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The Name Game

Get friendly with your prospects by including their names--and personalized content--in your marketing e-mails.

According to a November 2004 Jupitermedia Corp. executive survey, 42 percent of marketers who did not personalize their e-mail messages achieved a conversion rate of less than 1 percent, while 42 percent of marketers who used some form of personalization received a conversion rate of more than 3 percent. Most likely, you could improve your conversion rate just by getting personal with your mailing list.

Your first step in e-mail personalization should be addressing prospects by their first names. You already collect this information when customers place orders. What about when prospects or customers sign up for your newsletter? If you only ask for an e-mail address, you're missing out. In a comparison of about 59 million e-mails, CoolerEmail, a web-based, HTML e-mail marketing solution provider, noted that subject-line personalization spiked open rates by more than 30 percent and click-through rates by more than 120 percent.

Another simple step is to use recipients' first names in your message greeting. An e-mail management solution can set a place-holder in the subject and greeting lines, then dynamically populate those fields with the matching recipient's name. Missing names? Play it safe by starting with a generic salutation such as "Sizzling summer specials for you."

Customizing your content is another good idea. Perhaps you want to give a special offer to loyal customers or promote different products to your male and female customers. You can create entirely separate e-mail messages for each group or send out one that dynamically replaces parts of the content. Constant Contact, CoolerEmail, EmailLabs and VerticalResponse offer various personalization features.

When gathering information, remember that too many questions can scare off or annoy people. Ask only for personal information to help you tailor your e-mails to each recipient.


Speaker and freelance writer Catherine Seda owns an internet marketing agency and is author of Search Engine Advertising.

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This article was originally published in the May 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Name Game.

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