6 Tips for Creating a Targeted Email Blast

Updated December 19, 2019

If you’re familiar with marketing 101, you know the upside of email marketing is too compelling to ignore.

With a median return on investment (ROI) of 122%, according to eMarketer.com, and with 86% of business professionals preferring email for business communication, according to HubSpot, email marketing is a relatively low-cost, high-impact direct marketing method.

As a result, mass email campaigns have become the norm. However, poorly executed email blasts can do more harm than good. Here, we’ll dive into six tips to help you get the most out of your mass emails and avoid sending “bad” email blasts.

Here's how to avoid the email blast and send more targeted emails:

  1. Segment your email lists
  2. Create targeted campaigns
  3. Don’t use "do-not-reply" from addresses
  4. Nail the subject line & intro
  5. Avoid “spammy” tactics
  6. Measure, learn, repeat

Overview: What is an email blast?

Generally speaking, an email blast is simply a mass email sent to a large number of email addresses. In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with that.

However, email blasts have gotten a bad reputation because they’re often untargeted and therefore irrelevant to the recipient. This can happen when marketers focus more on sending emails to as many inboxes as possible and less on who they’re sending emails to.

The result of poorly executed email blasts is a lose/lose. Recipients ignore or delete the email, and businesses waste time and resources.

Even worse, unsolicited and irrelevant email blasting can result in potential customers opting out of your email list or flagging your messages as spam. It’s these “bad” email blasts that we’re referring to here.

How to send better emails: alternatives to the email blast

The strategy to ensure your email blasts are win/win is simple: send content readers care about and capture their attention quickly.

Of course, executing on that strategy requires the right combination of knowledge and tools, so let’s dive into our digital marketing tips aimed at optimizing your email campaigns.

1. Segment your email lists

Many articles on email marketing focus on building your email list, and that’s an important step in the email list management process. However, once you build an email list, it’s important to segment it properly.

Email list segmentation means categorizing your subscribers into relevant groups. Exactly how you segment your email lists will vary depending on your business, but here are a few ideas:

  • Geographic region
  • Purchase history
  • Industry
  • Job function
  • Stage in the sales funnel

Additionally, you can simply ask your subscribers what their interests are upon signup.

By segmenting your list, you significantly increase your chances of providing relevant content. As a result, you also increase your chances of delighting, as opposed to annoying, your recipients.

Just how effective is email list segmentation? Mailchimp, one of the best email marketing software providers, found that segmented email campaigns had a 100.95% higher click rate than non-segmented campaigns.

Pro Tip: Start small and focus on a few key categories. There are a ton of ways you could segment your email list, but there’s no need to complicate things. Start with a few groups and iterate from there.

2. Create targeted campaigns

A great thing about segmenting your email list is that it allows you to view your email campaigns in a new way.

As opposed to just getting the word about your latest sale out to as many people as possible, you can think about things from your subscribers’ perspective. What information is most relevant to them? Which sales should you promote to which subset of subscribers?

You can go one step further than just targeting the information you send as well. Personalizing the message goes a long way as well. Adding the recipient’s name to the subject line of the email or first sentence can improve the chances your email is read.

Pro Tip: Use variables to your advantage. Most email marketing software will enable you to build email templates that support variables like {first_name}. Use them to turn your email blasts into a personalized message.

3. Don’t use "do-not-reply" from addresses

According to SuperOffice, 69% of subscribers indicated they’re likely to read an email based on who it is from. It’s doubtful many people are excited to get an email from “do-not-reply”.

When someone subscribes to your email list, they’re demonstrating interest in something you have to offer.

When you send content from a “do-not-reply” address (e.g., do-not-reply@yourdomain.net or no-reply@yourdcomapny.org) you’re sending the message you aren’t interested in two-way communication. From your customer’s perspective, this comes off as impersonal and less engaging.

Things get worse if you legitimately do not reply when someone responds. While you may suspect that people won’t respond to "do-not-reply" addresses, it happens regularly.

Some people instinctively reply when they want more information, others may just expect an address that emailed them to be responsive. Getting an email bounce when they’re trying to reply to a company that contacted them can be frustrating.

Further, do-not-reply addresses can increase the likelihood of your email being flagged as spam. This point alone is a good reason to avoid them.

Pro Tip: Use a real “from” email address. Even if the inbox is manned by a team as opposed to one person, it’s better to make your email recipients feel like they’re corresponding with a real person.

4. Nail the subject line and intro

Your mailing list subscribers have hundreds of other things vying for their attention. You have a very limited window to capture their attention and get them to engage with your email.

The subject line and preview text (usually taken from the first line of text in an email) are two of the most important aspects of compelling a subscriber to read on. As a result, understanding how to start an email and create a compelling subject line enables you to quickly grab their attention and reel them in.

Some common email subject line and intro best practices include:

  • Be concise: Short and sweet should be the goal. Subject lines and preview text need to grab the reader’s attention in as few words as practical.
  • Make your subject line and preview text actionable: “Save 20% on widgets this Tuesday” is more direct and engaging than “Widget sale this week.” Tell your reader what they can do if they click your email.
  • Be honest: No one likes clickbait. Give the reader a reason to open your email, but don’t be misleading.
  • Avoid ALL CAPS: When used sparingly, ALL CAPS can be a powerful tool. When used all the time and for every word, it usually just comes off as yelling and a little spammy.

