Email marketing worksDear “First Name”…..er…? We’ve all seen it – so-called “personalised” emails where the hapless Internet marketer has not set up their email software effectively, or hasn’t read the instructions on how to put together a personalised email. Or you get an email saying “Dear Subscriber” when you haven’t paid them anything, or “Dear Customer” when you haven’t bought from them. However you end up being addressed it is annoying…! That is, unless the email is addressed to you personally, directly by your preferred greeting. Or at least that’s the theory.

However, new research challenges that notion. Perhaps email marketers don’t need to address their customers by name after all. Consider this – you walk into your local car dealer where the sales executive has clearly been on “the training course”. They find something which they can create rapport with and in the process ask your name. “Graham”, I say – and then blow me down, he uses my first name every other sentence…! The trainer has clearly told him that people love the sound of their own name and if you use it a lot you will be more likely to get the sale.

Wrong…! Names are parts of relationships and status. You don’t call the Queen “Liz”, but hubby Phil might do so. Equally, you didn’t call your headteacher “Eric” or whatever his name was, you called him “Sir”, though the teachers may have called him “boss” and his wife called him “fluffikins”. The names by which we call each other are representative of our relationship. People who know me call me Graham – OK, there are other names as well…! But the sales person who has no relationship with me who repeatedly uses my first name is annoying. It shows he is trying to force a closer relationship than I might want. And so, the sales executive who keeps on using the customer’s first name is potentially losing business, not gaining it, because they are implying a closer relationship than might be desired by the customer.

And so it seems it is online. No doubt you get emails every day addressed to you by name from someone on the other side of the planet who you do not know. “Hi John, how are you today? Hope all is well with you? I’ve been having a lovely week and I’m celebrating by offering you John a special deal on my latest whizz bang product. Just click here to buy it John and you’ll be a happy man. Don’t delay now John – I can’t keep prices this low forever.” Chatty, personal and vomit-inducing too.

Many email marketers appear to be confusing “personable” with “personal”. What the new research on the use of first names in emails reveals is that people do NOT like their first name being used when they are concerned about privacy and trust. Equally first name usage only really had any difference in people who were actually bothered by uniqueness. It seems that first names in marketing messages are not necessarily as important as we might think they are.

It’s more evidence that you should not believe everything you are taught on sales training courses.

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