3 ways creators can use personalized email to grow their business

Email Marketing Monetize Your List
14 min read
In this Article

Imagine you walk to your mailbox on a random Tuesday and pull out an envelope.

You open it up to reveal a birthday card addressed to you from an old friend. It’s a lovely sentiment, but there’s just one problem—it isn’t your birthday.

Now imagine the birthday card did arrive on your birthday. That feels pretty special, right? A message is received much better when it comes at the right place, at the right time, to the right person.

When you email your audience, you’re taking the time to create something meant to help people worldwide. You can take that connection a step further with email personalization, creating a custom experience in the inbox.

Curious? Let’s get started.

What is email personalization?

Email personalization is the process of changing the details of the message to better suit the recipient. Personalizing emails make the content and design more custom to the reader and their interests, needs, location, or identity.

What you gain by personalizing emails

Since email personalization means setting up unique content for subscribers, it will take a little more work than having one standard email for everyone. Here’s why we think it’s worth it, though.

  • Higher open rates. The Litmus State of Email 2020 Report revealed that emails with personalized subject lines are 50% more likely to be opened. So something as simple as a name in a subject line could catch someone’s attention.
  • Better engagement. Like in our personal relationships, speaking to a person’s individuality in email is a powerful way to build a relationship and conversation. So, it isn’t too surprising that almost 75% of marketers say personalization in email increases engagement.
  • More sales. Content that’s personalized to the subscriber's interests, goals, or knowledge can help you make more sales because the offer comes to the right person at the right time. Litmus found that personalized emails generate a median ROI of 122%.

Email personalization vs. segmentation—what’s the difference?

Two of the best ways to make your emails more relevant for your audience are personalization and segmentation. These two strategies often come up in the same conversations, but there is a difference.

  • Email segmentation = grouping subscribers by interest, activity, demographic, or location and sending unique emails to each group.
  • Email personalization = customizing the content or design of an email for individuals.

Let's explore an example to see how the difference between email personalization and segmentation plays out in real life.

Imagine a pet photographer has an email list and wants to make their content even better and more relevant for subscribers. Subscribers are generally interested in either cat or dog photography.

In this scenario, the photographer could segment their list by creating a free ebook for each of the two pet types. If someone downloads the dog ebook, they’re placed in a “dog” segment. If they download the cat ebook, they’re placed in a “cat” segment. Then, each time the pet photographer releases a new course or event about a particular pet, they can send a broadcast to everyone with the relevant tag.

personalized email

Suppose the photographer also wants to personalize their emails. In that case, their newsletter could include conditional content blocks that share a different blog post depending on the individual. For example, if the subscriber watched the photographer’s latest sporting-dog photo vlog, the email could promote a dog action photo course. The email would show whichever blog post is newest for a subscriber who hasn't watched the vlog.

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3 email personalization examples to try

If you want to try personalizing your emails but aren’t sure what to try first, check out our list of three email personalization examples below. The examples are roughly placed in order of simplest to more complex, so personalization beginners can start at the top and work their way down.

#1: Add a subscriber’s name to the subject line or greeting

Adding a subscriber's name in your email's subject line or greeting is an excellent tactic to experiment with personalized emails. It isn’t going to change the reader’s experience drastically, but it is a nice touch that’s simple to implement.

The owner of Stray Curls, Angela Vaz, includes first names in email greetings, making each message feel a bit more like a note from a friend rather than an automated email. For example, when Angela announced her most recent ebook for sale, she used the subject line “My eBook is officially out, Stephanie!” to stand out in the inbox.

personalized email example
Addressing a subscriber by their first name at the start of every email is an easy way to try personalized email marketing. Image via Stray Curls.

How to do it in ConvertKit: Adding a subscriber name is as easy as pasting a “shortcode” in your email. A shortcode is a line of text that gives an email a command, such as including a name.

Here’s how to add subscribers’ first name to emails:

  1. Choose where you want to add a first name. You can put it in the greeting, in the body of the email, or the subject line.
  2. Paste the shortcode {{ subscriber.first_name }} where you want the name to appear
  3. If the shortcode is inside your personalized email (AKA not in the subject line), you can add “fallback code” if a subscriber hasn’t given you their name. For example, a personalized greeting with fallback would use “Hello {{ subscriber.first_name | strip | default: “there” }.” and display it as “Hello there” instead of “Hello [name].