Pro Tip: Keep mobile in mind. Depending on your target audience, mobile will account for up to 77% of email opens, according to emailmonday.com. Long subjects will get cut off on mobile, so keep them under 50 characters.

5. Avoid “spammy” tactics

Spam or junk email is the opposite of how you want yours to be perceived. If a subscriber feels like you’re sending them junk, it can damage your brand image and consumer trust.

Alternatively, if your email is flagged as spam before hitting the inbox, it’s likely your subscribers will never open your email.

Further, the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) CAN-SPAM Act sets rules around commercial emails, and each separate email in violation can lead to a penalty up to $42,530.

Long story short: there are plenty of compelling business and ethical reasons to avoid tactics that are considered “spammy.”

Here’s a quick rundown of how you can avoid being lumped in with the spammers:

  • Provide an opt-out link: Both the US FTC and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have rules around allowing subscribers to opt out. Make it easy for your users to unsubscribe if they want to. Additionally, be sure to execute opt-outs quickly. The FTC requires that businesses process opt-out requests within 30 days. Note: your subscribers should be opting in to get on your list in the first place.
  • Don’t use attachments in email blasts: Email attachments are a common way to spread malware. Therefore, internet service providers (ISPs) and email security programs are more likely to block emails that include attachments.
  • Remove “bounced” email addresses from your list: If an email address “hard bounces”, that means the mailbox is no longer valid. Sending a large amount of email to invalid addresses can make ISPs view you as a spammer. Therefore you should prune your email lists regularly.
  • Don’t deceive: Misleading “from” addresses, subject lines, and routing information are common spam indicators. Make sure your subscribers can tell exactly who they are getting email from and what the email is about. From a technical perspective, make sure your administrator sets up Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Domain Based Authentication Reporting and Conformance (DMARC.)
  • Warm up before sending an email blast: If you’ve never sent bulk email from your IP address before, sending thousands of emails at once may be viewed as malicious or abnormal. The heuristics that identify spam use reputation as a metric, and a “new” IP address won’t have much, if any, reputation to begin with. The way around this is to “warm up” the IP by gradually sending more emails over time.

Pro Tip: Check your domain or IP against email blacklists. Sites like MXtoolbox allow you to check what blacklists you may be on. Additionally, tools like Talos Intelligence’s “Reputation Lookup” allow you to check your domain’s reputation. If you notice a problem, you can correct it.

6. Measure, learn, repeat

To become a more effective email marketer, you should measure the performance of your campaigns and iterate based on what you learn.

Of course, the first step in the process is setting goals for your campaigns. From there, you can establish the key performance indicators (KPIs) you should track to determine how well a campaign did. There’s no need to go overboard with KPIs. Generally speaking, five or so should be fine.

Here are some of the most important email marketing KPIs you can use:

  • Open rate: It’s exactly what the name implies, a metric indicating how many recipients opened the email you sent.
  • Click-through rate (CTR): It’s simply the percentage of subscribers that click a link compared to the total number of subscribers that received the email.
  • ROI: With almost any project, measuring your return on investment (ROI) is a smart move. This holds true with email marketing as well.
  • Conversion rate: This measures the percentage of recipients that carried out a particular action such as signing up for a webinar or purchasing a product.
  • Bounce rate: This states the percentage of emails that “bounced.” As mentioned above, hard bounces indicate invalid email addresses and should be promptly removed from your email list.

As you learn what works, you can do more of that and less of what doesn’t. Additionally, you can test the effectiveness of new ideas.

Pro Tip: A/B testing is a great way to see what strategies work best. If you have two ideas for a campaign, try them both and test the results.

How to use an email marketing software to avoid email blasts

The hard part about avoiding “spammy” email blasts is that to execute a large-scale email campaign, you need to send a ton of emails.

Personalizing and contextualizing each one manually would be tedious and significantly reduce ROI. This is where email marketing software can make a world of difference.

One of the obvious benefits of email marketing software is the ability to automatically send emails, but there are many more including:

  • Simple email campaign personalization: As we’ve seen, giving your campaigns a personal touch is important. While most marketing software makes personalization at scale possible, this is an area where we find HubSpot Marketing shines.
  • A/B testing: Email marketing software allows you to test your campaigns and build on what works. For example, SendPulse allows you to compare different elements using different criteria (e.g., opens or click-through rate) simply by completing a four-step workflow.
  • Email list segmentation: The one-size-fits-all approach is part of what has given “bad” email blasts their reputation. Email marketing software allows you to categorize your mailing list based on a wide variety of conditions.
  • Campaign analytics and reporting: Tracking campaign performance and learning as you go is a big part of email marketing. Email marketing software helps you implement analytics and reporting at scale. Mailchimp is one software product that offers marketers advanced reporting and analytics features that make tracking campaign effectiveness easier.

Targeted and relevant email campaigns help you hit the inbox

To summarize, tailoring your email campaigns to be relevant to specific groups of email subscribers can help you prevent your email campaigns from being just another “spammy” email blast.

The right email marketing software can help you manage your list, track your campaign’s performance, and customize your emails, but it’s up to you to decide how to best compel your subscribers to open your next email.