Mastering the Art of Email Personalization: Tactics and Tools for Relevant Outreach at Scale

Mastering the Art of Email Personalization: Tactics and Tools for Relevant Outreach at Scale

Out of all the cold emails you receive daily, how many of them do you open, enjoy reading, and then actually respond to? 

As inboxes get more crowded, the emails that do succeed usually share one major trait — they deliver something valuable or interesting with a touch of personalization. Generic, low-quality outreach that makes someone feel like just a name on a list won’t grab your customer’s attention anymore, let alone result in a closed deal. 

Yet as emails remain the number one channel for connecting with the audience, SDRs are swiftly mastering the art of personalization to break through the noise and create meaningful connections. 

Let’s dive deep into the intricate world of email personalization and discover some effective tactics and tools to elevate your outreach along the way.

What is email personalization and why is it important?

In simple terms, email personalization is the practice of making an email unique to each recipient, tailored to their individual needs and preferences, while doing so at scale. 

By adopting this practice, salespeople will also ensure they send the right message to the right person at the right time. 

The importance of email personalization in today’s busy business landscape cannot be understated. Here are some hard numbers to prove that:

  • Message personalization is the second most effective strategy for email marketing campaigns, following segmentation. 
  • Personalized emails show the prospect that you’re making a genuine effort to connect, building trust and credibility with your potential customers, which leads to significantly improved open rates (29%), reply rates, and conversion rates. 
  • Moreover, personalization is essential for customer engagement, which can translate to 20% more sales
  • While it will take some extra time to craft such emails compared to generic mass outreach campaigns, it pays off as 76% of customers will be dissatisfied due to a lack of personalization.  

Besides, it only seems fair to invest some time in your prospects when asking them to do the same in return.

Key points of personalization in cold email

While crafting effective cold email outreach is no walk in the park, we can start by breaking down the 5 key components of your cold emails that can (and should) be personalized: 

  1. Subject lines — are the gateways to your emails as the very first part of your message that prospects will view, making it vital to add a spark of personalization right then and there. Quite often, the subject line will determine whether your emails are opened or sent straight to spam, making your personalization efforts go unnoticed. 
  2. Introductions — personalized intro sentences create a warm and inviting basis for connection, making your prospects, at the very least, interested in what you have to say. Addressing them by their first name and showing that you’ve taken the time to do some research are a great formula to success. 
  3. Value propositions — as we get to the main part of our cold email, it’s imperative that you directly connect your value proposition with their unique business, rather than simply describing how great your product or service is. In other words, highlighting exactly how your product can be of value to their specific needs, perhaps with case study examples from similar clients. 
  4. CTAs — it’s not a real sales or marketing email if there’s no call-to-action (CTA), but instead of ending all your messages with a standard book-a-demo CTA, why not tailor it to each prospect’s stage in their buyer journey? For instance, new leads can get a CTA to check out your product video and learn more, whereas those who’ve shown strong purchase intent may get a calendar link to book a meeting. 
  5. Postscripts — while not a must-have part of a cold email, personalized postscripts (P.S.) are a fun way to end your emails on a high note and make them memorable. Postscripts can be hyper-personalized to your liking, either related to your product and offering or your prospect’s individual information, such as interests, achievements, etc.  

All these email elements can be personalized to create a unique engagement experience for each prospect, making your cold emails perform far better than generic mass outreach (which today’s customers can spot right away).  

12 Laws of Effective Cold Outreach to Boost Your Reply Rates [Reply Masterclass]

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Best practices for cold email personalization

Creating effective personalized emails involves more effort than simply adding your prospects’ first names in the greeting, although that’s a great start. 

Some other noteworthy best practices include: 

  • Targeting only relevant prospects is the first step to meaningful personalization, as it lays the foundation for crafting emails that resonate with your recipients. Segmenting your email list based on separate buyer personas (or the features they share, like demographics, behavior, purchase intent, etc.) allows you to choose the most relevant personalization approach for each prospect group. 
  • Extracting relevant data is the foundation of personalization, which is why savvy SDRs allocate a good chunk of their time to researching their prospects, usually on LinkedIn. Information such as company size, interests, and technology used will transform a simple sales email template into an appealing, warm message. 
  • Gearing up with the right tools will assist you in your personalization journey by enhancing, automating, and scaling your tailored email outreach. Nowadays, we have access to an array of advanced tech that allows us to completely eliminate generic, manual outreach, especially with the boom of AI (more on that later). 
  • Nailing the timing is an often overlooked element of email personalization, yet so crucial. Even the most tailored, relevant message won’t yield results unless it matches your prospect’s stage in their buyer journey. Setting up behavioral triggers can help sales teams determine the best timing for outreach in real-time, for instance, being notified when your prospect visits your pricing page multiple times. 
  • Analyzing your results is the closing part of mastering email personalization, which involves A/B testing email campaigns and making sense of key metrics to continuously refine your email personalization strategy. This will unravel the most successful personalization techniques for each customer base, further enhancing conversion rates. 

