Why email blast marketing is no longer best practice

8th August 2019
Author: Chris McKay
Posted in: Distribution, Strategy

What do bootcut jeans, dialup internet, and bowl cuts have in common with email blast marketing? They’re dead and should stay dead. But why have we moved away from it, and what should we be doing instead?

What is an email blast (eblast)?

Basically, an eblast is just an email message that’s sent out to a large group of victims (sorry, recipients) who have probably never signed up or opted-in for it.

It’s sort of like a guy on a street yelling into a megaphone about how great Chipotle is. Do some of those people like Chipotle? Sure, but they’re already convinced and don’t need some guy yelling at them about it. There are also probably lots of people (monsters) who don’t like Chipotle and nothing that guy yells at them will change their minds. Are there people there who he could convince to like Chipotle? Probably a few, but he’s annoyed a lot more people in the process who’ll be less likely to want to listen to him ever again.

Still following? For the record, this article isn’t sponsored by Chipotle. Email blast marketing is the opposite of the personalized marketing we modern marketers know to be the future of our industry.

Why doesn’t email blast marketing work anymore?

Just like the mullet your dad sported in the 80s, email blasts were actually pretty popular back in the day. Before we had high-tech software like Hubspot to create and manage elaborate email lists and campaigns, eblasts were basically all we had.

Man with mullet says yes

But technology has improved and email marketing along with it. With content becoming increasingly personalized, email blasts have become nothing more than spam to be unsubscribed to. Here’s why:

There’s no segmentation

Putting the S in the Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning (STP) strategy, segmentation is a tried-and-tested marketing triumph, but it’s nowhere to be found in email blast marketing.

An email blast is sent out to a generic mailing list, that might have been bought or collected somewhere on the internet. The people on it have varying ages, genders, job roles, interests, online behavior etc. What’s the only thing they have in common? They’ve unfortunately been added to your mailing list.

A business exists to meet a specific need. If your eblast is being sent to all these unrelated people, that’s a heck of a lot of different needs you have to satisfy in one email.

Maybe in 50 years when we’re buying breathable air by the cannister, you’ll be able to offer something that everybody wants (thanks climate change). But until then, your target audience is likely going to be a small percentage of the general population.

Homer Simpson with sign that says

It isn’t just businesses pushing for segmentation. SalesForce found that 62% of consumers expect businesses to email personalized offers on items they’ve already bought. You can’t do that without segmentation.

Content isn’t targeted

You know that saying – “If you try to please everybody, you please nobody?” That’s got email blast marketing written all over it.

Because email blast marketing isn’t directed at specific groups of people, you’re basically left with two options:

  1. Create content you think will appeal to some people on your list and alienate everyone else.
  2. Try and include a little bit of content for everyone in the same email and just alienate everyone.

Not exactly a great choice.

What happens when you target personalized content?

One Spot created a report based on a survey of 350 marketing executives that found organizations who personalize their email content generate 17% more revenue through their email campaigns than those who don’t.

Graphs from One Spot report

It’s really really annoying

Email marketing has become such an art that anything less than personalized is seen as spammy and unprofessional.

Email blasts are sent to people who do not want you invading their inbox.

What do you do when you get an email you don’t want? Unsubscribe. The death of an email campaign.

So what is best practice?

1. Make it easy to subscribe AND unsubscribe

You can’t make everyone love you.

Man crying on couch

If people don’t want to read your emails, they’re going to find a way to unsubscribe. Don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be by hiding the button somewhere.

Likewise, you want to make it as easy as possible for people to subscribe to your list. Make sure there’s plenty of opportunities on your site for people to hand over their juicy details.

2. Set up segmented lists

Use software like Hubspot to create different lists based on the information you have about your contacts.

You can segment everything from:

  • Links clicked
  • Subscribe method
  • Mobile VS desktop
  • User action

This makes sure everyone is getting the most relevant content you can give them and has huge advantages for your email campaigns including:

  • 9% fewer unsubscribes
  • 14% higher opens
  • 65% higher click rates

Can’t argue with those numbers.

3. Let people customize their subscriptions

It doesn’t have to be as black and white as subscribe or unsubscribe. Let people choose how much they want to see you on their own terms.

When Hubspot rehauled their email subscriptions, they gave recipients the chance to customize what content is sent to them. They could choose from a list of newsletters on different subjects and how often they would receive emails.

The result? Their subscriber churn rate had a 5% reduction. Not too shabby, huh?

Graph from Hubspot

4. Create a journey

Your email campaigns should be taking your recipients by the hand and leading them on a journey. The longer that person is subscribed to your email list, the more personalized it should be as you gather more data on them (And yes, I’m aware how creepy that sounds but welcome to modern marketing). Just make sure every email in your journey serves a purpose:

  • Welcome email
  • Newsletter
  • Announcements
  • Feedback
  • etc.

5. Be consistent

Email blast marketing fails because it’s planned poorly.

The people on your generic list are hit in the inbox with content they weren’t expecting, never asked for, and didn’t want.

Jonah hill saying no

The best practice is to plan out a strategy for how often and how far apart your emails are sent. Too often and people will feel like you’re spamming them. Too little and people will forget about you.

6. Analyze and adapt

Good email marketing is all about monitoring and adapting to how your recipients respond to each of your emails. You can do this on Hubspot by checking things like:

  • Open rates
  • Click rates
  • Conversions

You can then use that data to shape your content strategy and create more content based on what people are most interested in. It’s like a real-life cheat code.

Conclusion

There’s a reason no decent marketer would use an email blast anymore.

When results are so much better with segmentation and personalized content, why would you want to do anything else?

It might be more work, but with great tools like Hubspot to help you through it, you’ll have people eagerly waiting for your next email like it’s the latest Marvel movie (don’t hold me to that).