Personalized Outreach at Scale. Part 4: Variables

Personalized Outreach at Scale. Part 4: Variables

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It’s a common belief that it’s hard to do cold email personalization at scale. And that often leads to debates about its effectiveness in general.

No argument there. Setting up a hyper-personalized email sequence is indeed a time-consuming task, especially if you manually research each prospect for relevant information that you can use as a custom snippet.

Using personalized images and landing pages (tactics that we’ve detailed earlier) also requires some extra effort.

But what if you could make email templates more personalized and human in just one click?

This is when variables come into play.

In this article, I will take a closer look at the most popular types of variables and share some templates for you to steal.

A guide to email variables: common types and use cases

A variable (or a “merge field”) is a text field in an email template that is automatically filled with the corresponding data.

Simply put, variables allow you to insert custom words/phrases/snippets into your email automatically instead of entering the required text for each recipient individually. For example, if you use a {{First Name}} variable in your template and send it to 100 different recipients, each one of them will get an email with the corresponding name on it.

By far the easiest option for email personalization at scale, variables allow you to tailor the email content based on persona, job title, industry, vertical, location, or even context. This helps you make your messages feel warm, relevant, and appealing to each recipient on your list without much effort.

Personalization variables can be elementary, like {{First Name}} or {{Company}} or more complex ones using if-else syntax and contextual data.

So, let’s dig into the most useful types of variables to personalize your outreach at scale (along with some examples).

General (default) variables

General or ‘default’ variables are the most popular among the SDRs, BDRs and AEs, so you’ve probably seen some of them. These include the most basic ones like {{First Name}}, {{Title}}, {{Country}}, {{Company Name}}, {{Industry}}, etc. 

These variables rely on default data from the contact profile that is usually a breeze to find. This makes them a go-to option for beginner (or just lazy) SDRs.

And while you shouldn’t expect this kind of personalization to impress your prospects, starting your email with Hi {{First Name}} has long become a norm for automated email communication. So you shouldn’t ignore default variables either.

Intent variables

Intent variables help you create relevance at scale based on the given context. For example, you can use variables like {{Technology}}, {{Hiring}}, {{Company_Growth}} to personalize your outreach to companies based on the tech tools they use, their recent job openings, investments, or acquisitions, etc.

We are also using an intent-based variable {{Job_Opening_Title}} in our outreach to target companies that are currently looking to expand their sales teams. Here’s how it looks like in an email:

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

In this case, the variable {{Job_Opening_Title}} will be automatically replaced with the relevant information depending on the context, i.e., an SDR, 3 SDRs, 2 AEs, a VP of Sales, etc.

Research variables

Research-based variables, such as {{Competitor}}, {{Department Size}}, {{Hobby}}, {{Technographics}}, etc., represent a slightly different approach to personalization at scale.

As you might have guessed from the name, it takes some manual research to gather the required information since it’s not something that you can automatically pull from a person’s LinkedIn profile or B2B database in bulk.

Yet, using this type of variable will show the prospects that you’ve put some effort into crafting personalizing this email — which will definitely pay off with high open and reply rates.

For example, I usually look up the prospect’s tech stack, e.g., the CRM they use, and save the data as a custom field {{Technographics}} in their profile. So if I decide to use this data in my outreach with research variable, my template will look like this:

I’m reaching out to you as I’ve noticed that you at {{Company}} are using {{Technographics}} as your CRM.

As mentioned earlier, you can use the same approach to refer to other relevant information like their department size, the competitor they are using, or even more personal details (their hobby) in your emails.

If-else variables

The if-else type of variables allow you to not just insert some information from the prospect profile into your emails, but automatically tailor your messages based on the additional data fields.

For example, if you have the info about the prospect’s company size in your CRM or SEP, you can create a {{Company Type}} variable and use it in your emails:

Since our company has already helped other {{Company Type}} like...

Using the if-else logic, the {{Company Type}} variable will be replaced by the corresponding word based on the data about the company size from your CRM, i.e.:

  1. 1-5 employees → start-ups
  2. 5-50 employees → SMBs
  3. 50-500 employees → bigger companies
  4. 500+ employees → enterprise companies

In this case, the variables will be dynamically replaced with the corresponding information based on the pre-set parameters. Similarly, you can create if-else variables using the information about Industry, Job Title, Location, etc.

By the way, I’ve also used this type of variable to personalize greetings based on prospects' location. I have a list of greetings in different languages for all countries our prospects come from. So when I add a custom {{Greeting}} variable to my emails, it will be replaced by the greeting in the corresponding language, based on the prospect’s location.

Personalization variables (snippets)

Personalization variables or rather snippets are custom text fragments you can add to the standardized email templates to give them a more genuine feel.

Implementing this type of variable into your email outreach requires slightly more effort — around 5-15 minutes per prospect to be precise. So I recommend using it when targeting top-tier leads that perfectly match your ICP or have shown any buying signals to be sure your effort is actually worth it.

Personalization variables offer a surefire way to make your outreach 100% personal at scale. It’s also one of the most flexible approaches to email personalization since you can use any information available online (and not just default data points).

Here are some examples of what we’ve used as the personalization variables:

  • I found your company on ProductHunt - love the simplicity and necessity of your product for modern dev teams!
  • Congrats on your 8th anniversary at Microsoft!
  • Noticed you are a Bill Gates fan. Have you seen "Inside Bill's Brain"?

