Email Marketing: Should You Use Their Name or Not?

3D Bar graphShould you use a person’s name in the first line of an email? I recently tested this with our audience, and you might be surprised by the results.

Keep reading to find out the details…

“Hi, John!” or “Hi again!”?

I’ve always read and heard that I should use a person’s name in the first line of an email. It would look like this, “Hi, John!” or “Hello, John” or some variation.

The idea is that when you use a person’s name, it does a few things:

  • It gets their attention because people like to see their name. In fact, it’s their favorite word.
  • It feels more personal than a general email.
  • It helps you (as the writer) focus on writing to one person instead of a large group.

I’ve gone back and forth on this.

Personally I’ve tried both ways. I’ve used their names, and I haven’t. But I’ve never actually known which was more effective.

The experiment

One of the powerful features you get with Aweber is the ability to do split-testing with an email. Let’s say you’re going to send an email to 1,000 people on your mailing list. Aweber can split the list into two different emails that will mail to 500 people each.

This means you can write two identical emails with only one variation, and see which one performs better.

Here’s what I did:

I wrote an email to my Izzy Video non-member list. At the time it had 7,347 people on it. I set up a split-test using Aweber, which gave me two emails.

Each email had identical subject lines and body text.

The only difference was that email #1 started with “Hi, John!” (in other words, the person’s first name) and email #2 started with “Hi again!”.

Which did better? First, let’s look at what “did better” even means…

What to measure in an email?

There are two main stats I look at: “Open Rate” and “Click-Through Rate”

Open Rate refers to the number of receivers who actually opened the email. (Yes, this is something Aweber can see.)

Click-Through Rate refers to the number of receivers who clicked on a link in the email.

In this case I only had one link in the email, and that link led to a recent post with a free video tutorial.

These are two small conversions that take place. When you write an email, you try to create a good subject line that convinces someone to open an email (conversion #1). Hopefully once they’re inside the email, you’ve written it in a way that convinces them to click on the link (conversion #2).

So, in my test, let’s look at the open rate and the click rate and see what happened.

Here’s a screenshot of my stats for the emails as of Sunday morning at 9:30am. (I sent the email three days ago.)

Table showing open rate stats.

The top email is the one with the person’s name in the greeting. You’ll notice that it had a slightly higher open rate. 2,020 people opened the email with their name in it, whereas 1,975 people opened the email with “Hi again!” as the greeting. This is a small difference, but it’s a 1% spread.

Now let’s look at the click-through rate:

Table showing click-through rate

In this email, there was a big difference in the click-through rate. In the bottom email (with the “Hi again!” greeting), the click-through rate was 2.2% higher than the email with the name in the greeting. That’s a big difference. In this case, it meant 78 more people clicked through to my website.

Could the increase be due to the general “Hi again!” greeting in the email? Maybe. That was the only difference in the two emails.

Another example

Table showing open rate stats.

In this screenshot, you’re seeing the results of a split-test email we sent to the Foolish Adventure audience (you!). The bottom email had the general “Hi again!” greeting, while the top one used the receiver’s name.

Notice that the open rate is 1% higher with the general greeting.

Table showing click-through stats

And the click-through rate is 2% higher using the general greeting.

What does this all mean?

Does it mean you should stop using your receiver’s name in the email? Not necessarily. This isn’t a super scientific test. I only tested this on two emails. If I really want to know, I’ll continue testing this on several more emails.

Also, when I talked to Tim about this, he suggested that maybe it had to do with reader fatigue. In other words, readers are so accustomed to seeing the same greeting in every email, that they become more interested when they see a variation.

Here’s my point: Always test things with your audience. Don’t assume that what works for one person will definitely work for you. Your website and audience is different than mine.

That’s good advice for everyone.

Still, don’t be surprised if my emails greet you with “Hi again!” 🙂

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