March 14, 2014 | John Goethert

10 Things Spammers Can Teach You about Boosting Your Email Marketing

boosting your email marketing

Have you ever come across an email that said: "Hello, my name is Queen Naboto of Nigeria. If you will let me know your bank account number I promise to give you 1.1 million US dollars in exchange for…"?

That's easy to spot and delete. Right?

Unfortunately, spam emails have become so elaborate and sensitive to who you are, that even the most experienced email users sometimes fall victim to their trickery. On the upside, though, there are some things that we can learn from spam emails and that can help us legitimately boost our own email marketing efforts. Here are the top 10 things you can learn from email spam:

1. Careful Subject Wording

Sometimes even when we know an email is spam, we are compelled to click through and find out what in the world it's pitching. Keep that in mind when composing your subject lines, while always being careful not to sound too "sales-y."

The usual red flags to both your email reader and spam filters are FREE and SALE, so try not to overuse these words. Instead, consider including the reader’s name in your email subject line to personalize your message, because emails that include the addressee's name have the highest open rates (according to MailChimp). Don't know how to personalize emails? Here's an example from HubSpot, the marketing software we use for ourselves and our clients (learn more about HubSpot here).

2. Have a Clear Copy Structure

Often, this is the biggest giveaway that you're reading a spam email. Spam copy is poorly written and rife with mistakes. Don't make this mistake in your business emails!

A great subject line will get the reader to open your email, but unedited and poorly structured content will raise suspicion. That's why it's so important to have a clear email body outline that is easy to navigate and read. This is where the worst spam often goes wrong, but modern spammers sometimes use great copy to get your click.

3. Remember, You're Already Friends

There is a good possibility that your reader will not remember who you are. Remind her how you are connected by saying something like “When we last talked…” or "Thank you for visiting our website." Spammers do this constantly throughout their copy, trying to make you THINK that you know them.

Your advantage is (or had better be) that you really do have a connection to your email recipient. This way, even if the reader doesn’t remember connecting with you in the past, she will be more inclined to read your email rather than skimming through it. Personalizing the email further by using the addressee's name in the body copy will also make your reader feel more comfortable with the message.

4. Keep Email Copy Succinct

Now that the reader has opened your email and begun reading, getting the main point across quickly is paramount. Spammers know this well, and go for their call to action right away before you've had a chance to discover their deceit.

Focus on the benefits you offer to the reader instead of trying to sell your products and services. Use action words and clear calls to action that prompt users to 'learn more', 'click here', or 'visit today'.

5. It’s All about Your Reader

With the overwhelming amount of junk email that hit users' inboxes daily, it's hard not to be tempted to click the “Spam” button. MarketingSherpa’s Wisdom Report found that 40% of emails get marked as spam due to irrelevant content. That's why it's so important to include content that clearly speaks to the needs and values of your target audience.

6. A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

... but only if your audience can see it. Since some email clients turn off the image view, the last thing you want to do is to deliver emails that have empty white boxes without any calls to action. To avoid this, keep the number of photos and logos to no more than three. Additionally, include image tags and alt text, so the reader has an idea of what's hiding behind the empty white box.

Spammers are in the "numbers business," looking for the rare few people who are easily fooled by their tactics, so they rarely go to this level of detail. See to it that you do.

7. Segment Your Audience for Hyper-Targeted Messaging

Spammers are lousy at segmenting, which is another of their biggest giveaways. Don't send your email list broad subject matter that may or may not be of interest to them!

Segmenting your email list into more specific groups will not only keep you from being labeled a spammer, but also will result in 50% more click-throughs.

8. Play by the Rules

Interests evolve, jobs change, and sometimes people may lose their connection you brands and unsubscribe from your news and updates. Just because they aren’t interested now doesn’t mean they won’t be later. However, we should always remember to honor opt-out requests promptly, so your business doesn't violate CAN-SPAM rules. Email platforms like Mail Chimp and Icontact will ensure that users who unsubscribe don't get future notifications.

9. Add Social Sharing

Spammers don't care about connecting with you on social media, but you can connect with your audience (and build your authority) by adding links to all of your social media accounts to the bottom of your emails.

10. Analyze Your Email Marketing Efforts

Analyzing your emails can give you an idea of what works and what doesn't. Did one of your emails have a higher open rate than the others? Was it due to a personable subject line, a well-structured copy or a personable email footer? Identify any patterns that help increase your open and click-through rates. If your campaign receives a high number of unsubscribes, then try something different the next time. Analyzing your past email marketing efforts is your first step to crafting a perfect campaign in the future.

I can personally guarantee that your email campaigns will be so successful, your business will make $1.1 million overnight, or my name isn’t Queen Naboto of Nigeria!

What lessons have you learned from email spam? Let us know in the comments!

Eager to boost your email marketing efforts? Download the Email Marketing Success Checklist today!

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John Goethert

John Goethert

John Goethert served as VIEO’s senior inbound marketing project manager for many years and enjoyed using his varied expertise on behalf of our clients.

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