List Building: Get & use First Name or skip it?

36 replies
I'm interested in starting a discussion regarding the acquisition and use of first names in list building.

Do you think there is value in acquiring and using the first name in your list building so that your emails go out starting "Hi <First Name>?"

Or, do you think it is simply an extra and unnecessary step that reduces your opt-ins?

Do you think that the value of using the First Name is entirely dependent upon the niche in which the list is built? Why?

Eager to hear your experiences and responses. Thanks Warriors.
#building #list #skip
  • Profile picture of the author jamesrich1
    It will reduce the opt in conversion but it will help you personalize your message. When people see their first name in the subject it gets their attention.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ebunbolu
    it make them feel belonging and ready to do whatsoever you tell them to do
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    • Profile picture of the author Shaun OReilly
      If you only ask for the visitor's e-mail address you will
      see an increase in your visitor-to-subscriber conversion
      rates.

      By asking for additional data like first name etc, you will
      see your opt-in rates decrease.

      However, you'll need to test your own list to find out
      whether asking for the first name hurts or helps your
      overall business metrics.

      In some niches (especially those unfamiliar with the idea
      of autoresponders) people still think that you're typing a
      personal e-mail rather than sending a broadcast!

      I usually ask for just the e-mail address at the start of
      my process (i.e. the squeeze page) because I know that
      I'll get their fuller contact details later if they choose to
      become a customer and move onto the more important
      list of buyers.

      Dedicated to mutual success,

      Shaun
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      • Profile picture of the author Chris Cole
        Originally Posted by Shaun OReilly View Post

        If you only ask for the visitor's e-mail address you will
        see an increase in your visitor-to-subscriber conversion
        rates.

        By asking for additional data like first name etc, you will
        see your opt-in rates decrease.

        However, you'll need to test your own list to find out
        whether asking for the first name hurts or helps your
        overall business metrics.

        In some niches (especially those unfamiliar with the idea
        of autoresponders) still think that you're typing a personal
        e-mail rather than sending a broadcast!

        I usually ask for just the e-mail address at the start of
        my process (i.e. the squeeze page) because I know that
        I'll get their fuller contact details later if they choose to
        become a customer and move onto the more important
        list of buyers.

        Dedicated to mutual success,

        Shaun
        Shaun, thank you for taking the time to reply to this subject. I had been thinking about this as well, get name or not..?

        You have made total sense to me and I will follow your recommendations with my future list building efforts.
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      • Profile picture of the author princecapri
        Originally Posted by Shaun OReilly View Post


        In some niches (especially those unfamiliar with the idea
        of autoresponders) people still think that you're typing a
        personal e-mail rather than sending a broadcast!
        Excellent point.

        In similar vein, I usually collect email addresses to begin with, and at a later date, offer them something free or for sale (once they have been on the list for long enough), where I offer them a chance to enter their name.

        I think gmail has this relatively new feature, where they mark the email differently if it has your name in it!

        That makes a big difference for people (like me) who take notice.
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  • Profile picture of the author Robert M Gouge
    Thanks for the replies.

    I'm still interested in further discussion on this topic if anyone has any other views regarding this?
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  • Profile picture of the author obin94
    There are ups and downs to this.

    There are obviously the increased conversions to the form. However you run into problems sometimes when you try and make an email blast "personal" because many people won't put in there real name and then know your "personal" email is really not personal at all.

    But it should be tested with individual lists to determine its effectiveness.
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    • Profile picture of the author Robert M Gouge
      Originally Posted by obin94 View Post

      There are ups and downs to this.

      There are obviously the increased conversions to the form. However you run into problems sometimes when you try and make an email blast "personal" because many people won't put in there real name and then know your "personal" email is really not personal at all.

      But it should be tested with individual lists to determine its effectiveness.
      I'm pretty sure this problem is solved by making all form fields required before the opt-in is able to be registered. Unless I'm misunderstanding you.
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  • Profile picture of the author Alexa Smith
    Banned
    Originally Posted by Robert M Gouge View Post

    Do you think there is value in acquiring and using the first name in your list building so that your emails go out starting "Hi <First Name>?"
    No, not at all. For myself, I'm quite opposed to it.

    I used to do this, when I started.

