This Time, It's Personal
20 tips for sending automated emails without sounding like a robot
Chapter 01: Introduction
Using automation doesn’t make you a robot.
Well, it sort of does—in a good way. Automation software like Infusionsoft can take your place in emailing contacts and fulfilling business processes, accomplishing in moments what might take you hours of manual work to complete. But, you don’t have to sound like a robot. An automated email is still a message from one person to another, one that can provide the personal touch hundreds or thousands of prospects and customers appreciate (and expect) from a small business.
Automation software helps you respond quickly to inquiries, introduce your company to newcomers, and consistently communicate with prospects over weeks or months to nurture a lead into a sale. And automation can actually make emails feel more personal, as software ensures that you send the right message to the right customer at the right time, every time. To help automated emails sound like they came from you—if there were a thousand yous—use these twenty strategies, tips, and tricks.
Chapter 02: Add a Personal Touch
People like to buy from people, not from companies. Follow these tips for writing emails that, although automated, feel like they were written from you to your customer.
1. Send some emails from you, not the company
Customers are used to seeing branded emails sent from your company (and every company) that contain logos and marketing messages. Stand out in an inbox by occasionally sending automated emails from you or a staff member, not your company. Drop your branding for regular old text, and use merge fields to address the customer personally.
Using automation software, you can schedule these messages to interrupt business-as-usual communication. Send them for more sensitive emails, like a referral request, or impress the customer with attentive service by personally asking about her satisfaction with your product or service.
2. Write like you talk
Picture yourself face-to-face with a potential customer. If he asked you to send information about your company, would you respond with, “Your inquiry has been received. A representative will contact you within two business days”? No. The answer is no. So don’t write that. Use conversational language in automated emails, the way you would if you were talking or writing to a single customer. Automation simply takes that message and scales it to reach a much larger group.
3. Use a subject line you’d send to a friend
Your subject line introduces the content of your email, so one that sounds like personal correspondence has a good chance of being opened. Act like you’re sending the email to a friend by writing a subject line like, “Are you free this week?” or using merge fields for “Hey [First Name]!”
4. Include a photo
Add a headshot to your email signature. A photo helps reinforce that there’s a real person with thoughts and emotions—not a robot—behind your company.
5. Make unsubscribing more casual
Every mass marketing email you send, even one that’s personalized, needs a link for unsubscribing or opting out if your list. It’s the law. But while you can’t remove the link, you can customize it so it looks a little less official. Instead of the standard “click here to unsubscribe” message, try something like, “Click here to let me know if you don’t want to hear from me anymore.”
6. Step away from the marketing message
Not every email needs to have direct correlation to your sales and marketing objectives. The goal of some emails can be simply striking up conversation. Share a funny video on a Friday, show off a picture of your dog or kid, or ask contacts how their holidays were. Consumers are used to companies asking for their money, not asking about them as people.
Chapter 03: Make Magic with Merge Fields
If you’re an Infusionsoft user, you can use merge fields to automatically insert data from customer contact records into emails so that “Hi, [First Name]” becomes “Hi, Lauren” or “Hi, Joe.” When you use these tips, emails become so personalized that customers may not even realize they’re automated. Many other automation platforms have similar functionality.
7. Call contacts by name
It’s not too surprising to see your name at the beginning of a message. But a mid-email or mid-sentence reference feels a little more personal—and helps to catch the customer’s attention.
Using merge fields, repeat customer names a couple times per email, like, “I wanted to ask, Lauren, are you available tomorrow?” or “Enjoy your weekend, Lauren!” But be sure to use only the customer’s first name. Nothing says “robot alert” like “Enjoy your weekend, Lauren Jackson!”
8. Start name-dropping
Use additional names or information if you have it in your records. Wish Lauren and her husband, Joe, a happy Valentine’s Day, see if Sparky (the dog) needs a pet-sitter this month, or send an offer for Lauren’s Honda CRV. If you don’t have this kind of information, ask for it if it’s relevant to your business. See tip No. 20 to find out how.
9. Show you know who’s who
Work in a contact’s company and job title to show that this email is intended for her, not just anyone: “Knowing you’re the [Job Title], I thought you might be the best person to talk to at [Company Name]. If you’re not, would you mind pointing me to the right person?”
