When creating an email campaign, it's easy to think about the people on the receiving end of your emails merely as leads in a system, versus actual humans with a personality. With that sort of mindset, you'll only end up alienating subscribers from your business instead of building a real relationship with them.
In this post, I'll explore seven strategies to humanize your email campaign, with real-life examples of top businesses who see results with these exact strategies.
Why is Humanization Important?
Before we get into the what of email humanization let's think about the why in a little more detail.
- Humanization cultivates relationships—when you humanize your emails, subscribers begin to feel as if they're having a real conversation with a real person. They don't feel as if they're just being marketed to by a faceless entity behind a screen. Humanization makes your brand come alive.
- Humanization encourages contact—because subscribers begin to feel more as if they are in a conversation, they will in turn be more likely to respond to your emails. This encourages contact between your business and target audience, which once again helps to build a deeper and more emotional connection.
- Humanization marks your business as different—the majority of emails that your subscribers are receiving probably won't be personalized to them. When you begin humanizing, your emails will begin to stand out in subscribers' inboxes, thereby increasing open rate and engagement metrics.
1. Sign Emails with a Real Name
I can't stress the importance of this tactic enough. The majority of all the email lists I've ever been subscribed to sign off their marketing emails with their business name rather than a real name. This isn't the way it should be.
When you send an email using a real name vs. your business name, people are naturally much more compelled to read it. Why? Because people use names, not corporate identities, in actual conversation. So (as we discussed earlier) people feel more as if they're in a real conversation with a real person.
The marketing team at Canva does this extremely well. Every email they send out is signed with their CEO and co-founder's name (Melanie Perkins).
In fact, even the from: field in my inbox says "Melanie from Canva" rather than simply "Canva".
2. Ask a Question
Another great way to get subscribers more involved in your emails is to ask a simple question. Questions are an excellent way to encourage conversation, since they directly provoke responses from readers.
One excellent example of this can be seen in Groove's autoresponder sequence. Once you sign up for Groove, you immediately get an email from the founder asking you to give feedback about why you signed up.
This adds a great human touch to the email and helps to immediately get a conversion going.
A question like this one also gets an awesome side benefit, which is invaluable feedback from your users about what they hope to achieve with your product/service. Two birds, one stone.
3. Use a Picture
Including a picture (professional headshots typically do best) of the person from whom your emails are sent is an effective humanization strategy.
Because of their visual nature, pictures are powerful tools helping you to connect with your subscriber. When you use an actual headshot versus a company logo to end your emails, subscribers once again get the feeling that it's a real person who's emailing them.
Swayy (now SimilarWeb) utilized this strategy to excellent effect.
Not only are the emails signed off with a co-founder's name, but his headshot is also included.
4. Personalize Each Email for Each Contact
One of the easiest ways to humanize your emails is to personalize them based on contact information. GetResponse, for example, allows you to use several different personalizations (I've reproduced a few particularly useful ones below):
- [[firstname]]—the contact's first name
- [[email]]—the contact's email address
- [[geo region]]—the contact's geographic residence
See how Uberflip uses personalization in the screenshot below.
5. Use the Two Magic Words
People like feeling appreciated. It plays to our egos—it makes us feel acknowledged, important, and somewhat special. That's why using a simple "thank you" in your email marketing campaign can go a long way towards making subscribers feel more involved.
Right after I signed up for Buzzsumo, their autoresponder triggered a welcome email from their founder, James Blackwell, that (you guessed it) thanked me for signing up.
Note particularly how James uses "I" and "you"—first person language—to further humanize the email.
This tip is one that's really simple to implement. In your first email in the sequence, just set aside a couple lines to thank the subscriber for signing up, using first person language if possible. It takes hardly any time, but I guarantee that it will work wonders.
6. Let Your Inner Funny Loose
Every once in a while, it's okay to let loose and lighten up your campaign with a little humor.
I recently got this congratulatory email from Buffer when I used their automation tool to schedule social media posts ten days in a row. In it is a gif animation of one of their co-founders, Leo Widrich, showing off his dancing moves.
This sort of humor is a great way to make your emails unique. The next time subscribers see your email in their inbox, they'll definitely remember the laugh they got from your previous contact. So naturally, they'll be more eager to give your new email a read as well.
7. Use a Postscript
A P.S. (postscript) at the end of an email is a very powerful tool. Not only does it help with humanization, but it also helps you highlight important text or links. This is because our eyes are automatically drawn to content that's separated from the rest of the content.
For instance, Brian Dean from Backlinko uses a postscript at the end of his emails to let subscribers know that his support team is only an email away.
The Limitations to Humanization
Before I conclude this post, there's one thing you should know: not all companies should implement the seven strategies mentioned in this post.
I know, I know. After all the benefits I discussed at the beginning of this post—deeper connections with subscribers and better engagement metrics etc.—saying that not all companies should be using humanization strategies sounds a bit contradictory. But bear with me a minute.
Think about a large corporate like Apple. Wouldn't it be a little awkward if all the emails you got from them were sent and signed by Philip Schiller, Apple's VP of worldwide marketing? Definitely.
We don't expect—or particularly desire—humanized emails from large corporates and franchised businesses. Humanization simply isn't something that will work for these sorts of businesses (mostly).
That said, for small to mid-sized businesses, blogs, and ecommerce sites (i.e. most of you reading this post) humanization is a very important and effective email marketing strategy that's proven to have a positive impact in email.
How do you plan to humanize your future emails? Are you already using personalization, humor, and other strategies in your email campaign? Share with us in the comments below!