How to make your email marketing look like spam

If you are using e-mailings to get people to visit your website, chances are at least some of your messages are considered as spam. A recent study indicates that 93% of all emails we receive are spam. How can you make sure your message is not perceived as such?

Some time ago, I received this cryptic email:

Email Screen Shot

Upon clicking the link, the even less informative website appears:

Email Screen Shot

My initial thoughts during this experiences were:

  • The message seems to have been sent by someone I know… but it has no subject, no information.
  • It’s instructing me to click, but why? I am suspicious of this “mystery” tactic.
  • Once I click, I realize that the email’s only goal is to get my personal information. I leave the site.
  • I am irritated that this person sent me a spam email and provided my email address to someone without my consent.

How can legitimate marketing emails avoid looking like spam? Here are three points we learn from the previous example:

    1. Be crystal clear as to the purpose of your email
      Compare the above-mentioned email to this one from YouTube:Email Screen Shot

      There is no doubt as to the subject, and the link sends the user directly to the content, without asking for anything. It’s even more important to be clear when using social marketing features, such as “send to a friend”, because the message is sent from someone the recipient knows personally and is more likely to be read. If the message is perceived as spam, the recipient will resent it all the more for using someone they know as the conduit for unwanted sollicitation.

    2. If you use “curiosity marketing”, make sure you know what you’re doing
      Arousing curiosity without seeming manipulative is an art (and a science) best left to specialists; most people that try to use it create resentment and end up seeming deceptive. A lot of research is involved in this kind of marketing in order to develop strategies that:

      • Make people want to know more about the product or service
      • Answer the “What’s in it for me?” question
      • Time messages precisely to maximize interest
      • Carefully target messages to a specific audience

In the case of this particular message, the “strategy” completely failed. They relied solely on the fact that the message was sent by someone I know, and assumed that it would be enough to get me to sign up.

  1. Don’t force people to do something they don’t want to do
    I assume that this website is some kind of social networking site where you can interact with people you know. However, this is merely a deduction using the few clues I noticed from the email and the sign-up page. This is not enough for me to give up my personal information; I need to be convinced that this is not just an email-gathering strategy for a spam mailing list. If more information about the website had been given on the page, it’s possible I would have chosen to sign up. Like most people, I want to be in control of what I disclose (if anything) and why. The only control I have in this instance is to either a) put my faith in their good intentions or b) leave. I pick B.

For more reading on the subject:

  • Managing the power of curiosity for effective Web advertising strategies (AllBusiness.com)
  • How to Drive Customers Away from your Website: Confuse, Frustrate and Anger Them (Lucid Web)
  • Incompetent Email Marketing = Lost Future Opportunities (useit.com)
 

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