Pro tip ⚡️: Including the personalization snippet at the very beginning of the emails (even before the greeting), so it’s the first thing a prospect sees upon opening your email, will help you quickly grab the prospect’s attention.

Conditional (dynamic) variables

Conditional (aka dynamic) variables allow you to add an extra layer of personalization to your emails using context.

Whether it's a custom CTA that automatically adjusts to the time/day when the email is sent or more complex options with liquid syntax, they make your outreach look and feel more empathetic and allow you to build 1:1 engagement with each prospect at scale.

Since the release of dynamic and conditional variables in Reply last September (or even before that), I’ve enjoyed experimenting with this tactic a lot. As a result, I’ve come up with some easy-to-implement ideas on how to use them:

Greeting

The first thing that prospects see once they open your email, a greeting is one of the most underestimated parts of an email template. Most SDRs will just go with the default “Hi {{FirstName}}” then jump directly to the pitch. 

To avoid that, liven up your greeting with conditional variables:

  • how’s your {{today}} going? — e.g., how’s your Thursday going?
  • how was your {{day_before_now_1}}? — e.g., how was your Wednesday?
  • good {{time_of_the_day}}, {{FirstName}} — e.g., good afternoon, John

Call to  action

CTAs, on the other hand, are anything but overlooked. After all, it’s how you make the prospect do what you expect them to do after reading your email.

And you can use personalization with conditional variables to make your CTAs even more effective. My favorite tactic here is to dynamically adjust the day I suggest for our discovery call, based on when the email is sent, e.g.:

Do you have 10-15 minutes for a quick chat {{#if is_monday}}today or this Tuesday{{/if}}{{#if is_tuesday}}today or this Wednesday{{/if}}{{#if is_wednesday}}today or on Friday{{/if}}{{#if is_thursday}}today or tomorrow{{/if}}{{#if is_friday}}later today or early next week{{/if}}{{#if is_weekend}}early next week{{/if}}?

And this is what the prospect will see if the email is sent on Monday:

Do you have 10-15 minutes for a quick chat today or this Tuesday?

P.S.

Adding a personalized sign-off to your email is another way to stand out from the crowd and make a positive impression on your prospects. Here’s how to use a P.S. line featuring a conditional variables to do that:

{{#if time_of_the_day == 'morning' }} Have a wonderful {{now_month}} {{time_of_the_day}} 🌅 {{else}}{{/if}} {{#if time_of_the_day == 'afternoon' }} Have a wonderful {{now_month}} {{time_of_the_day}} ☀️ {{else}} {{/if}} {{#if time_of_the_day == 'evening' }} Have a wonderful {{now_month}} {{time_of_the_day}} 🌇 {{else}}{{/if}}

The variable will adjust your wishes based on the time of the day the email will be sent. In case it's sent in the morning, the prospect would see just this:

Have a wonderful February morning 🌅

Fallback syntax

Fallback syntax is a perfect option if you have to personalize some part of your emails manually while still doing your outreach at scale. 

For example, if you can't find the necessary information for some of your prospects, you might use a conditional variable with fallback syntax to use the default value in case the required data field is empty:

Reply has already helped other companies in the {{Industry | "SaaS"}}, such as ...

So, in case there’s no info about the prospect’s industry, the variable will be replaced with the default value — "SaaS" — once the email is sent.

If-else syntax

Lastly, using the if-else syntax with conditional variables allows you to achieve maximum flexibility and instantly add some personal touch to your emails.

It’s a super-powerful approach to email personalization based on different fields, conditions, etc. For example, I love tailoring my follow-ups based on how many times the prospect has viewed my previous email.

Another option is to tailor your CTA based on whether you have the prospect’s phone number or not:

{{#if Phone}} Can I call you at this number {{Phone}} to discuss details? {{else}} BTW, what is your phone number? {{/if}}

Putting the variables to work

Wrapping up, here’s an email template that includes all of the listed types of variables:

Good {{Time of Day}} {{First Name}},

{{Noticed you are a PS fan. Have you already played “God of War 2018”?}}

I’m reaching out because I’ve been reviewing {{Company}}’s AngelList page and noticed that you’re hiring {{Job Opening Title}}. Given your role as {{Job Title}}, my assumption is that you are in charge of {{Responsibility}}.

In short, Reply has already helped other {{Job Title}}s from companies in the {{Industry}}, such as {{Company 1}} and {{Company 2}}: Our sales engagement platform accelerates their sales by automating communications with existing and potential customers.

Do you have 10-15 minutes for a quick chat {{#if is_monday}}today or this Tuesday{{/if}}{{#if is_tuesday}}today or this Wednesday{{/if}}{{#if is_wednesday}}today or on Friday{{/if}}{{#if is_thursday}}today or tomorrow{{/if}}{{#if is_friday}}later today or early next week{{/if}}{{#if is_weekend}}early next week{{/if}}?

And here is the breakdown of all the variables used:

  1. {{Time of Day}} → conditional
  2. {{noticed you are a PS4 fan...}} → personalization
  3. {{Company}} → general
  4. {{Job Opening Title}} → intent
  5. {{Job Title}} → general
  6. {{Title Responsibility}} → if-else
  7. {{Title Plural}} → if-else
  8. {{Industry}} → general
  9. {{Company1}} and {{Company2}} → research
  10. CTA(last sentence) → conditional

I know, that’s a lot to process. But I strongly encourage you to jump in and try some of the listed types of variables in your outreach. 

Trust me, it’s easier than it seems and it is definitely worth it! 😉

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