Should marketing emails use a ‘no-reply’ email address?
Don't send the wrong message to your customers. Columnist Ryan Phelan explains why using “do-not-reply” or “no-reply” in your email sending address is a bad idea.
I love talking with marketers, and I do it often. They ask me great questions about email and how to do it better. But every once in a while, I get a question that makes my head explode, and I got one of those at a recent conference.
“Should we use a ‘do-not-reply’ address as our ‘from’ address?” this marketer wondered. “We want people to use our reply form, not just reply to the email.”
I struggled to find a polite way to tell him that, no, that was one of the worst ideas he could have come up with, short of buying email lists, of course.
I’ll go into the reasons why in a bit. But his question got me wondering: How many companies use “do not reply” or “no-reply” in their sending addresses?
I searched through my Gmail inbox and thought I’d find maybe one or two benighted companies that hadn’t seen the light. I was shocked to find dozens of them. Woot, the company that once defined brand equity, email excellence and customer entertainment value for me, was the first one on the list.
But an even bigger disappointment came from my friends at Magnolia Market. You know, that retail complex owned by the irrepressibly goofy couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines, of Waco, Texas, and stars of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” show.
Their home-design brands are all about family and personal connections. But what’s their “from” address? “Nofirstname.lastname@example.org.”
Heck, you guys. It’s not that hard! Have it come from “chip@magnoliamarket” or “joanna@magnoliamarket.” Even “email@example.com.” I just couldn’t believe that a brand as personal as Magnolia Market would have a no-reply email.
Why ‘no-reply’ is no good
Your brand has a personality, a face. The face might be your logo, but it’s all part of your brand equity. When you send an email with “do-not-reply” or “no-reply” in the sender line, you’re really saying to your customers, “I am never going to look at the email that you want to send me. Never.”
Well, I have a tip for you. There is no excuse — none — for emails to go unanswered or even to imply it.
Every decent email service provider (ESP) has message handling, which looks for common replies, like people replying with “unsubscribe” or spam complaints. In fact, discouraging email replies by using “no-reply” violates CAN-SPAM because your subscribers must be able to opt out just by replying to the email.
The deeper issue here is that you’re saying to your customers, “My customer service is so bad, I won’t even reply to your email.”
Even if you use your ESP’s message-handling features, have your return address express your brand, its promises or personality. Instead of “no-reply,” Magnolia Market could have used “firstname.lastname@example.org.” Do something instead of creating the negative impression that “no-reply” generates.
Warm up the inbox
“No-reply@XYZ.com” might be the default setting your email platform uses to identify the mailbox connected with your sending address, but you can change it easily, even if you use message handling to process those emails.
Don’t assume that your customers won’t see your sending address in their inboxes. Email clients vary. Some show the email address the message comes from. Some show both the sender name (“Magnolia Market”) and the sender address, and some just the address. Assume your customer sees everything, and choose friendly names and addresses.
P.S. Sorry if this article isn’t as detailed as you might like it, but I can’t think of any other way to say that using “no-reply” and all its variations is a bad idea. If you’d like to complain, please send your comments to “email@example.com.”