These days it seems like we are all inundated with email, and that effectively dealing with it can mean the difference between a productive and a wasted day. According to The Radicati Group Email Statistics Report, 2015-2019, over 205 billion emails are currently sent and received each day. This number is expected to increase at an average annual rate of 3% over the next four years, meaning that by the end of 2019 over 246 billion emails will be sent and received each day. That’s a lot of email!

One might think that the barrage of email is a result of our own overuse of the medium, but the Radicati Group report dispels that notion. It found that in 2015 business people will send on average 34 emails per day yet receive 88 per day. Of those 88, 76 will be legitimate and 12 will be spam or graymail (such as newsletters or notifications they originally signed-up to receive but really no longer want) that made it through a spam filter. The report doesn’t count spam, phishing, and other email annoyances that do get caught in spam filters, which according to a Kaspersky Lab report, accounted for just over 53% of all email sent in Q2 2015.

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Email Marketing Statistics

With email still going strong, even with the rise of newer communication methods like Chat and Texting, it should remain an important element in your small business marketing toolkit. If you’re skeptical that email is still an effective tool, just take a look at some recent statistics:

  • A 2014 Gigamom research study found that email was the most effective digital medium for all four key marketing areas: awareness, acquisition, conversion, and retention. Though, it stood out most as an effective retention tactic.
  • Every $1 spent on email marketing returns an average of $44.25 on the investment. (
  • Over 50% of respondents say they read most of their emails (hubspot)
  • 66% of US online consumers (age 15 and older) made a purchase based on receiving an e-mail marketing message; and in one study more than 50% of businesses surveyed reported achieving over 10% of total sales via e-mail marketing. (
  • 72% of consumers say that email is their favored conduit of communication with companies with which they do business. 61% say they like to receive promotional emails weekly and 28% want them even more frequently. (Marketing Sherpa report)

If you’re interested in more email marketing statistics, along with email marketing tactics with which others have found success, take the time to read the full source material cited above.


Effective Sales & Marketing Email

The short lesson here is that done effectively email marketing can help your small business acquire and retain customers. The key word there is “effectively.” Remember, your average prospect is receiving 88 emails per day. Of those, 12 are immediately recognized as spam or graymail and summarily deleted. That leaves 76 emails that will receive at least a cursory glance. Your goal is to make sure that not only is your email one of those that gets opened, but also one that engages your customers and prospects. (For reference, this 2015 study finds that the US marketing email open rate is 26.3% for general B2B product and service emails and 28% for general consumer services.)

There are myriad sources out there you can use to learn about effective email marketing. 5 Websites to Help You Learn Email Marketing, a Tip post from 2013, is still a great place to start. Also check out hubspot’s 16 Examples of Awesome Email Marketing Campaigns for inspiration and instruction.


Sales and Marketing Email Expectations

If you’re anything like me you get every bit of the average 88 emails per day, and you likely get at least twice that. After all, as a small business owner you are a “hot prospect” for companies selling business products and services of all kinds that you may or may not need. Your name is probably at least partially public, if not prominently displayed on your website or included in your business registration/license, and your email address has almost certainly made it onto multiple marketing prospecting lists.

These emails likely run the gamut from generic sales pitches, to targeted pitches, to emails from individual salespeople attempting to engage you. I don’t know about you, but that latter category is the one that most often gets me peeved.

I expect that general informational emails sent to a list may not be applicable to me, so I give them a glance and when that hypothesis is proven correct, they get deleted. (If something piques my interest, I save it.) Generically targeted emails too don’t often hold much promise, nor do I expect them to—yes, they may merge my name into the subject or the greeting, and they may even reference some of my online activity (such as downloading a whitepaper), but I don’t expect much and typically don’t get it. Though this type of email can be useful to scan then file away for future reference if the topic is somewhat relevant to me, and/or the information I pulled from the company, like the whitepaper, was useful.

But, if someone is going to take the time and effort to attempt to contact me personally and they do a poor job of it, I find myself getting irritated. I also delete the email immediately–without responding and without engaging with the content or the sender beyond that initial annoyance.

Writing a good personal sales email is not that hard to do, and I find it amazing not only that so many people do it so poorly, but also that they think so little of their prospects that they believe such emails will elicit a response rather than a rapid delete.


My Top 9 Email Pet Peeves

The following is my top 9 list of sales email mistakes, and an explanation of why they are problematic. You’ll probably relate to some of them, either recognizing a shared pet peeve, or a mistake you have made (or are currently making).

