Why traditional email blast is dead

5 May 2016

Back in the late 90's I was approached by a colleague to get involved in a new online business venture with him which when I enquired into what it was exactly, it turned out we were to build an Email Marketing platform otherwise known as an Email Blast Tool. We were working for a small digital agency at the time building websites for some pretty impressive clients, notibly Sony and Sony PlayStation as well as some of New Zealand's well known beer brands and when it came to email marketing it really was still quite early days.

So I agreed and off I went, developing a fairly robust platform (called Qmail) that enabled us to blast out as many html emails as we wanted to. There weren't as many players in the market as there are today and they were a lot less sophisticated and rather expensive so our angle was that we were going to let people blast out as many emails as they like for a simple flat rate fee.

It seemed straight forward enough at the time and it didn't take that long before we had well over 1 million sent emails in our database and growing at a rapid rate, but looking back now I have to chuckle to myself as to how smart we really thought we were and what damage we were actually letting people do to their customers by offering our unlimited blast plan!

So what is traditional email blast?

Now before we get ahead of ouselves and I start getting emails around why I think email is dead, I should probably explain what I mean when I say traditional email blast is dead.

In technical terms when we talk about traditional email blast techniques we are really talking about the practice of sending non-segmented content to a list. That is sending a single communication to a large group of donors or fundraisers.

Then what is the alternative?

The alternative is using your existing database to customise the communications that you are sending out - or in more marketing speak - segmenting your database to send out targeted emails.

Targeted emails produce better results

When it comes to email marketing, targeted or segmented emails always produce the best results. If you do a quick web search on targeted email stats you will easily find some stats like these below which I pulled up from MailChimp.

Targeted emails produce better results

When it comes to email marketing, targeted or segmented emails always produce the best results. If you do a quick web search on targeted email stats you will easily find some stats like these below which I pulled up from MailChimp.

Really it's a no brainer here, if you are going to send out emails to customers then it's obvious that sending out emails containing content that they actually want to receive will naturally produce better results.

But have you ever thought that you could actually be doing a lot of damage by not using targeted content?

Could non-targeted emails be doing more harm than good?

The other day I received an email from a real estate agency from my local area. I'm not necessarily looking to buy or sell property but I had in the past 6 months been in touch with an agent. He called me up one day a year after I had randomly looked at a house for sale near me, and we chatted a bit and then I accepted his offer of coming to look at my apartment where we spoke on what my own property goals were which was essentially to some how be able to get a 3rd room either out of my current place or via another apartment.

Anyway, we spoke a few times and nothing became of it but I did tell him to keep in touch should anything come his way that might be along the lines of what I was hoping to do.

So I received this automated email, which was a nice looking email, it wasn't just a newsletter type one it actually looked like it has some level of personalisation in it. It had a nice opening subject line along the lines of "Scott here is something that suits your criteria". It wasn't that exactly but it was tailored enough to get my attention so rather than deleting it without reading it, which is what I do to most automated emails, I opened it and read it.

It had the same kind of opening statement and beneath that was the agent's signature signing off so it really did look quite nice but what threw me was what was lurking below the opening paragraph.

Just like the subject line, the opening paragraph also had a statement around this property being well suited to my criteria so naturally I scanned down the email to see what they had found.

What was being offered was a 5 bedroom house in one of the most affluent areas of the eastern suburbs in Sydney, not too far from me but definitely nowhere near anything that could be considered remotely close to my criteria.


So this automated email that had started off so well and had grabbed my attention went from being one that I might just have junked to one that had actually insulted me and made the agency look like they don't actually have a grasp on reality.

I actually did end up replying to the email and telling the agent exactly what I thought of his "matched criteria" email and the result is I will probably never use that agency in the future.

All from a non-targeted email.

Not all donors are the same so why talk to them as though they are?

Just like my poor experience with a local real estate egency, we all need to keep in mind that not all of our customers or donors are the same and that they each have their own personal reason for interacting with us. And it's our jobs to learn why.

One thing you will often hear me say a lot in our office is my favourite phrase "Just because you can do it doesn't mean you should!" and I think over the past decade we have all been guilty of using various marketing methods just because the technology allowed us to do so and we've forgotten that behind every good marketing campaign is a bunch real world people whom we are trying to talk to.

So where is all this heading?

Where this is all really heading is learning from our mistakes that we have all been guilty of making over the past decade. Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to maintaining effective email communications with your donors.

Segment, segment, segment

If you are using email marketing without segmenting your lists first then you really should start looking at your data and ways to segment it into meaningful lists. If you don't have any data to work off then you really need to create a plan to start collecting it and learning from it.

Get more from your reports

Recently we introduced a new module into Funraisin which is the ability to send out email communications direct from your own platform rather than sending them out from other 3rd party platforms such as MailChimp or Campaign Monitor.

The reason behind this new feature wasn't to try to take away from the existing email blast systems which all do a great job at sending out and reporting on emails, but it was because we saw the need to be able to communicate to your donors and fundraisers direct from the source with tailored content and more importantly to then be able to report right down to the individual level rather than it being just numbers to then be able to re-communicate based in their interactions or lack of.

So, if you are currently sending out segmented emails then you might want to look at the reporting capabilities of your current provider to see how you are able to get reporting down to the individual. Don't just rely on the overall open rates, if you can't get data back down to the individual to then re-use then I'd be asking myself what my longterm goal is with my email comms.

Create a content strategy

Once you are all setup for segmentation and personalise reporting you should realy be creating a plan around what segments you are going to be communicating to and around what content. You really want to plan ahead a few months so you can get a clear map around what you want to say to your donors and want you want them to do in return.

Repeat all of the above

Email communication is still today the most used form of communication and when it comes to online marketing it remains at the heart of all online activity. So just like a learn from speaking directly to our customers and donors, we should also learn and react fro mour email communications.

One-to-one is the future

So just like we are seeing a lot of companies now moving away from automated call centres and back into "talking to real people" as a point of difference, so too are marketers now back tracking to being able to comunicate to their customers at an individual level rather than just Blasting them with deals and information.

If you would like to learn more about how Funraisin can make your life easier please let us know here and we can arrange a free personal demo.

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