    My subscribers tell me that it comes across badly to them: they think it makes you sound like "someone selling insurance" and it labels you as "just another marketer". They know perfectly well, of course, that it's an automated thing, from the opt-in, and that they're getting a mass duplicated email, and one doesn't pretend otherwise.

    I don't think this is "relationship building" at all (one's content and continuity process do that). I think it has an active downside.

    And then there's the fact (and it really is a fact) that more people will opt in if you ask for email address only.

    (In earlier discussions of this, the figures I've generally seen quoted are that typically around 12% - 15% more opt in, if you don't ask for a name. I got about 15% more, across a range of niches, when I switched).

    For myself, it's "case closed".
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    • Profile picture of the author Robert M Gouge
      Originally Posted by Alexa Smith View Post

      No, not at all. For myself, I'm quite opposed to it.

      I used to do this, when I started.

      My subscribers tell me that it comes across badly to them: they think it makes you sound like "someone selling insurance" and it labels you as "just another marketer". They know perfectly well, of course, that it's an automated thing, from the opt-in, and that they're getting a mass duplicated email, and one doesn't pretend otherwise.

      I don't think this is "relationship building" at all (one's content and continuity process do that). I think it has an active downside.

      And then there's the fact (and it really is a fact) that more people will opt in if you ask for email address only.

      (In earlier discussions of this, the figures I've generally seen quoted are that typically around 12% - 15% more opt in, if you don't ask for a name. I got about 15% more, across a range of niches, when I switched).

      For myself, it's "case closed".
      Very well said. Thanks for sharing your experiences. That's some good information and I'm thinking it will be hard for anyone to refute these points.

      In fact, your response is starting to make me believe that acquiring "First Name" is, in fact, sub-optimal (Although, I still wonder why some of the biggest sites and communities on the planet still do this).

      I wonder if anyone can share any testing or experience in which getting and using "First Name" clearly won out over not using it.
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    • Robert M Gouge: What obin94 meant is that when a name is required on a form, there are many people who will put in a fictitious name.

      These people don't want to give out their real name, and they may even be savvy to the phony personalization of auto-responders which greet them, "Hi David..."

      So, when they receive your emails, they know it's not personal at all. In fact, it has the complete opposite effect. They see you addressing them by the wrong name, and it only stresses you are just sending them impersonal automated email messages.
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  • Profile picture of the author dadhere
    My mentor Doug Champigny always started my emails with Hi (Name)!

    It was the exclamation that sold me because of how I felt when I saw it

    Regards
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    • Profile picture of the author onSubie
      Originally Posted by dadhere View Post

      My mentor Doug Champigny always started my emails with Hi (Name)!
      I agree with Alexis.

      The problem for me is when I get a message like this and it starts with

      Hi (name)! or Hi {Name} or Hi [FName]

      I can see that he has failed to replace my name (perhaps I never gave it to him) and the email stands out as a template and very impersonal.

      With an autoresponder I think it would be difficult to examine all your outgoing mail to make sure the placeholders were replaced correctly.

      The more placeholders you use to try and make the email more customized and personal, the more chances to send out an incomplete template.

      I don't find "Hi" any less personal than "Hi Mahlon". But "Hi (Name)!" kills it for me.

      90% of my friends start their emails "Hi" (or use no salutation), not "Hi Mahlon".

      As someone posted earlier, if a person I don't know starts a conversation with me by using my first name then I feel like I am being approached by a slimy salesman.

      Mahlon
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  • Profile picture of the author banx63
    I do get both, but in the emails I seldom use the <name> field. Because some people are reluctant to reveal it for some reason, I had "google" entered in as a name today just in fact. Now, i doubt that "google" want to know about internet marketing tips so its unlikely I will use this! Looking at most IM blogs, they tend to go for just email address, I am thinking of changing soon.....

    I would prefer people to use names, i quite like to get personal with members of my list. Do Not Build a List, Build Trust | John Banks Blog
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  • Profile picture of the author Randall Magwood
    I get more opt-ins with just email address.

    I've used both first name and email address on the frontend in a hot niche, and didnt see a boost in sales using this technique.

