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Guest Post by Brent Holloway: Personalized Email vs. Mass Blast?

26 July 2011

Brent Holloway is one of my favorite people, as co-author of Sales 2.0. He is Regional Sales Director, Witness Actionable Solutions at Verint Systems Inc. As a top notch, get-it-done sales leader, when Brent shares some advice, we all do well to stop and listen.  Let’s listen now to what he has to say about the dilemma of personalized email vs. impersonal mass blasts.

How do you decide?

When it comes to email marketing, sales and marketing managers frequently weigh the trade-offs between writing effective but inefficient personalized messages vs. efficient but generic mass blast campaigns.  How do you choose?  Consider the two sample email messages below.

Message #1:
Subject: XYZ Corporation Product Announcement
Dear Customer,
XYZ Corporation is pleased to announce the introduction of our 7th generation cloud-based super technology. If you are currently on maintenance, you have the option to upgrade with no additional license fees.  Attached is a document that summarizes some of the key enhancements and the top reasons why many of our customers will be upgrading to v7.  Please contact our sales department if you would like to learn more.

XYZ Corporation

Message #2:
Subject: Update from Eric at XYZ Corporation
Hi Susan,
I wanted to let you know that we are introducing our 7th generation cloud-based super technology.  Since you already use v6 and you are current on maintenance, you have the option to upgrade with no additional license fees.  Attached is a document that summarizes some of the key enhancements and the top reasons why many of our customers will be upgrading to v7.  Please let me know if you would like to schedule some time to discuss it further.

Thank you,

Eric Reed
Account Executive
XYZ Corporation
(408) 555-5555
—————————

Which would you prefer to send or, for that matter, receive?  I think we’d all agree #2 is better.  Now ask yourself, which message came from a corporate email automation system?  #1, of course. (I can hear the “duh!”)   But did you know that #2 also came from a corporate email automation system?

Leading marketing automation vendors such as Eloqua and Marketo enable tailored messaging that goes beyond simply entering the customer’s first name in the greeting.  For example, you can align each customer with their associated salesperson (this can be done manually or by importing from a spreadsheet), and the appropriate salesperson’s email signature can be automatically inserted at the end to give a more customized feel.  Taking it a step further, let’s assume your customers can be segmented into four major product categories.  You can write four tailored messages and the email system will insert the appropriate message for each customer, as well.  Finally, the content can be written to be intentionally informal to further enhance the feeling that it was hand written just for them.  Each customer’s email will appear to come directly from their salesperson and, in the second example message above, if the customer hits reply, the response email will go directly into Eric Reed’s inbox, even though it was sent from the corporate email system.

Does personalizing e-mail make a difference?

You bet it does!  One large enterprise software company (that prefers to remain anonymous) reported response rates that more than doubled when they used the personalized mass blast approach in the second example vs. the more generic, traditional automated email used in the first.

How many of you have tried a personalized approach to automated email? What have your results been like?