by Brittany Ferrera, Customer Success & Marketing Manager at Communications Edge Inc

Personalized sales emails are being opened less and marked as spam more. In fact, personalizing is often a telltale sign that your cold email template is spam. 

What? Hear me out. Our community’s experience doesn’t lie. Other third-party research (Gartner) also aligns.

Recipients no longer appreciate conventional email personalization techniques. They despise them. With good reason. Personalization is seen (by prospects) as a faked attempt at being relevant, authentic. 

Let’s explore the likely problem in your scenario.

Is this your problem too?

The most common problems our members (sales reps & small business owners) experience when reaching out are:

  1. confusing personalization with contextual relevance and/or 
  2. believing personalized messages create relevance.

This confusion interferes with a message’s authenticity, sincerity and effectiveness. It subverts your ability to be relevant.

Over-reliance on personalizing drives down response rates, causing you to earn fewer conversations.

According to Gartner, marketers will have all but abandoned personalized email techniques -- in just a few more years. 

What’s going on here?

Decision-makers no longer appreciate automated personalization. They never did. Clients see it as fake, insincere, mechanized crap.  

Context cannot be automated

When designing cold email outreach campaigns, automating personal details (name, company name, title) is different from including the decision-maker’s accurate business context.

Context is what you want to customize.

Context is the difference between making surface-level observations (“I noticed this about you”) and deeper insights (“Based on significant research I pieced this together about you”).  

“C-level executives are looking for insights from you that they won't get anywhere else,” says Ian Meharg of Visible Pathway. “And that's not your product---it's your insight into their world and where others are doing things they should be aware of to improve their own business.”

Your customer understands the difference between an observation and an insight.

Do you? You do now!

This distinction is clearly seen in automated personalization of email messages -- a dying marketing practice which is even more poisonous in sales.

You will be wise to use a context-focused outreach methodology to start conversations.

Challenge: Authentic, accurate context cannot be automated. It’s also difficult to scale. But automation does play a supportive role.

3 facts you should know

Getting your messages delivered, and read, demands you change. Consider a way to customize your mass or one-to-one email message. Always write with these facts in mind.

  1. There’s a difference between personalization and business context. 

  2. There's a conflict between mass emailing and creating relevant context.
  3. Inserting accurate business context outperforms automating personal details.

Personalization is no longer enough to earn conversations.

Mass emailing (templates) doesn’t create enough contextual relevance. 

When you create relevant context, everything changes. Customers respond and engage.

Observations vs. insights

Let’s quickly appreciate the difference between an observation and an insight. 

“Hey Jeff, quick question---are you still heading up conferences & events hosted by Molander And Associates Incorporated?”

This is from my own inbox. Notice the structure of this opening email sentence. It’s an automated observation. Designed by a human, but researched, written and sent by machines.

A quick glance at this template shows me it’s automated, and I can initially tell that because the information isn’t accurate. This shows me bots were auto-combing my information and came up with the wrong observation.

I never had anyone working for me heading up conferences. Nor is my company name correct. We changed names years ago. The data this seller’s auto-bot is pulling from is inaccurate. 

Worse, the message attempts to fake relevancy by pretending to be from someone who knows me (“Hey, Jeff”).  

“Humans continue to be able to detect true personalization (contextual relevancy) vs machine mimicry,” says Jeremy Donovan of SalesLoft. 

“Before dynamic fields existed for Hey <first name>, you knew what was person vs. machine. Now we know that sort of mimicry is machine-made. So, salespeople, to be authentic, must always go one step beyond what machines can do.”

Bottom line: Effective email personalization techniques avoid "mail merging" name and company data. Automation.  

There is a better way. Knowing the difference between an observation and an insight is the first step. 

  • Observations are cheap and easy to create;
  • insights take time, are thoughtful and are often useful to the prospect.

They’re provocative.

Prospects understand this. Insights “jump out” from the noise. They’re distinct. They stand out.

Automating personalization and templates is dangerous

Beware of automating sales email personalization via templates and auto-inserting observations. It’s increasingly difficult and often not worth investing time into, especially in Enterprise sales environments. 

Ultimately “it depends” on a dozen or so factors.

Automated personalization often includes observations like:

  • name
  • company name
  • industry sector
  • city or region
  • other easily observed information from a website or LinkedIn profile

These observations are often mechanically (or using humans) scraped and strung together in an attempt to create “personalized context.” But this level of personalization is tricky, often ineffective.  

Beware. You may not want to get caught up in the increasing noise.

Automation of messages should be restrained to some of the means of delivery -- avoid creation of business context. 

Prospects don't trust you

“What’s the biggest challenge you have as a vendor or service provider?” asks sales trainer, Scott Channell, in a recent blog post.

His answer: Your prospects don’t trust you.

“They have been on the receiving end of too many exaggerations and lies,” says Channell, who then asks, “How much sincerity do you have to fake to earn trust?”

Think this isn’t happening in your organization or in your daily practice? It may be.

Have you ever written a mass email template pretending to have done research -- even though you haven’t? Ever pretend to understand a customer’s context?

“Hi Jeff, I am very interested in what you are doing and wanted to invite you to combine forces to help your business have more exposure …”

Or...

“Hi Jeff, I came across your website this weekend and was really impressed by your expertise...”

The people sending these kinds of lies are struggling to start conversations. Because customers see through the faked sincerity… the lies.

Psychologically, people want to know sellers have done the research and know their product or service is right for them -- not just because they want to make a sale. Rather, because it’s a good fit. 

It wastes less time on both sides of the exchange. It also makes people wonder, “What else might this person know that could help me?”

Instead, we are taking a different approach. Even in the Targeted (one-to-many) sending context. 

Instead, this technique drives response

Here’s what our Spark Selling Academy community is discovering. Nothing beats an email containing primary research. Strong context. 

The message is so authentic and relevant it slaps your prospect across the face! 

This technique we practice is:

  • Authentic (it’s not a cut-and-pasted spam template)
  • Relevant (to the decision-maker’s business context)
  • Supported by automation (follow-ups)

Join us. Learn a new sales email technique to provoke conversation. Help prospects feel an urge to open the email and respond. 

But it will take an unconventional approach.


About the Author

Brittany Ferrara gives our customers and internal team everything needed to stay focused, on-task, effective and ultimately successful. She gives us an organizational, marketing & customer support edge. Brittany brings seven years of customer service, administrative assisting and marketing experience to us. She is a successful entrepreneur, having operated her own successful venture, Pro-Assist, LLC for five years before joining our team.

Brittany Ferrara

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  • Nothing beats an email containing primary research. Strong context.

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