  1. Starting off the email by stating your name.
    If your email recipient has never heard of you or your company before, and you are cold-pitching your products and services, then the very last thing that will cause the prospect to keep reading is the name and/or title of the person sending unsolicited email. Start with a compelling pitch about something of interest or value to the prospect. Your name and title belong at the end in the signature. If the prospects are interested, that’s where they will look for them.
  2. Using a personalized greeting and getting my name wrong.
    If you’re going to use mail merge, test, test, test, and test again. Nothing makes you look sillier than addressing me by the wrong name, except possibly misspelling mine. After all, if you’re not able to successfully execute an email mail merge, how can I possibly expect you to properly service my business?
  3. Including a long list of email addresses in the CC field.
    Sending a prospecting email to multiple recipients is a standard practice. All commercial email marketing software ensures that this is done correctly using groups. If you must send your own email from a company email account using Outlook or a similar program, make sure you also use groups, or at the very least BCC, to ensure that the recipients can’t see each other’s email addresses. If you use CC, then you expose the whole list to everyone. Not only is this problematic because your prospects are now annoyed that their email addresses have been disseminated to potential competitors, you may also be releasing your prospecting list to one of your competitors that has inserted itself into the list. Even worse, if you purchased the list you may be violating the contract with your list broker by disclosing the list to third parties without authorization.
  4. Telling me you think I need what you are selling.
    This seems like a “duh!” but I can’t tell you how many emails I get that begin, “After studying PaySimple, I think that you really need our {product name} because it will really help your company.” Again, if I’ve never heard of you and never heard of your company I don’t care one whit about what you think. If you actually have taken the time to study my company, then you should be able to grab my attention with a value proposition that resonates, or at least an intriguing proposition.
  5. Citing what you think you know about me.
    This tactic can be effective if you actually get it right, but the chances of that are pretty slim. For example, beginning an email with “As a marketing professional I know you will be interested in using our {insert service name here} to improve your cold-calling success rate.” Unless you’ve guessed very well, you lose me at “marketing professional” if I’m not one, or at “cold-calling” if that is not a tactic I currently use. (Smart list purchasing can help get this right, but it doesn’t completely solve the problem.) And, I may not immediately think I am interested in the service, so telling me you know I am is counterproductive, irrelevant, and a bit absurd. Pique my interest with a statement I’ll immediately recognize as true or useful, and I may read further.
  6. Only asking me to refer you to “the right person.”
    This just makes you look lazy, especially if the email itself provides little other content. It is cheaper to buy generic email lists than highly targeted ones. So, by sending an email to me that begins by asking me simply to forward your message about {product or service} to the right person at my organization , or even worse asking me to reply with contact information for that person, you just look cheap, inconsiderate of my time, and silly. At best this tactic relies on the remainder of the email being complete and compelling enough to warrant a referral, as well as on the assumption that I’ll take the time to read past the initial request to identify the correct person and forward it. More likely, it says I know this doesn’t apply to you but I can’t be bothered with finding the right person myself, so I’ll bother you instead. (And really, does any salesperson actually expect that a cold email will result in me siccing them on a colleague?)
  7. Including attachments.
    Email attachments are a common way to spread viruses and other malware. I’ve written about this before, and it bears repeating—never, never, never open an attachment from someone you don’t know, or one that you were not expecting, even if it appears to be from someone you do know. If you get an email with an unexpected attachment, don’t even open the email, just delete it. (If it is from someone you know, check with them before opening it.) There is no reason for including attachments in sales and marketing emails. All it does is mark the email as suspicious and decrease the chance that the recipient will open any future emails from your company. If it can’t be included in the body of the email, you should provide a link to a page on your website where it can be viewed. Or if it is personalized content, ask the recipient to request it from you.
  8. Sending email that looks malicious.
    Phishing and other malicious email are truly epidemic. This means that all email from unknown senders must be viewed with skepticism, and that recipients must always err on the side of caution. Thus, the fastest way to have your email deleted (and even more likely quarantined by a spam filter) is to have it look malicious. Things like a short email with minimal text and a link, spelling mistakes and poor grammar, including an attachment (see #7 above), masking your “From” address, or including a subscription form in the email, are all things to avoid. (See tip post Can You Spot SPAM, Phishing & Other Malicious Email? from earlier this year.)
  9. Begging for a response.
    Follow-up is good, and studies have certainly proven that repeated contact attempts result in higher response rates than a single hit. But, the best way to get a response is to continually send useful, interesting content that will reinforce the value proposition for your company that you are trying to instill. Sending email after email asking if I’ve received your previous emails, or “checking in” to see if your invitation was received, or worse apologizing for peppering me with emails and asking me to respond, even if just to tell you to leave me alone, makes you look both clueless and desperate. If after your 5th email I don’t respond, take the hint. I’m either not interested, or I in fact did not get your emails. If you think the latter is the case (based on your email tracking reports), then clearly email is not an appropriate way to reach me. Try something else (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Phone, Snail Mail, a comment in this blog, etc.).


Getting Email Right

Well, I feel better now having vented. But, a good vent isn’t really useful without a corrective course of action. In addition to the email marketing resources linked above, start with these two posts from The Sales Hunter: 6 Ways to Get Prospects to Open Your Emails and 5 (More) Ways to Get Prospects to Open Your Email. They cover everything from writing effective subject lines, crafting short effective messages, the best time of day to send email, and follow-up strategies.

There are many ways to effectively and successfully implement email sales and marketing programs. One pitch that typically gets at least a response from me is offering a free trial of the full version of a product or service for which I currently use a free limited-access version.

Do you have other email marketing pet peeves? Or, do you have email strategies that always produce the desired response? Let us know in the comments.


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Lisa Hephner

Lisa Hephner

My name is Lisa, and I'm the Vice President of Knowledge, responsible for the management of corporate, product, competitor, marketplace, legal, and regulatory knowledge, and creation and dissemination of knowledge tools using these assets to PaySimple prospects, customers, employees, and partners.

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