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Hal Licino

Email Subject Line Personalization: Good Practice Or Spam Ploy?

Mar 06 2013, 10:00 AM by

Honesty is the best policy and nowhere is this old dictum more applicable than in your email subject line. If all of us had a dime for every spammer’s email we received which used our name in the subject line to mislead us into thinking that it was a message from someone we actually knew, we’d all be owning football teams and flying around the globe in private jets. This is not to state categorically that it is a negative aspect to include your customer’s name in a mail merged subject line email send, but it’s all in how you approach the overall messaging.
Make opening your email be in your customer’s best interests
It has long been proven by online marketers that the personalization of an email subject line can increase open rate metrics. However, you have to ask yourself if you’re being completely honest with your intent at every phase of conceiving your email marketing campaign. Of course you’re a brand online marketing manager and therefore it is in your best interests to ensure that your email missives achieve the highest possible open rate metrics. If you can make the case that opening that email is in your customer’s best interests as well, then you’re well on the way towards establishing a proper email marketing strategy based on trust and respect.
Is it only an attention grabbing ploy?
It is imperative as an email marketer that you ask yourself if you’re using your customer’s name in the subject line purely as an attention grabbing ploy or whether you are legitimately personalizing your email message. A good way to understand the intent which is being utilized in making this determination is to draw a metaphor to a street scene. Your customer is walking along the sidewalk when they hear their name being called. They turn to see you. Now comes the critical point: You have their attention so are you going to fulfill that important provision of focus to provide them something of value, such as an offer to go have a coffee or catch up with them to give them their car keys they left on your counter…or are you just stopping them to trick them into going into your brick and mortar store with an empty promise so that they’ll buy something?
Offer something of unequivocal value
Email marketing personalization of the subject line poses a similar question. Are you attempting to catch your customer’s attention solely to drive them to check out, or are you offering something of unequivocal value which will have a lasting effect on your positive relationship with them? If it’s the former then you very well might be successful in achieving that short term goal. Your customer may see something within your offerings that they want and they will indeed purchase it. However, if you manage to achieve the latter you will be rewarded with the establishment of a long term relationship based on mutual respect, and that will translate into regular and ongoing sales to that fully engaged customer because yours is a brand that they can trust.
Subject line personalization is not automatically good or bad
The application of a customer’s name in a subject line does not automatically represent good email practice nor is it a certain indication of bad practices. The only way to best determine if you are utilizing the personalization aspect of your email marketing messaging’s subject line is if you can truthfully answer that you are doing so to help you provide engagement and value to your customer.


If you are stuck in measuring the success of your email metrics exclusively on how many conversions you manage to rack up that day, your unfortunate myopia will be tainting your entire online marketing campaign. You need to look at the bigger picture and realize that the highest possible goal for your marketing efforts is to gain the trust and respect of your entire customer base, not just score a quick check out. If you are able to be honest with your customer and yourself, then you will be compensated with long-term success.

Posted in Email Tips

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