Tuesday, January 6, 2009

When NOT to personalize your email's subject line

Personalizing your email subject lines with the recipient's name--for example, "Susan, can you attend meeting on Feb. 12?"--will always increase your readership. 

Or so you'd think. But that's not true according to an article about subject lines by Mark Brownlow on Email Marketing Reports.

If your email recipient doesn't know you well, they may assume your email is spam. Using first names in the subject line is a classic spammers' technique.

"If you haven't got a real 'relationship' with your subscriber as such then maybe personalizing isn't the way to go as they may see it as being artificial or spammy," said Kath Pay, as quoted in Brownlow's article.

I think that using your recipient's name is most useful in the subject lines of emails you send to colleagues and clients. They know you're no spammer. Instead, your use of their name signals that your content is directed specifically at them. They realize they're not one of gazillion people who are cc'd on the email. That's why I recommend this technique in my workshop on "How to Write Effective Business Emails and Letters."

What's your experience with personalized email subject lines?

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved


  1. Personally i love to mass-email my 400 "close" business contacts... and mail-merge with outlook is helpful with that. Even better than using 1st names is their nick names (again, using that field of outlook). Michael becomes Mike, and that sort of thing.

    So, is 400 emails on a particular topic of moderate relavance spam >? Probably, even when you know your audience.


  2. Thank you for your comment!

    The more tailored your email is, the less likely it is to be perceived as spam.


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