.  They are a handy but often under utilised tool, that allows your recipients to update their own contact details, quickly and easily. This means you’ll obtain their correct email address, know which of your emails they want to receive, and what their individual preferences are in terms of content, frequency etc.

Once you have your preference centre up and running, and your subscribers’ details are all up to date, you can really start tailoring your campaigns to better suit each individual. So you can make sure its toys for Molly and tools for Ben and not the other way round!

So how do you set this up? What’s involved?


Well, dynamic content essentially comprises of two key parts:


  1. Dynamic content blocks
  2. Dynamic content rules


The first step is to create the different blocks of content that will swap out within your email. These blocks are called Dynamic Content Blocks. This is where you would create dynamic content block 1, named ‘Tools’, and dynamic content block 2, named ‘Toys’.

Once you have created the different blocks and filled them with juicy content, the next step is to create and manage the rules that will pull the content into your email.

Once you’ve set up these rules, and put the dynamic content links into your email, the best way to test this and see that the right dynamic content is pulling through for the right people is to test. If you’re using the SmartMail PRO platform, we recommend you use the ‘Live Test’ function, which allows you to send a mock live send using your real data, but to yourself, not the recipient, so you can cross check your data against what is pulling through in the email to ensure that Ben is getting tools and not toys.

If you would like to talk more about what dynamic content can do for you, contact us at support@smartmailpro.comfor some expert advice.

Dear {first name} – think before you personalise.

This week we continue on from our ‘Top Tips’ post from last week, and discuss clever personalisation of email campaigns.

If you’ve been subscribing to email marketing campaigns for any length of time you’re probably familiar with personalisation. Done well, it can feel like the sender is reaching out to you and you alone, calling you by name and making you feel special by offering relevant content or offers just for YOU. On the other hand, some personalisation can look like it’s straight out of the spammer’s text book. And that doesn’t make you feel very special at all.

Personalisation isn’t a good or bad thing in itself. But when it gets misused for the sake of an extra open or click, it can have a negative effect on your campaigns. In these instances, it generally becomes less effective over time. And it can allow us to think that we’re creating “personal” emails when really all we are doing is just merging a name into the message.

A truly personal email is one that addresses the subscriber’s needs, desires, fears, preferences and other aspects of their lives, and gives them something tailored to them. Click here to see our earlier posts about preference centres.

Truly personal emails look at things like:

  • Which emails an individual subscriber has opened and clicked through from in the past
  • Where on your site they visit
  • How they originally found you and what inspired them to sign up to your list
  • Where they live geographically
  • Whether they like weekly digests, monthly updates, or daily emails
  • When their birthday is so you can send birthday emails
  • Their travel preferences so you can send them relevant updates
  • And many more options

A lot of this isn’t typically considered personalisation – it falls more under discussions of segmentation and targeting which leads us into dynamic content (which we’ll discuss next week).  But I think it’s worth considering that relevance and personalisation are somewhat interchangeable when we think about it from the subscriber’s perspective, and not our own. A relevant email is personal, and a truly personal email is relevant.

So does personalisation really work? Have some people gotten too lazy or too cheeky with it? Some people would argue all personalisation is good personalisation, it all drives up open rates. Done well, yes I agree.  But it would need to be tested to see how effective it was for your campaigns and whether it had any effect on open rates. The other side of it is, are we all about open rates? Or do we think it matters more that we connect with the recipient and create engagement, and an email that people enjoy reading? (We do)

And while merge fields are great for pulling through small snippets of information, such as First Name, Account Number and Email Address, Dynamic Content is used for more complex arrangements.

Next week we look at how you can use dynamic content to further enhance personalisation to customize content depending on your recipient’s preferences/interests.