AdvertisingDigital Marketing

Finding the Good in Spam

By December 28, 2011 No Comments

My personal email inbox probably looks much like yours: a few emails from friends, a larger group of emails I’ve subscribed to, and spam – lots of it. Doreen, Azzie, and Elnore – ladies I don’t know – want to tell me about Lasik eye surgery, sell me Apple iPads for $30.00 (right!), and supply pills designed to improve my marriage.

Nearly everyone ignores spam or moves them to the trash… but not everyone. Successful spammers generate a lot of cash. How do they succeed at something that is universally despised?

I don’t like spam, but I’ve learned to pay attention to it. Some spammer knowledge can easily be applied to legitimate marketing campaigns. Here are a few things that they know:

Bigger is Better. Spammers might send a million emails to get one customer. Fortunately, your customer list should be more interested in your product than the spam they receive, but the concept is still valid. The time spent developing an offer concept, email copy, and landing page won’t vary much whether the email goes out to 100 or 100,000. Economies of scale are at work. And with 1% being a good conversion rate in many legit markets, a large database of qualified email addresses is a must.

If you aren’t yet collecting email addresses for every customer and prospect, start doing that today. There are also sources of legitimate lists for people who have opted in to offers for a particular type of product – often in conjunction with a magazine subscription.

Spam Filters Must Be Avoided. Email can’t be opened if it doesn’t reach the inbox, so spammers must go to great lengths to evade the spam filters. Legitimate marketers must avoid having their emails misidentified as spam as well.  A misworded offer (“free shipping” or “money back guarantee”) can land your email in spam purgatory – even if it’s sent to your best customer. Close attention needs to be paid to spam filter rules as your message is designed.

You Have to Stand Out. Once your email reaches the inbox, how can you increase the chance that it will be noticed and opened?

First, your business name should appear in the From field. If it reads or Abigail, it looks like spam.

Next, the email Subject should be concise and compelling. Long subject lines don’t get read. Senders of viruses are as adept as spammers at providing a compelling subject. I recently received a virus email (falsely claiming to be from the Better Business Bureau) with the attention-grabbing subject, “Your Customer’s Complaint”. The familiar organization name, combined with a subject line that spoke to something important to me (customer service) earned them a click, though I didn’t fall for the bait of downloading the attached document (surely a virus).

You Must Get the Click. To be truthful, I don’t find much that’s useful to talk about in the body of spam emails.  This is their weak spot (once they get past the spam filter). Legitimate marketers need to use the email to move their reader from the point of being curious about the offer to clicking through to the website. It requires a strong, clear call to action. The reader needs to visit your website today. It’s unlikely that they’ll return to your email later. If there’s a necessary coupon code, repeat it on the landing page, and tell them when and where they’ll need to enter it.  Once they arrive at your website landing page, repeat the offer, provide more details, and guide them through what to do next. Make it so easy they don’t have to think.

Stick to it. Spammers send again and again. Sometimes they repeat their offer, sometimes they change it up. It’s called “persistence”! As a legit marketer, you’ll want to send email campaign follow-up(s) – perhaps a week later at a different time of the day. Repeating the offer and following up with new future offers will get people into the habit of seeing your emails. They’ll know what they look like and (if they have an interest) be more likely to click through as a result. The frequency of your emails may vary based on industry. I welcome one daily email (for a discounted watch of the day), but if I received emails in the same frequency from a local restaurant, I would unsubscribe within the week.

It’s easy to simply write off spam as undesirable and ignore it. But there are lessons to be learned. Understanding spam can have hidden benefits, and refocus us on what is good about our own email campaigns – as well as what needs work. How do you intend to put email marketing to work for you in 2012?