I Read Every Email I Received For A Week. Here Is What I Learned

Like many of you, I receive hundreds of emails a day. Most of us don’t have time to read every email. We skim the emails and delete the ones we know we won’t read. And it seems like for every email I unsubscribe, two more show up.

I know there are add-on products out there to clean up your inbox and I have used a few. But they don’t seem to be as effective as you think. Gmail is an option because it separates out your emails into the social and promotion and captures spam. But it has its flaws. And frankly, a Gmail account is not very professional.

So I decided to make a point of reading every email that came into my inbox for one week and here is what I learned.

Spammers Write The Worst Emails

I know people get fooled by emails and lose a lot of money. But I question how. I received this email, which is apparently a fake. Just a glance at the wording shows that this is not the way anyone speaks. “A new invoice is rendered.” Who talks like that? Also, they did not even bother to add a logo or make it look official. If you are going to try to steal my information using a spam email the least you can do is put some effort into the process.

Retailers Write The Worst Emails

I am amazed at how little effort retailers put into their emails. This is a critical engagement point with your customer. You want your customer to open the email. The subject line is what will make the difference. A subject line with “Sale!” followed by a few emoji’s is not a compelling message to open an email. In fact, emoji’s are great for social media interactions, but not very professional for email.

Here is a free guide I found on 110 Free Email Subject Lines.

Once you get past the subject line and open the email, I cannot believe how few are personalized. This is not new technology. It has been proven that personalization improves email conversions. It should be an essential function of email marketing today.

Newsletters Write The Worst Emails

Like many of you, I subscribe to many daily and weekly newsletters in different industries. Given that most of these emails come from marketers, they would be more engaging with better subject lines. In fact, they are boring and repetitive. However, there is one exception.

I subscribe to a newsletter about a private equity and venture capital database called CBInsights . Not a very interesting subject for emails. And yet, they have the most inventive and engaging subject lines. Here is a sampling of a few of the better ones.

“the worst startup logo in history”
“science: super strong spider webs”
“ugly dog map”
“Google was a failure”

Each one of these subject lines made me open the email and read the contents.

A quick scan of the subject lines in my inbox today read like a snooze fest.

“Today’s Update” 
“Quick Question”
“Today’s Newsletter”

None of these compel me to open up these emails. But I was committed to my quest of opening every email for a week. But just as the subject lines are boring, so is the content of most of these emails.

Overall Observations

Mobile is a not a fad; it is a real change in how we engage with content. If you are sending emails and they are not mobile responsive, expect a low open rate.

Personalization is easy. If your email system can’t send personalized emails or subject lines, change systems.

Make your content engaging. If you want me to read your email, then give me a reason. Be fun, funny or interesting. Boring is too difficult.

Make your emails clean. I don’t need colored backgrounds with flowing lines. It is distracting and doesn’t look as good as you think it does.

Use high-quality images. Blurry doesn’t cut it. Images sell products, ideas, and systems. Use good ones.

Make the contents quick, focused and to the point. Tell me what you want me to do in this email. Don’t lead me into unnecessary content.

This exercise made me a better email marketer. By reading all of these poorly thought out emails pushed me to sit down with my staff and develop a new strategy. Our focus on subject lines and better content will have positive effects. But if we are going to go through the effort of creating an email and we expect users to take their time to read it, we need to do a better job.

What I also learned was that I receive entirely too many emails. Going through a week’s work of emails forced me to unsubscribe to the ones I don’t value. So it will have long-term