The Ultimate Paradox: How to Personalize Your Marketing with Email Templates

Our audience is drowning in generic, irrelevant emails from advertisers who don’t know who they are, what inspires them, or where they are in their buyer’s journey. You can guess how fast these emails are clicked into the trash folder.

In this day and age, one replete with data and powered by connectivity, there is no excuse for any advertiser not to send personalized emails that genuinely connect with their audience. Creating personalized marketing campaigns is more work than the “spray and pray” email method, but you can save time and effort by using email templates and email builder capabilities powered by your marketing automation platform.

Start by understanding and segmenting your audience.

You can only develop a personalized email communications strategy if you know who your customers are and what they want. Personalization starts with developing a deep understanding of your audience and then reaching out to a specific segment.

One option is to create a persona profile that represents a specific audience segment. These profiles can include data such as your persona’s industry, company size, revenue, location, and their obstacles to conversion.

For example, a company that creates accounting software for businesses should obviously market to accountants, but what about reaching out to small business owners? One persona could be the entrepreneur working on a brand-new startup. They may be unsure about payroll, taxes, and deductions, and they need accounting software that walks them through each step without frustrating them. In your research for this persona, you learn that one obstacle to conversion for this audience may be an aversion to spending a lot of time learning how to use the software.

If this is your first attempt at segmenting your audience, start small with the information you have. This could mean simply segmenting by industry or geographic location. As you collect more data on your audience, you’ll be able to build out robust profiles and group your audience into more targeted segments.

How do you find all this information about your customers and keep track of all your different audience lists? A quality customer relationship management (CRM) system and marketing automation makes it easy. A CRM platform can help you gather, organize, and manage information about your customers as they fill out forms on your websites, take surveys, or interact with your sales reps. You can then segment your audience and put together specialized email campaigns based on any number of criteria.

Define the journey.

Choosing your audience segment for your email campaign is a good start, but before you type up the first words of your email, you have to figure out where your persona — your audience — is and what you want them to do.

The first question you need to answer: Where is your persona right now? Is she at the very beginning of the journey and needs more information before she can make a purchase? Has she stalled in the middle of the funnel? Is she an entrepreneur who wants to keep an eye on her financial health, but doesn’t have the time to learn how to use accounting software?

Knowing your persona’s starting point allows you to create a more personalized and relevant buyer’s journey. For example, there’s no need to introduce your persona to a product or service if she’s already spoken to a salesperson about it. Instead, consider sending her a notice if the price goes down or if there’s a limited supply left.

Plot out the steps of the persona’s journey. This may require that you design an email campaign that will automatically send emails, based on her interactions with your company, over a period of time to move her through the journey. Let’s stick with our example of the entrepreneur: An introductory email could simply be a thank you for signing up for a mailing list. A second email a week later goes into more detail about the out-of-the-box functionality of the software. The next email plays up the company’s excellent customer service, which is always available to answer questions and help the entrepreneur get her accounting taken care of as quickly as possible.

Each step in the journey has a purpose and is meant to bring your persona to a designated end point or conversion. That may be a purchase, but it doesn’t have to be. Your end point could be a request for a consultation, or downloading a white paper. The point is that a customer journey should be defined, and personalization is the key to guiding your persona down that road.

Set up your email template.

You have the persona, you have the journey. Now it’s time to put the bricks in the road. There’s no reason to write a one-off email, only to never use it again. Instead, the power and convenience of templates can make your marketing a personalization powerhouse.

The top marketing automation platforms include an email template builder that makes it easy for you to design a unique, professional email template that you can re-use multiple times to maintain a consistent look and feel. You can to upload images into a library and write and save chunks of copy that you can repurpose, all within the system.

Our accounting software company wants to create an email drip campaign aimed at entrepreneurs who have just a handful of employees. The goal is to encourage the recipient to download a white paper that explains payroll taxes in simple terms. The owner of the accounting software company uses an email template builder to pick a predesigned template model. Next, he arranges the design and the layout he wants, and then inserts an elegant graphic. The owner then writes the copy for the email.

To personalize the email further, he uses the information from his CRM database to add the entrepreneur’s name in the teaser and the startup’s name to the greeting. It could look something like this:

Subject: Your quick and easy guide to payroll taxes for small businesses


Hi Diane,

As your startup grows and becomes a full-fledged small business, you may have questions about how to calculate payroll taxes. We’d love to help!

We’ve put together a guide specifically for busy entrepreneurs just like you. It covers, in simple terms, everything you need to know about payroll and what to do with your W-2s. Since you currently have fewer than 25 employees on your payroll, there are a few specific rules you should know about...


This email is specifically geared for a small business with fewer than 25 employees that’s growing its revenue. That’s extreme personalization, based on the data you have in your CRM platform and the segment you’ve created for this campaign.

It will take a business owner a good amount of time and effort to put this campaign together, from identifying the persona to segmenting the audience, designing the email, and writing the copy. The beauty of email templates, however, is that they can be reused. For example, when new accounting standards go into effect for small businesses, he can pull up this same template and tweak the content for each unique audience segment. He could switch out the size of the company or the topic of the white paper.

Templates, once created, cut the work and effort dramatically as you reach out to similar segments. They can also be re-used for annual holidays and events. Your customers will feel as though you are writing an individual email to them, when it really only took you a bit of time to revise a template.

Use templates and conduct A/B tests.

Templates make it simple to split test, also known as A/B test, different aspects of your email to make sure your message hits home. After you create an email template, you can easily test:

  • Subject line
  • Teaser copy
  • Personal greeting
  • Body copy
  • Call to action
  • Graphics
  • Layout

Basically, anything in your email campaign can be tested. Split testing helps you better personalize each persona’s journey by ensuring the content of your emails resonates with them. In many cases, adding your customer’s name to the subject line or greeting of your email can improve open and click-through rates, but that may not be the case for your company. You won’t know until you split test and carefully analyze the results.

All top marketing automation platforms offer an email builder with split testing capabilities, so continually test and refine your customer journey.

There’s no time like the present.

If you are just dipping your toe in the waters of using templates in your personalized email communication, there’s no need to start at the deep end of the pool. Start small by segmenting your customer list by whatever criteria you have available. Focus on one persona or segment and determine a journey with a clear goal. Create an email template. Split test one aspect, such as the subject line, of the email. Send it to your audience, analyze the response, and iterate.

Personalization is a process. As you send more emails, gather data on your audience and personas, and fill out your contact lists, you’ll be able to segment more intimately and craft more personalized journeys. You’ll also build up your library of images, content, and templates, which will make it fast and easy to craft outreach campaigns for new audiences. Even a small bit of personalization can go a long way toward showing your customers you know and understand them. They’ll appreciate the effort and reward you with their loyalty.

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