Addressing your email message is key. In a study by DoubleClick, 60 percent of those interviewed said the “from” line is the most compelling reason to open an email.
It’s true. When an email message is received, one of the first things people look for in determining if it’s worth their attention is where or who it came from. The subject line and who the message is from are really the only two things a recipient can read before opening an email.
What Can the From Line Do?
The from line has great power. As we stated earlier this is one of the main places people look to determine if it should be opened. The from line has the power to:
- Build familiarity with the recipient
- Establish credibility
- Work as an extension of the subject line to convey additional info
- Spur recognition
- Reinforce your brand or company name to the recipient
- Get the recipient to open your email!
With the importance of the from line, you want make sure and maximize it’s impact.
What Can Be Put in the From Line?
As email marketing expands, so does the liberty people take with the from line. To help ensure the message gets read, marketers employ a variety of different uses of the from line. Here are a few:
Using an Individual’s Name: “From John Jones”
This approach can work well. Over time a person’s name can build familiarity and trust. Make sure to use a real name! Also, this approach could back-fire if the person who typically writes the email leaves the company.
Using an individual’s email address as the sender is a powerful way to make the message more personable and increase the chances that it will be read in most cases. People respect personal communication.
Consider, for a moment, your own email habits. If you receive a piece of cold corporate email from a company that you’ve never heard of don’t you treat it differently than if you receive a message from an actual person who’s trying to contact you? People who we may not be familiar with contact us all the time for a variety of work-related issues. Companies we are unfamiliar with, on the other hand, generally contact us for one reason – to sell.
Sending the email from an individual will also give you liberty to be a bit warmer and more personable with the tone. An individual person will have the capacity to understand a business owner’s needs better than a corporation. You can build rapport with the audience quickly if they see the sender as a peer or someone like themselves. It’s difficult to create this tone when only a company name is identified in the sender field.
Another technique that works very well in ad copy is “conversational tone.” We will discuss this later in this course. An individual can pull off this conversational tone a bit more effectively than an email coming from a company.
Finally, addressing an email with a person’s email in the from field takes guts. That confidence in your company’s products, services and image can be respected, as opposed to a marketer hiding behind a large corporate identity. People are less likely to reply in a negative way to a well-designed email coming from an actual human than to one from a cold, unfamiliar corporation.
If your company’s president or CEO is a well-recognized figure and has a favorable image among your audience, consider using him as the spokesperson and/or sender.
If it’s your company, let them get to know you! Don’t be afraid to let your personality show in your correspondence to your audience. Receiving a message from someone who’s not afraid to sound human is something so refreshing to see in the digital world. Your audience will develop relationships with people faster than with a company.
How can you list yourself as the sender without getting your personal inbox swamped with “bounce backs,” “unsubscribes” or responses? There are a couple of things that can help.
For starters, the name that appears in the from field is different than the “reply to” address. You can use one name in the from field for the email message and then use an email address set up specifically for the promotion.
Setting up an email account to handle these mailings keeps the responses from cluttering your personal inbox. For authenticity, the “reply to” address should look like it could be the person’s real email address. For example, if your real email is John Jones and the email address you use for day-to-day business is firstname.lastname@example.org, try using email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are sending your message to a newsletter list as a stand-alone piece, see if you can get the editor of the newsletter, president, or some other well-recognized name to be the sender. This is a tool you might even want to spend extra for.
Using Your Company Name: “From XYZ Corp.”
This is an honest and straightforward approach. It lets the recipient know you’re not trying to hide anything. Sometimes, sending email that sites an individual in the from line is not practical. Using the company name in the from line is one of the most popular ways to send out correspondence and there are times when it is more appropriate.
One of the best times to reference your company as the sender is if you have a powerful brand name that is respected by your target audience. This, in combination with a powerful and relevant subject line, can provide a strong one-two punch that gets the readers to open the message.
A great benefit to using your company’s name in the from section is that your company is not likely to be released or “seek employment elsewhere.” If you have a large audience of customers who are used to receiving correspondence from your marketing director and then one day your marketing director leaves… well, you could have some explaining to do.
A technique that some businesses use to gain the best of both worlds is to send an email from a “Team” at the company. In this case the from line would display “The XYZ Corp. Team.” For many, this inspires visions of an energized group of enthusiastic go-getters who are working hard to make things happen. This can project a warmer image than simply listing your company as the sender.