Once you’ve set up the processes for gathering relevant prospect data and using it to tailor your email templates, aided by email personalization software to ensure you’re emailing the best message at the best time — you are battle-ready to begin your personalized email outreach.

5 email personalization techniques (+ personalization tools to implement them)

Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to put theory into practice with effective strategies and proven email personalization tools.

While there are countless email personalization techniques at your disposal, here are the top 5 that we use at Reply and can personally recommend.

Variables

Variables are unique data points that are automatically added to your email templates at the corresponding text fields. For example, the most popular email variable — the {{FirstName}} field — would be automatically replaced with your prospect’s name so you don’t have to type it manually for each email. 

However, there are other types of variables that are slightly more complex, using if-else syntax and contextual data to fill in the gaps with personalized information dynamically. 

For instance, we often target companies growing their sales teams with our cold outreach. When contacting such prospects with hiring intent, we would use the {{Company}} and {{JobOpeningTitle}} variables in our cold email templates, e.g.: 

“I’m reaching out to you because I’ve been reviewing {{Company}}’s website and noticed that you are hiring {{JobOpeningTitle}}.”

In this case, the {{Company}} text field would be automatically replaced with our prospective company’s name, and depending on what position the business is hiring for, the {{JobOpeningTitle}} would be replaced with “3 SDRs,” “2 AEs,” “a Sales Manager,” etc. 

A neat example of an if-else variable could be a {{CompanyType}} text field with the following parameters: 

  • 1-5 employees → start-ups
  • 5-50 employees → SMBs
  • 50-500 employees → bigger companies
  • 500+ employees → enterprise companies

In this case, your value proposition sentence would look like this: 

“Since our company has already helped other {{CompanyType}} like…” , 

where the variable will be substituted with the relevant company type for a more appealing pitch. 

While this may seem difficult and/or time-consuming, gearing up with a reliable sales engagement platform like Reply can automate this process with ease. 

Sales reps will research and add prospect information for each variable to a simple CSV/Excel file, so when they send out their cold emails, tools like Reply will automatically substitute the text fields with the input data. 

Basically, almost any email automation tool out there would allow real-time email personalization with variables, be it email marketing software like Mailchimp, HubSpot, and Drip or sales engagement platforms, like multiple Reply competitors.

Check out more email personalization examples using variables to further personalize your email templates.

Visuals (images/GIFs/video)

Considering that most people are visual learners, it’s no secret that adding images, GIFs, and videos is a proven way to spice up your email outreach and increase conversion rates. But besides simply being eye-catching and fun, visuals are a great way to add personalization. 

Images, GIFs, and videos can be dynamically personalized at scale, just like variables. There are tools that allow you to add custom textual (recipient name, company name, etc.) or visual elements (company logo, location-related background, etc.) dynamically to your images or videos for a tailored visual experience.

Here’s an example of a dynamic image that worked wonders for us in the past: 

This is one of our early-day image personalization techniques that I believe is suitable for all tech-savvy SDRs. 

To make it happen, I used a simple Excel file with a list of prospective companies and links to their logo images. Next, I added this dynamic image field to our template’s HTML code, and automation took care of the rest.

I’ve explained the process in more detail in this post.

Luckily, it is now much easier to incorporate such personalized visuals into emails with dedicated personalization tools. Two of my favs are:

  • Hyperise is a pretty versatile personalization toolkit with advanced image personalization features like adding custom texts, images, maps, and other forms of content to existing introductory visuals, ideal for cold email prospecting.
  • Sendspark is an excellent tool that, among other great video-creating features, enables sales teams to create personalized prospecting videos, which can be especially impactful introductions. 

Image personalization 101: tips, tools, and examples

Learn the basics of image personalization to create picture-perfect cold emails and drive 2X warm replies with your outreach.

Links and landing pages

Once your sales or marketing emails are opened, more often than not, there is a link somewhere in the message ready to take your recipients to your company’s website. But what if, instead, they were redirected to personalized landing pages right from the get-go?

With a bit of coding or a dedicated personalization tool, you can create dynamic landing pages tailored to your individual recipients, and there are several strategies to choose from. 

First, you could build customizable landing pages that are more relatable to each customer segment. Products with multiple use cases can have multiple landing pages designed for each industry, so when marketing prospects click the link in your email, they get the marketing landing page, agency prospects get the agency-specific one, and so on. 

Second, you might choose to have one main landing page but with customizable variables built into the code, which will be replaced with information on your prospects. Take a look at this example from a while ago. As you can see, the company and prospect’s names as well as the department are dynamically adjusted for every person who visits the page.

While I prefer the old-school approach that involves some coding, which I’ve explained here, there are also many tools that automate the whole process, including Hyperise we’ve mentioned earlier or more advanced no-code personalization platforms like Mutiny.

Custom snippets 

We’ve touched upon fixed variable text fields like {{First Name}} and {{Industry}} earlier, but there’s a way to turn it up a notch with custom, hyper-personalized text fields — snippets.

