The Essential Guide to Email Blast Marketing

Melanie Balke
October 24, 2022

We're living in pretty amazing times, friends. Technology has made it easier than ever to create complex email marketing campaigns, and that’s great! Now marketers can easily reach their target audience with a simple click.

But what do you do if you’re looking for a quick and simple way to send your marketing messages? Sometimes, you just don’t need all of those extra features; you just need a simple way to contact your email subscribers.

Enter the classic email blast marketing campaign (also known as a bulk email, e-blast, or mass e-mail). This humble facet of email marketing is today’s topic, so crack open your books and let’s get to business!

What Are Email Blast Campaigns?

A photo of a dramatic volcanic eruption. Overlaid header text reads, “The Basics: What Is an Email Blast Campaign?”

There’s a bit of debate in the marketing world over the precise definition of an email blast. On the most basic level, an email blast is an email marketing campaign sent to many recipients at once. It’s a remarkably broad definition, leaving plenty of room for interpretation.

And that’s where the problem starts.

The lack of precision in this definition has led to two schools of thought. Most marketers will say that email blast marketing is either:

  1. Any mass email — regardless of segmentation status
  2. Untargeted mass emails, which lack segmentation and advanced email automation features

Technically, neither of these definitions is wrong!

Historic Email Marketing

Members of the second group — those who say that blast emails must be untargeted — tend to rely on the definition as it’s applied to the first email marketing campaign ever.

Text overlays an image of old photographs. “May 3rd, 1978: On this day, Digital Equipment Company’s Gary Thuerk sent the first email blast.”

The first marketing email was a blast campaign sent to 400 cold contacts by Gary Thuerk on May 3rd, 1978. At the time, Thuerk was an employee of Digital Equipment Company (a very originally named brand).

At the time, email marketing was an unheard-of concept. People didn’t know what email automation was, nor could they have even dreamed of the advanced marketing features we take for granted today! Gary did all of this on his own, and his pioneering idea led to a whopping $13 million in sales. (Today, that would be worth around $59 million.)

How Does That Impact Email Marketing Campaigns Today?

“Email Blasts Today: This historic marketing strategy is still relevant today!” The text overlays a photo of flowing lava.

While that little history fact may be fun, it doesn’t really help today’s email marketers, does it?

Well, actually, it does! While today’s marketers battle with new concerns (i.e., email deliverability, spam laws, and marketing automation), Thuerk’s campaign laid the groundwork for today’s email blast software and etiquette. It also shows all the benefits of a good blast-style email marketing strategy.

Namely, Gary Thuerk’s pioneering idea resulted in the following benefits:

  • Increased Brand Awareness: All the email recipients knew about Digital Equipment Company and its services.
  • Quantity: Sometimes, marketing is just a numbers game. Email blasts may not earn the highest click-through rates, but they generate awareness and engagement through sheer numbers.
  • Respectable Reach: Email marketing experts may scoff at 400 recipients today, but that was a lot in the time before email marketing software! Thanks to Thuerk’s single email message, marketers now have the ability to broadcast emails to thousands of people at once!

Before You Start Writing, Here’s What You Should Know About Email Blast Marketing

A header image features a photo of a parked police car with overlaid text. “Caution! The Dangers of Email Blasts.”

Don’t hit send on that campaign, though!

Before you churn out dozens of email blast campaigns, there are a few things you should know.

While these campaigns may be classics, they’re also starting to show their age. The shortcomings of email blast marketing are becoming increasingly apparent, forcing marketers to use newer and better tactics to reliably reach customers. These same pitfalls also drive the push for a modernized definition of an email blast, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Are Email Blast Campaigns Even Legal?

Times have changed since 1978.

Today, email marketers must contend with dozens (or even hundreds) of emails every day, and the spam folder is an omnipresent threat. These perils didn’t exist in Gary Thuerk’s time, but that doesn’t mean they can be ignored.

Bulk emails are a bit of a finger-wagging proposition in modern email marketing. While they can be useful, they carry a fair bit of risk. Moreover, unprompted mass emails can be illegal.

