Email marketing

Emails provoke two kinds of reactions. Users can get irritated when they receive an email or they can look forward to another email. You get this second response by setting up your email marketing properly. Personalizing your emails plays an important role here.

The ultimate goal is to increase conversions by creating a bond with customers and prospects. Customers should feel that you know their needs and requirements and that you are on the same wavelength. In this blog we explain how you achieve this by using customer data in an appropriate way to personalize emails.

Basic principles of personalization

It’s good to let a user know that you know him and you know what he wants. This way he will be sure that all mails in the future are really meant for him and he will benefit from reading them.

The majority of your emails should be relevant. It’s possible that general mails should be sent to all your contacts, but try to focus as much as possible on certain target groups within your entire mailing list. Even in the case of general information, there may be target groups that you focus more on.

Make sure that recipients can count on your mails. When they open a mail, they always have to get something new. This can be new information, a discount or an opportunity. When a user receives a series of emails that doesn’t contain news or information that’s relevant for him, he may get tired of it and consequently unsubscribe. This is something you obviously want to avoid.

The role of personalization in different phases

Your email arrives in the inbox

Personalizing emails in inbox

The first thing a recipient does is check from whom the email comes and read the subject and preview. Here you have to show immediately that the content of the email is related to the recipient. Use a personalized salutation for this.

Depending on your target group and your own brand this salutation will vary. If you have a more formal relationship with your customer, use “Dear Mrs. Janssens”. If you have a more playful relationship with your client, use “Hi Annelies!”.

The user reads the mail

Congratulations, you managed to motivate the recipient to open your mail! The next step is making him actually read the whole mail.

The first thing the recipient sees is the top of your email with the header image, the salutation, maybe a title and the following information. That’s where you focus on when you personalize the mail. Make sure the recipient gets the impression “This is for me”.

Let’s take a recruitment agency as an example. The recipient in this case is someone who wants to work in the medical sector. In this case it is better that the banner is an image of a hospital instead of a construction site. This image shows that you really have a view on the world the recipient will eventually end up in.

The same applies to the title and following content. Suppose the mail is a list of available positions. It’s obvious that this list only contains open positions within the medical sector. It’s also possible to determine the order of appearance. The functions the receiver is looking for are at the top. While the functions for which the receiver hasn’t explicitly show interest are at the bottom of the mail.

This doesn’t mean that what’s at the end of your mail doesn’t need to be personalized. On the contrary, this is the right place to put the recipient in a flow that suits him or her more. Suppose you place some hyperlinks to your website in the footer at the bottom of your mail. Then, depending on the recipient, you can link to other parts of your website.

Three forms of personalization

There are several ways to apply personalization:

1. Using available data

This is the easiest way to apply personalization. It boils down to using simple user data in your emails. The most commonly used data is the name and gender of the recipient in a salutation (“Dear Ms Annelies Janssens”).

But with this kind of personalization you can also perform actions with a stronger impact. For example, you can respond to the loyalty of your receivers. Suppose a customer has been buying your products for a few years (think of an online webshop for clothing) or is in possession of one of your products for a number of years (products like a car). Send this customer an email where you congratulate and thank him for his loyalty. The date you use here is the date the product was purchased or the subscription was created.

2. Personalization based on profile

If you take the profile of your receiver into account you are already on a higher level of using user data. You don’t put the data directly in the email, but use it in the background to direct which content will be where in you email depending on the person you are addressing.

For example, an energy supplier can make the difference between customers who are price conscious or consumers who have a green mindset. Depending on their mindset you’re going to adjust the articles you show in the mail and where you show them in the mail.

Location also plays a role here. Depending on where the recipient lives, change the address of the office and refer to the nearest office.


When you create personalization based on profile, it’s a good idea to consult the different personas within your target group. A persona is a description of a person who can serve as an example of a customer. This is a detailed description and includes not only basic demographic data, but also other data such as needs, problems and goals. More information on what a persona is and how to set it up can be found in our blog “Using Customer Personas to Increase Brand Engagement”.

3. Personalization based on behavior

This form of personalization has more to do with the series of emails you send than with the content of the email. Depending on behavior you will send different emails. Suppose a recipient opens an email but takes no further action. Then you already know that he’s less interested than a person who does. You can choose to send a reminder or no longer send mails of this kind to this recipient. Another example, if a recipient visits five articles around a certain topic, you will send that person more emails around that topic.

Before you start personalizing emails…

Before you start personalizing your emails, there are a few things to think about:

  • Data quality is very important in this process. If your data is wrong, you will create an inverse effect.
  • Don’t go too far with personalization. You need to give customers the feeling that you understand them, but don’t make them feel uncomfortable by creating a Big Brother feeling.
  • Your personalizations should be relevant. Don’t use personalization if there are no benefits associated to it.

With all this information you can start personalizing your email marketing. Also take a look at our checklist of do’s and don’ts for email campaigns.

Do you still have questions? Our experts are happy to help you!