    The only time i use first name and email address, is when someone buys from me, and they get placed into my backend marketing cycle.
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  • Profile picture of the author CaseyB
    My conversion rates are higher with just email.
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  • I always do first name and e-mail for an opt-in, but if they just bought something from me I do first name last name and e-mail, since they pretty much have to fill it out anyway.

    Going for just e-mail might give you higher conversions at first, but think about this.

    A. First name personalization in your messages will have a better response from your list
    B. If they're too lazy to fill out 1 additional little text box do you think they're going to pay attention to your offers let alone purchase them?
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      Originally Posted by Robert M Gouge View Post

      I'm pretty sure this problem is solved by making all form fields required before the opt-in is able to be registered. Unless I'm misunderstanding you.
      The trouble with that is that people will put bogus names in just to satisfy the form requirements - if they care enough to bother.

      Personally, when someone tries to extort unnecessary information from me, I put in identifiers that let me know I didn't really 'volunteer' the information.

      In this case, I'd likely fill in the first name as "Sucker", so that the emails would be flagged with the subject line "Hi, Sucker, this is urgent".

      There's another aspect to this.

      The information you ask for can be used to filter your responses.

      You just want as many emails on your list as possible.

      Ask for the email only, and go for the single opt-in.

      You want to filter out time-wasters.

      You ask for more and more information, and put more and more hoops up to jump through, until you get the kind of prospects you want. Ask for a first and last name, mailing address, phone number, employment and income qualifiers, whatever. This is quite common on sites like lead generators for PI lawyers. If you don't live in areas in which they practice, they don't really want to hear from you. So they ask for your address and phone number.

      Not willing to give it? Not serious about hiring a lawyer.

      Not willing to give general financials? Not a serious mortgage or refi prospect.
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  • Profile picture of the author interactivex
    I ask for name and email, depends on the type of site you are running. I think in most cases the name is useless as many people do not enter their real information so when you say "Hi Superman" it does more harm than good

    Everyone know's it's an automated email anyway especially if you have an unsubscribe link at the bottom
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  • Profile picture of the author eugenedm
    It's better to ask for their first name so when you send your list an email it is more personalized.
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    • Profile picture of the author Shaun OReilly
      Originally Posted by eugenedm View Post

      It's better to ask for their first name so when you send your list an email it is more personalized.
      In theory, that makes sense.

      In practice, it depends upon the list and the market.

      For example, in markets like Internet Marketing, people
      know the e-mail isn't personalized and some people do
      not put in their real name. A significant number use
      identifiers or obviously bogus names like Bill Gates,
      Sally Big Tits, Bigus Dickus, etc.

      You need to test it for your specific list.

      Dedicated to mutual success,

      Shaun
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  • Profile picture of the author Michael Oksa
    Hi Robert,

    As you can see, I have a hard time starting a message without saying "Hi [NAME]."

    I ask for the first name and e-mail on all of my lists.

    Perhaps I could get more sign-ups without it, but there is another aspect to it, and one I haven't seen discussed.

    See, it's not just how the recipient feels when they get the message, it's also how the sender feels when they write it. My opinion is that messages become more personal when you know the person's name will be on the e-mail. Even if you aren't aware of the difference, I'm quite sure it makes a difference at the subconscious level.

    As Shaun said, results may vary across niches, so you need to test it for yourself.

    All the best,
    Michael

    p.s. Oh, and just as I feel the need to start my messages with a "Hi [NAME]," I also like to close them with my name.
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  • Profile picture of the author Andrew74
    I personally have always addressed my list's by firstname. I wouldn't think asking for a 1st name would change anything but it's definitely something worth testing.
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  • Profile picture of the author Edwin Torres
    I personally would rather stick with First Name, and Email. I honestly dont think its a big step and most people are already used to it.

    Also, if you're worried about people putting fake names, heres a quick psychology tip. On the form add the text: My real first name is....

    ...and once they click on the form clear the text so they can enter their details. You can do the same for the emails.

    After doing this my rate of having people sign up with fake names and emails has gone WAY down
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  • Profile picture of the author MichaelNech
    Hi Robert, I've done extensive tests on this particular area of my online business and my optin rates are higher when I ask for my visitors email addresses only.

    You don't need a name to send out a broadcast, but you definitely need an email address for that. And if you're paying to have your list built, then I assure you that it's in your best interest to have the highest conversion rate possible when it comes to getting subscribers.

