Building a Million Dollar Business Part-Time #16: How to do a Mass/Blast Email Campaign


Let me start this post by saying: I am not a huge fan of mass emails.

Exception: When someone has opted in, as I have for two of the best newsletters I know (from Harvard Business School and Julie Weeks’ WomenAble, also listed at bottom of this post).

Sections of this post will cover: Popular mass/blast email programs/campaigners, how to write a blast email, challenges of blast emails, and other fun stuff. Everything in this post is totally opposite @TheMogulMom’s summary of Seth Godin’s advice on “How to Write a Personal Email.

midnight-star-no-parking-on-the-dance-floor-imageFor the Hot Mommas Project, mass emails are about moving out of our comfort zone: Theme song (Retro, baby)

night-at-the-roxbury-imageBut, not being overly cheesy in doing that: Theme song (Think Night at the Roxbury, Will Ferrell, Chris Katan, shiny suits).


These are mass email programs I considered:

Program Number of Contacts* Price per month
iContact 500 $9.95
Constant Contact 500 $15.00
Campaigner 2500 $25.00
Mail Chimp 500 $10.00 or $8.50 for non profits

* These are the smallest packages available per program

iContact – This was recommended to me by Robin McIntire on Twitter. What won me over was their really good, results-based marketing approach on the site. They talk about how they are white listed because of relationships with ISPs.

Constant Contact – Tons of people use this. There has to be a reason.

Campaigner – My husband’s company uses this. He does a lot of emails.

Mail Chimp – This was mentioned to me by JRLeckie on Twitter.


Below are completely subjective tips on constructing a mass email based on:

a. Common sense

b. The reactions to our most recent blast emails, and

c. How I constructed my email in iContact.

Starter tip: Choose a service that meets your contact and email volume needs  – Some services limit you by number of contacts, but let you send a million, billion emails to those contacts. For others, it’s the opposite. I have very few contacts (1,000) but can do 6,000 emails per month. So, I will send an email to 700 people from my Outlook, delete that list, upload another list of 500 people from my Outlook so I don’t go over the 1000 limit. My lists are very organized in Excel, so, I don’t stress about deleting and adding back lists to stay under 1000 contacts.

Another starter tip: Do a trial – Most of the services above offer a free trial.  I think I started with a 250 contact trial on iContact. It went well, so, I upgraded to 1000 per month. When/if you upgrade, find out how you can get out of the contract.  For instance, we at the Hot Mommas Project are just doing these emails during our case competition. I want to end the subscription after that. Look into those rules for the service you choose if this is not a permanent thing.

1. Upload contact list. You will need to have a list of emails in Excel. You will need a new file for each group (you can’t upload multiple worksheets). I sent one to “men” one to “Hot Mommas” and one to “survey takers.” These were three separate documents.

Tip: Use a service with easy contact upload and purging. You look dumb if you send someone the same email a million times. Make sure the service you use purges duplicate emails.

2. Manually edit list.

a. Make sure your emails and names look okay. I had to change the first names of folks where I had “Alan & Karen”, for instance, and make sure it just said, “Karen.”

b. Label fields.You can do this by adding field names in the very first line of your spreadsheet, e.g. [fname] (first name). Alternatively, iContact has a drop down box that you can use after upload to label each column in your spreadsheet.

3. Construct email (sample in next section). You can use a template or create from scratch. You can insert [fieldname] in the text of your email where you want the information to appear. For example, Dear [fname] would be “Dear Kathy” in my email. I prefer to construct mine from scratch. I do not like HTML template emails.

NOTE: If you want to track results for your campaign you do need to do a version in HTML, even if it is just a text email. The site will explain all of this hopefully. iContact does.

4. Copy HTML to plain text. A plain text version is needed for folks that don’t have HTML capability (Blackberries and such is my guess on this). Typically, it can look a little weird and you need to EDIT the plain text version to make sure it looks okay.