#2: Personalize footer content to include relevant CTAs

If you want to sprinkle some personalization into your regularly scheduled programming, try custom footer content. A content snippet at the bottom of each email can include links to your social media accounts, call out your latest content, or promote paid products.

To personalize these footers, you can use conditional content that considers what a person has already seen. For example, if someone has already purchased your course, you can skip promoting it again and focus on your latest podcast episodes.

Brennan Dunn, the founder of Double Your Freelancing and Mastering ConvertKit, uses personalization to promote products each subscriber needs. For example, he shared on Jay Clouse’s podcast, Creative Elements, that new subscribers are segmented based on their goals and then placed into a personalized pitch email series.

If the subscriber doesn’t convert, they’re placed in an evergreen newsletter. Each week, the newsletter has a personalized pitch based on the subscriber’s goals and what content they interact with. Brennan shared that:

Brennan DunnThe goal was to get myself front-and-center weekly and soft promote a product. So every week, the newsletter goes out like clockwork, and there'll be an explicit personalized call to action in it that would link you to that product. But then, every quarter, there’s a live launch, which is just for you with the product that is recommended for you. So now, if you were to buy that product, subsequent emails and subsequent automated launches would then be based on how the offer funnel re-computes what you should buy next.

— Brennan Dunn

How to do it in ConvertKit: Liquid is a template language you can use with ConvertKit to create dynamic content in your emails. For example, conditional content statements show different content based on whether or not a subscriber has a tag. Here’s how you could use this personalization in your email footer:

  1. Decide what content you want to promote in your footer and how you’ll identify people by tags. For example, you might want to promote your high-end coaching services but exclude people who have already been through the program. In that case, you’ll need people who purchased the item to be tagged as a buyer.
  2. Create a new ConvertKit template where your footer will live. Setting up your standard email designs as templates makes creating unique content faster.
  3. At the bottom of the email template, include a conditional statement like this one:
    {% if subscriber.tags contains “Purchased coaching” %}
    This will show if the subscriber has the “Purchased course” tag.
    {% else %}
    This will show if the subscriber does not have the “Purchased coaching” tag.
    {% endif %}

#3: Send event updates based on location

If you’re a musician getting back out on the road or a speaker with a few events lined up, you can send one personalized email that highlights different events based on a subscriber’s location tags. Throw the Fight uses ConvertKit to ask new subscribers where they live and then target emails by location. Ryan Baustert, the guitarist for the band, shared that:

Ryan BaustertWe keep people posted on our tour dates or local options with segments, at least when we’re on the road and playing live shows,” he says. “Whenever we’re going to be in town, we use ConvertKit to send an update to people in those geographic radiuses so they can come see us play.

— Ryan Baustert

Segmenting your email list by subscriber location is a valuable tactic for musicians, speakers, or anyone who wants to offer custom content based on location. If you’re going to take personalizing emails a step further (and create one email instead of many), you can use dynamic content to show the most relevant info to each subscriber.

A personalized tour announcement email would bring the closest tour stop to the top for each subscriber. You can also add a sense of urgency and interest with a countdown timer.

How to do it in ConvertKit: A Liquid ‘Else-If’ statement lets you set up content for a few possibilities, such as a list of cities. The personalization runs down the list of statements to see if a subscriber fits any of the locations you list. If they don’t, fallback content (like your entire tour schedule) is shown. Here’s how to set it up:

  1. Make a list of location tags your subscribers have, such as city or state names.
  2. Write a line of text for each city, such as “Hey, Nashville! We’ll see you at 3rd and Lindsley on August 25th!” Be sure to include a general announcement if a subscriber doesn’t have a tag or live near a stop.
  3. Set up your announcement email and include your Liquid ‘Else-If' statements. A tour announcement could look like this:{% if subscriber.tags contains “Denver” %}
    Hey, Nashville! We’ll see you at 3rd and Lindsley on August 25th!
    {% elsif subscriber.tags contains “Kansas City” %}
    Hey, Kansas City! We’ll see you at The Truman on August 28th!
    {% else %}
    Guess who just added new tour dates? We did! Check out the complete list here.
    {% endif %}

How to get the data you need to personalize your emails

Is your head swirling with email personalization ideas yet? As you start to think about personalizing emails for your audience, you might realize there’s some additional subscriber info you need first. For example, if a pet photographer wanted to address a subscriber’s pet, they'd need to ask for the pet’s name alongside its human’s name.

