Why using FIRSTNAME is killing your sales (and what to do instead)

Why using <FNAME> is killing your sales (and what to do instead)

I’ve always said personalization is great – everybody LOVES a personal touch. And yes, you should definitely use it in your email sequences – just maybe not in a way that’s going to land you under a restraining order.


Hey FIRSTNAME, I’m weird and stalky and overly attached to the FIRSTNAME field. Buy now FIRSTNAME. You won’t regret it FIRSTNAME. I saw you clicked through, FIRSTNAME…

When you start throwing personalization around like a bad pickup line, you’re making a sprint across the line from friendly to creepy.

And creepy never sells.

Not in the coffee shop, media or politics and never, ever in a sales funnel.


What about a straight ‘Hi FIRSTNAME’?

Templates like the ones in Mailchimp think you should begin each email with Hi FIRSTNAME , but it’s not because they want you to make a personal connection. Authenticity like that isn’t even on their agenda. They give approximately zero f**s around that issue.

That’s your job.

Their job is purely logistical – taking your emails and getting them legally into destination inboxes.

They throw ‘Hi FIRSTNAME’ into the head of all their templates because it’s one of the ways to stand out from spam. And they’re right, if your email looks like spam, it will land in the promotions or spam folder.

Except…don’t pretty much all bulk emails begin with ‘Hi FIRSTNAME’??

Whether you signed up for a list or they’ve scraped your name and email, they’re all doing it.

So there goes that theory.

And really, who actually reads the greeting in an email?

I sure as hell don’t.

Our eyes glide past the greeting because it has no meaning or value; we go straight to the content when the sender gets to the damn point.


You know what ‘Hi FIRSTNAME’ really does? It trains people to ignore your words.

How to begin your emails so your subscribers KEEP reading

You pull a hook out of the air. One that makes the reader instinctively keep reading to the next line. And the next. And the next.

It doesn’t have to be on the same level as a muttering from the Dalai Lama, because you’re not aiming for posterity, just something…interesting…that you can use to lead into your content.


  • A few months ago I made a major switch in my business.

Amy Porterfield



  • Sometimes being a new mommy f*cking sucks.

Stephanie Nickolich

What do all 3 have in common? They ditched the spammy greeting and opened with a connection to their readers. They’re leading them to the next line to find out what the switch was, what was badass, what happened as a new mom.

Keep your hook short and give it a line all to itself. Let the connection you’re making stand out and sink in.

When is it okay to use FIRSTNAME?

Only personalize when you’re getting personal.

Pap smear personal.

Use it when you would normally use someone’s name in conversation – which when you think about it, is hardly ever.

Because that would be weird.

In a 1:1 conversation, you don’t need to use someone’s name, because they already know you’re talking to them.

And that’s what a high converting email is – a 1:1 conversation. Whether it’s a welcome, nurture or sales email… wherever it is in your funnel, it should always feel like a natural conversation. The fact that thousands of people are receiving the same email is irrelevant. Knowing how your audience thinks and what they desire, combined with effective segmentation, means that you can create a sense of exclusivity.

Because if everyone is saying the same thing, then nobody is saying anything.


Getting an email that still has <FNAME> in it is never great, but did you know that even when it works and gets the name right - you're hurting your sales? Your email marketing success relies on your emails not just getting opened, but getting read: Here's how to make sure that happens. Email personalization tips.