5. Do a spam check. Once you construct an email, iContact has a “spam checker” which rates the chances of your email getting through SPAM filters. You can then go back and make changes based on the feedback of this little bot. One of my favorites, which I still don’t understand, is “Attempt to obfuscate subject.”

6. Send a test email. Send one to yourself and make sure it looks okay.

7. Launch! I read one-time that campaigns launched on a Tuesday or Wednesday mid-day/afternoon were most successful.  This  survey says it is true.

8. Measure results. You should be able to click and track pretty easily.

Tip: Use a service with good results tracking. I do this so infrequently that I don’t care about results. But, if I had a newsletter that folks opted into and I did this every quarter, I’d be curious about performance.  The iContact dashboard looks good to me. There is summary, detail, and lots of pretty pictures. Again, you will have to see if the service you’re looking into tracks the data in which you’re interested.

cheeseTABOO – Don’t Do This or You Will Be Automatically Entered Into The Formaggio Club:

I just attended a conference for entrepreneurship professors. There was an exhibitor there called “SimuLearn.” I did not go to their both, nor did I have any interactions with their staff. What arrives yesterday? A blast email from SimuLearn. They are operating off the attendees list. Look, I have as much sympathy for small business sales folks as anyone. However, the title of this email – in my opinion – should be: “Sorry we didn’t have a chance to meet at the conference”. In the TEXT of the email I would like to see the following:

1. An introduction

2. An explanation of value provided by being on their list (giveaways, cutting edge research, blah blah)

3. Permission to keep sending notes.

Bottom line: I think it is tacky to heist names off an attendee list or an email to you and send repeated blast emails. Don’t put friends and associates – or even strangers – in that position. Your friends and associates may be too polite to unsubscribe, but, they are annoyed that you put them on the list without their permission and then they get all these emails from you every week for a year.

[Update: See comments below – I got my first-ever “cold” blast email that I liked from]


The “tacky factor” was my big obstacle to doing a mass email in the first place. There is something about it that gives me the willies. I went ahead and sent the email. It started like this:

“Dear [name of person receiving email],

This morning I was speaking with my friend Colleen at Starbucks. “Why haven’t I heard anything from you on The Hot Mommas Project case competition? It is such a great project to help women and girls,” she said. I told her “Because I don’t like sending mass emails.”  In a very nice way, she told me to get over myself and send the email. You are receiving this email because you are in my Outlook, which undoubtedly means you have something great to offer The Hot Mommas Project project. The bottom line is this: If you are a great female role model or have ever considered mentoring a young woman or peer, please see the information below. If you also want to nominate another role model,  please forward this email (nomination information below) and cc us at Cases must be completed by 1/31 midnight EST. This is a ground-breaking project to help the women and girls. If you are not already involved, please consider participating telling your story and/or nominating 2 others by forwarding the below information…”


Great reaction #1:

My BFF Julie who runs the policy office for the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship:

“I like how the email started. It drew me in.”

Great reaction #2:

“Kathy – from my perspective I love to get “mass” emails just like this one. Thanks for taking the time to send it out and I will certainly fill in a case. Cheryl, Cheryl Mitchell, Principal, Red Ball Solutions Inc.

Great reaction #3:

“Hey Kathy, This is is Tricia Duncan Calling. I am calling about your Hot Mommas Project.

I got your email that you sent and sent it off to a bunch of fascinating women that I know. One of them, her name is Rebecca Cooper; she’s an ABC News Correspondent. She has a new show Sunday nights called “Washington Business.” She thinks that your idea is great and she wants to know if you want to be on her show. What I am going to do is get you guys in touch. You can either call me back or email Rebecca. She’s a dear friend of and I know she’d love to hear from you. She also lives here in the Palisades.

Hope to hear from you soon. I think your project is awesome. Bye.”

