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Putting a Human Touch on Email Marketing


In a world increasingly driven by automation, it can be hard to find the humanity in the inbox. We have subject lines that are pre-determined to get opened, no matter the cost (here’s looking at you, fake apology emails). We have personalization that isn’t really personalized, or is personalized in the wrong way (hey there, <FirstName>). We have brands talking about themselves and what they need, instead of providing valuable content for their fans and customers (howdy, most B2B and political emails).

None of this really feels like a relationship, which is what we’re supposed to be building with our subscribers and customers. Think about it: email marketing is a 1 to 1 opportunity to connect with your subscribers. They are allowing you into their inbox – that’s a privilege and should be treated as such.

With all of this being said, putting a human touch back into emails is a long-overdue topic. That’s why we’ve pulled together 5 elements that will help you make your email campaigns helpful, personal and compassionate.

Consent: It’s Mandatory

You need to have permission to send your subscribers’ emails. This isn’t just a suggestion, it’s a law in the EU and Canada—and a demand by the ISPs and most ESPs. This is a great opportunity to mention that buying a list does not count as getting consent. Plus, a purchased list is really bad for deliverability.

How can you obtain consent?

  • Use either single or double opt-in when people are signing up for your list.
  • In your welcome email series, let new subscribers know exactly what types of content you’ll be sending so they know what to expect.
  • Always include a clear unsubscribe button. You may choose to include a preference center as well, which helps subscribers choose what kinds of content they want to receive.
  • Above all, make the process easy and remove them from your list in a timely manner (within 10 business days, but faster is better).

Accessibility: Just Do It

Your next step is to make sure that your entire list can read your emails. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2017 there were more than 40 million Americans with some degree of disability, 7.5 million of whom were visually impaired.

How can you make your emails accessible?

While devices and tools exist that help people with visual impairments access the internet and email, email developers and marketers can help users have the best possible experience with just a few code and design adjustments. Building true relationships with customers means removing barriers.

We also recommend taking a look at Campaign Precheck, which walks you through a full email QA workflow. It helps you optimize your emails to easily be read by assistive devices and screen readers by automatically adding table roles, alt text, and setting the language attribute.

Personalization: A Rose By Any Other Name

Guess what? You don’t need to know a subscriber’s name to personalize your email. Personalization really comes down to providing value to our subscribers. The best effect that personalization can create is making a subscriber feel like you wrote and designed an email just for them.

You might be able to send personalized recommendations based on what your customers have bought in the past, or what content they have downloaded. You can also use other data to craft compelling messages specific to certain customers (and don’t forget to keep empathy in mind).

What if all you have is a name? Take a leaf out of Really Good Emails’ book. They personalized an image with each subscriber’s name back in May to give them their email rap name. It’s super fun and goes way beyond just a merge tag.

Personalization example from Really Good Emails

How can you personalize your emails?

  • Analyze your data, so you know what kinds of messages resonate with which kinds of subscribers.
  • Use dynamic content.
  • Pay attention to purchase history, browsing behavior, survey answers, etc.

Empathy: Caring is Cool

Any purchase decision (yes, even B2B), comes down to emotion. Step back and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Think about what they need, not what your brand needs.

It might also look like cause-based marketing — you should care about what your customers care about. Practicing empathy is the key to building long-lasting relationships with your customers.

Empathy comes down to:

Mother’s Day can be a difficult holiday for some people, so Bloom & Wild offered the option to snooze emails during that holiday.

  • Allowing customers to respond and give you feedback. They should be able to respond to the email address you’re sending emails from (don’t use noreply@).

Authenticity: Just Be Yourself

The quickest way to erode trust with your subscribers is to try to trick them. There are enough people out there trying to steal data and force opens — are you sure you want to join their ranks? Trust isn’t easy to win back once it’s lost, and using tactics that temporarily boost open rates or click-throughs could ultimately hurt your reputation.

Just as a reminder, there are real people out there reading your emails who have (hopefully) opted-in to receive them. That’s a huge gift that should not be wasted. Stay true to what you promised subscribers when they signed up for emails and maintain your credibility.

How to be authentic:

Be About the Customer

Marketing is essentially customer service, and email is a great way to let your customers and subscribers know that you care. By using these 5 elements, you can put a human touch on your email marketing, and improve your customer’s experience with your brand.

How do you practice consent, accessibility, personalization, empathy, and authenticity in your email marketing program? We’d love to hear from you — and your responses might even end up in an Email on Acid video! Share your top tips with us in the comments or @EmailonAcid on social media.

Boost ROI with Accessible Emails!

People all over the world live with visual impairments. How many of them are on your list? Can they read and act on your email campaigns? Email Accessibility is about more than just improving your reach. It shows empathy for every subscriber. Use Email on Acid to check accessibility before you hit send.

Try Campaign Precheck Free

Author: Kirsten Queen

With a background in marketing and a passion for content creation, Kirsten has written copy for ecommerce email efforts and e-newsletters. She now serves as Email on Acid’s social media coordinator and has enjoyed the deep dive into the close-knit and passionate world of the Email Geeks.

Author: Kirsten Queen

With a background in marketing and a passion for content creation, Kirsten has written copy for ecommerce email efforts and e-newsletters. She now serves as Email on Acid’s social media coordinator and has enjoyed the deep dive into the close-knit and passionate world of the Email Geeks.

4 thoughts on “Putting a Human Touch on Email Marketing”

  1. I liked the part of authenticity and accessibility. So many brands today get you signed up, only to spam you with their latest offers which may not even necessarily mean much to you.

    1. Our feelings exactly Tejas! Thanks for reading our blog. Glad you enjoyed it. Check back often for more helpful email tips and even some great coding tricks.

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