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3 Email Marketing Secrets I Discovered from Studying SPAM

Spammers suck.

They’re awful at what they do (the last stat I saw of their conversion rates was in the neighborhood of 1 in 12,000,000) so what in the world can we learn from them?

TONS. though I’m a professional email marketer – someone who should know better –  I still find myself compelled to open a spam email once in a while.

Wouldn’t you want to harness the spammer’s (very occasional) brilliance and have your list completely helpless when staring at your email in their inbox. . . totally. . . compelled . . . to click?


Here are the 3 secrets I’ve discovered from studying spam messages:


1.) Make me feel guilty!

I feel a little bad deleting an email from “Maria Sanders” even if I know it’s a spam email. . .because there is a slight chance that a real person, Maria, actually took time out of her life to write to me.
Why do I feel guilty for deleting an obvious spam email from “Maria” and feel nothing at all for deleting a legitimate email from Adobe or Microsoft?

Companies are faceless entities, it’s no problem (and even FUN!) to ignore them and foil their marketing efforts. A personal name is so different though, it’s rude to ignore a real person. I wouldn’t want to be ignored, so I try not to ignore others (do unto others, and all that).

The from name matters, I won’t open an email from XYZ Co. but that exact same email from Robert Wilson. . .


2.) We’re not pals.

Adding a personal touch to your email is nice. . . unless you think “Dearest Friend” or “Valued Customer” is a personal touch.

If there is anything that makes my spam radar go crazy it’s “Dearest Friend,” and if there is anything that makes me dislike and distrust a company it’s being addressed as “Valued Customer.”

If I really am your dearest friend or valued customer, chances are you’d know my name.

You don’t, and I’m not.

When you want to have a good response to your email, you’ll lose the stilted phony talk and write like you speak. Nobody would ever really say “dearest friend” to my face. So why would they write it? It doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t make me want to read your email or do business with you.

Don’t know my name? That’s fine, don’t pretend we’re pals, just say “hey” and get on with it.


3.) “Wait. . .What?”

The subject line of your email is usually the single most important factor of your success in email marketing. Doesn’t matter how mind-blowingly rad your offer is, or how beautiful your design is, if the email is never opened.

Spammers are great for creating a headline every once in a while that just grabs my attention and I HAVE to click on it, even though I know it’s spam :\

“Evan, can you make a difference?” This one strikes a nerve because OF COURSE I want to make a difference. Who doesn’t? There is just enough information to pique my curiosity, and no more.

“Your new credit card is inside. You deserve it.” Ignore the first part, focus on the brilliance that is the second sentence. . . That’s RIGHT I deserve it. Thank you for acknowledging the fact. I deserve something and there is nothing you can do to stop me.

“talk to you soon” This sounds. . .human. No period at the end of the sentence, no capitalization at the beginning. Looks like someone was in a hurry and didn’t care to correct those things. Businesses don’t do that, robots don’t do that, people do that. I empathize and connect with this person’s situation, and with just 4 simple words we have a rapport already. Brilliant.

Just because spam is the bane of the email marketer’s existence doesn’t mean we can’t learn anything from it. Next time you have a peek in your spam bin, take a moment and see what gems you discover!

What have you discovered from spam?


This wonderful content was provided by email marketing consultant and resident email critic, Evan Diaz. You can e-stalk him via twitter @evandiaz
Evan Diaz
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  • by Dewane Mutunga
    Posted May 25, 2011 1:07 am 0Likes

    I’m going to have to agree with you Evan, spammers are great at creating attractive subject lines. It’s like a gravitational pull or some type of strange mind power, but they often times make me open them JUST because the subject line was so intriguing.

    Addressing the readers directly by name creates an instant connection and begins the “bonding” process, which is very important.

    Great way to find some good in the “bad”!

    • by evandiaz
      Posted May 25, 2011 1:30 pm 0Likes

      You’re one smart cookie Dewane :)

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