Many articles have been written about the importance of a good subject line and a clear “From” line in emails.  Readers make split decisions about whether or not to open an email, and these two pieces of information are what determines if they choose to open it, click spam or unsubscribe.

In a recent HubSpot webinar about email, the key takeaway is “Send email from someone they’ve heard of.”

hubspot email webinar

In this webinar, Dan Zarrella points out, “… one of the first things most people look at when they look at your emails and they decide to read them or not, and they want to filter through their inbox, is the sender. So the first thing people are thinking is do I know this person?”  Great point.


Here are 2 examples of BAD “From” lines that I’d like to point out:

1) HubSpot

Here’s how the email looks in my inbox

hubspot email inbox


Looking at this, my thought is “Who is Patrick Shea?”.  I don’t know a Patrick Shea.  Lately, I have been diligent about unsubscribing from emails that I don’t read or never signed up for in the first place, so I opened this email, fully intending to click unsubscribe.

But, here’s how the email looks when I click on it

hubspot email expanded

Now with their logo and expanded From line visible, I know it’s a trusted source and one I subscribe to.  But, I could have also very easily just clicked delete or spam before opening it based on the fact that I don’t know who Patrick Shea is.   I do see that receiving an email from “Patrick Shea” seems friendlier and less corporate than “HubSpot”, but why not have it say “HubSpot — Patrick Shea” to get the best of both worlds? An email list is often one of the most valuable marketing tactics, so keeping subscribers should be of utmost importance.  So, my question is… why would you risk having a potential customer unsubscribe (or even worse, click spam on you)?

HubSpot‘s Dan Zarrella said in the email webinar, “If people are more likely to know your brand name than your personal name, great. Send from your brand name. But in most cases, people will gain familiarity or gain trust if they seen email from somebody they’ve actually heard of, somebody they’ve actually done business with, or somebody that is a mega huge celebrity.”  Why does HubSpot assume I know who Patrick Shea is?  What if I just signed up for this list?  What if I just receive too many emails each day (not all from HubSpot!) to learn who all of HubSpot’s employees are?


On a site note…

I tweeeted this, this morning: tweet about hubspot

and got 2 responses from other tweeters who seem to agree: twitter responses

2) Boston Event Guide

Here’s how the email looks in my inbox

boston event guide inbox


My reaction to this was, “Am I STILL receiving all these scotch invitations from my days working at Jim Beam?”. I clicked on it, ready to unsubscribe.

But, here’s how the email looks when I click on it

boston event guide expanded

The email is from Boston Event Guide (BEG), a company I subscribe to, but it’s not easy to identify as BEG. Except for the small legal-sized text at the bottom of the email, the whole email had the look, feel and branding of Macallan.   I have almost unsubscribed to these emails many times in the past, but was saved at the very last minute when I realized it was BEG.  (I even emailed the owner personally, and gave him my unsolicited advice on this :-))  But, yesterday, I actually DID unsubscribe!  I must have been multitasking, so didn’t notice anything about BEG until I received the “sorry to see you go” email confirmation from BEG.  Wow, they just lost an interested reader.

Macallan and BEG must have some sort of partner arrangement, where BEG sends emails to its list on behalf of Macallan. This is common. But, to ensure you have the trust of the mailing list, the email should come from BEG, or at least say “Boston Event Guide and Macallan”, and the body of the email should say something like ,”This program is brought to you on behalf of BEG”, so people know they’re receiving this from BEG.

Keeping your email subscribers, and influencing them to open your emails with a good From line and subject line is very important in email marketing. Why do you think these companies risk it with these tactics? Have you seen any other bad (or good) examples of how to handle this?

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    • DJ Waldow

      Ha. Funny that Hubspot is offering up that advice. The first thing I thought of when I started reading this blog post is … “Wait. But all the emails I get from Hubspot are from people I don’t know!” 

      I agree that using a person’s first name – assuming it’s known, recognizable AND trusted – it can boost open rates. However, as you said, you risk the opposite happening if that from name is NOT known, recognizable and trusted. 

      The nice part is that most email service providers allow you to test the from name. Why not A|B test it to see which leads to more opens? Right?

      • Rachel Levy

        Good points, DJ, thanks. So do you think HubSpot has tested this and found that the names work better? I’d be surprised, but they DO tend to test everything!

        • DJ Waldow

          Good question. I can’t recall what email provider they use – maybe a custom built one? I know they tend to test stuff. Let’s ask ’em!

          • Rachel Levy

            I think it’s custom built. I’m waiting for a response :-)

    • Daiv Russell

      An important, yet amazingly overlooked detail.  I wonder how badly their open rate suffers from this little faux pas.

      • Rachel Levy

        Thanks for the comment Daiv – I wonder the same! It must.

    • David Cancel


      I’m the head of Products at HubSpot. Thanks for the post you bring up a good point, I’ll pass it on to the team.

      As to what Email Provider we use, HubSpot of course! :)

      Our marketing team sends all their emails from our new Email Product which will be rolling out to customers really soon. If you want to use it now you can signup to the beta group. It is totally amazing IMHO and will blow your minds when you use it.


      • Rachel Levy

        Thanks for the comment David