14 Eye-Opening Stats You Probably Didn't Know About Spam

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Katie Burke
Katie Burke




You can run, but you can’t hide. Even with all the tools we have at our disposal to help us block out these annoying messages, you’ve probably seen spam from marketers weasel its way into your mailbox, your inbox, your news feed, or your phone.

To assure you that you’re not alone, we’ve assembled 14 shocking statistics about spammy marketing to make the case for why all of us (consumers and marketers alike) need to take notice of the implications of spam. And here at HubSpot, we're working hard to practice what we preach. Today, we launched our Make Love Not Spam campaign to support the creation of lovable marketing. As part of the campaign, we've created an ebook, two SlideShare presentations (here and here), and even a t-shirt to spread the word that, as marketers, we have the power to make marketing something that people love, not hate.

As it happens, mass-produced mailing has some Valentine’s Day roots: In 1797, The Young Man’s Valentine Writer was published in England, giving men who couldn’t write an opportunity to leverage romantic verses for their own love interests. A combination of postal rates decreasing and a rise in the industrial economy over the next century made it both cheaper and easier for gentleman to send valentines, reducing personalization and allowing valentines to be produced in factories.

In addition to lowering the cost to send Valentine's love letters, poems, and cards, making it easier and less expensive to directly communicate with people opened new doors for marketers. On the other hand, it’s also made it easier than ever to commoditize a message, to eliminate all elements of personalization, and to ignore what you know about an individual consumer in favor of mass mailings and communications (e.g. letters, catalogs, emails, or social media).

So in the spirit of St. Valentine’s Day, here are 14 surprising statistics about spam ... along with three strategies to make your marketing more lovable -- and less spammy.

14 Eye-Opening Statistics About Spam

1) Spam costs American consumers and firms nearly $20 billion each year. (Source: Journal of Economic Perspectives) Tweet This Stat

2) 43% of adults in the U.S. said that more than half of their emails are from marketers. (Source: Blue Kangaroo) Tweet This Stat

3) Cities estimate they spend $1 billion per year to dispose of direct mail. (Source: NY Times) Tweet This Stat

4) 3.5 billion tweets posted to Twitter every day are spam. (Source: BitDefender via Daily Mail) Tweet This Stat

5) 40% of social media accounts are spam. (Source: Mark Risher, Imperium via BusinessWeek) Tweet This Stat

6) 8% of social media posts are spam. (Source: Mark Risher, Imperium via BusinessWeek) Tweet This Stat

7) More than 4 million tons (62 billion pieces) of junk mail are produced yearly. (Source: 41pounds.org) Tweet This Stat

8) The average adult receives 41 lbs. of junk mail a year. (Source: 41pounds.org) Tweet This Stat

9) 87 billion spam emails were sent out every day in Q3 of 2012. (Source: Commtouch) Tweet This Stat

10) Spam averaged 74% of all emails sent during Q3 of 2012. (Source: Commtouch) Tweet This Stat

11) Marketing emails are responsible for 70% of 'this is spam' complaints. (Source: ReturnPath) Tweet This Stat

12) Advertising mail accounts for 1.8% of all waste in the United States. (Source: USPS) Tweet This Stat

13) 69% of those who are texters say they get unwanted spam or text messages. Of those texters, 25% face problems with spam/unwanted texts at least weekly. (Source: PewInternet) Tweet This Stat

14) Only 20% of businesses running mail campaigns track metrics to gauge the performance of their mailers. (Source: Pitney Bowes) Tweet This Stat

So now that you know just how prevalent and invasive spam is, let's highlight three resolutions to make your marketing tactics less spammy ...

3 'Make Love Not Spam' Marketing Resolutions

1) Make Personalization a Priority

Just because the cost to contact people has gone down over time doesn’t mean you should do so more often. If anything, the massive amount of information all of us get each day raises the bar on what breaks through the clutter. Do you ever address your friends with a “Hello Sir/Madam” in emails or texts? Didn’t think so -- demand more of yourself and your marketing approach by asking these questions before you hit the “send” button: 

  • Is what I’m sending truly of potential value to the recipient? If not, consider revising the offer or further segmenting your audience so recipients are truly excited to receive your postcard, email, text, or tweet. Have they taken advantage of a similar offer before? How has this offer performed with this persona in the past? One of the greatest hurdles of marketing automation and mass communication is that the answer always come back to more -- sending more emails, more offers, or trying more mediums to get your message through. Consider the objective value of what you're bringing to the table, and consider whether you can create additional context or benefits from the offer prior to shipping it.
  • Do I have additional context about this audience I could add to this communication? Did you segment your list based on an area of interest or expertise? An ebook or offer this audience previously took advantage of? If so, consider including that information in your email -- showing customers that you took the time to remember something about them and that you know what is of interest to them reinforces that you care. There’s a reason Amazon is so successful: They recommend products you love based on what you have already purchased, so whether you purchase additional items or not, your interaction with them demonstrates they have taken each of your previous searches and choices into account.
  • Does this communication feel like it was tailored to them? Whether you’re sending out 1,000,000 letters or a one-time customer communication to two existing clients, conveying that the communication is tailored to your audience can go a long way, both in terms of customer sentiment and metrics like clickthrough rates. Tailoring your approach can mean choosing models that look, act, and behave like your customer or leading with an offer most relevant to their lifestyle. Whether through your messaging, your creative, or your offer, make sure your contact knows that you considered their needs when designing and shipping the communication.

