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Antion & Associates
tom@antion.com
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Premiere Issue December 2001

Email Technique
Mail Merge
by Tom Antion

Sending out permission based* emails has been the most profitable thing I have ever done in 30 years of business. One way to maximize the response from any emails you send is to personalize them. In email marketing this is known as "mail merge." 

Mail merges can get a much higher response from people because it appears personalized when it is received in the email box of the recipient. Although you can overdo this, in most cases you will get more people to open and respond to your email when using this technique.

A mail merged email message may look something like this before you send it out.

Subject: <$firstname$>, we have a special on ButtCamp CDs

Body of message:

Dear <$firstname$>,

Thanks so much for purchasing the <$product$>, on <$date$>,. By now you are certainly putting all the techniques you learned into action. 

(Insert good copywriting paragraphs here . . . )

<$firstname$>, don't you think it's about time to make the next move and get the knowledge you need to increase your revenues on the Internet.

If so, order easily from our secure shopping cart  . . . . .

 

In the above example <$firstname$>, <$product$>, and <$date$>, are placeholder fields.. When you send out a mail merge the person's name is inserted where the <$firstname$> field is. The product they purchased is inserted where the <$product$> field is and so on. You can make any number of custom fields and insert the actual data in each email that goes out.

You actually have two files that are "merged" as each email is delivered. One file is called the data file. This is where all the real information about your email recipients is housed. 

The other file is the message file (like the sample above). This is the structure of the message you wish to send. It contains the placeholders <$fields$>that will be replaced by the real information from the data file.

The downside is that some people put in goofy or fake names or no name at all which makes their email look funny when they receive it because information will be missing from the data file. Some programs can correct for this.

Make it really personal
Once in awhile I have a little trouble with someone who bought something and listed his/her name as R. Wilson or something like that. If you mail merge this person the message would read "Dear R." which sounds and looks stupid. When we run across a record like this we do everything possible to find out the real first name.

One way to make an educated guess of their name is to look at their email address. It might say Rob@123.com . In that case we change the database to say Rob Wilson instead of R. Wilson.

In some cases we visit 123.com and see if they own the site. Their real name is usually listed.

Another thing we'll do is call the customer to make sure their order is OK and in the course of conversation make sure we get the first name.

One more tip. 
The database may say the customer's name is William Harrison because William used his legal name on the order form to make sure his credit card authorized properly. If we see a formal name like William we make every effort to determine if William is actually "Bill." It doesn't sound very personal to get an email marked "Dear William" if William goes by Bill. Mail merging to Dear William could actually be counterproductive because Bill will know immediately that you are not very familiar with him and he may delete the email as soon as he sees the name William in the Subject Line of the email or the Dear William inside the email.

Mail merge can really increase the amount of money you make from your existing database.

* Permission based means that people have asked to receive my emails

Upcoming topics for this section:

  • Email strategy

  • HTML email

  • Plain Text Email 

  • Link tricks

  • List management companies

  • Getting subscribers fast

  • Getting content fast

  • How to make money with your zine

  • How to gain clout with your zine

  • How to maximize the signups on your website

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