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When discussing spam emails, there's an inconvenient truth that often gets ignored: email spam is still so prevalent because it works.

Yes, those horrible emails ridden with poor grammar and spelling errors, pitching everything from get rich quick schemes to 'performance enhancing drugs', are effective sales tools for the product peddlers behind them.

Just how effective? According to a new study released by the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG), over 50% of the 800 people it interviewed by phone have clicked on a spam email. That may not be entirely surprising but the next stat just might be: 12% have been interested enough in the product offered to respond in some fashion to a spam email.

While some responding to a spam email indicated that they made an honest mistake (insert joke) or just wanted to see what would happen, it's clear that a considerable number of people are willing subjects.

You can file this information in the 'embarrassing facts about humanity' or you can accept the red pill and ask yourself a simple question: if I could achieve 50% open rates and get 12% of my mailing list recipients to respond to my email campaigns, what would that do for my business?

Short of going into the pharmaceutical business, I think some of the characteristics spam emails can be of use to mainstream business owners.

  • It's all about the recipient. Get rich quick schemes, free giveaways, drugs that enhance your body. What do they all have in common? They're all about you. People want to feel better, look better, perform better, feel special. And a bigger bank account never hurt either.

    While your product or service may not help your customers lose 20 pounds in a week, framing your email marketing messages in terms of how your products and services can benefit recipients should be the focal point. Maybe you can help them perform better or earn money by saving money.

  • K.I.S.S. Many mainstream marketing emails, of course, do try to explain how what's being offered is of benefit to the recipient. The problem is often that the email is too verbose or the text is too dull. Most spam emails are simple and while this doesn't mean that your email should be a one-liner stating 'Click here to enlarge your travel itinerary this summer', erring on the side of simplicity is usually a good idea.
  • Make your subject line sexy. Subject lines shouldn't be boring. While it's good to be somewhat descriptive so as to ensure that the recipient can identify what the email is about, don't make your subject line a caption for the dullest photo in the world. Do what spammers do. Ask a question. Use emotional words. Get straight to the call to action.

    The logic is obvious: if I can't get intrigued and excited about opening your email, chances are you're not even going to get the opportunity to get me intrigued and excited about your product or service.

Photo credit: Yandle via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 16 July, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2419 more posts from this author

Comments (6)

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SEO Services Expert Company, Search Engine Optimization Expert at SEO Services Company

Email marketing has a very low conversion rate as compared to other marketing channels.

Search engine marketing focuses only on those customers who are interested in your product, whereas Email marketing focuses on "Who Cares? I will mail anyhow"

over 7 years ago

Alec Kinnear

Alec Kinnear, Creative Director at Foliovision

What's with the spam comments being allowed to stick from "Bulk email marketing".

And yes, Patricio is abusing statistics again.

10,000 spam emails to a single individual. Single response. Even a nominal charge of 1¢/email would put spammers out of business.

Could the rest of us say the same? No way.

over 7 years ago


Consumer Mailing Lists

Great article, you make great points, especially about the subject line. Since this is the first thing that consumers will read it has to be catchy or sexy as you say. If your subject line is mediocre, I'm sure your spamming results will be mediocre as well.

over 7 years ago

Vincent Amari

Vincent Amari, Online Consultancy at Business Foresights Ltd

Linda Marcus from Astra Communications (media contact for MAAWG) kindly passed this on to me.

There is another survey out that actually follows click through to purchase.See this article from InternetNews:  http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article.php/3830011/Spam+Not+So+Profitable.htm.

over 7 years ago


Ed the email marketing man

"12% have been interested enough in the product offered to respond in some fashion to a spam email." - really? I'm surprised by that. Whilst there are still a sizeable percentage of people who respond, spam emails will continue to be a problem. Educate people better and I think as the response rates plummet, the spam emails will dry up.

about 7 years ago



What none of you realize is that we don teven need you to buy the product. As long as you click any featured link we get paid A LOT!!! hahah

over 5 years ago

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