Email is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. Yes, it’s always been a method of communication at both personal and business-to-consumer levels, but in recent years, email has bolstered its status as marketing’s MVP. Unfortunately, the evolution of email means the evolution of spam tactics, but the defense against spam has greatly advanced, too.
What do you mean?
ISPs and inbox providers got smart, and so did their spam filters. They compare “good signals,” like high open and reply rates, movement out of the junk folder or from the general inbox to a specific folder, and being added to a recipient’s address book, with “bad signals,” like movement to the junk folder and deletion without opening, for each campaign. They’ll then assign you two scores: one with an individual subscriber and the other with an ISP/inbox provider.
Both scores are considered when determining your latest campaign’s deliverability, but the latter score carries a bit more weight. If a majority of Gmail users marked your last few campaigns as spam, that can outweigh individual engagement, and your next email will likely end up in the junk folder.
In order to maintain deliverability, each campaign needs to be good enough to successfully pass through spam filters, be opened, read and not marked as spam by your recipients. The best way to achieve this? By optimizing elements like your sender name, subject lines and content. For now, we’ll specifically take a look at sender name best practices and optimizations.
The significance of sender names
May be you thought subject lines were the most important part of an email. Me too, until a Litmus study proved otherwise. Forty-two percent of people surveyed said the first thing they look at when deciding to open an email is the sender’s name. Thirty-four percent look at the subject line first, while 24% consider the preview text first. This is likely because a whopping 70% of email users check their inboxes via phone, and mobile inboxes display sender names first, followed by the subject line and preview text.
Now that you’ve got some background on the importance of sender names, here’s what to keep in mind while crafting yours.
Refrain from using a person’s name
This privilege is reserved for Oprah and other well-known public figures, as well as the occasional company president or CEO. Us commoners can’t expect our subscribers to know who we are, and using this tactic is more likely to result in your email being deleted or marked as spam than opened.
Do not use “do not reply”
Your sender name and email address should be free of this language. If not, you could appear cold and unapproachable and make your subscribers feel insignificant. Outside of the emotions of it all, using “do-not-reply” or “no-reply” is a sure-fire way to get noticed by spam filters.
A company name is perfectly fine
Yes, it’s common, but everyone’s doing it because it works. Your subscribers know exactly who you are and will readily open your email. If you did want to add a bit of variety to your sender name without losing the command of your company’s name, consider the type of campaign you’re deploying and call it out in the sender name. This could also free up real estate in the subject line.
For me, the most important use of this variation is for distinction. Most companies want to distinguish billing statements, receipts, order confirmations, shipping notifications and the like from other marketing noise, as the contents of these emails require direct attention from a subscriber/customer. Ideally, a varied sender name should be affiliated with a dedicated, function-specific email address (i.e. “ExampleCompany Support” would be the sender name for the customer service-specific email address “firstname.lastname@example.org”) for organization purposes. To better illustrate this, take a look at the sender name variation among JetBlue emails:
Notice how regular marketing emails come from “JetBlue,” while a message directly related to my flight comes from “JetBlue Reservations” and a customer experience communication comes from “JetBlue Info.” (Also, those yellow arrows? That’s my inbox provider, Gmail, letting me know these emails are important because I often open emails with that label or sender name.)
Use the title of a series or newsletter
Most series and newsletters have their own titles, so use that as the sender name. Newsletter subscribers are there for a reason, and this practice will immediately grab their attention without causing any confusion.
A consistent person’s name works well, too
I know just a short while ago I said to avoid using a person’s name as the sender, but there are a few scenarios where this is okay. Again, if you’re Oprah. But also, if you have your own consistent newsletter. Newsletters are meant to be informal and conversational; they should possess the voice of their authors. Using an author’s name for the sender name is a simple, yet effective, personal touch that elevates the reading experience for subscribers.
Bon Appétit sends out both daily and weekly newsletters. Its daily newsletters come from “Bon Appétit,” while the weekly newsletters come from a consistent author, such as the magazine’s editor-in-chief or food director. The daily newsletters will typically re-purpose stories and recipes from the magazine without much commentary, while the weekly newsletters act as a personal column for specific members of the team.
To wrap it all up
Your sender name can make or break your email marketing efforts, so make sure to constantly monitor analytics. Specifically, focus on the metrics relating to engagement, as well as spam complaints, as these correlate most directly to the effectiveness of your sender name. They’re also what spam filters use to determine whether your next campaign will make it into subscribers’ inboxes. If those numbers aren’t where you want them to be, it’s time to optimize.