Is email a mass medium? In the early days of email marketing, that was the conventional wisdom. The idea was to build up as large a list as possible and then broadcast a single message to that list.
This is how “blast marketing” was born. The history of email as a broadcast medium began on May 1, 1978, when Gary Thuerk, a marketing rep for Digital Equipment Corp. sent a mass message to every Arpanet user on the West Coast, about 320 people at the time. That gambit netted some $13 million in sales for DEC.
While at one time that may have been an effective strategy, obstacles ranging from the law to spam folders to a penchant for personalization have changed blast campaigns from a best practice to one that is increasingly outmoded. Here’s a look at seven reasons why blast campaigns should no longer be part of a modern marketer’s arsenal:
- Several laws restrict their use. The ability to blast emails the way that Thuerk once did has been greatly curtailed by several laws. The 2003 CAN-SPAM Act prohibits shady tactics like false headers and deceptive subject lines and “from” lines. It also bars the use of harvested emails. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes that idea further by requiring an opt-in from anyone receiving a commercial email.
- Segmentation is more effective. It’s common sense that a targeted message is going to be more effective than one designed for the masses. The research bears this out. A HubSpot study found that targeting emails to certain buyer personas increased clickthrough rates by 16 percent. Segmented campaigns get 14.7 percent more opens and 60 percent more clicks than non-segmented campaigns, according to MailChimp.
- Mass emails get stuck in the spam folder. Your email won’t deliver results if no one sees it. Unfortunately, that’s what happens when your mass email gets detected by and stuck in an email system’s spam filter. As any email marketer knows though, even legitimate emails often wind up the spam folder. The most foolproof way to avoid this fate is by getting your target consumer to opt in or double opt in for your messaging.
- Consumers expect personalization. Whether it’s online or TV, every channel is transforming itself from a one-to-many medium into a one-to-one medium. At the same time, consumers are starting to expect marketers to view them and talk to them as individuals rather than as members of an audience. A recent SalesForce survey, for instance, showed that 76 percent of consumers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. The latter signifies where the market is going. Armed with data and machine learning, brands like Google, Amazon and Netflix understand their consumers so well that they anticipate their future needs and can suggest items that they will like. In this context, an email designed for a mass audience appears tone deaf.
- Social media is a better forum for mass messages. The average office worker gets 121 emails a day. That means they have little time and attention to lavish on each one. If a consumer likes your brand enough to sign up for your email list, that means that they are probably going to be happy to field your well-crafted offers or hear a personalized message that shows you recognize their individuality. But if they want to hear messages from the brand aimed at a wide audience, then they can check out your Twitter feed or Facebook page.
- It’s easier to track ROI on segmented emails. Let’s say you have an email list of 500,000 and you blast them all with the same message. If 10 percent of them open your email, then you know very little except that particular email drew that particular response. But if you sent the same email to 10 different targets, then you would know which groups it resonated with the most. Even better, you can try different messages aimed at those same groups and see which messages fared the worst and which did the best. This type of segmentation produces a lot more data than an email blast aimed at many consumers.
- Personalization is a lot easier than it used to be. Only a few years ago, personalizing email communications to thousands of customers would have been too labor intensive to be effective. But thanks to AI and machine learning, systems can process huge amounts of data, which helps marketers personalize messages. A marketer can now remind a consumer about an abandoned shopping cart purchase, suggest follow-up purchases and notify them when their favorite artist (author or musician) has a new release. Systems can also track which messages got the best reception and identify variables like frequency and time of day to maximize their impact. None of this was possible until recently, when AI technology became more accessible.
The biggest reason to avoid blast campaigns is that in 2018, they are counterproductive. They make your brand look insensitive and out of touch and they don’t get the kind of ROI that personalized campaigns do. That’s why so many blast campaigns are blowing up in marketers’ faces now. Use the many available resources to take your emails from obviously generalized to custom-fit for each customer.