At this precise moment, I have exactly 48,979 emails in my Gmail account. Most of these are email marketing campaigns. As a writer with an interest in multiple fields, I’ve long relied on emails to keep track of everything from internal communications, idea generation, and research files. I’ve been doing this before there was Pocket, Evernote, or any of the other amazing filing and bookmarking tools. In fact, email still is one of my key information archiving tools because I know there are literally hundreds of thousands of pieces of information that have been accruing since the start of my email addiction.

Over the years I’ve seen email trends change more rapidly. Whereas before you were digitally exotic if you had a newsletter, you’re now one of millions. Some marketers have tried to adapt, including adding custom templates in emails. Yet, unless you have compelling content, even the best template can only go so far. And among those who have emphasized content, there are still a Swiss cheese assortment of holes in their campaigns. Tens of thousands of email campaigns later, here’s what I’ve learned about newsletter campaigns from a consumer perspective.

The One Thing I Wished Email Marketing Campaigns Stopped Doing

Talk about themselves – and I mean a lot, like always talking about themselves. It’s boring. Please stop.

If you’re always talking about yourself, it shows a crippling disregard for your subscribers. Email marketing campaigns that are notorious for this failure of email etiquette are mostly from one industry: new media.

It can be social media, new media, business to business products, software as a service – whatever the specific business type is, it’s a business that stems from new media. These types excitedly talk about themselves, their events and their services or products, without ever really listening to their guests.

That’s exactly what an email subscriber is when they sign up: they’re you’re guest. You would have a guest knock at your door only to talk endlessly about yourself; you wouldn’t avoid offering them anything of value to consume or be inconsiderate of the time they have available to be in your home. If such behavior is discourteous in “real life,” then it’s certainly discourteous in your business life.

What I Looked For When Deciding Which Email Campaigns to Keep

While I haven’t quite yet embarked on an “Inbox Zero” journey, I do plan on sifting through emails to trim down the herd. Namely, I’m looking for one thing: emails that haven’t piqued my interest in over a year.

The rule for spring cleaning your wardrobe, for example, is to toss out anything that you haven’t worn in a year. The same goes for email campaigns. If it’s been a year since you haven’t paused to consider what they had to say, then you know you need to move on.

Why I Wish Email Marketers Considered the Content Cycle

For those email campaigns that haven’t broken the cardinal sin of being too self-serving without providing me with anything useful, I wish they factored in the big picture. When it comes to email marketing, the big picture (at least from my perspective as a content strategist/writer) is to consider where your information is going. Does it being and die with email campaigns or is that information stored elsewhere? If so, how is it organized and how can I access it? Thinking about email as more than just a dart on a board that you have to hit, and instead thinking of it as a piece of a greater puzzle that is your brand, will help marketers sketch out the full spectrum of their content cycle.