I Have 100,000 Unopened Emails and 10 Things I’ve Learned About Email

Nate Smoyer
Sep 25, 2016 · 6 min read

There’s no shortage of people bragging about hitting inbox zero. There’s always a handful of people proclaiming having reached “the holy grail” of inbox productivity at any given time on Twitter. Don’t take this as a diss, but I think it’s a bit overrated.

This is a screenshot from my phone, taken on September 23, 2016.

I’ve decided to not inbox zero for about two years now—and I don’t think I’ll turn back. In this short period of time, I’ve racked up over 100,000 unopened emails (a number that would give inbox zero people nightmares) and here’s what I’ve come to learn about my email practice, email marketing, and email in general. Also at the very bottom, I’ll explain why I get so many emails and why it’s part of my outreach and business development strategy.

  1. Email is still dominant. I’m one of those crazy millennials who’s supposed to be on SnapChat all day and getting all my news from Facebook, but that’s not how I do things. Email dominates all other communication channels, whether for personal or business reasons, email is the channel you can most reliably communicate with others about anything.
  2. We spend to0 much time sending email. ← This coming from the guy that just said email is dominant. I recently featured an article from the SalesForce blog in my weekly newsletter (Crushing Sales Weekly). The article says emails should be kept, “within three to five sentences.” If your email must be much longer than that, then *gasp!* you may want to call the people you’re emailing. The inventions of Skype, Hangouts, and even SnapChat make calling anyone, anywhere, all that much easier.
  3. The .gif is alive and well! Crazy to think that the .gif would be so alive and well today. But of the emails I do choose to open (and despite the number of unopens I have, I do open and read a lot), the .gif is killing it, more and better than ever. Some marketers are actually taking the time to lift their heads out of their spreadsheets to put some creativity into the mix. To those brave few who still believe marketing should be creative, I salute you.
  4. Email marketers are lazy. Look, don’t get mad at me if you’re an email marketer. Maybe you’re one of the few who isn’t lazy. I’m not saying being lazy is all a bad thing; I’m just saying many email marketers are lazy. I see what’s going on with a wide selection of newsletters, blogs, product companies—all the stuff. Many of the subject lines I read don’t tell me what I’m about to actually open. I don’t have time to be opening your email. I don’t even have time to think about if I want to open your email. If it’s not speaking directly to me—I’m over it. Next. As we’re all getting inundated with email, you as an email marketer can’t afford to make your subscribers work or guess in figuring out what you’re sending them.
  5. I was doing email wrong for a long time. I never had a system. Now, I’ve got a system and it works well for me. I open email that looks important. If it requires anymore than a few moments to take actions, I Star the email. If it requires a simple reply, I reply. I’ve come to rely on a few other tools recently to help me with some of my follow ups. In the past I’ve used Google Calendar for reminders to follow up. Boomerang for Gmail is one option. I’ve recently switched to SndLatr for Gmail, after Nathan Latka graciously demo’d the product for me during a Skype call, for all my delayed send and follow up reminder needs. The point is I previously went through email without a system, but now I have one that works and I keep to it.
  6. A lot of people are wasting time and money on email. Just like the credit card companies, email marketers are spending a crap ton of money to send people like me email. Here’s an email marketing tip: if they aren’t engaged (opening and clicking) then unsubscribe people. GrowthHackingIdea.com did this to me recently. I was unsubscribed from the daily idea and moved to the weekly idea digest since I wasn’t opening emails any more (I actually started getting all the ideas via Facebook — ignore my previous millennial comment). Just send your non-engaged people an email with a subject line “We’re breaking up” and tell them they’re lack of interest in the relationship is what’s forced you to break ties—unless they “click here” to subscribe.
  7. I buy more from those who send me good emails. Email marketers (the good ones) will be saying right now, “OH, you don’t say!?”. The point of me sharing this is to confirm to every entrepreneur, business owner, tech startup, SaaS company—I’m more likely to buy from you if you’re sending me legit stuff. Look up Robert Cialdini’s explanation of the theory of reciprocity. Then employ that using email and ask for the sale. $$$ will be raining out of my wallet into yours.
  8. I’m a fan of emojis in subject lines, but many other people aren’t. If you follow me on LinkedIn they you may have seen the results of a A/B test I ran using emojis in subject lines (also was featured on HackingRevenue.com). Product Hunt is probably the best at using them. At the end of the day, for some, it’s a good idea to start incorporating them. However, you’ll need to run some tests to get to know your list because not everyone is a fan.
  9. Plugging in the recipient’s first name does help open rates. I’m fairly self-aware of my actions. I often think about why I do what I do, so that I can later use those same tactics in marketing. When emailers use my name in emails, I’m more likely to open the email than otherwise. This means you need to capture my name—don’t neglect this!
  10. My attention is too divided and I’ll be unsubscribing more from now on. I’ve definitely pushed my attention capacity to it’s limit. I simply can’t afford to be as nosey as I’d like. So the amount emails I get needs to be reduced so I can spend less time looking through and reading stuff that means nothing to me. Even me, someone who intentionally signs up for marketing emails, is getting too much uninteresting stuff and I need a break. This reduction of noise is part of a greater effort on my part to stay more focused.

BONUS ROUND: How do I get so much email and why?

I’m just a digital marketer, working in ad tech at BuySellAds. The volume of email I get is because I seek out good email. I collect emails by signing up for newsletters of every slightly-interesting website, signing up for beta launches, downloading boatloads of whitepapers, and subscribing to updates from legit blogs. I’m also one those weirdos who fills out feedback forms and replies when prompted (email me early access and I’ll likely give you feedback: NateSmoyer@gmail.com). From there it’s simple: only the best emails get opened, read, and clicked-through.

Here’s a few things I do with the emails I get to help me in business:

  • I follow competitors’ offers and promotions for ideas and to keep a pulse on happenings
  • I read and engage with influencers’ content to get to know them, and then wait for a good time to reach out and make a pitch
  • I grab the headlines and read one or two lines in so I can easily have small talk with anyone—this comes in handy when you’re constantly talking to new people about stuff you don’t really care about (Google: mirroring effect)
  • When I need to get the attention of a startup founder, blog editor, or influencer, I subscribe to their newsletter. From there, I can reply to their emails, give them feedback, or make a pitch that’s directly related to their newsletter.

Have something you want to share with me about email? Tell me why this is brilliant or a total waste of your time in the comments or on Twitter: @Nate Smoyer

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