[Update: I am going on this show February 10th}


1. Who are you and how did you get my name? We did not get this response this time around, but I have in the past. Be able to back this up. If you “spray and pray” – remember that your credibility could be diminished. Credibility is very important to The Hot Mommas Project, thus, every single person to whom we send an email is: a. In my personal contact database or has registered on the Hot Mommas Project site, b. Asked to be signed up on our alert list, c. Took our survey between 2005-2007.

2. Did you mean to send this to me? This email came mainly from important people who already serve in some capacity with our project, namely: Judges or faculty at GW.

3. &%!#!!!!!: We didn’t get any of these reactions. But, it would be funny to hear about some folks who have gotten extraordinarily severe reactions to their mailings. Come on, post them in the comments. We all need some entertainment.


HBS Working Knowledge: Harvard Business School’s newsletter which can sometimes be theoretical, but, gives you a good sense of the “big issues” folks are talking about in business.

Julie Weeks – WomenAble: Quarterly newsletters on pretty much every big update in women’s leadership (globally) from policy to business.

HARO :  I  heart HARO (Help a Reporter Out). I have mentioned this many times in these posts. It is opt-in ONLY.  Distribution of over 40k and counting.

Alltop : I heart Alltop– They don’t have a newsletter, though.   However, I’m listing my favorites here and will tell you that seeing 100 + blog headlines in a category (blogs I do are in Moms and Start Up categories) really helps give you a quick sense of what is going on in that segment.


So – I have “issues” with mass email.  Why? I think it’s kind of cheesy unless done right – which, in my opinion is:

1. OPT IN only

2. INFREQUENTLY to actual contact YOU KNOW.

High value must ALWAYS be the denominator.  Truthfully, I think I still have issues with it even when it IS  “done right.”   This is where mentors come in. I vented about my blast email “issues” to Colleen Reilly, who does VERY cool work in the health care arena, one morning. She’s like, “Eh, send it. Don’t make such a big deal about it.” That helped me. Colleen was like one of those people who pushes you over the wall when you go to those corporate retreat places, except, Colleen didn’t have my shoe/other in her face. Bonus.

11 thoughts on “Building a Million Dollar Business Part-Time #16: How to do a Mass/Blast Email Campaign

  1. Howdy! My clip from Seth’s post was about writing *personal* emails, not business emails/email blasts.

    I’m with you on trying to find a non-tacky way to send out email blasts & have had good luck with Constant Contact in the past. I tried to do the A Weber thing but just couldn’t figure it out. That doesn’t mean it’s not a great email program.

    Anyway, thanks for the reference!


    • Dah dah dah dah! Here is the OFFICIAL FIRST BLAST EMAIL that I do not find annoying. Maybe this is possible, folks. Is from Ally and Kelli of I didn’t sign up for this, but, love their tone, sincerity, and offering of value to readers:


      Our Milk Money is a national directory of ONLY self-employed parents. There are so many of us that are working hard to raise our children and at the same time run our own businesses. We could use your support.
      This is the answer to helping us stay at home with our children rather than send them to expensive daycares.
      This is what we are doing to bring back family values that so many politicians speak about.
      This is how we are able to make up for the one income that families can no longer survive on in today’s society.
      Won’t you support us? We’ve made it easy for you to find us. We have much of the same products and services that you purchase ANYWAY.
      You’ll see.
      Please take a moment to visit, add us to your favorites, and remember to search with us first!

      Also, if you know anyone who fits the profile of “self employed parent” please tell them that they qualify to list their products and services with us. We’d love to have them in our community.

      This is only the beginning of a fantastic change ahead for all of us this year! Thank you for supporting our mission.

      Ally Loprete & Kelli Shand are the Co-Founders of

  2. You really should have included Emma in your reviews. They far and away do a better job of design, are easier to use (and I tried all the ones you mentioned) and I love their support people.

    I understand there’s a huge amount of services out there, but you skipped one of the great ones. Think about it for next time.


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  7. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on
    the video to make your point. You clearly know what youre talking
    about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you could be giving us something informative to read?

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