E-mail Subject Line Personalization: Spam or Not?

E-mail marketing“Emails that are not personalized with a consumer’s name in the subject line generate a 3% click rate, equal to that of personalized emails, according to a study released by email service provider MailerMailer on July 19” and reported in DM News.
The study also revealed that “Non-personalized emails outperformed messages with personalized subject lines with an open rate of 11% compared to the latter’s 4%.”

Raj Khera, CEO of MailerMailer, said “If you just personalize the subject line, that’s a tactic some spammers are using to get you to open the message. So if that’s all you do, you may not get that extra bump in readership.”

So, after reading the stats in this article, I posted a question to my colleagues on Facebook and LinkedIn. The question was “When you receive an email with your name in the subject line, do you think “spam” and delete it? Or, do you welcome the personalized message and open it?”

Thanks to everyone who responded. Here’s a sampling of the varied replies I received:

Miller Finch from Miller Finch Media in Georgia
– “Naming me in an email is creepy more than a good thing.”

Margie Hanson of Communicating Today’s Way in California
– “I am not surprised [by the stats]. When I see my name (I believe that is what thrust mean by personalization) I think solicitation, spam, junk! Just my reaction.”

Martina Iring, Internet marketing consultant in Vancouver, BC
– “Those are some interesting stats! I personally don’t get affected by the personalization. I know that it’s automation, so I don’t feel that there is a personal connection there. If anything I find it a bit silly for that reason. ”

“For me, it’s the subject line that is the deciding factor in looking at the email. If it grabs my attention and is of interest to me, I’ll check out the email. I use Outlook, so I also have the preview pane going. If I like what I see in there, I’ll keep on going (or click). ”

Ray Grau, Marketing Director in Denver, CO – “In the subject line…. Don’t feel like there is a personal connection, leaning toward DELETE. The body of the e-mail yes but knowing that it is just a Dear [%First_Nam%], tag on the other side makes me wonder…. is it really personal?”

Arjen Wiersma, VP Sales getBIZZI in S. Africa
– “As people receive a lot of email it will not help much. I let my subject start with a word indicating what I want from you like: Subject: Help …… or Information …..or Question…. or Action ….. or Approval required etc. That makes it much easier to decide which email to open directly, which to archive for later or just to delete in any case.”

Yasser Khodier, Internet marketer in Egypt
– “Good question Debra. For me I consider spam, why! cause I don’t remember any email come from someone I know starting with my name in the subject.”

Cliff Chapman with TravelJunkies in the United Kingdom
– “Interesting question Debra. If it’s from a friend I read it regardless. If it’s from a business or contact I recognise, and I get a lot of these, I’ll usually scan it whether my name is in the subject line or not If my name is in it and I don’t recognise the sender – SPAM. I like Arjen’s idea, must start using that.”

Walter Daniels with the FBN Group in Indiana
– “I tend to go more by the sender, than the subject line. Spammers are usually pretty obvious, so far. ”

Isabelle Fredborg, responsible business consultant in London – “I don’t put my friends’ names in the subject line. Personally, I don’t think I delete an email based just on that, unless it’s obviously a spammer. Sometimes if I subscribe to a list and the person either 1) sends way to many emails or 2) don’t get in touch, then start emailing lots I’ll get annoyed and unsubscribe + delete – but that’s natural email management 🙂 So, if there’s someone I want info from, I’m definitely more accepting to personalization of emails. Depending on where you come from, people will approach emailing differently. ”

Malati Khadka, copywriter in Nepal
– “If the sender’s name sounds familiar, I’d definitely read it. Also, if the subject is of my interest but sender’s unfamiliar, I’ll check it out at my own time.”

Justin Lee, real estate investor in San Diego
– Appearance of my name in the email doesn’t scream “spam” to me. I open the email based purely on the subject line, and to a certain degree, the author. (For example, if I get an email from Delta Airlines and I know I’m not traveling anywhere in the next 6 months, I won’t open it). I open emails based on the quality/interest of the subject line. My name appearing (or not) doesn’t affect my decision to open.”

James Ball, Internet entrepreneur in Los Angeles
– “I don’t mind seeing my name in the subject line.”

You can see that some folks make their decisions based on the sender first and some let the subject line do the work of catching their attention.

Personally, while I do receive quite a bit of “spam,” not many of them have my name in the subject line. Sometimes, when emailing a friend or client (folks I have close relationships with) I use MY name in the subject line. This catches their attention (especially when they see that they know the sender) and does encourage a prompt reply.

So, what are your thoughts on the subject? Please share your comments below. I’d love to hear from you.