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What Marketers Can Learn From Professional Spammers

  |  March 29, 2010   |  Comments

Today's spammers are preparing for the next evolution in e-mail marketing. Are you?

A few years ago, spammers made the majority of their money by driving sales through e-mails. It was a pretty simple equation. For every 1,000 e-mails sent, regardless of the offer, at least one person would buy from the e-mail. Steal some bandwidth and a list, and your cost of doing business is $0. It's all profit. Send 1,000 e-mails with a product that costs $9.99 and you just made yourself $10,000. Not bad for a few minutes of work. Today, spammers have honed their money-making abilities ever more and find spamming a very profitable passion.

Spammers, like effective bank robbers, always stay one step ahead of the curve, introducing new technology and fine tuning copy to entice people to buy. They do research on colors that drive attention, subject line, copy length, and even personalization. So, why doesn't anyone study spam e-mails to see the new best practices our standard market should employ? I decided to take a look at a sample of 1,422 spam e-mails recently sent to me to see what I could learn. This is what I found:

  1. No spammers personalize their subject lines anymore.
  2. Ninety percent of the spam e-mails put the call to action or link within the first half inch of the e-mail (and in plain text in most cases).
  3. Fifty percent of the messages contained one large image.
  4. The majority of the subject lines are over 10 words and offer actionable words (e.g., get, save, percent off, etc.).
  5. No spam e-mails include links to social networks or send to a friend.

At the end of this review, I was initially disappointed. There wasn't anything fun, new, or significant to learn from. And then a light bulb went off. I realized that the biggest change from spam e-mails comes from how spammers are monetizing their business today. The value for spammers isn't about driving sales, as much as it is about building responsive databases.

And here is the big learning that we should all be paying attention to. With the insights and information that is collected by spammers, they know who we are, where we live, when we respond, and on which devices and operating systems we leverage. The spammers of today are not just building e-mail databases; they are building the foundation of a mobile accessibility that will drive significant streams of revenue in the short and long term.

While many of our companies today continue to look at e-mail as a single communication channel and revenue driver, it is really much more. Your e-mail program holds the key to insights about your database response patterns that could in fact help drive future corporate strategies. As we continue to move into a mobilized market and evolve our messaging in light of technology innovations, we must be smart about how we use every piece of data to its fullest potential.

We are on the verge of a significant transition in the world of e-mail. Will you be ready to capitalize on the shift in usage patterns? The answers are already with you, inside the spam e-mails you received, and hidden within your own database. Unlock your future potential today.


Jeanniey Mullen

Jeanniey Mullen is the vice president of marketing at NOOK by Barnes and Noble, focused on business growth and customer acquisition. 

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