Generic emails are boring. But it’s not too difficult — or too late — to personalize your email marketing campaigns.

Other than a boring email, why would you want to spend extra time to personalize? Because it is yet another way to develop a relationship with your customers and clients. We’d hope that building a relationship with the people you serve is a priority to you and your company — it should be — and that your goal with email marketing is to further this relationship. There’s almost no better way to do this than to personalize your messages.

Personalizing will provide you with a two way connection. First, you’ll know more about your customers, and second, they’ll see that you took the time to include some information about them and reach out.

Now that you know why you should personalize, here’s how.

First, of course, you will need information about your customers. Basically every piece of data you collect about those on your email list can be used to personalize a message. The important first step is to make sure you’re getting permission, of course — meaning, in this case, that each person is supplying their information to you. Like we mentioned in the last Email Marketing tip, Get Permission, it’s important that the people receiving your messages have given you the go-ahead to use their data.

The easiest way to gather information within the rules is to include an Update Profile link in your emails. This does a couple of things.

1. Initial sign-up is easy — just an email & name — so that there aren’t a thousand boxes to fill out to get your newsletter. This will make sure that you get the highest initial opt-ins, while still giving each person the chance to enter more information later. The less initial information one has to give to sign up, the more likely they are to subscribe. Some studies have shown that even just one extra box can reduce opt-in rates by 40%.

2. If at any point a subscribers information changes, they can easily find and update their profile.

This profile information can be used inside an email message, such as referring to a subscriber’s first name in the greeting or title, or to their company name in the message. It could also be used for segments to send out different, highly relevant information and deals, for example by using their zip code to let people know when a nearby store is having a sale.

The second way you can easily gather information is when customers interact with you. You can document when they purchased an item, when an item was delivered, and even the name of the sale associate that helped them.

This information is great for adding in details to your messages, or to use for triggers. Want a message to be sent to a customer if you haven’t seen them in 60 days? You can do that. Want to send a special thank you to someone for purchasing an item? That’s possible too.

Of course, you can always use Profile information for triggers too — the best example being happy birthday messages.

There’s almost no limit to the categories you can create to personalize your messages.

However…

You don’t want to go overboard. There’s no set maximum amount of personal information to use in a message — that’s a judgment call — but we would recommend you keep it to just a couple key pieces. If you include too much personal attributes, it may distract from your message or be overwhelming to the reader. It’s also a bit Big Brother, and could creep your reader out or turn them off from giving you information.

The best strategy…

Would be to sit down with your team and discuss what the most relevant, useful data about your customers would be. Is it their zip code because you have multiple stores? Is it their birthday so that you can provide special incentives and deals? Is it just who last helped them in the store so they know who to ask for in the future?

Figure these sort of things out, and decide on the methods you’ll use to collect that data. Get to know the people you serve and personalize your messages for them. The benefits are greater than you might imagine.