The Power Of Sending Emails From A Person (Not A Brand)
There is a debate in email marketing about which is more important, the Subject Line or the From Line. The truth is, they are both equally important for entirely different reasons. Like with everything else in marketing, successful outcomes depend on your specific goals. Most of the time, email subject lines are responsible for getting a specific email opened and boosting engagement once the person is inside the email. The From Line however, is more about building trust in your brand and reducing unsubscribes. But a strong From Line can also (and much more reliably than a good subject line) boost open rates, engagement rates, click through rates and conversion rates. So that’s why I’m focusing today on From Lines from SaaS and tech companies, because the subject leaves a lot to be desired in the landscape of SaaS marketing.
The SaaS Email Marketing From Line
A quick look at an inbox I keep for analyzing SaaS company’s email marketing shows you a variety of From Lines from companies who are using email marketing regularly
There four basic approaches I see are: Person’s name, Brand name, Person’s name with brand, Brand name with qualifier. Each of these different types of From Lines gives the reader a different feel. Some approaches are more formal, others more familiar. Some lend themselves easily to skimming your inbox, other’s require you to open the email in order to find out what the email is all about.
Before I break down each of these four types of From Lines, I want to point out that SaaS companies who come across as human beings in their marketing are always going to have the advantage over formal, automated, brand first companies. The exception to this rule is only with huge SaaS companies (like Slack, Quickbooks, Adobe, Sales Force, Mail Chimp). Household brand names have almost the same familiarity and trustworthiness as an actual person. Also, these companies have budgets large enough to provide the human touch in their follow-up marketing plans, with a staff of real humans ready to get on a phone call with you the second you show any interest in their brand marketing. But for everybody else, if you want to stand out in the market, and even compete against the big guys, using a human approach to marketing is going to be your secret sauce to success.
From: Brand Name
This approach is by far the most common. It makes sense for a lot of companies because they don’t have one specific person writing their emails. A lot of companies still don’t have a dedicated email marketing person on staff, and the task is left up to various members of the marketing or even sales department. But even when there is one person in charge of a brand’s email marketing, the company may not want to attach their name to the emails if the goal of the email is to move the prospect as quickly as possible into the hands of a member of the sales team.
The problem with using a brand name is that our readers don’t want to hear from a brand. With the exception of onboarding emails, and even this is only partially true, using your brand’s name in the From Line is basically tipping your reader off that this email is an ad of some sort, and they are extremely likely to delete it automatically, or worse, open the email and unsubscribe. Side note: Getting unsubscribes is not always a bad thing. But this is not an effective way to cull your list of dead end prospects (and boost deliverability). When you use just your brand name in the From Line, you are instantly creating distance between you and your prospect, and giving them a good reason to ignore you now, and in the future.
From: Brand Name with Qualifier
In photo above, you’ll see emails from both Klaviyo and Klaviyo Customer Ed. This is an example of a brand name with qualifier. Klaviyo is an email marketing platform. Not surprisingly, they send out a ton of marketing emails. They use the qualifier to help readers understand which type of email they are receiving, either something related to education about the platform, or a general information email… i.e. an ad.
While I think it’s helpful to give the reader some clarity in the From Line about what they are about to read, the approach is extremely formalized and it gives the reader an excuse to “save this for later.” There is no curiosity and it doesn’t build familiarity. This means the reader is much more likely to file this email away, and never get back to it.
Interestingly, Klaviyo also uses the next type of From Line in their targeted emails, which makes me wonder why they don’t just assign a name to the customer education emails and a different name to their general information emails, which would achieve the same separation, but with the advantages of using a known name. So let’s dig into those advantages now.
From: Person’s Name with Brand
These are From Lines that look like “Nicole from Attentive” “Tav from Drift” “Jess with Klaviyo” and so on. The idea here is that the company wants you to feel like you are getting a personal email from a person in their company, but they have different people sending out different types of emails.
What I like about this approach is that the email instantly doesn’t feel like an ad, instead it looks more like a personal email. Even though the “from BRAND” gives away instantly that this is mostly likely NOT a personal email, the first name is still a powerful connector. The old (and very, very true) marketing adage “people buy from people” means that using a first name in your email From Line gets your people (customers) that much closer to buying from your people (employees, brand ambassadors, whatever).
There are two downsides to using this approach. The first is that the brand name in the From Line is still a source of separation for your audience. Once they see that the email is from a brand, their red flags go up, they have that feeling that they are being sold to, and you instantly reduce your chances of getting the email opened. The second issue is that it takes longer for the audience to get familiar with the different names, so this approach can be confusing at first, and lower your relatability and engagement rates.
The reality is, many tech and SaaS brands are going to want their brand’s name in their customer’s inbox, simply because this is how it was always done, and old habits are hard for tech companies to break. If that’s the case, attaching a name, or a series of names to your brand’s name in the From Line is a better choice than not using a person’s name at all.
From: Person’s Name
Finally we’ve arrived at my favorite approach, and the one that gave this article its title. In my opinion, there is no better choice than using a single person’s name for all of the email marketing from your tech or SaaS brand. A name feels instantly personal, it builds curiosity, and it creates a human connection between your brand and your prospect or customer. You are probably already sending emails directly from a name once your customer reaches the sales and customer support teams. So if you use a person’s name in your email marketing, you’re providing a more seamless experience for your customers. I even suggest using a person’s name for onboarding emails, for all the same reasons.
The challenge here is usually, which name do we use? The first choice I suggest is your company founder or CEO. If this is a personality with a presence in the company’s marketing already, then this is an obvious choice. Other choices can be the head of marketing, the head of sales, or a completely made up name (or human sounding mascot) that anyone can “ghost write” for. When it comes to your reader, they actually don’t care WHO this person is in your company, because they already know that this is the person who is sending them emails. Email was invented for people to write to their friends, and that’s still how your audience engages with emails. So get with the program!
If SaaS and tech brands want their emails to first get noticed and stand out from their competition, but more importantly increase open rates, engagement and conversion rates, most brands will benefit from sending their marketing emails from a person rather than from the brand. Even though I’ve focused on tech and SaaS in this article, the same principles apply for e-com companies and beyond. When you send an email with your brand in the From Line, you are subtly telling your audience that the email content has an agenda to sell. Folks are hard wired to reject being sold to, so you want to do as much as you can to avoid setting off warning bells in your prospect’s mind.
Using a person’s name in your email From Line creates an instant, human to human, bond with your audience, and sets your emails in the category of “email from a friend.” As long as you follow that thread and use interesting, engaging copy in the subject and body of your email, continuing to talk as a person (not a brand) to a person, you are well on your way to building trust and loyalty in your email audience.
Now go on out there and experiment with the power of using a person’s name in the From Line of your emails. Let me know in the comments what you think!
Hi! I’m Annie Aaroe, a b2b marketing strategist. To find out more about story-driven, conversion copy and strategy that’s tailored for tech and SaaS brands, visit my website, aaroewriting.com, or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.