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[Kivi's Blog] The Downside of Personalized Emails

Here's the latest blog post from Kivi's Nonprofit Communications Blog.

Click on the post title to see the post with graphics or to participate in the discussion in the comments.

The Downside of Personalized Emails

Call me "Unknown" one more time.

Call me “Unknown” one more time.

You absolutely need to include contact information in your emails (and other forms of communication).

Including a first name in your email subject lines and greetings instantly personalizes your message and warms the reader to its content.

It’s an email marketing best practice.

But lots of times the only contact information you have is an email address.

What happens to your nice, personalized email when that first name field is blank in your database?

You better find out!

I recently received this in my inbox:


Wow! Can’t your just feel the love?

Now, imagine if one of your supporters received an email from you that said:

“Unknown, You Make a Difference!”

While you may have been trying to do the right thing by being donor-centered, you just undermined any good feelings that may have been generated with that greeting.

Know Your Default

Most email service providers have a back-up default they use when the field you are pulling from is blank. Having this default is essential to avoid the “unknown” disaster.

For example, our default is “Friend” so if we do not have someone’s first name, it will say “Friend” whenever we want to use the first name field. Using the example above, our email would say:

“Friend, You Make a Difference!”

That’s not as good as using an actual name, but a definite step up from “unknown” or even a blank.

Contact your ESP if you are unsure how to find the default and change it. A quick search in the support center should do the trick.

Constant Contact calls it a secondary greeting.

Mail Chimp refers to it as default merge values.

Test, Test, Test

Sign up for your mailing list with a new email address, but don’t include your first name (or any other details you may use often in personalizing your emails).

Before you send to your entire list, send a test email to that address to see what happens.

Some ESPs may pull a blank space if nothing is in that field, so you also want to look for:

” , You Make a Difference!”

With just a few steps, you can still send warm, friendly emails to your supporters even if you don’t know their names yet. And I bet if you continue sending great emails, you’ll get to know them better real soon.


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Nonprofit Marketing Guide - EcoScribe Communications, 319 Becks Church Road Lexington, North Carolina 27292 United States (336) 300-8394


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