Snippets are completely flexible as they can contain virtually any prospect information that you feel will help break the ice and spark a conversation, such as complimenting their achievements or mentioning their interests.

They will look just like your other text field variables, only instead of automated dynamic content filling in the gaps, SDRs will have to manually enter a short, personalized sentence for effective snippets.  

In most cases, LinkedIn has everything you need on each prospect to create personalized snippets, but even so, this technique will still take around 5 minutes per person. For this reason, it’s best to save personalized snippets for high-level professionals and prospects who have shown strong purchase intent. 

For instance, say your prospect’s interest page on LinkedIn looks something like this:

Clearly, they are a fan of video games, so you can try to find a way to hook their interest to your value proposition: 

“Recently, I’ve been viewing your social media profile and noticed that you’re a video games fan. Just like video games have transformed the world of entertainment by adding depth and personalization to virtual experiences, our solution can revolutionize how your sales team conducts prospecting and outreach.”

Pro tip: Make the most of your snippets by adding them at the very beginning of your email, so it’s the first thing your prospects see when opening your email and even prior to that (as a preview in the inbox).

While it will definitely take some time to research your prospect beyond the general information and then think of a fun way to work with it, thankfully, there are some great tools to give us a hand. 

Quicklines, ColdList, and HumanLinker are all fantastic examples of a dedicated email personalization tool for scraping your prospects’ LinkedIn pages for relevant data, and then creating personalized snippet one-liners with the magic of AI. From personalized icebreakers to contextual pitches — they’ve got you covered.

AI personalization

You might have noticed that the tools that help you create personalized snippets and icebreakers at scale mostly rely on AI. This comes as no surprise considering the explosive growth of generative AI tech like ChatGPT. 

Yet you don’t have to settle for just a custom icebreaker or intro when it comes to AI-powered email personalization. There’s so much more potential to tap! 

For example, Jason AI, Reply’s built-in AI assistant, allows you to craft totally unique emails or even multichannel sequences based on the given use case, business purpose, and specific prospect data points.

What’s more, we’re adding incredibly powerful personalization capabilities with the next release to allow you to generate unique messages for your contacts based on individual recipient’s parameters to make your outreach more relevant and effective, enhancing the likelihood of engagement and conversion.

And there’s more AI magic to be added in the coming weeks with the ability to create custom intro lines for each of your prospects at scale. These lines will be personalized based on one of the two data sources:

  • Our own B2B database with 10+ available data points, including Industry, Company Size, Company Location, Job Title, Department, etc.
  • Social media information, including job changes/promotions, interests, or profile summary.

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AI Personalization in Reply

With a familiar and intuitive interface it brings a lot to the table with generative capabilities powered by ChatGPT. And you don’t need any prompting skills to use it and get the best results every time. 

However, there are more ways AI can help with email personalization.

  • You can use AI to analyze a prospect’s online behavior in real-time and predict their preferences, pain points, and likelihood of purchase, all giving insights into the most optimal engagement message and timing for each prospect. Humantic AI, a powerful AI buyer intelligence platform, does just that with their advanced buyer analysis dashboard and assistant. 
  • AI also allows you to create and personalize visual content at scale. With tools like Ubique, all you need to do is record a single video message. With some AI magic, they will create endless compelling video messages to each one of the prospects on your list.
  • If you prefer social selling and outreach on LinkedIn, there are also tools like Prosp that use the information from the prospect’s profile to create and send highly personalized LinkedIn messages. 

All in all, AI-powered email personalization is a commanding competitive advantage due to its efficiency and scalability without hindering the quality of personalization even the slightest. In my humble opinion, this is the future of email personalization, so it’s about time to gear up with tools like Reply.io and integrate AI into your sales workflows! 

The key to effective sales emails — human outreach at scale 

It’s no secret that everyone, including all your prospects, wishes to engage with human beings rather than automation tools. So, on your journey to scaling and automating your email outreach with technology, remember that your sales reps will still be at the steering wheel. 

Fusing the muscle of automations with the heart of humans is the key to effective email outreach, allowing you to build trust with potential buyers at scale. 

Modern personalization outreach tools can do virtually everything except mimic the emotional intelligence of humans, which is crucial in fostering connections on every occasion, far beyond sales.  

Deciding on which personalization elements to include and researching relevant information to make a connection all rest on the shoulders of sales teams, and that’s what makes it special to the recipients. 

Humans are also the ones who examine all the metrics produced by tools and AI to make continuous improvements in their email outreach strategies for further optimization.

Final word 

As more businesses are implementing email personalization strategies — and the number will only keep growing because generic messaging no longer works with contemporary buyers — new strategies and tools will emerge on the market.  

So it will be even more important for sales teams to stay ahead of the curve with creative personalization techniques. 

Use the above-mentioned email marketing personalization tips and sales outreach tactics to refine your email strategies and come up with more tactics to make you stand out from the crowd.

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