Sometimes if you do identify your company in the from section the recipients might have a preconceived notion about why your company may be contacting them and this could work against you.
Using a Combination Individual and Company Name: “From John Jones at XYZ Corp.”
This is even better than just the name. It gives two opportunities to spark recognition and build credibility.
Using Company and Newsletter: “From: XYZ Corp. Newsletter”
This is used frequently. It lets the recipient know that where it’s coming from and what it is.
Using Your Product Name: “From: Software Eliminator”
Using a product name in the from line tends to be associated with confirmation messages and spam. Avoid this approach unless it’s a product that the recipient is familiar with and they have opted to receive the information.
Using Product Benefits: “From: Unlimited Minutes”
Many of the body enhancement promotions and other spam offers employ this technique. Rather than build familiarity in the from line, they just try to use it as an extension of the subject line. Avoid this approach.
Using Gibberish: “From: XHYYY44456766”
This is common in spam offers. Most people delete these right away.
Using Nouns: “From: Interactive Tracking Systems”
This is another technique where the sender uses the from line as an extension of the subject line. It says to the recipient, “You’ve never heard of us, so we’re not even going to try and introduce ourselves.”
Identifying with Your Target Audience: “From: Coffee Lovers”
As you scan the list of messages in your inbox or your junk folder you come across an email that addresses you. It doesn’t tell where the message came from or who is sending it. Instead it appeals to something about you. It’s typically a spam approach, but I can appreciate how it works. The sender went on to identify themselves in the subject line. It’s a backward approach, but – since I’m a coffee lover – this message did get me to look at the offer.
Using an Extension of the Message: “From: Compare to Bowflex”
This is yet another of many approaches used by companies that don’t want to reveal who they are. In fact, this company takes a ride on the reputation of a brand that’s been made recognizable by thousands of infomercials and magazine ads.
Publisher of Magazine or Newsletter Name: “From: Tractor Week News”
When renting lists from a company, some mailers allow you to specify what appears in the from line. Other email publishers require that their company be listed in the from section. Both ways have advantages and disadvantages.
If the publisher has strong rapport with the audience and a reputation for sending highly relevant and helpful offers, then using their name in the from field can improve the open rate and benefit your campaign.
A Golden Opportunity
Do you have a newsletter? If you are broadcasting to your newsletter or in-house list, then you want to make sure and take advantage of the FROM line to brand your name or your companies name. Currently I subscribe to a number of company newsletters. One newsletter in particular comes from a consultant who has some outstanding ideas and practical concepts about motivation and management.
It’s a great newsletter, but I can’t figure out why in the FROM line, it just says “Newsletter.” It’s so boring. It does nothing to brand him as an expert consultant or his company. How many of his subscribers delete the newsletter because they can’t tell who it’s from prior to opening it? Over time repeated exposure to your newsletter and seeing the experts name in the FROM line can build the level of familiarity it takes to land sales and bring in new customers. Take advantage of it.
More Creative Examples…
Here are some examples I’ve seen used in various email solicitations. I can’t vouch for how well these work, because the bulk of my work has been in the B2B field, where a company or individual name is used. These examples are clearly targeted to the consumer.
From: Wayne Garland’s Master Formulas (spam)
Descriptive in nature, this came from a doctor selling a diabetic supplement.
From: Interland Web Hosting (legit)
This company included their name and also what they do for me in case I forgot.
From: Dunhill Int’l List Co. News (legit)
Heavily abbreviated, this from line goes beyond telling me the company name by also stating what the company does.
From: Apple Cider (spam)
Interesting. I’m now receiving email from beverages. This was sent by a company selling an apple cider weight loss supplement.
From: Copy DVD Movies (spam)
This from line reads like a subject line.
From: GrowYourBusiness (spam)
This was from a spammer selling a business service.
Most of these examples were received from unfamiliar parties. This leads me to surmise that the creative techniques work for spammers, but aren’t as advantageous when you have a relationship with the recipient.
Whichever You Choose…
Many of the approaches discussed indicate spam. In legitimate email, the sender usually wants to be as truthful and straightforward about where the message is coming from. If you have developed a good reputation in your industry or with the recipients, using your name or your company name can be a tremendous asset.
In either case, recognize that the from field can have an impact on your open rate and your response rate. There are many benefits to sending an email message from a spokesperson and this person’s email address (or a variation of it) can be used in the from field. It all boils down to the tone you wish to project and to your target audience.