An image of leaves with overlaid text. The header reads, “Permissions: How to Make Sure Your Email Blasts are Legal.” The main text reads, “The best way to guarantee your email campaigns are legal is to use permission-based marketing. The concept is simple: You avoid cold emails and only send email campaigns to subscribed customers. This basic strategy is courteous, effective, and beneficial for everyone.”

That doesn’t mean all blast emailing is illegal! Automated emails and blast campaigns are legal with proper permission. That’s to say that you — as an email marketer — are responsible for securing the proper opt-in agreements from your contact list.

Are Blast Campaigns and Mass Emails Considered Spam?

Another concern to think about if you’re going to start email blasting is whether or not your messages can be considered spam.

Ultimately, any email a user has opted-in willfully to receive is not spam. However, that doesn’t mean you’re completely free from the spam folder! You should continue to adhere to email marketing best practices for your campaigns.

And, if you’re sending unsegmented email blasts, you should pay extremely close attention to these rules.

A photo of leaves. The overlaid text reads, “Email Blast Tip: Before you send an email blast, make sure you have a clear goal.”

Can Untargeted Email Messages Succeed in Modern Email Marketing?

Finally, it’s time to get into the controversial part of today’s lesson.

(Cue the ominous music, please!)

While classic email blasts tend to be untargeted, that doesn’t mean they have to be aimless mass emails. In fact, many marketers mix blast emailing with modern techniques to create their campaigns. In these situations, many people on a particular list (or within a certain segment) receive the same message, qualifying the campaign as a contender for the title of an e-blast.

I personally subscribe to the theory that all emails sent to many people at once are e-blasts.

After all, the best email marketing tends to be segmented.

It’s no longer “hip” to send your entire audience the same generic email templates; personalization and customer-centric marketing may have been the final nail in that coffin.

Nonetheless, there are times when email blast marketing is handy. Sometimes, you just don’t need all the features of a modern email marketing tool. Many marketers send email blasts for scenarios such as:

  • Company changes impacting all or most existing customers
  • Events (i.e., a flash sale, free access day, or in-person gatherings)
  • General promotional emails
  • Holidays (i.e., Christmas, Hanukkah, or New Year)
  • New releases
  • Privacy policy changes
  • Special discount code distribution
  • Surveys or custom forms

Best Practices for Your Email Blast Service and Marketing

A photo of a fiery explosion features overlaid text: “Tips & Tricks: Best Practices for Email Blasts.”

Now that I’ve laid out the ground rules for email blast marketing, it’s time to examine some of the standards.

While email blast templates may be helpful when you’re just starting, you can’t rely on them forever. Eventually, you’ll need to spread your wings and experiment, and that is when things get tricky.

If you’re ready to elevate your email blasts or just hoping to boost your future campaigns, keep scrolling to see the top tips!

Always Start With Email Deliverability

A header image features a photo of many building blocks. The text reads, “The Basics: Don’t Forget to Pay Attention to Your Deliverability.”

Most modern email marketing tool suites include some sort of email blast service. This subset of features allows marketers to send an email blast without destroying their sender reputation, but it does not protect them from spam filters and blacklists.

For the best results, — and to guarantee email delivery — you’ll want to do one of two things:

  1. Direct Action: If you have a good working relationship with your email service provider, you can speak with them directly. Inform your provider that you plan to send a mass email and explain its contents. This gives providers time to allocate resources to your work, and they may be able to flag your messages as valid email content.
  2. Inbox Warming: A less direct approach is known as “warming up” your mailbox. In this situation, marketers gradually increase a brand’s consistent email schedule. When it’s time to schedule email delivery for your mass email campaign, both the ISP and ESP will recognize the campaign as a marketing email.

… And Don’t Forget Your Hygiene!

Businesses should always keep tabs on their campaign monitor. This handy tool gives companies insights into their marketing success and helps them form successful marketing strategies. There’s another reason to use them, though!

Email marketers should always keep their contact list clean. This is known as list hygiene, and it’s essential to ensuring sure all your messages — not just transactional emails! — make it to the right place. It also boosts the effectiveness of your email blasts.

