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How To Use Personalization In Emails For Agency New Business

Posted by Mark Duval on Dec 5, 2019 7:44:20 AM
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Personalization is still a work in progress for many organizations. Widely desired for its outcomes, personalization can exponentially increase open and click rates, reduce unsubscribes, generate responses, boost the ROI of email campaigns, and help realize end goals. However, the rewards are reserved for those who can pull it off effectively. 

Personalized emails not only trump traditional “email blasts”— they also increase open rates by 26% and generate a 760% increase in email revenue (Campaign Monitor).


As John Bonini of email marketing firm Litmus has explained, “Personalization is about so much more than a [first_name]. It’s about understanding what drives a person’s decision-making process, where they are in that process, and placing all of it within the context of their specific challenges. In other words, email personalization is hard work. It’s not an add-on, but rather requires an obsessive understanding of each segment of your audience.”

personalization for agency new business lead generation emails

There is a lot of information available about personalization for emails and marketing in general, but not all of it is relevant to lead generation for agency new business. With that specific use case in mind, I’m going to share how we incorporate personalization at The Duval Partnership, along with some tips for your own personalization efforts.

What is personalization, and how do we accomplish it?


Step 1:

The first way we personalize our lead generation emails is by list segmentation based on criteria such as industry, location, size, and role or title. This leaves us with smaller groups of targets that we can write very specific email messages to.

Step 2:

When creating our emails, we first ask, “What is the story we are telling prospects about what this agency does — and why should they care?” We typically create a series of emails for each target group. These emails work together and as standalones because the recipient may or may not read all of them. Within an email series, we want to be consistent with the message, but not redundant, so we might emphasize different aspects of the agency’s value and experience in each email. 

Every email in a series is written specifically to the target’s industry and role, emphasizing relevance, how their challenges can be solved, and what evidence we have to back it up. Depending on who the emails are going to, we may use a different tone, email format or length, and link to different assets.

Step 3:

Next, we incorporate personalization tokens that automatically populate our emails with contact-specific details such as first name, last name, and company name. There was a time when these personalized tokens alone were enough to get a response, but everyone now knows that there’s nothing very personal about auto-inserting these fields into an email, so much of the impact is lost. Research still shows an engagement boost from using personalization tokens in your email body and subject line, so don’t stop using them, but know that they alone aren’t enough. You have to go further to authentically tailor the email to the recipient if you want it to feel personalized. 

Personalized email subject lines generate 50% higher open rates, on average (Oberlo).


Step 4:

We often take the email templates we’ve created specifically for a target vertical and persona and go beyond the personalization tokens to customize it for the recipient. For example, we may incorporate a recent event at the target company, a significant new campaign, or key hire.

Step 5:

Our objectives in crafting emails are to get the recipient to:

  • Open the email
  • Click links in the email
  • View the website
  • Forward the email
  • Respond to the email
  • Be receptive to an outreach call
  • Agree to a meeting


As soon as we get a response to an email, we remove the contact from the lead generation email sequence and keep all go-forward communications with them customized. For these customized emails, we might pull text and asset links from the email campaign as appropriate, but they are always going to be tailored to the specific contact based on conversations and information about their needs.

Tips for personalization in lead generation


  • Don’t force personalization; the overall effect should be natural and authentic.


  • Use personalization in the subject line, but don’t forget other considerations like spam filter triggers and shorter length for mobile devices.


  • Go beyond mass emails with personalized first and last name fields. From the start, write to a targeted group and have specific companies in mind.


  • Focus on quality content. If your content isn’t good, there’s no point in trying to personalize it. Nobody wants to get emails that don’t have value, personalized or not.


  • Pay great attention to your data. People may not be thinking about how the data will be used as they enter it. In addition to diligently cleaning your lists for use, think about future-oriented data collection processes that will facilitate personalization and improve your capabilities down the road.


  • Ensure compliance with GDPR and CCPA legislation, which allow visitors to request that their personal data be anonymized.


  • Test every email that goes out, and then test it again.


Parting thoughts

Targeted, personalized, relevant emails that offer value to the recipient are highly effective for lead generation purposes. Crafting them is more challenging than it looks; there is quite a bit of background research that goes into each email series to connect the dots between the agency and the target’s needs. And data requires careful attention before it can be put to use. But the benefits of email personalization are within reach for anyone who is willing to do the work.

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Image credits: Personalization for Agency New Business Lead Gen Emails © Adobe Stock/Patrick Daxenbichler

Topics: Biz Development Prospects & Lead Generation

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