This blog post was originally published on 10/23/2015 and was updated on 12/30/2021
Are you brand new to sending mass emails and not sure where to start? Unfortunately, sending mass emails is actually a pretty complicated science. Fortunately, we’ve put together this guide so you can tackle the initial steps of sending with SparkPost and fill you in on some of the jargon you’ll need to know when building out your email program.
Tips for Sending Mass Emails
1. Understand the Differences Between Transactional Email and Marketing Email
Transactional emails are those your business uses to conduct operations. Password reset links, multi-factor authentication codes, order and shipping confirmations and invoices are examples of transactional emails.
Sending transactional emails can be considered as a part of doing business so you may not need opt-in consent. If you are sending marketing emails you will need your recipients to opt-in or your emails could be considered SPAM.
2. Determine if You’re Sending Out immediately or Scheduling a “Bulk Send”
A bulk send is what it sounds like — forwarding content to many different people at one time, such as a company newsletter. Think about sending limits. Your “bulk send” amount could go over your sending limit.
3. Make Sure You Are Sending Expected Content
This could include the copy of everything from your ‘password resets’ to the content of your newsletter.
When sending mass emails, your messaging has to be valuable to each person who receives it. For example, newsletters should contain something that’s relevant to your subscribing audience and in line with expectations they had when they signed up for your newsletter.
If you said you’d send company news once a month, you shouldn’t start sending promotions once a week. That will generate spam complaints and poor deliverability. Deliverability consists of all the issues involved in getting your emails delivered to the expected recipient. Unexpected content could cause poor deliverability and block your email from being delivered.
4. Set up Your Sending Domains and Sender Authentications
Sending domains are used to identify you as a sender, help you build a sender reputation with ISPs for better inbox placement, and allow you to send more messages on our system. Find out more about how to set up your sending domain here.
Choose between two standard methods to authenticate your business as a reputable sender — SPF and DKIM. The sender policy framework (SPF) allows the receiving computer to check your email address’ validity and your sending authorization. With domain keys identified mail (DKIM), the sending computer provides authenticity on behalf of the sender. Both methods improve your sending reputation, a key factor in deliverability.
5. Use a Template to Personalize Your Message
A template defines the body of your email. It is also the place to define where substitution data will go in your emails. Find out more about creating a template here.
Templates provide an excellent opportunity to customize your emails with your brand style, as long as you keep the formatting simple for a good user experience. You can use the substitute data fields to personalize your communications for your recipients. Adding your customers’ names or other relevant demographic data increases the chances your customer will engage with your email.
6. Collect a Recipient List and Segment It for Best Results
Recipient lists are lists of email addresses you want your emails delivered to. Again, make sure you get opt-in permission from your recipients. You should never add people to your list who have not opted-in as this can affect your deliverability. More information on setting up recipient lists can be found here.
You can also set up email using SMTP. Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) is an Internet standard for electronic mail (email) transmission. Here is a video to explain sending via SMTP:
If you are sending via SMTP or REST APIs you will need an API Key. The API key is used to authenticate you acting on behalf of your account with tools outside of SparkPost. Steps to create an API key can be found here.
When you create lists, segmenting them into groups is your best opportunity to further refine your message targeting.
7. Optimize for Mobile
Whether you’re sending transactional or promotional emails, make sure they’re mobile-friendly to display. Many people prefer to check and read their emails from their phones. If the communication is challenging to view, your chances of an unsubscribe or a less than ideal user experience increase.
What to Avoid When Sending Mass Emails
When it comes to understanding how to send a mass email, there are some steps to take to streamline your process.
1. Don’t Ignore Regulations
Legislation surrounding emails is plentiful. The European Union’s General Data Protection Rule (GDPR), the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) provide guidelines for the circumstances under which you can email your customers and prospects. Familiarize yourself with those that apply to your business to remain in compliance and prevent penalties and fines.
2. Don’t Use Old Email Addresses
If you’ve gotten hard bounces or emails returned as permanently undeliverable, make sure to remove those addresses from future mailings. Maintaining your lists keeps them healthy, so bounces won’t affect your deliverability and don’t count against your sending limits. Hard bounces provide an opportunity to analyze and learn about user engagement and experience, so take advantage of the chance to fine-tune your lists and message.
3. Don’t Forget to Warm-up
Many businesses conduct an IP warm-up before sending large-scale mass emails. In an IP warm-up, your company uses the top few most-engaged customers as recipients, then continues to build. As the ISP sees acceptance of your communications without large numbers of bounces or complaints, your sending reputation improves. Sending limits typically increase on a proportionate basis.
While building a mass email program can certainly be a daunting task we hope that these steps point you in the right direction. With a little elbow grease, we’re sure you’ll become a full-blown email pro!
Harness the Power of Experience With SparkPost
Our experts handle four to five trillion emails a year, so we know email. Speak with one of our specialists and get our guidance today.