How do you write emails that lead to conversations?

Once you’ve successfully divided your email list into meaningful segments, you’ll be ready to write personalized email copy that addresses the specific interests and pain points of those segments. And while the concept of email personalization is nothing new, it’s often misunderstood.

For some email marketers, personalization simply means having a person’s name auto-populate at the beginning of an email based on what’s stored in your contacts database or CRM (e.g. “Hey [First Name]!”) and then having the body of the email contain some industry-specific jargon and buzzwords. Over the past decade, this has become the accepted standard. And because it’s a formula that’s so widely used, its effectiveness is waning. For potential customers, that old-school approach to personalization no longer feels very personal.

The solution? Think of email personalization as a combination of context and tone.


Your goal shouldn’t be to trick someone into thinking you’re writing a one-to-one email when you’re clearly not. Instead, your goal should be to write emails that people find relevant and that make you come across like a helpful friend—and not a corporation.

Do you have content you can share that will help people in one of your segments improve one of their businesses processes? Or, can you inspire a bit of FOMO by talking about an industry bigwig who’s using a certain approach to drive revenue? That’s the type of context you need when writing emails designed to start conversations. You need to put in the research ahead of time and make sure your message is relevant.

But that’s only half of the equation when it comes to writing compelling email copy. The other (and, arguably, more difficult) half is tone.


For years, marketers have been using the same formal, buttoned-up tone when crafting email in an attempt to come off as authoritative and trustworthy. And hey, it makes sense, right? After all, you want to convey to potential customers that you’re a professional organization. But here’s the thing: When your emails are void of personality, they sound dull and boring, and they end up blending in with all the others. In order to get your emails to stand out in today’s fully automated world, you need to double down on being human. That’s why at Drift, we always write our emails as if we’re talking to a friend or family member. The tone is informal but respectful. It’s not about being wacky or silly or making jokes, it’s about coming across like the authentic human being that you actually are.


Divide your email list in half. Write an email for the first half (Group A) on a particular topic using a professional, buttoned-up tone. Write an email for the second half (Group B) on the same topic using a more conversational tone (pretend like you’re talking to a friend or family member). Here are a few specific changes you could make…

  • use “hey” or “hi” instead of “hello” in your greeting
  • use contractions—including informal ones like “gonna”—instead of writing everything out
  • delete any words longer than five syllables and find a simpler way to explain things

Which approach gets more replies?


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