Email Personalization Best Practices in 2021 (for Sales and Marketing)

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According to Campaignmonitor, 74% of marketers say targeted personalization increases customer engagement, and they see an average increase of 20% in sales when using personalized experiences.

74% of marketers say targeted personalization increases customer engagement, and they see an average increase of 20% in sales when using personalized experiences.

Campaign Monitor, 2021

When we speak about email personalization best practices, we have to distinguish between at least 3 well-known email marketing applications.

1. Cold email outreach 
2. Email newsletter
3. Email onboarding

For each, you have to think about the goal you are trying to achieve.

Note that the email personalization can appear in two important places of the email structure;

  1. The subject line of the email
  2. The main content of the email

Cold outreach, email personalization best practices

You can aim for several different goals with a cold email outreach campaign. The most common goal is to score meetings or demos with your potential clients to drive sales. In this case, you need to think of a fair amount of personalization. You can use variables like {FirstName}, {CompanyName}, {ClientReference} but overall, I would suggest looking up the best practices with the results certain examples have reached. I can’t think of a better source to point you to than Lemlist templates with transparent email content templates and the results achieved. 

Structured example of a cold email outreach.

The cold email outreach can be a powerful tool to reach your goals and personalization plays a huge factor here. Make sure you have your data in place before you do it. And make sure you have the tools that will help you measure the success of your campaigns and their KPIs.

Some of the approaches (and icebreakers used) for an effective personalization can involve outreach to:

1. People commenting on a specific topic (e.g. on LinkedIn)

2. People attending the same event as you

3. People being experts on the field where you invite them to attend the event as speakers

4. People from companies that are using specific technologies your try to complement with your product

Newsletter, email personalization best practices

With newsletters, you don’t need to sweat as much as with cold email outreach, since your subscribers already decided to follow your updates. You still might want to give them a few good reasons to buy your new products or check and share your fresh content on your blog. It might not make a difference if you start your email newsletter with “Hi Jane,” but I am sure some might appreciate the effort. It could, nevertheless, make a difference with your open rate conversion if you include the recipient name in the subject line of the email. We strongly suggest you run an A/B test for that hypothesis since it can produce very different results moving from case to case in various industries.

But in reality, we all got very much used to newsletters using our first name and therefore these email do not stand out so much any more.

Onboarding, email personalization best practices

Onboarding can be very important for your customer acquisition. It should be distinguished between 

A) Trial onboarding email sequence and 

B) Customer onboarding email sequence 

The first one is focusing on converting a trial user to become a customer. The second one is focusing on the retention of acquired customer and potentially upselling. If you are only aiming to provide support for product adoption, you could unify the email onboarding approach for both groups and save yourself some time.

Above mentioned concepts will dictate what kind of content you will be focusing on to reach the desired goals. And with the content, you might want to adjust your personalization in your emails.

For both scenarios you should consider adding the basic personalization variables to your emails like; {firstname}, {Company},…

Example of a personalization for a generic email onboarding sequence

The type of personalization that can make a difference is “usage” variables. It is a more advanced method of personalization linked to actions or metrics of users activity in the product. It requires you to use the proper technical tools that you might need to incorporate into your workflows with your development team to use it for email sequences. 

The example would be;

A user makes a unique action in the product and that action triggers an email. That email uses the information in its content and motivates the user to click on the Call to action (CTA) button. One of alternative options is to send a scheduled email with variables in the email as shown below.

One of the generic onboarding email personalization examples


  1. Identify what type of emails are you personalizing
  2. Know what are you trying to achieve with email personalization
  3. Always evaluate if complex email personalization is something you can afford to do considering the value/effort
  4. Look for email personalization best practices from the sources that provide social proof 
  5. Do the A/B testing to realize if any of the personalization work or not
  6. Never stop optimizing


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Product manager 

Creator of Prospect Role. Product manager during the day and content writer overnight. Growth focused all day long =)