Bulk email marketing – the pros and cons
Within the email marketing sphere bulk email has something of a sullied name – but its relation to spam emails does not tell the whole story.
When a business wants to get in contact with a huge number of people for very little cost, there is arguably no other platform that can match email marketing. Of course, the result of this is that lots of firms have jumped on the bandwagon, prompting email service providers (ESPs) and even governments to have to step in to protect people from a flood of messages.
It is important not to dismiss the bulk email tactic before investigating how it could fit in with your own advertising plans, particularly as there is often some misunderstanding as to what constitutes such email marketing solutions.
It is misleading to think all bulk email campaigns fall into that dreaded category of digital marketing: spam. The best bulk campaigns will seek to target specific demographics because they feel that an entire segment will benefit from the message being sent or the offer included in the email. For example, sending a 20 per cent discount for a major Manchester shopping centre to people in Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Lancashire and Merseyside would certainly be relevant but would include a huge number of consumers.
This touches on two key issues. Firstly, the most successful bulk email marketing campaigns will manage to be relevant to a large number of people, whether focused on a solitary demographic (age, income, gender, etc.) or aiming for a broader spread – think about universal pain points and how these relate to your product or service. Secondly, discounts continue to be the most common reason for signing up to email lists (as confirmed by Blue Hornet in 2013), so bear this in mind when planning out your messages.
Harnessing the pros
The advantages of bulk messages are fairly self-explanatory: you can tailor email templates to your marketing message, then send this out to a huge number of people. The return on investment can be awesome if it is done right. To get the best out of this, before pressing send, always spend some time thinking about your content (subject line, from field, body text) and also about what you want the recipient to do – then follow campaigns up with analysis of what happened.
It is vital to ask yourself the following questions: Will my message get past the spam filter? Will the subject line and from field make them want to open? Will the content and offer in the message engage immediately? Is the call-to-action obvious? If the answer to all these questions is ‘yes’ in your opinion, then you may be on to a winner.
Mitigating for the cons
The disadvantages fall into two main camps. The first is the way a bulk message can over-generalise and end up feeling irrelevant to some recipients – the way to mitigate for this issue is to work on your messaging and aim to have as much information as possible about your recipients as possible. Small touches like excluding geographically irrelevant people and perhaps personalising messages with names can make a real difference.
The other issue relates to the technical challenge of getting past spam filters, which are specifically there to prevent less-than-ethical companies from swamping inboxes with messages. It is important to gain authority with both recipients and ESPs to avoid spam problems. Check through your bounced messages to find patterns in the ones that are rejected and look at guidelines from individual ESPs about best practice for bulk email.
For example, Gmail points out that it places a lot of faith in customer reports of spam, so even if a message gets through a spam filter, if it is reported by a user then your image is tarnished. The ESP also recommends using a consistent IP address, holding valid DNS records and ensuring messages are formatted properly.
Modern email marketing
Email marketing has been around for a while and pieces of etiquette are now becoming understood across the board. For a start, it is crucial to honour unsubscribes quickly, otherwise you risk damaging your reputation further and annoying consumers. Another key point is to ensure that people have opted in to receive emails, otherwise you risk being reported to ESPs.
There are also external factors to consider; chief among them being the device being used to open emails. The aforementioned Blue Hornet report noted that just under half of messages are now opened on mobile devices, which acts as both a challenge and an opportunity.
A bulk email need not be an exercise in spam – just think carefully about your offering and about the factors that could limit success before pressing send…