That’s a question I sometimes hear from business owners who are wary of using email marketing as a way to keep in touch with their customers.

They worry that a “canned message” from an automated email marketing program will seem artificial or impersonal and will risk offending their audience.

… But the fact is, most email service providers allow you to personalize your messages to an astonishing degree.

And when you use these personalization features in a clever and engaging way, you will make your customers love you MORE, even when they can blatantly see the message is automated.

Here’s a great example of what I mean

I recently ordered a pair of shoes online from my favourite shoe store, Fluevog.

(They were having a sale! How could I resist?)

As soon as I completed my order, I was sent an automated confirmation letting me know they had received my purchase order.

Here’s what it looked like:


Fluevog Email #1:

Thank you for placing your web order with John Fluevog Shoes!

We will contact you again within 5 business days to confirm which of our fine locations will be fulfilling your order, and then again when it is shipped.

Please allow 2 weeks from the order date for North American delivery (we know sometimes that feels like a long time… think of it in terms of the history of the universe).

If you have any questions regarding your shoes, please see our policies or contact us at in**@fl*****.com. Please quote your confirmation number in all correspondence.

If you want to see John’s car please visit us here.

If you want to design your own shoes while you wait for your order to arrive, you can do so at Fluevog’s Open Source Footwear.

Thanks again – you’ve got great taste… (especially you ;))

John Fluevog Shoes


Take a close look at the bolded sections. Do you see how they relate to me by acknowledging that I must be impatient to receive my purchase — and how they flatter me by complimenting my taste in shoes?

That last line is tongue-in-cheek, but it just made me smile and love them more.

(And I loved the quirky touch of including a link to see John’s fabulous car. That’s so great.)

Now let’s look at the next email I received…


Fluevog Email #2

Thank you for placing your order with John Fluevog Shoes!

We too think the CHEERS deserves three cheers as it is a lovely, sweet, and funky shoe. It fits true to size unless you have long toes.

Please confirm your sizing with us and we will process your order straight away. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask!



Great customer service!

The whole purpose of this email is to confirm that I have chosen the right size shoe for my foot. I’ve never had any clothing or footwear company bother to do this before. Clearly they want to make sure I get the right product. Now I love them even more, and I didn’t think that was possible.

I also like the fact that they take a moment to tell me what THEY think of the shoe style I just ordered.

I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that the line saying “We too think the CHEERS…” is a piece of copy that automatically gets included in the email via a merge field. In other words, everyone who buys the same shoe as me sees the exact same piece of copy in their email.

(Customers who purchase other styles are probably sent a different piece of copy that speaks more specifically to the shoes they bought.)

Does that make me think any less of the business?

Not at all! It makes me appreciate the careful thought they put into crafting these emails to make sure that each one is entertaining to read. They really do bend over backwards trying to make me feel good — and they create an unforgettable voice for themselves in the process.

And the amazing thing is, once I responded to this email they actually did wrote me back with a personal message confirming my shoe size again.

But that’s not all… After the order was processed, I received another email:


Fluevog Email #3:

Your Fluevogs can’t wait to meet you…

We wanted to let you know about a change to the status of your Fluevog order 20110120-00071697, placed on 2011-Jan-20.

Your order has been assigned to a store.

Your awesome Fluevogs will be arriving to you from the store listed below (which is one of our best ones). If you have any quizzical questions, additional additions, or ch-ch-changes, please contact that store directly (contact details below) and one of its highly trained Fluevogologists will give you the quickest and best service possible.

It should be noted that when your order came in earlier, a few of us sat around at break and talked about how awesome your taste and decision-making ability was. We hope you had a wonderful time on the site, we enjoyed cyber-hanging out with you.


When I read the line I’ve bolded above, I actually laughed out loud.

I’m sure they say the same thing to all their online customers — but once again, this doesn’t make me love them any less. It made me love them MORE.

And, believe it or not, they then sent me yet another email telling me exactly when my order was shipped and when I could expect my shoes to arrive.

THIS is amazingly personalized service

Not because each email was written individually by a real person, but because the company took great care to make sure I’d ordered the right shoe and then keep me updated at every step of the fulfillment and shipping process.

AND they sent me emails that put a smile on my face and made me even more excited to receive my great shoes when they come!

… Now that’s the way you use email marketing the right way to cultivate a strong relationship with your customers.

How about you?

Do you have any similar stories to share about email marketing done right? Or do you have any nightmare stories about email marketing done horribly, horribly wrong? (Goodness knows there’s enough of them out there.)

If so, please leave comment — I’d love to hear your stories.

And in the meantime, just in case you’re curious, here are the shoes I bought:


… Pretty sweet, huh? 😉