Basic list hygiene requires a bit of segmentation in addition to:

  • Checking for invalid or misspelled email subscribers
  • Maintaining a regular schedule for your email campaigns
  • Proper opt-in forms and welcome emails for new subscribers
  • Quality customer metrics and reliably data
  • Re-engagement campaigns for lapsed customers
  • Regular removal of inactive users
  • Subject line optimization

Fear No Segmentation

A header image features a photo of an exploding firework. The text reads, “Segmentation: You can segment email blasts, too! It’s all up to you.”

I’ve already established that blast email campaigns can be segmented, so go ahead and use that email marketing tool to your heart’s content!

You can segment users by dozens of data points, including individual purchase history, interests, job title, and demographics. Regardless of how you end up segmenting your audience, you’ll want to ensure that everyone has a place to go. Using a landing page builder will refine your sales funnels and make it easier to cross-reference sales data with your email clients.

As a general semantic rule, email blast campaigns tend to have a wide audience appeal; most will target one or more broad segments. You can use marketing automation to make things easier, and some platforms even have intuitive drag-and-drop editor tools for assigning email contacts to a campaign.

A/B testing will make your email campaigns even more effective! This process is included with most paid versions of email marketing software, and many marketers use it to refine email subject lines and content.

Make Your Own Content

Email templates are a great way to learn the basics, but they won’t last forever. Eventually, the novelty wears off, leaving you scrambling to find new content. Sometimes, that handy email template you found online can even end up flagged as spam!

If you want to guarantee that your customers receive communications from your team, you’ll have to start writing your own content.

That’s not to say that you can’t use your own email blast service to create amazing campaigns from email templates. Plenty of marketers have succeeded with this strategy, but you’ll get better results from unique content.

Email Blast Examples

The text reads, “Examples: What Do Blast Emails Look Like?”

Before you send an email blast, you’ll want to study some examples.

After plenty of searching, I’ve fished up some of the best sample blast email campaigns I could find! A header image with a photo of a firework.

Using Your Email Blasting Powers for News

With the rise of constant contact marketing, many brands have turned to newsletters and product announcements as a source of reliable content. Cinch, an auto sales company, has a great example of an announcement-based email campaign.

A sample email blast campaign from Cinch. The call-to-action is a bright green button reading, “Meet Your Mokka X.”

Originally sent with the subject line, “Car in the Spotlight: Vauxhall Mokka X,” this wonderfully simple email campaign has all the hallmarks of a good email blast. The design is eye-catching, the CTA is well-designed, and everything looks amazing!

Mix It Up With Some Fun Newsletters

Duolingo is known for its unique twist on constant contact marketing, but most of its emails are highly targeted.

This example is one of the rare exceptions! Its subject line — “EXCLUSIVE: Embarrassing photos of Duo inside 😈” — is daring and bold, and it’s definitely worthy of a click. So, what does this cute email blast look like?

An example email from Duolingo. A graphic featuring the brand’s mascot is the header. Below the image is a title: ”Peek inside Duo’s scrapbook.” The call-to-action is, “Do a Lesson for Duo.”

Check out that awesome design! Users are drawn to the bold layout and immediately identifiable colors.

It’s a wonderful example of how brands can send an email blast that’s more than a newsletter or another dull flash sale announcement. These email campaigns can be fun and zany, too!

Polish Your Marketing With a Team of Experts

So, how do you do it?

What does it take to make a successful email blast?

A header image with a photo of leaves features header text: “The Verdict: What’s the TL;DR for Email Blasts?”

At the end of the day, it’s not about the fanciest email blast service or even the catchiest email subject line. You won’t find many email templates that appeal to your email subscribers out of the box, nor will a typical email blast service write your content for you.

You need to have the expertise and know-how.

My blog has plenty of tips and tricks for improving your email marketing strategy and polishing your subject lines, but marketing takes a lot of work.

If you’re at the end of your rope, it’s time to find a team of experts like The Email Marketers. You’ll reclaim your time by hiring a marketing agency, and the results will be fantastic! I offer free consultations, so don’t be afraid to call me! We can discuss your brand’s marketing needs and whether or not an email blast campaign is a good fit for you.