A recent question in my MailChimp support Facebook group caused me to do a bit more investigation as it was an area that I’d not really looked into massively – the “personalise to” option.  I knew it had some impact on deliverability, but wasn’t sure how much… but also what happened if I didn’t have a first name in my database to personalise to.

Here’s the screen grab of the section – it’s on the second page of campaign set up, after you’ve defined who the email is going to, next to the subject and from name inputs

According to MailChimp, if you tick the box and put a merge tag into the box below (as indicated), this will let receiving mail servers know that you know the person (as opposed to just knowing their email address) – which will mean they give you an extra tick (albeit a small one!) on your deliverability score – which works out whether that email goes into the recipients main email inbox… or their spam folder.

Now I’m not suggesting that this has a massive impact on deliverability, but every little helps!

Now this is all well and good, but what happens if you don’t have their first name in the database – should you untick the box?

Well according to the lovely helpful chimps at MailChimp HQ, as long as there is something in this field… you get the tick.  Apparently, it doesn’t even need to be the first name!!!

If you have a default merge tag in your system for first name, then using a merge tag like *|FNAME|* will bring that in, if you don’t know their first name… but if you don’t use default merge tags… you can just replace *|FNAME|* with “Friend of X Business”… and you’ll still get a tick from the recipients servers that you’re sending to.

We’d advocate that if you don’t have any first names in the system, use a default merge tag for the first name, which means you leave *|FNAME|* in the box – but the second option will work just as well…

Obviously, this will also be shown in the recipients “to” field when they look at it – so you need to be careful and use something relevant.

…and the key message here is that getting someone’s first name into the database is really key – so you can not only personalise this message, but personalise the entire email!!!