What if you could optimize the time your sales reps spend personalizing sales emails? Based on customer feedback, we decided to look at where in the email personalization has the highest impact and how much time sellers spend personalizing.

This follow-up post based on our data science team’s ongoing research, we dive deeper into email personalization. ICYMI: We recently released findings from research that SalesLoft conducted around sales email personalization. Our data science team analyzed a data set of over 6 million sales emails and explored how the amount of personalization in an email impacted its performance.

This study builds on the previous research and answers questions about the optimal balance between effort and reward.

Get Personal Early

In this analysis, we examined the first location of personalization and its impact on opens and email replies. For our purposes, we define personalization as the deviation in content from the template that the email started with and the version of the email that was sent.

One of the first opportunities for personalization in an email occurs before the open: the preview pane. The preview pane (represented below in the area outlined in purple) is the area of an email that is potentially viewable prior to the recipient opening up an email. This area varies considerably by both the email client and the device the recipient uses to read the email. Due to this, we’ve used an average text range for convenience.

The location of the first personalization within the body of an email showed little to no impact on the probability that a recipient would open an email. As shown in the figure below, the probability that an email will be opened based on the preview text is about 30%. That probability very (very) slightly decreases thereafter.

How the location of personalization in a sales email impacts open rates.

Personalization’s impact on reply rates told a different story. When text is personalized early in the email, it has a positive influence on the probability of the receiver replying to the email.

In the figure below, we see that personalization in the first 200 characters has the most impact on increased reply rates. That means, on average, the most effective place to personalize is in the first two or three sentences. If you wait longer, you may have missed your chance. Not personalizing until the end of an email yields reply rates that are almost as low as not including any personalization at all.

Sales email reply probability based on amount of text before appearance of personalization.

Maximize ROI on Personalization Efforts

An important question sales leaders face is how much time their salespeople should spend on personalizing an email. The reward must be greater than or equal to the effort required. In other words, they need to see an ROI in the time their salespeople spend personalizing an email.

The maximum return on time spent personalizing replies hovers between 3.5 to 5 minutes. While there is no question that taking time to personalize your email communications is important, it’s clear that this should be limited to less than 5 minutes per email. Time spent beyond that is wasted effort, as illustrated in the graph below.

The maximum return on time spent personalizing a sales email

Personalizing At Scale

Exactly how much time should you spend personalizing sales emails? It’s not a black and white answer. It’s beneficial to think about personalization as existing on a continuum. Our research shows that some personalization is effective and worth a time investment. Your team’s habits around personalization should be proportional to the perceived value or importance of the target account. We outlined some initial steps around getting started with personalization in our previous post.

All of our research to date demonstrates that personalization consistently delivers positive outcomes. However, practitioners need to strike a balance between the when, where, and how much personalization to insert. Help your sales teams do this more efficiently. Provide templates or snippets of the strongest messaging for common questions or issues. These support pieces may include marketing materials such as case studies or content related to objection handling.

In our previous study, we uncovered that the optimal amount of personalization in a sales email is 20%. Based on the combined findings, personalizing about 20% of an email and spending no more than 5 minutes doing so would theoretically produce the optimal results.

We’ll be conducting further research to learn more. As a starting point, try templatizing email snippets containing “best practice” content. Making support content easily accessible across the sales organization will help enable personalization at scale.

Learn more about the best practices of top performing sales reps in the research we sponsored for TOPO.Best Practices of Top Performing Sales Reps