Personalization in email and print marketing campaigns is becoming increasingly popular. Statistically, consumers are more likely to open your email or mail piece if it’s addressed specifically to them and not a generic “Dear Sir.” This all sounds like a total win for marketers, right?

Wrong. There is a catch—if personalized marketing is part of your marketing strategy, you need to make sure you’re doing it right. Even if you’re creating emails with content that drives engagement, an error in personalization runs the risk of un-personalizing your marketing – and potentially losing a customer.

What’s in a Name?

As a woman with a unisex name, there have been plenty of times in my life when I have been introduced to someone for the first time and heard, “Oh! I didn’t realize you were a girl!” It doesn’t bother me—it’s an easy assumption to make, especially if the only other Cory in your life is a “he.” However, there have also been a handful of times when I’ve been addressed as a man pre-introduction in an email, and that is completely different story.

As a marketing professional, I understand that we all make assumptions, but unless you are completely positive about who your audience is—better to be safe than sorry. If you’re sending me an email, and you aren’t completely positive of my gender, call me by my first name (and for the love of God, spell it correctly).

Ah, spelling. Again, I can use myself as an example here. “Korie” is not the most common way to spell my name (thanks, mom). In fact, I’ve spelled it out for people before and still had it written with a “C.” That being said, if you are trying to connect with someone through a personalized message, a surefire way to mess that chance up is if you spell their name wrong. It shows that you aren’t paying attention and probably don’t care enough about your customers to do the due diligence of making sure you have their correct information. This is especially frustrating when I know for a fact you have the correct spelling of my name and you are STILL somehow spelling it wrong.

The lesson here is that we’re all human. However, not fact-checking and making the necessary edits can result in a personalization disaster, which will lead to losing that customer and also probably to them laughing at you over how much you butchered their name.

Friends Miss Chanandler Bong

Alright, so let’s say you did your due diligence and you have everyone’s name and gender flawlessly entered into your database. You aren’t out of the un-personalized woods yet—you are now at risk of your email ruining all of your hard work through computer errors.

I once received a personalized marketing email addressed to “Pamela.” Assuming someone didn’t actually think that my name is Pamela, the odds are that their variable code didn’t input names properly. Which also means that everyone who received that email was called “Pamela.” Which means that, unless they actually were named Pamela, they probably wrote the company off as careless.

Don’t Insult Me

Another personal favorite in the “personalized email tactic” world is when the sender starts off with some ridiculous line like “I see my last email must have missed you.” Sender, please: don’t insult me. We both know I didn’t “miss” your last email. You either never sent me one in the first place and are trying to make me feel guilty for ignoring you by mistake, or you actually DID send one and you are now trying to give me a pass for actually ignoring you. Either way, it’s insulting.

A better approach? Be real! If you’re going for personalization, you want to make sure that you are addressing things that are actually personal about your audience. If you don’t have the time to go in and fill in individual details about the person’s company or industry, then make sure the email is generic enough (and short enough) to still come off as authentic. Your audience would much rather receive an email that if brief and to the point than one full of word-fluff that may or may not pertain to them.

The Bottom Line

Fails in marketing personalization lead to the exact opposite effect of what you’re trying to achieve. Do your homework and make sure your spelling is correct and you’re not going to make a gender error. Make sure that your programs are running correctly so you aren’t calling everyone “Pamela” and that your fonts are consistent. Finally – be real. Don’t insult your audience with trying to trick them into thinking you’ve already spoken before. At the end of the day, the more you can sound like “you” upfront, the better chance you’ll have of scoring a connection with your audience.