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More personalisation leads to higher response rates, right?

Personalising sales emails the wrong way can actually reduce click-through rates by as much as 12%!

July 7, 2021
Emanuel Frauenlob
CEO and co-founder of Mesg.ai

If you are in enterprise software sales and in charge of finding new customers, it’s very likely that you spend lots of time researching prospects in order to personalise your outreach. Salespeople in companies with large dealsizes often spend more than one hour researching prospects before the first outreach. The mantra goes: “The more you personalise, the better the odds for a positive response!” But is this really the case?

Data shows that personalised emails get much higher response rates than standard mass emails. According to a recent study by Salesloft, the increase in response rate for a personalised email vs a non-personalised one can be up to 250%! However, there has been very little discussion about which kind of personalisation works and which doesn’t.

A new study by Corporate Visions unveils some counterintuitive results. Personalising emails the wrong way can actually reduce click-through rates by as much as 12%!

In this article I’ll share how to get more replies on your sales emails, using the most effective personalisation strategy: Name and company personalisation in the subject line, but industry personalisation in the email body!

3 types of personalisation: Individual, company, industry

You may have not yet thought about what kind of personalisation you should use in which parts of your sales emails. Let’s start by defining the different types of personalisation. I call this the “3 circles of personalisation”.

Graphic with the words individual, company and industry

Graphic 1: The 3 circles of personalisation

The 3 circles represent the three entities that define your target in a business-to-business context. The individual (your lead), who works for a company, which operates within a certain industry.

Individual insights

The innermost circle represents individual personalisation. It aims to make a personal connection with the prospect. In its most simplistic form this is the use of the prospects name. Other elements of individual personalisation are common contacts, prior professional positions, personal interests, etc.

Company insights

The 2nd circle stands for personalisation based on company insights. Salespeople scan the target company’s annual reports, investor news, organisation announcements, and customer reference stories to find hooks for the seller’s value proposition.

Industry insights

The outermost circle provides the industry context. Insights on this level include industry benchmarks, best practices, key industry trends and latest industry news. All relating to the industry the prospect operates in.

Combine company and individual personalisation to increase open rates, but use industry personalisation to increase click-through and response rates

Let’s look at the impact of the 3 different types of personalisation on the 3 key metrics for sales emails: open rate, click-through rate and response rate.

When analysing which type of personalisation provides the best open rate the winner is company personalisation combined with individual personalisation, with an open rate of 26.17%. The open rate for industry personalisation is more than 6% lower. Pure industry personalisation proved less effective with 20.11% of prospects opening the sales email.

Chart 1: Impact of personalisation types on open rates. Research from Corporate Visions

Interestingly, individual personalization in sales emails is counterproductive and has a negative impact on click-through and response rates. Additionally, customizing based on company (with or without individual personalization) yields lower returns than customizing based on industry.

Chart 2: Impact of personalisation types on click-through rates. Research from Corporate Visions

In other words, while it helps your open rates to personalise with company and individual details, it’s better to use industry personalisation for response rates!

This might relate to the different objectives of different parts in the email.

We know that opening rates are mainly driven by the subject line. Here it’s crucial to spark enough interest, which individual and company personalisation does. However using individual personalisation in the body of sales emails, will backfire. A prospect will rightly assume that they know best which challenges their organisation faces, and what interests they currently have. Using publically available data to indicate areas for improvement or areas of interest will likely trigger scepticism on the receiving end.

What is however important in the body of an email is to establish credibility! This can be done through industry insights and references. Especially in the opening lines of an email, it’s critical to raise interest and show understanding of a prospect’s business issues. Opening an email with a relevant industry insight and an engaging question around the prospects position in this domain will provide you with credibility - credibility, to which you can connect again when positioning your value proposition in the later stages of your email.

Combine all 3 types of personalisation to maximise your odds for a response

Combining the three different types of personalisation will yield the best results on opening rate, click-through rate, and ultimately response rates.

  1. Focus on individual and company personalisation in your subject line
  2. Use mainly industry personalisation in your email opening

It not only nicely supports the objectives of different parts of your sales emails, but also ensures that your prospect will read all three levels of personalisation on the email preview pane.

Here’s an example of how to combine all 3 circles of personalisation within the opening of a sales email.

Graphic of an email

The subject line uses the prospects first name, company name, and a metric that is meaningful and important.

The email body opens with industry best practices leading into a question that should trigger thoughts around ACME’s current response rates in comparison to industry best practices. From there, the email would continue to position the seller’s value proposition, build credibility through references, and close with a low-friction call-to-action.

Of course there are many other variables that go into effective outreach messaging. Are you addressing the right contact at your target company? Is your sales copy engaging and buyer centric? Do you position your value proposition correctly? Do you have the right balance between progress and friction in your call-to-action? But understanding what kind of personalisation to use in which parts of your sales email will help you to get more positive replies.

I hope that this article will help you to improve your sales emails, get more responses, and ultimately to enter meaningful conversations with potential buyers.

Let me know how it worked!

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