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Is 90 Percent of Email Crap?

Have you ever heard of Sturgeon’s law? This adage, first penned by science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, was developed to defend the quality of his chosen genre. In response to critics who said science fiction was mostly garbage, he argued that all genres are 90 percent crap, with just a few quality works at the top.

We feel that way about emails. We read marketing emails all day long, and most of them are so awful that we shudder, race to mark them as junk, and wish we could find a better way to block this barrage of garbage that floods in alongside valuable correspondence. In fact, claiming that only 90 percent of marketing emails are crap feels generous.

But Doesn’t Cup O Content Create Emails Too?

At this point, you may be wondering how we can be so tough on email marketing when our teams also create emails. The truth is that we work really hard to be in the top 10 percent. Everyone on our team strives to create useful emails full of relevant information and only send them to people who have already told us they’re interested in getting information. We work to create relevant content, get high open rates, ensure good clickthrough rates, and drive low unsubscribe rates.

It's not always easy. We’ve made mistakes, but we’ve also learned a lot about what makes a good email and how to use email marketing to build brands. In fact, over the years, we have developed a lot of rules when it comes to email, and we’re going to publish them right here in the sincere hope that tons of email marketers read them, share them with their colleagues, and the quality of email everywhere skyrockets–and then, you know, world peace.

So here we go…

1. Send Sparingly

The point of emails is to enhance your brand and encourage action. So why do brands think it’s okay to start emailing every day? No matter how much you like a brand, relentless messaging gets annoying fast.

When sending emails to customers, use the same rules that apply to sending emails to colleagues or friends, and family. Respect their time. Don’t flood the inbox. Don’t send the same messages over and over. In most cases, less is more, folks.

2. Get to the Point

We know people who are fans of creating extraordinarily long emails. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay. Say what you have to say, and no more. Brevity is your friend.

3. Have a Point

Why are you sending the email? What’s in it for the recipient? Why will they want to open it? Read it? Click on links? If you don’t have a compelling message, don’t send emails.

4. Do NOT Use Emojis, Symbols, or Bold Text in the Subject Line

Nothing screams “spam” like a subject line loaded with emojis. Don’t do it.

5. Break Information Into Easy-to-Read Nuggets

We’ve found that people are more likely to read and interact with emails when they’re brief, but newsletters or updates sometimes mandate a series of topics. In these cases, break the topics up into a series of content nuggets, clearly divided by bars or borders. Make it easy for the reader to skim and find the information they care about.

6. Start With the Most Important Point

As they say in journalism school, don’t bury the lead! The first bit of information always gets the most attention from the reader, and the first link always gets clicked more. So put the most important piece of information at the top and the least important information at the bottom—no exceptions.

7. Don’t Include More Than One Offer per Email

Over and over, we have found that emails with a single offer perform better than emails with multiple deals. So split the offers up and send one per email.

8. Don’t Send to People Who Did Not Give You Permission

This is a common but crappy move, and it’s ineffective. Instead, spend your time and money building a qualified email list. We can help.

9. Unsubscribe Means Unsubscribe

When users unsubscribe, many email marketers take people off the list for a few weeks but then start sending to them again. How do we know? It’s happened to us. Dozens of times. Maybe it’s a mistake, or maybe not. Either way, it’s a credibility killer.

10. Don’t Make It Difficult to Unsubscribe

You’re not doing yourself any favors by making it difficult to opt out of emails. Don’t require users to fill out a quiz, ask them to key in their email, or make the unsubscribe text ludicrously small and hard to read. Be a grownup and make it simple. There is no value in sending emails to people who resent them.

11. Be Honest About Results

Are you one of those marketers who tries to make every result a positive one? If you are, stop doing that. Analyze your results honestly. Admit when things didn’t work. Be brave enough to test alternatives and admit when an idea was a stinker. If you keep pretending that every result is a good one, you will never get better.

90 Percent of Emails Are Crap Because 90 Percent of Email Marketers Are Crap

Emails are only as good as the marketer who creates them. If you’re for a company to ignore CAN-SPAM laws and churn out tons of emails in the hopes of getting a few sales, Cup O Content is not interested. But if you’re looking for emails that build your brand, enhance your market position, and create repeat customers, we’re here for you. Contact us today to see if we’re right for you.

Want to learn more? Check out these articles.


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