Most people say they hate it and many people claim (falsely) not to read any of it. Even the people who send it are not entirely convinced it is beneficial, but unsolicited business to business email marketing is set to grow. A survey of over a thousand people’s attitudes to unsolicited email by online list supplier sheds some light and raises some curious paradoxes.

Attitudes to unsolicited emails received

Whatever the common belief, not everybody is deluged in unsolicited email at work - 17% reckon they get no more than 5 per day. The majority (59%) receive between 5 and 20 such e-mails each working day. Just 8% claim to get more than 50 every day.

Asked how much time such emails take to deal with, 12% say ‘almost none’ and 50% just ‘a few minutes’ but almost 1 in 10 claim they waste ‘half an hour or more’ each day.

The majority of people (57%) say they do read at least some of the unsolicited emails they receive, but they are very selective. Only 2% read all of them, 10% read at least half and the largest group (34%) say they read only about 1 in 10 of emails received.

43% of our survey respondents say they read no unsolicited emails at all, which is clearly untrue as they were invited to complete the survey by unsolicited email. This proves that a well constructed email will be read by large numbers of people - even by those who maintain they never read such things.

The relevance and content of emails received tends not to particularly excite people. Asked how many emails they were ‘glad they received’, two thirds say ‘none’ and most of the rest (27%) are only glad they received 10% of them. Despite this some 28% say they have visited a website they consider to be ‘very useful’ and 13% have made a purchase as a result of an unsolicited email.

Whilst 69% ‘hate’ the unsolicited email they get at work (but read our email and completed our online questionnaire), nearly a third of people are ambivalent to it, and 2% are actually ‘happy to receive it’.

Attitudes to unsolicited emails sent out

A third admits to sending either the occasional unsolicited email to an address they come across on a brochure or website or, in the case of 18%, to lists of emails. Some 13% now spend 10% or more of their total marketing budget on email marketing.

However, views on the efficacy of email marketing vary widely. 31% consider it to be ‘good for creating awareness’ but despite the fact that 15% believe they now obtain 10% or more of their new customers this way only 4% think it ‘good for finding new customers’.

The largest group (39%) say they do not know what effect their email marketing has and a significant 27% feel it may even be ‘counter-productive’.


There are a number of paradoxes here. Most people claim to hate unsolicited emails and many people say they never read any of them but both groups evidently do read them and more importantly will act upon them if the relevance, content and incentive are right.

Very few people say they openly welcome unsolicited emails but as many as a third say that they are not opposed to receiving them and a similar number of people state that they are occasionally glad they have received them, with about half this number having made a purchase as a result. As a result some companies are successfully generating significant new business through unsolicited email, but despite this many marketers themselves are still not entirely convinced about the merits of email marketing.

Clearly many people do not automatically junk all unsolicited email, whatever they say they do. What is more likely is that they decide very quickly if they are going to read it. Marketers therefore need to put greater effort into the wording of the subject line, the opening lines and possibly more important, the proper selective targeting of the recipients if their email is not to be junked.

Whatever people think of them, we had all better get used to receiving more unsolicited emails at work. Despite being unconvinced as to its effectiveness, 20% of the total survey and virtually three-quarters of those currently using email marketing said they intend to do more of it in the next year.


The survey was conducted during April 2006 by, the UK’s leading online source of direct marketing lists. Respondents were invited via unsolicited email to complete the survey online, with the incentive of being entered into a prize draw to win £1000. 1742 people answered at least one question and 1181 completed all questions.

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Notes to the Editor: is owned and operated by MarketingFile Ltd, a private company based in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. is the UK’s largest online source of lists for direct marketing, supplying mailing, telemarketing, fax and email lists to many thousands of businesses.

MarketingFile Ltd is a member of the Direct Marketing Association and abides by its Code of Practice.

The full survey results can be downloaded from

For further information please contact Chris Loveys, Sales & Marketing Director on 01462 437733 or email

Published on: 12:00AM on 24th May 2006