Most of us will answer to our names by the time we're just a year old. And even as a young child, nothing had the power to stop me in my tracks like my Mother using my name in a tone that told me I'd done something wrong. 

On the flip side, I also remember clearly the way she said my name when I'd done something she was proud of - a tone she still uses today when I'm well into my thirties. I'm sure it's the same for many of you. And, actually, there's some science behind how we respond to hearing our names.

A study used MRI scanning techniques to assess how brains "light up," when we hear our names compared with hearing other words. We respond positively to our own names. It stands to reason. Our names are a significant part of our own identity.

Putting Names to Use

There is a lot of research available on persuasive words and how we can use them in marketing or sales. And a first name is definitely one you can add to your arsenal of vocabulary for a sales pitch, a personalized sales email or even a cover note for a job application.

Here's how you can put the power of the first name to use today:

  • Grab the attention of a sales prospect, a prospective employer or someone you're presenting a marketing idea to. Sparing use of their first name at the right time in conversation or on screen is a great way to win their attention.
  • Become more liked. Likability is integral to persuasiveness and to being remembered. Using someone's name makes you appear empathetic and caring - traits that we, as humans, are wired to like. 
  • Make a good first impression. If you're in a sales meeting and you're able to address everyone in the room by first name, it gives the impression of you having done your homework and taken the time to get to know your audience.
  • Get involved in conversations at networking events. If a conversation is running away without you or you want to get a point across without appearing to interrupt, the use of a first name can invoke a pause, grab someone's attention and give you chance to make your point.

Use Sparingly

Do use first names with caution though. Over personalization borders on the creepy and automation can result in some seriously poor marketing emails (ever had a "Hi {FirstName}" email?).

And let's be honest, starting every sentence with a name is just a little bit awkward.

But with careful use and a bit of thought, referring to someone by first name could be the key to improving your marketing, persuasiveness and likability.