Do Email Blast Campaigns Actually Work?
by Aden Andrus • December 5, 2019
Back in the early days of email marketing, email blast campaigns—indiscriminate marketing emails sent to anyone and everyone—were all the rage. Email blasts had a huge ROI and were a great way to get value out of your subscriber list.
But do they still work?
In the early days of any new marketing channel, almost anything seems to work. It’s part of the reason why marketers love shiny new things. Whether you’re advertising in a new way or marketing on a new channel, new sells. It grabs people’s eye and makes them pay attention. And, in this marketing-saturated world, winning someone’s attention is half the battle.
Now, however, email marketing has been around for quite a while. Most consumers have to filter through an average of 96 emails a day, so marketing emails have become so commonplace that most are deleted or archived without a second glance.
So, while email blasts are certainly easy, their actual effectiveness is up for debate. If email blasts have been a staple in your email marketing—or if you’re debating whether or not to run an email blast—this article is for you. We’re going to take a hard look at email blasts, what they are, their strengths and weaknesses and help you decide whether or not they’re right for your business.
Sound good? Let’s get started!
An Email Blast from the Past
While email marketing has been around for over 40 years, email blasts really hit their stride in the 2000’s, when email marketing tools like Mailchimp began popping up. For the first time, these tools made email marketing truly accessible and marketers had to decide what to do with them.
And, as people tend to do, they started with the easiest option: email blast campaigns.
The idea behind an email blast campaign is very simple, almost self-explanatory. You blast out an email to every address on your list. Old customers? Check. Blog subscribers? Check. New leads? Check…you get the idea.
At the time, this approach was one of the only real ways to get value out of your email subscribers. Back in the early days of email marketing, there weren’t a lot of ways to segment your email marketing list. Most of the time, you had a list of emails…and that was it. Tracking how you got those emails or how those people had interacted with your business wasn’t really an option, so everyone got the same email.
To be honest, back in the early days of email marketing, how you got someone’s email address didn’t even matter that much. People didn’t get that many marketing emails, so if they were getting an email as part of an email blast, it seemed more like a novel, interesting experience. People didn’t have high expectations for personalization or content—they were just curious what your business had to say.
So, for a while at least, email marketing was easy, simple and very successful. But, as people also tend to do, because email blasts worked so well, they got used and abused. Over time, marketing emails became commonplace and in order to stand out from the crowd, marketers had to find new ways to connect with their subscribers.
Their solution? Email segmentation and personalization.
Think about it. Which email are you more likely to open? An obviously generalized email meant to apply to thousands—if not tens of thousands—of people? Or an email with specific content that relates to items or ideas that you are personally interested in?
Odds are, it’s the latter.
By segmenting their subscribers based on different criteria, email marketers were able to make email marketing fresh and interesting again. Email blasts were a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing, and as anyone who’s ever bought a one-size-fits-all shirt before can attest, “one-size-fits-all” is the same thing as “one-size-fits-no-one”.
Email Blasts vs. Targeted Email Campaigns
So what, then, is the difference between an email blast and a targeted email campaign? Do email blasts even work anymore? Or do you have to segment, personalize and split hairs to get value out of email marketing these days?
Those are all great questions.
To be honest, it kind of depends on you and your business. If your email marketing list is fairly small and your subscribers largely come from a single source, you can probably still do all right with blast-style email marketing.
In fact, when you only have a few hundred (or even a few thousand) subscribers, there often isn’t a ton of value to creating hyper-focused lists. Like all marketing, email marketing is a numbers game and it usually just doesn’t make sense to invest a lot of time or effort into creating specific content for a handful of people.
Will targeted, segmented and personalized campaigns outperform email blasts? Almost always. But, you have to take into account your return on investment.
Additionally, email blasts also work great for certain types of information. If your company just won some major award, go ahead and tell all of your subscribers. Content that interests and appeals to everyone will always be well-received. However, make sure that the content of your blasts is actually interesting to your audience. If it’s something that your business cares about and your subscribers don’t—you should think twice before blasting out your message.
Things become problematic, however, when you try to use email blast tactics for a large, complex database of subscribers. If we’re being honest with ourselves as marketers, email blasts tend to be fairly random. They’re usually the result of an inadequate email marketing strategy or a sudden desire to send emails to your subscribers.
Maybe you read an article like this one saying that email marketing is the way to go and decide to give it a try. Maybe your boss added newsletters to your already full plate. Maybe you have an upcoming sale and figured that an email blast was the easiest way to get people to your website.
Whatever the rationale behind sending an email blast, if it isn’t part of a bigger email marketing strategy, it’s probably not going to provide the results you’re after.
In contrast, targeted email campaigns are almost always part of some marketing master plan. They almost have to be, because to target a segment of your list, you have to know who you’re targeting and what sort of content they’ll respond to. This is part of the reason why targeted email campaigns tend to produce better results than email blasts—it’s simply a question of strategy.
Make the Most of Your Email Marketing
What’s the biggest problem with email blasts? Most of the time, they’re a lazy solution. They don’t fit into a broader strategy, so they don’t actually provide much value.
And, if you’re going to invest into email marketing, you want to do things right.
So, if you’re trying to decide whether or not to send out an email blast or invest in a more methodical and targeted strategy, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Who is my target audience? How did I acquire these subscribers?
- What do they want from my marketing emails? Will this email meet those desires/expectations?
- Do I have enough subscribers (and enough variety in the needs/goals/priorities of my subscribers) to justify segmenting my list?
- How will this email fit into my overall marketing strategy? Do I even have an overall email marketing strategy?
- Would I open this sort of email? If not, how can I change it to make it more interesting and engaging? (especially to my target audience).
- How interested do I think the audience I plan on sending this email to will be in this content? Will this email appeal more to a certain subset of my audience?
- Does my email provide value to my target audience? If not, is there a subset of this audience that would find this content more valuable?
- What does this email do to move my target audience closer to conversion? Is my conversion goal appropriate for where this audience is in the funnel?
As you go through this list of questions, it should quickly become clear whether your email fits into a broader strategy. Even if you’re already planning on sending target emails, this list can still help you figure out what sort of content to create for each given email.
The simple fact of the matter is that sloppy email marketing doesn’t work. It doesn’t for email blasts and it doesn’t work for targeted campaigns. Targeted campaigns are less likely to be sloppy or lazy, but if you don’t take the time to think about your target audience and how they will respond to your content.
So are email blasts dead? Not necessarily. They still have their place—especially for certain businesses. However, targeted, well-though-out email campaigns are almost always a better option.
The trick is to understand your subscribers, the different segments within your subscriber base, what they want from your business and the best way to give it to them through email marketing. Sometimes, that will be an email blast, but most of the time, that will be through targeted, segmented and/or personalized email content.
By the way, if you’d like some help setting up targeted email campaigns, let us know here or in the comments. We’d love to help!
How do you feel about email blast campaigns? Do you prefer email blasts or targeted campaigns? Did you find anything in this article particularly helpful…or confusing? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.