This article was written by Michelle Weger.
One of the most common arguments I hear against using automation is that it’s impersonal.
For many business owners, a fear of losing the personal connection with their customers is part of the reason they don’t want to adopt automation.
It’s an understandable concern.
But it’s also unfounded.
Automation, by definition, is something that applies technology with minimal human input.
But automation doesn’t just materialize automatically.
Someone still needs to set up the automated processes.
Saying that automation is impersonal is kind of like saying a telephone is impersonal.
After all, when you use a telephone, you’re not talking directly to someone.
You’re dialling a number and then speaking to them over lines and airwaves.
“But it’s not the same,” you might argue. “You’re talking to them personally, in real time!”
And that’s true… sometimes.
Think of telemarketing. Sometimes, a person calls you directly, but they’re not usually sitting there punching in the numbers one by one.
They use an auto-dialler.
And how they use that auto-dialler matters.
If the auto-dialler connects to an actual call center where you speak to a person, it’s far more personalized than an auto-dialler with a recorded message… even though the call itself is automated.
But I’m not here to recommend telemarketing (seriously, don’t do it).
Just like a telephone, automation is a tool. It’s not a replacement for human interaction. What matters most when implementing automation in your business is how you use it.
Email marketing is one of the most common uses of automation, especially for small businesses. Depending on how you implement your automation, you have the opportunity to make it even more personal (and far less annoying, since the people on your mailing list have chosen to be there).
So how do you make your automated emails sound more personalized?
1. Your customers know they’re getting automated messages
The people on your mailing list know you aren’t sitting there typing each and every person’s name and clicking “send” one by one. (And if you are, please book a call with my team right away so you can start saving way more time every week!)
You aren’t fooling anyone, and you shouldn’t try to.
The people on your mailing list are familiar with how promotional emails work. They’re not a new concept. The point of personalizing your automated emails isn’t to trick your customers into thinking you’re emailing them yourself, it’s to create the opportunity for connections with your audience.
In fact, trying to make it seem like your automated emails aren’t automated makes them seem more impersonal. One of my team members had this experience when she sent a message to a company she’d placed an order with. Her original message to the company was:
Hi, I got an email saying ***** was out of stock and canceled off my order, but that was over a week ago. My previous orders have all shipped within 2-3 days so I just wanted to make sure my whole order didn’t get canceled and just the one item was?
A few days later, she received this response:
Due to high order volumes, processing orders is taking longer than usual. You will receive a confirmation email when your order ships, so you can track your order. Your card won’t be charged until your order is shipped.
Your item was canceled because it is currently out of stock. The website does not immediately update every time an item sells. Please rest assured, you were not charged for this item. Please accept my sincere apologies.
Even though the email was addressed to her and seemed personal, it was clearly a copy-and-pasted response that didn’t actually answer the question she sent.
2. Write a letter, not a flyer
Coming up with a distinctive brand voice can be difficult, but it’s key to making your emails sound more personal.
Think of the grocery store flyers you get every week.
They’re not written “to” anyone. They’re simply pieces of paper with weekly specials and savings printed on them.
And while that might work for some businesses, it’s very clearly not personalized.
When you write newsletters for your mailing list, write as though you’re talking to someone, not like you’re writing an ad. You’re still not fooling anyone into thinking each and every email is personalized, but subconsciously, your mailing list will connect better with you if it sounds like you’re talking to them.
3. Address your emails to your customer
This is something that a surprising number of businesses miss.
When you create an opt-in for your website (a.k.a. the form people fill out to join your mailing list), asking for an email address isn’t enough. At the very least, you should also ask for the customer’s first name.
That way, you have the option to address your emails to a particular customer. This helps capture their attention and is also important for the deliverability of your emails since personalized messages are less likely to be sent to spam folders.
4. Be creative with your automation
Have you heard of the people who spend their birthday going around to different businesses, collecting the free gifts that they’re offered?
Birthday freebies are huge – many people go out of their way to collect their free item each and every year, whether it’s a latte, makeup samples, or a dessert (usually with purchase of an entree…).
Wishing your clients a happy birthday or sending a small token is good, but you can take that a step further. Think of important occasions to your industry. If you work with pets, why not celebrate “Gotcha Day” – the day the pet owner got their furry best friend? Or maybe you sell chocolate, flowers, or other romantic gifts – give your customers a place to sign up for anniversary reminders.
While none of these things will convince customers that they’re receiving super-personalized emails, that’s okay. You don’t have to type up a message to every single customer for them to feel special.
After all, just because it’s automated doesn’t mean it’s not thoughtful.