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As email marketers we always focus on relevance.

I’ve written recently about the differences between personalization and segmentation, and how just using someone’s first name isn’t enough to work the magic that makes an email message so vitally important to end users. After all, you don’t want your intended recipients to just open your mail messages, you want them to act on them as well.

In ancient times, speaking a person’s first name signified power over that person. Today in email, we use names more casually, especially in promotional messages where we try to force a commercial transaction into a personal relationship.

Merging in the customer’s first name doesn’t constitute personalization. You also have to offer context and authenticity, and you do this by adding information that’s personally relevant to each recipient.

First name recognition and more

I thought about the power of using a name in building customer relationships while enjoying the sun and sand on my recent honeymoon at the Seven Stars Resort in Turks & Caicos.

One thing that made it a memorable place was how everyone who worked there called us by our names and were clearly interested in making sure we had a good time on and off the resort.

It got to the point where we were having genuine relationships with the resort workers, but not just because they knew our names. They showed they cared about our experience by asking how we enjoyed specific events and offered the kind of suggestions about activities and adventures that showed us they remembered who we were and what we were interested in.

It was an important reminder that the power of a name has to be followed up with authenticity that says you do give a damn. As a result, we had a phenomenal experience and I felt completely at home.

Staff members helped us choose places on the beach and find restaurants in town. They even tipped us off to a weekly fish fry that attracts crowds of tourists and locals alike. When we went, we ran into those workers all of whom greeted us like old friends. It clearly wasn’t a faked warmth.



Respect the name

All of this points to whether we understand the power of using the customer’s name. You have to respect it and put it into the proper context with relevant information. The next time you think about personalization, don’t take the easy way out by choosing a field in your database and having your ESP fill it in automatically in each email.

Instead, take the use of your customers’ names so seriously that you decide never to use it unless you can follow it up with information that’s relevant to each customer.

Think about your own experiences. The theme song for the old TV show Cheers isn’t just a catchy tune. It makes sense because we all want to go somewhere where everybody knows our names. A piece of you lives there.


I believe so strongly in the power of using a customer’s name that when the zombie apocalypse finally catches up with me I won’t mind it so much, just as long as I can be back on the beach at the Seven Stars and my personal zombie calls me by my name as he brings me another coconut drink.

Cheers! (Go on, sing along.)