How NOT to Personalize a Document

Posted by on 10 Dec 2010 | Category: Hints & Tips

A great article by Heidi Tolliver-Nigro at The Digital Nirvana:

In a classic Seinfeld episode, the comedian joked, “There’s good naked and bad naked.” So it is with personalization. There’s good personalization and bad personalization.

The goal of personalized communication, whether it’s in print or email, is to create a message that is relevant to the recipient and engages the recipient in a relationship with the marketer. While some may think that more personalization is  better, that’s not always the case. You have to be careful what and how you personalize.

I got a personalized contact today that unnerved me out and made me want to immediately end my relationship with the sender. If it had been from a marketer rather than a potential client, I would have.

The sender is a someone who, as part of his ministry, is beginning to send out daily inspirational emails.

The first contact was a welcome email, addressing me by name. Nicely done. Although adding names to emails is easy these days, I appreciated the extra effort.

The next day, I received my first daily email, which could be accessed using an email link. Clearly, he was tracking responses. So far, so good.

The next day, I received my next daily email. I didn’t have time to read it, so I left it unopened.

Today, I received the daily email and gasped.

Dear, Heidi.

You haven’t read your last lesson so this is a reminder to login and read your latest lesson below.

Agh! Personalization gone amuck.

First, there had only been 24 hours between the initial email and the reminder. Then there was the issue of the wording. I am tracking you—watching you from afar—so I know you haven’t opened the email yet. You signed up to read these, Heidi, and since I’m monitoring you, I’ve noticed that you are slacking. Get on the stick, girl!

That may not be what he intended, but that’s what he wrote.

It drives home just how important it is to think through how, when, and why you (and your clients) contact customers and prospects with personalized information. How is this personalization being used? How will it be received by the target? Will it be welcomed as a relevant, helpful communication? Or will it make them feel invaded?

Remember that personalization, on its own, does little. Done wrong, it actually can be harmful. Personalization is simply a tool. Be careful how you use it.

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