Email 'From' Lines: Why You Should Care

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Are you neglecting your email ‘from' line? The good news is if it's the right ‘from' line, you should ignore it. Like a solid blue-chip stock, it should be left alone to keep building value for you. But how do you know it is the right ‘from' line?

By testing, of course. If you haven't tested your ‘from' line, now is the time to do so. Why? Because ‘from' lines are more important than ever. Why again? Because more than half of email is opened on a mobile device—and ‘from' lines get prominence in many mobile inboxes. Even on desktops, ‘from' lines are usually on the left and we are still conditioned to read from left to right.

But that's not all. In case you haven't heard, 2014 is all about person-to-person communication, as opposed to B2B or B2C. To be one of the precious few email relationships in your clients' lives, you need an authentic and credible voice. If you're looking to build a conversation—and you should be—an email from Acme Inc. isn't going to cut it any more.

‘From' lines are vital because people scan their inboxes quickly—especially when they're somewhere like in an elevator or on line in a coffee shop—as they increasingly are when picking up email. ‘From' lines quickly tell readers whether an email is from a trusted source, and therefore worthy of their time.

Changing your ‘from' line is not to be taken lightly, however, especially if you already have a solid relationship. Your readers may not recognize a new ‘from' line and hastily delete your message or mark it as spam. If testing shows you need to make a change, include your old ‘from' line within the subject line for the first few mailings, and then keep your new ‘from' line as long as it continues to perform.

What to Test

There aren't really that many options for ‘from' lines:

  • Company/organization name
  • Brand name
  • Product or service name
  • Publication name
  • A person's name
  • A combination of the above

Another possibility is a special ‘from' line for a specific campaign. These often work well in combination, so you can drop the campaign name when it ends.  For example, messages might be from “YMCA Strong Kids” during the Y's Strong Kids fundraising campaign.

You're also limited by space. The maximum character count on many iOS devices is 23 (in portrait view) and on at least one Nokia device it's as low as 17.

The personal option

The person-to-person philosophy might suggest that all email should come from an individual. But that may not be true if your recipients have more of a relationship with your business or brand than with any individuals in your organization. Hence the test. Don't forget to consider the combo option: J. Litchfield – Inbox Marketer. If you choose a person, however, consider what will happen if they leave. ‘From' lines should not be changed often. If you do go with an individual's name, make sure it appears within the message as well, perhaps as a signature, to reinforce the personal touch.

Not the email address

By the way, the ‘from' line is not to be confused with the sender's email address. For example, Amazon's email offers come from but the address is Your ‘from' line and from address should both be trustworthy and consistent. Some email clients display only the address. And of course you don't want to change the address and lose all those “add us to your address book” successes.

The bottom line

Unlike subject lines, which require constant effort, ‘from' lines need only occasional attention—but they do need attention.

Jane Litchfield is senior editor at Inbox Marketer.


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