    Mike.
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  • Profile picture of the author Linkology
    I have always used First Name and Email Address with no problems and due to the personalization and "relationship" factor I have with my lists, I will continue to do so.
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  • Profile picture of the author aarthielumalai
    Including their first name in your emails is a great way to build relationships. That's all email marketing is about right? You build their trust so that when you sell them or recommend something, they'll be inclined to look into it.

    So, asking for their first names would actually help your email marketing campaign, in-spite of the lesser opt-in conversions.
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    • Profile picture of the author RyanLester
      The sweetest sound (or vision) in any language is the sound of a persons own name.

      IMO names are needed.
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  • Including first names in your e-mail marketing is definitely a good way to build a good relationship as both business counterparts and casual friends. However, I won't recommend typing "Hi [First Name]," but instead a more casual and informal tone like "Hey Alex!".

    After all, if your writing tone is too formal people might deem you as just "Another Salesperson", the key is to build a close relationship as friends and provide a few tips in your niche to them daily. The e-mails doesn't have to be very long, it can be just a mere 50 words per day but it will definitely help you to build a stronger and more personal list.

    Once you've created a stable relationship with your clients, it would be much easier to sell your products to them and you'll probably have repeated traffic!

    If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I'll be more than happy to answer your questions!
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  • Profile picture of the author Andrey Doichev
    Forget about a better relationship or higher cr.
    Why would you want people who are too lazy/uptight to put a name (or don't know they could just put a random string of letters) in a box, on your list?
    How many of them will be responsive. Take 100 of them - would you even make one sale?
    I doubt it.
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  • I take peoples first names when they opt in but I very rarely actually use them on emails.

    I tend to use "Hey there"
    "Hi"
    or "How you doing?"

    I find that its a more natural way of what I would actually say if I was speaking to someone face to face.
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  • Profile picture of the author Bruce NewMedia
    I don't use first names. Never have. Why should I pretend to be sending them a 'personal' message, that is also going out to thousands? Seems counter-productive. And as already mentioned, it would probably cut down on opt-ins.
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  • Profile picture of the author paul nicholls
    i think it really depends on the person building the list because there is no 1 way suits all

    some people say that they prefer to only ask for email addresses and thats cool

    some people prefer to ask for a name as well

    personally i like to ask for there firstname and email

    i like to include peoples name in my emails because it makes me feel like im actually speaking to a real person as appose to cyber space or mr nobody

    this is what i do and it has worked well for me when i build my lists

    one thing i will say is, if someone refuses to opt in to my list just because im asking them for there first name then i dont want that person anyway because they obviously are not too bothered about getting my free offer

    both methods work you just have to find what you prefer to use and what works best for your particular situation

    paul
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      Here's another angle, related to the market niche's psychographics.

      Some of the markets I serve are populated by well-off, older people. Having a business acquaintance, especially a younger one, casually address them by their first name actually offends them.

      With these folks, it's Mr, Mrs or Miss (never, ever Ms) until invited to address them differently.

      Sometimes I'll even change the text on the name field and ask 'how do you prefer to be addressed - John, Mr. Smith, etc.'. I've gotten comments back commending my good manners. Which definitely starts things out on a positive note...
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      • Profile picture of the author Robert M Gouge
        Originally Posted by JohnMcCabe View Post

        Here's another angle, related to the market niche's psychographics.

        Some of the markets I serve are populated by well-off, older people. Having a business acquaintance, especially a younger one, casually address them by their first name actually offends them.

        With these folks, it's Mr, Mrs or Miss (never, ever Ms) until invited to address them differently.

        Sometimes I'll even change the text on the name field and ask 'how do you prefer to be addressed - John, Mr. Smith, etc.'. I've gotten comments back commending my good manners. Which definitely starts things out on a positive note...
        That's a really interesting angle. I didn't even think to look at it that way.

        Judging by the replies in this thread, it's starting to look as though not getting FN is the clear winner. But, of course, it all depends on the individual list.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jtraits
    Definitely using the first name.. it makes it look more personal and that the recipient is important to you. They like the option to be mentioned with their name since it makes them feel that you actually pay attention to them and that you do not use them only for your business .. That of course if they gave the permission to access their email and details
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