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    3 Ways to Personalize Emails Without Personalization Tokens

    3 Ways to Personalize Emails Without Personalization Tokens

    Posted by Marie Schwartz
    Creating a personalized email experience is more than just using personalization tokens. It's about catering your content to your audience.


    Creating a personalized email experience is more than just using personalization tokens. It's about catering your content to your audience. Your subscribers don't want to be inundated with offers and editorials that are irrelevant. And sure, personalization tokens are helpful sometimes, especially for transactional emails. But they're not fooling anyone into thinking that you sent them a non-generic email.

    We've all gotten these sorts of emails:

    Hey [First Name],

    My name is [salesperson] and I'm from [Company]. Here's an [Adjective] [Product] that I think you might be interested in. Contact me at [Phone Number] with questions!

    As the recipient, it feels a little like a mad lib, don't you think? But as a marketer, I have to confess that I've been guilty of creating emails exactly like this. It's easy to use personalization tokens like [First Name] to create a "personalized email." And it's true that surveys show that personalized emails perform better than generic ones. In fact, 72% of consumers will only respond to personalized marketing messages. Take a look at this image of my co-worker’s email inbox below.

    Take a look at this image of my co-worker’s email inbox.

    It's pretty obvious that she’s not receiving personal emails from the Former President (although that would be awesome). In fact, her inbox is full of these personalized, but semi-impersonal emails. 

    So how do you create a personalized experience without coming off like a spambot? Here are our tips:

    1. Create Personas for Your Audience and Cater Your Content

    Chances are, your audience can be grouped into a few different segments. These segments will largely depend on what type of business you're in. If you're promoting a gap year program, you'll probably be talking to high school seniors, alumni, and younger students that are thinking about a gap year. If you're an independent advisor, you might have students interested in essay-writing advice, students looking for colleges, or parents.

    These personas will help you determine what type of content and offers to serve to different audiences. If some of your subscribers might have aged out, don't send them information on registration — instead, ask them to complete a survey about their experience. 

    Looking to develop personas? Hubspot has some really great (free) tools to help you on your journey. We also go into detail on mapping your content to your persona's journey in our post on creating a content marketing strategy

    2. Use Your Data to Boost Personalized Emails

    "Data" means a lot of different things. You might have info on someone's name, email address, and grade, but many email service providers (ESPs) also provide data on things like open rate, click-through rate, and unsubscribe rate. This is valuable information that many people are underutilizing.

    For instance, if 60% of your subscribers are opening emails on their phones between 9 and 11 AM on weekdays, don't send a non-responsive email at 5 PM on a Saturday. There's no hard and fast rule for email send time. However, you should test different days and times to see when sending an email works best for your audiences.

    You can see how emails look in different inboxes by using a tool like Litmus. Many ESPs, like Mailchimp, also offer this within their service.

    3. Take a Holistic Approach to Personalized Emails

    Personalization in your emails doesn't have to be all about your email recipient. Change the sender's name and email address to a real person at your company. We tested changing our reply-to email from info@teenlife.com to personal contact information on one of our emails and we saw a big difference:

    • Open rate went from 14% to 20.4% (+6.4%)
    • Click rate went from 0.6% to 1.3% (0.7%)
    • Unsubscribes went from 0.5% to 0.2% (-0.3%)

    Pretty cool, huh?

    And remember that the goal of our emails is to create engagement with our audiences. Don't discourage people from interacting with your business or program by using do-not-reply@yourcompany.com as your reply-to address. 

    In addition, when it comes to writing the copy for your personalized emails, make sure to write as though the email is coming from a human too. This will create a holistically orchestrated email that won’t feel like a robot wrote it. Thus, try writing your email as though you’re writing to a friend or someone you know. 

    Final Thoughts

    If you decide to utilize these tips in your email marketing campaigns, make sure you test, test, test. Every company is different, so what works for some may not work for others. What personalization ideas do you have? Tell us in the comments!

    Are you looking for high-quality inbound leads? Look no further! TeenLife is your key to generating best-fit leads for all of your teen enrichment programs. Get in touch with us to learn how listing your programs on TeenLife can get your programs in front of millions of teens, students, parents, and counselors.

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    Marie Schwartz

    Marie Schwartz

    Marie Schwartz is the CEO and Founder of TeenLife Media. Marie launched TeenLife in 2007 after moving to Boston with her husband and two middle school sons and discovering that there were no information resources for families with older children. Today, TeenLife's award-winning website lists thousands of summer and gap year programs, schools, college admission resources and volunteer opportunities for teens around the world.