“Say My Name”: Why Using People’s Names In Online Marketing Is So Important

“Say My Name”: Why Using People’s Names In Online Marketing Is So Important
Say my name… why is it so complicated for marketers? (Image via Shutterstock)

Why do people even bother sending a professional communication to someone if they don’t even know that person’s name? Of late, partly out of curiosity and partly out of irritation, I have been asking myself why marketers don’t use a person’s name in their online marketing when it has never been easier to do so.

I have to be honest in saying that virtually all emails I receive that do not address me by either my first or last name get very short shrift from me and invariably get deleted after an incredibly quick scan of the message. The whole exercise is pointless from the perspective of both the sender and the recipient – an existential process that ticks a box for the marketer and which simply wastes a couple of seconds of my time.

If a company, an organisation or an individual cannot be bothered to ascertain who they’re sending information to, I doubt that information will be of particular interest or relevance to the recipient. Anonymously addressed emails are the digital equivalent of the junk mail that accumulates on my doormat most weeks, unread fodder for the recycling services of Bridgend Borough Council.

In my particular case, the irony of my receiving such correspondence is multilayered. As you may have gathered, my name is Nick Lewis and I used to be a sole trader who traded under the name Nick Lewis Communications, as was described on my website, my domain name and my email address. One did not have to be Hercule Poirot to conclude that the likely recipient or the best recipient for any communications sent to Nick Lewis Communications may be a person called Nick Lewis. This still happens now I am part of Get Seen Now.

To be charitable to them, some people do send me correspondence addressed “Dear www.nicklewiscommunications.com”. There has been a step made beyond the “Dear Sir/Madam” or the ever-so-casual “Hi there” (only acceptable from known acquaintances and even then I raise an eyebrow at the redundant ‘there’), but I do not yet know of any sentient websites out there that can respond to correspondence by themselves. Like most children of the 1980s, I yearn for some sort of artificial intelligence like Orac from Blakes 7 or a droid from Star Wars, but I don’t think even Apple’s Siri can come up with a nuanced reply to a circular email.

As I mentioned, the irony of such correspondence is multilayered for me, as the sender is invariably an online marketer of some description. Not only does the accompanying message go on about the sender’s marketing prowess (despite not being able to address me by name), it makes no acknowledgement that I myself trade and advertise myself as an online marketer. Why would I buy services that I offer myself from someone who can’t even be bothered to find out the simplest bit of basic information about me?

Aside from being profoundly lazy, simplistic and ineffectual, it conveys a deep lack of respect for the intended recipient. The sender believes that their message is so universal or self-evident that it can be randomly sent out to … whoever.

All of the above just goes to underline my already publicly declared dislike of email as a communications tool. Indeed, it’s this very syndrome that pollutes the email ecosystem in my opinion.

However, the fact of the matter is that it is all so needless. With an effectively curated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and an associated email program such as MailChimp, a marketer can ensure that any email can be personally addressed in the greeting and the recipient of the email is likely to be receptive to the contents of the email, due to the software’s ability to insert names and filter recipients according to interest. This is why it is all the more preposterous for marketers the world over to send out generic messages to anonymous recipients via email when they can’t even follow now accepted best practices in the sector.

“Walter White had it right; it’s a mark of respect to be addressed by your name”

It should also be pointed out that it is not just email that has been afflicted by this syndrome; the social media channels have too, especially those with a direct message or inbox function, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Twitter’s direct messages is the worst offender in this regard, with automated messages taking up at least 90% of my Twitter DM inbox. Has anyone ever responded positively to an automated message, especially of the ‘please like my Facebook page too’ variety? Are marketers and companies so arrogant or so self-important that they think a social media contact on one network is biting at the bit to follow them on another social network, where invariably they will be served up exactly the same content?

LinkedIn’s InMail system is also becoming debased in the same way as email. Just because I am connected with you on the network, does it necessarily mean I consent to be part of a huge group message that is entirely about your business or organisation? Am I not important or relevant enough to be approached directly? If not, why bother to lump me in with other likely uninterested and irritated recipients?

Following best blogging practice, I had thought of doing some research on whether anyone has done any studies to quantify what I am describing here, but to my mind all of the above is so psychologically self-evident that I decided not to bother.

This might all sound a bit diva-ish in a ‘do you know who I am’ vein, but arguably it is equally diva-ish and presumptive of the marketers or organisations to send me a generic, anonymous message that has little direct relevance to me. Like most business people, I have spent a lot of time establishing my company and my brand, and I want to be accorded the associated respect. I certainly would not dream of communicating with my existing or potential clients in such a high-handed way. As Walter White in Breaking Bad would insist, say my name.

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