Emails: using name in subject line no longer a good idea? (test results?)

13 replies
Many years ago, it was accepted IM practice that using the prospect's name in the email subject line was a good way to get their attention.

Nowadays I see this being used less (and also strategically only capturing optin email addresses, not emails + firstname like we used to)... I heard that using firstnames and the word "you" in subject lines may trigger spam filters.

Anyone tested the difference lately? I'll start split testing email creatives with and without firstnames in subjects, and check click vs open rates... would be good to hear if anyone else has found whether there's still an advantage (or disadvantage) to use firstnames in email subject lines..

thanks,

ken
#emails #good #idea #line #longer #results #subject
  • Profile picture of the author laurencewins
    I don't know about the testing but I generally don't read emails if they have my name and I don't know the person.
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    • Profile picture of the author barbling
      Originally Posted by laurencewins View Post

      I don't know about the testing but I generally don't read emails if they have my name and I don't know the person.
      I now just try to make my email titles sound offbeat and amusing. ie, things like:

      • Crashing and burning, facing the truth, more
      • Droids you were looking for, RSS goodies, and more
      • How to selectively block people in Facebook chat
      • Flaming leaves, list building on a silver platter, more!

      Seems to work well.....
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  • Profile picture of the author Raydal
    I find that if I DON'T use the person's name in the subject
    I get more SPAM complaints especially for lists
    I don't mail too often.

    And if my name is used in the subject line, I'm less
    likely to think that the mailer is spamming me. But
    that's personal opinion for sure.

    -Ray Edwards
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    • Profile picture of the author Alexa Smith
      Banned
      I have no numerical split-testing results to offer, but I can report on a "consultation exercise" I did with my subscribers (across a wide range of niches) last year. I learned quite a lot from it.

      Many customers feel that if you use their first names, either in the subject-line or as a salutation inside the email, you come across "like someone selling insurance", and they dislike it: it immediately and instinctively puts their reactions into "this person is trying to sell me something" mode. They know perfectly well that it's only automated anyway, of course: it's not as if using their name actually fools anyone into imagining that it's a "personal email".

      This isn't a split-test, of course, but I've certainly done much better, on a pro rata basis, since I stopped doing it.

      It was really helpful for me to learn this, the main point being that if you build your lists by asking for email addresses only (rather than name and email address), you generally build appreciably bigger lists, too. I was surprised how much difference this made. For me, it was really a "win/win".
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      • Profile picture of the author NicoleBeckett
        Originally Posted by Alexa Smith View Post

        Many customers feel that if you use their first names, either in the subject-line or as a salutation inside the email, you come across "like someone selling insurance", and they dislike it: it immediately and instinctively puts their reactions into "this person is trying to sell me something" mode. They know perfectly well that it's only automated anyway, of course: it's not as if using their name actually fools anyone into imagining that it's a "personal email".

        This isn't a split-test, of course, but I've certainly done much better, on a pro rata basis, since I stopped doing it.
        Even though your results aren't "scientific", I think you're right (without any "scientific" facts to back up my opinion, either ). After all, how many personal emails do you send out with subject lines that mention your friend by name? Personally, it's something I never do - and I'd be willing to bet that most genuinely personal subject lines don't pop up looking like "James, wanna go to lunch next week?" So, I doubt people are going to be "tricked" into thinking you're sending them personal correspondence.

        Plus, you only have a limited number of characters to grab someone's attention in a subject line. Do you really want to waste space by putting their name in there?

        Again, just my 2 cents
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        • Profile picture of the author Azarna
          Maybe I am just being very 'English', but I know I am not the only person who finds being addressed by my Christian name, by a total stranger, very rude indeed.

          I was brought up to believe that you address people by their surname and title until they either give you permission ('Oh, do call me John') or until you have known each other awhile in a social relationship. (An exception to this would of course be when you meet in a social situation, like here on forums, many people only use first names online for privacy reasons too etc).

