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People respond more favorably to marketing when they feel special and unique. People respond differently to things when they perceive themselves as part of a group. These are only some of the psychological factors that come into play when using individual message personalization as a part of your email marketing campaigns. When done correctly, personalization can be a powerful way to reinforce the bond between your brand and your customer. However, poorly personalized messages can just as quickly sever that connection that you have worked so hard to establish. This article describes some of the techniques for using personalization in an effective way.

Hello, Salutations!
The initial greeting has a tremendous impact on whether a recipient will read the rest of a communication. The tone must match the type of communication, and the type of relationship that exists between the sender and recipient. For example, “Hi, John” is good for an email from a business to consumer, but too casual for a message to a business recipient. A “Dear Mr. Smith” or “Dear John Smith” is more appropriate for a business to business communication in email just as in a business letter.

Product and Service References
A very strong technique is including a reference to a specific product or service that the recipient has either already purchased, or that they have requested information about. For example, “How are you enjoying your new Mini-Cooper?” or “Thanks for using us to clean your carpets last Thursday”. This naturally ties in to up-sell or cross-sell opportunities, like “Need batteries for your Olympus D-550 digital camera?” Don’t forget to link directly to the page on the site that corresponds to the product or service you are trying to up-sell.

One way to help people feel a sense of belonging is to use a known location reference. For example, “Everyone in Chicago knows a great Pizza when they try one”, or “The best limousine in Los Angeles.” Make sure that you have the recipient associated with the correct location, or you are doing more harm than good.

When recipients are members of a known group or organization, you can create a positive tie-in. For example “As a member of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, we invite you to order business cards at 25% off”. When using this kind of personalization, you must make sure that the relevancy will be obvious for the recipient. This works particularly well for sending partner offers, but again only as long as the offer tightly matches the needs of the target group, and will be perceived as relevant.

Images and Multimedia
Images and or multimedia that tie back to any other form of personalization is so effective that it’s worthy of putting into its own category. This can take the form of product images that correspond to the exact product that they have already purchased, like a picture of the Olympus D-550 camera. They could also be images of a familiar city skyline, as in the “Best Pizza in CITYNAME” example. A highly effective technique is using a personalized image of the recipient’s organization logo, or web site. The purpose in each case is simply to provide a familiar frame of reference in the most compelling way possible, resulting in the recipient feeling better understood and more comfortable, leading toward better acceptance of the offer.

Don’t Get Too Personal, and Other Potential Hazards
The more reliance your email marketing campaign has on your database, the more important that it is to have the correct data. Errors in your data can lead to your mailing showing how poorly you know the recipient, not how well.
Always have default information to substitute in case you are missing data. You can write your copy so that substituting this default text maintains the flow of the narrative. For example, let’s say you plan on merging the “Company Name” from your database into your email, Using default text of “your company” works well as in “We know that XYZ Corp. can benefit from our services” or “We know that your company can benefit from our services”.
Lastly, always respect the privacy of the recipient and avoid all sensitive information. Anything that might make the recipient uncomfortable such as financial status or health status, are best left off limits when it comes to email personalization.

Doing it right requires a good database, planning, care, and bulletproof technology. You may find that outsourcing your personalized email marketing campaigns is the best way to make sure everything goes smoothly. When personalization is used correctly combined with good targeting of offers, the results can be much greater than the sum of the parts, boosting your bottom line accordingly.

This Web Marketing article was written by Ron Evans on 3/21/2005