David Kirkpatrick

Email Marketing: Your questions about personalization and length

May 31st, 2013

Last week, I was a guest of Responsys at Responsys Interact 2013, and I had the chance to interview Rich Fleck, the company’s Vice President of Strategy.

We covered a range of topics that will appear in an upcoming MarketingSherpa how-to article, but I thought it would be interesting to address some questions from our audience that we didn’t have time to cover in MarketingSherpa webinars and MarketingExperiments Web clinics.

Here are your questions with Rich’s answers:


From Cate: “Can you go too far with personalization where it gets kinda creepy for the recipient? Big Brother-ish …”

Rich Fleck: Yes – there is great temptation to get hyperpersonal with all the data we now have at our marketing disposal. However, it’s important to align personalization with consumer expectations and privacy guidelines.

As marketers, we need to look at our marketing efforts through a consumer lens – putting ourselves in their position to make sure our initiatives make sense in the context of the consumer experience. How will the consumer respond? Are they expecting this message? Effectively balancing the targeting/personalization with consumer expectations will drive the best marketing result.


From Ed: “How does personalization affect conversion rates?”

RF: Smart targeting and personalization drives better consumer engagement and conversion. We often see targeted messaging out-performing status quo messaging by a factor of two to three times – on both engagement and conversion metrics.

The challenge is finding the right personalization opportunities by leveraging analytics to understand consumer behavior and then aligning marketing initiatives to propel a positive behavior (purchase) or mitigate a negative behavior (unsubscribe, customer churn).

From Steve: “Why does personalization improve the effectiveness of the email marketing campaign?”

RF: With today’s digitally savvy consumer, they have raised their expectations from marketers.

They move seamlessly between digital channels (Facebook, website, email, mobile, etc.) and they expect this to be an integrated experience.

Personalization supports this new expectation – as marketers, the more relevantly we are able to speak with a consumer, the better the response rate. With crowded inboxes and the abundance of digital messaging, personalization is an effective tool to cut through the noise and attract consumer attention with a relevant and timely message.


From Cristina: “Do you recommend a certain length limit to email content based on where they are in the funnel?”

RF: In general, the best way to answer this question is to test different email content variations to determine the best result. We’ve seen different audiences respond very differently – some prefer a “loaded” email message with a lot of content, some prefer a short, concise version. However, across all audiences, we’ve seen targeted content outperform status quo content, regardless of message length.


Related Resources:

Email Personalization: 137% increase in open rate from personal note approach

New Chart: What it takes to personalize email

Email Marketing: 5 tactics to personalize your email message for better results (webinar replay)

Content Marketing: Focus on value, not length

Email Marketing: Why National Geographic uses business rules and frequency caps

Day 1 at Responsys Interact 2013: The relationship era

David Kirkpatrick

About David Kirkpatrick

David is a reporter for MarketingSherpa and has over twenty years of experience in business journalism, marketing and corporate communications. His published work includes newspaper, magazine and online journalism; website content; full-length ghosted nonfiction; marketing content; and short fiction. He served as producer for the business research horizontal at the original Office.com, regularly reporting on the world of marketing; covered a beat for D/FW TechBiz, a member of the American City Business Journals family; and he provided daily reporting for multiple LocalBusiness.com cities. David’s other media and corporate clients include: USA Today, Oxford Intelligence, GMAC, AOL, Business Development Outlook and C-Level Media, among many others.

Categories: Email Marketing Tags: , , ,

  1. May 31st, 2013 at 09:28 | #1

    Very interesting. I had a conversation last week with someone about the overuse of personalization.

    Has the “How To” article mentioned at the start not been published yet?

  2. May 31st, 2013 at 10:00 | #2

    I’m always looking for ways to improve my e-mail marketing, and this article has some really great tips on personalization and the best ways to use it. Thank you!

  3. May 31st, 2013 at 13:40 | #3

    Andew and Melissa,

    Thanks for the comments, and the how-to will be coming up in a few weeks in the B2B newsletter (and on the main website, of course.) It will cover the B2i concept and the challenge of marketing to digital natives vs. digital immigrants, among other topics.

    I think the roster of sources is amazing — some of the best minds, including Rich’s, on these topics out there right now.

  4. Sean Mysel
    May 31st, 2013 at 17:59 | #4


    I’ve noticed in my email marketing tests that if I can get their first name in and tailor the message to their hopes, dreams, and fears that works real well. I think the type of personal targeting that freaks people out is what Target was doing with determining what trimester a woman was with her pregnancy.

  5. September 16th, 2013 at 13:55 | #5

    For instance, when somebody subscribes to an email newsletter.
    People will not tke your business seriously if you send spam.
    I have a high click through and a high conversion and the cost of getting the list is very affordable.

  6. Joe
    January 6th, 2014 at 07:34 | #6

    Interesting read, David.
    Not going overboard with personalization is a relevant point that you make. But marketers can make basic efforts to personalize their e-mails to improve reception and response levels, as Sean pointed out.
    Not personalizing is not an option for marketers any longer. Was reading an article along similar lines not too long ago http://bit.ly/Jy4euU

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