I often hear marketers say they want to use more personalization in their marketing. Using profile data to make emails more tailored and user specific. And a lot are doing it. In fact, a recent report from the Data-Driven Marketing Association (DDMA) found that 63% of organizations say that personalized customer contact has already proven its value to them.

But personalization is by no means a guarantee your emails will feel more personal.

Notice the word "feel." That's because a personal email isn't about the amount of data used to personalize, it’s about the email feeling personal. So how to make it feel personal?

A preferred way is to use the content and language to make that personal connection. Let's look at seven ways to make your email hit harder without using actual personalization or data.

1. For Better Email, Use the Right Ideology Patterns

Your word choice reflects what’s important to you. Brands that write from their own perspective overly use "me," "myself" and "I" and talk about themselves — a lot. Their brand, their gains, their goals, their interests, their news, etc.

The research "Top Language Tips for Better Email" from Everlytic & BreadCrumbs gives some great insights. They analyzed 23,000 words and over 50 emails from the financial industry. Now financials are known for using complex and impersonal text, but the research discovered two very interesting things.

One is the use of ideology patterns. Language reflects what we find important. You can imagine that these themes are the ones they found most frequently in financial industry email marketing. The themes are Incentives, Aspiration, Trust and Support. By setting the ideologies to match the reader, you are setting yourself up for a valued experience.

ideology patterns

Switch out your own goals in favor for the readers' pain (and how you solve it). It is very easy to start writing from a writer's perspective. But instead, just skip all that. Your message should end with the benefits your reader gets. So not what the writer wants, but what the reader gets. That makes it easier to focus on WIIFM: What's in it for me. Don't say, "I hope you will enjoy … " just skip the whole, "I hope you will." Even stronger is to motivate those benefits (why should they care?) by focusing on the problem, the pain, first.

Related Article: 5 Ways Transparent Personalization Can Win Over Customers

2. Get Closer Through Connection-Based Language in Email

What I found even more interesting was the conclusion from the same research by Everlytic:

"Brands that use connection-based language create a better reader experience that results in boosted levels of engagement. And the trend for top mailers is that they all used connection-based language."

The four most used connection words from the study are "your," "you," "we," and "our."

Subjective, objective, possessive and reflective. Here is a table that shows the various options in addressing people.

personal pronouns
grammar monster

When using words like "your," "you," "we," and "our," it helps build a stronger relationship with the person on the other side.

An example to show the difference:

thank you for subscribing
essence of email

This is an interesting example of a welcome email we can learn from — it is a great illustration of what goes into connection based language.

For quick and casual readers the email seems to have great copy. It involves the audience in a personal way, and shows personality, so that is already great. But depending on how you read it, it can feel very self-centered (and trying a bit too hard). Now why is that?

The text is self-centered, because the writer uses "I," "me," "mine" very often: 12 times. Almost every sentence starts with an action or feeling of the writer.

Learning Opportunities

3. Do the Email We-We Test

It’s pretty easy to spot a selfishly written message, once you know how. Use the We-We test: Count how many times you use "I, me, our, us, our product, company name etc." vs. "You, your, ours, etc.", then see how you can reduce the mentions of yourself in favor of connection-based language.

A few small tweaks and an email can feel way less about yourself and more about the reader feeling appreciated and engaged. So when we add more connection-based language, focus on the connection, the reader and the relationship. So yes, the example is a personal letter, and has merits. But as a rule — there has to be value in it for the reader, in contrast with 100% conversion focused emails.

women you tshirt

4.  Make the Reader Feel Part of a Group in Your Email

What if we are able to make the reader feel like a part of a group of insiders, a community? Not only would it be focusing on the relationship, it would also redefine what "us," "our" and "we" means in your writing. For example: "Us both being marketers, we know that…" Or wording like, "let's," meaning, "let us both." In this case the meaning shifts to the connection, the community, the relation.

Related Article: Personalization and Segmentation: How They're Different and Why It Matters

5. Simply Say It in a Conversational Tone

Hmmm … when you want to make your emails more personal, a conversational tone works like magic. Now how to "go convo"? The easiest way is to write like you talk and like you're specifically talking to one person.

Take that very literally. So we aren't writing, we are talking. And not to a group, but to someone specific.

For instance, my man John. This can be a real person you know, or a persona if you have 'em. Start talking with John, move your lips. Now we're starting to get there.

What happens? Sounds, tiny sentences, exaggeration, emotion, shorthand, contractions, emphasis and lyrical devices start to pop up. Hallelujah, amazing! It is the million dollar tip. Conversational writing comes over way more natural and personal.

A lot of people vocalize your text when reading. That means when they read, they'll hear it. A voice in their mind. Very weird, I know. But you may be doing the same right now reading this text.

Bonus tip: Use "my" in your call-to-action. This may feel a bit odd in the beginning, but test it. Use the possessive singular in the call to action and buttons. So use "my." That switch of perspective does make sense for the reader, even if it doesn't seem to make much sense at first.

Don't say: "Claim a seat."

Better:  "Claim your seat."

Even better: "Claim my seat."

Conclusion on Getting Personal With Your Emails

A personal email is all about making the email feel personal — 53% of email marketers do not use any segmentation or personalization in their email campaigns. But with language to make that personal connection, you can make your emails more relatable and hit harder. Pick the right ideology patterns, use connection based language, make them part of the group and always keep the text conversational.

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