Think about the last email you received in your personal email inbox.

Let’s disregard any service-based emails i.e. order confirmations or notification emails.

I’m talking about those obvious “mass send” emails you receive every day just because you’re email is within a company’s database.

Chances are, outside of addressing it to your name or including a lazy “Dear *First Name*” line at the top of the email, there has been minimal effort to send you something contextually relevant based on your recent activity with that company.

But what are the most practical ways to personalise your emails to prospects and customers?

  • Using segmentation based on common audience criteria
  • Common behaviours across your website
  • Utilising automation to trigger timely and contextually relevant emails
  • Using dynamic content within emails
  • Using previous email activity

As Seth Godin mentioned in his book Permission Marketing, having someone’s email address gives you the privilege (not the right) to deliver anticipated, personal and relevant messages to that person and many others who actually want to receive them.

The problem is, most organisations are treating their database like the latter and are missing out on a goldmine of what delivering a truly personalised experience to their prospects and customers can provide them with, which is increased engagement, revenue and eventual advocacy.

Now look, if you are a bit guilty of this then it’s okay. Unless someone has unsubscribed from your database, you can still provide a great experience and the rewards that come with it, however, what are a few ways you can truly provide a personalised experience?

1) Using segmentation based on common audience criteria

Segmentation can range from basic customer details (i.e. age range, location & organisational role) to their interests and reasons for engaging with your brand.

A good place to start is to stick with around 3 core audience data points and use them within your strategy to craft unique content. You can achieve this by simply asking your visitors the right questions at the point of subscription.

For example, if you are a financial services company selling an online subscription to prospects, you can ask what type of assets they are interested in investing in, their investing experience level and investing goal.

From here, you will be able to craft an extremely personalised content strategy for a group that provide the same answers across the three questions.

2) Browsing history based on your products, services & content

Your audience’s behaviour across your website and email marketing campaigns provide great tangible insights which you can use to personalise future emails.

If you are utilising a marketing software platform (I.e. Hubspot or Salesforce), you can create dynamic lists based on specific URL’s and pages each of your contacts have visited over a chosen time range.

Once you have this data, you can begin to send emails that either re-advertise the services or products they were viewing on your site (similar to an abandoned cart email) as well as complimentary blogs or content pieces based on the topics they were reading about.

This is a good strategy to upsell to those whom you know are already engaged with your products or services (you can send them the email once they have looked at the same product 3 times) as well as drive engagement for those who are in the early stages of the buyer’s journey.

3) Utilise automation & trigger timely & contextually relevant emails

Once someone signs up for your newsletter, opts in to receive content or signs up for a webinar or event, they will expect communications that are relevant to their action in the near future.

Outside of the immediate confirmation or notification email, you should then begin to send other automated emails (say 3-4 each sent a few days apart) which relate to their action.

For example, for the newsletter, you could send a few “Best of” emails containing your most popular pieces (see point 5 on how you can create a cunning strategy using this method).

For the webinar or event, you could send emails containing information about the topics that will be covered or tips on how to get the most out of the event.

4) Use dynamic content within mass email sends (i.e. newsletters)

A little known fact that drives engagement is that most email marketing platforms allow you to personalise specific parts of each email, to display unique content to an audience segment of your choice.

Essentially, if you are sending a monthly newsletter, you can personalise the subject line and/or have a couple of sections within which display different content depending on the audience segment your contact is in.

For example, if you are selling products online and you have a section within each newsletter advertising a product of yours, then you can use point 2 above to create lists of contacts who have visited specific product pages and craft the message within the section, to reflect the service of interest.

Personalise as many elements of an email as possible, that way, each recipient will be more likely to open and engage with the email.‍

5) Previous email engagements

This is one of the craftiest and quickest ways to find out what each of your contacts is interested in. Essentially, you use email opens, link clicks and the exact content the contact clicked on as a basis to begin building a profile of what content they want to read and consume.

No matter how large or small the email send is (from 100 to 100,000 contacts), make sure you always create lists of those who engaged with the email in some capacity, starting with the metrics above.

Soon enough, whatever assumptions you had about a prospect or customer regarding what their pain points or focus areas were, will either be confirmed or squashed, making way for more relevant communications to be sent to them.


Okay, so there you have it! These are some of my favourite and most practical ways I have found success previously in driving email engagement for myself and previous clients.

No content is good without action though, so if email marketing is a priority of yours, make sure you write down at least one of these ideas and begin to action it.