Be Authentically Human with Email Marketing

Be Authentically Human with Email Marketing
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I live in a small Montana town with a thriving main street full of warm, authentic business owners who people love doing business with. These men and women have stood the test of time, in large part because they know the value of genuine connections. They know that being a human is more important than business, and that building trust leads to long-lasting and rewarding relationships.

For a marketer, it really isn’t any different. The way to make a connection with a customer or buyer is to be authentic in each and every interaction because the human matters more than the sale. In Joseph Pine’s TED talk “What Consumers Want,” he explains that the customer’s desire for authenticity has become the basis for their decision-making — which means our focus should be on making connections with customers in order to build trust. A powerful way to accomplish that can be through email, which can help you use language that humanizes your brand, helping to foster the beginning of those long, fruitful relationships.

Why it matters

We all know how critical it is to personalize interactions, but it’s the next level to humanize. Personalization shows you know your customers, humanizing emails allows you to have an engaging conversation. When you begin humanizing, your emails will begin to stand out in subscribers’ inboxes, thereby increasing open rates and engagement metrics. Your audience will engage more if they’re having a real conversation with a real person and don’t feel as if they’re just being marketed to as a member of a broad audience.

A colleague recently reminded me that, “People don’t buy from companies; people buy from people.” This is why it’s critical to ensure your emails are authentic. When they are, you will connect with your audience, encourage engagement, show off your brand personality, and tell a story.

Where we are today

The inbox still matters for a personal touch. Adobe recently launched the Consumer Email Survey, which looks at how consumers are communicating across email and other channels, and the survey revealed that, for consumers, email is still a preferred channel. And it makes sense that email is the most preferred channel for offers, beating out channels like direct mail (17%) and social media (5%), in part due to consumers’ willingness to opt-in for emails, which is an acknowledgment that it is OK to start a conversation.

But you have to make it count. The Adobe Consumer Email Survey research shows that only 25% of emails are interesting enough to open, due in part to being emailed too often, irrelevant offers, or being promoted a product already owned. However, there is hope in humanizing. Subscribers who’ve been treated this way begin to feel more a part of a conversation, making them more likely to respond to your emails, engage in other ways, make purchases, and refer friends.

What you should do today to reach the ideal? How do you get there?

There are many tactics for a marketer to consider when humanizing email experiences that range from small tweaks within an email to putting storytelling at the center of your email campaign. Some things to consider when adding a human touch to your emails:

  • There are human elements you can add to your emails that can be effective. Tactics such as having your email come from an actual person, including a photo and signature, and making it clear how to easily contact someone can make a big difference. Additionally, give your customers a voice by allowing them to easily share content or provide a review. You can also ask a question or include a short survey in an interactive element of an email. Also, consider tone and language to ensure it is written in language most subscribers can relate to. One way this can be accomplished is by personalizing text blocks based on a segment an individual is in.
  • Double down on personalization. Take a data-driven approach to email and personalize elements of an email based on the status or stage of a customer journey. If applicable, tie in loyalty and include point balance, status updates, and personalized offers. Also, recognize who a customer is and include relevant quotes or social proof of a product or service. And never overlook the “just because” emails, such as anniversary, birthday, and thank you emails, which continually prove to be effective at engaging customers.
  • Leverage creativity and imagery to help tell your story. I had a recent conversation with David Devore of Storyports and he reminded me, “The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than words. To humanize your emails, don’t just make them graphical, make them graphically interesting. Think deeply about the impression a viewer will receive in the first 30 milliseconds of opening the email.” David shared many great email creative ideas and concepts in the Adobe Summit session “Pushing the Limits of Email Design and Innovation.”
  • Weave storytelling into your email strategy. You can bring together all of these previously mentioned concepts into a strategy to tell your brand or product story. Email is such a critical component in that storytelling. The consent a customer has given you amplifies the importance of sharing positive, engaging, and authentic content. A quote I love (from Mark Truby, vice president of communications at Ford Motor Company) is, “A good story makes you feel something and is universal. They want to grasp your values and your commitment to excellence, be inspired and intrigued. Storytelling is the most powerful way to convey these ideas.” For marketers, regardless of the channel, stories are a way to go further than being authentic and create emotion, build trust, and convey brand value — all of which build loyalty and turn your customers into storytellers themselves through brand advocacy.


With authentically human emails, your emails can make real connections with your audience, where you can go beyond thinking of them as just leads, subscribers, recipients, or members of a segment. Humanizing email experiences can help make your brand come alive, as genuine and trustworthy, thus creating an opportunity for you to evolve your email marketing into something meaningful and increasing the business impact of your email efforts over time.


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