Jonathan’s article was originally published on the Wordstream Blog

If you’ve done the essential exercise of developing buyer personas for your customers, don’t make the mistake of shoving them in your desk drawer and expecting them to magically work for you. Personas are essential to creating personalized email campaigns that convert – in fact, one study by MarketingSherpa showed a 7% conversion rate for a persona-based campaign.

Now is not the time to rest on your laurels, insert the “first name” field and consider it personalized. You have to actively apply your personas to create more personal, engaging emails.

So how do you exercise what you learned from your personas in email marketing? Let’s dive into five actionable ways you can apply personas to your email marketing and score more engagement in the inbox.

#1: Nail Your Email Marketing Strategy

Your personas can help you nail your email marketing strategy by uncovering useful information about the customer journey.

Every email campaign you build should be targeted to an overall goal, like:

  • Building Trust and Brand Awareness: Focus on content-centric campaigns that add value to your audience.
  • Increasing Conversions: Attentive email nurturing that reinforces your unique value prop and keeps your brand top-of-mind until your recipients are ready to buy.
  • Raising Customer Lifetime Value: Add value to customers and reinforce your brand with relevant cross-sell, upsell and add-on offers.
  • Growing Referral Business: Actively incentivize promoters to send new business your way.

With your goal defined, you can easily determine what type of content to send in your marketing emails.


buyer persona stages

Then, take those juicy insights you learned about your target buyers and use them to help define and build out your email marketing strategy.

Zillow is a great example of how you can apply personas to your email marketing strategy. Zillow’s main targets are real estate professionals who will post listings and advertise on their site, as well as home buyers and renters doing their research.

However, their strategy with their “Zillow Digs” email campaign aligns to a specific persona – someone, likely a female, who has an eye for design, is thinking about changing their space, and likely hits a target income bracket.  By sharing the latest home trends every week, Zillow can capture the interest of this persona at the top-of-the-funnel, in the awareness stage, before they’re even considering buying or selling a home.


persona marketing

With this awareness strategy, Zillow can stay top of mind, and even nudge their persona to their website to look at homes for sale as they dream of improvements.

#2: Slice and Dice Your Email List

Did you know segmented emails have a 15% higher open rate? (More key email marketing statistics here.)

Buyer personas give you the opportunity to address everyone on your email list in a personal manner – but it won’t work if you aren’t segmenting your list. The further you can segment your list, the more detailed and relevant you can be in your emails, giving you the attention and engagement you deserve in the inbox.


personalized email stats

Even if you only address a single persona, you can still drill down to send the right message at the right time, based on:

  • Stage: Lead, Prospect, Customer, Former Customer
  • Temperature: Cold, Cool, Warm, Hot
  • Interest: Webpages visited, Webpages NOT visited, resources downloaded, emails engaged with
  • Persona

Layer your data to target the perfect segment of your list, and then use merge fields like First Name, Title, Company, Industry, etc to pull personal details into your email.

List data paired with details about your persona can help you align your messaging, copy, and offer in a relevant, personal manner.

For instance, Start A Fire, a social media tool, layers personal data to send a weekly report to users, enticing them to jump back into the app. Not only do they share stats, but they share useful content that aligns to their customer persona – a mid-level marketer looking to grow reach and show results for social media campaigns.


how to optimize personalized emails

#3: Write Better Copy. Get More Opens and Clicks.

You know what your features are – and so does your audience. But unless you know your audience well, it’s tough to nail down the intangible benefits that will really catch their attention.

This goes double if your solution is complex and has a learning curve. You need a hook to get your audience to want to learn more. Describing features in detail is a snooze fest – save it for the release notes. Instead, captivate your persona with the single most important benefit to them.

It’s essential to rely on your buyer personas if you want to write compelling copy. What challenges are most pressing? Use your email copy to uncover the annoying itch – and then give them a tool to scratch it with.

Adobe does a great job aligning copy with their persona, the creative designer, with their Creative Suite newsletter. Instead of being application-centric, they are very user-centric in their copy.

For instance, the main heading, “Make something now. We’ll show you how.” appeals directly to the designer who just wants to create and doesn’t want to be bogged down with tutorials and features.


emails with personalization

The first article, “Put your best face forward on Facebook,” is all about making the user look good with ease. Rather than putting up barriers with wordiness or technical language, Adobe’s copy puts the persona front and center, enticing them to get back into the Creative Suite app (making it even stickier and more indispensable to the user).

#4: Entice Them with an Irresistible Offer and Clickable Call to Action

Knowing your buyer persona can help you present the perfect offer with a call-to-action they can’t resist.

What do your personas value? Do they need to slash budgets? Save time? Do they go crazy for freebies? Analyze psychographic data around your buyer to put together an irresistible offer, like:

  • 1st Month Free
  • Save 20%
  • Free Consultation
  • Instant Access
  • Free Trial
  • Complimentary Upgrade

marketing to millennials

Source: Wordstream

Think about how they like to communicate. A tech-savvy millennial might prefer to communicate through email or text messages. On the other hand, if your persona is a veteran C-suite executive, they might be most comfortable speaking over the phone. A/B test CTAs like:

  • Call Now
  • Download
  • Subscribe
  • Schedule a Time
  • Book a Live Chat
  • Free Online Demo

Hone in your call-to-action to suite the preferred communication method of your personas and watch your click-through rates rise.

Credit Karma boosts engagement with “See My New Scores.” The clean email, simple copy and clear call to action are all designed to drive their busy, millennial, mobile persona back to their site. The same approach wouldn’t work as well for a Baby Boomer persona who would feel uncomfortable getting their credit score online.