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Don’t personalize. Write like a person.

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
2 min read

Every newsletter has a different idea about how you should greet a new reader, and keep in touch with funnel-ized “personalized messages.” I don’t agree with most of them.

It’s true, if you’re a business, using a person's name in any email will probably increase your clicks and sales. But to some readers, it’s also a tip-off that this is an automated message you can ignore.

There’s a movement now in copywriting towards something I’ve been advocating for at least a decade: email like a real person. The movement is growing, because (get ready to be shocked) it works.

Real people don’t punctuate or titlecase their subject lines. Real people don’t address you as “Hey <insert first name>!” Real people don’t link words or phrases. Real people write emails like they’re talking to you.

For newsletters, I believe the welcome message is first big opportunity to surprise and delight a reader. My number one goal from any newsletter, or email in general, is to get a response.

I know there’s a lot of accepted wisdom that the welcome message is a great places to makes sales. That will never matter as much to me as establishing a relationship.

Until I started writing multiple newsletters, I made a point of greeting every new reader from my personal email address to try to prompt more responses. I’d write something like this:

“Thanks for signing up. I like to know who my readers are, so if you don’t mind too much, please tell me a little something about yourself and why you joined. Thanks again.”

If they responded, I started a conversation, or simply thanked them. At least once a week, someone would respond to my response, shocked that there was a real person behind the newsletter that they could talk to.

Or, I’d often see a reply like this: “I don’t know how you’re automating this, but it’s genius.” People would try to figure out my automation schemes, when the truth was, I was just emailing them from my phone.

The response is everything.

The back-and-forth establishes a relationship with the reader, while giving you a better understanding of who your reader is and how you’re being found. It also establishes a relationship with the reader’s email provider. It proves that you're wanted in their inbox and not spam.

If you think, “This can’t scale,” you’re dreaming of problems that are wonderful to have, but few obtain. If your audience becomes too enormous to talk to as a real person, that’s a problem.

I’ve ghost-written emails for executives with audiences in the hundreds of thousands. They love getting feedback from individual customers and they spend hours making sure the customer is happy, while capturing their thoughts. You’d be incredibly lucky to have such problems.

As for the other items most books and courses tell you to include in your welcome message (pick whatever works best for your readers):

  • A plea to whitelist your newsletter with instructions on how
  • Your social media information
  • A thank you
  • A list of what they can expect and when
  • An upsell
  • A link to a “start here" page on your site to get them caught up on everything you have to offer

Check out the rest of this month’s posts on creating email newsletters.