Why You Should Avoid Mass-Emailing Using the "To" Field

This may seem like an obvious blog post to most readers. If that’s the case, just move along, nothing to see here.

However, if you’re wondering why people have been giving you snappy responses and a stern look when you include them on mass emails where all recipients are in the “To:” field, please take a seat. I’ll explain why you’ll find yourself on the naughty step if you do it again.

First, when emailing dozens of people at once, you’re sharing the recipients’ email addresses with everyone else. Everyone, including aunt Wendy whose old computer is crawling with malware and nasty things that can harvest their address book. And including that careless salesperson who is quite happy to add me to their spammy mailing list even though I’ve never agreed to it. If you think that’s acceptable behaviour, then you should have no problem with me taking your personal mobile number and plastering it all over the city, right?

And secondly, in particular when you’re in a business environment, it looks awfully unprofessional to email customers or prospects openly. If you’re sharing a prospect’s information with no regards for their privacy, why should they trust you with information like credit card details? You’ve lost a sale right there.

Do yourself a favour and learn to use the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) field of your email client when sending group emails. Even better, use proper email marketing software (Campaign Monitor, MailChimp and many more) and present yourself like a real professional.

Note: I’ve created this post to ensure I can send this link to email marketers and friends who don’t understand why it’s inappropriate to send mass emails this way. Feel free to link to this post if you also need to explain it to someone.

Trust by Positive Brand Association

A few moments ago, I subscribed to the 4mations “Keep me updated” mailing list, out of curiosity of what it’ll turn out to be (how did I get there anyway?!)

Campaign MonitorI’ve got a past in email marketing so even though that subscribing should, in theory, be fine, I hesitated. I’m aware of how dodgy or how careless/naive some senders can be – recently, it took me a battle with an agency that shall remain nameless before they acknowledged that I’d requested repeatedly to be unsubscribed, so things like that peeve me off.

But I subscribed. And it was immediately followed by the familiar green tick mark from Campaign Monitor confirming I was subscribed.

And you know what? I definitely had a fuzzy feeling inside thinking “yup, I can trust this sender. Even if they write total rubbish, I’m confident I can unsubscribe, should there be a need.” I bet you I would’ve bypassed the hesitation had the subscribe field been accompanied by the Campaign Monitor tick. Think that could help increase subscriptions or give users confidence?

What brands do that for you? What logos give you the confidence to hand over money, personal details or your precious time?

Email marketing software: The good, the bad and the downright ugly

Back when I worked in email marketing, I kept meaning to write about what it’s like to work in that field and what applications have blown my mind, or been the bane of my life. In March, I wrote an article for the Digital Web magazine about the Seven Deadly Sins of Email Marketing, but it focussed more on list management and attitude.

Spam is bad!Today, I received an email from an old colleague asking for tips on the best email marketing software to use in her new role. Instead of responding via email, I thought I’d turn it into a post, since it isn’t the first time the question comes up.

The first step in deciding what type of email marketing application to use is whether you’re looking for a one-off-cost downloadable application or an online service-based application. At first glance, the downloaded app will appear to be the best option, and by far the cheapest. That’s the one big pro about it – it’s a one-off purchase. Now, I’ll be perfectly honest and say I’ve never used one of those apps, so the only recommendation I can make on that level is to look for reviews before you buy.

However, I can explain the cons of using a downloadable app.

One of the greatest challenges in email marketing is deliverability. By this I mean the percentage of total email addresses on your mailing list who receive your newsletter to their inbox.

Think of the process as a funnel:

  1. Total number addresses in your list
  2. Delivered emails
  3. Opened emails
  4. Clickthroughs to your site
  5. Your reader taking action on your site

On that second level of the funnel, if you’ve chosen to use a downloadable app, you have to count on your ISP and your domain name, cross your fingers and close your eyes very hard when you hit the send button. Why am I saying this? It’s because you don’t have the online service’s great ISP relations squad behind you. You get no help whatsoever from your app to ensure your email is delivered, rather than wiped by the server or treated as spam.

If too many users flag you as spam or the ISP recognises your IP address as being troublesome (not necessarily by your fault, could be due to a previous owner of the address or because you’re sharing it on a network), you might find your whole domain blacklisted. This includes your entire sales team’s email addresses – and that can’t be good for business! Establishing relationships with masses of ISPs worldwide and ensuring nothing goes wrong is a full time job and a very difficult process, which small businesses can’t really manage on their own.

So there, that’s one of the many reasons I support online email marketing apps. They’re the guardian angels of deliverability.

No matter what, online email marketing services also vary wildly in quality. I’ve used a few of them, ranging from the extremely user-friendly Campaign Monitor (my preferred choice) to the awfully antiquated and highly aggravating Epsilon DreamMail and Axciom Digital’s Impact dinosaurs. [It should already raise a big red flag when the service is only usable in IE 6 on Windows…]

Services like Campaign Monitor suit the vast majority of small/medium businesses with to their simple and slick user interface, and are still priced very reasonably. The team does everything in its power to offer great email templates, and gives some of the best email marketing tips I’ve ever read on its blog.

Quite at the other end of the scale, services like DreamMail and Digital Impact give me a rash. They’re from a completely different school of thought, offering far too many radio buttons and tick boxes*, resulting in some very costly mistakes over my time doing email marketing. The service is slow, unreliable – often down “for maintenance” at peak times, unbeknownst to our assigned (and unreachable) account manager. Sure, the cost per email sent is lower when sending very large mailouts (to the tune of 3-4 million emails a month) but the service is dire and the time spent fighting with the system is disproportionate to the benefits gained from the cost-saving exercise for a business any smaller than that.

You might think I’m drawing a grim, black and white picture of the older and more traditional services, but speaking on behalf of those who’ve used it before and after me, we’ve gained a full head of grey hair between us from using them. Go for small, human services who are in tune with their users’ needs. Aren’t they the ones we want to see flourish anyways?

[* I once asked my account manager what some of the tick boxes did and what mysterious options were for. His answer? “Oh they’re deprecated, don’t use those. We should remove them but nobody’s done it yet. We’ll have a new product for Europe at some point but this is the US service, minus a few features.” Yeah, mate. That makes me feel like we’re very important customers… And we’re not talking about 2-3 small tick boxes, but nearly half the interface not being functional for us.]