2) Know Your Numbers

Fundamentally, regardless of what your marketing mix includes, you should have a clear understanding of how often you are reaching out to people, where each individual is in the buying cycle, and the individual’s past interactions with your brand (e.g. downloaded content, talked to sales, demonstrated interest in a specific part of your product). In addition to this specific customer data, you should also be aware of how long individuals have been part of your list. Periodically reaching out to inactive subscribers to ensure they still want to be included in your outreach is a great way to lower the chances they’ll report you as spam, and it also increases your deliverability, improving the overall quality of your email marketing. Not sure how to move the needle with folks who haven’t engaged recently? Consider the following options:

  • Asking for Feedback: Fundamentally, if someone hasn’t engaged with your brand in a while, there is something you as a marketer can learn from their experience. Did they go with another vendor? Change their business priorities? Create a compelling offer to facilitate their feedback -- doing so puts the prospect in the driver’s seat, shows you care what they think, and could save someone from removing themselves from your list, so it’s worth engaging latent database members before it’s too late.
  • Ask People to White List You: Some subscribers might actually want to hear from you or like what you’re offering, but if you head right to their spam filter, it’s a missed opportunity every time. Include a request to white list your email address, either in the double opt-in email or in your first outreach. Doing so will increases the likelihood of conversion both now and later.
  • Test, Learn, and Apply: Don’t experiment with your entire mailing list -- you’ll waste valuable interactions with unproven tactics. Instead, A/B test your hypotheses by choosing a very small group of individuals to reach out to (via text, email, or direct mail) and examine the numbers before testing concepts with your entire list. You can even consider rewarding participants who are willing to be part of a “beta” group by soliciting their feedback on their experience. Ultimately, choose a slice of your marketing pie to test new recipes on. Don’t try to do everything at once, or you won’t know what worked with what audiences.

3) Leverage Your Brand Personality

Consider Valentine’s Day in a second grade classroom: Kids use valentines not only to express their friendship for their classmates, but also to share something about who they are. Some students choose to make homemade cards to show off their love of the arts, while others gravitate toward themes that reflect their interest (Disney Princesses or Transformers, anyone?). Either way, valentine cards are a great way to share a sentiment, but also to show people who you are.

Now think about your marketing strategy. Do your customers learn something about you from the tone, design, and greetings included in your email? Do you ensure that emails are sent from an individual versus a generic mailbox? Do you have standard templates that are visually appealing and easy to navigate so that people can recognize your brand as soon as they open their inbox? If not, you’re missing a significant opportunity to facilitate trust, likeability, and engagement for your brand. Not sure if you’re personable enough? Consider the following options to make your marketing outreach more lovable:

  • Don’t Just Say You Care, Show It: If a customer takes the time to respond to your email, don’t ignore it. They are giving you a unique opportunity to show that you care, share what you believe, or emphasize a compelling narrative. J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler not only approves large-scale emails that come from him, but he also takes responding to customer email seriously. In an interview last year, Drexler noted, “People think it’s special if we respond, but it shouldn’t be that way.”
  • Don’t Ignore Your Greeting and Sign-off: Nobody gets a warm, fuzzy feeling from being greeted as “To Whom It May Concern.” Seek out interesting ways to distinguish your brand with your hello, goodbye, and even your packaging. Don’t force it, just try to find authentic ways to demonstrate personality in your emails. This could include featuring a photo of the email sender in customer service emails, including your LinkedIn profile in sales outreach emails, or including fun facts about your company, products, or employees.
  • All Marketing Is Personal: Just like the old saying “all politics is local” from Tip O’Neill, all marketing should be personal, regardless of your channel. Lululemon gives each of its stores license to upload imagery of its ambassadors (local fitness instructors or thought leaders who are likely well-known to workout enthusiasts in the neighborhood), their stores, their employees working out, and their store, creating an instant connection for visitors to their page. As a result, event promotion and complimentary workout classes are likely nearby and filled with some familiar faces you’ve seen in recent Facebook and Twitter posts. Make your marketing personal and relevant, regardless of channel, and challenge yourself to relate to your customer every step of the way.

Spam is a choice. We know it's quick and easy to create marketing like it's 1999, but focusing on personalization and engagement will make your marketing infinitely more lovable. And let's not forget: Love conquers all.

We've published some helpful tips to create more lovable marketing, and we've also asked the experts how they do it. Now we want to know how you've been supporting this effort. What are some methods you use to replace spam with love? Share your tips with us, and we'll send the most lovable response a free "Make Love Not Spam" t-shirt to show our support in your lovable marketing. 

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