Skip to main content

So Long, John Doe: How Personalized Email Delivers Better Response Rates

FM Engage logo
Written By  
FM Engage

Insurance marketing experts, listen up.

Over four years ago, Inc. Magazine declared, “Email is already dead.” You’ve probably heard this, and maybe even thought about it yourself.

The feeling undoubtedly refers to Gen. Z’s preference for faster, more mobile-friendly communication methods: text, Slack, Snapchat and so on. The author was also referencing the tendency of marketing emails to be cold, impersonal and standardized, with few real incentives to engage.

They might also have been referring to the sheer volume of emails sent per day: With 333.2 billion emails sent every day in 2022, it can feel nearly impossible to break through the clutter.

With all of that in mind, you’re not still sending emails to consumer insurance prospects and policyholders, are you? Hold up—if you are, and you’re doing things right, that’s probably a good thing. It turns out, the reports of the demise of email may be, as they say, exaggerated. Adestra reports that 84% of young adults—a prime target for key supplemental insurance policies—use email regularly. So regularly, it’s often the first thing they check in the morning.

Yes, Personalized Direct Marketing Emails Work—Even in Insurance

Email has also become a trusted source of information. Thanks to The Content Marketing Institute, we know that 72% of people see email as the top channel for distributing content.

But wait, there’s more: According to Litmus, for every $1 marketers spend on email marketing campaigns, the business receives $36 in return. That’s a powerful ROI.

These compelling statistics—combined with advances in technology driving personalized messaging—make email the perfect tool for your insurance direct marketing efforts. But how do you avoid falling into the Inc.Magazine trap of old-school thinking about (and approaches to) adding personalization?

Personalization is Crucial For More Effective Email

Success in insurance marketing all comes down to including a personal touch. Why?

People are more likely to respond when they see themselves in the messages they receive. The opposite is also true: 37% of people surveyed say that receiving emails that are “not relevant” is their biggest turnoff.

This means that not only do generic email campaigns fail to convert, but they might also turn your key target audiences away from your brand.

How much can personalizing emails increase response rates? Research shows marketers see a 27% increase in conversions when they use customized messages.

This is worth repeating: We’re talking about conversions here–not just open rates or click-throughs. Conversions. That’s amazing.

Luckily, with the information available on today’s consumers—far beyond traditional demographic measurements—creating individualized emails is easier than ever. The real key is tapping this power to drive better decisions about whom to target, what marketing messages to send and when to send them.

Incorporate Personalized Marketing to Become a Data-Driven Insurance Marketer

In days gone by, simply including a person’s name and maybe knowing where they live could be enough to spark engagement. Today, deep data like purchase history, recent life events and more can give insurance marketers keen insight into who’s most likely to purchase policies, so you can better target your email campaigns and use variable data to personalize content.

This is exactly the kind of data our parent company, Franklin Madison, has been gathering for more than 50 years. We tap this data as we create customizable emails for our clients. This finely targeted approach uses an analysis we call, “propensity to buy.” This speaks to who is most likely to purchase a policy and what messages are likely to inspire them to click.

Asian male florist, owner of small business flower shop, using digital tablet while working on laptop against flowers and plants. Checking stocks, taking customer orders, selling products online. Daily routine of running a small business with technology

Should You Always Follow Data for Better Response Rates?

Data can be an amazing guide as you craft your campaigns. It can be your most valuable guide for finding a target audience, crafting copy and delivering emails at the ideal time.

But you can also fall into a dangerous trap of doing too much by the book.

Here’s an example.

Research shows that 35% of email recipients report they will open an email based on the subject line alone. That’s powerful, right? So how do you craft a great email subject line? Here are some hints.

According to, you need to keep subject lines under 10 words.

Including recipients’ first names can boost engagement by 20%.

When you say thank you, you can kick up the open rate by 62%.

Oh yes, and as a likely nod to millennials, a well-placed emoji can help, too.

Does that mean your next email should include the subject line “Thank you, Jim. 💖 How’s your AD&D policy?”

Probably not.

But a data analysis from Marketo reports that personalized emails based on specific events or “triggers” perform three times better than generic blast emails.

This raises the question: What can you do to deliver effective personalization?

Tap Consumer Behavioral Data.

Through our sister company Franklin Madison, we’ve built a data hub that gives us a very clear picture of which consumers are most likely to purchase supplemental insurance policies, including accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D), pet and hospital accident insurance.

As we build customized campaigns for our clients, this data gives us a 360-degree view of every potential customer. We use these insights to build creative and tactical conversion-focused strategies.

This data-centric approach to strategy is unique to FM Engage—and it’s proven to get results across platforms.

Focus on Consumer Needs, Not Insurance Products.

When you put these insights into action, what does it look like? It starts with demonstrating that you understand what your prospects are facing. When you consider consumers first, you’ll learn, for example, that young and growing families are often thinking about protecting future generations with life insurance. And people who change jobs or jump to independent or freelance work might be interested in AD&D coverage.

From here, you or your creative partner can create messages that speak directly to prospects’ concerns. You can offer helpful advice as they evaluate their options–and then clear paths to the solutions they seek.

Personalize the Offer

The robust data you’re using to craft your broad creative and messaging strategies can also play another key role: personalizing the products and services you offer to each prospect.

Like variable-data direct mail of yesterday, today’s powerful email platforms let you customize offers for each prospect, depending on what product they may need or where they may be in the buying journey.

Keep in mind that “personalization” here might not just be a matter of messaging. In an Ernst&Young study, half of the insurance carriers surveyed said they had identified the need for more flexible, personal plans to align with consumer expectations and demand. And yes, “personalization” in the digital world takes on yet another meaning. With a customized offer and product, you’ll be able to point prospects to personalized landing pages (using personalized URLs) that continue to foster connection with your brand.

Make Your Calls to Action Clear

Once you’ve educated your most qualified prospects about how you can make their lives better, it’s time to close the deal. Here’s yet another place to leverage data analytics and insights: in your calls to action. “Buy now” or “Apply now” may not be enough in today’s world, although they’re certainly key parts of the equation. Let people know exactly what to do. Set clear expectations of what’s going to happen next. And you’ll be one step closer to closing the deal.

Send a Second Email

Remember that stat earlier about the sheer volume of emails people are receiving today? Even if prospects open your email and intend to follow up later, they still might forget.

That’s why you should send another email. Once again, the research supports it: You’ll have a 21% better chance of getting through with the second touchpoint.

It’s even better if you can reflect on any interactions prospects may already have had with your brand. “Are you still thinking about pet insurance?”

The more times you get in touch with a prospect, the more direct you can be.

Let’s Talk About Data and Email Privacy

As much as consumers are proven to respond to personalized direct marketing campaigns today, they’re also wary. Privacy concerns abound, and with good reason. So even as you embrace personalization, it’s important to do so responsibly.

As you implement campaigns and reach out to customers to gather even more information, include reassurances that their personal data is safe and you take responsibility seriously. Make sure you follow all of the latest rules and regulations. And always let prospects know how you will (and won’t) use their info.

It’s another step toward building trust—trust that can increase both response and conversion rates.

Let Data Lead the Way

You have the consumer data: now it’s time to put it into action. Turn these insights into short, powerful subject lines that lead to opens. Use variable data to send targeted messaging and special offers that guide visitors to personalized landing pages. And include clear calls to action that appeal to the recipient’s interests and make everything seem easy.

Ready to get started?