          But business people trying to get trade from me should address me in a more formal way, it is just basic manners. Plus it makes them look far more professional and well-educated - and yes, the latter certainly is a plus point in convincing a potential customer to trust you!

          I do appreciate my opinions on this may be a bit old-fashioned, but I have seen this discussed before on forums and in magazines and therefore know that there are quite a lot of British people who feel this way.
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          • This is quite a revelation for me.

            I've always been told (at least the "gurus" always said) - use the persons name - because it bumps the response by 30%.

            And I've always had increased sales by using the persons name, sorry about this Azarna, but despite also being British, I usually use the christian names.

            I thought that the "sound" people most like to hear - is the their own name.

            I mainly do all this in print.

            And I just assumed you got the same "bump" in all communications - including emails.

            Thanks everyone for this "new" updated insight.

            Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author kencalhn
    Hey thanks - some great insights here, much appreciated. It's interesting how things evolve over time; back in 1999-2005 it was 'always put their name in the subject line', now it looks like it's not quite so certain as to whether that's a good idea.
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  • Profile picture of the author adampowers
    Niches are all different. Whats considered bogus in one niche could be a great strategy in another. Of course in jaded niches where they're being slammed with marketing, even abusive marketing, names in subject lines might have a negative effect. But in other niches where people are generally less jaded, seeing their name in the subject line could get you an open. HOW you do it is also important, if you just throw in a name out of any context... well that's just weird.
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    • Profile picture of the author Pusateri
      None of my friends use my name in the subject line. Also, I usually use a fake name to opt in.

      Apparently I'm not alone:

      The Booty Call Incident
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  • Profile picture of the author misterme
    "Using a person's name / a person's name is the sweetest sound in the universe to them"

    ... is a very big principle in "How To Win Friends & Influence People" so personal biases aside regarding who likes it or not, I would think if it no longer works in general, be it in emails or whatever, then human nature has changed dramatically and we need to throw the book away. Is that the case?
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  • Profile picture of the author Toniy
    You'd think the happy compromise would be to use an enticing email subject as it serves the same purpose as a headline (start 'em reading, keep 'em reading)...

    ... And use their name within the email itself?

    e.g.

    Subject: I sacked my Maid, Now I'm drinking Godawful Coffee...

    Message:


    "Hey DAVE.... got some **** here you might like,

    I was drinking my godawful coffee this morning because my maid got sacked yesterday..."




    ... in fact... 'got some **** here you might like' would make an awesome email subject.





    But if we're talking an autoresponder sequence... it depends entirely on whether the subscriber has used their real name or not.

    YES... seeing / hearing your name is utterly wonderful in a letter, in conversation, on an eviction notice or a court order... but in an email from a marketer, it all depends...

    If a subscriber used their real name, it will be effective for the above reason.

    If they didn't, they're there purely for the content and the name doesn't mean a thing... except if you're constantly starting your email subjects with 'Hey BitchWrangler68... I just found this awesome breast pump site'... they're just going to be reminded time and time again that you don't have a clue who they are.

    And if as a marketer you're opting to use names, you're doing it to build rapport.

    So you've got a choice... do your best with the rapport you build with the people who've used their real names... or do without that extra rapport and try to hook the fake name bandits with your relevant and valuable content.

    After that it's then simply your job to make the subject line enticing enough for them to open.

    "You're gonna love this..."

    "F*ck You"


    "Alexa Smith Hardcore Full Nudes XXX Free Now For 24 Hours!!"



    Easy.
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    • Profile picture of the author kencalhn
      In test results in from recent emails, it looks like the non-name in subject line header pulled a full 17% more responses/clickthroughs than did the one with name in subject line, for one recent email campaign(!).

      That's a huge difference, so I'll re-test with various emails, days of week, times of day etc split test setups to see if it's replicable.. but so far it looks like names in email subject lines depressed response. Thanks for the comments everyone, just goes to show it's a good idea to split test things and update strategies, because what was "accepted and recommended" years ago, may not still be true today. Checking assumptions/validating always good to do.

      -k
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