There are two ways to collect subscriber info to use for personalization—custom fields on your landing pages or with subscriber tags.

Add custom fields on landing pages and forms

Adding custom fields to your ConvertKit landing pages and forms lets you gather subscriber info from the get-go. Here’s how to set up and use custom fields:

1. Navigate to your Subscriber list and choose any person. On the left side of the Subscriber profile, you’ll see fields for an email address and first name. Below the first name, click “+ Add a New Field.”

ConvertKit Personalized email
The “+ Add a new field” option on a subscriber profile lets you set up a space to collect the information you can use for personalization.

2. Add the label for your custom field, like “pet name” or “city” in the “Field name” box. Then, click “Update Subscriber.” The “Field name” is applied to every subscriber, but the “Field value” is only for the subscriber you’re viewing.

ConvertKit Personalized email
“Field name” is the label for your new piece of information, like “Last Name” or “State.” Whatever you put in that box will populate as an option for every user. “Field value” is specific to the subscriber you’re viewing.

3. Go to the “Landing pages & forms page” tab. From here, you’ll either click the “Create New” button for a new landing page or select an existing one from your account. Of course, if you need to make a new landing page or form, you get to choose a beautifully designed template to begin with.

4. Once you’re on the landing page editor, simply click on the “+” sign below the email address form. Landing pages and forms will ask for an email address at a minimum, and then you can add additional criteria. Once you click the “+” sign, a “Custom Field” bar will pop up to the right.

ConvertKit Personalized email
Your saved custom fields will appear in the “custom field” dropdown on the landing page and form builder. Adjusting the “Custom field label” changes the text subscribers see on the page.

5. Choose the “Field name” you just created via the subscriber profile from the dropdown “Custom field” list. Then, you can add a label that subscribers will see on the form and customize branding for the field. You’ll need to choose whether you want this new input to be required or not.

6. Click “Save & Publish.” Each time a subscriber uses the page and fills out the custom field, the information will be added to their profile.

7. When you’re ready to use your shiny new custom field data in an email, the process is similar to adding first name personalization from step one. Instead of using {{ subscriber.first_name }} for the shortcode, though, you’ll use {{ subscriber.custom_field }}. In our pet’s name example, the pet photographer could address someone’s pet by using “Hello {{ subscriber.pet_name }}”

Add subscriber tags

While there’s some subscriber information you can gather upfront, other details might emerge as time passes. For instance, you need to know what items a person has purchased to customize CTAs in future emails.

In that case, you need to automatically tag subscribers so that the information is ready to use when it’s time to personalize. You can tag subscribers with automation rules or visual automations. For now, let’s cover visual automations.

Visual automations have two components—triggers and actions. A trigger is an event that sets off the process, like a customer making a purchase. Next up is the action, like adding a tag to a subscriber so you can identify people for personalized emails.

  • If you want to add a tag when a subscriber makes a purchase: Select “new automation” on your Automations tab and select “Purchase” for your trigger and “Add or remove a tag” for your action.
  • If you want to add a tag when a subscriber uses a form: Select “new automation” on your “Automations” tab and select “Joins a form” for your trigger and “Add or remove a tag” for your action.
  • If you want to add a tag when someone clicks a link: Go to your “Automations” tab and click “Rules,” then “+ Add Rule.” From there, you can select “Clicks a link” as the trigger and add a destination URL. Then, add an action for the trigger.

Start personalizing your emails with ConvertKit

Part of the fun of growing your business with email marketing and being a creator is connecting with people in your audience. With ConvertKit and Liquid, you can personalize emails to make communication feel more relevant and human. Segmentation and tags also give you a way to tailor who receives your email at scale automatically. After you’ve hit send, you can monitor email performance to learn as you grow.

Want to give email personalization a try? Grow your email list for free with ConvertKit.

Connect with your audience

Share what you love to connect with your followers and grow your business with a free ConvertKit account.

Create a free ConvertKit account

Steph Knapp

Steph Knapp is a freelance B2B + SaaS content marketer that loves educating and empowering curious humans. When she's not typing away, you'll find her volunteering at the animal shelter and obsessing over a new hobby every week. She shares marketing, freelance, and cat content on Twitter @ hellostephknapp.

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