Can Automated Emails Be Personal?

“Personal” or “human” are probably not the words you think of when you hear “automated”. And essentially, you’re right about that. BUT… when we’re talking about automated emails, or marketing automation in general, “personal” and “human” are the exact things you should be aiming for.

Yes, there’s a great deal of companies who send impersonal, dull, automated emails you wouldn’t even think are from real people. But the fact that they’re doing marketing automation wrong doesn’t mean marketing automation is bad. It simply means they need to do it better.

And better means use it to send highly targeted, relevant, personal messages that will strike the right note with your customers. It’s not easy, but the thing is – an actual person needs to do it, as this is one of the few things automation can’t do for you. So, how do you do that?

Use persuasive copy 

Marketing is all about addressing people’s emotions. So why would you want to avoid emotions in your emails, even if they’re automated? Be persuasive, talk to your customers, and be human.

As Kath Pay rightly points out, automated emails, such as e.g. transactional emails, are not written by machines. You need a skilled copywriter who has a deep understanding of your marketing processes and the goal of each message.

I found a nice example in my inbox from CoSchedule – a service we’re using at GetResponse to organize our content marketing calendar. The emails I get from them (signed off by different members of the team – and we’ll get to that in a moment) are very well written, direct and to the point, plus they use numbers most of us love.

Be personal

Being personal is not just calling your subscribers by their first names. Although it’s a place to start. Marketing automation allows you to be much more personal than that, because it makes it easy to react to what they’ve done on your site, bought in your online store, or clicked in your email.

Combine that with the information your subscribers gave you and you have a plethora of useful data to create tailor-made emails that appeal to their interests, and their current needs. Now, that’s personal.

This will help you…


Use relevant content

More and more companies understand that even if they have identified a precise target group for their business, people within that group will still require different content, purely because they’re at different stages of the sales funnel.

With marketing automation you can identify those stages and create emails that will reach your subscribers at the right time with the right content. If they bought something from you, don’t send them another email advertising the exact same thing (or follow them online with retargeting ads that offer discounts on something they just bought). Rather, work on creating a complete profile of your customers that’ll help you send targeted offers on something they might want to buy from you in the future.


Don’t pretend

I’m not really a fan of making emails look like they’re not automated if they are, and especially if you don’t intend to reply (although there’s a reason why you should never use a “noreply” email address, and I’ll talk about it later on. Do you really want to send a “we’re contacting you, but don’t contact us” message to your customers?). This is not to say they shouldn’t be personal – see no. 2.

There is a way of letting your customers know they are indeed receiving an automated message, but tongue-in-cheek, still being personal and maybe adding a touch of humor – like in one of my favorite examples from a few years back, received from

Take care of your From address

The above example is also a great illustration of another point I’d like to make (and a few others as well – it’s one of my favorites for a reason. And that’s apart from the fact they actually sent me their first order for free, in addition to the very cool communication experience). Sending your automated emails signed off by a real person (or different people, just like in the CoSchedule example) makes them much more likely to get opened and read. Even if you’re not using an actual name in the From address itself, make sure it’s something your subscribers will recognize and trust (like a funny robot).

Don’t use a “do-not-reply” from address (and you’ll see MOO are – or at least were at the time I got this email – unfortunately doing it in the email address itself) – it’s like telling your subscribers “don’t bother, we won’t listen to you anyway”. And it never looks good.

I know this might sometimes be hard, but the best thing would be to actually…



Or at least, direct people to somewhere they can contact you (just as Little MOO Robot does in the email above). If a customer/subscriber replies to an automated message, make sure that the Reply-to address is one that is being monitored, e.g. by your customer support team.

Your customers don’t really care about your internal processes, your company structure, or the responsibilities within your team. They treat you as one entity, regardless of the channels you’re using to reach out to them. And if you’re using a channel that was created for two-way communication in the first place (and same goes for social media), be prepared that your subscribers will use it this way.

And besides, who knows, you may actually help a customer, or get interesting feedback. Of course, as long as you’re open to it. (And yes, you should be!)


Do you have any examples of well-done automated emails? I would love to see them!

Image via Pixabay

2 thoughts on “Can Automated Emails Be Personal?

  1. Dear Karolina:
    Thank you for the great post–I appreciate the structure as well as your message and examples.

    Your post reminds me of a recent experience. Earlier this week, I Tweeted an up-and-coming marketer’s blog post. I was elated when they immediately Liked my Tweet.

    I then received a Direct Message from the individual. I immediately opened it, thinking it was a personal acknowledgement. Instead, it was not only an automated reply, but the DM requested me to **take further action** promoting the post!

    Needless to say, my opinion of the individual immediately nose-dived, as did my willingness to promote their posts in the future.

    BTW, Karolina, do you think I overreacted?

    1. Hi Roger,
      Thanks very much for your feedback! I don’t think you overreacted – you actually confirm my belief that automated Twitter messages are not the best way to contact your followers. Although I know one or two instances of very cool auto DMs. So I guess it’s the same thing – it’s how you use them that counts, and looks like this was not the best example.

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