10. Always know what day it is
Even if you wrote the email months ago, a date merge field makes it seem current every time. By including a sendoff like, “Have a great [Day of the Week]!” your customer might not suspect that you didn’t actually write the email that day.
11. Make old content new again
When you bring a new customer on board, you might welcome her with a series of e-newsletters you’ve used in the past. There’s no need to change the date on each edition if you label it “The [Month] [Year] Newsletter.”
12. Talk up their town
Automated small talk gets personal with the help of a location merge field. Ask “How’s the weather in [City] today?” or venture a guess that “I bet you have great pizza in [City.]”
13. Reminisce about the first time you met
If you’re the networking type, let automation software follow up with your new contacts for you. When adding someone to your contact records, create a field for the event where you met. Then send off an automated email to the effect of, “Hi again, [First Name]! I wanted to follow up to tell you how much I enjoyed our conversation at [Conference Name.]”
Chapter 04: Write at the Right Time
Automated emails may not seem automated if they arrive at the perfect time. Use these tips to send automated, personalized messages just as customers are looking to talk, learn, or buy.
14. Respond quickly—but not too quickly
Automation software can respond to a “contact us” inquiry within a couple of seconds. But that’s what a robot would do. A human would be considered fast if she responded within five or ten minutes.
With Infusionsoft, as well as some other automation platforms, you can set a delay timer to send your automated reply after a realistic length of time. Write the reply as if you typed it up: “Hi [First Name], thanks for your note! I’ll be in touch soon, but I wanted to let you know that I got your message.” The customer will be impressed that you check email so diligently, while you’ve bought yourself more time to call or respond at length.
15. Win the game of phone tag
You could spend half of every day chasing down customers who haven’t returned your calls. Software helps you win at phone tag by automating part of the process while still keeping the conversation personal.
After you leave a voicemail for a customer, you can record a note in the software that triggers an automatic email: “Sorry I missed you! I just left you a message. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll try calling you again tomorrow.”
16. Follow up on a download
After a customer enters his email address to download a resource, like an e-book or video, you can schedule an automated follow-up email to be sent a few days later. With Infusionsoft, you’ll be able to tell whether the customer actually clicked the email link to the resource.
But telling the customer, “I know you just downloaded my e-book,” is a little creepy. It’s better to play it casual and ask, “Have you had a chance to download the e-book?” (for someone you know hasn’t) or, “What did you think of the e-book?” (for someone you know is ready to discuss).
17. Wish customers a happy birthday
With Infusionsoft, you can wish every customer a happy birthday, no calendar required. If you have a customer’s birthday in her contact record, you can set up an automated sequence in which she receives a personal message on or just before the big day. The same can be done for an anniversary or another type of holiday. A small gesture can make a big impression on customers, who don’t often receive thoughtful messages from companies.
Chapter 05: Send Them What They Want
Personalized emails are only so effective if you’re also sending customers irrelevant information, like offers for a service they don’t need or promotions for a product they already purchased. Automation software can help you determine what your customers want to hear through these tactics.
18. Use segmentation for personalization
Say you have two pet boarding facilities, each on the opposite side of town. A customer may only visit one facility and own a dog, not a cat. Using automation software like Infusionsoft, you can segment your contact list so that customers receive only the emails of interest to them—which, as a result, feel more personal. Tags can be applied to customer contact records, either manually or as a result of an action they take, like clicking a link for the location they want to visit.
For an in-depth look at segmentation, check out our free e-book, Take your CRM Contact List to the Next Level with Segmentation.
19. Personalize the next offer
Create an automated sequence in which a purchase is followed by email offers for complementary products or services. The strategy not only helps emails feel more customized to the customer, it helps your company grow sales through repeat business.
20. Ask what they want
Not sure what customers are interested in? Try simply asking them for the information you need to better understand them and their needs. As part of an automated sequence, send an email asking the customer to complete a web form. The new data will automatically be added to contact records, helping you to personalize communication in the future.
Amy Saunders is a writer and editor turned marketer and small business owner. After starting her career as a reporter at The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio, she moved to Arizona and transitioned to content marketing. Most recently, she was a senior content creator at Infusionsoft, where she focused on digital marketing advice for small business owners. She now brings those strategies to life as the owner of two businesses: Cactus Content Marketing, where she writes and edits blog posts and e-books for a variety of clients, and Strolleria, the baby-gear retailer she started with her husband.